Sorry, But You Can’t Be Woke and Go to Coachella

Festival owner donates to the alt-right

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Coachella is the Woodstock of our generation. Advertised as a hub for peace and good vibes, in its most recent years it has drawn in upward of $700 million and crowds of over 70,000 people in per-day attendance. Unbeknownst to most festival attendees, money from the hefty price tag on the recently dropped 2018 tickets goes into the pocket of a billionaire who donates to anti-LGBTQIA+, anti-abortion and anti-gun control conservative politicians.

illustration by Lizzy Choi

Philip Anschutz is the owner of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. His name isn’t directly attached to it, as it gets lost in the ownership chain of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) Live, which is the parent organization for Goldenvoice. Goldenvoice organizes Coachella as well as Stagecoach, FYF and Firefly.

Anschutz, 78, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative Christian and extremist organizations such as the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center denounced as an anti-gay hate group.

When Anschutz was confronted in 2016 about his donations to these conservative hate groups, he denied being aware of their rhetoric. However, in 2017 he made personal donations totaling $187,300 to Republican senators across the country whose campaigns opposed gun control laws, abortion and same-sex marriage.

Not only has Anschutz donated to hate groups, he has given money to politicians whose agendas and growing influence promote oppressive legislation. In 2016, Anschutz donated $1,012,000 to various Republican candidates’ campaigns. He is one of the party’s major donors.

While many Coachella attendees wouldn’t knowingly support these extremist views, hundreds of thousands still attend every year.

It helps that Goldenvoice and AEG Live recruit top-selling artists to headline the three-day festivities. The 2018 lineup released at the beginning of the year announced Beyoncé would be headlining with Eminem and the Weeknd, but voices on social media are discouraging people from buying tickets with the hashtag #boycottcoachella.

In 2016 and 2017 performers in the Coachella lineup expressed blatant opposition to the Republican Party. Eminem released a scathing freestyle rap condemning Donald Trump and his supporters. Princess Nokia threw hot soup in the face of a racist on the subway. Lady Gaga has been a longtime advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Liberal artists tend to attract liberal crowds, but there is nothing liberal about the structural oppression of LGBTQIA+ people and women.

In terms of ticket sales, the insidious underbelly of the festival has been overshadowed by the star-studded lineup and guest list. Coachella attendance has also increased in part due to celebrity attendees in recent years, with names including Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Rihanna, Kehlani and Drake.

People are so caught up in the hype and aesthetic of Coachella that they either don’t know or don’t care it is a driving force of the alt-right agenda. The Coachella generation needs to be mindful of what they spend their money — over $600 on StubHub — on.

Music festivals are fun, but if their profits go toward oppressive politics, buyers are valuing a good time over human rights. There will be other opportunities to see Beyoncé, opportunities that don’t also directly fund hate in America.