2017 was a year of firsts for Coachella. Every where you looked there was something new or something different.
That isn’t to say Coachella is the type of festival which doesn’t change. Their ability to do so is one of the reasons for the festival’s incomparable success.
Every five years or so however, the people at Coachella have to take a leap. The last leap took place back in 2012 when two weekends were introduced. This year that leap involved accommodating 26,000 more people each weekend from 99,000 to 125,000.
Of course Coachella was not an empty field prior to this year. But in fours year leading up to this one, the static attendance cap allowed the festival to seamlessly integrate logistical changes without greatly altering the event as a whole.
This year though, the greater attendance cap effected every aspect of the festival. In many cases the changes were unnoticeable, but that was not the case with others. Below you’ll find our interpretation of what worked and what needed work for 2018
If any reviewer discounts the quality of music at Coachella, they are doing so out of spite. While there is an endless mob of disgruntled bloggers and too-cool-for-chella haters who assume that no one goes to hear great music anymore, don’t be fooled by their negativity. The artists themselves are so excited to be at Coachella, and that shows in their performances. The special guests and the premieres of new music are just bonuses. Some favorites from me this year were Radiohead, Bicep, Skrillex, and Justice.
One glaring adjustment Coachella needed to make for 26,000 more people concerned actually getting them into the venue. Bad things happen when people can’t enter the venue quickly. It’s even worse when they’re waiting in scorching heat. Luckily Coachella had a quick fix for this: metal detectors. Take pat-downs out of an entrance equation and even the longest lines can vanish quickly (just as long as you don’t have a bunch of people with bags in front of you).
Any techno snob would tell you the Yuma is the best part of Coachella. After this year though, it was common knowledge that Yuma was the place to be. The Yuma was first introduced in 2013, and since then it’s grown from a tiny box in the corner to a legitimate oasis within Coachella. The Yuma is known for its relentless air conditioning and ravey atmosphere, but this year added two very important new factors: dedicated bathrooms and it’s own bar. That’s right. You could grab a beer, dance the night away, and relieve yourself all without skipping a beat.
With Coachella getting bigger and bigger, organizers are becoming more concerned with how to maintain intimacy and such a large event. Part of Coachella’s aesthetic has always hinged on bands playing with the view of picturesque mountains and palm trees in the background. However, with Yuma and Do Lab providing an authentic small-venue experience for electronic music, it’s only fair that live music received the same treatment this year. That’s where Sonora comes in. Setting aside a lineup of lesser-known talent, Sonora stage transported attendees to a dusty nightclub. This is likely a similar setting to where many of these bands got their start.
While there are thousands upon thousands of people who assume the Coachella is getting worse as it gets more popular, Do Lab proves that isn’t true. This year a new structure known as “The Beacon” was introduced to the Polo fields. The structure itself did it’s job of giving attendees a place to chill in the shade. And the name of the structure did it’s job of letting everyone know that the Do Lab is a beacon of great music and great vibes. Plus, Skrillex was the special guest Saturday night (legendary).
Main Stage/Outdoor Theater Beer Garden
Obviously, 26,000 more people on the Polo Grounds made for bigger crowds. Hans Zimmer and Travis $cott were the biggest crowds at Outdoor theater we’ve ever seen. The crowds themselves weren’t the problem though. The problems arose from how Coachella adapted to them. One common refuge from giant crowds at both main stage and outdoor theater was the beer garden between them. In previous years, this beer garden would allow its residents to fully enjoy both large stages while being able to grab food, drinks, go to the bathroom, and most importantly avoid monstrous crowds. This year, it was impossible to enjoy either stage. There were no dedicated speakers and now that stages were so much farther apart neither could be seen from within the garden.
By far the most harrowing issue of Coachella because this was the first year where we passively heard people complaining about the sound. Coachella is a music festival first. As such, the first priority should be making sure attendees can properly enjoy the music. Granted many of the sets about which I heard complaints were rappers who chose to have bands instead of DJs, but that still makes little sense to me because bands like Radiohead weekend 2 were both very loud and perfectly mixed. I don’t know why a bass guitar for one band would ring through while another’s would barely vibrate at all. I’m sure it’s a matter of adjustments, but that’s an adjustment that needs to be made before anything else.
Water Refill Stations
This year at Coachella there were 125,000 people each day. There were also only four water stations. That’s simply unacceptable especially when the refill stations all reside next to bathrooms (a.k.a. some of the most crowded parts of the festival). Luckily 2$ water bottles and plenty of shade structures helped to make sure there were no deaths or other tragic events this year, but there should be more refill stations next year.
The absence of pat-downs definitely decreased the amount of interactions people had with security, but it also seemed like they ramped up in other, more annoying ways. For example, they were incredibly strict about checking wristbands this year. That doesn’t mean making sure people aren’t sneaking in. It means if someone has a tiny tear in the rubber case for the scanner, they get pulled aside and kicked out of the venue. A friend of mine had a small tear and he had to talk to security for a half hour convincing them that it happened over the course of the weekend without tampering with the wristband. I saw someone else get kicked out. I understand why security is ruthless, but there’s a limit.
Heineken House Line
Want to know why there was no mention of the Heineken House during this review? Because getting in there was the most harrowing task at Coachella. Just like Do Lab, Heineken House has had a better lineup every year, but because of the capacity limit seeing anyone cool in there isn’t something that can be done on a whim. For instance, this year George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic were booked in there Saturday of weekend 1. They had a two hour set from 5:45 to 7:45 (that’s longer than two of the headliners). Unfortunately, if someone planned on seeing that whole set they had to be in line by 3 o’clock. Worse than that, there are no bathrooms in the Heineken house. So if you need to use one after enjoying some Heinekens, you have to leave which means getting back in the giant line.
Frankly if the lineup at the Heineken house is going to keep getting better and better, they either need to make it bigger or make it all out doors. Perhaps make it the Heineken garden and it can have it’s own stage?
This year proved Coachella is open to making changes. What’s so farfetched about that one?
Photo Credit: Chris Miller