Rocking out at Coachella 2018

Balloons are bounced through the air during a Coachella 2017 performance. Photo by Dorrit ’19

When winter break festivities come to a close and holiday mayhem is over, there is no rest for the weary. While the thick of winter has yet to hit most places, Los Angeles is abuzz with desert preparations as the Coachella lineup goes live. Students beg teachers for a five-minute break during class to attempt to secure general admissions passes from the fan-filled on-sale. A 19-year-old tradition continues, but this year, the festival’s classic rock roots have shifted into a new pop dimension to keep up with the music taste of younger festival-goers.

Over the past almost two decades, the music festival has become a popular escape for Los Angeles students from their second semester of school. While many foreign music festivals attract fans in their mid to late 30s, almost half of Coachella attendees fall within the age range of 18-34. With so many new festivals, with older and more sophisticated artists coming nearer to urban los Angeles like Arroyo Seco Weekend, many adults are turned off by the thought of spending a seriously expensive weekend in the desert with hundreds of thousands of teens and college undergrads in bikinis and flower crowns.

This year, while most loyal Coachella goers are excited to return, many are disappointed in the pop-dominated lineup. Coachella 2018 is the first year since the inaugural festival in 1999 to not include one headliner of the rock genre. The question is whether this decision is part of a gradual shift towards a new pop-centric image for the festival, or just an inadvertent occurrence.

The diversity of artists at the festival typically accommodates the vast range of music taste present and ensures that most attendees have at least one big name they look forward to seeing on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. For example, Coachella 2011 featured Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire and Kanye West. Last year boasted Radiohead for alternative rock fans, Lady Gaga for pop-crazed teens as a last-minute replacement for Beyoncé (who will be headlining this spring) and Kendrick Lamar for fans of modern rap.

A performance at Coachella 2017. Photo by Dorrit ’19.

This year, the lineup falls significantly short in exhibiting any kind of genre diversity between headliners. Though The Weeknd, Beyoncé and Eminem have completely different sounds and do not fall under the same sub-categories, they attract similar audiences. Few music fans older than Millennials and Generation Z kids will have the same kind of appreciation for artists like The Weeknd and Eminem who hit their strides in the early and mid-2000s with overproduced work written by outside sources.

Crowd-surfing at Coachella. Photo by Dorrit ’19.

The theme of modern dance music carries through into the fine print of this year’s lineup, where more DJs/producers and rappers are found. Many newer talents such as SZA, Tyler the Creator and French Montana will make their Coachella debuts, and fewer of the smaller acts fall under alternative and/or rock than usual. Perhaps this is to cater to the increase in young teens and college students in attendance at the festival whose definition of “rocking out” is jumping up and down in the Sahara tent to a recording of an EDM track.

While smaller indie acts that boast acoustic guitar and harmonies can be found, alt-J, Fleet Foxes and The Buttertones are certainly not part of the majority. The pop genre unequivocally dominates the lineup and alters the scene of a once hippie-driven festival. It will be interesting to see whether Coachella’s 20th festival in Spring 2019 will continue the pop trend or revert back to its rock roots.


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