​Art by Carles.

Coachella 2065: Day One, Reviewed

I only went because the tickets were free with the purchase of a 3-liter bottle of Mountain Dew Coachella Cucumberita Blast. Why the hell else would I go to an overheated wasteland in the desert?

Apr 20 2015, 7:10pm

​Art by Carles.

There will come a day, eventually, when our social media feeds will no longer be crammed with Coachella selfies—all things, even the most influential music festival in North America, must inevitably decline. Here, satirist, critic, and creator of seminal Internet ouroboros ​Hipster Runoff Carles imagines a review of Coachella in 2065, after it has begun to collapse under the weight of terrorism, global warming, and its own bloated brand.

— The Eds

I only went because the tickets were free with the purchase of a 3-liter bottle of Mountain Dew Coachella Cucumberita Blast. Why the hell else would I go to an overheated wasteland in the desert?

Obviously, the music festival was delivered what many entertainment industry experts called its "death blow" two years ago, after the drone bombing at Lollapalooza. Festivals with hundreds of thousands of attendees had long been seen as the perfect opportunity for terrorist groups. But although bombings at embassies, shopping malls, and skyscrapers make headlines, an attack on the largest American music festival is an attack on the American cultural zeitgeist.

The bombing in Chicago's Grant Park killed 3,124 people and left over 10,000 wounded, including the controversial rapper A#AB, who at the time, had Billboard's #1 holographic single in the country. Popular media figures still use ancient television scare tactics to promote their programming in the lead-up to every music festival. My mom said she was ashamed at me for going to this stupid festival, but I think she was just concerned.

Coachella 2065 is desperately trying to keep the spirit of the Last Great American Music Festival alive. Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Coachella's big brother Stagecoach, which became the most popular festival in Indio during the 2030s, are a few of the remaining festival brands still operating in the black. In 2014, Coachella spanned two weekends and claimed over half a million visitors. The festival peaked in 2022, reaching 950,000 attendees over two five-day spans. The immense historical popularity of Coachella—and its casual outerwear brand—still makes it the most distinguishable festival brand in the world.

But only people who live in emptied suburban slumtowns go to music festivals to experience the crude aural pleasures of live music anymore. Why the hell was I even bothering?

I guess I didn't want to let the terrorists win. I guess I wanted to connect with the golden age of American cultural history that the terrorists were attacking. A simpler time when models, celebrities, and socialites gathered in the desert to wear floral crowns and crop tops, and the creative proletariat followed suit. I guess I thought it would be nice to experience a simpler slice of life, back when culture wasn't 100% digitized.

It's so hot in Southern California. It's barely livable. With temperatures routinely reaching 150 degrees in the summer, the quality of day to day life has led to a retreat from many cities in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and West Texas. Twenty years ago, Coachella had to be moved to February in order to beat the rising temperatures in the desert. The intense heat still lingers through the winter, reaching as high as 120 degrees.

Also, the drive from Los Angeles to Indio is depressing. It feels like one long abandoned strip mall with horrible 2030s style architecture. So many people have moved inland to avoid hurricanes, extreme heat, and the fault line. It's hard to imagine why Coachella is even still a good idea. Strip malls with gut flora donation centers and abandoned fast food franchise locations are everywhere. The city itself is an underwhelming buffer. No wonder South Dakota has become the best place to raise a family, according to Dwell.com.

@iamcarles: It's stupid to be driving so far to watch live music. #coachella2065

The Empire Polo Grounds have hosted Coachella since 1999. The actual grounds have changed significantly since parent company Goldenvoice purchased the majority of available real estate surrounding the festival, leveling a few suburban communities and absorbing a few others for staff lodging. Since 2020, the former polo grounds have turned into a small permanent city. It's jokingly called "New Vegas" because the experience is meant to cater to out-of towners, and the underclass of citizens dependent on an absurd entertainment industry. 

And this is what happens when you show up. Coachella City is a military base on foreign soil, complete with an extensive screening process to enter the interior. At the first checkpoint, my vintage Nissan Cube was torn apart with a search and sniffed by dogs. My bags were emptied—even my bag of Flamin' Hot Kalecumber Doritos was investigated, like it might detonate. The second checkpoint was a full body scan. If you're flagged for a random screening, men in ambiguous military uniforms ask a series of questions, as if crossing the border into Coachella is crossing into another country.

I can see why the safety-first experience, combined with the legalization of hallucinogens in "therapeutic contexts," has taken away much of the allure of destination festivals. Instead of relying on traditional surveillance techniques, the assurance of personal safety is part of the new festival experience. If anyone ever thought festivals were liberating experiences, they shouldn't bother going to Coachella 2065. 

@iamcarles Feels like ISIS won. Totally kills the vibe. #coachella2065

As annoying as it is to get into the festival, it's a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of the remaining Coachella attendees. It's more crowded than it should be. Guards in suburban camo are always within sight. There won't be a #Lollatack here (who would bother?), but if there is, there's enough manpower here to handle the immediate disaster response. Even the armed guards get to experience the festivals for hours at a time, which is an advertised perk of what's now a year-round job in the informally militarized zone of Coachella City.

