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Music fans make yearly pilgrimages to festivals

Each year, students travel to festivals like Lollapalooza in Chicago to see as many bands as possible.

By Julian De Ocampo ’13

If you’re still thinking about venturing into the Mecca of music known as Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. this following spring, you might want to check out the price tag first.

Festival passes run at $349 and camping passes go for $85. Toss in gas, food and merchandise costs and you’re looking at a price potentially running more than $500 for three days.

But despite the rising ticket costs, at least a few Brophy students each year find themselves traveling to Indio and beyond to hit up the biggest music festivals this country has to offer.

Nick Kush ’13, who went to Coachella last year and has attended local Arizona music festivals Apache Lake, Kaleidoscope (Flagstaff) and Gem and Jam (Tucson), plans going for a second year with his girlfriend.

“Last year we didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But this year driving is going to be a lot more exciting because we’re so excited to get there.”

Kush said last year at Coachella he couldn’t get a camping permit in time, so he ended up staying overnight at the nearby Joshua Tree National Park.

“There are just so many good bands that are playing all the time that you’ll see a great band and it’ll get hard to distinguish them from all the others,” he said. “Last year, The Black Keys, M83 and Explosions in the Sky were all playing at the same time, so I had to choose between them. I never thought I would go to a Black Keys concert for 15 minutes, but I had to go to catch Explosions in the Sky and that was even better.”

Despite the music overload, much of Coachella’s appeal is frequently cited as  the thousands of music fans dedicated enough to drive out into the desert to catch their favorite bands.

“Coachella is like paying money to have fun, see bands and be in a really cool environment where everyone is just super happy and friendly,” Kush said.

And while the festival is focused on entertainment, he added that they do a lot to encourage sustainability and living in a different society.

Kush said that other festivals that focus more on alternative lifestyles.

This year brings a new batch of students making the drive out to Indio who have never attended before.

One of those students, Jordan Bruner ’13, listed a number of bands he’s excited to see, including The xx, Purity Ring, Hot Chip, Vampire Weekend and Father John Misty.

“This is my first major music festival and I have pretty high hopes for the trip,” Bruner said.

Getting permission from parents to go to Indio usually isn’t a problem for attendees like Kush.

“The  way I handle myself towards them, as if I’m an adult and I’m responsible enough to go to a music festival and not be stupid, that allows them to trust me and let me go to things like this,” Kush said.

Kush also road-tripped to California again in March to see Swedish House Mafia.

“Traveling is my favorite thing to do,” he said. “It seems like every other weekend I’m going somewhere different. I really enjoy driving because you can just look out the window and see so much new stuff and meet so many new people. Just go out and do it.”

But California isn’t the only musical hotspot worth travelling to. A number of students have attended Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago over the past few years.

Mason Swierenga ’14 has attended Lollapalooza three times in addition to attending the Telluride Bluegrass Festival twice.

Swierenga, who has family in Chicago, went to Lollapalooza in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and said that the value of the ticket more than pays for itself.

“At a concert, I’ll pay $50 to see a band like Radiohead,” Swierenga said. “At a festival, I can pay $80 to see a band like Radiohead and eight other bands.”

He said that a one-day pass is a viable option for those who might not be sold on the price tag.

“You can try and plan out what you’re going to see, but you’re going to be disappointed if you try and follow a strict schedule,” he said.

The necessity of an open mind extends beyond scheduling. Festivals attract a large and eclectic crowd that often behaves strangely.

“Lollapalooza. Two years ago,” Swierenga said. “We were at a side-stage watching a smaller, local Chicago band. There were a few crowd surfers who had exposed some open body parts to the public that shouldn’t have been seen. That was the one of the craziest things I’ve seen at a festival.”

Another Lollapalooza attendee, Colin Marston ’13, called Arcade Fire’s performance in 2010 an “overall enchanting moment in my life.”

“Arcade Fire was playing one night and it was the last concert of the evening,” Marston said. “They were playing the majority of songs from their most recent album. We were staying in suburban Chicago, so ironically, while they were playing their single ‘The Suburbs,’ my brother and I had to leave and board the midnight train from downtown back to Forest Hill in the suburbs. You could say the message hit me hard.”

Swierenga said that some of his favorite festival performances have come from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Andrew Bird and Florence + The Machine at Lollapalooza.

“Everyone’s just there to have fun,” he said. “Everyone just wants everyone else to have the greatest experience possible. People will go out of their way to accommodate you.”

Swierenga is also attending the upcoming McDowell Mountain Music Festival, set to take place just a few miles from Brophy at Margaret T. Hance Park and featuring The Roots, The Shins and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. The three-day festival is March 22-24.

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