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Beyoncé Reigns, Rock Dies: Coachella 2018 Festival Review

Photography by Natalie Somekh

Beyond the Gates: Each year, tens of thousands of eager festivalgoers descend on Coachella Valley for three days of music and free-spirited fun. While Weekend Two usually hosts a more laid-back crowd of festival veterans and music lovers, Weekend One tends to lure the endlessly self-indulgent masses of social media influencers and other 21st century caricatures. Given this year’s lineup — with headliners The Weeknd, Beyoncé, and Eminem headlining the event and pop figures like Migos, Cardi B, and Post Malone occupying its second lines — the crowd was slated to be Coachella’s most sybaritic showing yet. Coachella’s prevailing “selfie culture” is predicated on its focus on shock value, on capturing the moment. Walk through the festival’s daytime crowds, and you’re bound to interrupt a number of attempted picturesque moments, catching the vexed stare of 20-somethings adorned head to toe in the latest fashions.

Best Bites: If you’re willing to fork over $18 for something a little less than a full meal, Coachella’s Main Lobster rolls or Lobster Mac N’ Cheese might suite your fancy. Or, for something succulent but more budget friendly, perhaps Seabird’s avocado tacos are more your flavor. There was no shortage of ice cream at this year’s festival, either, with a variety of desserts such as Sweet Rolled Ice Cream Tacos, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, and a plethora of sweet Ice Cream Truck pop-ups scattered throughout the festival’s grounds. Coachella’s food prices are anything but a bargain, though, with most meals ranging anywhere from $13-22. A $6 order of fries might get you a sparse amount of potatoes that looks more like a bag of chips. You might want to bring a granola bar or two next year.

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Festival Fashionista: Tyler, The Creator sported a medley hairdo of brown and blonde patches. The outfit was complete with a neon green traffic vest, matching shorts, and a white t-shirt that read “no violence.” The fit was the ultimate supplement to Tyler’s volatile stage presence. Beyoncé wore a whopping five outfits during her iconic performance, including the theme-fitting jean shorts and hoodie, risque black leather, and the regal, diamond-studded “Queen” outfit. St. Vincent sported a white PVC suit and played multiple fluorescent guitars that beamed out to the crowd like beacons in the dark.

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Desert Redemption: BROCKHAMPTON arrived 15 minutes late to their Coachella debut (there were issues with mics), but America’s favorite boy-band came out swinging with a palpable verve when they finally hit the stage. Backed by a flock of expert violinists, all dressed in blue masks, each member of the hip-hop collective dressed in what looked like a bullet proof vest, each lettered with a bold statement: Kevin Abstract’s read “Faggot”, “Ameer Vann’s read “Nigger”; others read words like “Wakanda”, “Maestro”, “Fiend”. The group has been compared to hip-hop supergroups of hip-hop’s past: Wu-Tang Clan, Odd Future, Beastie Boys, the list goes on. The fact of the matter, though, is that BROCKHAMPTON are the hip-hop collective of the current period, and their live showing certainly solidified that. No comparisons needed.

St. Vincent, photo by Natalie Somekh

Best Set for the Smallest Crowd: St. Vincent’s brooding, symphonic builds and captivating art house visuals proved to make for one of the weekend’s best sets. The only issue? Despite her (wink) mass appeal, St. Vincent’s crowd was abysmal, not undue to Coachella’s primary demographic flocking to Kygo in drones. The set proved to be welcomed programming for festival veterans looking for a thoughtful counter to Kygo’s brand of Urban Outfitters EDM. In what Annie Clark self-described as a “blistering, disturbing rock show,” St. Vincent’s alt pop spectacle featured visuals that sometimes erred on the side of the grotesque, but always veered towards the thought provoking. Clark’s guitar frenzies mesmerized those who stuck around to see her, performing a powerful trio of tracks to close the set with “Rattlesnake” and “Fear the Future”, before finally moving into “Slow Disco”, purple and blue hues setting on the sparse crowd as the bust and gyrate.

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Chained to the Rhythm: Jamiroquai’s first set in the US since 2005 was welcomed with open arms by both festival vets and party goers looking for a thoughtful alternative to The Weeknd’s main stage madness. The band filled the Mojave tent to the brim when they brought out LA icon Snoop Dogg for a “Dr. Buzz” rendition. The entire set was spilling over with funk, and the crowd certainly reciprocated their energy.

