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Coachella Music Festival Doubles Up

Double the music, double the heat, double the fun. That's the latest plan for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. We'll talk with George Varga, the U-T's pop music critic, about the wildly popular music festival and their bold expansion.

Double the music, double the heat, double the fun. That's the latest plan for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. We'll talk with George Varga, the U-T's pop music critic, about the wildly popular music festival and their bold expansion.

Tickets for the 2011 Coachella Music and Arts Festival go on sale Friday, June 3rd at 10am.


George Varga is the pop music critic for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He joins us by phone from the U-T.

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CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Coachella, the spring music festival set in the desert of Riverside County has outgrown itself. Attendance at the three day festival has already broken records, but organizers say demand is still increasing. And they've got an answer for that: Expanding the festival. George Varga is the pop music critic for the San Diego Union Tribune. He joins us by phone from the ut. George, hello.

VARGA: Hi, how are you?

CAVANAUGH: Just fine. Now, how is Coachella expanding?

VARGA: Well, they're literally doubling, they're gonna go from one three day weekend in O12 to two consecutive three day weekends. The twist is that both weekends will be identical in terms of the performers. It won't be you go one weekend and hear a hundred bands then you go the following and hear a hundred different bands. It'll be the same acts for both weekends with the idea being that since they sold out this year in a record six days after going on sale, they figured the demand would be there, and hopefully when they get more comfortable than rather than have a lot of people cram into one weekend over the two it'll be a better event for everybody going.

CAVANAUGH: So for the fans, it's basically still one weekend. But for the performers, it's now a two weekend commitment. Do you think this is gonna have any impact on the kind of bands they get?

VARGA: I think it will and it won't. And I'm gonna context myself. From the fan point of view, I don't think it'll have a big impact. The intriguing thing is logistically it means that whereas in the past a band would play Coachella and they were contractually prevented from playing anywhere immediately prior or after so as not to diminish the allure of Coachella, it means essentially that the band will have to hang out for a week in the Southern California area. I don't think Coachella would like the bands to go to other cities and perform. Because if you're a fan in that city, and you want to hear that band primarily --

CAVANAUGH: There's no reason to go to Coachella.

VARGA: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. With a festival this enormous, enormous popularity is a recent phenomenon. I mean, it hasn't always been a hit, has it George?

VARGA: No, in fact in 19 ninety-nine when they debuted, they did so poorly that there was no Coachella in the year two thousand. They then resumed it in two thousand one, and only in 2003 did it actually turn a profit. So it was a four or five year run just to break even.

CAVANAUGH: When will next year's lineup be announced?

VARGA: That's the other intriguing fact, is that they're putting tickets on sale tomorrow without having announced a single act. And they typically in previous years haven't announced the lineup until January for an event taking place in April. So they haven't indicated that they're gonna go any earlier than that. But I think they're really banking on the fact that people to a great degree no longer care who'll be performing there. They love the event, they be they're gonna have a good time. They know that the caliber of talent will be high. And it isn't that people didn't go this year specifically to hear, for example, Kanye West or Arcade Fire or Kings of Leon who were the three headliners for the three nights. But it was the overall festival that I think is becoming the magnet for people to want to go to.

CAVANAUGH: A full 20 percent of this year's attendees hailed from San Diego County, which is really pretty astounding. Any predictions on how had this second weekend will do?

VARGA: That's the really big question. I don't know that. I do know that historically, going back to the early two thousands that 20 percent of the audience every year is from San Diego County.


VARGA: Both for Coachella and for the country music festival, stage coach, which is held one weekend after Coachella at the same location in Indio, and it's produced by the same company that does Coachella. I think it may be another growing period for them.


VARGA: I don't know if immediately they're gonna sellout both weekends, but their hope would be that they do well enough with the second weekend that they continue it.

CAVANAUGH: They continue it, yeah. I've been speaking with George Varga, pop music critic for the San Diego Union Tribune. Thank you so much George.

VARGA: Thank you.


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