- The Coachella Music & Arts Festival takes place over two weekends in April at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.
- I decided to go to Coachella for the first time this year.
- Before attending, I had heard that Coachella restricts all alcohol consumption to designated 21-plus areas away from the stage. I thought I would hate that rule, but it ended up creating a festival experience with fewer rude drunk people, less trash, and an overall nicer atmosphere.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories or take a look at more coverage on this year’s edition of Coachella.
I didn’t know what to expect from the Coachella Music & Arts Festival.
If I were to listen to every news story written about the festival, I would assume that it’s both a glittering entertainment-industry party for influencers and a hell world of Orange County teenagers skipping school to drink.
While both of those elements are certainly there, there’s also a music festival happening, and a well-organized one at that.
Before attending the festival, I had heard about Coachella’s alcohol policy: You’re allowed to buy or consume alcoholic beverages only in designated 21-plus areas. A variety of fenced-in beer gardens and cocktail spaces dot the sides of the main stages.
The policy has drawn a lot of ire from festivalgoers. In some respects, it’s understandable: Lots of festivalgoers over 21 like to drink throughout the weekend. I would think that many people view a music festival as a drinking event, as evidenced by all the alcohol sponsors (Heineken, Cupcake, etc.) put front and center on the grounds.
As far as I know, the alcohol policy is atypical for the industry. No other festival I’ve attended has restricted alcohol consumption in this way.
By the end of the weekend, I realized the restriction is a brilliant move.
The result of such a policy is that it forces festivalgoers to make a choice: Are you drinking, or are you listening to the music? During nearly every performance at other festivals I’ve attended, there’s a constant jockeying in the crowd as people push to either go buy beers or bring them back in. It’s distracting for people trying to enjoy the music.
On another level, merely making drinking slightly more inconvenient most likely reduces how much festivalgoers drink. It did for me.
While I didn’t have plans to get sloshed over the weekend – I was working, after all – I wasn’t above getting a few drinks toward the end of the night. But when I was in the crowd standing in the perfect position to watch Janelle Monae, I had to ask myself: Is getting that drink worth missing part of her unbelievable set? For me, the answer was a no-brainer.
Further, taking the drinks out of the crowd means there’s less trash underfoot and no one is spilling drinks on each other. Keeping the drinks restricted to the 21-and-over area reduces the chance that drinks get handed off to minors. Unfortunately, the policy can’t do anything to prevent underage people from drinking before getting to the festival, which I saw plenty of.
Overall, though, I noticed fewer rude drunk people at Coachella, a common occurrence at other festivals and concerts I’ve attended. Maybe Coachella has a uniquely nice and responsible crowd, or maybe there’s some well-thought-out policymaking happening at Goldenvoice, the organizer of the festival. I’m guessing it’s the latter.
The move puts the focus for the average attendee directly where it should be: on the music and the art.