Adorned in metallic gold dressings, Kali Uchis ushered fans into Day One of the festival with some of the most mesmerizing dance moves the weekend had to offer. As the sun’s heat beamed down on the Outdoor Theatre crowd, Uchis enraptured her audience with movements that were both methodical and quicksilver, gyrating and contorting her body all while somehow maintaining the velvety nature of her lush alto.

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“What the Hell Did I Just Watch?” Post Malone’s showing in Coachella’s Sahara Tent was by all means intriguing. “Rest in peace Lil Peep, rest in peace A$AP Yams” shouted Posty as he came out singing “I don’t wanna die too young”. The showing felt like a contemporary spectacle, with wide eyed 20-somethings flooding the tent in drones, but make no mistake: it was no Beyonce. Post Malone’s energy would soon dissipate, largely due to his gawky acoustic rendition of “I Fall Apart”. For a crowd anticipating the carnal amusement provided by the Sahara Tent’s massive sound system, such a display stifled any momentum he may have built with his dramatic entrance. Post Malone should probably stick to what he knows best, and that’s hyping the crowd with thickly layered bass and traditional hip hop stage antics.

Best Way to Dance Away the Heat: Nile Rodgers took the stage with his band, Chic, for a showing of pure disco delight on Saturday afternoon. The set began with a piece of wisdom from Rodgers. “We just came from Australia, where a journalist called Chic the ‘greatest cover band ever,’” he said, noting that the “journalist” at hand was thrilled they had performed covers of Dianna Ross, Duran Duran, David Bowie, and more. Rodgers paused for a bit before continuing, “I don’t want to offend anyone, but, motherfucker, we wrote those songs in the first place!” The group proceeded to bust into a dense set of hits, including “I’m Coming Out”, which fused straight into “Upside Down”, “We Are Family”, “Like a Virgin”, “Get Lucky”, “Let’s Dance”, “Le Freak”, “Good Times”, and finally concluding with “Rapper’s Delight”.

Rodgers even had a moment of personal revelation during the set when he told the crowd he was cancer free. “My doctors didn’t know what the outcome would be,” he said, describing his cancer diagnosis eight year ago. “So they told me to go home and get my affairs in order. So I thought to myself, If I’m going to contemplate getting my affairs in order, what exactly would that mean to me? So, I decided I was gonna write more songs than I’ve ever written in my life, I was gonna do more collaborations than I’ve ever done in my life, and I was gonna do more live shows than I’ve ever done in my life.”

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Catching Nerves: SZA arrived to the party 10 minutes late to her slot as sub-headliner to The Weeknd. Offering a dose of anecdotal wisdom to her fans (like the time she smoked an ounce of weed to herself after being stood up by her date at a party), the pop ascendant’s performance felt a bit lackluster considering the massive acclaim of her debut studio album CTRL. The set featured mainstays like opening track “Supermodel”, “Drew Barrymore”, and “Love Galore”, as well as a cover of Rihanna’s “Consideration”. Once again, hip-hop’s biggest force in Kendrick Lamar came to join SZA for “Doves In the Wind” and the duo’s Black Panther collaboration “All The Stars”. Opening for The Weeknd is no simple task, and SZA took it on with precision, but we’re waiting for next weekend to see if she comes fully into her stride.

That One Act: As I woke up from a dehydrated, heat-induced stupor inside the car I slept in during Coachella, I checked out the headlines from the night before. CNN: Beyoncé makes history with Coachella performance (she was the first black woman to ever headline the festival); The New York Times: Beyoncé is bigger than Coachella. Jon Caramanica’s New York Times piece starts by saying, “There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful, and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at [Coachella] Saturday night.” It’s almost impossible to describe the level of spectacle induced by the Queen herself, but by the grace of pop glory, it’s a damn near obligation to do so.

As I arrived to the main stage early Saturday afternoon to catch Nile Rodgers and Chic, the pit area was already filled to the brim with Beyoncé’s eager fans (the Bey Hive, as they call themselves). On more than one occasion, I witnessed mothers waiting anxiously with their children. Some of them couldn’t be more than seven or eight, and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly inspired by the fact that these mothers likely took expensive flights, rented cars, booked lodgings, and, most daunting of all, braved the Coachella heat for hours upon hours to allow their kids the opportunity to watch pop music’s most prominent icon.

