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Coachella 2013: Southern California music festival evolves into cultural event

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"just googling ‘hippy flower headbands’ for #COACHELLA next weekend," reads another Tweet.

It sounds a bit like dressing up for Halloween, doesn’t it? Do Coachella goers see any contradiction in trying to re-create the feeling of Woodstock, which became a free event and a spontaneous 400,000-person community, within a planned, commercial and fairly expensive event?

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"There is no irony nor critical engagement," Kun says flatly. "It is what it is."

Adams Ferrick, a disc jockey at KCSN, has been to Coachella five times but isn’t planning on going this year because the public-radio station is beginning its pledge drive.

He, though, is concerned about rising prices. "Over the years, it’s become a bigger sort of corporate event, and I think that’s taken away from it a little bit, but I can’t complain too much because I saw that it was going to happen."

Still, he believes the festival has been a great place to see bands - new and old.

"They do a good job of balancing the acts."

KCSN, like KCRW, has been spotlighting a number of the Coachella acts with interviews and by playing their music. Bentley recently returned from the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, where a number of the Coachella artists also performed. He sees the events as two different animals, though, calling SXSW more music-industry driven.

"That’s not really the mission of Coachella," says Bentley, who has attended every festival. "If you love music, it’s your ultimate holiday."

Young people, he notes, are exposed to a wide variety of sounds and "aren’t limited to one part of the record store."

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That sentiment is echoed by longtime music critic Billy Altman, who observes that many of today’s new artists are creating a pastiche of sounds that no longer fit neatly into any one genre.

With its wide-ranging bill, Coachella clearly uses its diverse mix as a selling point. A big part of the festival’s experience is "musical wanderlust," says Bentley. "You want to stumble on something."

When fans do, record stores like Amoeba in Hollywood are ready. Chris Carmena, the general manager, says most of its employees don’t get to the festival because they are getting ready for national Record Store Day on April 20, but they do hear customers getting energized about Coachella. So the store makes sure to stock up on CDs of acts playing at the event.

"After Coachella is when we experience the rush of customers coming in and picking up albums from the artists they saw," Carema says.

Last year, the festival wowed audiences with a hologram of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, and people have been speculating for months about what might be planned this year.

Whether or not anything like that happens may not matter, really. Coachella, itself, is such an idyllic setting anyway, Bentley says.

"You’re always dazzled by the surroundings with the mountains out there in the desert. Late in the day the sun is setting on the palm trees and you just look around and go, ‘This is just amazing.’"

Kun agrees that it’s hard to beat Indio as a place to put on a festival and that the area was already embedded with a long history in Southern California of "tourism and partying, experimental ideas and new ways of thinking."

"In a way, the old Palm Springs spring-break mentality has now shifted to a must-take pilgrimage in the spring to the festival," he says.

As one Tweet reads: "my teachers are trying to kill me...don’t they realize that i have better things to do?! #coachella"

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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