I know you remembered the song by Lana Del Rey “Coachella – Woodstock in my mind” that according to the legend, she wrote after attending the festival. But about the song – next time!
As time passes by, we wonder more and more, whether or not we will finally make it to our favourite music festivals. It’s sad that all the festivals are getting canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news is that we can now reflect upon things we enjoy. So, why not research about the festivals we miss so much in order to be, at least, closer to them in spirit, since we can’t enjoy them physically!
Music festivals have come a long way from people getting down and funky in the fields for half a century with Woodstock to being an international and instagramable camper, with sights on Coachella.
The Legendary Woodstock
First things first! Fifty years ago, in the Catskill Mountains just outside New York, Woodstock happened. It was previously known as “An Aquarian Experience”: three days of peace and music, with an audience of more than 400.000, with acts such as the Who, Joan Baez (who played at 2am despite being six months pregnant!), Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. All those participants created a defining experience that still dominates festival dreams.
The Woodstock Music Festival was the brainchild of four men looking for an investment opportunity: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang. The festival began to go wrong almost immediately, when the initial venues, both Woodstock and Wallkill, New York, denied permission to stage it. Ultimately, the land was made available for the festival by farmer Max Yasgur. With the concert just a month away, the four frantic partners jumped at the opportunity and paid his asking price.
Woodstock as a free concert
Few tickets were sold where around 400.000 people showed up a few days before the festival. By that time, the fencing, gates and ticket booths still weren’t ready.
According to Lang, in an interview with The Telegraph, “You do everything you can to get the gates and the fences finished—but you have your priorities. People are coming, and you need to be able to feed them, and take care of them, and give them a show. So you have to prioritize”.
With no efficient way to charge concert-goers, Lang and his partners decided to make Woodstock a free event.
The epic performances and promoters left bankrupt.
The concert featured memorable performances by Santana, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joe Cocker and Hendrix, however, it left the promoters virtually bankrupt. Afterwards, Michael Wadleigh’s documentary film Woodstock (1970) became a smash hit and the festival promoters, holding the rights of the records, made their money back.
In 1994, there was another festival organized by Woodstock, more successful financially if less legendary. In 2008, a museum opened at Bethel Woods which exhibits space attached to a performing arts centre, with the stated mission of preserving the original festival site and educating visitors about the music and culture of the Woodstock era.
From Woodstock to Coachella – the Festival heaven for: Sun lovers, celebrities, fashion bloggers, those who use the Mayfair filter in Instagram. Coachella is known for being celeb-spotter’s paradise.
Coachella set a triumphant record in 2006, after which Daft Punk’s Guy- Manuel De Homem-Christo proclaimed: “At Coachella, we lost our virginity again”.
The first-ever Coachella was held in October 1999 at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California. The founders Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen wanted to attract 70,000 fans with a wide-ranging lineup of artists.
However, the 1999 Coachela was not profitable, only selling around 25.000 tickets in total. Part of the problem could have been the weather. Coachella Valley was hit by what media called “a freakish heat wave” with temperatures in the triple digits. Concert-goers may have also been scared off by the disaster that took place at Woodstock ’99, three months earlier. The festival was cancelled in 2000, but returned back in 2001 and it has been charting upward since then.
By 2012, Coachella had grown so popular that Goldenvoice decided to add a second weekend and the festival now includes up to 160 acts, attracting upwards of 125,000 people per day!
While the location at the Empire Polo Field has remained the same throughout the years, the cost to attend Coachella has skyrocketed. In 1999 tickets were $50 a day. Twenty years later, in 2019 tickets were $429 for general admission and almost $1,000 for VIP passes.
Despite the cost Coachella is known to sell out within minutes of tickets opening up.
Coachella was set for April 2020, then postponed until October, then again until April 2021 and then finally until April 2022.
After a two-year hiatus, Coachella 2022 is set to make its triumphant return.