Our lives are defined by experiences, whether it’s the way scent brings some people back to a particular moment — for the record, this has NEVER happened to me and I’m getting concerned my life isn’t aromatic enough — or how music has a way of sounding more like memories.
Music has been integral throughout history in shaping people’s views and experiences, evoking emotions, at times creating controversy (like any good art), but ultimately bringing people together for the common greater cause of listening, dancing, enjoying and singing to the melodies.
While there is a lot of negative criticism concerning the mainstream consumer culture of the modern music festival, music festivals are not some modern new concept.
In recent history, Woodstock stands as not only one of the first major music festivals, but also as a cultural phenomenon responsible for many definitive moments of ‘60s music and pop culture, which in turn shaped history.
As no stranger to the music festival scene (Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza, Bonaroo, to name a few), I attended my first Coachella two weeks ago. While making the mile long trek under the desert sun through the campgrounds, I witnessed what some people — CAMPERS — were willing to do in the name of this music festival — CAMP — and wondered what the mystical musical lure of festivals is and has been for people all along.
Coachella in particular is often critiqued for its fashion parades and celebrity outpour. Though fashion and celebrities are obviously not the sole purpose of music festivals (music being key), they are both indicative of the larger cultural implications of what such festivals have stood for since Woodstock — they are defining pieces of the puzzle that makes up current culture.
Music festivals are for the music, in some sense, but, also something grander. Does the experience of hearing your favorite band from the midst of a large crowd compare to an intimate venue where you’re 3 feet away? No. But that’s not what music festivals strive to fulfill.
Music festivals strive to create a totality of experience, encompassing not just music or bands or fashions or songs, but the ways in which those things define our culture, shape us, shape the ways in which we relate to and experience life.
Though FOMO (fear of missing out) is obnoxious at best, there’s something to the idea that we all — in this human experience — have a deep-seeded need to be a part of something that lasts.
While music festivals aren’t necessarily an indelible part of history for changing lives or bettering the world, they are bringing people together. And in a world where we are so frequently divided by beliefs or social media or geography, it’s comforting to stand in a field of other people you may never really know, and, yet, know that you’re all sharing the same experience, the same slice of history — the debut of a new single, the start of a tour, a new season — and making new memories to the same melodies.