The Weekend Desk: Is Coachella For Us Anymore
  • FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2015

  • Posted by: April Siese

The great divide between the average festival-goer and the VIP attendees isn't anything relatively new, but it's certainly coming up in more conversations, especially at the most egregious of offending festivals. When Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam took the stage of 2013's Voodoo Experience, he did so with a set list entirely composed by former New Orleans Saints safety and ALS awareness advocate Steve Gleason. It proved to be a truly beautiful, inspired performance that even included the rarely heard "Chloe Dancer" from Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament's back in the day band, Mother Love Bone. This is what I remember -- as a fan -- sticking out the most. The second most striking thing? Vedder calling out the vast expanse side stage left filled with more grass than people; a VIP area he jokingly referred to as the jacuzzi section.

It's language that would reappear for me at almost every festival as Voodoo Fest, Bonnaroo, and the like sought to milk even more money out of the adoring fan who came not just for the music but for the experience itself -- a fact that transcends laminates and wristband distinctions. When Tyler, the Creator called out Coachella's VIP section this first weekend of the festival, he not only had a massive audience like Pearl Jam's but the added bonus of the seriously rich and forgettably famous. Tyler's publicly calling out Kendall Jenner turned heads far more than pointing out a common fan. Jenner responded by flipping off Tyler, which is pretty much what he'd wanted, but the fact that this is the Coachella topic du jour (oh, and Drake freaking out over Madonna kissing him) and not an actual set is seriously disheartening.

If you peruse the even wider expanse of Google News and search for Coachella-related items, an entire page greets you with celebrity news of whoever won the desert fest with their striking outfit or who might've lost cred by dancing like a doofus... looking at you, Robert Pattinson. At least Pattinson had a major reason to show up aside from getting paid or seeking attention: his fiance FKA Twigs happened to perform there. Oh, and I'll wait right here for you to pull up footage from her set over a looping vine of Pattinson getting down to Drake. Or, you can always take to weekend two, a relatively new expansion of the festival that started in 2012 and capped off with Hologram Tupac coming to life for the masses.

According to local Riverside paper, the Press-Enterprise, after market Coachella tickets are here and boy are their prices affordable. It's perhaps one of the only perks of having a second weekend built into a festival that does not change its lineup in the least bit from weekend to weekend. When the Village Voice runs a feature on the sheer price of the festival and its detritus and the LA Times targets that same jacuzzi section, you know something's amiss in the priorities of Goldenvoice and their signature festival. The scene outside of the festival is an even bigger grab bag of exclusivity with the New York Times reporting that Nochella parties are popping up throughout Palm Springs. They're exclusive events with comically lengthy queues and bear a striking resemblance to the beefed up appeal of present-day SXSW. There are even major companies getting in on the action like semi-snazzy brand Coach and mall favorite PacSun.

As festival fashion enters the popular lexicon and even those who aren't attending start getting the humor in flower crown jokes, it's easy to forget just what a festival is supposed to inspire instead of memes. Somewhere in there was music, which the diehard can now watch from the comfort of their own home thanks to Coachella's limited livestream of the festival. A now years old piece from Cnet points to Coachella's YouTube channel and livestream efforts as the noble future for music lovers who are tired of the crowds, the celeb sightings, overpriced everything, and the unforgiving desert climate that is expected to hit the mid-90s all weekend... and that's a relatively temperate forecast despite the limited wind to cool you off.

What the fans and what artists are talking about cannot be contained in the VIP section alone, nor can it signify a positive shift in the festival beast that includes more and more events popping up all over the world. You'd think that the over-saturation would lend itself to an array of artists garnering new fans and truly switching up what the larger fests consider worthy of a limited 30 minute set. Instead, it's getting easier and easier to predict who's going where to the point that festival pre-announcement pick pieces are getting just as ubiquitous as lineup posts. Maybe the Nochella folks are onto something if they're crafting their own way around the barricades and hundreds of dollars thrown into an outfit that may only be worn one sunny day in the desert. Maybe you're better off staying home. At least the livestreams won't call you out for being boring.

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