Saturday, April 30, 2005

a head start on trouble

Noon – 7 PM. After our successful liaison with Mr. Dangerous, a.k.a Myke, Kiyash and I spend the next seven hours scouting the festival grounds, strategizing our game plan for the heist, speculating about Myke’s involvement, and of course taking in a few sets. K-os rocks the Gobi tent, and Jean Grae puts on a show that will surely rank as one of the great live performances I see this year.

Throughout the afternoon, we text message and talk to SMG3er and HitsHerMark via phone. They’re also stalking the festival grounds. We decide collectively that don’t want to be seen together as a group too much before the heist. Better to keep our affiliation on the D.L. for now. We’re pretty sure the Coachella 5 will have a high-enough profile once we start trying to break into the A3 and recover the SD card from the nav system. So we agree to work the grounds separately until sunset.

Sunset. SMG3er and Laura have found each other, and then they find us. The pink wig turns out to be a pretty effective beacon for fellow retrievers.

The four of us compare notes on our earlier meet with Myke. We're suspicious that he might be in disguise, too... his hair is manic enough to suggest a wig.

Since this is our first face-to-face contact, we decide some team bonding is in order to develop the trust we'll need to pull of whatever the night has in store for us. So we psyche up for the mission by syncing up our cell phones and inventing a Coachella 5 cheer. We also create a secret Coachella-themed code to scream if we ever need to covertly alert each other to danger, which we practice screaming several times: "This band sucks!!"

We don’t know what Nisha, Myke, or our other partners-in-crime have in store for us at 10 PM. So we decide to undertake a series of on-site training exercises to practice our special skills for the high-stakes heist.

First, we locate one of the two massive, collective drum installations that allow lots of people to bang together on metal sculptures that offer extreme acoustical affordances. By banging frenetically on the drums together, the four of us practice two of our elite heist skills that we had reported to Nisha earlier in the week: Creating a distraction and making noise to obscure a signal. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Hitshermark had completed the same training mission earlier in the day on her own.

Next, we decide to work on our getaway skills. We head over to the collection of insanely modded bikes put together by Cyclecide. The wheels, steering systems, and grills of the bikes have been hacked to produce extremely wonky rides. No brakes, of course. We practice navigating around the bike rodeo, imagining we're being chased by goons. We think the wonkiness of the rides will help throw the bad guys off our trail, sort of like drunken master fighting. Kiyash masters the meanest machine, a wobbly monster that puts him five feet off the ground.

Earlier in the day, Kiyash and I had both worked on our getaway stamina by powering Cyclecide's do-it-yourself Merry-Go-Round. (You have to pedal bikes welded to the rotating core in order to make the amusement ride work.) SMG3er and Laura work on their stamina by eating concession treats, like a churro.

Laura and I decide that we are the mostly likely targets for interrogation, should Gunter or the goons grab us during the heist. So we strap ourselves into the Aversion Therapy Bike to de-sensitize ourselves to whatever ruthless methods the bad guys might apply, in a Worst Case Scenario. The Aversion Therapy Bike is a stationary bike modded with a whip attached to the back wheel. Each time you pedal a full cycle, the whip lashes you on the lower back. The harder and faster you pedal, the more it stings. Laura and I pedal-whipped ourselves like crazy. When I was done, my back was quite red. Ah, how we are willing to suffer for our art.

Our training exercises were complete. It was time to connect with HitsHerMark in front of the Mojave tent where Secret Machines would be playing. She was there, waiting, and ready to make our final mission preparations.

With the Coachella 5 finally assembled, and two hours to kill before our Tesla Coil meet, you might say we had a head start on trouble.

We had no idea how much trouble that trouble would be.

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