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Music festivals embody community and spirituality

Jeff Moses

There’s more to a music festival than just a bunch of big name rock stars, $8 beers and long days in the hot sun. Words like community, family, spirituality and of course ,fun, all seem to be synonymous with places like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Burning Man.
“I think people want that experience, they want to experience that freedom,” said Justine Hecht, an avid festival patron. Hecht has been to more than her share of festivals having gone to multiple Coachella’s, volunteered at Bonnaroo 2012, been to more than one Burning Man, and will be attending her second Lightning in a Bottle festival this June.
Even though as of late many of the festivals have had similar lineup’s, every festival still has its own distinct atmosphere.
Coachella has already taken place, having its first dual weekend festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. Coachella had the same lineup play two separate shows, one on the weekend of April 13 and the other the following weekend.
“Coachella, I guess because its close to L.A. you get more of like a hip California scene, and it’s a lot of electronic music,” said Ben Leer. Leer is a devoted festival participant having gone to at least one every year since 2007, as well as smaller one day festivals like Warped Tour and Ozfest before ’07.
Coachella attendees refer to their community as “Chellans” according to “die hard” Coachella goer Rob Blanfeld.
This years Coachella headliners were The Black Keys, Radiohead and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog. Though Swedish House Mafia might have stolen the first night from the Black Keys with a mesmerizing set including a laser show and fire effects.
The true star of Coachella 2012, however, was Snoop and Dre’s Hologram of deceased friend Tupac Shakur. “HoloPac” did two songs with Snoop and Dre and even gave a shout out to the crowd saying “What the (expletive deleted) is up Coachella, put your middle fingers in the air.”
Lightning in a Bottle takes place in Silverado, Calif. every Memorial Day weekend since the year 2000.  “On their website it says it’s a celebration of music, art, performance and sustainability,” said Hecht.
LIB is a much smaller festival than Coachella. The first two LIB’s were actually a birthday party and family celebration spread by word of mouth, with the third having hand- written invitations.
LIB headliners this year include Bassnectar, Glitch Mob, Sphongle and Tipper.
Bonnaroo takes place the first weekend of June in Manchester, Tenn. “Bonnaroo is definitely a hippie fest,” said Leer. “It’s a lot of jam bands,” Leer continued, “there is no showers and it’s a southern festival so people are a lot more into the outdoor stuff.”
Within the Roo community, fellow festivalgoer’s call themselves Bonnaroovians.
This years Bonnaroo is taking place June 7-10 and will have The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beach Boys, Phish and Radiohead headlining. With a mid-card that includes Scottsdale resident Alice Cooper, Puscifer that is the side project of Ariz. Centennial wine vintner Maynard James Keenan, Valley regulars Flogging Molly as well 100 musical and comedy acts.
“Burning Man is a spiritual pilgrimage,” said Hecht about the festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. Burning Man is another festival started by a small group of friends that has evolved into  “an annual art event and temporary community based on radical self expression and self reliance,” according to their website Burningman.com.     
People who go to Burning Man affectionately refer to one another as Burners.
2012’s  random ticket lottery left many vital burners out of the festivities so the owners rearranged the ticket sales to ensure that certain campers who annually brought huge decretive campgrounds would be able to attend.
Regardless of the festival you are going to “You need to bring an open mind and be ready to have a good time,” said David Pearlman, another Bonnaroovian/Chellan.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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