It is hardly a surprise that the birth of such a legendary concert like Coachella started with a mass boycott of Ticketmaster and the vast array of Southern California auditoriums it controlled. From its humble beginnings, Coachella quickly became one of the largest, most famous, and most profitable music festivals in the United States and in 2014 the festival tallied an attendance of 579,000 over three days and grossed a record-breaking $78.3 million. On November 5, 1993 the iconic rock band Pearl Jam hosted a concert at the Empire Polo Club fields with an audience of nearly 25,000 people sitting on a grass field enjoying the music. After six years of collaboration and planning, the very first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was held located in the town of Indio, California. The Chemical Brothers, Beck, Tool, and Morrissey along a variety of other bands within the genre confines of alternative rock, hip-hop, indie, and electronic music performed for about 25,000 people.
You would imagine that such a successful music and arts festival would have had a relatively good startup in 1999. This, however, was not the case. The first year was unsuccessful in creating a net profit, which can in part be credited to the insane October heat and a lack of camping grounds available outside the festival grounds. This was a big setback; however, the directors of the festival saw potential for greatness so they skipped out on the festival in 2000 and took the time to improve the venue in all aspects.
Starting in 2001, headliner Jane’s Addiction performed at the then one-day festival in April for the purpose of avoiding the dangerously high summer temperatures. Over the next few years, the struggling festival gained its stride after acquiring a few noteworthy back-to-back headliners like Roger Sanchez, Groove Armada, Amon Tobin, Interpol, Richie Hawtin, Underworld.
With the world watching, 2004 became Coachella’s first sold out event. Thanks to the consistent and amazing lineups the past few years, including over-the-top surprises like the appearance of unbelievable band reunions, the festival had become a must-attend event for music fans of every kind. A reputation that was only further solidified with the buzz of a sold-out festival.
After extending the festival to two days in 2002, the directors made the jump to a three day festival just before the 2007 Coachella with a predominantly alternative rock lineup with popular bands Interpol, Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, Tiesto, Kings of Leon, and the Kooks. The continually jammed packed lineups caused for constant development for the epic concert in nothing but positive ways. Each consecutive year was more and more successful than the last, which caused for the dissolution of single-day passes and the creation of three-day only passes.
In 2012, Coachella’s rapid advancement toward world-wide popularity was evident as the concert was again extended for two separate weekends each with 3 days. With the lineups released only a few weeks prior to ticket sale, this was the very first Coachella to sell out just hours after the auctioning of tickets began. The 2012 festival grossed $47,313,403 from 158,387 paid attendees across the two weekends; 80,726 tickets were sold for the first weekend, and 77,661 for the second. The performances were especially fantastic as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and a hologram version of deceased Tupac Shakur delivered a legendary showcase.
The concert has been known to attract well known celebrities like Jared Leto, Vannessa Hudgens, Austin Butler, Katy Perry, and Fergie, creating an even greater appeal to pop culture enthusiasts. Over the years Coachella has attracted not only a wide variety of famous people, but also a fashion movement. Flower crowns, vibrant colors, and a retro-hippie style further develop the Coachella vibe that is raved about.
The other less talked about half of the festival involves the artwork Coachella presents. Dedicated to visual arts, including installation art and sculpture, most of the pieces are interactive, providing a visual treat to the attendees walking amongst the festival grounds. Hotshot the Robot, Robochrist Industries, the Tesla Coil (Cauac), Cyclecide, and The Do LaB, alongside modern performance group Lucent Dossier Experience, have appeared for several consecutive years at the arts festival alongside the iconic giant astronaut.
From boycott to worldwide sensation, Coachella has made a long-lasting impact on the pop culture of the youth. Coachella can be defined as a festival that embodies a cultural movement in fashion, art, and music, and proves that its path towards greater success is a straight one.