Acres of lush green grass. Majestic palm trees highlighted by a purple mountain backdrop. Sunny Southern California skies. Desert nights in the Spring. Cutting edge art installations. The hottest artists/DJs in the world. And 75,000 of your closest friends. As far as music festivals go, The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is as good as it gets. What makes Coachella the premier festival in the country & one of the top festivals in the world? First and foremost, the music. Coachella first began in 1999, took a year off in 2000, and since then, I’ve attended the last 13 festivals. And if there’s one thing I can say unequivocally, it’s that the music lineup always delivers. Not only does Coachella consistently offer the hottest musicians of the moment, the festival has also played host to some of the greatest acts of all time: Paul McCartney, Prince, Madonna, Roger Waters, Radiohead, Daft Punk, Dre & Snoop & many others. Artists come out of retirement & bands reunite for Coachella. Musically speaking, it’s an A-list festival. But to achieve that A-list status, you have to deliver the goods from top to bottom. While keeping an eye on the mainstream, Coachella has always had its finger on the pulse of the underground. At the height of the Disco Punk revival in 2004, Coachella made sure to book acts like LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, !!! & Le Tigre. During those glorious Bloghaus years from 2007-2009, Coachella didn’t miss a beat with Bloghaus darlings MSTRKRFT, Klaxons, Justice, Sebastian, Kavinsky & Ghostland Observatory. And last year Coachella took a more underground approach by adding the Yuma Tent & keeping things deep & dark with acts like Seth Troxler, Maya Jane Coles, Julio Bashmore, Loco Dice & Richie Hawtin. For Coachella, it’s ALWAYS been about the music.
At the core of Coachella are its attendees. I’ve always been appreciative of what a well balanced crowd Coachella has year in & year out. The Do Lab, a Los Angeles based company specializing in interactive environments, event production and creative lighting design, always play a large part in bringing a diverse & creative environment to the crowd. There always seems to be just the right mix of people. A dash of bohemian, a sprinkle of rave, a little bit rowdy but not too bro’d out. The festival isn’t overrun with candy ravers or hippies or meatheads. I mean, sure…occasionally we get THIS GUY. But hey, we all overdo it every now and then. And sure you have to watch out for E-puddles & you might encounter a naked guy on acid. But for the most part, Coachella isn’t a wasteland of whacked out zombies. Nor is it a bunch of pretty people who are there just to be seen (although the really orange, fake tan girl I saw last year was certainly trying too hard). Coachella attracts the type of crowd you want to spend three days out in the desert with.
So what’s the point of telling you all of this? Well, Coachella does have a lot of detractors. I mean, A LOT. Just Google “Coachella sucks” or “Coachella is the worst” & you’ll come across plenty of articles on the subject. I scoff at some of the things that people say negatively about Coachella. If you’re whining about sweaty people touching you and stepping on your shoes, maybe a music festival isn’t where you belong. These things happen. Get over it. The biggest complaint of all? It’s too expensive. This is something I never quite understood. I live in Santa Barbara, CA. Tickets for good seats at The Bowl this year to see The Weeknd, BANKS & Anna Lunoe (great show by the way) were around $70. $70 for three amazing acts. Everyone I know who went to that show had a great time & felt like they got their monies worth. For that ticket price, that’s about $24 paid for each act. Now take a look at Coachella. On the lineup this year, I count nine acts I really want to see…ON THE FIRST DAY. My rough count shows me at 28 acts I really want to see this upcoming Coachella. Aiming a little lower, I’m going to say the average Coachella attendee has 20 acts they really want to see over the course of three days. If you take the $350 ticket price & divide it by 20, that’s less than $18 per act. MONEY WELL SPENT.
[Detractors Part II: LA Weakly]
An article in LA Weekly came out yesterday titled “Why Coachella Is No Longer Worth It”. The article states that Coachella’s biggest problems are that the lineup is no longer compelling & that the same bands are being recycled. While I certainly don’t disagree with the latter, what exactly is the harm with that? Do they think that these artists are going to play the exact same set as years past? Not only have most of the “recycled” acts released more material since the last time they played but they also (I’m assuming) have honed their skills & played more shows over the years & become even better live performers (except for MIA…she just seems to get worse each time). And what about DJs? You know their sets will be different…set lists for DJs change daily. You may not be compelled by the lineup, LA Weekly, but I sure as hell am. Even if there are acts this year that I’ve seen multiple times, that still leaves me with plenty of acts I haven’t seen: Duke Dumont, Lorde, Darkside, Hot Since 82, Solomon, Blood Orange, Art Department, The 1975, AlunaGeorge, OutKast…FUCKING OUTKAST. Those 10 acts alone seem pretty damn compelling to me. Something tells me that, even after writing that LA Weekly article & trying to be too cool for his own good, that kid will still be in attendance at Coachella 2014.
Over the years, Coachella has done a great job of making the necessary improvements to make the festival experience a more pleasant one. In 2004, when Radiohead first played, Coachella sold out for the first time ever. In the years to follow, ticket scalping became a major issue. Once passes sold out, it was impossible to find a pass for less than $500. Coachella’s solution to combating scalpers has been to wait until a few short weeks before the festival to mail out wrist bands. This solution has proven to be an effective one: you can’t sell what you don’t have. SCALPERS: DENIED. Other areas of improvement have been to increase the size & capacity of the tents…DID YOU SEE THE SIZE OF THE SAHARA TENT LAST YEAR? Also, the layout has become much more streamlined. In the past you used to have to walk all the way around the food courts & concession stands to get to the dance tents. Now you can walk directly there. And there are incentives for carpoolers, there’s a recycling program & there are a long list of features Coachella offers for those with disabilities. I really cannot say enough at what a well run event Coachella is every year. I’ve seen some bumps in the road over the years with entrance locations & lines. But the improvements were always made each year & entrance into the venue (along with security) has become a breeze over the last few years. And nothing else about the festival is overly pricey. Waters are only a few bucks. Parking is free. And food & alcohol prices are average. And to those who say, “well I don’t have $1,000 to throw away on one weekend”, I say that’s what layaway is for.
[We Are Your Friends | My People | Latch]
There’s a reason why Coachella sells tens of thousands of presale passes months before any acts are announced. It’s because of what those passes guarantee year in & year out: amazing music & a lifetime of memories. Through the years, Coachella has supplied me with countless, unforgettable memories. I’ll never forget the excitement of seeing the Chemical Brothers for the first time when they played the Sahara Tent in 2001. Or the next year when they played the Main Stage and me & a dozen friends sprinted hand-in-hand in a single file line across the entire polo field as “Come With Us/Music Response” summoned for us. Or that extra special closing-of-the-weekend set when ALL your friends come together for that one special closing song: Justice – “We Are Your Friends” in 2008, Presets – “My People” in 2011 or Disclosure – “Latch” in 2013. These are unforgettable times that only a five star festival like Coachella can make real. In 13 years of attending, Coachella has never let me down.
Thank you, Coachella, for the lifetime of wonderful memories. See you for more in April.
Andrew Rodriguez | Gotta Dance Dirty