Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Coachella 2023: USC students on their treks to the Indio festival

USC students share their Coachella experiences, from travel to accommodations and even how much they shelled out for the popular music festival.

A photo of the festival grounds with people walking about the valley. The sunset is in the background.

As the Coachella Valley is preparing for a storm of music lovers with the upcoming festival this weekend and next, the USC campus will soon transform into a desert itself. More and more students flee campus each year to make the nearly 150-mile trip to the festival.

Since launching in 1999, Coachella has continuously broken barriers and records. This year is no different — the lineup is a celebration of diversity. Bad Bunny will become the first Latin artist to headline a major American music festival, BLACKPINK will become the first Korean artist to headline the festival and Frank Ocean will make his long-awaited return to performing. This trio and the diverse lineup are sure to “Shut Down” the desert this year.

As Coachella Valley locals prepare for the two-weekend desert takeover, we asked USC students to dish out their preparations for the festival.

Gia Acosta

Who they are:

Acosta, 23, from Seattle and studying in the music industry graduate program at Thornton, is interested in working in venue management and concert promotion once she graduates.

A photo of Acosta with the festival grounds and the stage behind.

Coachella Experience:

This is Acosta’s first Coachella, but she is no stranger to music festivals. She has attended the Firefly festival in Delaware and at 17 years old, she attended TRNSMT in Glasgow, Scotland.

She is attending and working at Coachella this year through her internship with Global Inheritance, a nonprofit organization focused on activism and social change through creative means. The organization has previously been involved with Coachella, most notably through their popular Art of Recycling bins that became social media sensations.

Acosta is excited to work at the festival while seeing some of her favorite artists and bands perform.

Thoughts on the lineup:

Acosta is most excited to see Frank Ocean and Hiatus Kaiyote perform at the festival. She is interested to see Bad Bunny’s performance because she has heard a lot about his shows and thinks it will be cool to experience live.

She was most surprised to see BLACKPINK as a headliner this year, but is eager to see their performance.

Most excited for:

Acosta is most looking forward to seeing Hiatus Kaiyote because she missed out on their show at the Hollywood Bowl last August. Other than the music, she is also excited to experience the atmosphere away from the stage at such a prominent event in music. Acosta also loves trying new food vendors and plans on enjoying as much of the festival food as she can.

Who are they going with?:

Acosta is taking on the first weekend in the desert alongside her coworkers. For weekend two, she will drive down to the festival solo but will later meet with her group staying with them at the staff camping grounds.


As a Global Inheritance intern, Acosta’s accommodations and festival ticket are taken care of, so she will only be paying for her gas on the drive there and her food for the weekend.

Steven Feng

Who they are:

Feng, 23, originally from Xi’an, China, came to the United States in 2014 for school, where he lived with his host family in Indio, California — Coachella’s home. He is currently a graduate student in the digital social media program at Annenberg.

A photo of Feng standing in front of a structure with plants on it.

Coachella Experience:

Feng is no stranger to Coachella. Since he went to high school in Coachella Valley, Feng has been to the festival about 10 times. He says that despite Coachella Valley being a popular vacation spot, there are not many exciting activities to do in the area, so it was the norm for high school students there to attend starting their freshman year. Attending Coachella is like a yearly ritual for Feng.

“Nothing can compare to the feeling of walking around Empire Polo Field, enjoying the eclectic music sets and running into familiar faces from high school,” Feng said. “It feels like a high school reunion at home.”

For Coachella 2023, he purchased his ticket on January 11, the day after the lineup was announced and when the presale for returning attendees occurred.

Thoughts on the lineup:

Feng is most excited to see Bad Bunny, Frank Ocean, Metro Boomin and EDM artists like Hot Since 82, 070 Shake, Chris Lake, Fisher, SG Lewis and Eric Prydz.

“I was surprised to see BLACKPINK headlining,” Feng said. “I’m not a huge fan of K-pop, but it’s refreshing to see Asian representation in a world-class music festival.”

After seeing clips of Eric Prydz’s sets online, Feng is ready to experience his show and the “absolutely insane” visuals.

Most excited for:

Feng is looking forward to the overall Coachella experience with his undergraduate friends since he has not seen them in awhile. He is ready to reunite with his classmates and discover new artists at this year’s festival.

Who are they going with?:

He plans to drive down to Coachella Valley with his friends and then meet up with old friends while there.


Feng is excited to visit and stay with his host family, as they have kept in touch after he graduated high school. With that, he has spent a little over $700 on his ticket and shuttle pass this year and has yet to plan anything else at the moment.

Amanda Murphy

Who they are:

Murphy, 19, from Northern California is a freshman getting her bachelor’s in journalism at Annenberg.

Coachella Experience:

This is Murphy’s second year attending the festival, first making the trek in 2022. Both years, she did not have to purchase her ticket, as she was lucky enough to be gifted tickets by a family friend.

A photo of Murphy and another woman posing and smiling for the camera. They are sitting on grass and the festival grounds are in the background.

Thoughts on the lineup:

“Just considering the headliners, I was most surprised to see BLACKPINK headlining because I don’t believe a K-pop band has ever headlined at Coachella before, and it was the first time I did not recognize the name of a Coachella headliner,” Murphy said. “I was probably least surprised at seeing Bad Bunny as a headliner since he is the number one artist in the world right now and Coachella is arguably the largest music festival in the U.S.”

In addition to Bad Bunny’s performance, she’s looking forward to seeing Kaytranada, Frank Ocean, 070 Shake and Fisher, who are each on her top five must-see list for this year.

