By EW Staff
July 27, 2017 at 08:59 AM EDT

Image Credit: Albert L. Ortega/PR Photos Josh Schwartz (the guy behind Chuck, Gossip Girl, and The OC) is a huge fan of the Coachella music festival, which this year runs from April 16-18 and features headliners Jay-Z, Muse, and Gorillaz. Below, he shares some of his highlights.

I was never allowed to celebrate Christmas. This void in my childhood left me on a decades-long search for a holiday I could call my own. On a balmy weekend in October, 1999, as a college senior, I found what I had been looking for. And unlike Christmas, this one had good music (all apologies to Mannheim Steamroller). It was called Coachella.

In the years since, Coachella has become an exodus from reality, a celebration of music, an endurance test, a snapshot of the zeitgeist, and, as I anticipate my 11th trip to Indio, a college reunion of sorts. It is, at times, unbearably hot, incredibly crowded, and nearly impossible to navigate. At others, it is magical: a near spiritual adventure that brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, and body odors to hear the best bands in the world. Here is a look back on some Coachellas past.

YEAR ONE: The journey to the first Coachella was like landing on an exotic undiscovered island. Wide-open polo fields lit by glow sticks and a full moon, where one could run freely from one pre-millennial act to the next. To me and my friends, it was love at first sight. Not so much for the girl I had brought with me, hoping to use this weekend to act upon a summer-long crush. When I awoke Monday morning, she was gone, leaving me to make the long drive back to Los Angeles alone. Not even this temporary heartbreak could get in the way of my new long-term relationship.

ONE-TWO PUNCH: I doubt that the rest of my concert-going life will ever see a back-to-back performance like the 2004 pairing of the Pixies into Radiohead. It was epic and unforgettable, and remains the high-water mark of all Coachellas.

A STAR IS BORN: There are moments where the perfect band takes the stage at the perfect time and a harmony of music and destiny sweep over the crowd. In 2005, as the sun was setting, through a golden hued haze, Arcade Fire swept the second stage. Their performance was an incendiary proclamation to all witnesses — a major new band had arrived. No one could match their numbers, or their passion.

BEHIND THE SCENES: We wrapped the first season of The OC in April, 2004. To celebrate, I convinced some of the cast members to attend their first Coachella. They loved it, until after the concert, when we discovered we’d been abandoned by our taxi home. The gridlock exiting the parking lot meant it would be hours before a new ride could rescue us. We didn’t despair. Instead, an impromptu game of stickball was organized, one that made the time fly by. One of my favorite memories from the OC experience.

THE ONE: Bringing the woman who would one day be my wife to her first Coachella in 2006 was a high-pressure situation. What if she hated it? Could the relationship handle it? But as I watched her fight the crowds with me to get close to Bloc Party in the Gobi tent and witnessed her reverie during a transcendent Sigur Ros main-stage performance, I knew Coachella was telling me I had the right partner — for future Coachella weekends, and for the rest of my life.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter @EWMusicMix.)

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