Nadia Elkharadly: The Downfall of Coachella

NadiaIf you are at all active on any social media platform, you, like me, were probably assaulted incessantly by photos and 140 character capped musings about Coachella. Now that the first weekend of one of the world’s biggest music festivals has passed, the reviews, criticisms and lists (thanks buzzfeed) have added to the deluge of information on an event that I, and many like me, have actively chosen NOT to take part in.  But such as our world has become, even conscious non-participation doesn’t seem to be a viable option anymore. Whether you like it or not, it’s something that demands attention, like Justin Bieber’s douchebaggery or Miley Cyrus’s abnormally large (and likely infected) tongue.

Coachella 2014Coachella (if you’ve never heard of it), is a weekend long music festival that takes place in the hallowed fields of the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.  Founded in 1999, the 3 day weekend festival doubled its offering in 2012 due to overwhelming demand.  This is a festival that will easily sell out without any confirmed lineup information.  A combination of love of music, incredible festival hype and people just wanting to fuck off in the desert for a weekend seems to come together to ensure that the fest sells out every year, even now that it’s been extended.

Coachella+Valley+Music+Arts+Festival+2011+u-FTS0kqzE6lI actually had the genuine pleasure of attending Coachella back in 2011.  It was back when Arcade Fire still maintained some vague modesty, which resulted in my actually still liking them as a band and enjoying their music. The then Canadian Indie music darlings were headlining one of the nights of the then single weekend festival, and as the sole Canadian representative for the Examiner, the online newspaper I used to write for, I made it my business to attend not only their performance, but as many of the other Canadian performer’s slots as well.  Being a lowly and grossly underpaid music journalist, I tried my best to Coachella on the cheap, starting with saving on a hotel in LA by staying with another Examiner writer based there.  The next money saving coverage effort came in the form of carpooling our way to the fest to save on gas and keep each other company.  It was on that desert ride that I became very familiar with the loathsome term “carpoolchella”.  If you’ve managed to live a blessed existence free from carpoolchellathat term, let me immediately shatter that by telling you all about it.  Carpoolchella is not only the act of sharing transportation to this desert music festival, but making a complete ass of yourself while doing it.  Kids from Orange county borrow mommy or daddy’s escalade, then proceed to deface the entire surface area of the vehicle with neon paint stating helpful slogans such as #coachella, LOVE MUSIC and the ever popular SHOW US YOUR (insert badly drawn artist rendition of a woman’s breasts), along with the declaration of their CARPOOLCHELLA participation.  The closer you get to Palm Springs, the more cars like this you see, and the more you start to truly regret your decision to check out this music festival at all.

Coachella 2011If you’ve managed to get yourself from wherever you live to Indio, your next order of business is getting into whatever accommodations you’d already arranged. Hotels book up months in advance, as do apartment shares and camping spots.  Camping being the cheapest sleep option at the fest, my cojourno and I chose that route, and that’s’ the story of how I popped my camping cherry.  But depending on your budget, or the budget of whoever’s paying for your Coachella adventure, the possibilities and luxury levels numerous, from sleeping on the Coachella Luxury Campingground in a chilly one minute, boiling the next tent, to palatial mansions with gorgeous pools that you spend more time in than the festival grounds.  There’s also the kitchy yet very pricey “luxury camping” options, that feature large decorated tents so you can spend as much as you would on a five star hotel to sleep right next to the lake that the portopotties get dumped in, in true Coachella fashion.

For all the criticism Coachella receives (that I will be adding to shortly), I can truly say that I’ve never seen a more scenic and beautiful setting for live music.  From the warm daylight hours to the chilly, starry skied nights, the palm tree decorated skyline behind huge, creatively lit stages still takes my breath away even 3 years later.  Aside from the natural beauty, Coachella organizers insured that the festival grounds dazzled as much visually as performances would aurally.  From incredible, coahcellawheellarge scale art installations to the giant lit up ferris wheel and the multitude of other interesting exhibitions to experience, there was no shortage of cool things to look at and play with at Coachella.  The various tents, boasting art, clothing, video games and food and beverage sampling were also a great haven away from the relentless sunshine that characterizes any desert.  The warm, sometimes even hot desert days were exactly what I was hoping for while I was in Indio, though the dry heat may be more than some can take, and keeping hydrated was paramount.  The festival was great about keeping the water bottle cooler well stocked in the media tent, so I honestly can’t comment about how well that was considered for general festival going populations.  But for the most part, I kept happy, hydrated, and excited about all the music I was going to be seeing over the course of the weekend.  Though, oddly, I seemed to be one of the only ones present who felt that way.

