Coachella, then & now

Festival goers seen at Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Indio, Calif. (Photo courtesy of AP Images)



April in the desert means one thing, festival season. If you’re a local and have been living here for most of your life, you know April brings a yearly topic of discussion, Coachella Music & Arts Festival.

April in the desert never used to be as exciting though. Years ago, before back to back weekends and Palm Springs pool parties, the valley didn’t explode with tourism every April. Why now?

I have lived here in the Coachella valley for my entire life (25 years).  On top of being a ‘true local,’ I’ve always lived a block away from the polo fields. Being able to live so close to the festival grounds has allowed me to sit back and watch evolution take place.

My first Coachella experience took place in 2005. I was a 13-year-old 8th grader and had no idea what Coachella was, let alone, who was headlining that weekend. The entire process of being gifted a VIP bracelet to witnessing ‘Coldplay’ headline was an experience that I’ll never forget. From then until now, I myself have attended Coachella 9 total years. While attending this year’s entire weekend one and parts of weekend two, I found myself comparing my experience to previous years.

The festival was very different in 2005. I remember not having to wait in any lines, no multiple check points of security screenings, not as much art, definitely no brand marketing throughout the fields and the crowd itself was NOT what you see at today’s Coachella.

Like anything else, Coachella of course, evolved. Along with the birth of “hipsters” and “dress down gypsy” style, Coachella began to grow into its own entity. Around 2012, you could blatantly notice that Coachella had also began to target a certain demographic. With the popularity of Coachella growing, every April has socialites and elites of all kinds now traveling east bound on the I-10 to make surprise appearances and guest performances. This wasn’t an apparent thing 10 years ago though, the masses were more lineup driven and not preoccupied with what outfit a certain celebrity was wearing.

“Look at all these girls out here wearing the same exact outfits, as if they all used Instagram for their outfit inspiration. When we first started coming, there wasn’t a bunch of girls running around in gypsy outfits from Forever 21,” said COD student and eighth year Coachella attendee, Francisco Olivan.

Alongside Instagram and Twitter, the explosive power of “going viral” also aided to the festival’s outreach. Now because of social media’s power to inform, almost every guest appearance or unannounced event that happens at Coachella is uploaded and viewed

Festival goers at Coachella Music &Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Indio, Calif. (Photo Courtesy of AP Images)

by millions within minutes. With all these things tying together to boost Coachella’s publicity, the crowd of attendees has shifted.

With the past five years of lineups, we’ve began to also see a change in lineup structure. Of course, Goldenvoice has done an excellent job at keeping variety throughout the weekend but in recent years it [the lineup] has shown signs of being more EDM (electric dance music) driven. Which of course, this day in age, is every millennial’s festival “must have.”

“You gonna watch Marshmello dude?! It’s gonna be lit,” said a random attendee sitting next to me at Coachella.

In reality, Coachella now,  attracts a younger crowd. It’s an all age event but the evolution of Coachella naturally, draws a more energetic and rowdy crowd. At least in comparison to previous years. Like I said, my first year attending was 2005. At the time I was 13 but from what I remember, besides my friend and I, we don’t remember seeing any other “teens.” When I think of my first Coachella experience, I don’t remember Coachella being so popular or “trending.” I remember traffic being nonexistent, tickets being $50 for each day, the ability to snag tickets with ease and most importantly, Coachella was simple. It was a mellow weekend in April that gave locals a chance to escape their day job and relax to great music in our own backyards.

Regardless of the seventeen-year-old teen throwing up all over herself in the grass, the countless games of beer pong being played at the campgrounds, the team of collegiate flags being flown from EZ-ups or the amount of times I heard someone say ” IT’S LIT.” Coachella has changed the topography of our valley. Since 1999 to now, we’ve seen a boost in economy and tourism. Let’s face it, every April here in the desert is a paradise for extroverts, musicians, and artists.

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