By the time Beyoncé took the stage, the crowd stretched back as far as the eye could see, the most attended Coachella performance to date by most estimates. “Ladies and gentlemen,” proclaimed a rogue announcer, the crowd erupting in a roar at this point, “Welcome to Beyoncé Homecoming 2018!” The 36-year-old star proceeded to enthrall the crowd with expertly choreographed movements, pyrotechnics, a full HBCU marching band, and over 100 live dancers. There was the Jay-Z appearance for “Déjà vu”; the unthinkable Destiny’s Child reunion with bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams joining the stage; and Solange’s appearance for “Get Me Bodied”, in which the two sisters danced with an innocence that only family could embody.

The raw beauty, though, lay heavily with Beyoncé’s stringent attention to detail, incorporating songs by Master P, Crucial Conflict, Juvenille, C-Murder, and Fast Life Yungstaz into her set, not to mention paying homage to Fela Kuti and Nina Simone. Within a festival landscape that continues to offer up homogeneity, Beyoncé’s performance was, in the words of David Byrne, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. As DJ Khaled proclaimed halfway through the set, “Coachella gotta rename Coachella the Beychella”; the crowd went into a full frenzy. “NEW NAME ALERT!” The set wasn’t just the best performance of the weekend; it was a performance marking the winds of change in American musical and cultural history.

Don’t Believe the Hype: Migos’ set on Sunday night had the potential to be the weekend’s most compelling hip-hop show. After all, the festival’s EDM/Hip-Hop mega — the Sahara tent — underwent massive renovations this year. Its daunting sound system was primed for a thunderous performance by one of hip hop’s biggest cultural mainstays. Well, after horrendous sound issues that plagued their set for the first half-hour, the group never was able to find their footing. As the DJ attempted to hype the crowd with his intro, the sound was barely recognizable, prompting a massive round of boos from the crowd. Perhaps next weekend the group will find their footing.

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Not So Hot Take? Rock Music Is Dead. What do David Byrne, St. Vincent, The War on Drugs, A Perfect Circle, and X Japan all have in common? Abysmal crowd sizes at this year’s Coachella. In what marked a massive turn of the tides, this year’s programming felt almost exclusively geared towards pop music, with rock getting tucked away in the festival’s back pocket.

Best of the Tiny Fonts: One of the most exciting parts of attending a festival, especially one as large as Coachella, is the aspect of discovery. Each day has the potential to unearth your next favorite band. Los Angeles surf punk band The Regrettes ushered a pop-punk party into the festival’s Sonora Tent on Friday, as did San Francisco garage rock icons Oh Sees on Saturday. Westside Gunn + Conway brought their ’90s-inspired hip-hop rhythms to a small crowd of about 50 people in the Gobi tent during the midday heat. Despite the small crowd, the performance was one of the best the weekend had to offer.

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Noname and Japanese Breakfast both had some of the more sizable crowds of any performers on the festival’s undercard. The crowd sang happily along to Noname’s poetic rhymes as she danced onstage while Japanese Breakfast concluded their set in high-energy fashion with “Everybody Wants to Love You”. Kolsch’s melodic techno builds provided a surefire escape from the heat on Sunday, and Fidlar’s beer ballads incited some of the festival’s biggest moshes. Rex Orange County performed as a late add on Saturday afternoon, much to the delight of his newfound fanbase.

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Why Can’t We Be Friends: Cardi B brought a flock of guests for her Coachella debut. After spending more than 300,000 on production for the set, it was certain that Cardi was gunning for the crown on Sunday, and she needed some star power to help make her point. Throughout her 35-minute set, Cardi B brought out G-Eazy for “It Ain’t Safe”, YG for “She Bad”, Chance the Rapper for “Best Life”, Kehlani for “Ring”, and 21 Savage for “Bartier Cardi”. Cardi finally closed the set with “Bodak Yellow” in what was one of the best-attended, highly profiled sets of Weekend One.

