Music festivals cater to new audiences

by Laine Bernstein

At Chapman, it is hard to escape the hype of Coachella. From the lineup announcements and ticket sales in January to the wristband delivery in March to the actual festival (and its aftermath) in April, the word “Coachella” has become a prominent part of the student vernacular.

Started in 1999, the festival began with 20,000 people per day in attendance and has steadily grown to nearly 90,000 per day as of this April’s festivities.

The hype is not just for Coachella, though. Music festival culture has become a very real phenomenon recently, with a significant increase in publicity and attendance over the past five years.

Festivals are officially “hip.”

Though Coachella is the most popular music festival in the U.S., there are several other very prominent contenders across the country, each with its own vibe and unique lineup and setting.

Some of the most popular music festivals in the country this year are:

April 11-14/18-20 – Coachella – Indio, CA

June 12-15 – Bonnaroo – Franklin, TN

August 1-3 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL

August 8-10 – Outside Lands – San Francisco, CA

Becca Cavallari, sophomore film studies major, has gone to Bonnaroo Festival in Franklin, Tennessee for the past two years and plans to attend her third time this coming June.

“I knew I was graduating high school and two of my friends and I saw the lineup at school our senior year, and we wanted to do something more adult and adventurous all together before we left for college,” Cavallari said.

Cavallari drives 14 hours every summer from her hometown of Buffalo, New York and says the sense of community at Bonnaroo in particular is unique and is what keeps her coming back.

“Starting in New York, you see people driving the entire way with Bonnaroo written on their car and you realize how many people come from all over the country,” Cavallari said. “Everyone is so kind and upbeat.”

Comparing it to Coachella, she said Bonnaroo in general is much more about the music rather than the scene, which comes as no surprise given the more remote location.

“Everyone camps or stays in an RV, no one stays in hotels,” Cavallari said. “It’s definitely more dirty and real hippie than Coachella. Bonnaroo isn’t trendy or a fashion statement. It’s not convenient enough to be trendy.”

No flower crowns to be found here.

Despite Coachella’s reputation as having become over-popularized, many students, like sophomore strategic and corporate communication major Jon Wormser, defend the festival against allegations of overhyped trendiness, claiming that the experience is ultimately what you make it.

“People always complain that everyone at Coachella just goes to be seen and post Instagrams, and there definitely is a contingent of those kind of people,” Wormser said. “But just as much as people are there for their own narcissistic reasons, there are people who come to enjoy the music. You have to be able to find those people, enjoy their company and just ignore the rest.”

Like Bonnaroo, the Lollapalooza festival is also in a distinctive setting, though nearly opposite to the remote location in rural Tennessee. Lollapalooza takes place directly in the heart of Chicago in Grant Park, and has done so since 1991.


“You’re in the middle of downtown Chicago and you’re outside listening to some of the best musicians in the world, and it’s a great feeling,” Paul Lee, senior creative producing major said. “It’s amazing to see these acts and right behind the stages you see all these high rises and people up in their apartments listening to the music. It’s really awesome.”

Lee’s first year attending Lollapalooza was 2013, but he said he has been going to Coachella for several years now.

“Lolla is a much more family-oriented event. You see parents with their kids walking around,” Lee said. “It’s much more casual alcohol drinking than the heavy drug culture of Coachella.”

Lollapalooza wristbands.
Lollapalooza wristbands.

Another aspect of Lollapalooza that Lee said sets it apart is its emphasis on art and atmosphere.

“In this park they have all sorts of sculptures and artwork,” Lee said. “There’s a huge fountain surrounded by roses and at night it would light up and we would meet there. It was really calm and cool and it kind of became our spot.”

Outside Lands is similar to Lollapalooza in that it is set in the middle of San Francisco in Golden Gate Park. Outside Lands is a much younger festival, its inaugural event having occurred in 2008 and typically draws a more intimate (if you can call it that) crowd of 65,000. Most of the other major U.S. festivals draw upwards of 100,000 each weekend.

Outside Lands is revered for this newness, not yet having caught the trendy Coachella bug.

“The vibe there is very hippie,” Lee said. “The whole image of the typical San Francisco type is all what Outside Lands is about. It’s very organic and intimate.”

Outside Lands was the last stop on Lee’s “year of festivals” which began at Coachella in April, to Lollapalooza in August and to San Francisco for Outside Lands a few short weeks later.

The setting of the festival is what makes it such a distinctive event, he said.

“You’re in Golden Gate Park, which is miles and miles long in the middle of the city,” Lee said. “It’s incredible because you’re pretty much just walking through the forest and at night it gets all lit up.”

Lee also said the personal environment and small businesses there contribute to the unique atmosphere.

“The stages are more intimate because they’re smaller than most music festivals. It seems like everyone is enjoying themselves a lot and they’re really listening to the music,” Lee said. Everyone is very nice. It’s all about the community and the festival vibe – there is a whole section next to the main stage where small business owners can come to sell things.”

Outside Lands also boasts a climate that is far from the typical 100+ degrees found at other festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo.

“It’s perfect weather for festivals in San Francisco,” Lee said. “It’s overcast and drizzly, but it’s nice to be able to layer up rather than be sweating and overwhelmed for a change.”

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