Last year I was lucky enough to go to Sydney, Australia for New Year’s Eve. Seeing fireworks light up the skys over the famous Sydney Opera House was breathtaking….but it wasn’t Coachella. I’ll be just be completely upfront here: I love Coachella. This is not an unbiased review. Coachella is my favorite thing I do every year and I’m here to tell you why it’s the best music festival in the country. Anytime something is popular it gets a lot of shit and Coachella is no exception. Is it perfect? No, and I discuss problems with Coachella at the end…but it’s pretty goddamn close. Let’s go over all the reasons Coachella is the premier festival in the country still.
I could literally write 20 pages on this. but I will try to limit this to my top 5 or 6 reasons why I love Coachella.
Coachella’s lineup gets criticized more than any other lineup, but it consistently offers one of, if not the, best lineup in the country. Has the type of music shifted in years? Yes. Do they bring in plenty of shitty EDM now to help pay the bills? Sure, and so does every other festival. Despite this, there is still great talent in all genres at Coachella. Just because they now bring in more DJs and pop music to placate the young masses doesn’t mean there’s still not real talent at Coachella. Remember there are eight stages at Coachella: there is always something in every genre playing. I generally like indie and alt-rock, and my days are always still jam packed with seeing shows constantly. My friends who like mostly hip-hop and EDM say the same thing. Regardless of your tastes you will never be bored at Coachella – they do a great job of appealing to everyone.
Ultimately Coachella has shifted from it’s indie/punk/alt rock beginnings to be more mainstream to help pay the bills, but Coachella still recognizes who the top artists are and puts them on the main stage. Bon Iver still gets the main despite having a crowd half as big as Future. The festival still books LCD Soundsystem as a headliner despite them getting a sparse crowd that was nowhere near as big as someone like Zedd. The lineup as a whole has shifted, but Coachella still books great talent and gives them the spotlight stages.
Hot take: I actually like that Coachella now books a fair amount of EDM and pop acts. As someone who likes rock this makes the shows I like to attend rarely busy. We can almost always get front row spots if we want as everyone is at the other stages. I would say to Coachella please keep booking more mainstream artists as it makes the crowds at the indie shows sparse and easy to get a great spot.
Clearly the most attention always gets placed on the headliners, but where Coachella really shines is in the bottom lines. It’s just a fantastic festival for finding up and coming talent at a time when there really won’t be that many people at their shows. For the love of God in 2012 within the bottom three lines the festival had Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Gary Clark Jr., Zed’s Dead, Alesso and many more. If you want to see up and coming talent with a super small crowd then Coachella is still the place to do this. Many of these early shows for acts on the bottom lines will have fewer than 50 people at them. You never know who you are going to see early at Coachella, they just may be headlining one day.
The Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, where Coachella takes place, are fucking huge. Compared to other music festivals Coachella is absolutely enormous. Despite Coachella having 125,000 attendees now annually it is still spacious with plenty of room to walk around. Coachella recently expanded even further in 2017 and it is goddamn roomy now, even with these crowds. Sure, there are crowded areas, and the Sahara tent is notoriously over packed, but the other areas of Coachella are really spacious. Plus Coachella offers some beautiful views, especially at sunset. There’s nothing quite like a sunset show at Coachella hearing one of your favorite artists with the palm trees blowing in the wind and the pink skies.
Also, because the grounds are so big there is plenty of room between stages with minimal sound bleed between stages. There used to be a problem between the Coachella stage and the Outdoor stage, but with the expansion this past year this was a nonissue. Each stage (besides Sahara) has plenty of room and is spaced out nicely at the festival to provide isolation from the other stages. There are also plenty of bathrooms, food vendors, and water refill stations throughout the grounds so you never have to travel too far. Of all music festivals I don’t think this one is even close – Coachella has the best venue by far.
Obviously there are some exceptions to this like Bonnaroo, but generally the other music festivals end so goddamn early. Outside Lands? Lollapalooza? Austin City Limits? Governors Ball? Sure, it’s nice they are located close to major cities, but this also means they need to end really early. Pretty much any festival that takes place in a city will have to end at 10:00 p.m. Coachella typically can go until 2 in the morning or so. This means if you get there early in the day (gates open at 11:00), you can have over 14 hours of enjoying music nonstop. I know it’s nice to be able to go out to bars in the cities after the festival, but after going to Coachella for years they always feel like they end so early.
