The Coachella Valley comes alive for two weekends each year as the desertscape heats up with the arrival of music acts and hundreds of thousands of fans.
With 2016 headliners LCD Soundsystem, Guns N’ Roses and Calvin Harris and an extensive musical lineup to drive the festival fun, Coachella hype has become a surging trend. Though tickets sold out in under an hour, Coachella has entered pop culture with a particularly tinged reputation.
Is Coachella an exhilarating musical experience that unifies fans, or has the event devolved into a playground for cultural appropriation and obnoxious behavior? A&E columnists Nina Crosby and Sasha Cheechov discuss Coachella culture in this week’s “Love | Hate.”
Indio, California, has been transformed into a musical mecca. Every April, people flock to hear artists of all genres perform on the famed stages of Coachella.
The festival brings in fans of all ages, and iconic older bands have reunited for the sake of the event. There is something at Coachella for everyone. From mainstream pop and EDM to rap and R&B to the underground indie-folk sound that I can’t seem to put my finger on, you can hear it all.
Coachella culture, despite its occasional superficiality, is significant because of the love for music it fosters and the community it creates.
The image-obsessed crowd shouldn’t shape or define the diverse culture, and the clothing lines that claim to fit “Coachella fashion” shouldn’t be seen as the dress code. Sure, there will be some girls wearing lacy Urban Outfitter dresses and adorned with flower crowns, but this shouldn’t discourage music lovers from coming out to see over 150 bands, ranging from A$AP Rocky to The 1975.
Genuine Coachella culture is not making elaborate fashion statements or wearing face paint and posting it on your Instagram; it’s roughing the hot and dusty weather with a car full of your best friends, singing until you can’t talk and dancing until your feet feel like jello. You’ll get dirty, and by the end of the day you definitely won’t look great, but being surrounded by both famed and rising musicians and experiencing a mashup of various genres is an experience that cannot be gained anywhere else.
Every year’s headlining acts provide novelty performances that will live on in the history of live music, and Coachella-goers get to witness these milestones firsthand. Some of the quintessential Coachella moments include Daft Punk’s epic 2006 performance to a tent filled beyond its capacity, a surprise appearance by power couple Jay Z and Beyonce that wowed the crowd and a Tupac tribute featuring Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, complete with a holographic Tupac Shakur.
So before you criticize this year’s lineup and shake your head at your self-proclaimed hipster friends for attending the event, stop worrying about other people and think twice about the experience Coachella has to offer you.
A quality Coachella weekend may be hidden behind a facade of spring breakers and fashion bloggers, but the true experience entails sunburnt cheeks, a pair of mud-covered Vans and a disposable camera full of moments you won’t even need the pictures to remember.
– Sasha Cheechov
What was once a dreamlike, euphoric event has become a nightmare. I have no ill will toward the actual festival; in fact, I believe Coachella could and should be the apex of music appreciation and cultural celebration. Music fans traveling from all over to have a great time doesn’t offend me. However, hearing the question, “bro, you goin’ to ‘chella?” a million times has left me reeling.
Coachella culture is synonymous with the worst kind of festivalgoers. If it’s not Instagram “models” appropriating cultures by donning bindis and Native headdresses, or the multiple people getting arrested for overt drug use, it’s the aggressive crowds clamoring to be the first to a stage by any means necessary.
Coachella is muddled in drunken fights, nightmarish restrooms, drug-addled youths and incessant social media updates that drive me crazy. Instead of basking in the glory of live performances, Coachella attendees have fostered a culture of live-tweeting and updating timelines that doesn’t even acknowledge the music.
I guess for some, the allure of having no personal space in a crowd of sweating, shoving bodies while rejecting yet another light show from a stranger on acid means having a good time, but I fail to find the fun.
“Oh, but what about the music and the lineup?” fans will counter. I am a fan of music too, but I’m not willing to drop nearly $500 for a weekend concert to camp out in my car.
To add insult to injury, the usually overrated lineup has the worst scheduling conflicts, in which the artists I’m there to see will always play at the same time at the furthest venues from one another. Last year, The Orwells performed at the exact same time as Joyce Manor, leaving fans of both groups in a desperate frenzy. Yay, ‘chella!
So, while hundreds of thousands of disillusioned fans flock to Coachella this year to writhe in the sweltering heat in an ocean of dirty, wasted kids, I’ll stick to the live YouTube coverage in the comfort of my air-conditioned dorm, watching the performers I actually want to see.
– Nina Crosby