There is one thing we can’t argue with: Coachella is the most popular concert of the festival season.
Attendees flock from all sides of the world to that Southern California valley for those two weekends in April where they can flaunt their most trendy looks, gawk at the celebrities and influencers from afar, and collectively watch the most popular artists of the year perform under the brilliant rays of the desert sun.
Sounds weirdly romantic in the kind of distressed way only millennials can enjoy, huh? But as many festivals begin to announce their lineups for the 2019 season (Coachella included) we’re reminded how many of these events have problematic people working them behind the scenes.
AEG chairman Philip Anschutz, who oversees Goldenvoice, the organization that produces Coachella, Panorama, FYF, and many other prominent festivals, has received a lot of criticism over the last several years when it was revealed his private family foundation was donating hundreds of thousands of dollars into groups that promoted LGBTQ discrimination, climate denial, and other right-wing causes that clash with the liberal ideals of many of Goldenvoice’s participating artists.
LGBTQ+ advocacy group Freedom For All Americans reported in July 2016 that Anschutz gave $190,000 to anti-LGBTQ organizations. While Anschutz responded to the backlash, crying “fake news” in January 2017, last year Pitchfork reported five examples from 2016 of the Anschutz Foundation donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations.
Still, Anschutz fought back, saying he “unequivocally support[s] the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation.” In March 2018, he used his money to support that statement, donating $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation LGBT fund.
“Sexuality is among the most personal of issues, and it has never been my intent to weigh in on people’s private lives,” Anschutz added. “ I support the rights of all people and oppose discrimination and intolerance against the LGBTQ community. I see this as a matter of basic human rights. Our Foundation supports a broad range of philanthropic causes. I regret if any money given to a charity for other purposes may have indirectly worked against these values. That was not my intention, it does not reflect my beliefs, and I am committed to making sure our internal processes are strengthened so that it does not happen again.”
While the Coachella founder seemingly tried to make this effort to support the community his festivals serve, the donations to right-wing GOP groups didn’t stop there. Spin looked at Anschutz’s 2018 list of donations through Open Secrets and found he’s donating to individual GOP state party organizations and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to whom he’s given $134,400.
Anschutz is no longer giving to politicians like Paul Ryan and Orrin Hatch or organizations like The Navigators (which sees LGBTQ+ identity as “sexual brokenness”) and Dare 2 Share Ministries (which sees homosexuality as “Satanic perversion”). However, he is still giving his money to a party that doesn’t just take power away from people of the queer and trans community, but also people of color, women, and everyone who falls in each intersection of all these identities.
While Myles Tanzer of Out Magazine brings up a valid point that it would extremely difficult to boycott all of AEG considering it’s massive monopoly on the live music and events, it is important that we stay critical and cognizant of the events that we as consumers spend so much of our money on. Even as media outlets approach the coverage of the festival, it is important to recognize that we too are monetizing off of the disenfranchisement of marginalized communities. Every time a Coachella round up or review is published, we are complicit in giving power back to the systems that oppress us.
In a capitalist society, it’s nearly impossible for us to avoid consuming or create things that aren’t some type of problematic. But it’s still important to analyze, critique and ultimately, own up to our decisions in order to create effective change for the future.