The Coachella Music Festival, while still unquestionably culturally germane, reached its point of inflection this year when Golden Voice made the decision to run the festival two consecutive weekends. While a gift to local hotels and other businesses, the oxymoron of a unique cultural event set to rerun back to back weekends is palpable and continues to sting purists in its aftermath. Golden Voice's choice, ostensibly made in the name of offering more fans, 75,000 more to be exact, an opportunity to participate, is more a sign of the indie festival cashing in on its runaway success story than the founders acting on their patrician instincts. While duplicating the festival in successive weekends is undeniably smart business practice for the near term, and perhaps even for the long term, as a voracious consumer of unique pop culture, my feelings are ones of disappointment.
To put this in context, the festival running back to back weekends is the street art equivalent of simultaneously witnessing Banksy, Retna, and Shepard Fairey paint respective murals on a wall on some doggy corner of the downtown Los Angeles Arts District only to learn that these hooded heros of the night will be painting the same unique work on the wall across the street the following Saturday night. Check that; make that the same wall.
Providing that you accept the premise that after an incredible thirteen-year run that the Coachella Music Festival has reached its point of inflection, then why will we continue to care?
We will continue to care because Coachella is a place that music talent comes to be validated real-time and in certain cases reaffirmed in a dramatic visual and sometimes sonic mash up that occasionally crystallizes into a moment. Many who have been to Coachella understand the idea of the transcendent moment and in certain cases seek it. The moment is that magical deeply satisfied feeling you get when everything clicks -- the lights, the sound, the warm desert breeze, the palm trees, the mountains, the emotion, the community, the art. In those exceptional and unpredictable instances, when it all comes together, it's like some sort of galactic perfection where the transcendent energy of the festival seems to orbit the polo fields with magnetic force. In laymen's terms, it's when the hair stands up on your arms and emotion swells inside you.
Los Angeles Times journalist Randall Roberts captured the spirit of the moment best in his recent article In Glorious Disarray, referring to the meteoric ascent of the trending rapper Azealia Banks engaged in a serendipitous fan to artist give-and-take moment during her fierce 2012 Coachella performance.
It was an emotional moment. YouTube views are an abstraction; all you see is the number increasing as a clip goes viral. When Banks saw the massive crowd jumping, screaming, rapping along to her words, her voice became strained for a second and tears started rolling down her cheeks. Then, though, that voice, still young but filled with potential, grew stronger and more confident, the crowd's enthusiasm transmitting energy that seemed to fill her lungs. It felt like some sort of christening.
That's a moment worth witnessing.