My favorite Prince memory is also my favorite Coachella memory, which I guess is sort of fitting given the timing of this dire f*cking tragedy. It was 2008 and he was playing the main stage. I had never seen him live before, and I wanted to get right up in the action – but, you know, the kind of action that includes breathing room and excludes sweaty men/stepped on toes.
Our wristbands included side stage access but only for the smaller stages. I decided to do what I do best in situations where I want something I’m not supposed to have and feign rapturously excited ignorance. (It probably helped that the rapturous excitement part was one hundred percent real.) My friend and I skipped toward the backstage entrance, locking eyes with the security guy, shooting him the biggest smiles this side of the Mississippi, and throwing our hands up in the air to show him our (completely inadequate) wristbands. I made it through, but my friend got held back.
In any other situation, I would have turned back and gone with her – partly out of solidarity and partly because our group had no meet-up plan and my phone was deader than dead. But this was Prince. I worked my way to a prime spot side stage and swayed blissfully, the dorkiest grin plastered across my face, for almost two hours. At one point, he had the control panel turn off the lights, "We're jammin' tonight." I have never been so smitten/starstruck by such a tiny, tiny man. (Or anyone, really.) I've always been a total fangirl about his music, but seeing him in person was everything I thought it would be and more. The charisma. The smoke/mist. The white suit with silver studs. Sweet holy Jesus.
The friend who tried to sneak backstage with me never made it back to the rest of our group, so they had no idea where either of us were. My BFF was crying, realizing she might never see me again/I might be lost to the polo fields forever, until another friend pointed up to the Main Stage screens, “I found her.” One of Prince’s guys had brought a few of us females out onstage to dance (poorly, but enthusiastically). I’m not going to say my life peaked right then, but there hasn’t been a more epic moment yet.
Because Coachella in those days was a magical place full of magical human beings, where everything just sort of magically worked out, I made a couple friends backstage. One of whom took pictures he promised to send me - he never did but the offer really perked up my inner historian at the time, who couldn't believe I was having this insane experience with no way to document it. (It’s fine, these memories have somehow managed to survive where all others have perished. I can live with that.) Another of these newfound homies offered to give me a ride to the T-Mobile party I knew my friends would end up at in exchange for me getting him in. His name was Jake. At no point was I even mildly concerned about being alone in a car with a stranger, trucking out to some remote part of the desert. (If we both love Prince, we both must be decent human beings, right?! My BFF remains unconvinced on this point to this day.)
RIP Old-school Coachella, but mostly…RIP Prince, you ethereal, sparkly, purple-y, unbelievably engaging, otherworldly creative genius, you. Thank you for everything you've given us to survive on/dance to/belt out/sob over/look to for inspiration time and time and time again.