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Phones Up: As Vince Staples lurked onto the stage and broke into “Get the Fuck Off My Dick”, an ominous gaze set out across the crowd. The main stage projectors fragmented into dozens of videos, including (but not limited to): a hand putting a condom onto a dildo, a woman twerking on someone’s grave, a glitch edit of the main stage crowd, various clips from ESPN, and more than a few YouTube and WorldStar clips that I likely missed the reference to. As he concluded his poignant first track, “I’m the God in this/ Fuck up off my dick,” the entire tone of the performance had been set.

Though he didn’t quite receive the level of energy he sought, Staples demanded the crowd’s attention. Peppering his set with fierce quips — “None of y’all look like me, but y’all look good Coachella” — his presence is hilarious and effortlessly charismatic. For all the set’s mastery, most attendees will remember the show for Kendrick Lamar’s guest appearance on final track “Yeah Right”, which cause hundreds of idle bodies to lurch toward the stage. The appearance was a poignant collaboration between hip-hop’s avant-garde auteur and the genre’s unequivocal king.

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Coming Home: Coachella’s position in pop culture as the ultimate pop spectacle is predicated on the performances of impossible reunions and larger-than-life bookings. Oasis, Prince, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, ACDC, Daft Punk. There is seemingly no limit to what the festival can pull off. This year’s programming was largely overshadowed by Beyoncé’s globe-shaking performance, a showing that rocked the global pop music sphere to its core. Most would agree that the year would be worth remembering for her performance alone. However, the festival’s sweeping lineup resides at the intersection of Super Bowl halftime show, global rave massive, Studio 54, underground warehouse party, and CBGB-era punk outing. You get the chance to see just about everything at Coachella.

Outside of the Queen’s appearance, the festival was a balancing act of pop music flavors and a sign of the times. One track can be the equalizer in today’s murky festival market, bumping artists like Portugal. the Man and Cardi B to back-to-back slots on the festival’s main stage, the former with a slow and methodical ascent to the Coachella stage, the later earning her stripes in a much more jarring fashion. Coachella is both a statement about the current state of pop music and a message about what’s to come out of the current musical zeitgeist. As digital streaming continues to redefine the nature of the music industry, Coachella will likely continue to evolve and set the pace for American music festivals, despite its various hiccups.

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Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Festivals are changing. When Coachella released their lineup on January 2nd — their earliest release to date — the news was met with a collective yawn. In fact, an “I’m Underwhelmed” thread in the festival’s sub-Reddit received nearly as many up-votes as the lineup announcement itself. And naturally, other major lineup announcements that followed didn’t fare much better.

As industry gatekeepers like LiveNation and AEG continue to snatch up one major festival after another, the once-thrilling concept of traveling far and wide for these experiences is becoming more and more passé. After all, why should anyone trek across the country to see a flock of performers they can likely catch closer to home?

The solution for festival goers is simple: think smaller.

Boutique festivals are becoming increasingly thrilling amid today’s vapid festival climate. By providing a thoughtful alternative, they’ve begun to satisfy a seasoned music vet’s desire for something extraordinary and something risky. While their long-term future is always uncertain, their commitment to a singular identity is key to their success.

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Photo by Jaime Fernández

Desert Daze, for instance, has carved themselves out a niche in the festival sphere by cultivating an experience around the Joshua Tree’s trip-inducing visual aesthetic. Each turn is host to a new burning-man-esque art exhibition, and the festival’s signature programming gives life to the location’s supernatural aura — though, not without its share of struggles.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to have a unique lineup,” says Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone. “Look, I’m in a band, too, so I get it. It’s almost impossible to make money as a touring musician. I get where agents are coming from. I get the mad dash for cash. But, it does make it increasingly difficult to have a unique lineup when you’re in Southern California.”

Like many festivals of its size, Desert Daze jostles with a number of larger festivals in close proximity for big gets. Pirrone competes with So-Cal-based, Goldenvoice-produced festivals Coachella, FYF Festival and Arroyo Seco for bookings. “I have real envy for festivals that are in a market where they’re the only festival,” he says. “You’re not always going to get the dream lineup together because there’s so much competition. You basically have to have a lot of backup plans.”

As Prionne suggests, artists have become increasingly reliant on major festivals such as Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Agents are in a rat race to secure their clients the best possible billings at the most possible festivals.

