The history of the festival began in 1993 when Pearl Jam had a dispute with Ticketmaster. As a result, they refused to perform in Los Angeles and played at the Empire Polo Club in Indio instead. The show gathered an audience of 25,000 fans and established the suitability of the venue for large-scale events. A couple of years later, concert promotion company Goldenvoice booked it for a new music festival.
Coachella debuted right after Woodstock 1999, a large-scale music festival in upstate New York that was marred by arson, looting, violence, and rapes. The organizers modeled it after European music festivals that gather smaller crowds and focus on artistry rather than radio popularity, that’s why Coachella earned the title of the “anti-Woodstock”. The headliners of the first festival were Rage Against the Machine, Morrissey, Tool, The Chemical Brothers, and Beck.
Over the years, Coachella has become one of the largest, most famous and most profitable music festivals in the United States. Held on two consecutive weekends in April, it features various genres of music, including rock, indie, EDM and hip hop. There are several stages across the festival grounds that continually host live performances. The main stages include Coachella Stage, Outdoor Theater, Gobi Tent, Mojave Tent, Sahara Tent, and Yuma Tent.The festival features both established musicians and emerging artists. Past headliners include Jane’s Addiction, Björk, Oasis, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, The Cure, Gun N’ Roses, Drake, AC/DC, Arcade Fire, Muse, OutKast, Phoenix, Blur, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, and others. The lineup always introduces the best performers of the year.
Although Coachella is primarily known as a music festival, it also features art installations and sculptures, including many interactive pieces. In the festival’s early years, Coachella mainly rented pieces. As the budget grew, Goldenvoice began commissioning pieces specifically for the festival. Artists have 10 days to assemble their works on the festival grounds.
Following the success of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, several festivals have copied its format as a destination festival with multiple stages, art, attractions, and camping. Some of the most successful ones include Lollapalooza (Chicago, Illinois), Governors Ball (Randall’s Island, New York City), and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (Manchester, Tennessee).
Photo: Thomas Hawk