Background to The Festival

Coachella by day - a gorgeous view of the Empire Polo Club and the Coachella Valley

Coachella by day – a gorgeous view of the Empire Polo Club and the Coachella Valley



In its short 14-year history, Coachella has established itself as one of the most highly-attended music festivals in the world. Evidence of this impressive reputation was seen in 2012’s edition, where over 80000 people per day passed through the Empire Polo Club to get a taste of Coachella’s musical melting pot. By combining acts from multiple genres, ranging the mainstream right through to a more alternative flavour, the festival has built a strong, diverse following over the years.

And it’s not just the music that brings people there en masse. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as its full name implies, is an annual celebration of artistic expression, held over three days at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, nestled in the Coachella Valley. An oasis amidst the baking heat of the California Desert, the event brings out the best that rock, indie, hip hop and electronic music genres have to offer, as well as sculpture and installation art from the visual arts community. Across several stages dotted around the polo grounds, fans can experience live music, ranging from the main Coachella Stage, and Outdoor Theatre, to the smaller Gobi, Mojave, and Sahara Tents.

Coachella is known for showcasing musical artists that are popular and well-established, as well as emerging artists and particularly, reunited groups. With the emergence of electronic dance music, world-class DJ acts have also found a place in the Coachella chemistry, increasing the popularity and diversity of this exciting festival. Gorgeous weather, beautiful scenery, and high-quality live music acts – what more could you want in an outdoor music festival?


History and Highlights

The history of Coachella, and the Empire Polo Club as a concert venue, dates back to 1993. The hot, dry and remote location was chosen by grunge gods Pearl Jam in response to a boycott they’d become embroiled in with Ticketmaster, and all the auditoriums in Southern California that it controlled. By refusing to play in those venues, the unlikely fledgling site was given a chance, and on the 5th of November 1993, almost 25000 fans saw the band live and in its prime.

This one-off show indicated the suitability of the club for large-scale events, but due to its remoteness and climate, six years passed before the inaugural Coachella event in 1999. The first Coachella went off smoothly, with about 10000 people attending the two-day event over the 9th and 10th of October, three months after the Woodstock 99 festival. The riots and fires at Woodstock 99 meant that Coachella promoters were not allowed to offer on-site camping, a ban that continued until 2002. The event was supported by headlining acts Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Tool, Morrissey and Rage Against the Machine, and despite the initial success, there was no event the following year in 2000, possibly due to financial difficulties.

The inaugural Coachella, held in October 1999

The inaugural Coachella, held in October 1999


However, Coachella reemerged in 2001, and has continued every year since, rising up like a rose through the desert soil. The event was moved to April to avoid the blistering heat of the late summer, and organisers toyed with one-day, two-day and eventually three-day events as popularity increased and worldwide interest piqued.

Below are some highlights from each Coachella event (2001 till 2012):



  • Coachella returns as a one-day event in April, with organisers struggling to book acts in the months leading up to the festival.
  • A reunited Jane’s Addiction saves the day, headlining the event with Bad Company, Fatboy Slim, Mos Def, Paul Oakenfold, The Roots and Weezer in support.



  • Coachella reverts back to a two-day event, with strong supporting acts helping prove to the Indio community that the event could stimulate the local economy, as well as generate widespread interest.
  • Oasis and Björk headline the event, with a reunited Siouxsie and The Banshees also drawing attention.
  • Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Queens of the Stone Age and The Strokes are some of the excellent supporting acts.
Liam Gallagher of Oasis, headlining Coachella 2002.

Liam Gallagher of Oasis, headlining Coachella 2002.



  • Largest crowd yet seen at Coachella, as the event garners worldwide interest.
  • On-site camping ban is finally lifted.
  • A reunited Iggy Pop and The Stooges features on the bill, alongside Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys.
  • Support found in Blur, Sonic Youth and The White Stripes, amongst others.



  • A reunion of alternative rock legends Pixies sees both days of the event sell out for the first time. 50000 tickets were sold over Saturday and Sunday.
  • A powerhouse lineup featuring Radiohead, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk and Flaming Lips adds to the event’s burgeoning popularity.



