Last weekend, an estimated hundred thousand music fans descended upon the dusty grounds of the Indio, California music fest (not to mention millions of other music fans who couldn’t be there in person were watching some of the shows streaming online). The hoards of music fans will return for a second weekend of Coachella, which starts Friday, and if the festival’s first weekend is any indication, it will continue to serve up plenty of buzz and controversy.
One of the biggest and most hyped festivals of the year (and its celebrity-studded crowd) has garnered lots of media attention this past week, and unsurprisingly, has also received a significant amount of criticism. From celebs wearing controversial cultural symbols such as feather headdresses and bindis to big name acts that failed to live up to the hype, Coachella apparently cannot not come and go without a few storms (and we don’t mean the literal dust storm that kicked up during the festival’s first weekend).
Let’s take a look at a couple of the less-than-pleasant aspects of this year’s fest from its first weekend. We wonder if any of these issues will be smoothed over for its final weekend? Probably not, but at least now music fans know what to expect…
By far the most controversial Coachella fashion statement so far this year has been the bindi. An ancient tradition from South and Southeast Asia, this jewel placed between a woman’s eyebrows can have religious significance. Many of the women who wear it believe that the area between the eyebrows is the sixth chakra, or a place of great wisdom. The bindi can also represent the third eye. Worn by women from various religions, it has symbolic connotations and cultural significance steeped in history and tradition. In Coachella’s first weekend, several starlets opted to wear the accessory around the festival grounds and on stage. Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ellie Goulding and many others sported this sacred symbol. As a result, many have accused these pop stars of cultural appropriation. However, this has not been the first time that the accessory has stirred up controversy: Gwen Stefani popularized bindis in the 1990s, and Selena Gomez wore a bindi during some of her concerts back in 2013, also causing a small stir.
Indian nose ring
In addition to the bindi, another accessory hailing from South Asia, a traditional Indian-style nose ring, has made a somewhat unwelcome appearance at Coachella this year. After Kendall Jenner wore the nose ring to Lacoste’s Coachella party last weekend, pictures of her wearing the earring, which looks similar to a traditional Indian wedding nose ring, made waves online and in the media. It’s unclear what kind of statement Kendall was trying to make by sporting the accessory, but rings worn in a woman’s left nostril usually signify marriage in India and are also believed to ease childbirth and menstrual pain.
The most anticipated concert of the festival, the reunion of Outkast (Big Boi and Andre 3000), was eagerly attended by thousands of fans at the festival as well as available to fans streaming the concert from home. The recording of the concert has already been viewed millions of times. Although the duo performed some of its biggest hits, including Hey Ya and Sorry Miss Jackson, most who viewed the concert do not believe it came close to living up to all of the hype, Tweeting their frustration about the show. Some of the problems were purely technical: the show started late and then the performers were cut off before they could finish their final song. But aside from the technical issues, many, especially diehard fans, have said that the concert fell flat.
Leonardo DiCaprio wildly dancing
A video has surfaced that allegedly shows Leonardo DiCaprio at the MGMT performance partaking in a frenzied and strange dance consisting of awkward wiggles and hops that we can’t exactly classify in any particular way.
The video itself is slightly controversial: it may not actually be him, since the man shown in the video has his back to the camera. With that said, the eccentric dancer was wearing the same outfit that Leo was wearing in a photo snapped by the paparazzi at another time.
Justin Bieber’s hat
After making a surprise appearance during Charnce the Rapper’s set wearing a white patterned bucket hat, the controversial tween pop star began trending on Twitter thanks to his odd-looking accessory choice. Perhaps it was to shield the star from the unforgiving desert elements? The hat unsurprisingly garnered a lot of mocking tweets: Twitter users called it a hat for little girls or a midlife crisis hat. Despite the mockery, more than a few people seemed to want to be a part of the fashion statement, because the affordable ($28) and basic polyester bucket hat sold out immediately after the singer’s appearance on stage.
Native American-inspired headdresses
It’s no surprise that statement feather headdresses once again made an appearance at Coachella. The pieces have been causing uproar at music festivals since 2010 when they first debuted, and have also caused problems whenever they appear on fashion runways (a more frequent occurrence since festival goers first made them cool). Coachella attendees are some of the most prominent perennial offenders of the tradition of wearing the native-inspired head pieces to festivals. This year, model Alessandra Ambrosio wore a particularly ostentatious feather piece in an image uploaded to Instagram, calling it “amazing” and noting that it “inspired” her for Coachella. Vanessa Hudgens also took a picture of herself wearing a headdress. Traditionally, feathered “war bonnets” or headdresses were worn by people including Plains Indians. Today, headdresses, which have spiritual and magical importance, are used for ceremonial purposes. Some individuals from Native American nations have said they are offended by those who wear the headdresses, noting that it is very disrespectful and a form of cultural appropriation.
No surprises here: Coachella was generally crowded, as any good music fest should be. But there were many who reported that the festival’s VIP tent was particularly crowded and therefore offered fewer opportunities for those who had paid premium prices for privileges like a better view of the stage. That’s a big downer, considering the VIP pass originally sold for $799.
If you’re going to go to a festival in the middle of the California desert where nature is unpredictable, it’s a good idea to expect (and prepare) for the worst, as Coachella attendees found out for themselves on Saturday. A huge dust storm kicked up Saturday night, turning the sky over the music fest brown and blowing dust into the festival attendees’ eyes and skin.
Celebrities being sponsored to attend
Forget the VIPs – the happiest people at Coachella might just be the lucky few who got paid thousands of dollars to simply show up and watch a few concerts. It’s rumored that some celebrities ask thousands of dollars from popular labels to attend the shows and wear certain items of clothing or accessories. Vanessa Hudgens is said to be earning a cool $15,000 from McDonald’s to attend the festival – although it’s a little unclear to us as to what fries and chicken nuggets have to do with an indie music fest. Granted, some stories about such deals are false (it was said that Lea Michele was paid to wear Lacoste to the fest but that story has since been discredited).
The festival itself has become controversial. Early adopters of the festival will often claim that nowadays Coachella only caters to those who attend simply to be seen (or sponsored, as per our aforementioned point). In other words, the one-time cutting edge indie music festival that existed to encourage and highlight talented musicians now simply caters to the celebrity-studded audience. In greater and greater numbers, devoted and serious music fans are saying no to attending Coachella, instead opting to support smaller concerts at venues in the region that are taking place during the time of the fest.