Adding fuel to the fire, festivals are, now more than ever, willing to offer up the same headliners as their competition in order to move units. Multifest deals mean talent is often contracted for a cheaper booking price to play a string of festivals. Remember Chance the Rapper’s whopping 11 appearances at American music festivals in 2017? This year’s festival darling? Eminem. These instances aren’t simply coincidence but, rather, the deliberate efforts of production companies working the best deals possible.

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Photo by Jaime Fernández

From a business perspective, such programming is sound logic. Music festivals are high-risk ventures, and things can turn south quickly. Sasquatch Festival, for instance, had its attendance drop by 50 percent in 2016. That same year, Bonnaroo’s attendance dipped by a reported 45 percent compared to its peak in 2011. It makes sense that those with a controlling stake would want to play it safe.

Other fests like Pemberton, Karoondi, Summerset, and Mysteryland have met similar fates in recent years, and, especially considering the bad taste the Fyre Festival left in the mouths of investors, independent festivals often disappear faster than they emerge. An Austin staple, Sound on Sound Festival (formerly Fun Fun Fun) was cancelled this year, with organizers citing “several recent roadblocks outside of [their] control.”

Such failures have caused companies like Live Nation and AEG, as well as investors, to constrict their business models. With the signature touchstones of festival culture falling out of existence, promoters have begun to think twice about experimental bookings in their top lines. The result? Different permutations of the same product.

As we’ve seen this year with Eminem, The Killers, and Jack White fronting a plethora of festival bills, promoters are more than wary about who they offer as headliners. As they become larger and competition threatens to cripple them, festivals have undergone a loss of identity: no longer can one guess a festival by its headliners alone.

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Photo by Jaime Fernández

Organizers are flailing to find a solution to the festival problem. But if industry executives continue to treat our cultural gatherings like dollar-churning machines, little room is left for innovation, and we’ll likely continue to see more of the same. Still, boutique festivals like Desert Daze stick to their mission, despite the overwhelming threat of saturation bumping them out of the market.

“In an oversaturated world, we still somehow found a little nook,” Pirrone says. Last year, he hosted the likes of Spiritualized, Velvet Underground founder John Cale, doom metal trio Sleep, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s only festival performance supporting their collaborative album, and the king of punk himself, Iggy Pop, who headlined the festival.

Such programming feels urgent, even unmissable, and for hardcore music fans, the lineup demands attendance in cult-like fashion. This is an itch that boutique festivals have begun to scratch, however, satisfying the avant-garde live niche once occupied by Coachella — and Desert Daze is hardly alone.

Elsewhere, a number of boutique festivals have disrupted the status quo with engaging interactive exhibits. Houston’s Day For Night does exactly that, fostering a rare curatorial experience that weaves visual and sensory exhibits into the festival’s programming. For 2017’s installment, art curator Alex Czetwertynski showcased more 15 large-scale visual installations and hundreds of hours worth of digital programming.

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Photo by David Brendan Hall

“Festivals themselves are done,” says Day for Night founder Omar Afra, who believes that curation is pertinent to the attendee’s experience. “We’re on the precipice of seeing this model become antiquated, right? [Even though] many festivals are still working within a festival construct, it’s the experience that’s changing, and that’s where the focus is. You can’t say, ‘We’re an art and music festival’ if we put a giant dragonfly in the middle of our stages and say, ‘Look, it’s art.’ When you say you’re an art festival, you have to fucking mean it and put the love and the time behind it, because people can tell the difference.”

Day for Night’s emphasis on visuals is a huge diversion from traditional festival model. Dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into visual production is a tremendous risk yet few exhibit the level of curatorial excellence that Day for Night touts each year. Whether it’s showcasing the mathematical glitch-work from Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda or the “attack of epilepsy” from light pioneer Matthew Pioneer, the festival proves that thematic identities can work as a festival model.

“You can’t imitate other people, and you can’t imitate yourself,” says Afra. “That’s probably the worst thing you could do!” The question, though, is whether or not emerging festivals will continue to pave their own paths, or will they fall prey to industry homogenization.

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Photo by David Brendan Hall

The idea of discovering new and emerging artists is another avenue for festival organizers to explore, though also not without its share of risks. Austin’s own South by Southwest pioneered the concept in 1987, and since then, several other music conferences have followed. Driven by proprietary algorithms, Emerge’s Rehan Choudhry wants to provide a forward-thinking curatorial conference featuring the highest tier of next generation talent.

