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By Maral Babai

​Festival season has arrived!

The month of April initiates the flurry of music and culture festivals all over the world that happen at an alarming speed. Those who follow festival culture most likely made their way to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April. Lovingly abbreviated “Coachellafest,” the festival, for the first time, spanned two identical line-up weekends in 2012. Coachella takes place every year on the El Dorado Polo Grounds in Indio, California, a city that remains sleepy for the rest of the year and is otherwise known for date farming and delicious tamales. The festival has clearly grown immensely since its official conception in 1999. This year, the festival set records, and not only by occupying the polo grounds for two back-to-back weekends (which was easy to do, since after all, Goldenvoice bought the El Dorado Polo Grounds); The festival sold out at a record speed, with the first weekend almost selling-out during pre-sale, and the remainder of the tickets quickly disappearing within three hours of general sale. The allure of Coachella is undeniable. Tens of thousand of people from all over the world gather in Indio for hedonistic musical and cultural experiences.

I have attended the festival on multiple occasions, so clearly I am not immune to the experience and definitely consider it to be one of my favorite times of the year. The draw of the festival baffles me on certain levels, as do the effects the festival has had on the surrounding area of the Coachella Valley. You see, the Coachella Valley, specifically the city of Palm Desert, is my hometown. A more grandiose and trendy affair than years past, the festival is no longer relegated to those who primarily live in Southern California. I am therefore left nostalgic for the days when one could walk up to the box office the day of the festival, purchase a paper ticket, and simply walk in. The culture of the festival in itself has also changed. It has shifted more into the experience as a whole, as opposed to the music focus, which I would argue is a negative transition. The number of people who are ignorant to those playing, besides the main headliner (but only if they're a rap artist, naturally), has increased exponentially. It is almost a little insulting that these people managed to get a hold of tickets for an event that they are not wholeheartedly interested in going to, other than the fact that they want people to know they attended.

Entertainingly enough are the newly established, false conceptions people have about the surrounding area. The 359 days that aren't Coachella, the valley retreats back into its sleepy, desert suburb lifestyle that is slightly more populated by snowbirds than humans in the winter. It’s understandable how these assumptions come to be, for most of the time the places that music festivals are held actually are as hip and bustling as they are during the time of the festival. However, the Coachella Valley is not littered with young people prancing around in neon lamé and headdresses on the regular, and besides the festival, there aren't many concerts that take place. It will be interesting to see if Goldenvoice's acquisition of the Polo Fields will influence the desert scene and try to spread some of the magic that Coachella creates into the rest of the year.

While I think it's fantastic that Coachellafest has generated small influxes of tourism within the area, there’s something about the way Goldenvoice is treating the situation that makes me feel like they’re commodifying and exploiting the concerts. Goldenvoice is turning Coachella into more of a residency, not a festival, with its expansion into two weekends and its acquisition of the polo grounds. I can only hope they’ll do a better job of bringing the festival back to its roots and use this as a way to permeate the actual Coachella lifestyle in unsolicited ways.

PS: If you're listening Goldenvoice, Bjork for 2013.

Maral Babai based in Orange County, is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine with a degree in Art History and International Studies. She greatly enjoys baking cupcakes in her spare time and attending as many live shows as possible.

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