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Since 1999, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival has taken place every April (except in 2000) at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, CA. The festival annually draws 90,000 people to the multi-day event (now occurring over two weekends), and despite the fact that it sells out almost immediately every year, the crowd is hardly dominated by Angelenos; friends from all over the country reunite at Coachella for a weekend in California’s fair-weathered desert region.
On a personal level, Coachella is an opportunity for me to see friends from the East Coast, Australia and various other parts of the globe. However, the crowd is not the only multifarious aspect of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. As the name itself implies, there is a wide assortment of music, art, food (and drink) to be had, and this is where I believe Coachella sets itself apart from the rest. An array of musical genres, including hip-hop, electro, R&B, folk music, alternative rock and post-hardcore, all make their appearances at Coachella, and do so via performing artists of the highest caliber (the Black Keys, Radiohead, Afrojack, M83, to name a few).
As anybody who’s ever been to Coachella can, and will, tell you, no weekend-long festival is without its trials and tribulations. The reasonably small population in Indio, Palm Springs and surrounding areas makes finding accommodation that is both comfortable and close enough to the festival extremely difficult. Often times, Coachella-goers will reserve hotel rooms before tickets even go on sale. Additionally, you’ll find most of these hotel rooms, small villas and rental houses to be filled to the brim (often times 10-15 people in a 2-3 bedroom house), with people trying to reduce the dramatically inflated renting costs as well as to simply get a roof over their head for a few hours of shut-eye.
Ultimately, and without fail, there are issues and inconveniences every year; however, all festival-goers can ask is that Coachella tries (and succeeds) to learn from their mistakes. In my humble opinion, they have done so with style. For example, Coachella has tried with slow, steady steps to improve on the ever-insane parking situation at the Polo Field. Recently, they’ve provided incentives for participants in “Carpoolchella,” including (but not limited to) VIP ticket upgrades and free parking passes.
Another example is their recycling effort. In the past, as the festival drew to a close on Sunday evening, thousands of empty plastic water bottles would be swept up and disposed of. This year, Coachella is instituting a recycling program that will reward recyclers and re-users of bottles with free refills, should they present their empty bottles at one of the numerous ‘filling stations.’ Yearly improvements like these are what set the great festivals apart from the good ones.
If you have the time and means to get yourself out to Coachella Valley, I would be hard-pressed to find something I would recommend doing more. If you asked me five years ago, I would have struggled to find reasons to go. Then, I worried I would feel out of place among wild-eyed teenagers and people with levels of energy that can come only from things you can’t buy at your local drugstore. This, as I have hoped to convey, turned out to be far from the truth. Coachella is a place to step outside the box, see your friends, enjoy the beautiful weather and, best of all, indulge in some of the best live music the world has to offer.