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Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
“We wanted to do something that was a little different,” says Paul Tollett, president of Los Angeles-based concert promotion agency Goldenvoice, of Coachella. “[We wanted] something that had a heavy dance component to it, but also rock, indie rock and hip-hop — what everyone was listening to out here. And we wanted to make it a little higher-end.”
And as festival launches go, Tollett, who had previously promoted raves and other concerts in Southern California, lays claim to one of the most harrowing. He and his company launched Coachella mere months after Woodstock ’99 went up, quite literally, in smoke — bonfires and crowd violence were so severe, even MTV fled the premises. The event also lost $800,000, forcing him to shelve the project until 2001.
“It was kind of bad timing,” acknowledges Tollett, who grew up watching festival documentaries like D.A. Pennebaker’s “Monterey Pop” (1968) and Michael Wadleigh’s “Woodstock” (1970). “[I was nervous] that our show might get canceled. We were trying to sell tickets and people were saying that festivals were over. Like, ‘Look at what happened at Woodstock — this stuff should be outlawed.’ And even if it’s not outlawed, who would want to go to something like that?”
The show went on, albeit after a one-year hiatus. Coachella is now one of the best-known and fanciest festivals in the country, luring A-list musicians, Hollywood stars and the most fashionable fans out there to the desertlike Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., several hours east of Los Angeles.