Sometimes even the most devoted ravers outgrow their fairy wings and neon bikinis.
The 160,000 people expected to attend Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival over the next two weekends will find a new electronic music tent with the kind of accouterments rarely seen at these venues — including air conditioning, a hardwood floor and comfy chairs.
The new Yuma tent is a world apart from the bare grass floors and body heat of other tents, reflecting maturing tastes and older fans. Coachella’s promoter, Goldenvoice, took a step in the same direction last year when it launched its S.S. Coachella luxury cruise to the Bahamas and Jamaica.
“Music has changed, and people want a higher-end alternative now,” said Paul Tollett, president of Goldenvoice, a unit of AEG. “That audience didn’t exist 15 years ago. In 1999, I had a hard time getting people to pay $50 to come to Coachella.”
Today, a weekend pass to Coachella starts at $349. Many dance music fans who return year after year are now in their 30s and 40s, and may be less tolerant of desert heat, drunken revelers and sensory overload as they were five or 10 years ago.
“You get to a certain age and you feel like a grown-up and can afford some comfort,” said Jesse Peyronel, a seven-year Coachella veteran and a TV screenwriter. “I remember seeing Prodigy at Coachella a few years ago and it was like a Bikram yoga studio from all the body heat in there.”
For fans like Peyronel, the more reserved Yuma tent could be an oasis compared with the booming beats of the other tents blaring electronic dance music, or EDM.
“EDM has become such a spectacle, like a hair-metal or frat-party version of dance music,” said Jason Bentley, 42, music director for KCRW-FM (89.9) and host of the popular dance music show “Metropolis.” Bentley will DJ a set in the Yuma tent both weekends at Coachella. “We can all appreciate the usefulness of a big, sensational set. But here Coachella is respecting the craft of DJ storytelling.”
Younger fans of nuanced dance-music styles (and those looking for a break from the heat) can appreciate that as well.
Contemporary raves “make me feel old,” said Sophie He, a 24-year-old Koreatown resident and dance music fan who has attended the last three festivals. This year she’s sitting it out, but new options like the Yuma tent could make her reconsider in the future.
“As a sprightly 20-year-old, I had the patience and vitality to rage and dance to electro-house at the Sahara tent all day long,” she said. “Now, I prefer events that are more intimate and less hectic, to relax a little more and just focus on the bands I really want to see with as minimal stress as possible.”
According to Tollett, the Yuma tent is meant to be a sophisticated space that dials down the noise and strobe lights in favor of thoughtful sounds and underground acts. Its location will be a little off the grid, separate from the main row of performance tents and tucked away near the Rose Garden VIP area. Inside, it’s walled off from the sun to evoke a dark, insular nightclub.
The music will also be distinct from the big, caffeinated sounds of today’s top-selling EDM, instead focused on soulful and experimental dance acts.
“In the Sahara tent, people will be pumped and excited for the full-throttle energy,” Tollett said. “But in the Yuma tent, it’s about closing your eyes — what do you hear?”
Judging by the lineup, which includes young DJs such as Seth Troxler and Maya Jane Coles, it’s catering to the changing tastes of younger audience members as well.
“It’s the next evolution of where things are going,” Troxler said. “Kids always have a starting point, but then their palates get more sensitive. It’s so cool that a festival like Coachella is taking the lead on that.”
That’s not to say that everything is changing. The popular Sahara tent will still sport enormous LED walls and sheets of lights cued to the hard-pulsing dance sounds favored by today’s sprightly 20-year-olds.
Those crowds “aren’t satisfied with just a dude with a laptop,” Sophie He said.