Music festivals have generally been a place for positivity, fashion and connecting others through a mutual love for music, but Coachella has recently been surrounded with infamy due to many controversial issues within the festival and its history.
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was founded by Goldenvoice in 1999, and held in the Coachella Valley of the California Colorado Desert. The festival is identified as hosting top artists of indie, alternative, hip-hop, rap and electronic genres.
Today through social media, the public sees Coachella as a festival where attendees dress in their best festival attire and where world-renowned artists go to perform to the masses.
Celebrities and influencers thrive at Coachella, as they flaunt their best designer attire, causing the festival to be a large influence on fashion for the season.
Over the years, Coachella has become an event that is not easily accessible to the average person, as general admission tickets are listed at $429 and VIP tickets at $999, plus travel and hotel fees as the festival is remotely located in the California desert. Although prices are high, this does not stop festival goers from travelling at great lengths to attend the festival as it has grown to be one of the most populous music festivals in the country, with 99,000 people attending each day according to the Los Angeles Times in 2016.
Coachella is known to be an event where white people flock, despite the diversity of performers. The laid back, bohemian vibe of the festival has brought upon the stereotypes of attendees as being white people wearing flower crowns and glitter. In the past, some attendees have been guilty of cultural appropriation by wearing headdresses and other traditional Native American inspired attire in a tasteless attempt to be fashionable.
As offensive festival attire is not exclusive to Coachella, it does receive some of the most criticism for being a predominantly white event where cultural appropriation is likely to occur.
In 2001, the original founder of Coachella, Goldenvoice Production Company, was purchased for $7 million by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) which is owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz.
After the 2017 Coachella lineup was announced, evidence of Anschutz donating to anti-climate change, anti-marijuana and anti-LGBTQ organizations appeared. With this information surfacing, there has been questions among ticket buyers on if they want to continue to support the festival.
In protest of Anschutz’s far right agenda, Twitter users started using the hashtag #nochella claiming their disapproval of the festival. The festival is an iconic event in which attendees have shown to support open mindedness, freedom of expression and recreational drug use.
Those who chose to attend although that Anschutz’s views combatted everything Coachella stands for, saw that weekend one of the festival went on in typical Coachella fashion. Weekend one finished on April 15 after many performances by artists who identify as LGBTQ and LGBTQ allies such as Pvris, Brockhampton, Tyler the Creator, St. Vincent and Beyoncé.
Although the knowledge of Anschutz’s views have upset many Coachella lovers, the festival will likely continue to sell out. On April 16 AEG’s twitter account posted a statement saying “AEG whole-heartedly embraces the LGBTQ community.” “I support the rights of all people and oppose discrimination and intolerance against the LGBTQ community. Our foundation supports a broad range of philanthropic causes. I regret any money given to a charity for other purposes may have indirectly worked against these values” said Anschutz in a statement regarding his questionable donations. While he apologized for his donations to anti-LGBTQ supporters, he has yet to address the donations made to fund anti-climate change and anti-marijuana organizations. With the recent raised interest in recognition of identity politics, people have started to gain insight into the ways in which the things they know and love are problematic at the root.
The increased public awareness of racist, homophobic and sexist behaviors have led many to find many franchises like Coachella are owned by billionaires who support conservative agendas.
The problematic aspects of the festival will only change if the audience decides to take action to do so. There is hope for the future of Coachella, as performers are beginning to speak out and inspire their fans to make change through their politically charged performances.