Every spring, a multi-thousand person pilgrimage to the Empire Polo grounds in Indio, California, takes place. Donning trendy outfits, Camelbaks and a love for music, attendees to the April 14-23 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival are lured in by a variety of reasons: the hype, the music and the people.
For Carmel High School’s population, the main reason students travel to the festival are live music from favorite bands, unreal memories and making new friends.
Senior Abbie Augustine has attended the festival three times already, and is returning for her fourth round this spring.
“As soon as you walk in, you feel the energy. Everyone is so excited to be there, have a good time, listen to amazing music and meet new people,” Augustine says.
Alice Henderson, another Coachella veteran and 2016 CHS graduate, shares similar sentiments about the festival and about how the artists draw her there. Coachella offers a variety of music, ranging from mainstream pop and EDM to old rock and indie.
“I first went to Coachella in 2015 because of my passion for live music and that the lineup that year had pretty much everyone I listened to,” Henderson recalls. “What keeps me coming back every year is the music and the memories; listening to live music is my passion, which is why I go to many festivals and concerts.”
The headliners of this year’s festival weekends include Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar—Beyoncé was set to headline on Saturday, yet she postponed the performances due to her pregnancy announcement on Feb. 23.
“I’m looking forward to seeing acts like Travis Scott, Future and Kaytranada,” senior Ronan Doskey-Mulvaney says, “because in 2016 they really hit their stride musically and are acts that don’t tour on the West Coast very often.”
Henderson notices that there are numerous stereotypical concert attendees, but that it doesn’t detract from what’s really going on.
“I think that a lot of people are young rich kids who go for the fashion and pictures, but if you find yourself in the right crowd, surrounded by other people who are just as passionate as you about whoever’s on stage, then it’s an amazing experience,” Henderson says. “You can connect and dance with strangers even if your mom told you not to. Coachella is a place to make new friends and meet up with old friends too.”
Coachella is not only trendy, but is making records—according to the promoter of the event, Goldenvoice, per day attendance maxed out at 99,000 during the two weekends of Coachella 2016, which makes total attendance reach a whopping 594,000.
Augustine says that big names, such as Jack White, Drake and The Weeknd, can draw enormous crowds that often lead to safety hazards.
“At Coachella 2015, the crowds got so intense for The Weeknd that my friend and I almost got trampled,” she says.
Despite the allure, Coachella does have this darker side. Residents of Indio have asked the city to complete an environmental review of the festival through the California Environmental Quality Act, including traffic, trash waste and noise pollution.
And Coachella isn’t cheap—general admission tickets to the festival were first sold at $399 on the website, while VIP tickets sold for $899; both sold out within a brief 45 minutes. After sellout, it was not unusual to find general admission tickets selling at over $800 on resale sites.
While expensive, Coachella tickets are not the highest priced in comparison to other festivals, like South by Southwest—their cheapest tickets are a steep $825. The unit cost per artist that an attendee pays at Coachella is $1.74, therefore worth more, while at events like Hangout Fest it is $3.95—over double the cost.
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is slated to occur on the weekends of April 14-16 and April 21-23.