11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Coachella

Photo: Splash News.
Every April curious eyes turn toward the California desert. The annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival transforms the Empire Polo Club in Indio into a full-blown scene. The festival takes place over two consecutive weekends every April — this year, the party starts on Friday, April 14.
The headliners for 2017 are Lady Gaga, Radiohead, and Kendrick Lamar. Events spill over into the entire greater Palm Springs region with events and general revelry in all of the trendy hotels and restaurants. Exclusive, invitation-only parties pop up all over the Valley. This year, one such soiree at the Merv Griffin Estate will come complete with life-sized emoji topiaries.
If you haven’t made the pilgrimage to camp with thousands of your closest friends and most of Young Hollywood, the festival might be as much of a mystery to you as exactly how they pulled off that Tupac hologram in 2012. So, get ready to brush up on your Coachella knowledge. No velvet rope or name on a list required.
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Photo: Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images.
1. It all started with Pearl Jam’s beef with Ticketmaster.
Pearl Jam was at the height of their powers in 1993 when the grunge rockers from Seattle decided to take on Ticketmaster over service charges. The band argued that Ticketmaster had a monopoly that was hurting concertgoers and artists. Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, two members of Pearl Jam, even testified before Congress.

As part of their battle against the behemoth, Pearl Jam looked for venues for their Vs. tour that did not have ticket agreements with Ticketmaster and that led them to the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio. The concert, a one-night, sold-out show on November 5, 1993, proved that people would make the trip to the desert and set the stage for what is now Coachella. (Postscript: Pearl Jam eventually walked away from the Ticketmaster dispute and returned to contracted venues for their 1995 tour.)
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Photo: Via H&M's Pinterest.
2. You can do Coachella without even being there.
Not everyone can afford a three-day festival pass or a $700 Uber helicopter out to the desert, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do Coachella your way. Like last year, H&M is doing another capsule collection inspired by what’s happening in the desert. H&M Loves Coachella 2017 has your festival gear covered.

Coachella streams live on YouTube both weekends. So, let your hair down in some beach-y, wash-and-go waves, pull on your new crocheted dress or fringed kimono (or both!), and invite your friends over for your own festival in your backyard. Or on the couch. Or your basement. Whatever. Just do you.
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Photo: Via Instagram.
3. Pull over for Date Shakes. (And no, that’s not a new folk band.)
Dates are the regional superfood of the Coachella Valley and a date shake is a rite of passage for anyone passing through on 1-10. Dates from Shields and the other stands are packed with fiber, magnesium, and potassium.

Date Palms were first brought to the Coachella Valley, from Iraq in 1911 and sparked a romance for Southern Californians with the exotic and mysterious Middle East. In the 1940s local date growers started the International Festival of the Dates to lure people to the desert, much like the Arts & Musical Festival does today. Even then, before juicing and raw foods became everyone’s jam, dates were sexy. Floyd Shields' billboards along the freeways enticed drivers to pull over and see his slideshow: “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”
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4. Country music gets its own festival.
The Stagecoach Festival occupies the polo grounds the final weekend in April after Coachella’s EDM and indie bands have done their thing. The names that play Stagecoach are just as massive as the ones from the weekends before. This year, Shania Twain, Dierks Bently, and Kenny Chesney are headlining Stagecoach.
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Photo: Via Guns n' Roses' Facebook.
5. Reunited (and it feels so good!)
Coachella is a great place to catch up with your old friends, especially if your old friends are the ones you toured the world with before a nasty public breakup. Coachella has a reputation for getting the bands back together.

Some of the reunions of Coachella’s past? Siouxsie and the Banshees in 2002. Rage Against The Machine in 2007. The Pixies in 2004. 2014’s Outkast reunion didn’t exactly kill it at Coachella, but just seeing Big Boi and Andre 2000 together is something, right?
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Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
6. There really is art.
It is called the Coachella Arts and Music Festival for a reason. Each year, the Festival hosts artists from around the world and, as the organizers say, “Art plays a pivotal role in defining the Coachella experience.” Past installations have included things like Mike Grandaw’s large caterpillar that morphed overnight into a butterfly.

This year, the artist duo called Chiaozzo will be exhibiting his whimsical, wobbly ecosystems called the Chiaozza Garden. Visitors can proceed through this ecological dreamscape like something straight out of Invisible Cities. Look for large-scale installations from Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza, and other artists including Olalekan Jeyifous and Gustavo Prado placed throughout the grounds.
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Photo: Via instagram.
7. There’s always music in the Date Shed.
If you can’t make it to the festival, or if two weekends in April aren’t enough for you, the family that owns the polo grounds has converted a former date storage facility into a live venue that hosts music year round.

The Date Shed only opened to the public in 2011. Before that, it was a private spot for special guests during Coachella. It was an exclusive jam space for artists and their friends and family to relax away from the crowds. The owners claim it was designed with the artists in mind. Diverse groups like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and The Ataris have performed there.
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Photo: Via instagram.
8. And yes, there really are polo grounds.
The Empire Polo Club is a real thing, and it is a thriving equestrian oasis, when not being besieged by the festival. Fans can come out for a chukker or two and have their own Pretty Woman moment at halftime, replacing the divots kicked up by the horses.

The polo at Empire isn’t just a real thing: it's the spot where world-class teams face off on Friday nights and Sundays in the winter season. Nacho Figueras, perhaps the most famous polo player in the world and one of the most instantly-recognizable faces of Ralph Lauren, returned to Empire Polo in February 2016.
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Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
9. Generator Parties.
Pearl Jam might have been the first to rock the polo fields, but there has always been a thriving music scene in the desert. In the 90s, fans would gather in the desert for homegrown concerts powered by portable generators. Drive out to a desolate and deserted spot, get the generator going, plug in, and rock out with a couple hundred of your friends.

Josh Homme, local guitar hero from Queens of the Stone Age, was in one of the most influential desert bands to come out of the generator party scene, Kyuss. Kyuss’ brand of rock — think Soundgarden or Alice In Chains — was ideally suited to the generator party.
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Photo: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images.
10. Check the cultural appropriation.
Coachella is no excuse for cultural insensitivity. And unfortunately, many music festivals have a not-so-great reputation for cultural appropriation. Concertgoers are often spotted wearing things like Native American headdresses, ceremonial clothing, or bindis as fashion statements.

Vanessa Hudgens, a bellwether of festival style, Selena Gomez, and the Kardashian/Jenners have all taken heat for Coachella style, with last year’s bindi craze being the most recent. Stick to the fringy tops from H&M or your grandmother’s Woodstock vintage hippie garb and leave the insensitivity at home. It’s not a good look.
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Credit: Tim Mosenfelder / Contributor
11. Like all of us, Coachella had some growing pains.

Before Coachella became the most profitable music festival in the world, it was just a crazy financial endeavor.

When Coachella debuted in 1999, it allegedly lost $800,000! But the indie festival had good taste, even from their impoverished start. That first year, artists like Beck, Morrissey, and Tool headlined.