The most crowded shows at Coachella aren't based on a metric of talent or popularity, but who is performing in the most adequately cooled room. I saw a local DJ named Freon Indian play vintage electronic dance music. It sounded subhuman. The security guards lining the stage were nodding their heads like they were part of the show.

On the Mojave Stage, a guitar-based rock band called Keeping Up With the Crustaceans played indie rock from the turn of the century. The predictable chord progressions made it a real bore, especially with the excessive reverb and unclear lyrics. The only band that interested me was The Failed Assassination of Ted Cruz. Their sound captured the chaos that must have overtaken America after the 46th President of the United States was shot by a top Tea Party member.

It's hard to imagine a normal person coming to Coachella unless it's to satisfy the Bucket List pilgrimage of a lost Coachella soul. Imagine spending your vacation days to visit the militarized zone between North and South Korea. The majority of tickets are given away free to local high schoolers, boosting attendance numbers to justify bloated sponsorship and co-branding opportunities. In many cases, the children of Coachella City employees are the ones showing up to the festival. No one's really paying attention, just gobbling up free samples of the latest Soylent flavors and embracing the retro novelty of a curated town.

Dated cuisine served out of vintage food trucks isn't worth the hassle now that so many Americans just ingest nutritionally balanced liquids. I can't believe I bothered eating a pork belly slider like it was still 2010. 

@iamcarles Coachella doesn't make sense, like tales of laptop computers—just a weird step on the journey towards a better computer.

Coachella City is a curated shanty town in a storage shed supercenter. These are all permatemporary structures; the aesthetic choices of Coachella City seem like a parody of a time when developers believed you could make industrial-looking materials look anything other than cheap. Imagine a city designed with the thought that Instagram would be an eternal visual medium. What once were considered state-of-the-art pop up structures now create a network of convention centers, some with better air conditioning than others.

These temporary structures defeat the purpose of an outdoor experience. Arena and convention center shows are way more popular across the Southern United States now anyways; there's no SPF high enough to minimize the effects of exposure to direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time. In fact, I heard rumblings of moving Coachella to the early morning hours in order to avoid the heat.

The promoters (or urban planners) have long been forced to weigh the opportunity cost of temporary versus permanent structures. Coachella City has everything you'd need to stay within the compound for a weekend, even the largest tube hotel in North America.

@iamcarles .@Goldenvoice People used to travel hundreds of miles to stand far away from an artist and have noise pumped into their ears? #coachella2065

According to my one friend who has a niche interest in live music, the last two Coachellas have had the worst lineups possible, after a mainstream backlash against artists who perform at large festivals. In order to maximize diminishing margins, many of the stages are packed with local bands, minimalist noise artists, and DJs, which appeases the local audience. While the acts are a return to the amateurism that defined the festival at its inception, they're a far cry from world-famous acts seeing the headlining spot as a career-defining moment.

Coachella is a senseless battle against the weather, the surrounding city of Indio, and the natural evolution of entertainment. The music and artists are difficult to acknowledge when the security presence is the real headliner of the festival.

Indio and Coachella are trapped on a sinking ship, fighting over the remaining scraps of the most successful music festival in the history of the world. Most people still stuck in Indio wouldn't mind seeing it all go down in flames. In fact, in 2050, an 86-year old woman from Indio lit herself on fire on the Ferris Wheel as a protest against the festival. It was never rebuilt.

There are currently only nine live music festivals remaining in the United States; the rest have pivoted their models to digital event curation and high-margin intimate events for the ultra-affluent. I don't know why music itself was ever such a big deal. If it all just culminated in this fucked up city in the desert, could it ever have been that culturally significant? The myth of the American festival is no longer a necessary cultural experience or right, no matter what your grandparents would have you believe. It's hard to imagine that a generation could ever cultivate a sense of freedom by purchasing a three day pass to a popup city. I only lasted three hours.

After a few hours of wandering around, I couldn't take it anymore. This was not the festival experience that my forefathers would've wanted me to have. I wouldn't be staying in the tube hotel for the weekend. It was way easier to leave the security zone than it was to enter.

I have no reason to connect with an artist or band by seeing them live or putting headphones over my ears. I don't want to end up like my uncle, a deaf casualty of the 'the earbud generation.' Record labels and the survivors of the cloud-based digital streaming services have redefined music, creating completely immersive visual and aural experiences that the artists can control and monetize. A festival just isn't good business when there are better ways to reach even more fans and monetize fan experiences more efficiently. I couldn't wait to go back to South Dakota, where I only intentionally listen to music when I'm looking to take a sound bath.

The middle-class fans who still like music define it as more than just sound—it's an intimate digital experience that can only really be facilitated by way of hologram. In fact, AEGLive, former part-owners of Coachella, have re-focused their business model on improving the in-home experience of watching a live concert to create intimate experiences that surpass the benefits of attending a concert in person.

@iamcarles Who even thinks music is 'cool' any more? #2065

On my way out of town, I stopped at a bodega located in an abandoned In & Out Burger to get a Topo Chico Xtreme and the paying dock had a sign next to it that said "END COACHELLA." I told the store owner that Coachella sucked, and he trapped me in a 15 minute conversation about how he was born in 1999. He'd seen the rise and fall of his city, but he was never leaving.