Madonna to rough it in California desert
Madonna’s not in the habit of performing at rock festivals. In fact, the Material Girl’s never played any festivals. So it’s understandable that the pop diva’s recent addition to the April 29-30 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in southern California might’ve caused a double take or two.
“I did get a few calls (asking) ‘Are you sure it’s the Madonna?” Paul Tollett, co-founder of Los Angeles-based promoter Goldenvoice, says with a laugh. Not that the Indio, Calif., festival – about 130 miles east of Los Angeles – hasn’t had its share of name-brand acts. Recent years have seen such mainstream bands as Coldplay and the Red Hot Chili Peppers emerge as headliners. This year’s main acts include Tool, Depeche Mode, Franz Ferdinand and Daft Punk. But the inclusion of a top-40 staple like Madonna has set tongues wagging in the indie music world – a fact that page after page of debate on the festival’s Internet message board will attest to.
It’s all a far cry from 1999. That’s the year Tollett and his late partner Rick van Santen raised the curtain on Coachella – and almost brought it down just as quickly. The inaugural festival sold just 38,000 tickets that October and was, as Tollett flatly states, a money loser. “It almost put us out of business,” he recalls. “But we just toughed it out. The next year drew something like 48,000. So we could see that it was growing.”
It was a gamble Tollett and van Santen, who died in December 2003, had been eyeing since 1993 when they promoted a Pearl Jam concert in Indio (current pop. 59,000). Maybe it was the view from the sprawling Empire Polo Field, with its mountain-range backdrop, but as Tollett puts it: “That place was aching for a big festival.”
Now in its seventh year, Coachella saw some 100,000 visitors come through the turnstiles last year. Single-day tickets for the event — which features continuous music across five stages – go for $85, but Tollett estimates that 85% of the tickets sold are of the two-day, $165 variety. Two-day passes mean overnight stays, of course. And with that comes the inevitable problem of accommodations.
With every available hotel room and house for rent booked well in advance, about 10,000 of this year’s attendees will be spending $35 each to camp at a Goldenvoice-operated site adjacent to the festival. It’s a fact that Tollett says is born more of pragmatism than anything else. “We wish there were twice as many hotel rooms,” Tollett says. “Whereas you’ve got festivals like Bonnaroo (outside Nashville) that are more of a full camping experience, (Coachella) is more like . . . there’s no place to stay, so you camp.”
And what kind of music fan will you likely find occupying those tents?
While the age of the average attendee varies, Coachella appeals to “more of a twentysomething crowd,” says Billboard staff writer Todd Martens, a four-year veteran of the festival. “Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo draw more of a hippie crowd. I think Coachella tries to tap into the more musically adventurous.”
source : reuters