Forget about accusing us of sourgraping because we couldn’t go to this year’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Beyoncé opted out of being the headliner so we didn’t lose much. But we still remember how the owner of the festival is “a 77-year-old super-rich white dude” who has been funding anti-LGBT groups and climate change deniers for years.
Phil Anschutz of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the company that acquired Coachella back in 2001, has long been a supporter of groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The ADF “litigates cases to oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and civil unions.” The Washington Post, one of the first to talk about Phil’s connections this year, even placed him in an infographic explaining the other patrons of these anti-LGBT organizations.
While Phil has denied it and said that this is a smear campaign against Coachella by competitors, tax filings confirm the claims. And Phil hasn’t been very secretive of his ways as well. A 2012 profile in The New York Times reads that Phil “has contributed to the Institute for American Values, whose founder, David Blankenhorn, opposes same-sex marriage, and who testified in the trial on the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, in 2010.”
Various news outfits tried to contact Phil as the news spread but to no avail. His only statement comes out through Rolling Stone and it reads like a Trump tweet with the favorite buzzword from the US President—you guessed it, “fake news.” He said to the music magazine, “Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news—it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us—the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.”
What’s upsetting is how there wasn’t much backlash from the artists involved in the festival after the reports surfaced. Musicians Mitski and and Ted Leo tweeted about it but none of the big players really said much. So the offensive headdress wearers went on to hear some Kendrick Lamar and Lady Gaga. Leonardo DiCaprio, a staunch advocate of the environment, was also there to catch some shows. Business as usual.
ah fuck. well I agreed to do this+not going would only hurt me not the fest, but u can still not go (cont'd part 2) https://t.co/a7Nq2MtNc4
— mitski (@mitskileaks) January 5, 2017
— Ted Leo (@tedleo) January 5, 2017
It’s painful to see how Phil and his mechanisms have set up a tangled web. These celebrities will no doubt suffer if they went up against Phil and the Anschutz group. Why? Basically, his holdings own every other person on your Spotify playlist and even your boyfriend’s favorite sports team as Pitchfork writes:
“It owns or operates venues accounting for 61 percent of ticket sales worldwide in the third quarter of 2016, according to the latest Pollstar data, including London’s O2, Los Angeles’ Staples Center, and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (if it helps, Beyoncé, at least Jay Z sold his Barclays stake). It owns sports teams, including the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and a stake in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. In music, just among festivals, it has coordinated not just Panorama, FYF Fest, Camp Flog Gnaw, and Bumbershoot, but also Desert Trip, the classic-rock blockbuster perhaps better known as Oldchella. It puts on tours by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and others.”
Lest we forget that Coachella is a money-making tool for a lot of its sponsors. These sponsors create the many in-house activities for the two weekends and attract (via paid flights and accommodations, at least) the festival’s high-profile guests and influencers.
The two weekends of Coachella passed nearly scratch-free of the controversy. Sure, we got some good music but at what cost? It’s time to rethink if Coachella is really living up to the free vibes it’s giving to all, if the racist outfits, didn’t make you think of it already.
What’s the price of staying woke? Apparently not enough to give up a Coachella ticket that could possibly fuel the damaging sentiments of its owner.
Photo courtesy of Coachella’s Instagram account