Coachella 2022: The co-founder of Lollapalooza, a college student, a 91X radio DJ and more weigh in

The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival became a cultural phenomenon years before it was name-checked in the Oscar-winning 2019 film “Black Panther.”

Or, as 20-year-old 2020 Grammy Awards queen Billie Eilish put it: “Everybody knows what Coachella is. Even if you don’t care about music, you know.”

Dormant in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coachella will resume this weekend with Eilish, Harry Styles, The Weeknd and Swedish House Mafia co-headlining.

As the festival starts a new decade in an era dominated by TikTok videos, Instagram posts, social media influencers and online music playlists, it’s a sound time to evaluate Coachella’s most pop-music-friendly iteration to date.

We spoke with several music industry veterans and a college student to get their take on Coachella. Here’s what they told us. (Comments have been edited for length and clarity.)

Lollapalooza festival co-founder Marc Geiger, 52, who in 2020 co-founded SAVELIVE, a company created to “bail out” independent concert venues struggling for survival during the pandemic. As the global head of the music division at William Morris Endeavor from 2003 until 2020, he represented such Coachella headlining artists as Nine Inch Nails, OutKast, Lady Gaga, Jane’s Addiction and LCD Soundsystem.

“Starting in 1999, Coachella changed the landscape for music festivals in the United States. (Coachella co-founder) Paul Tollett has done a brilliant job and continues to make Coachella current and relevant in an increasingly challenging and crowded festival market.

“But if you are appealing to a Gen Z, Spotify and TikTok audience, you’re dealing with a different landscape. I have five kids, ages 17 to 28, and the number of artists I hear about from them who I don’t know about — as somebody who tries to know about music — has been growing over the past 10 years. Since Spotify began and YouTube became a music-identifying platform, people can (access) millions of artists. Trying to keep track of them all is impossible.”

Billie Eilish sings “Happier Than Ever” at the 2022 Grammy Awards in Las Vegas. She is one of the headlining acts at this year’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.

(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Malia Macabitas, 26, at Point Loma Nazarene University senior majoring in social work

“I got my ticket last week at the last minute, after Kanye (West) dropped out of the lineup. This will be my first Coachella and my first festival. Going to Coachella has been a dream of mine since I was 16. So, now that I’m in college, I’m very excited to go and to have a post-COVID experience. I’m really looking forward to the big headliners, Harry (Styles) and Billie (Eilish), and to some of the other acts, like Brockhampton…

“I think TikTok made a lot of this year’s Coachella artists, like Doja Cat, popular and has helped make Coachella bigger than it was before. A lot of influencers I follow are talking about the outfits they are going to wear at Coachella and posting pictures of them, and I think that has also made the audience for the festival bigger.”

Jordan Peimer, 62, the executive director of ArtPower at the University of California San Diego

“I have gone to Coachella five or six times, starting in 2003, to scout talent for ArtPower. I have booked some of the acts I saw at the festival, such as GoGo Penguin, to perform here for Art Power.

“I’m not going this year. Harry Styles is not someone I’m dying to see. But they have a lot of acts I’d like to see, including Grupo Firme, Fatboy Slim and Jamie XX, and a lot of acts I haven’t heard of. That’s why you go to Coachella, to hear and learn about new stuff.

“But the festival felt less friendly and comfortable for listening to music the two most recent years I went. And in 2016, I started getting approached at Coachella by people wanting to buy drugs from me. It was really weird. I guess it was: ‘What’s the old guy doing here, other than selling drugs?’ I got approached repeatedly by people who just didn’t believe I was not selling any drugs. I was with a friend, and she thought it was hilarious.”

Group Firm

The Tijuana band Grupo Firme is set to make its Coachella festival debut. The young traditional Mexican music group will headline a concert at San Diego’s Petco Park on Aug. 27.

(Mane Borja)

Miriam Rachel, 30, a USC theater major graduate and former San Diegan now living temporarily in Pittsburgh

“I think Coachella has a pretty decent lineup this year, given that we are coming out of a pandemic, although I give less than zero to Harry Styles. I’m a little tired of The Weeknd; all his stuff sounds the same to me. I have mad respect for Billie Eilish, but would I go see her Saturday night? No, I’d rather go see Danny Elfman.

“Fatboy Slim and Disclosure are from my generation as a listener, but — by and large — I feel disconnected from the new skyrocketing acts playing at Coachella. I do feel like there’s a sense of passing the baton to a new generation. I have a 39-year-old friend who will go every year until he drops, and for him it’s more about the experience. He’s not invested in the music and the dancing the way I am.”

Tim Pyles, 55, a tireless San Diego music champion and the radio host of 91X’s “Loudspeaker” and “FTW” programs

“I attended the first Coachella in 1999, when they had the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Tool and Rage Against The Machine. I think the last one I attended was in 2016 when Guns N’ Roses played.

“I did enjoy the years when they had Roger Waters, Paul McCartney, Prince and other headliners you wouldn’t expect at Coachella. The transition (in 2018) to Beyoncé didn’t excite me. Much as I like her, Beyoncé doesn’t speak Coachella to me. And, definitely, neither does Kanye.

“But that (shows) the growth of Coachella. We’re grown men and this isn’t supposed to be a festival for people 50 and over. Coachella was great back when being cool actually meant something. But over the years it changed into a cultural experience. It’s no longer an alternative-music festival and I’m kind of bummed it’s lost its way. There are great bands there I’d like to hear this year, like Yard Act, Pup, Skeggs and Beach Goons. But some of the headliners they have now are confusing to me.”

2022 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

When: Friday through Sunday, and April 22-24

Where: Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, Indio

Tickets: Sold out

Online: coachella.com

Remote viewing: YouTube will be livestreaming both weekends of this year’s festival, via desktop, mobile and the YouTube Music app starting at 4 pm Friday and running through Monday evening. The livestreaming hours for the second weekend have not been announced yet.

COVID-19 protocols: As of this writing, there are no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at the festival. However, the event’s website stresses such requirements could “change at any time” and that various measures could be enacted, including a possible reduction in capacity. The website also states: By entering the festival, attendees voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”

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