“We’re looking to create an entirely new category of experience.” Choudhry eagerly tells us. “There are a lot of traditional festivals out there. The first thing we want to do is avoid having to chase the same talent based on touring availability, and who’s decided to do festivals this year like everybody else is.”

Emerge’s programming features a plethora of artists that haven’t quite reached mainstream recognition. The concept behind the festival is geared towards showcasing names that music listeners and promoters will more readily recognize and adopt 18 to 24 months from now. “We’re very forward thinking and that’s for our musicians, our speakers, partners etc.” says Choudhry. “What I like about it is that it promotes discovery.”

But discovery comes at a cost. “It’s definitely more difficult to do,” Choudhry admits. “[It’s] more difficult to sell tickets like that. More difficult for the attendee to be able to sift through it.” This is opposed to the typical contextualization of festival lineups, where wide-eyed readers are lured in by massive stars at in large-scale fonts.

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Such an experience sheds light on festivalgoers’ contextualization of lineup announcements in terms of font size. Coachella largely pioneered this process with their one-of-a-kind poster: a cultural statement about the current state of music that now largely determines the future asking price for tour musicians. The massive text is eye catching and does well to sell thousands of tickets in less than a few hours.

“The [usual festival] hierarchy allows for a very simple decision-making process,” says Choudhry. “You look at the top line and ultimately you’re making your decision based on location timeframe and the top three lines. Is this something you want to invest in or not?”

Scanning the font hierarchy on Coachella’s lineup is simple: gawk at the big names and move on from there. But what happens when a festival gets rid of font hierarchy altogether and focuses on crafting their experience around discovery? Choudhry discusses the potential pitfalls related to programming a festival like Emerge.

“Here are a bunch of names I may or may not recognize” he says, citing the synthesis between algorithmic data and human curatorial-judgement as the basis for a new festival-conference hybrid. “That’s all part of the process, but it all starts with, ‘How are you selecting the artists?’ What we did was, we put together a 25-person curator committee.” By involving executives from talent agencies and music industry insiders, including those from Spotify, Choudhry argues, “We have the upper echelon of talent to perform.”

 Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller

Whether it’s SXSW or Emerge, those attending a music conference are traditonally seeking out something more than the flavor of the week, and when the emphasis is placed on discovery rather than hype, it opens the floodgates to programming that was previously thought to be reserved for local music venues and dive bars. Festivals like Emerge are hoping that seasoned festivalgoers are willing to pay for that full experience.

Even so, the festival experience will always be defined by the lens of perception. As David Byrne points out in his 2012 book, How Music Works, context — read: the creative production behind a festival — shapes our experience of the music itself. “Music resonates in so many parts of the brain that we can’t conceive of it being an isolated thing” he says. “It’s whom you were with, how old you were, and what was happening that day.”

Perhaps this explains why some festivals have started to put so much emphasis on the cohesive community fostered by their events. One such festival is Eaux Claires Festival in Wisconsin, which is curated by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner. “Each iteration of Eaux Claires has been a unique journey, unlike the festival that preceded it” says Michael Brown, Creative Director for the festival.

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Photo by Lior Phillips

Doing away with festival lineup hierarchy is one thing, but what happens when a curatorial festival gets rid of a lineup announcement altogether, focusing solely on their interactive community? “This year is no different,” Brown says, “as we’re currently participating in one of the most radical concepts in the music festival industry: presenting a festival with no marketed lineup.”

The decision not to market the festival’s lineup is an interesting, albeit risky, concept to say the least, but it’s an opportunity for artists and fans to all exist on the same plane. Again, most festival organizers would call it business suicide, but Brown is confident that Eaux Claires’ unique, immersive experience alone will continue to advance the festival.

“We’re pushing Eaux Claires in this direction because we want our audience and our artists to live together in the moment and willingly participate in something special” he says. “We want, for one weekend in the year, that folks stop being concerned with the popularized ‘fashion’ of music and be more concerned with its creative pursuits.”

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Photo by Lior Phillips

The dynamic festival is nestled in the serene, wooded community of Eaux Claires, where Vernon grew up, and it’s a fitting backdrop for the festival’s programming. Vernon, Dessner, and Brown have set out to evoke a sense of spiritual belonging throughout the festival.

