Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coachella 2012 expands to two weekends...
What does this mean for the festival?

I discovered electronic music at Coachella.

I don't mean that's where I heard Prodigy for the first time - that happened a decade before my first Coachella. What I mean is, it was in the middle of a tent in Indio, twenty miles east of Palm Springs, CA, where I discovered that live music created on computers can be more engaging than live music created on instruments.

That doesn't mean it always is, it just means that it can be - and, like I said, I credit that to Coachella. Despite the fact that two of the single greatest shows I've ever seen were headliners on the festival's mainstage, the weekend has always been about the Sahara Tent for me - I'd often go there alone and listen to DJs for hours on end (few of my friends can even tolerate electronic music, let alone subject themselves to the alternative reality that is the farthest-reaching expanse of the Empire Polo Fields).

It was musical bliss for me, and Coachella offered the only opportunity all year for me to do it - my friends could watch whatever they wanted, I could watch whatever I wanted, and we could reconvene when the timing was right. That was the beautiful thing about Coachella - we could just meet under the light...

But we haven't gone to Coachella the past two years. I've blamed my lack of interest on the headliners, but truly it's because of the festival's evolution. They've transformed from an indie festival with a heavy emphasis on electronic music, to a mainstream festival trying to be everything for everybody.

Make no mistake, the marquee electronic talent is still there, but the crowds have evolved, and with that evolution an inability to truly enjoy everything that Coachella has to offer has emerged.

There has been a mainstream hip-hop headliner two years in a row. I live in Los Angeles, and I know the demographic that appeals to - it is the demographic that not only assures that the festival can essentially sellout of $300 weekend passes before a lineup is even announced, but also sell out of $600 VIP passes. It's the same principal that drives revenue at sporting events - give the common man the "afforable" option, but double, triple, quadruple (and then some) your money from the people that aren't afraid to spend it..

I'm not a scenester that lives for weekends of bottle service. Even if I could afford to pay $750 for a bottle of Grey Goose, I wouldn't on principal. But replacing the likes of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against The Machine, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney with Kanye West and Jay-Z, means that you're not only asking me to pay $300 for a weekend pass (no more individual day tickets), you're also mandating that I rub elbows with a scene I am not a part of.

Does this sound too high school of me? If so, guilty as charged. Music isn't a spectator sport, and whether we can all admit to it or not, the fan experience deteriorates when it is watered down by rubber-necking.

Two years ago, the first year my friends and I didn't go, the universal sentiment was that over-crowding decimated the fan experience, and the festival suffered miserably for it. This year, Coachella went to great ends to mend those memories - to a large extent, it seems they succeeded. And next year, it seems they are going even further.

It was announced today that Coachella would be TWO weekends in 2012:

"We will attempt to produce two identical festival weekends. That means same lineup, same art, same place, different people," they said in an announcement.

This means that the festival expects to sell 150,000 weekend passes, as opposed to 75,000.

Electronic music is scaling unprecedented heights in America right now, and based on the Rave aspect alone Coachella should be able to sell-out two weekends - I imagine a decent number of fans will even do both, book-ending a week's vacation with six nights of ecstacy. The real question is, what will this mean for the lineup?

Given that America is finally being exposed to the universal appeal of electronic music - and knowing that the rave scene is enough to carry a good portion of ticket sales - might we see a return to the more indie-minded roots of the festival's past? Or could this two-weekend format result in even more mainstreamed headliners?

What do you think today's announcement means for Coachella?

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