Written By: Terrence A. Merkerson
Aight, this isn’t a Beyonce praise session (though if it was, it undoubtedly would be deserved beyond measure). These are just a few quick thoughts on class, culture, and Coachella. This is about class, as a festival that has and continues to exist as a conglomeration of rich white kids (and maybe a token friend… one. token. friend) losing their collective shit and not bathing for a weekend, or two. This is about ownership, as the man behind the festival is a staunch supporter of pro-gun, anti-LGBT and birther politics. The irony. This is also about culture… festival culture, popular culture, and the rebellion of THE culture, because all this shit is a trip.
I’ve attended a few music festivals in my day and have since retired my bandanas and flower crowns. But it seems that not much has changed since my college days. Festival culture is still very young, very white and very appropriated. Honestly, folks, it’s way more about class than race, though both play interesting roles in festival culture. When I was in undergrad, Coachella was basically the whitest thing ever (ya know, besides colonialism, bland potato salad, under-seasoned chicken and oh, America, duh). I remember a friend of mine (white guy, of course) asked me if I wanted to hit up this music festival in Cali. Before he even got to the part about the ticket prices, my first thought was.. who’s playing, as I was attempted to calculate how I was going to feed and clothe myself for the rest of the semester if I chose to go. The line-up was basically Kanye, Common and about 98 other acts that I mostly had never heard of or had absolutely had no desire to see. So… that ended up being a no for me, big dog.
But over the years, Coachella, along with all of the other larger music festivals have changed, as has popular culture. In its earlier years, the line-up alone showed that there was no interest in drawing a diverse crowd. But as Hip Hop became the premier genre in music, festival owners and organizers had to adapt… kinda. As the line up became more diverse, the ticket prices began to rise… not like inflation rise, like, let’s set general admission high enough so that if we have to start inviting Hip-Hop artists, we can filter out the vast majority of a particular demographic. Now, that may be a little presumptuous, but we are not idiots either.
Then we have the founder and owner of Coachella, Philip Anschutz, one of the richest men in America, who also happens to fund a lot of the groups, organizations, and politicians that work aggressively to chip away at the rights of marginalized people. Like most things that we enjoy in the country, its owned by some rich white guy who creatively finds ways to either exclude us or screw us out of our money, leaving marginalized folk to have to choose between equality, equity, and liberty or their favorite latte from Starbucks. Shit sucks bro, but its the reality that we must endure and negotiate whenever we want to enjoy.. basically anything.
Then this year, we have Beyonce.
Ok, so that’s not the end, but it totally could have been.
Coachella 2018, or as it will most affectionately be known, #Beychella, was revolutionary and rebellious in a way that could almost overshadow its entertainment value. Not only was Beyonce the first Black woman to headline the festival, she also told you… twice. She took that platform and put on the Blackest show that I have ever seen for an artist of her caliber. She walked us through Egypt to our history and heritage. She gave us Bayou Classic. She put the Black college experience on full display. She Back(ed) That Ass Up and threw in a Swag Surf for good measure. She put other Black women on Coachella’s main stage with her. She acknowledged the plight of the Black woman and in rebuke, spoon-fed us her form of unapologetic Black womanhood and feminism. She even sang the Black National Anthem and sang so well, I’m sure Marian Anderson was Milly Rockin’ in her grave. She gave us all of this…in front of a crowd of predominantly rich white kids, who mostly had no clue as to what was going on and that was its anarchy. It was rebellious, disruptive, yet colloquial and endearing. That is her brilliance. Beyonce needs no praise party, but it is crucial that we always praise those who praise us. History was her stage early Sunday morning (and basically canceled the rest of my entire Sunday) and she gave her stage to us.
And that’s dope AF.
Terrence A. Merkerson is the Founder & Creator of Avenue Fifteen. Terrence earned Bachelor’s Degrees in both Political Science and Gender/Race Studies from the University of Alabama. Terrence also completed Graduate School at the University of Alabama, earning a Master’s Degree in Communication and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Louisiana State University.
He currently resides in Charlotte, NC.