“We want people to put value on life experience and living in the moment,” says Brown. “We want people, if just for one weekend, to willingly be a part of a community that openly embraces artistic failure as much as it embraces artistic success.”

By placing more emphasis on the experience itself than the names on the bill, Eaux Claires flies in the face of standard festival business strategy over the last two decades, but it’s that purpose that brings a whole new meaning for the music festival model. Such a model might be more successful than previously thought, too, seeing how The Wausau Daily Herald reports that Eaux Claires attendance surpassed 20,000 in 2017.

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Photo by Graham Tolbert

It’s clear that the festival industry is due for an overhaul, but it’s uncertain how such a shift will manifest throughout our nation’s cultural gatherings. As the focal points of music festivals shift towards more thematically programmed, extracurricular, and immersive experiences, the general public’s contextualization of festivals will shift dramatically. After all, music festivals are one of the biggest cultural touchstones of the 21st century.

As Choudhry explains, “In the last five years, we’ve seen the festival industry consolidate at an incredible rate, with two to three major players buying up independent events across the country. Each time this happens, you also see the pipeline of innovation constrict dramatically. The reason? Innovation typically takes place in smaller, more nimble organizations.”

Whether it’s immersive technology and virtual reality exhibitionism, expansive visual art installations, a unique set and setting, or an off-kilter programming scheme, the emergence of a new class of festivals is imminent. So long as music fans are vocal and innovators continue to test their luck with new and exciting festival models, fans will always have something to look forward to come lineup season.

They just have to be willing to squint.

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Coachella announces new lineup additions

The addition of Lady Gaga in place of Beyoncé is perhaps the most notable change to Coachella’s 2017 lineup, but today organizers made several other updates to the poster.

Three prominent names of been added to the fold, specifically: rising Hampton, VA crooner D.R.A.M., UK rapper Skepta, and veteran LA punk band T.S.O.L. A number of aspiring young rock and punk bands have also joined the bill, including Shannon and the Clams, Downtown Boys, Surf Curse, Slow Hollows, and Surfbort (Looks like someone has been listening to Collin.) Meanwhile, King Sunny Ade, Moss Kena, and Declan Mckenna are no longer set to appear at the festival.

Coachella runs two weekends (April 14th – 16th and 21st – 23rd) at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. Here’s the updated lineup poster:

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Bookmakers believe Daft Punk will replace Beyoncé at Coachella

In the wake of Beyoncé’s decision to pull out of Coachella, Consequence of Sound pinpointed five potential replacements headliners. Now, online sports book Betfair has released its own odds of who will take the stage in place of Queen Bey.

Daft Punk are favorites at 3/1, followed by Jay Z at 5/1, Kanye West at 7/1, and Lady Gaga at 7/1. My personal pick, Adele, is at 50/1; now, excuse me while I go lay $10 to win $500.

Other options include The Weeknd at 10/1, Rihanna at 10/1, Bruno Mars at 10/1, Katy Perry at 10/1, Frank Ocean at 12/1, and Bey’s little sister, Solange, at 25/1. There are also some unbelievably far-fetched candidates, including Elbow, Clean Bandit, and Rag’n’Bone Man (it’s a UK-based sports book, but really?), Maroon 5, and — uh, Donny Osmond. Honestly, though, Coachella booked Donny Osmond to replace Beyoncé, I would be OK with that.

Here are the Betfair’s complete Coachella odds:

Daft Punk – 3/1
Jay Z – 5/1
Kanye West – 7/1
Lady Gaga – 7/1
Green Day – 15/2
The Weeknd – 10/1
Rihanna – 10/1
Bruno Mars – 12/1
Katy Perry – 12/1
Frank Ocean – 12/1
Chainsmokers – 12/1
Ed Sheeran – 16/1
Taylor Swift – 18/1
Justice – 18/1
Drake – 20/1
Coldplay – 25/1
Solange – 25/1
Clean Bandit – 25/1
Dua Lipa – 25/1
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – 33/1
Kygo – 33/1
Zayn – 33/1
Justin Bieber – 50/1
Maroon 5 – 50/1
Robin Schulz – 50/1
Martin Garrix – 50/1
Ariana Grande – 50/1
Adele – 50/1
Major Lazer – 80/1
Elbow – 100/1
Donny Osmond – 200/1

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