Are Smart Sunglasses Worth It? Here’s How They Changed My Coachella Experience
Coachella — the music festival of all festivals. Having lived on the East Coast for all of my adult life, Coachella always seemed like a mecca of music, art, and food that would forever remain out of grasp. I first learned about it in the mid-2010s, during the rise of Instagram bloggers and influencers. I was fascinated by the spectacle of it all, especially the endless stream of photos plastered across magazines and social media of celebrities clad in Western belts, body chains, and flower crowns. The online obsession with what attendees were wearing always appeared to overshadow the musical performances.
But in 2018, my perspective shifted. The queen bee blessed the world with a once-in-a-lifetime performance, and I’ll never forget how desperately I wished I could have witnessed the iconic set in person. Between the legendary trio reunion, the marching band, and 100 incredible dancers, I knew that I had to make the trek out to Indio and experience all that is Coachella at least once in my lifetime. After two years of no-Chella, my time finally arrived — the opportunity to attend Coachella for my first time while test-driving Ray-Ban Stories Smart glasses, which look like regular Ray-Ban Wayfarers but with built-in camera and audio functions that allow me to both listen to the music and seamlessly capture content. Keep reading for my day-in-the-desert diary and how these smart sunglasses will forever change the way I do music festivals.
6:16 a.m. — I’m jolted out of a deep sleep by the sound of birds chirping outside the window. I check my phone and it’s 6 a.m. Ugh. There is no reason for me to be awake this early. I figured I’d wake up early thanks to the time difference, but never thought desert ambience would prove harder to sleep through than the noise outside my Brooklyn apartment. I dive back into my comforter and fall back asleep.
9:30 a.m. — The alarm sounds and it’s officially time to get moving. Those birds robbed me of a few hours, but I get up to make an iced chai latte, praying it’ll wake me up and provide some much needed energy to get Coachella-ready.
10:05 a.m. — After scarfing down a sugar donut, I post up in front of the mirror and get to work. I paint on some lime green eyeliner across my lid, pack on some SPF foundation, and swipe some mauve blush across my cheeks. I braid my hair down the sides and place a few bright green and blue butterfly clips for that ’90s look. Cute! I feel like a Gen Z-er. Satisfied with my work, I steam my sage green athletic dress to smooth out the wrinkles from our trip. I finish my look with a beaded flower necklace, three rings, my trusty white sneakers, and Coachella wristband, and I’m just about ready. Putting on the Ray-Ban sunglasses, I connect them to my phone to play some Coachella bops and have a five minute dance party to shake out the excited, nervous energy.
12:00 p.m. — We call a car and as expected there’s a long wait due to traffic and demand. Double-checking my essentials, I’ve got sunscreen, my ID and credit cards, lip balm, sunglasses, and my point-and-shoot film camera in my white compact side sling bag. Walking out to our car, the sun is already bearing down on us. As soon as we’re in, I make sure to put some powdered sunscreen on my hair part to prevent a sunburnt scalp.
12:48 p.m. — Arriving at the festival grounds, it’s super dusty. I keep my mask on to prevent inhaling any of it, despite the blazing heat. Thankfully, the sunglasses keep all the debris from getting in my eyes. The never-ending walk from the drop-off point to security is absolutely brutal, and I feel like a cartoon character from the ’90s lost in the desert looking for an oasis.
1:17 p.m. — We finally enter the desert oasis that is Coachella! The first thing we see is the iconic Coachella ferris wheel towering over us. It doesn’t feel real to be witnessing it in person. Seeing landmarks like this in real life is mind-boggling…I swear these places only exist in photos. I snap some #content on the Ray-Ban sunglasses while we take it all in.
2:25 p.m. — Battling the heat, we traverse to one of the many stands dotted throughout the fields to grab an ice-cold lemonade. We marvel at all the beautiful art installations stretching into the sky while sipping on our drinks, in awe of the sheer size of this festival. From here, I can only spot there massive stages, and there are at least four more we have yet to explore.
3:00 p.m. — Hunger sets in as we make the trek across the grounds to the main food hall that has an assortment of culinary options. We decided on vegan cold ramen, which was absolutely delicious. I’ll definitely make a point to find something similar to be added to my regular meal rotation back in New York. Since the food hall is directly in front of one of the stages, we enjoy our lunch while watching a Mongolian throat singing rock band. Dressed in full leather outfits and whipping their long, luscious hair, I’m mesmerized by not only the unique sound of throat singing, but also how well their performance translated to the massive stage.
3:30 p.m. — I am a big boba fan (and snob), so when I see there’s a boba stand, I am immediately skeptical. Deciding to give it a chance, I order an oat matcha latte with boba. Taking my first sip, I’m impressed by how light and refreshing it is. This may even be the best boba I’ve had outside of Taiwan, which is a statement I never thought I’d make coming to a music festival.
