Passover at Coachella: How Jewish Festival-Goers Squeezed a Seder Between Showtimes

·4-min read

“I snuck a shank bone into Coachella,” Nate Auerbach said Friday, standing outside the VIP Rose Garden at Coachella, amid sparkle-dress clad hordes of partiers. “Most people sneak… other things.”

Auerbach — a partner at Versus Creative, a marketing company that runs the social content for Coachella amid other Goldenvoice events – was getting ready to set up a Seder, the traditional Jewish meal for the first night of Passover, at Outstanding in the Field, the $275-per-person dinner series that happens every night in the VIP section of the festival. He secured a ticket-buying partnership with the dinner organizers, worked out a grant with a Jewish organization to offset some of the cost, made a flyer advertising a $75 Seder in the VIP area and sold dozens of tickets as a popup to the dinner, which was cooked by chefs Diego Hernandez and Donnie Masterson.

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Danny Elfman’s manager Laura Engel and her family were among those who bought tickets: daughter Rachel sent the flyer to the family’s text message chain with the text, “Are we doing this?” Her other daughter, Hannah, responded in the way that only a seasoned Coachella vet would: “I say yes: but it’s so hard ‘cause the set times aren’t out.”

coachella passover
coachella passover

That tough-to-commit-to-timing played out as attendees took breaks from the dinner to see surprise act Arcade Fire at the nearby Mojave Stage in between bites of their meals. Unlike a traditional Seder — with a very specific set menu and a lengthy read-through of the Haggadah, the story of Moses’ journey from Egypt to Israel — this one was far more casual, with a non-kosher menu that was set long before Auerbach’s partnership, a read-it-yourself 4-page Haggadah distributed to guests and a quick candlelighting and prayer amid lots of attendee schmoozing.

Evan Winiker, managing partner at Range Music, gave his trademark hugs during the first course of smoked marlin pate with avocado hummus before running back to the field to catch his client Cordae’s set. Red Light’s Jason Colton and his family stopped by as share-plates of bluefin tuna were distributed to say hello to old friends. Rapper Kosha Dillz rolled through in full Moses regalia to eat some matzah before rushing off for his own pop-up Passover service, Matzachella. Engel’s husband, musician Jimmie Wood, stood up at one point and sang an impromptu version of the traditional Passover song “Let My People Go.”

“There are a lot of people who sacrifice their Passover to be here,” Auerbach said. “They’re not looking for the strict food or ceremony or any of it — they’re looking for that family dinner vibe. They can come together [with friends and strangers] and be a family on the first night of Coachella — which is also the first night of Passover.”

Auerbach wasn’t the only Jewish attendee looking for that connection: Dillz’ Matzachella event is an offshoot of his pop-up parking lot Shabbat services at Coachellas past, and chefs Eric Greenspan and Burt Bakman are actually cooking a more-traditional multicourse Seder dinner at Outstanding in the Field on Sunday (“We figured Kanye was doing Sunday service so we would do Sunday Seder,” Greenspan said. “Guess he got shook.”) And there were plenty of passerby who didn’t even know the event was happening who, when they saw the one traditional Seder plate that Auerbach had set out in acknowledgement of the tradition, mentioned how proud their parents would be that Passover was happening on the field.

passover coachella 2022
passover coachella 2022

At the end of the day though, the dinner was about connection — that’s exactly what actress and musician Idalia Valles and her partner Jessie Sachs, who’s leading mindfulness exercises at Coachella for the meditation app Open, found.

“We made friends with people [at the dinner] that we’re going to hit up when we get home,” Valles said. “They may move into the house in front of us — they may be our neighbors!”

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