Coachella festival's remarkable evolution

For the sold-out audience of nearly 100,000 that will attend each day, the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival may well qualify as "Paradise City" in the desert. But it's not your parents' Coachella anymore, even if three-fifths of Guns N' Roses' core lineup has reunited - after 23 years - to perform Saturday and again on April 23 at the latest edition of this six-day, two-weekend fete in Indio. 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival When: Friday through Sunday, and April 22-24 Where: Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, Indio Tickets: Sold out. Rose Garden dinner packages, which include a three-day festival pass and one gourmet dinner, range from $624 to $1,124 per person Online: Indeed, assuming your mom, dad or any other family member attended the festival's debut in 1999, they might not even recognize it today. Nor would they have much familiarity with this year's two other headliners: dance-rock favorite LCD Sound System, which is reuniting just five years after disbanding; and electronic dance music favorite Calvin Harris, whose girlfriend, Taylor Swift, just might make a cameo. A fair number of the other Coachella performers over the next two weeks were barely in grade school when the festival began, or even alive when Guns N' Roses scored its first two hits, "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle," in 1988. They include Los Angeles rapper Vince Staples, 22; New Jersey troubadour Halsey, 21; and Amor Amezcua, the 20-year-old drummer in the Tijuana rock trio Mint Field, which makes its Coachella debut Sunday. She is the daughter of Nortec Collective co-founder Ramón "Bostich" Amezcua, who performed at Coachella in 2001 and 2015. Shifting demographics aside, Coachella's panoramic desert setting is the same. So are the grassy fields of the Empire Polo Club, which has hosted the festival since its inception. Intriguingly, those fields appear as green as ever, despite California's drought-imposed watering restrictions, but that's another story. Apart from the setting, though, nearly everything else has changed at Coachella. Major San Diego presence This holds true not just since the festival's chronically under-attended, money-losing launch in 1999, but especially since it expanded from two days to three in 2007, and then from one weekend to two in 2012. (Twenty percent of the attendees hail from San Diego County, according to AEG/Goldenvoice, which produces the festival and is also the majority owner of the Valley View Casino Center.) "Kids can go and cut lose at Coachella," said San Diego music legend John Reis, who performed at the fetsiva; last year with his band, Drive Like Jehu, and in 2009 with Night Marchers. His best-known band, Rocket From The Crypt, has played at festivals in Europe, Japan and Australia. Even so, he singles out the producers of Coachella. "As far as festivals go, they really transform the landscape and create something unique," Reis said. "It seems like they think about everything. There's nothing that happens that they haven't thought about." He laughed. "It's also a great place for people watching. And now, with the 'Momchella' faction (of attendees), it's a nice place to go and see people pushing the boundaries of post-apocalyptic bohemian desert attire." What began as a festival for young hipsters and music nerds with proudly selective tastes has been dramatically transformed. After struggling for five years just to break even, Coachella has evolved into the most lucrative and biggest annual spring break party in the country. Make that a spring break party with oodles of Hollywood celebs, models, superstar musicians hanging out backstage, and enough paparazzi to provide photos for a week's worth of gossip websites and magazines. The first Coachella attracted only 27,000 people over two days and lost nearly $1 million, enough to see the festival go dark in 2000. It resumed the following year, but only after concert industry giant AEG partnered with Goldenvoice, which was previously independently owned and could not afford to continue the festival alone. Last year's Coachella was headlined by AC/DC, Drake and Jack White. It drew a record 99,000 people for each of its six days and grossed $84.26 million, a world record for any music festival. There's also a constantly growing array of high-priced VIP options, from gourmet, multicourse wine dinners and virtual reality headsets to helicopter service, which costs $4,170 for a party of five from Los Angeles, each way, and includes a "free" tequila bar. Once at the festival, there's the on-site safari tent package, priced at $7,000. It includes two festival passes, an air-conditioned tent for two with concierge service, daily breakfast, showers and more. "People go for the event" While the music still fuels the festival, at times it almost seems incidental to the giant party that Coachella has become. "It's gotten to the point where people go for the event. The music is important, but it's not the deciding factor," said Gary Bongiovanni, the publisher of Pollstar, the concert industry's leading weekly publication. "That said, the lineup is actually pretty amazing, because Goldenvoice curates a great event. And they do a terrific job on the festival grounds, with things like their giant, moving, kinetic sculptures. "So I'm not surprised Coachella has achieved golden-tier status among festivals. It's one of the few festivals that can sell out before announcing a single act in its lineup. Coachella's success is reflected by the growing number of corporate entities that do branding exercises related to the festival." This year, those corporate entities include H&M's second official Coachella clothing line. It uses the marketing slogan "Freewheeling playfulness"and the hashtag #HMLovesCoachella. More Coachella guides 15 steps to surviving Coachella Guide to getting around Coachella 10 people you'll come across at Coachella Coachella's new culinary lineup #COACHELLA: Social...
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