By: Karrie Keyes
On November 5, 1993, Pearl Jam performed the first music concert on the grounds of The Empire Polo Field. The site was chosen as the band embarked on a tour boycotting Ticketmaster, and the seed was planted for a large-scale music festival. Paul Tollet of Goldenvoice was the driving force in creating Coachella and six years after the Pearl Jam concert, The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was launched.
The first Coachella Music and Arts Festival took place in October of 1999 with 10,000 people attending the two-day festival to see headline acts The Chemical Brothers, Beck, Tool, Morrissey, and Rage Against the Machine. Taking place a few months after Woodstock 99, which was marred with riots and fires, Goldenvoice would not be able to offer on site camping for the two-day event. Despite the lack of on-site camping, the first Coachella ran smoothly with the only complaint being the unrelenting heat. Unfortunately, Goldenvoice would lose over $750,000.00 and led to the eventual sale of their day-to-day concert business to AEG. Many of the bands and staff worked with Goldenvoice to delay compensation.
There would not be a Coachella in 2000 as Goldenvoice took time to regroup, but came back in 2001 with a one day event. Coachella was moved to April to combat the heat and featured the reunited Jane’s Addiction.In 2002, Coachella returned to the two-day festival format and with strong headliners (Bjork and Oasis) proved that the festival was financially feasible. Coachella started to receive international attention in 2003 and were finally able to over on-site camping. 2003, featured headliners The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Beastie Boys. 2004 brought Goldenvoice it’s first sell out and featured Radiohead, The Cure, Kraftwerk, and a reunited The Pixies. Coachella continued to bring eclectic line ups and sell out in 2005 and 2006.
In 2007, Coachella launched a third day and featured The Red Hot Chili Peppers, a reunited Rage Against the Machine, and Bjork. Despite solid headliners in 2008, Roger Waters, Jack Johnson, and Prince, Coachella did not sell out. In 2009, the festival was moved up a week earlier and featured Paul McCartney, The Killers, and The Cure. The third annual Stagecoach Festival, also founded by Paul Tollet followed the next weekend. Single Day tickets were ended in 2010 and featured Jay Z, Gorillaz, and Muse. In 2012 Goldenvoice announced that Coachella would take place over two weekends and both weekends sold out within hours. The 2014 Coachella will take place over two weekends; feature over 150 acts across five stages and a dance tent and is sold out. A reunited Outkast, Muse, and Arcade Fire will headline. See Coachella lineups through the years.
Coachella has become one of the most successful music festivals in the world and a vacation destination. Paul Tollet and Goldenvoice continue to book strong and diverse lineups each year and have inspired other festivals such as Bonnaroo in Tennessee,
Goldenvoice would prove their little festival could and Rat Sound is the little sound company that would go on to provide sound. Founded in 1982 by Dave Rat and Brian Benjamin, they started with two 12” wedges, a BGW 250 amp, a Tapco EQ, and a cassette deck (which served as mic preamp/mixer). Everything fit into a Toyota Celica, and they made upwards of $25 a night.
Dave and Brian were both involved in the Southern California Punk Rock scene and would eventually provide sound systems with Mixing Boards for Goldenvoice shows and go on to tour with Black Flag.
Through the 80’s and 90’s both Goldenvoice and Rat Sound would continue to hone their skills and evolve their businesses. Eventually, Goldenvoice would go on to found The Coachella Music and Arts Festival and Rat would go on to provide sound systems for international touring artists and Coachella. The working relationship between the two companies was built on mutual trust and ethics, so it was no surprise when Goldenvoice turned to Rat to provide sound for Coachella Music and Arts Festival. The biggest obstacle for Rat was their relatively small size, in the early years of Coachella Rat’s inventory was limited to three or four arena systems. Between limited inventory, staff, and prior contracts Rat could not think of taking on Coachella and did not provide the sound for the first Coachella.
When Coachella was staged again in 2002, Rat’s inventory and staff had doubled and was ready to take it on. At first Rat provided sound for the main stage and the Mojave and Gobi Tents, while U.S. Audio provided sound for the Sahara Tent and Outdoor Theater. Goldenvoice eventually asked Rat to take over the entire festival, and now Rat is preparing for their 13 th year at Coachella. Rat has been providing L’acoustic V-dosc rigs since 2002 and in 2009 switched to the K1 Rig.
The History of Rat Sound
Tomorrow – Daniella Peters of Rat Sound and SG member gives us a behind the scenes scoop on providing sound for Coachella.