Coachella: Where have all the rebels gone?
The fact that the Coachella Music Festival is set in a polo club near Palm Springs should be enough to keep any real artists out.
Open your Instagram during Easter weekend and you’ll see nothing but photos of beautiful people in retro clothing, pitch-perfect smiles and deep enough wallets to be in California this time of year.
It’s Coachella, and “anybody who’s anybody” has headed out, iPhone in hand, to the biggest, most important, dullest festival on God’s green earth.
And “green” must be the secret word to get in the famed festival, with tickets ranging anything between £300 and £700.
That could explain the gentrification of what started as an alt-rock rebellion against the tyranny of ticket sellers – oh, the irony.
In 1993, the grunge band Pearl Jam decided to hold an independent show in California after a dispute with Ticketmaster’s service charges on ticket purchases.
That show, to a crowd of 25,000 people, defiant against overpriced tickets, sowed the seed for what would later become known as Coachella.
And for a while, it was like a second Woodstock was here to stay, giving millennials a taste of what was like to grow up in a time when music symbolised freedom.
But what does it symbolise now?
Looking at its line-up this year, Coachella managed to compile the most homogeneous, mainstream artists playing today – even after Beyonce cancelled, much to the dismay of Coachellers worldwide.
From the crowd-pleasing Lady Gaga to fashionable indie bands like The xx, Warpaint or Bon Iver, here is a festival that this year chose to completely ditch heritage acts.
Because yes, vintage can be cool for a while, but it also attracts visitors who probably don’t Instagram or spend the winter months scavenging through their parents closet looking for something with fringes.
“You’ve heard the expression, youth must be served, right?,” asked Coachella boss Gary Tovar in an interview with The Guardian.
Radiohead narrowly made the cut, but were forced to abandon stage twice during their show due to technical problems – I guess the Coachella sound equipment has trouble playing anything written before 2008.
That isn’t to say that all festivals should be inclusive of all people – or is it? – because each festival has its own cultural identity.
Woodstock had free love, the Burning Man is all about social inclusion and soul-searching in the desert and Glastonbury is about, well, music.
The problem with Coachella is that, unlike its competitors, it doesn’t really have cultural significance.
It’s not about music, inclusion, freedom – it’s not even about having fun.
It’s about dressing up as if you’re free-spirited, smiling like you’re happy, holding posters with some vague line about social justice, all in the hopes of stumbling across Selena Gomez while queuing for five hours to get a green smoothie because alcohol isn’t allowed during the shows.
What Coachella really is, above all else, is an incredibly profitable brand.
The “Coachella-looks” and the “Coachella way of life” are an actual thing, and clothes giants like H&M are already taking advantage of it, launching “Coachella collections” featuring beautiful models willing to pop a couple of Instagram selfies wearing the clothes for free.
So now, if you’re an upper middle-class socialite with way too much time in your hands, you don’t even have to visit a vintage store to “dress Coachella”.
And if, for some reason, you get in and don’t exactly feel like you’re Coachella enough, fear not – for there are all sorts of makeup and celebrity hairdressers where you can be styled next to your favourite actress.
But if you’re the kind of person who listened to grime back when it was “criminal”, thinks flower crowns are slightly ridiculous and enjoys eating a hot dog in the grass without being judged by your peers, hold on to your savings.
As the bard said, “there are other worlds than these”.