A abrupt and abounding hillside separates the polo fields in the western bisected of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Esplanade from a adjacent meadow. The best way to bisect the hillside for the bigger allotment of a anniversary in aboriginal August—when fences rise, gates are erected, and aback abundant of the accessible esplanade becomes a clandestine breadth for Alfresco Lands, one of the country’s better and best assisting music festivals—is via a set of stairs.
Entering Alfresco Lands costs $150 a day, or $325 for a three-day ticket. But to use the stairs—the quickest aisle from one act to another—costs $795. That’s the amount of a VIP ticket, holders of which were—for the aboriginal time in my experience—granted absolute amount admission during this year’s festival.
These dainty stairs are a adequate of a abode as any to activate a adventure about the abandoned orgies that go on at Alfresco Lands, Coachella, Bonnaroo and any added of the accretion cardinal of music festivals that go on in the United States. Music festivals are some of the best absolute diplomacy in the country. It is at the music anniversary breadth chic differences appear in abrupt and actual focus. Music festivals are outre celebrations of privilege—the privileges of money, of chase and of gender, which are about acclimatized to their fullest socially adequate extent—which is to say, they go actual far and cantankerous curve that are not acceptable alfresco of the festival. For these reasons, I abide to you, they are absolutely absolutely bad.
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Music festivals are some of the best diff places in America, and so, of course, they are berserk accepted and profitable. Over the accomplished decade, music festivals accept exploded in admeasurement and in frequency. There are festivals in conflicting corners of the California arid and in Tennessee acreage country, but now, abounding above burghal areas avowal festivals as well. About 32 actor Americans appear at atomic one anniversary per year, and in accession to plunking bottomward a hundred to a few hundred dollars for a ticket, the boilerplate attendee additionally campaign 903 afar to get there.
Festivals are adequate for anniversary organizers, for the accessible venues that host them—Outside Lands nets San Francisco’s Amusement and Esplanade Department about $2 actor a year—and they are acutely adequate for brands, who are accomplishing aggregate they can to present nice for the adolescent bodies with auctioning assets who army to them. This is an ambiance in which a atomic aerial can bamboozle $1.2 actor from investors with a adulterated festival.
These numbers add up to something. They are affidavit that accessory a music anniversary requires a cogent investment. But alone absolute at a anniversary requires added capital. Festivals are 10-hour affairs, and you are 100 percent at the benevolence of the merchants aural anniversary grounds. Add up lodging, transportation, food, alcohol and the amount of the ticket, and you are not far off from the $1,000 mark.
One thousand dollars, bethink is added than what 57 percent of Americans say they accept in their accumulation accounts. That is to say, you charge accept cogent advantage to appear a music festival. You charge be richer than a majority of Americans. And if you appear several a year, or—and I apperceive bodies who do this—one a month, you are in dainty territory. You are the one-percent of festie-goers.
In this way, the music anniversary is yet addition archetype of how America is acceptable beneath according and how classes of Americans are acceptable actually and figuratively demarcated. But as the acquisition of those stairs by the Alfresco Lands VIP ticket-holders show, there are hierarchies aural this hierarchy.
Would you like a apple-pie bathroom? It will amount you more. Would you like a abode to sit a the music with an bare view, abroad from anybody else? It will amount you alike more. There is the VIP, and again there is cool VIP. Your “importance” correlates absolutely with how abundant money you are accommodating to spend. For these pop-up luxuries, there is no curtailment of buyers.
If you were an conflicting demographer from addition planet, attractive for a abode that embodies America’s ancestral divisions, you should go to a music festival. Music festivals are breadth white bodies feel adequate abundant to “dress up and comedy Indian,” dancing to EDM cutting bogus affiliated headdresses. There are exceptions, but about speaking, if you’re at a music festival, you are a pale-skinned person; if you’re alive security, you’re a being of color.
On the Friday night of this year’s Alfresco Lands, at the anniversary gates afterwards the music ended, I watched a atramentous aegis bouncer try to argue a white festival-goer, absolutely off his arch on whatever, to avenue through the acutely apparent gates rather than jump a fence. The aegis bouncer was overmatched; the festie-goer apprenticed advanced and up and over a fence, aition into a army of bodies on the way over. “You all see that?” the bouncer said. “You gonna alarm the cops on him?” Silence. “You would if it was me who did that,” he said.
To get critical, festivals are alluring amusing abstracts in that they present what appears to be a accompaniment of exception—you can drink, you can do drugs, you can abrasion affiliated accouterment or hot pants or annihilation at all or assorted added things you would not abrasion to assignment or to Whole Foods—within a deeply controlled environment, patrolled by badge and clandestine security, admission to which is awful regulated. There is the actualization of no rules, or beneath rules; there are in actuality added rules. Here’s one example: Marijuana is acknowledged in California. It is not acknowledged at Coachella or Alfresco Lands—both amid in California—where anniversary rules outlaw it, and breadth aegis guards confiscated my two-gram stash.
Music festivals are additionally a safe amplitude for the patriarchy and all of its trappings, arch amid which is the corruption of women into altar of conquest, the transformation of the changeable anatomy into playthings aural a man’s dominion. Afterwards all, he paid to be here. As Vera Papisova appear beforehand this year for Teen Vogue, if you are a woman who attends Coachella, you can about agreement that you will become a animal advance survivor several times over. If you are lucky, you may escape with bald harassment. (Coachella is the largest-grossing music anniversary on earth; the 2017 copy netted aloof shy of $115 million.)
The animated adolescent man acquainted of and adequate with his ambience to abrasion a T-shirt blithely adulatory abduction ability hasn’t popped aback up, but accomplish no mistake: this is his turf. As Papsiova wrote, “a anniversary ambiance and bureaucracy feels like an allurement for men to behave this way, sometimes in groups.” This should arena familiar. Is there any blow that a Venn diagram of the men who appear music festivals, who can allow to appear agreeable festivals—that is, the privileged—include the aforementioned affectionate of men who can apprehend to alcohol and grope their way appear Yale Law School and the Supreme Court?
At music festivals, the music is about good. (Solange’s set, at Alfresco Lands in 2017, breadth she and her bandage connected to comedy accomplished curfew, alike afterwards anniversary agents cut off her sound, was a religious experience.) So is the food. You will pay dearly for both, sometimes with your body, and consistently with your soul.
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