I’ve been to Coachella once, in the spring of my senior year of high school. It was the year that Beyonce made a surprise appearance onstage with her sister Solange, and Jay Z took the stage alongside Nas. It was the year of the astronaut blimp parading around the festival grounds, and the year Kid Cudi captivated the audience wearing a red crop top and denim cut-offs. Coachella is a music festival (and an expensive one at that), but more than perhaps any other major festival, it’s also an aesthetic and a way of life that, though I left the festival grounds more than three years ago, seems to have followed me back to LA. It’s a festival that impacts LA culture at all times.
If every festival idealizes a different form of debauchery, Coachella has incorporated something much more vague into its brand that makes it marketable beyond the festival’s boundaries: it idealizes an easygoing, hippy aesthetic. Girls wear flower crowns and flowy skirts, boots and daisy dukes, don beach curls and a “no makeup” look. The lineup itself feels less important (and more generic) than the laidback lifestyle the festival promotes. In fact, the Coachella aesthetic is so marketable that retailers now use “Coachella” as a descriptor for their bohemian-style clothing.
Because of its unique branding, much of the hype around the festival is less about music and actual bohemian lifestyle than making bohemia look good.
Perhaps due to its proximity to Los Angeles, Coachella attracts more celebrities than any other festival at the moment, making it a pricey way to spot celebrities. And it’s a market for Goldenvoice to make a whopping $84 million off ticket sales each year. It’s no wonder they launched Panorama, the New York City-based festival that takes place in late July.
Panorama is similar to Coachella . . . but it would be wrong to say the two festivals are interchangeable, even if festival lineups are often a similar mix of crowd pleasers. Perhaps it’s the vibe New Yorkers bring to the festival that gives it a different feeling, but so far Panorama has much less of a decided aesthetic compared to Coachella (granted, it’s only been around for one year). And it doesn’t help that New York already has Governor’s Ball, so many festival-goers in the city feel slighted that Goldenvoice would try to compete with their beloved tradition. Panorama just hasn’t built up the hype that seems to constantly surround Coachella.
Based on the fashinista’s of the festival last year, Panorama doesn’t seem to be pushing bohemian style as strongly. Perhaps, given time, it will. Or, more likely, it will develop its own aesthetic that’s loosely based around New York culture. I can’t personally see New Yorkers embracing any lifestyle brand that Angelinos have wholeheartedly committed to, so I imagine that whatever brand Panorama develops in the coming years, it will be its own distinct flavor, despite Goldenvoice being the mastermind behind them both.
Whatever happens to Panorama, it will certainly attract a similarly young, wealthy crowd. And like any other festival, it will promote debauchery and “a good time” above all else. But because of the previously established east coast/west coast rivalry, I see Panorama becoming the aesthetic counterpart to Coachella. I imagine the different beauty standards in New York will impact the festival fashion as well (because as much as Coachella impacts LA lifestyle, LA lifestyle influences Coachella fashion). In that way, given the New Yorker image of a person with paler skin, a skinny body, a baseball cap, and a bagel in hand, I can only imagine Panorama will be some spin-off of this glorified New Yorker, just as Coachella has both created and reinforced the (for better or worse) ideal LA lifestyle.