If You Can Only Make it To One: Presenting Your Music Festival Power Rankings

03/06/2012 12:00 PM |

April 13-15 & April 20-22, Indio, California

Ticket cost: 1
Because people are completely batty when it comes to Coachella, stand-alone passes are already sold out, even with the festival duplicating itself over two weekends this year. (As it stands, there are badges still up for grabs with purchase of the fancier, more costly Lake Eldorado camping package, but that’s about it.) And it’s not like these things are cheap. The bareboned option will set you back $285, plus a mandatory $3 charity donation, a $9 facility fee, and a $29 service/convenience charge, for a grand total of $326. Taking into account the 139 artists set to play over the course of three days, and you’re shelling out $2.35 per band &#8212 not too shabby, though a big price disadvantage is that a pass doesn’t include camping as it does with Bonnaroo and Sasquatch.

Travel expenses: 1
Coachella’s website details all sorts of travel and accommodation packages to choose from. You can live civilly in a hotel with shuttles running to and from the grounds; you can increase your chances of hanging out with Drew Barrymore and drop $3,350 per person on the fanciest, furnished, air-conditioned tent you’ve ever seen (seriously, look at these things), you can settle for the aforementioned still-rich-but-not-superstar-rich Lake Eldorado option. Or you can be a regular person and pay $82.50 (plus $10 service fee!) to set up a tent. So now you have a plot of land to rest our heads, the discussion turns to you’re going to get there. The cheapest round-trip flight from NYC to Palm Springs over the April 20 weekend is going for $529, plus the price of a taxi for the 23-mile sprint to Indio from the airport. To cut Coachella some slack, though, they are one of the only fests where outside food and beverages are permitted into the camping grounds and even offer free shuttle runs to a local supermarket. Say hello to a weekend full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Location: 4
Setting up a music and arts festival in the middle of the desert does not sound like a million-dollar idea, but Coachella somehow pulls it off. Scheduling it for April is a good move (the average temperature high in nearby Palm Springs is 88 degrees in April, compared to 104 in June), and overtaking the pristine Empire Polo Club grounds (Coachella sorta whiffs of money, don’t it?) keeps things clean and organized. The grass in all the pictures always looks green; the tents always wedding white.

Headliners: 2
We don’t think we’re alone when we say seeing The Black Keys on top of that much-speculated-upon poster seems underwhelming, right? (It’s not what the rumors said!) And now with Radiohead’s just-announced local shows, that leaves just Dr. Dre & Snoop as material for you to return home and brag to your friends about.

Lineup: 5
What the 2012 edition may lack in headliners, it makes up for in the rest of the lineup. Pulp is playing this thing. So is Mazzy Star, At the Drive-In, Refused. Bon Iver, Girls, Wild Flag, tUnE-yArDs, M. Ward, M83, Explosions in the Sky, Destroyer. The Weeknd (in his first U.S. appearance), Azealia Banks, EMA, A$AP Rocky and a whole hoard of names you’ll know soon. Plus, keeping with Coachella tradition, a few random-but-awesome pickings: James, Buzzcocks, The Hives. Sure, why not?

Atmosphere: 4
Call us old-fashioned, but this year’s festival loses some of its value by doubling up on dates. The thrill of participating in an “once-in-a-lifetime experience” isn’t quite the same when, well, you could redo it the following weekend. Even still, Coachella is perhaps the highest regarded of the big-name fests, in no small part from catering towards the needs and desires of its target audience. It’s the Williamsburg of festivals, complete with a pop-up farmers market onsite, a sit-down restaurant, Wi-Fi centers, dodge ball tournaments, celebrity sightings, and sculptures and other works of art dotting the grounds. It’s the fancy Whole Foods to Bonnnaroo’s neighborhood bodega.


2 Comment

  • What about Benicasim? It’s probably the best festival on the planet.

  • While not personally an indie guy, and therefor not a Sasquatch! attendant, I still love the nod to the greatest venue at which to see a show. Having seen many fantastic bands (Phish, The Dead/Allman Bros, DMB, among others) for multi-night stands, and live only 2 1/2 hours away, I take every opportunity to vouch for “Heaven’s Ampitheatre”(-Dave Matthews). The overall package of setting, sound, and atmosphere I’ve not experienced anywhere else. Not to mention the convenience, cost effectiveness, and party-hearty expanse that is the venue campgrounds (post-show rage fest!). This place is everything they say it is and then some, further supported by outranking bigger festivals with more space, stages, fans, and bands. Trust me when I say that while maybe not as “epic” in scale, 20K people is a lot more comfortable and enjoyable than 80K, and 1 stage in 1 majestic location is far easier and more enjoyable than 5-10 spread out over multiple acres. My basic point is if you live for live music, whether for a festival or single/multi-band tour, get to this venue. If you haven’t, it deserves a high ranking on the bucket-list….