By Branwyn Wilkinson
Coachella. The huge festival held annually in the California desert attracts anybody who’s anybody and has been hailed as setting the style trends for the Spring and Summer seasons. Indeed, my Snapchat and Instagram have been polluted all week with festival fashions and makeup trends and how to imitate them.
But why? Coachella is a music festival. Yet, instead of performers like Bastille or The XX, Kylie Jenner’s outfits have taken center stage. This has even lead some people to refer to Coachella as “extra.”
That’s what my roommate called it when I told her I was planning to write about the festival. And I can’t say I disagree. (Even though I would definitely go to Coachella if I ever got the chance.)
Never having been to a musical festival, I can only rely on what other people have told me. But from everything I’ve heard, going to one is an amazing experience. As someone who is seldom seen without headphones, I can reliably say that just listening to music can be a pretty amazing experience. I can only imagine how awesome it would be to see a favorite band perform live with a group of people who are just as obsessed with them as I am.
So why isn’t Coachella about the music? I didn’t know who was performing until I actually made the effort to look it up, but I knew who was going and what they were wearing without even having to try.
Thanks to smartphones and social media, our culture has become image obsessed. And Coachella is one of the instances that best prove our new reality.
Because of social media, we live our lives on display. Makeup is having a major moment right now because you never know when you’ll find yourself in a situation worthy of an Instagram post. And in some respects, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s led people to start focusing on experiences rather than possessions. Hence why events like Coachella have gained so much popularity.
That’s a really positive thing. You really do get a lot more out of doing something than you do from owning something. And posting about it is part of the fun. There’s a key word here, though; it’s part of the fun. The old saying holds true that if you live life behind the lens of a camera, you miss life. The same goes for if you live life for the lens of a camera.
Yes, people are going to dress cute or sexy for a huge gathering of humans in the desert. And yes, Coachella attracts a lot of celebrities, who will also be dressing cute or sexy. In celebrity-worshipping America, there’s no way that’s going to go unnoticed. Celebrities have practically become a news value. Admittedly, a lot of times that extends to musicians, too. For example, when Ed Sheeran dropped “Divide” last month, he was everywhere.
So clearly our culture isn’t so selfie-obsessed we no longer value the non-visual parts of life, like music. But it’s interesting that the performers at Coachella aren’t those who get the attention. Even lesser-known Victoria’s Secret models have gotten more attention this week than some of the bigger artists like Lady Gaga. It seems that when we put beautiful famous people and talented famous people together, the beautiful ones win.
When did beauty become better than talent? Of course attractiveness has always been important. But the two used to be more balanced. I guess we should have seen it coming. The Kardashians are basically famous for being famous, after all. Though I’m still not sure how that even works. Then again, I’m not one who supports celebrity culture.
That’s why Coachella is extra. It’s a music festival that’s not even about the music. It’s about the extras. It’s about the guests rather the the performers, and the outfits rather than the songs. It’s a slap in the face when it comes to our shifting values.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather see content about Grouplove than a cutesy reminder that it’s the flower crown filter’s birthday. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not putting anyone down for caring about, and even celebrating, the visual. I’m on social media. I wear make-up. But there’s a time and a place for caring about the visuals, and sometimes we forget that.
There is still beauty in the song that validates a feeling or experience even if the lyrics are too private for an Instagram caption. There is still joy in going to a concert even if you don’t capture a snippet of every song for Snapchat.
A music festival shouldn’t be documented by the selfies of the celebrities who attended. They post selfies everyday, and those selfies are celebrated everyday. Ideally, music festivals should be a space to celebrate something other than looking cute. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a song is worth at least that much as well. Looks aren’t the only thing that matters. Remember when your parents and teachers used to tell you that? We all know it’s true, but in today’s social media dominated society, it’s easy to forget.
So here’s your reminder (and this goes for even when you aren’t at a huge event like Coachella): Close your Instagram. Put your camera away. Focus a little bit less on your eyeliner, and a little bit more on the lyrics of your favorite song playing in the background. And value yourself, and your life, for more than just looks.