I begged my mom to go to Coachella every year that I can remember. In 2011, Kanye West headlined and after watching it on the live feed and probably crying, I knew I was never going to miss another year. So in 2012, I made a powerpoint to convince my mom it was the most important thing in the world and that as a 16-year-old I should be able to spend a weekend in the dessert with a tens of thousands of debauched strangers. Somehow, it worked, and I was on my way to Coachella.
I went with my older coworker and her boyfriend who were celebrating their 5 year anniversary but for some reason swore they wanted me to tag along (If that sounds awkward to you, you are absolutely right. That weekend caused a very abrupt ending to our friendship…but that’s not what this story is about.)
Anyway, I fell in love. It was over 90 degrees every day, there were vicious dust storms, and it gave a whole new meaning to our country’s overpopulation problem. Like, people actually pay $400 to rub sweaty shoulders with random people for a weekend. It was amazing.
That year launched an addiction for me and started my 3 year stint as a consecutive Coachella-goer. When I caught word that Outkast was touring again and their first show would be in the desert I had grown to love, I knew I was in for another year.
Outkast was the last act on for the first night of the festival, and Friday was full of anticipation. I got to the main stage a few hours early to ensure a great spot and was front and center. Andre and Big Boi were back together and putting on the show of a lifetime.
Their setlist is exactly what any Outkast groupie like myself would want it to be. They opened with “B.O.B.”, “Gasoline Dreams”, and “ATLiens”. Both 3000 and Big Boi did their separate Speakerboxxx/The Love Below mini sets and they ended the night with nothing to be desired.
Despite an amazing performance, this was, without exaggeration, the worst crowd I have ever been in. A crowd is EVERYTHING at a concert–and admittedly, festival crowds are never what you want them to be; Because people aren’t there for who you’re there for. I realized 2 songs in I wasn’t in a crowd of Outkast fans, and it ruined everything.
This was the night I was counting down to for months, but I felt alone in a crowd of thousands of people. During “Roses” I was screaming “crazy bitch!” at the top of my lungs with people around me staring awkwardly, I was the only one in the vicinity doing to *clap clap* to “Behold A Lady”…it was a disaster. This crowd didn’t even sing along to “Hey Ya!”!!!! Despite trying to put forth enough energy to make up for the whole crowd’s lack of participation, I was still on a high from finally seeing some of my favorite musicians ever live.
Then, I returned to the campsite. Everybody was talking about how much Outkast sucked….wait, what? You’re going to not sing-along, clap, move, jump, or react to anything during the performance and then blame it on the performers? Hearing people talk bad about your favorite band is like hearing them talk bad about your child. (I don’t have children, but I’m assuming). I was mad for the rest of the weekend, which probably says more about me than the rest of the people at Coachella, but it’s the truth.
I could talk about this for hours, but this personal anecdote is to illustrate the bigger picture about festivals. The crowds, 5 times out of 6, aren’t that great. The best case scenario for any die-hard fan is being in a crowd of people all knowing every word and holding hands and singing in harmony–minus the hand-holding thing–but that is not always the case, especially with large festivals like Coachella. It’s an event that people go to have a good time and spend time with friends and honestly sometimes music isn’t always their main concern.
A few words of advice: If you have the chance to see your favorite band at their own show instead of a festival, do it. And if you go to a festival… have some enthusiasm! Actually, if you go to any concert at all, have some enthusiasm! Concerts are the most magical things on earth and nobody has fun standing in one spot for 2 hours not singing along.
Even having been through this traumatizing experience, I will probably go back to Coachella. And a lot of other festivals. There’s nothing like getting to see 30+ amazing performances in one weekend–and I’m not even getting into all of the surprise performances, delicious food, and thousands of other redeeming qualities that cancel out a sometimes lackluster crowd.
In conclusion, festivals are great. And they suck at the same time. So go to Coachella, or Bonnaroo, or Governor’s Ball! Or don’t.