  • Headliners Coldplay and Nine Inch Nails dominate Saturday and Sunday respectively.
  • British influence prominent, as 80’s post-punk legends New Order and Gang of Four feature on the bill, as well as Keane and Bloc Party.
  • A memorable debut performance by indie rock darlings Arcade Fire sparks a longtime association with them and the festival.
Arcade Fire's 2005 set included 2 of the 11 band members climbing up the scaffolding on both sides of the stage, using the metal bars as an impromptu drum set.

Arcade Fire’s 2005 set included 2 of the 11 band members climbing up the scaffolding on both sides of the stage, using the metal bars as an impromptu drum set.



  • Electropop pioneers Depeche Mode headline the event, featuring Tool, Franz Ferdinand, Massive Attack, Sigur Rós, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Gnarls Barkley.
  • Supporting acts include TV On The Radio, Phoenix, Imogen Heap, Scissor Sisters and My Morning Jacket (to name a few).



  • Coachella is extended to a three-day event, and features Red Hot Chili Peppers, a reunited Rage Against the Machine, and Björk, all of whom headline for the second time.
  • Notable performers include Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Amy Winehouse, Interpol, Arctic Monkeys, and a reunited Jesus and Mary Chain.
  • DJ sets begin to gain in popularity.
The late singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse at Coachella 2007, at the height of her fame.

The late singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse at Coachella 2007, at the height of her fame.



  • For the first time since 2003, the event does not sell out.
  • Featured headliners include Prince, Roger Waters, and Jack Johnson.
  • Notable appearances from Portishead, Adele, the reunited The Verve, M.I.A., Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin.



  • The event occurs a week earlier than usual, over April 17, 18 and 19. The third annual edition of the country-music Stagecoach Festival (founded in 2007 as a ‘cousin’ to Coachella, using the same grounds) starts the following week.
  • Headliners included Paul McCartney, The Killers, and The Cure, as well as notable performances from My Bloody Valentine, Franz Ferdinand, and M.I.A.  Leonard Cohen also makes a rare appearance.
Robert Smith of The Cure, headlining Coachella 2009.

Robert Smith of The Cure, headlining Coachella 2009.



  • A significant decision is made to do away with single-day ticket sales, offering instead only three-day tickets. Those attending are required to purchase tickets for the entire festival.
  • Attendance skyrockets, with an estimated 75000 spectators or more each day, for an estimated average aggregate of 225,000 attendees.
  • Jay-Z, Muse and Gorillaz headline the event, with three reunions found in Faith No More, Pavement and Public Image Ltd
  • Thom Yorke of Radiohead debuts his live band Atoms for Peace.
  • Supergroup Them Crooked Vultures (featuring Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters & Nirvana, and the legendary John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin) make a notable appearance.
  • Other supporting acts include Tiesto, deadmau5, MGMT, Florence and the Machine, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Passion Pit.



  • The event sells out in just five days.
  • A live webcast is made available via YouTube.
  • Headline acts include Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, and The Strokes.
  • Support is found in The Black Keys, Duran Duran, Mumford & Sons, PJ Harvey, The National, among a  massive 190-act lineup.
Kings of Leon, headlining Coachella 2011

Kings of Leon, headlining Coachella 2011



  • Tickets sell out within hours, as the festival is extended to two weekends. Each weekend’s lineup is identical.
  • A surprise appearance beyond the grave of legendary slain rapper Tupac Shakur occurs during Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s performance, as a projection of the deceased rapper joins them onstage, performing “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted”. The technology, initially referred to as a ‘hologram’, was in fact created using the Musion Eyeliner system, which employs a version of Pepper’s ghost.
  • Headline acts include The Black Keys, Radiohead and the aforementioned Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
  • Supporting acts flourish, and include Swedish House Mafia, Bon Iver, M83, The Shins, Frank Ocean, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Weeknd, and Kasabian.
  • Unscheduled guest appearances include Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Rihanna, and Zack de la Rocha.
Tupac lives (at least for a few minutes on stage). Snoop Dogg clearly enjoyed reuniting '2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted'.

Tupac lives (at least for a few minutes on stage). Snoop Dogg clearly enjoyed reuniting ‘2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted’ at Coachella 2012

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