3:40 p.m. — We stroll over to the next performance to watch an artist making history as one of the first Indian women performing at Coachella, mixing English and Hindi in her songs. I make sure to record bits of the performance on the glasses to save this revolutionary moment in my archive of concert videos.
4:00 p.m. — Hiking from one side of the grounds, we attempt to enter one of the indoor stages dedicated primarily to house and techno. Unfortunately, all we found upon our arrival was an hour-long line, so we resort to bathroom breaks, instead. Thanks to some poor coordination and the frenzied lines of potty-goers, I lose my friends in a sea of port-a-potties. A quick call through my Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses and we pinpoint a meeting spot nearby to link back up. We make camp with a picnic blanket by the ferris wheel to relax and people watch. We even end up spotting the original influencer capturing some content for her socials.
6:15 p.m. — Post-rest and relaxation, we saunter over to a stage to catch a few songs from a Canadian singer who brings all the nostalgia, most notably from 2012. The aroma of shrimp and chicken wafting over from a paella stand nearby sends us on a path to our next destination. We shovel down the large portion of food as soon as the order falls into our hands.
6:36 p.m. — Stomachs satisfied, we spot some high energy dancing on the main stage from the far side of the festival. Even from across the fields we can see this Brazilian artist tear up the stage with 10 dancers backing her up. And the festival-goers nearby are all getting down and matching the energy onstage, including a pair of dancers in homemade mushroom costumes.
7:16 p.m. — At sunset, the next act begins. This massively popular Mexican regional band could not be more different from the previous Latin pop artist. I’m not familiar with the band, but it’s obvious they have a large and loyal fan base, allowing their followers to sing along, word for word. In this moment, witnessing the joy of the performers as well as the audience has me tearing up. Experiencing live music again, with a gorgeous sunset, surrounded by sprawling mountains, and having a collective emotional experience got me in my feelings. Not to be sappy, but I’m incredibly thankful to be at Coachella.
8:23 p.m. — Drying my tears, we switch it up for the next set and dance it out for three DJ sets in a row. The stage is set up in a tent with six sparkling chandeliers, and I watch them sway in the desert wind wondering how they create stages like this.
10:44 p.m. — Recharge time. We grab some loaded fries topped with al pastor, cheese, and pico de gallo. We weave through throngs of exhausted attendees before finding a spot in the grass to watch a DJ duo. I don’t typically listen to their music, but the best way I can describe it is something akin to random pop music you hear during transition scenes of a popular real estate reality TV show.
11:35 p.m. — Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is here. Our Friday headliner kicks his set off by playing a few of his most popular hits. Seeing him onstage throws me for a loop. In high school, I was a big fan of his former British boy band. Although I had hoped for a reunion with his old bandmates, the singer surprises us with an appearance from a legendary country star. The pair duet for a few songs as the pyrotechnics let loose. They’re the duo we never knew we needed. I capture a few videos on the glasses, knowing that they’ll be clips I’ll cherish forever.
12:56 a.m. — The headliner’s set sadly comes to an end while I’m still high on the adrenaline of such an amazing performance. We trudge through the crowds, lines, and billows of dust. At the rideshare pick-up area, we’re amongst the hundreds of people who are also scrambling to find their driver. We eventually locate our car and leap in, where I promptly fall asleep.
2:59 a.m. — Made it back to the hotel in one piece. I begrudgingly remove my makeup and hop in the shower to wash away a week’s worth of dust and sweat. Pulling on my PJs, I crawl into bed, set my alarm, and swiftly fall asleep, ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
My takeaway: As a frequent festival-goer in college and concert attendee pre-pandemic, I’ve always experienced the internal struggle of needing to live in the moment and wanting to capture the scene to not only share with friends and family, but also to save as souvenirs for myself. I love looking back at my old photos and videos of concerts and reminiscing about how incredible of a time I had (even more so during the pandemic when I missed live music the most). The tradeoff is always that I either have to pull my phone out of my pocket every five seconds to record, or deal with holding my phone in my hand the whole concert (which is the absolute worst).
The Ray-Ban Stories Smart Glasses solves this dilemma entirely. Not once did I have to even think about getting my phone out as I easily snapped both photos and videos with a click of a button on the glasses. At the end of each night, I connected the glasses to my phone via Bluetooth and watched as all the content I captured from the day downloaded onto the Facebook View app (and automatically saved into my camera roll), which I could then share with friends and family through Instagram, Facebook, or any social media app, really.
I also found no issue with the comfortability of the glasses after wearing them for more than eight hours (no soreness on my ears at all). For my next music festival, these smart sunglasses will be the first thing I pack.
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