coachella-2012-denim-style-9There are a ton of reasons why seasoned show goers and real music lovers continually malign the Coachella Music Festival.  In my mind at least, the biggest reason is that you could take the “music” out of the festival, and at least half of those present probably wouldn’t even notice.  With each passing year, Coachella becomes less about the music and more about the spectacle, or the “experience” if you want to be generous about it.  There’s the overpriced “festival fashion” sported by Coachella goers; floral tops and dresses, expensive, designer cut off jean shorts, all that will undoubaltly be ruined by glitter, body paint, fish taco crumbs and beer stains and cigarette burns, all in the name of trendiness.  The festival going population has now become overrun by the newly dubbed “basic bitches and bros” ie nth level douchebags of the male and female variety that only care about getting wasted on whatever they can get their hands on, hooking up with whoever they can get their hands on and filling their friends 1827162_coachella_photo_BRV_Instagram feeds with innane photos with hashtags like #lovecoachella and #festiebestie (I’m making these up but I’m sure they have been used by one idiot or another).  Ask most of these people who they’re excited to see at the fest and you’ll get back a string of incoherent syllables slurred together, some of which may form the names of actual performers and most of whom will be seeds planted by the likes of Jimmy Kimmel to entertain us cynics who elected to stay home this time around.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Check out this video, and laugh or cry at what our world is coming to….

But if there’s one thing that’s worse than the general festival attending population at Coachella, it’s another fairly niche group of attendees: the celebrities.  The festival’s prxomity to Los Angeles insures that stars from each letter of the list are in attendance, and usually are paid to katy-perry-harper-bazaar-coachella-poolside-fetedo so.  That’s right, Coachella PAYS celebrities to attend its festivals, when real music fans are dying to go and are crying over how fast it sells out.  And what exactly does this pay to attend fee get the “prestigious” festival?  A wasted celebutante in a  floral headband making peace signs for photos and posing with fans, or a total diva who will complain that any photographer holding a camera is a paparazzo, effectively muzzling any journalist attending the festival for actual music coverage.  This actually happened when I was there. A celeb didn’t like the look of some music journalist and his intimidating camera, so she “outed” Him as leonardo-dicaprio-coachella-music-festival-concertgoer-02paparazzi and promptly demanded that any photographer not from a very exclusive list of publications not be allowed to bring their cameras on the fest grounds. Fun!  Between photographic restrictions, having to share trek through crowds of coked out models, actors and socialites in the VIP tent to get to our little media area and witnessing how few fucks were actually given about music by the aforementioned models, actors and socialites, the celebrity scene at Coachella became the bane of my coverage trip.  OH wait, some fucks were given about music by this crowd, and they were exlusively directed at Kanye West when he took the stage in a performance characterized by holograms, dancers on silks and all sorts of other tricked our stage Coachella Kanye and Tupacproduction.  At a festival where most of the attendees slept on the hard desert ground and couldn’t get access to running water for 3 days, Kanye’s high tech extravaganza was more than I could bear, but it seemed to be all the Hollywood incrowd wanted to watch in 3 days of pretty stellar music.  Between getting knocked over by Scott Disic and watching a short, stout, undoubtedly rich man exit a portopotty with 2 models to check out the show, I could only retreat to the privacy and quiet of the media tent to get away from it all.  And that marked the end of my Coachella adventure.

While I definitely enjoyed many aspects of my Coachella time, I’m not sure I’d ever do it again (unless of course Soundgarden deigned to headline, then all bets are off).  By all accounts the elements that turned me off the first time around seem to be amplifying with each passing year, and the older I get the less patience I have.  I also would like to go the rest of my life without ever having to camp again.  It really is tragic to me that a festival that has all the makings of a fantastic music based experience in a naturally beautiful setting has and will continue to turn into bigger and bigger piles of rubbish.  I hope that someday Coachella can regain the glory and philosophy that it was born with.  If it does, I’d definitely go back.

Coachella Setting

Have you ever been to Coachella?  Share your experience with me down in the comments section below.

Until next time,




Nadia’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS ButtonNadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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One Response to “Nadia Elkharadly: The Downfall of Coachella”

  1. I was there in 2012, the first time they had 2 weekends and I was there for weekend 2. I was drawn specifically for the line-up: Radiohead, Feist, Florence + The Machine, St. Vincent, Justice, God Speed You Black Emperor, and reunited At The Drive-In, AND Refused(!!!!!!). The thing I was most disappointed with was how little music I actually saw. It was so hot that one could not leave any sheltered area without reasonable fear of death (no joke), so we weren’t able to venture onto the grounds before dusk. I actually only managed to catch about 5-6 acts/day. I still have some of the best memories of my life from that weekend, but Osheaga is better bang-for-your-buck in terms of actually being able to see the bands you went for.

    Also, packing up our tents on the Monday morning, we looked out and saw we were basically sleeping in a giant trash-heap for 3 days.

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