Music festivals these days are about as common as McDonalds on street corners. Each year there are more and more festivals added across the United States. Some bands now just play exclusively festivals, yet are still able to perform up to 20-30 shows a year. As a result, some festivals blend in with all the others, each having a similar setup, lineup and vibe.
Despite this, one festival, one of the current longest active running, has been able to emerge from this clutter and stand out as the “must-see” music event of the year.
Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival, also known as Coachella. It’s the place to be in Southern California each April.
Coachella, oddly enough located in Indio, California instead of the neighboring city that’s actually called Coachella, uses six stages spread across polo fields. Each stage has a unique vibe to it. The main and outdoor stages are where the headliners and notable acts play. Behind these stages are the scenic views of the California desert and mountains.
The other four stages, sometimes referred to as tents, are each named after a desert. The Sahara stage is the most notable as it hosts some of the largest crowds with its electronic and dance music performances. The Mojave stage is the best place to see up-and-coming bands that will more than likely be playing on the outdoor stage in three years.
Coachella is also great for music reunions or special guest appearances, another advantage of its proximity to Los Angeles. One of the most notable headliners was in 2012 when Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg performed together for the first time in decades. Calvin Harris, the 2016 headliner, brought out Rihanna and Big Sean during the first weekend to perform the notable songs with him that they are featured on.
Being within two hours of Los Angeles, Coachella has turned into a place for fashion and celebrity sightings. In fact, some people just go so they can see Leonardo DiCaprio dancing to MGMT or to see what Kendall Jenner is wearing. Don’t worry, if you want to avoid this crowd it’s easy to stay away from these celebrities and their entourage as they stand off to the side in the VIP area.
Coachella gained fame in the mainstream media when it became one of the first festivals to live-stream performances online. Other festivals have followed Coachella in streaming performances, but Coachella has the best and most visible online stream with its YouTube partnership. It allows those of us who don’t live in Southern California the option to experience the festival on three different YouTube channels during the first weekend, and users have the ability to rewind or watch a replay of their favorite artists on these channels.
The festival has grown so big that it is now a two-weekend affair. If you can’t make it to the traditional first weekend, the second weekend is available with the same acts (different guests though, for the most part). Some music lovers actually prefer the second weekend because the celebrity, paparazzi crowd from the first weekend won’t be as much of a hassle.
Now it should be noted that Coachella has some noted advantages over its competing festivals. The most obvious one is that it is the first major multi-genre festival of the year (the California desert will reach temperatures of more than 100 degrees if the festival takes place May or onward). Therefore, any festival hopping band that is playing new music for the first time will likely play it at Coachella first.
Don’t let these advantages fool you, though. Coachella knows how to put on a show and delivers each year. For any music lover, attending in person or online is something I would highly recommend.