Coachella, Stagecoach will return after the coronavirus, but will they ever feel the same? It’s unlikely

By Shad Powers | Desert Sun

We’ve become so attuned to the potential ramifications of up-close interactions over the last month that I get rattled now when I see someone shaking hands on a TV show. 

With that as the backdrop, it now seems just utterly crazy to think that this weekend, under normal circumstances, I would have been jam-packed with 90,000 other strangers, dancing and sweating and shouting and coughing our way to happiness at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Talk about hot spots.

Things definitely would’ve gone viral there, but not in the fun social media way. 

It was only a month ago, March 10 to be exact, that the two Coachella music festival weekends and Stagecoach were officially postponed. 

What we’ve learned in the 30 days since has changed the way we think about almost everything we do in life. Social distancing is now part of the lexicon, and it shapes almost every decision we make. 

Let’s just say there’s not a lot of social distancing at Coachella. In fact many concert-goers seem to be there specifically to reduce their social distance from others to zero if you catch my drift. I will say if everyone had to stay 6-feet away from me, at least that would give me some room to unleash the full lankiness of my underappreciated dance moves. Moves that have been described as “maybe you shouldn’t do that in public” by my wife.

But let’s get serious for a second and think about the concept of huge public gatherings like music festivals and sporting events. Whenever the tide finally turns and we are confident that the coronavirus is a thing of the past, will we just go back to normal? Unlikely. 

Just like we’ll probably never shake hands or high-five again, I wonder if we’ll want to pack tents at Coachella or sit lawnchair to lawnchair at Stagecoach again. Uniting together in the desert in the spirit of joy and music seemed so fun and innocent before — this would’ve been my 13th consecutive Coachella and I’ve attended every Stagecoach — but now it has a different feel. April 14, 2018; Indio, CA, USA; The Coachella Valley music and Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club from Spectra. Mandatory Credit: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun via USA TODAY NETWORK

I’m not saying I don’t ever want to go to an outdoor festival again, but that sort of care-free trance you fall into where nothing else in the world matters except you and this Frank Ocean song probably won’t exist for me anymore. There’s no way to be naive about certain things anymore, we’ve learned too much. There will always be that slight coronavirus cloud casting a shadow on the moment.

Did that person near me just cough? I’m in the front row, I wonder if that singer’s saliva particles are getting on me? Wow, that band just made me tear up, can I wipe my eye? I picture myself hustling to the hand-washing station in the same way I used to hustle to get in line for a slice of Spicy Pie pizza.

Coachella (with headliners Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean) and Stagecoach (with headliners Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church) have officially been moved to three weekends in October — Coachella Oct. 9-11 and 16-18, Stagecoach Oct. 23-25. 

The next question is, will that even happen? Will the world be ready for international travel this fall? Will we be ready to convene in large groups? Will Rage Against the Machine still have rage? To me it seems doubtful. My hunch is the next Coachella and Stagecoach will be in April 2021.

Whenever it is, I’ll be there. I’ll definitely be wearing a mask — to protect people around me from not just possible infection but also my singing voice — but I’ll be there. 

I want live music. I want a high-five from a stranger. I want human interaction. Like everyone, I want life to get back to normal. But as far as events like Coachella and Stagecoach, I think all we can hope for is what will be a new normal. I don’t think either festival will ever really be the way they used to be.

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