By dean

Think they can do it? Think they can pull it off? For the first time in, sheesh, I don't know how many years, America is hosting a 2-day, full-on, eclectic, seemingly non-PepsiWallmartMegaCorporateCo music festival. Everything from MORRISSEY to JEGA to THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS to SPIRITUALIZED to about a dozen random DJs per hour somewhere. After so many homogenized and Top 40-focused music "festivals" put out by various radio stations around the country (all controlled by the same owners, no less), after far too many focused and quite bland "world music" festivals (anybody else hankering to hear countless clones of the Shmenge Brothers?), after the true "Can't really blame `em for acting like drunken shit-wits...we would lash out the same if we were forced to grow up with the likes of KORN and LIMP BIZKIT too" horror of Woodstock '99 (and yes, the mere technique of putting the year after the name is enough to instill leagues of ominous foreshadowing), there might actually be a ray of hope for one of the most musically disinclined countries in the world.

Yeah, I'm referring to the Coachella Festival (or "Kuala," "Coke-a-shell," "Wankle Rotary Engine," or any other popular mis-interpretations of the word). A weekend in October. Kinda near Palm Springs in Californicationland. A festival that actually seems like it might not be that bad at all.

One thing that's been bothering me since the news was announced, though: who's going to be buying all these tickets? Dunno. Well, we actually do know where the majority of tickets are heading right now: musicophiles, anglophiles, a smattering of crusty hippies, some struggling "where's the next rave, roooooaaaaaaragh!" victims, and the like. Yet as we all also know, these factions are distinct cults amidst the mainstream hoop and la. I'm sure the huge sponsorship by Satan's favourite, KROQ, will attract a large number of otherwise unimpressed MTV-followers...and so will the likes of headliners BECK, TOOL, and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE...but still, that's hoping for a lot of attendance for only two or three (really) mainstream acts. Can a music festival like this -- i.e. one that has legitimately interesting acts -- truly survive and make off with much cash with little hard-core promotion and very few Big Names In American Rawk? We'll see.

More importantly, we will see if it stands for anything. With obvious luck, the festival would be a huge success. Which would be a huge ripple of awakening in the country that a festival with sincerely eclectic acts and modest corporate hunagmandoo can be A Good Thing for music fans and music promoters alike. We could then expect to be in for a slow emergence of yearly (or better) similar festivals springing up around all over the country, to be in for rigidly-structured media outlets to let loose their reigns of play-lists and tired rehashes, for otherwise bored Americans to wake up out of their KID ROCK shells and realize there actually is an entire other world of music out there, for people to understand each other's tastes more, for more open-mindness in music cultures, for peace, love, and understanding to rule over the not-almighty-dollar, and for fluffy bunny rabbits to jump around our front yards with candy canes in their mouths going hippity-hop hippity-hop.

So okay, it might not happen. But there's a slim chance of even a portion of that coming about. And the only thing that'll jump-start the lifeless, tattooed, and pierced body of American Music will be one half-way decent music festival that will please every single person involved (apart from looters and rapists) and turn some heads. It would be nice for one single event that would, let's face it, shake things up.

But the gut -- the gut -- tells me that it's still all going to fall on its face. Kinda like what our founding fathers did after landing at Plymouth Rock: good intentions, bad execution. This same gut, though, is probably just a jaded digestive organ after so many years of choking down excruciatingly bad American music efforts -- "festivals" especially. Lollapalooza, Horde, BFD, Ozzfest, blah de monotonous blah were clear signs that Americans didn't have the slightest clue what a music festival could really be like. And then when sporadically decent shows would pop up -- Organic (with its big names in dance), Womad (which had touted the likes of REM and MIDNIGHT OIL on the same stage) -- nobody bought the damn tickets. So they cancelled recent attempts. So America screwed up once again. So another failed attempt might be upon us. Oh joy to the world.

Pre-emptive whining? Probably. Let's hope not, though. We are so close to starting a whole new period of decent music in this country that it's fascinating. It would be comforting to know that not everything in this country is actually getting worse (this country still has a show called "The Real World" that holds auditions). It would, it would. And while this CoaCokeKualaRotary festival still might not be the best-sounding festival to ever organize itself -- and it's certainly no Glastonbury -- it's a start. It took a few brave souls in this world to muck with the cold convention of things. It took every frustrated woman to voice their rights for the very first time, it took every oppressed black man to proudly drink in the "other" person's fountain, it took every confused teenager to finally tell his mean-spirited school he's gay, and it will take a music festival unlike any other in this country to truly show its citizens that music is more than SEMISONIC butchering SPLIT ENZ's "I Got You" on national television.

Whew. So, do you think they can do it? Do you think they can pull it off? Probably not. Most likely not. But at least someone out there is trying.