Launching Friday at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, the Goldenvoice-promoted Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has been a spring staple for more than a decade. Could it soon have some company in the fall?
Indio recently signed off on a 17-year agreement with Goldenvoice that will allow the promoter to keep Coachella and the country-focused Stagecoach in the town through at least 2030. The approved proposal also lays the groundwork for Goldenvoice to expand from three high-capacity yearly events to five.
In addition to the multi-weekend Coachella and the single weekend Stagecoach, the promoter will have the leeway starting in 2014 to stage two additional concerts in the fall -- one with a maximum capacity of 75,000 and the other topping out at a whopping 99,000 attendees (maximum attendance, including staff, is now capped for Coachella at 95,000).
So, should fans start planning for a fall trek to Indio next year?
“We have our thinking cap on,” says Goldenvoice head and Coachella architect Paul Tollett. “We’re looking for ideas, but we don’t feel compelled, like there’s an emergency and we have to go do a show. If something pops up that’s natural and is fun for us to work on, we will."
Tollett and Goldenvoice Vice President Skip Paige insist that nothing is imminent. In seeking its long-term agreement with Indio, Goldenvoice spent $1.5 million to commission a thousand-plus-page environmental impact report, which laid out the sweep and scope of how the expanded festivals could affect traffic patterns, noise pollution and even the migration patterns of the rare burrowing owl, a species that’s been spotted near festival grounds.
It also gave desert-city residents a public forum to make their long-simmering frustrations with the festivals heard. The documents are filled with emotional complaints by local residents pointing out a certain lawlessness that has come to be associated with the festivals. One resident cited Coachella attendees’ documented habit of visiting homeowners with “an urgent need to urinate and defecate in their pools.”
“Basically,” said Paige, “by building an [environmental impact report], we helped someone build a case against us.”
Goldenvoice executives have spent the last two years trying to win over locals who complain that their quality of life has been compromised, meeting face to face with many residents. Those who find the festivals less than desirable may take comfort in the fact that Goldenvoice says there is currently no intention to make the potential fall events a yearly tradition.
“We don’t have any plans to do any other festivals, but if you spend this money to do an [environmental impact report], we want the flexibility,” says Paige. “If U2 wants to play a show, I don’t want to not be allowed to. We don’t have plans to do shows, but it is very possible.”
Goldenvoice has staged events in the fall before, such as a festival centered on jam band Phish in October 2010. Tollett says his priority isn’t adding fall events but improving the current ones.
With the long-term agreement in place, Tollett says Goldenvoice can more readily invest in Indio and the festival grounds. Goldenvoice has in the past paid for enhancements to the polo grounds and surrounding area, helping to upgrade roads by funding additional lanes. This year, it paved roads behind the main stage. Tollett says that will cut down on blown dust around the grounds.
“Up until now, we’ve been on a one- or two-year leash,” Tollett says, referring to the short-term contracts Coachella operated on. “We never wanted to put too many resources into something that could be permanent. Now our creativity can shift to things that we know we can build and will stay there 10 or 15 years. After this year’s events are over, we’re sitting down and putting down a plan that looks at the next 15 years on an infrastructure level.”
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