Festival atmosphere transcends fashion

It’s 1993. Many current USC undergraduates aren’t even born yet. Michael Jordan is on fire. Cheers airs its last episode. Unforgiven wins the Oscar for best picture. And perhaps most important, current Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kenya Moore wins Miss USA.

But something else happened in 1993. Something that might have felt small at the time — almost as if it was just another concert: Rock band Pearl Jam performed at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. in a boycott of the concert conglomerate Ticketmaster.

Little did they know that by giving the largest ticket vendor in the world a fat middle finger, the band would be inadvertently creating the future of the modern-day music festival.

The first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival took place in October of 1999. Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Rage Against the Machine and other acts performed in a two-day retreat to Indio.

After a few hiccups, including dealing with extreme heat and figuring out how to make a profit, festival organizers finally hit their stride in the early 2000s. Soon Coachella became the music festival to go to.

Every festival has its characteristics. At Glastonbury, fans wade in the mud in their wellies to check out their favorite punk acts. At Stagecoach, country music fans lace up their best cowboy boots and don their sharpest Stetsons. At your typical massive rave, fans decked out in their best neon look forward to jumping to beats in a crowd of thousands. At Lilibeth, (mostly) women take the term bohemian to heart and jettison bras and shoes out the window.

Coachella? Well, it’s a mix of everything — which is probably the reason why it’s so popular. With acts in the past ranging from a hologram ressurection of Tupac to Vampire Weekend to the Beastie Boys to Kanye West to Madonna, there’s a little something for everyone. Instead of dividing genres of music, the festival brings them together. Here, you’ll find your hardcore rap fan sharing a joint with the prissiest sorority girl.

This year, Coachella is no different. Phoenix brought R. Kelly onstage for a duet, Icelandic folk band Of Monsters and Men crooned its heart out and Baauer provided the beats for the largest dance party possible. And if you couldn’t tell from your Instagram newsfeed, 2013’s Coachella was a live fashion show of the best festival trends.

I once interned at an Internet startup in Downtown L.A. During my first day, my cool-but-obviously-over-the-top boss shared with me that for her, the New Year starts with Coachella — and the rest of the year fits around it.

That’s a grandiose statement to make, but unfortunately, for many who consider themselves true festival goers, the sentiment stays true. This old boss of mine spent months planning her outfits — one of her friends and fellow co-worker even based a school project around what she would wear Coachella weekend. And yes, massive angel wings were included, in case you were wondering.

People obviously go all out. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if you’re rocking a sundress or a pair of wings — just wear whatever you’re happiest in.

Still, keep in mind that the festival moved from October to April for a reason. Temperature-wise, Indio is the equivalent of a rather large boiling cauldron so comfort is always key. Ever wonder why Coachella concertgoers wear so few clothes? Yes, they want to show off their flat abs and cut arms, but they’re also just trying to stay cool in impossibly hot weather.

Hair in your face? Take a hint from all of the girls in carefully woven flower headbands and boys in an assortment of fedoras and frat baseball caps. Remember: functionality and style.

That’s the hard part about writing a how-to fashion guide for something as vast and indescribable as Coachella. There’s no one theme, no one genre, no one type of person who attends the festival on either weekend. It’s too heterogeneous, and too broad to pinpoint any particular style.

Yes, fashion can be serious. Your style can tell a lot about who you are. But sometimes people can take it a little too literally. If you look like you’ve spent more time getting ready than breathing this morning, then this note is for you. As long as you go 100 percent, you can’t go wrong. Coachella isn’t about how great your makeup looks.

Forget about how good a certain shirt will appear with the Hefe Instagram filter. You can’t possibly go wrong with what to wear. Festivals are about freedom and independence. You don’t need to show your individuality to thousands of people who already know you’re special — you’re there in the first place, after all.

Most important, remember why you came. For some, maybe your whole fraternity was going. For others, maybe they just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. But for most of the festival goers, only one thing matters: being there.


Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in Critical Studies. Her column “A Stitch In Time” runs Tuesdays. 


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