ArticleSeo Seongdeok (Music Critic)
Photo CreditCoachella YouTube
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April, the season of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (Coachella), is back. This year’s lineup was announced in January and the two-weekend-long festival is about to begin. Coachella’s reputation as the most talked about festival for the past 20 years continues this year. While some will surely compare the upcoming festival to those from the years when Radiohead or Beyoncé were headliners, it's a proven fact that mega-headliners don't make festivals better. The complaints about festivals booking the same names in rotation aren’t new. But it could be their way to declare who is important at the moment. Lana Del Rey, Tyler, the Creator, and Doja Cat have been some of the most prominent artists in their genres in the last two to three years. They're also diverse enough that it's safe to assume that fans of one of them haven't heard enough of the other two. It’s very Coachella.

The festival’s diversity goes beyond its genre. In 2023, Coachella welcomed Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK, who primarily perform in non-English languages, as the first Latino and Asian headliners. This year, Coachella is set to feature more international artists. Latin artists are evenly represented, with big stars like Peso Pluma and J Balvin and other emerging artists scheduled to perform. K-pop's history at Coachella dates back to Epik High in 2016. This year, you can expect to see LE SSERAFIM, ATEEZ, and The Rose. With the success of “Perfect Night” and “EASY” hitting the Hot 100, Coachella came along for LE SSERAFIM. Japan’s YOASOBI and Atarashii Gakko! will be on stage as well. Tems and Tyla had been billed to represent the African sound, but Tyla unfortunately had to depart from the lineup due to a recent injury. One must pay attention to the fine print when it comes to indie rock, Coachella’s mainstay. Artists like Black Country, New Road, Brittany Howard, and Oneohtrix Point Never are scattered throughout. It'll be interesting to see what new technology Grimes will bring to the stage, rather than to listen to her music itself.

Diversity isn’t just a matter of makeup and composition. It takes commitment and a keen eye to reflect current trends across the lineup. The festival’s history is a testament to this. Gary Tovar, founder of Coachella’s creator Goldenvoice, came into the business believing young people had a right to a new culture, despite police repression over the punk violence. Pearl Jam’s dispute with Ticketmaster in 1993 also created a watershed moment. At the time, Pearl Jam refused to perform LA concerts citing Ticketmaster’s excessive service fees and sought new promoters and venues. Goldenvoice found a polo field in Indio, a city located two hours from LA. It's in the Coachella Valley, south of Joshua Tree National Park, a region known for its desert landscape. A total of 25,000 tickets were sold for a low-budget stage built on a grass field. Goldenvoice saw the possibilities of outdoor spaces and drew inspiration from the rave party culture. Raves are electronic parties that take place in abandoned warehouses, factories, or forests, usually unauthorized.

Paul Tollett, then in control of operations at Goldenvoice, envisioned Coachella as a festival that would combine everything he had witnessed. The first announcement of the plans came in 1999, shortly after the infamous Woodstock ’99 of all days. Despite the concerns, Coachella immediately established itself as a stage that brings together the most important trends of the day, whether they be rock, electronic, or hip-hop. While Woodstock ’99 united some of the most popular bands, Coachella’s lineup was summarized as “anti-Woodstock,” given its diversity and artistry. In 2004, Radiohead's headlining performance became the first to draw more than 100,000 attendees, and in 2010, attendance topped 200,000. It was also the year Jay-Z became the first rap artist to headline, changing the face of music festivals. In 2017, the festival garnered 250,000 attendees and more than $100 million in revenue. In 2018, Beyoncé put on a legendary performance. It’s the same performance you can still watch today on Netflix in Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé.

Capturing and showcasing the hottest trends from punk to alternative, electronic to hip-hop, and British party culture to the polo fields of the American West desert, but also becoming a favorite stage for old artists to reunite, Coachella has proven that music festivals are about more than simply bringing together a diverse group of artist at once. And its diversity isn't just defined by genre and lineup. Various activities like Queer+, GV BLACK, and Accessible+ continue to work to create spaces for LGBTQ+ at the festival, increase the representation of people of color in the music industry, and help people with disabilities access performances and build community.
Last but not least, this year’s featured reunion will be No Doubt, playing its first show since 2015. Gwen Stefani might have had to explain No Doubt to her son, but she is sure to leave everyone with little to “no doubt” once the show starts. And you can see all of this for yourself. YouTube will livestream performances from all of Coachella's stages across two weekends: April 12-14 and 19-21.

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