Some Thoughts on Coachella (and Music Festivals) That I’ve Been Kicking Around For About A Year Now

Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen concludes his week one (and maybe week two?) coverage of Coachella by noting that “buying a pass to Coachella is something akin to investing in the ability for music to still deliver something close to a monoculture.” This comes after an appraisal lacking in excitement, noting fault after fault in the shows with very few polite, dry love-notes to particularly inspired performances. (And the reunion sets by Pulp and Mazzy Star. Could Pitchfork be getting *gasp* old? *heavy wheezing exhale suggesting, yes, yes it is*)

But, well… Let me pre-defend myself against (totally valid) cries of contrarianism: I would love to go to Coachella. I would freak the fuck out at the chance to see a lot of new, exciting artists and a few old faves. I imagine I would take the time to learn about all the performers I don’t recognize or have a passing interest in. I’d go with friends. Make out with Lindsay Lohan. Never call her. Regret never calling her. BUT I don’t have the money for it saved up in a lump sum like that, and if I did, I’d probably feel guilty for spending it… And… Well…

Assuming I took the $300 for a Coachella ticket and instead put it to $20 concerts over the span of a year, I could see fifteen acts that I specifically care about (as well as their opening acts) perform full sets in intimate, climate-controlled venues with more opportunities for friends to join me and a crowd that has shown up for this show. With some rough estimation that would give me Death Grips, EMA, Kendrick Lamar, Azealia Banks, The Vaccines, araabMUZIK, Frank Ocean, Dada Life, Madeon, R3hab, and A$AP Rocky, then I’d take what’s left over and splurge on Santigold and The Weeknd. If you’re gonna argue that it would cost more than $300, then fuck you and tack on airfare and cost of living.

We live in a world where if you care about music, you have the tools to get whatever you want to listen to and critical opinion is easier to find than ever. The entry-level costs of production have gone down enough that anyone can be a musician. When Pitchfork describes Coachella as appealing to a musical monoculture, they’re saying that people still want to throw down their money for an experience that’s being made obsolete. Coachella creates this event that harkens back to the past: for my Georgia folk, remember Music Midtown? Freaknik? They died out because listeners needed something bigger to gather for— they needed to be convinced that the event had cultural capital beyond just seeing the artists.

I’m not saying you’re stupid for liking festivals. Electric Zoo has strobed two of the best weekends of my life at me. (I would argue that there are differences between E-Zoo and Coachella/Bonnaroo, but that’s another delirium-fueled tumblr rant.) I just thought that Pitchfork’s idea really clicked with a thought I’ve held onto for awhile and never bring up because I’d be a real dick to do that to someone excited about Coachella.