Coachella is back.
And so are the parties that surround the music festival, returning this weekend — April 15 to 17 and 22 to 24 — after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
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Some events require proof of vaccination; others, nothing at all. Coachella, produced by Goldenvoice, itself dropped all COVID-19 restrictions ahead of this year’s festival, announcing that there would be “no vaccination, testing or masking requirements,” in accordance with local guidelines — even as the number of cases has started to inch up in Southern California.
“We kind of follow Coachella’s lead on that, whatever they’re doing,” said Brent Bolthouse, creator of Neon Carnival — arguably the weekend’s hottest ticket, also back after two years. “Obviously, people have personal choices. If they feel like they need to wear masks then they should.”
Neon Carnival, as the name teases, is a massive carnival. Free for all who secure a wristband — hosting as many as 8,000 people on a single night in years past — it’s a sprawling scene with open bar, rides and performances by big-name DJs, attracting celebrities like Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio. Tequila Don Julio and Levi Strauss & Co. are returning as longtime sponsors, with both in-person and digital activations. Levi’s will be part of a Neon Carnival metaverse, created in partnership with Paris Hilton. Bolthouse and Tequila Don Julio are getting in on the NFT action, auctioning off Neon Carnival photographs captured by Jose Silva over the years for the chance to experience a glimpse into the event with Tequila Don Julio, with the six highest bidders each receiving four complimentary VIP passes to Neon Carnival.
“When we did our first party, the only other person doing a party was Jeremy Scott,” said Bolthouse.
For Scott, what began as an intimate after party in his vacation home turned into a full-on production, with a who’s who of celebrity performers and guests. But he’s not hosting this year — and neither is Levi Strauss & Co., which typically does a hotel takeover and daytime event in Palm Springs, bringing out the likes of Hailey Baldwin and Bella Hadid.
Instead, Levi’s had a press and influencer event in Los Angeles at its Levi’s Haus leading up to the weekend, showcasing its latest collections and offering custom pieces — as have many PR houses and stores such as The Webster and Maxfield, hosting gifting suites, exclusive collections and activations to seed product for the social media set.
“This year we’re going back to Coachella with a bang,” said Amy Simon, global head of PR and talent at PrettyLittleThing, the U.K.-based fast-fashion retailer.
The brand has turned its Melrose Avenue showroom into a festival-ready retreat, with denim customization, IV drips, tooth gems and spray tanning, before heading to the desert as sponsor of a series of events with hospitality company Tao Group.
It was in 2017 that PrettyLittleThing sponsored its first Coachella event, following its U.S. launch a year prior, a partnership with Paper magazine, hosted by Kylie Jenner with a performance by French Montana.
“Kylie wore a gold and silver dress, and we saw an uplift around 250 percent in sales on that specific item,” said Simon, noting the value of brand awareness. “Coachella sets the tone in terms of festival trends for the rest of the year.”
This year’s festivities — held in hotels in Palm Springs or luxe estates near festival grounds — kick off Thursday night in Indio, Calif. with a party hosted by Gen Z fashion brand Cider and London Alley Entertainment, with a performance by Ty Dolla $ign.
On Friday, Galore magazine offers a daytime event, a Coachella pre-party at a ranch venue, hosted by rapper Tyga and “Euphoria” actress Chloe Cherry, while Nylon is hosting an “after hours” dance party at 10 p.m., celebrating its cover star Anitta and featuring a DJ set by Peggy Gou.
Those looking to keep the party going will have the option of H.wood Group’s party, if they can get in (it’s private, with no press), Spotify’s bash with headliner Swedish House Mafia and Tao Group’s “Desert Nights” — all expected to go on until at least 4 a.m.
“For us, our pop-up strategy has always been to go where our guest goes,” said Pavan Pardasani, chief marketing officer at Tao Group, which will host three other events during the weekend (along with PrettyLittleThing, sponsors include Casamigos, Rémy Martin and Red Bull). “And once we established ourselves in Southern California, it was obvious, not that it wasn’t before, that our guests were going to Coachella.”
Asked about the anticipated return on the investment, he said: “We’re fortunate because our core business is still our core business, running our restaurants, the nightclubs, day clubs, bars, hotels, and so, for us, the return on investment is really creating an extension of the same level of hospitality that our guests are accustomed to when they come into a venue. For us, our greatest value as a company is gracious hospitality.”
On Saturday, H&M starts the day with a poolside event in Indian Wells, Calif.; Rolling Stone is throwing its annual daytime party; Rachel Zoe returns with “Zoeasis,” and Interscope Records will host a party for the sixth year.
Revolve, teaming up with H.wood Group, will unveil Day One of its two-day mini-festival — a coveted invite — from 1 to 8 p.m., featuring a lineup of celebrity performers including Jack Harlow, Latto and Bia. The e-commerce brand will also have designer Peter Dundas in tow, to showcase the latest Dundas x Revolve collection.
“We’re so excited to be returning to the desert and bringing together everything our customer looks to us for,” offered Raissa Gerona, chief brand officer of Revolve, in an exclusive statement.
New to the fashion action this year is Hugo Boss, taking over Limón hotel in Palm Springs as part of Hugo House (hosting influencers and events through the weekend) and partnering with Soho House at Soho Desert House, a pop-up with concerts and special events taking place a few miles from the main festival site (and where headliner Billie Eilish is offering an activation for her fragrance, Eilish.)
“We’re repositioning,” said Miah Sullivan, senior vice president of global marketing and brand communications at Hugo Boss, explaining how the brand is splitting into Boss, which is targeted toward Millennials with the tag line, “Be your own boss,” and Hugo, which is targeting Gen Z and is all about self-expression.
The Hugo brand, in particular, has been closely associated to music, she continued, since it started bringing musical guests to its social channels. “For Hugo, this is the first time we’re at Coachella, and now that we’re doing the rebranding strategy, we have a much bigger activation plan built around festivals in general…
“We’re able to take physical events and create social media shock waves,” she said, explaining that the brand has seen a 20 times return on investment in terms of earned media value. “For this particular event, we set the benchmark at a five time return on media values. But I’m quite sure we’re going to exceed that…”
Saturday night, outside of Neon Carnival, partiers will have their choice between H.wood Group’s Bootsy Bellows party with Revolve and Tao Group’s night two of “Desert Nights,” which both start at 11 p.m. and go late.
Sunday, Revolve hosts the second day of its concert party.
Charm-centric jewelry company Pandora, a Coachella newcomer, is taking over a house in Indio, Calif. all weekend, closing with a performance by Charli XCX as part of “Pandora Oasis.”
Other fashion activations at Coachella include The Boutique, a shoppable area on festival grounds that’s curated by creative director Gavin Mathieu offering five Black-owned brands as part of an endeavor aimed at increasing Black representation at Goldenvoice events and in the music industry as a while.
StockX is offering merch collaborations as the first official merch drop partner of Coachella. And, extending the weekend, miles away in Palm Springs, Ron Herman has a pop-up taking place through the month at the Mojave Flea Trading Post.
The partying doesn’t stop the week between the two Coachella weekends, either; Burberry and Alexander Wang are among those taking advantage of the high-profile festival hammock to stage their own events in L.A.