Most excited for:

“Spending time with my sister and meeting new people there. The festival is also huge and I feel like I didn’t have enough time to explore everything last year, so I’m also excited just to walk around the festival and take in more than just the music,” Murphy said.

Who are they going with?:

She will be attending the festival with her sister and parents, who also accompanied her last year as well. Murphy also plans to meet up with a few friends from school while at the festival, but to Murphy, Coachella is a family affair.


Her family will be picking her up from campus to drive down to Indio, where she will stay with them at a hotel. So far, their only expenses have been the hotel, which was about $3,700 for the family of four.

Ella Hodgetts

Who they are:

Hodgetts, 19, is a sophomore studying communication at Annenberg. She is from Orange County, California, and this will be her third year attending Coachella.

A photo of Hodgetts at the festival with her arms up above her head. The festival grounds are in the background.

Coachella Experience:

Hodgetts first went to the festival in 2018, again in 2022 and will be returning this year. She purchased her ticket in January during the last wave of the presale for returning attendees.

She decided to return this year because she had so much fun the previous year. Hodgetts purchased her pass before the lineup was announced, since she knew that buying a ticket after the lineup was announced could be stressful, especially if it was from a resale site. She also hoped that if she did not like the lineup that much, she could easily resell her pass.

Thoughts on the lineup:

Hodgetts was most surprised to see Idris Elba on this year’s lineup since she said she associates him with acting and not with music. She says she is late to the wave of knowledge that Elba is also a DJ.

She said she was not surprised to see Frank Ocean on the lineup as a featured headliner since rumors had been circulating online for years now. She believes that if Ocean was not a part of the lineup this year, the festival could have faced criticism from fans because they would have been let down once again after all of the online buzz.

Most excited for:

Besides the music, Hodgetts is excited to see the art installations that are featured at the festival. She says that many of her most notable memories from prior years are associated with the large installations that are set up.

Who are they going with?:

Last year, Hodgetts made the trip to the desert with her high school friends, since they had tickets from 2020, when the festival was canceled due to COVID-19. This year, she is eager to experience the desert with her college friends because it is a bigger group. They all are driving down to Coachella Valley and staying at a house nearby.


Hodgetts says that in her experience, getting Ubers and coordinating rides has been the most stressful part of attending the festival. To remedy this, she is having a friend come down to stay at the house as the designated driver to help Hodgetts and her company get to and from the festival grounds each day.

She bought her ticket for about $650 and plans on buying a few new pieces to add to her Coachella outfits. Overall, with a weekend of gas expenses, groceries at the house and food at the festival, it’s going to be a pricey weekend.

She notes that food at the festival grounds is “frustrating” because it is “so ridiculously expensive.”

Coachella Duo — Annie Wensley and Rachel Miga

Who they are:

Wensley and Miga are two friends who are making their way to the festival together this year.

Miga, 25, from New York, is a graduate student at Annenberg studying digital social media. She likes to call herself an honorary Thornton student, as she has taken all of her elective credits in the music industry department.

A photo of Wensley posing in front of the marquee at the Wiltern theater.

Wensley, 24, from Seattle, Washington, is a first year graduate student studying public policy.

Heading to the desert with a few other friends, the duo is putting music first this year.

Coachella Experience:

This will be Miga’s second Coachella. She previously attended with her dad in 2013. While car-camping, they were able to engulf themselves in the music.

Wensley and her partner will be attending the festival this year for the first time with Miga as their guide. Even though the two bought their tickets separately during the presale, they are excited to share the experience together. Miga is also excited to make up for her lost festival in 2020.

Thoughts on the lineup: Putting an emphasis on music for this year’s festival, both Miga and Wensley are ready to see as many artists and bands as possible. Miga is excited to see artists like Remi Wolf, Dominic Fike and Wet Leg. She is also excited to see what the hype is all about with headliner BLACKPINK.

Most excited for:

Even though she was surprised to see Ethel Cain on the lineup, Miga is hoping to secure a barricade spot for Cain’s set.

When Wensley saw that the band Boygenius was added to the lineup, she immediately knew that she had to be at Coachella. She has not seen Boygenius since 2021 and said she feels a personal connection with their lyrics. She is ready to scream their lyrics as loud as possible in the desert alongside her friends and other fans.

A photo of Miga standing in front of the marquee at the Troubadour theater. She is pointing up at the sign.

Who are they going with?:

In addition to going together, Miga and Wensley are spending their weekend in Coachella Valley with a group of friends. The pair plans to drive down to the desert, car camp and enjoy their favorite artists together all weekend long.


Since they are attending the festival together, the pair was able to save on accommodations. They both spent around the same amount on their general admission passes, which came out to about $560 each, but, they are able to split their car camping pass 3-ways for about $50 each with Wensley’s partner included.

The pair is doing their best to equip their campsite, which will be their homebase, with materials they already own or can borrow, like a foldable table, camping stove and sleeping pads. They will have to shell out some money for items they do not have access to, like a tent and canopy, which they are estimating to be around $150. They also want to decorate their space, which they estimate will be an extra $100.

To keep themselves going the entire weekend and to prevent paying exorbitant prices for festival food, they will also have to stock up on fuel for their campsite. They are hoping by keeping food and snack costs to $50-75 per person, they can save themselves 3 days of buying $30+ food on the festival grounds.

The total estimated cost of their Coachella experience comes out to over $750 per person.

Similar to other fellow Trojans attending Coachella this year, Miga and Wensley are excited to have a great weekend with their friends enjoying some of the best that music has to offer.