From Beyoncé to Madonna to Paul McCartney, the Coachella music festival has played host to some of the world’s most legendary performers. As a result, the festival itself has attained its own legendary status. Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert explores the history of the festival and how its managed to speak to generations of movie lovers.
Attendees consider Coachella to be an essential rite of passage. The performers feel the pressure to deliver their very best in return.
The first element that makes Coachella stand out is its setting: a scenic stretch of desert in Indio, California. It’s also what made the festival such a hard sell for its initial investors and promoters. The film features interviews with several of these pioneers who were directly responsible for shaping popular culture in the 21st century, as well as the musicians who also helped to make the festival a cultural institution. We learn about the struggles to work out endless logistical challenges, and the quest to make the festival not only popular, but profitable.
It did not take long for Coachella to change the world of music. The weight of an impending revolution was apparent from the first year as Morrisey took to the stage and adoring fans followed. The festival would soon become renowned for its diversity of genres and talents. Over the past two decades, audiences have enjoyed everything from punk rock and electronic music to hard rock and bubblegum pop.
The real star of the film, of course, is the music. Viewers will enjoy a heaping of truly classic live performances, including sets from Rage Against the Machine, Daft Punk, MGMT, Billie Eilish and Kanye West.
The festival took on a level of prestige that was all its own. As the film rewinds to performances from years past, we witness the history of modern music. The festival introduced audiences to the power of emerging musical genres like rave and EDM. In turn, the music became better known within the popular culture at large.
This impressive feature-length documentary is clearly a labor of love. It’s an infectious tribute to the music, the fans, and the power of a shared experience.
Directed by: Chris Perkel, Drew Thomas