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Coachella 2017: How the music festival has changed in the last decade

April 22, 2017

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Way back in the day when I was just starting my journalism career, I was a Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival regular, covering it every year from 2001 to 2007 for a newspaper in the desert.

But since leaving that publication in 2007, I haven’t been back to cover it or even to just attend. And a lot has changed in 10 years.

Here’s a few of the things that surprised me the most when I returned to cover it once again this year.

They Grow Up So Fast
Man, this place has grown. A decade ago it seem like everything was within a simple-to-navigate squarish area. If you stood in the right spot and had decent vision, you could almost see the entire venue end to end. Now it’s practically a small city with all sorts of turns and little musical neighborhoods that makes it easy and fun to get lost.

It’s More Delicious
I don’t remember much about the food ten years ago, and that’s probably because it wasn’t very memorable. Not surprisingly, the foodie culture has a headlining spot at Coachella now. Big deal chefs like Jet Tila and Eduardo Ruiz are cooking in the VIP area and legit restaurants like Holy Cow and Roy Choy’s Chego as serving up delicious dishes. Ummm Yummchella.

It’s Way Shadier
And that’s a good thing because finding shade at Coachella back in the day was like trying to find the Polo Fields during the first years of the festival when no one had navigation. I remember one sad group of kids cramming under some bleachers trying desperately to catch a line of shade. Now relatively speaking, it’s like night and day with way more shaded spots. Even the ginormous pieces of art all over the field double as artsy umbrellas.

Art installations provide shade too at Coachella.Art installations provide shade too at Coachella.

When did the camping area become its own little festival? There’s an art studio there? A Dodge ball tournament? Glow in the dark Dodge ball?!? Back in the olden days, you got showers, dirt to sleep on and impromptu drum circles all night.

Skin, Way More Skin
I’m just going to say shorts are a lot shorter than I even remember them being at Coachella, a lot. And it’s not just girls wearing them either.

Art is Huge
Art has always been a big part of Coachella, but it was never this huge, as in massive pieces of art all over the place. That herd of colorful whatever they are by UK artists Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan look like cute prehistoric giants grazing on the grass, and I want to live in that funky tree house looking Crown Ether sculpture that rises about 50 feet off the ground.

More stories, photos from Coachella 2017:

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