After a rough 2010, Coachella tries to iron itself out

The main stage, home to Kanye West, Arcade Fire and many more this weekend.
Photo: DeeAnn Bradley | AP

Coachella 2010 was fun … and it wasn’t. To experience the SoCal desert festival’s annual sonic deluge, fans had to contend with colossal crowds, tiresome entry lines and laughable traffic patterns. Promoter Paul Tollett swears this weekend will be better.

“I was out there in the field with everybody, and the same things that bummed them out bummed me out,” he says. “We’ve learned that you can’t change those types of things on the fly. The mistakes were in the planning.”

So Tollett and his Goldenvoice staff revamped many of Coachella’s logistics for this 12th edition, April 15-17 in Indio. “We’ve put more effort into this year than we’ve put into any year—by far,” he says. “Starting the day after Coachella last year up until now, our planning has been nonstop.”

Among the changes: an additional lane heading in and out of the festival, for which Goldenvoice contributed road-widening funds; the elimination of a tedious ticket-for-wristband exchange process; and the installation of a wrought-iron fence around the Empire Polo Field grounds, in hopes of staving off gate crashers. “There’s a whole bunch of things. Some of them are small, but if you have enough small improvements the whole show should feel better,” says Tollett, who won’t announce an attendance capacity until after the festival. “Fewer bodies. More land. Better traffic capabilities. We feel it’s gonna be light years better than last year.”

Fortunately, finding quality music was not among Coachella-goers problems last year, and the 2011 lineup offers up the fest’s traditional mix of big names, underground darlings, rare appearances and fast-rising newcomers. As always, rock, pop and electronic dance music are heavily emphasized, with a smattering of hip-hop, noise, neo-soul and punk among the 150-plus acts. Headlining this year’s bill: Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire and Kanye West. “We’ve had people say to us, ‘You’re gonna run out of headliners,’ and they almost had me believing it. Because for a moment there really weren’t new headliners growing; you just had the same pool to grab from,” Tollett says. “But all three of this year’s headliners weren’t even playing shows when Coachella started, which is cool.”

Of course, if this year’s bill sounds enticing and you don’t already have tickets, prepare to hit eBay or Craigslist and then an ATM, hard. The festival sold out in a week, and three-day passes were still consistently going for upwards of $400 (face value: $269 plus fees) at press time.

“Some people didn’t get tickets—music fans who wanna go and are willing to pay can’t—and that part’s sad,” Tollett says. “But we did have two months of layaway on-sales before the lineup came out, and then it was on sale for a week before it sold out. So everyone did have equal access.”

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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