When Coachella reveals its headliners every year, the internet explodes with reactions and exultations. The handful of names announced appear in headlines on every music blog and magazine on the planet, and who can blame editors and writers everywhere for running with the story, even if the news is old almost as quickly as it is shared? The musicians chosen are the biggest in the world—this year they were Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé, though she stepped out and was replaced by Lady Gaga—and it is the highest-grossing festival on the planet.
While the rest of the world may be looking to see whose names appear at the top of the poster, those who know Coachella aren’t glancing upwards at all. For the season vet, it’s no longer about the superstar names, and in fact, it’s not even so much about the festival itself at all.
Coachella has now become a weekend-long series of events, with the parties and the happy hours all taking precedence to the actual musical behemoth. The festival may bring in just over 100,000 people per weekend, but many more thousands flock to Indio, and especially Palm Springs, to see and be seen at poolsides and in VIP spaces around the region.
Brands have caught on to this new Coachella reality, and the best of them have opted to host their own parties as a way of reaching influencers and consumers, instead of making an extremely expensive (and usually impossible) play to be on the Polo Grounds.
This year, big names like American Express, 1800 Tequila, and Under Armour all organized enjoyable daytime events, but one company went above and beyond when it came to the Coachella pre-show. Mountain Dew didn’t just rent a space or partner with another well-known name to make an event happen, it actually took over an entire motel and made it into something brand new and better than it was before.
The location, which perfectly typified a sleepy Western motel, suddenly became an uber hip, always-at-capacity soiree where the company launched its new Mtn Dew Label Series, which is something of a venture into growing the “craft soda” market. The soda brand brought together all the pieces that make for a perfect Coachella party, with a pool filled with gorgeous people and plenty of floaty toys, drinks everywhere you looked, artists creating a mural on the walls of one of the motel's rooms, games, a stand from VFILES, and of course, music. Rapper G-Eazy delighted fans on the first day of the VIP event with a lengthy set, complete with his best-known cuts and a few hat only his biggest fans would know.
Once the party was over for the day (it ended just as the bigger names were taking to the stage at Coachella), shuttles took everyone in attendance to the grounds, where the party continued.
This year was my first trip to the biggest festival in the world, and going into the weekend, I was a bit naive when it came to the pre-parties. Having never been, and not being an L.A. resident, I didn’t know just how important these events are, or how sought-after an invite is. The line around the block told me otherwise, and as I met more people who have done this many times before, I learned that this is one of the few festivals where what you do before the musicians go on is, in some ways, more important than what you do after...especially in terms of curating that enviable social content.
I sincerely hope that more festivals around the country and around the world begin following Coachella’s lead, and that festivals continue to grow in terms of the events that take place around them. So much more can be done around the largest of festivals, and to me, it seems like they—the musicians, the brands, and the partiers themselves—are doing it right out in California.