Breaking News: Sober People Go to Coachella (and Other Festivals)
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Breaking News: Sober People Go to Coachella (and Other Festivals)


So Coachella, that epic indie (ish?) music festival in the California desert (you know, the one so many cute young celebrities enjoy making appearances at so they can show off their stylish new boho-fabulous festival-wear) is going on right now. And lo and behold, sober folks are there! It’s crazy, but drug- and drink-free people have descended on Coachella…just like sober people descend on pretty much everything. Because, yes, sober people are everywhere. Here are a few summer festivals that “normal” people might associate with massive drinking and partying where soberites have formed their own communities.


So yeah, like I said, a bunch of sober people are at Coachella right now. According to this blog post at the Houston Press, it’s a regular thing. Since 2009, New Orleans couple Bob Johnson and Jane Smith (not their real names) have “led 12-step meetings on the festival grounds for those who, like themselves, are in recovery. They call their group Soberchella.”

Apparently the main AA meetings are held within the festival grounds while all the musical action’s going down around them. (So the sober minions have to miss the music? No fair.) Still, “the crew—which has grown to almost 30 people strong, mostly from Southern California—spends a half an hour or more talking to each other about recovery.” It’s unclear what format these meetings have but hey, if it’s a group of drunks, it sounds pretty legit to us.


When I lived in San Francisco, I knew a bunch of sober people who would get dressed up all ridiculous-like and hit up Burning Man en masse every year. The huge art festival in the Nevada desert happens in August, and for most folks, it’s a hotbed of art and community and drunken, drug-fueled debauchery. It’s a hotbed of debauchery for sober folks, too but their debauchery, from what I’ve gleaned, mainly tends to focus on, well, hookups. (Again, I’m a BM virgin so I’m making a generalization here.) Regardless, the proudly sober population at BM seems pretty sweeping—there are various “camps” for teetotalers to align themselves with, like Camp Anonymous an Camp Stella and the Burning Man website offers a thoughtful guide of tips on how to keep your sobriety while cavorting “on the playa.”


I’ve also never been to the reportedly drug-happy music festival Bonnaroo—which is coming up on June 12-15 in Manchester, Tennessee—but apparently lots of intellectual music-nerd types like to go. Including sober ones! In fact, there’s a little sobriety-focused contingent called “Soberoo” which describes itself as “a group of clean and sober music fans who choose to remain drug- and alcohol-free at Bonnaroo and other music festivals.” One shirtless 20-something glitter-bedecked dude at the 2012 festival rather inspiringly noted, “I truly believe I can do anything and go anywhere as long as I don’t drink or use.” We tend to agree, sir. We tend to agree.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.