A scene from the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. (Bethany Mollenkof / Los…)
There are a lot of people in this world, and it seems as if most of them were at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last weekend. A logistical puzzle, certainly, and one that requires feedback in order to improve. The festival continues next weekend in Indio, so now's a good time for a mid-festival debriefing. What didn't work? What could be better? What follows are 10 modest proposals for promoter Goldenvoice that could add more sparkle to the festival.
Expand the Yuma tent. Judging by the lines waiting to get in, the new tent was a grand success. A fully enclosed space with a wooden dance floor, mirror ball, jumbo sound and air conditioning, the addition of a sixth stage worked — maybe a bit too well. Once inside, many found it tough to leave, which resulted in a long wait. I looked forward to Maya Jane Coles' set for months — and the line was prohibitively long so I missed it. The solution: A bigger tent.
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Address the long lines for water. Coachella is nothing if not a celebration of bounty: Bountiful land, food, spirit and creativity. Bountiful pocketbooks forking out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to experience music. Yet, as evidenced by the long wait for drinking water, this bounty isn't being distributed properly. To its credit, Goldenvoice does give it away for free, just inefficiently. Not that we've got an answer. Since it's logistically tricky (but not impossible!) to build a Norwegian spring or crisp mountain waterfall in a desert, and the Health Department prohibits huge swimming pools full of drinking water that we could all just lap from, we're at a loss. But thirsty.
Swap out the Red Hot Chili Peppers for R. Kelly. Have the Red Hot Chili Peppers relinquish headlining slot to R. Kelly — and be his backup band. No offense, Anthony — you seem like an amazing guy — but the buzz of the first weekend was R. Kelly's surprise appearance during Phoenix's set. The Chili Peppers have proved themselves worthy of the funk over the years, but understand the kind of groove that R. Kelly requires. Why not step back and let the Pied Piper do it this weekend?
Add a golden VIP toilet. There were way too many supposedly "very important people" populating the VIP Port-A-Potties. As a result, answering nature's call was much less special for the many billionaires, land barons and movie stars. As a way of further defining the capitalistic hierarchy that allows wealthy people to forego lines, sip champagne and eat foie gras while the masses huddle on picnic blankets wallowing in their own filth, the most special/wealthiest should be allowed access to a golden throne, one set prominently on the grounds so that everyone can see who's actually important where it counts.
Offer a music deprivation chamber. Music's great and everything, but really, do you truly expect your eardrums to handle so much activity over 72 straight hours without a break? No. Solution: A music deprivation chamber delivering the most important sound of all, silence, presented throughout the festival and open to anyone looking for peace of mind amid the competing rhythms.
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More private, shaded spaces. As future Coachellas expand to almost a hundred thousand people, the need for occasional respites from the crowd will be ever more essential. The rose garden VIP was lovely, and any way to replicate it in a few more nooks for the entire crowd would be a godsend.
Expanded shuttle system. This was the first year we availed ourselves of the off-site shuttle system, and it was magnificent. This seems like the magic bullet that can solve the late-night traffic snarls. Expand it as far as you can, Goldenvoice.
Surprise headliners. The festival rumor mill worked overtime spinning yarns about Daft Punk possibly playing. They didn't, but why not buck tradition and prove the rumor mill right one year? An unexpected night-closing headliner would cement Coachella's reputation for surprise, and keep its fan base delightfully on edge.
Better cell service and charging stations. We don't advocate this so people can spend their festival staring through the business end of a smartphone screen. We ask it because as the festival grows, it's harder and harder to keep track of your compatriots, and spotty cell service is one of the last remaining logistical snags at Coachella.
A frequent-flier club. Maybe we're just getting old and creaky, but this year we heard from a few longtime fest-goers that they're bowing out from the tumult of the modern fest. Now that wristbands are registered, maybe a special "frequent flier" VIP area for fans who have attended five or more fests could entice them back.
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