Most music lovers around the world can by now probably recognize the name Coachella, and tell you that it’s one of the largest music festivals in the world. Yet, not everyone knows the story of how this juggernaut got started in the first place. If you’ve ever wondered what it took to go from being a little known event that took place out in the middle of nowhere, to becoming a festival so big it has to take place over two weeks, then you’re not alone. Here’s a brief rundown on the history of Coachella.
The Coachella website doesn’t have much about the origins of the festival, but luckily the internet does. There’s a rather extensive Wiki page about the event, and that’s where the bulk of the best historical information can be found. The following is a summary of the relevant facts as put together by that keepers of that page.
‘The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (commonly referred to as Coachella or the Coachella Festival) is an annual music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, located in the Inland Empire's Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. It was founded by Paul Tollett in 1999 and is organized by Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG Live. The event features many genres of music, including rock, indie, hip hop, and electronic dance music, as well as art installations and sculptures.’
However the origins of the event might be traced back even farther to a 1993 Pearl Jam concert. It was that year that several bands started speaking out about what they considered to be ridiculously high processing fees that Ticketmaster was adding to every ticket they sold. Pearl Jam was one of the more vocal groups at the time, and in protest they deliberately sought out a venue that wasn’t controlled by Ticketmaster. This brought them to the Empire Polo Club.
Once Pearl Jam proved the venue could work, ‘the inaugural Coachella Festival was held in October 1999 over two days, just three months after the disastrous Woodstock '99. After no event was held in 2000, Coachella returned on an annual basis beginning in April 2001 as a single-day event. In 2002, the festival reverted to a two-day format. Coachella was expanded to a third day in 2007 and eventually a second weekend in 2012; it is currently held on consecutive three-day weekends in April, with each weekend having identical lineups.’
Soon, the shortage of hotel rooms in the area became a problem, and thus the campgrounds came into extensive use. These days the event almost becomes a popup city during the festival, and preparations can take up to a couple of months prior to the event. Being off the beaten path no longer seems to be a deterrent, in fact it’s almost part of the draw. Festival goers now speak about immersing themselves in the experience, rather than just going to a show. Loyal fans buy tickets and worry about the lineup later, as the journey is draw enough in itself. Coachella may have had a bit of a rocky start, but its place in Rock history is now firmly established. In short it has become an annual part of the music culture, and it doesn’t seem likely to go anywhere, anytime soon.