Don’t believe me? Look at any of our pictures from Coachella 2017. We saw the following shows at Coachella 2017 from the front row: Radiohead, The XX, Father John Misty, Hans Zimmer, Future Islands, Real Estate, Sampha, Banks, Francis & the Lights, The Lemon Twigs, Kaleo, and probably a lot more I am forgetting. If you know how to work the crowds properly it’s really not hard to get into the front row at Coachella, even at the main stage.
Generally at Coachella you just want to be there for the transition between shows. Because there are 8 stages and the type of music can vary a lot, especially at the Outdoor & Coachella (Main stages, there is a lot of movement between shows. If you go to a stage just before it lets out and make a push to the front as soon as the show ends you can easily get to the front row, even at the main stage. For example, last year at Coachella we started moving up to the front half way through Glass Animals set. People are generally spaced out throughout the crowd having a good time so you don’t even need to push or be rude to anyone – there is plenty of room to move forward. Anyways, we casually started moving up halfway through their set and at the end of it there was a mass exodus and at that time we tried to walk quickly to the front. We went from not being at the main stage to the front row for the next three shows of Father John Misty, The XX an Radiohead. It’s really easy to get to the front at Coachella, which really makes the $399 pass justifiable – those three shows alone front row are over half the cost of the pass easily.
In general I have never felt like fit in in Southern California. I am from the northeast and just more wired and stressed out than laidback Southern Californians. Not at Coachella – everyone is just so positive and friendly that it’s intoxicating and hard to not have a good time. For all the drunkenness and debauchery that happens at Coachella, I have never seen a fight or the police or anything getting rowdy. Everyone is just there to have a good time and enjoy the music. I always read how terrible the Coachella crowd is, which I discuss later, but this has 100% not been my experience.
Similar to how I love my fiancée, but she can drive me crazy, Coachella has some negatives with it. Some of these are fallacies and some of them are legit. To try to make this article show both point of views, here are the common negatives associated with Coachella.
A post shared by Shawn (@eventtrk) on Apr 15, 2017 at 10:36am PDT
This is my biggest complaint with Coachella. You may not be aware but Coachella has designated drinking areas unlike most music festival. You cannot drink alcohol outside of these areas unfortunately. None of these alcohol areas have great views of the stages so you essentially need to choose between booze and seeing a show. This sucks. I would love to be able to grab a beer and go watch a show, but this is not possible at Coachella. I don’t think a lot of people realize this and are pretty surprised when they get to Coachella. Yes, it sucks and I really don’t understand why this is the case, especially when Stagecoach (which happens in the same exact location a week later) does not have these restrictions. It drives me crazy. All that said, just sneak in booze and you will be find and this will no longer be a problem.
I could not disagree with this more. Yes, there are some people who go to Coachella to be seen and take selfies. They’re actually pretty funny and provide some nice comic relief when you see them going around just taking pictures everywhere and not watching any shows. What I don’t understand why this bothers anyone if you are there for shows? I love this. Part of the reason I can get to the front row so easily is the fact that there are people there to party and be seen and not concerned with the music. Plus it’s not like you are interacting with any of these people. If that’s what they want to do then let them, it’s not like you need to be best friends with them. Go do what you want and you hardly even notice these people. When you are at the stages you meet legitimately friendly and interesting people from all over the world. I have never once met someone at Coachella and thought “wow that person is an asshole”. Everyone I’ve interacted with is awesome and I feel like this myth that the Coachella crowd sucks is just something people say to hate on Coachella.
Just unequivocally false. I have never camped and always stay at a hotel. The majority of people at Coachella do camp, so if that’s your thing then it’s absolutely an option. I don’t like camping though so we always stay at a hotel in Palm Springs. Don’t let anyone tell you at Coachella you have to camp – you can easily stay in a hotel and take the fantastic Coachella shuttle into the festival.
It’s certainly not cheap. Coachella passes are priced at $399, which definitely puts it on the more expensive side of festival passes. Including fees the only festivals I know of that are more expensive are Outside Lands (comical) and EDC (damn Las Vegas fees). Coachella is certainly not cheap, but if you love seeing live music I definitely feel the pass pays for itself. We actually wrote an ROI article for Coachella which compared the pass cost versus how much it would cost us to attend all the individual shows we saw and the pass easily paid for itself: I highly suggest you check it out here. Coachella is expensive, but so is every other music festival. If you love frequenting concerts then it will likely be worth it for you, and if not it’s an expensive party.
As I said, Coachella isn’t perfect but it’s pretty great. I am fortunate enough to travel a lot, and do a lot of great things, and Coachella is still my favorite thing I do every year. It’s great for the music obviously, but it’s more about the experience of feeling free and meeting awesome people. There’s nothing I’ve attended that’s quite like it and I couldn’t recommend you try it out enough.