Updated in April of 2020.
My relationship with Coachella is that of an estranged friend who I wrote off after an incredibly ignorant political rant on Facebook. Why attend such a corporate blowout event when I could go to smaller budget festivals and support the arts? When Trump was first elected or gay marriage was made legal or yet another data backed video on the pressing nature of global warming came out, I questioned both my morals and the morals of those who disagreed with me. I despised Trump, celebrated gay rights, and frowned at the scenes of dying animals and a planet seemingly on the brink of collapse– how was I to treat those who assumed the opposite stance? Was it my place to treat those who support Trump, speak down on gay rights and write off the polar bears as propaganda as an enemy or as plain foolish? Certainly, in college papers, I bashed AEG founder Philip Anschutz for his right-wing lunacy and took a two year hiatus from the festival in protest of his denial of any progressive cause which contrasts his oil obsessed, big pharma agenda. For the longest time, I hated Coachella.
Is it cool to hate Coachella?
Philip Anschutz is 79 years old and will likely be dead before I have children of my own. I do not expect Coachella to go anywhere once he is gone. The political climate is incredibly concerning in the US right now. Social media is poisoning our brains while simultaneously defining the American dream, we are still at war, 265 people have been shot and killed by police in 2019… a whole lot of awful things are happening on a large scale and you can bet that next to nobody’s personal life is easy as a result.
I went into Coachella with very low expectations, preparing to write a piece headlined something like: “Coachella-A Dystopian Musical Faux-Utopia” or “Support The Artists, Destroy The System.” What I found in my experience was a blip in the system– a momentary hiccup. All races, all sexual orientations, all types of humans flowed in a strangely quiet unison with a clear drive for hedonism and connection to something bigger. Everything seemed accessible to all– while those reaping the benefits may be malicious souls, every type of human imaginable flocked the grounds smiling.
As a gay couple passed a joint back and forth whilst wearing nothing but sparkles and banana hammocks while I was at SOPHIE’s set– a trans woman with a knack for creating music shaped by sounds you’ve likely never thought possible– I thought to myself, “Good lord, Philip would really f*cking hate this.” These moments existed all over the festival. As the Yuma tent becomes larger, there is more room for the freaks to play in the darkness. As the Do Lab grows bigger, teenagers are more readily exposed to sounds which have never existed on the radio. As Ariana closes out the weekend, girls everywhere begin to reassess what is possible for their futures.
At risk of sounding overly sensational… just as the end of WW2 saw factories in which terrible things were created turned into night clubs where the very people who were targeted by such terrible things could dance away the ghosts of bad intentions, I now believe it important to go to Coachella. Go with intention and take away the understanding that humans, things, and ideas can be so beautiful even amidst a world in which sometimes the worst seem to be in control and the best die young.
We miss Coachella this year. We miss you.