The music festival fascination

Reflecting on the history and culture of Southern California music festivals


Coachella. The word has been ringing in millennials’ ears since the lineup was released in January.

This three-day musical festival held in Indio, Calif. is associated with all genres, from indie pop bands to number one rappers on Apple Music. Coachella is a culture. Its history is rich, its music loud, and the environment indescribable.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Coachella and Stagecoach combined had an overall economic impact of $704 million in 2016, with a 99,000 person per day attendance during Coachella’s six days. Although the hype can seem irritating, it is real and captivates both first time attendees and returners.

Coachella is 18 years old, originally launched in 1999 with headliners such as Beck, Chemical Brothers, Tool, Morrissey, and Rage Against the Machine. The festival dates back before the days of Drake and The Black Keys.

It was inspired by popular musical festivals like Woodstock, as well as Pearl Jam’s 1993 concert also held in the Empire Polo Club. In fact, Coachella announced its unveil a week after riots broke out at Woodstock’s 1999 festival. Coachella promised to shine a new light on the shadow that was cast over music lovers. The first festival was a two-day event, and general admission tickets were only about $50 a day, a drastic difference to the wholesale price of $400 for a ticket today.

Fast forward 18 years. The air is filled with the scent of stale cigarettes, celebrities and models strut to and from each stage in vintage denim. Not only have the vibes changed, but the damage on your wallet has as well.

Music lovers posting on Coachella’s official message board noted that, on average, people spend around $1,000 for the three-day extravaganza. This includes a ticket, food, transportation, and housing. That’s not to mention the hundreds of dollars that some spend on extravagant outfits for the occasion.

Coachella is kind of a mess — a hot, trendy, musical mess. Many argue it’s becoming more of a fashion show with a trendy geotag than a place to really listen to the artists. The festival is drawing more than just band aficionados, and now appeals to celebrities and middle schoolers alike.

So what makes it worth the high costs and overwhelming heat? Strip back the clothing, flash tattoos, and pink hair dye, and Coachella becomes what it should be: a music festival. You can be as musically obscure as you like, and Vanessa Hudgens would bet her favorite choker there’s a band somewhere in the Lady Gaga-Marshmello mix for everyone.

Over the years, the lineups have made drastic changes. Now, it seems to be following a pattern: a classic band, an A-list rapper, and a wild card. With this wide array of music genres, the crowd is just as diverse as the music festival itself, which adds to the unique and quirky vibe that Coachella emulates.

Sophomore Ciara Paradise, a fourth year Coachella attendee, discussed her affinity for the festival.

“I’ve always had fun at Coachella, but this year was truly the best weekend of my life,” Paradise said. “A huge part of it is the music obviously, but it’s the people you’re with that will always resonate with you. It’s crazy.”

Paradise added that she was in good company among her sorority sisters, and felt as if she was in another world at the festival.

Staying in large groups is nearly impossible, especially when having to decide between conflicting artist set times. Instead, most people find it best to stick with four to five people they vibe with both personally and musically.

Sophomore Macrae Martinez, a second year Coachella attendee, explained how her friends negotiated set times.

“A lot of people just go now for the DJs, and I mean, yeah, those are definitely a fun time, but seeing bands like the ‘xx’ outside with your best friends by your side is what it’s all about,” Martinez said. “Good company and good music.”

Although Coachella seems intimidating to those who don’t keep up with festival trends or the latest DJ Snake trap music, sophomore Anthony Grasso expressed that he felt comfortable.

“Overall, [Coachella was] a very welcoming environment with great vibes the whole weekend,” Grasso said.

Coachella is mind boggling in all ways. The people, the music, the heat, and the mental and physical tolls it takes on your body is a lot for anyone. So how do you do Coachella right in the up and coming years, other than ensuring you have a Camelbak with water, a pair of round sunglasses, and mental preparation for the Sahara Tent? Be with good people because, as sophomore and DJ fanatic Daniel Busky puts it, at the end of the day, “the atmosphere of Coachella is like nothing else.”


Camille Hayward, Contributor