With the second weekend of Coachella 2017 drawing to an end, it’s time to ask the question what makes people go to this major festival, or more importantly, what makes others not.
At first sight, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, seems like the place to be. Palms, great weather, fashionably dressed people walking around the festival grounds, famous musicians performing on multiple stages and the view of the famous big wheel, which looks great during the sunset, are the things that make Coachella very attractive and popular around the world.
Who would not like to dress up and listen to the world’s top musicians surrounded by palms and fashion killas? As it turns out, a lot more people than you think – because Coachella, in all its beauty, is nothing more than a vanity fair for rich people who show off in their expensive out-fits, pretend to know about music and try to impress others by posting loads of glamorous photos on Instagram.
Yep. That’s the reality of it. And although by definition, Coachella is a music festival, every year it becomes clearer that music is the last thing you should associate Coachella with. Let me tell you why.
Founded in 1999, Coachella was supposed to imitate the low-key European music events that were held in picturesque settings and were all about the beauty of music. Real life performances watched by people focused on the here and now, who appreciated each sound that would spread around the venue, constituted the essence of Coachella and made it genuinely unique. Musicians such as – Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Depeche Mode and Prince were invited to Coachella as head-liners and for some time performances such as theirs reflected the idea of real music being the core of Coachella.
Yet, – as the years went by, the festival started to gain popularity and it quickly entered the realm of mainstream music and entertainment. For many music critics it has become an event that is not worth reviewing strictly from the musical point of view. Last year, The New York Times journalists hit home saying that the current essence of Coachella “has more and more to do with variations in clothes, drugs, topography and regional weather, and less to do with the sounds coming from the multiple stages”. Sadly, the music has become only a background buzz for people walking around the place and taking photos all the time.
This year’s main headliner was supposed to mark the biggest step so far towards mainstream music being present at Coachella – Beyoncé was announced as the shining star of Coachella 2017, yet it seems that even the artist herself couldn’t handle Coachella being so mainstream, as she resigned from performing soon after the fans had prepared their best outfits for the greatest pop show at Coachella. The reason for Queen Bee not being able to perform is of course her twin-pregnancy, but in fact Lady Gaga who was chosen to replace Beyoncé seems to have successfully catered for pop music fans’ needs and surely added the mainstream spice to this year’s edition of Coachella. Although in general terms, pop is considered a genre, people from the field are often outraged by the fact that popular songs with rather unambitious lyrics and similar sounding beats are called “music”. For them it has nothing to do with the genuine musical experience and absorbing all the details from lyrics to the melody of a given song. As many people say, in contrast to other genres, pop songs are merely different variations of a couple of beats that bring no revelation and have almost zero quality. Of course at Coachella, you can hear various types of music, but pop has clearly become the most prevalent one, which made many people truly concerned with music simply refuse to go to Coachella and attend smaller festivals with purpose.
Apart from the lack of opportunities to get a genuine music experience, the pressure of looking good is another factor that prevents people from attending Coachella. Once you take a look at top fashion web sites you can see that towards the end of April, street-style photo galleries from Coachella are the hottest articles there. Celebrities, models, fashionistas, bloggers and occasionally more ordinary people, post photos from Coachella on every possible social media outlet. And with this being totally understandable, considering the importance of Social Media in the contemporary world, aren’t they missing the point of Coachella? Hello! You came here to listen to the music! Not to stare at the screen of your IPhone all the time… But, hey, we’ve already established that Coachella is not about music, so let’s get back to fashion.
In fact, maybe it is not such a bad idea to make a music festival more like a catwalk than a concert venue. People could show off their insanely expensive out-fits, brag about their latest gadgets and vie for likes on Instagram. But, wait a minute, isn’t this what Coachella is already about? As it turns out, this is the reason why some people do not want to go there. They simply don’t want to feel the pressure to look flawless all the time. They’d rather listen to the music, have fun, talk to their friends, enjoy great food and the weather. Unfortunately, at Coachella not a lot of people do that, because it is almost everyone’s duty to look fancy, record everything on Snapchat and be cool at all times. All in all, narcissism, competitiveness and vanity fill the air and make it hard to effortlessly breath for less egocentric, regular people who, as a result, simply don’t bother to show up at this self-admiration event.
The last thing that may drive people away is the cost of Coachella. Assuming that you live in California, you still have to pay around 500$ for the general admission. But remember, you have to eat, drink and sleep somewhere during your crazy weekend and it is kind of obvious that hotel and restaurant owners in the area will increase their prices for this hot date. Additionally, when you finally decide to take part in this glitzy festival you really need to live up to people’s expectations and look good. That’s why you need to invest in brand-new clothes and gadgets so you won’t look weird there. Summing up all those expenses you can be sure that Coachella will cost you and arm and a leg, not to mention how much it would cost people from other states or let alone other continents. Although regular Coachella-goers are rather wealthy and they don’t have a problem with spending so much money, for an ordinary person this may be the thing that tips the scales and leads them to make the final decision not to go to Coachella.
Nevertheless, the fact that more and more people boycott Coachella and don’t like the fact that people treat it more like a fashion show than a music festival, doesn’t mean that it will stop or suddenly become smaller. Conversely, when there is a lot of critique there is a lot of fighting back. So if you are into the things that Coachella has to offer, that’s fine. But remember that real experiences, not interrupted by constant snapshots, are very precious these days and going to Coachella is not likely to offer you a lot of them.