The annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California is attended by thousands of music lovers who pilgrimage to the mountains each year for their fill of live performances from emerging and established acts, including Grimes, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Local Natives.
The Real Coachella is a local music festival mocking Coachella, and it celebrates its ninth anniversary this weekend. Here you won't see tables and tents with hordes of people trying to get their latest indie record signed. And although the event's flyer says Grimes, Wu-Tang Clan, and Local Natives are performing, it couldn't be farther from the truth.
Unless the truth is that the Wu-Tang Clan plays "surf rock," Grimes is "looping to the extreme," and Local Natives are "experimental for the meme generation."
Some would argue that the only similarities The Real Coachella and Coachella share is their name. I spoke with one of the organizers of the festival, Ryan Avery, and here's what he said about The Real Coachella's history, some memorable performances, and why you should stay in Phoenix to attend The Real Coachella, rather than drive to California to get heatstroke.
Up on the Sun: How did the festival start? What spurred it?
In 2005, my friends Andrew and Tristan Jemsek and I wanted to organize a festival happening at the same time as the other Coachella that happens in California. A friend, Sheila Bocchine, who ran Four White Walls at the time, was nice enough to let us use her space as a venue for it. We were originally going to call it "Crap Fest," but she didn't want anything at her venue or gallery called "Crap Fest." So we went with The Real Coachella because, at the time, we were really into stealing other people's names.
This year marks the ninth anniversary of The Real Coachella. What are the most memorable performances from the past?
There are always a few performances every year that really stick out. In 2009, we had Paul McCartney perform, and Paul McCartney ended up being a Sex Pistols trivia act that made lots of funny jokes about all the Beatles being dead. That was really incredible. That same year, The Slacker's Agenda performed with a full band, and there was this big fight -- big theatrical fight -- with the devil. Actually, 2009 is probably my favorite year so far.
In 2007, I think it was, there was this band from Los Angeles that performed called Fag Bashers and they threw an empty beer keg around at each other. Last year, Man-Cat brought out a Hologram and Oates, after Hall and Oates, and -- oh my gosh -- that was so good. I am so proud of them.
Up on the Sun: Based on the Tupac Hologram making an appearance at Coachella, right?
Yes. I'm so happy those Man-Cat guys are really involved in The Real Coachella now because they get the humor, they get the art, they get it all, and do it well. Two years ago, we had a Cookie Monster theme. That was a really big hit. A friend of ours had a Cookie Monster costume that they let us borrow, and so Cookie Monster was at The Real Coachella. That year, we also did a date in Tucson, and on the Tucson date, we put on the flyer that Cookie Monster would be there, and there were a few families that actually showed up. They got to meet Cookie Monster and that was really special. He was giving out cookies all night to everyone.
Next: What happens when somebody expects to see the real Wu-Tang Clan at Trunk Space for $5?
In the past you've gotten hate mail from angry fans who have contacted you because they thought the bands on the bill were actually performing for $5 at the Trunk Space.
This is the first year in a long time that we haven't been contacted by fans, managers, or record labels. It's the first year in a long time that I haven't received hate mail. The year that we said The Specials were going to play, I got hate mail from people all over the world, who were like, I was about to book a plane ticket to Phoenix.
This year, it's surprisingly tame, especially because this year we have the Wu-Tang Clan, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra featuring Johnny Marr with El-P, Grimes, and Local Natives all playing, which is the most other Coachella bands that we've ever had on one festival.
Does that mean we can expect surprise guest Morrissey?
[Laughing] I don't know. The way that whole thing comes about is, The Real Coachella planning committee comes up with a list of artists we really admire, and we invite them to do what they want. We encourage them sometimes to take on a band name from the other Coachella, but it's not necessary. That's why usually there's only one, maybe two. This year, we asked a particular performance artist if he would perform, and he said I want to be known as Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra featuring Johnny Marr with El-P. I don't know what he's going to do exactly, but I am pretty excited about it. He doesn't perform that much by himself.
So, for the most part, you and the planning committee only know the title of the band, but you don't know what they will do?
Yeah, we don't know. We try to find out as much as we can because it makes planning the festival a lot easier, but this year, everyone, for the most part, has been pretty secretive. This makes it fun for us, as well. What happens a lot, though, is the artist that we ask will have something planned and then a few days beforehand the whole thing will completely change into something else, so we'll get excited about something and then it'll end up being something completely different.
The year we had the Scissor Sisters play, we asked two artists, Andy Hiller and Jeremy Finch, if they would do something together, and they were planning on doing some sort of a play about women that sounded good. At the last minute, they ended up doing this like drone-y noise thing where they wore white robes and lit candles and it was something completely different. I liked that a whole lot more than what they said they were going to do. So you never really know.
Next: Why you should go to The Real Coachella instead of the real Coachella.
This year the flyer advertises a dating auction. Is that new?
Yes, the dating auction is something new that we're experimenting with. Hopefully, it comes together. We're kind of scrambling at the last minute. We are having a meeting this week, hopefully, about it. We are going to put up some dating profiles for some eligible young men who are looking for a date and then people in the audience can bid on them.
All the money is going to go to the Trunk Space and toward reimbursing all the flyers, posters, and promotional materials. Hopefully, if enough money is raised, we'll buy a pizza or two for everyone to enjoy. But that's not set in stone. Who knows? No one may show up with money. [Laughing] That would be really sad.
If somebody was asking you for advice, and they said, "Hey, should I stay in Phoenix and go to The Real Coachella, or go to California and attend Coachella?" What would you tell them?
I would tell them, you should go to The Real Coachella and then I'd list a zillion reasons why.
What would those reasons be?
You're going to save a lot of money, because The Real Coachella is always $5 -- sometimes cheaper -- and you're not going to get heatstroke. You're going to see stuff that you're never going to be able to see anywhere else. People would argue that about the other Coachella, but I don't think that's true.
You could go up to Coachella three years from now and Blur is probably going to be playing again. Everyone who performs at The Real Coachella, whatever they decide to do, is a special one-time thing that they do just that night. At least that's what we strongly encourage, and most people do.
In my opinion, the art, music, and performances are better. If you have a sense of humor, you'll enjoy it. If you enjoy performance art, you'll enjoy it more. It's incredible and there's nothing else like it in Phoenix, especially. Or maybe even the world -- there's just nothing else like it.
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The Real Coachella takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at Trunk Space. Admission is $5.
See Also: - The Real Coachella at Trunk Space, 4/28/12