In the past few days since I made my last Coachella blog post, a lot has changed. Currently the fate of this year’s edition of the festival is in a state of uncertainty with everyone involved in the festival. When news of Ultra Music Festival being cancelled over growing concern of the virus sweeping the nation and world came out Wednesday evening, I felt my yearly excitement and anticipation for Coachella dissipate in favor of anger, worry, and sadness.
I still had some hope though because Miami and Ultra have a poor relationship. The festival and the city have had battles in the past so I figured this was just another reason to get rid of the festival. Then Friday evening SXSW announced its cancellation. That broke me. I was counting on SXSW to be an example of a large scale event that generates worldwide traffic successfully operating without a hitch in the wake of this mass hysteria.
Coachella seems to be next on the bubble in the music festival world. It generates an attendance of 125,000 people per weekend with people traveling from all over the globe to attend. It also generates over $700 million for the economy in the Coachella Valley. To cancel it would be financially devastating to many who work in the music industry as well as to those who profit from it locally. For me, this is definitely a concern, but I think what hurts the most has more to do with the festival itself.
I spend the year anticipating Coachella. Sure there are other festivals and things that happen along the way to pass the time, but I always talk about Coachella. It’s my thing. It’s the reason why I started working in this industry along with my love of music. I know I’m not the only one who loves Coachella, but I feel like each year it’s something I work towards. So if I have to wait another 13 months for Coachella after being teased of its existence all year, it’ll be really hard for me especially with this impending outlook for my line of work.
I’m not gonna lie. Everything I’ve seen and read over the past few days has felt hopeless especially with recent news that the large-scale tennis tournament in Indian Wells has been cancelled. It feels like a matter of time before the polo fields themselves are quarantined. It’s very hard to take in for a normally hopeful person who cares a lot about this festival and the experience it provides. I feel like I can’t be excited anymore. This month normally flies by in anticipation of the festival and now it just feels like an agonizingly long wait until its fate is decided.
There’s still a little under five weeks until the festival begins and for once I wish it were a little longer. It’s very difficult to predict what might happen because 24 hours could make a difference in times of uncertainty. For once I can’t give you a good guess like I can with set times or stage locations. All I can tell you is that I’ll be very sad for a lot of reasons, but I think the most important is because I care so much. I always think that maybe I shouldn’t care so much. It would save a lot of heartbreak. When I was super into sports, there was one year I believed the hockey team I followed was destined to win a championship. When that didn’t happen I vowed to not care about sports and winning as much. It was much easier. Then win or lose, I felt almost indifferent. I was happy if a team won and unaffected if they lost.
Then I started going after this music dream of mine. Music was always something I loved. It got me through a lot. So I decided to pursue a goal of bringing happiness to others through live music experiences, the same kind of joy I experienced at my first Coachella in 2015. I’ll never forget the moment. It was while I was sitting during Belle & Sebastian’s set at Outdoor and I thought to myself it would be so cool to put on this festival. That moment gave me the motivation to chase this dream and I’ve been passionate about Coachella ever since. I never thought this passion of mine would be able to create the same kind of heartbreak that sports has done, but here we are because I care so much. I care about my job. I care about music. I care about the festival. I care about creating experiences for people who enjoy the same things I do. I just care.
I do care about the safety and wellbeing of others too but honestly I think this has created an irrational sense of fear in people. I think it’s over-exaggerated. Yet when someone kills 59 people at a music festival in Las Vegas almost 2 1/2 years ago, nothing is done about gun violence and music festivals are still occurring with precautionary measures. That was just in 1 night too and yearly the number of deaths from gun violence is over 30,000. Yet here we are looking at these small numbers of people dying and infected and creating draconian measures to try to combat it. It’s mind blowing.
For me and my fellow industry friends, it’s also how we live. We freelance. We work part time gigs and this is destroying our livelihood. It’s funny how when some sort of natural disaster occurs funding gets provided to the affected area, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is starting a disaster relief fund for the folks of Austin who will be affected by SXSW being cancelled (Update: There has been. Thank God! Click to donate). Trust me this is a disaster in its own right. It’s a financial disaster. It’s a mental health disaster. It’s an emotional disaster. I’m not wrong. Fight me on it.
So now all there is to do is wait. Wait and be prepared to have some backup plans. The only positive is that at least a festival cancellation won’t be sprung out of nowhere. We have a little time to come up with some alternatives. I’m debating whether I should keep up with this blog series. I have 2 more specific artists I want to preview (regardless of the outcome of all this, you should listen to all of these artists I’ve previewed…they’re fantastic!). But I feel like a cancellation is going to happen any day now. I’ll probably update one way or another in early April based on the outcome of the festival. I’m also coming up with my own little contingency plan which involves a bit shorter of a trip to California. A trip to Cali for fun, who would have thought. It’ll be what my soul will need at that time so I’m intent on it. Until then, let’s hope this gets better rather than worse and keep our fingers, toes, legs, arms, eyes, and any other body part I’m missing crossed. I hope Coachella 2020 is somehow a thing and I’ll be devastated if not…truly I already am…because no matter what, I will always long for hot days, cool nights, dope views, and desert vibes. Coachella Forever.