Coachella kicks off on Friday, and much has changed since its early days

By Brianne Tracy
April 12, 2019 01:53 PM

Coachella turns 20 this year, so PEOPLE is taking it back so you can party like it’s 1999.

The annual music festival kicks off in the Indio desert in California on Friday, featuring a weekend full of musical acts, including headliners Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover), Tame Impala and Ariana Grande.

Among the other acts on the star-studded lineup this year are Kacey Musgraves, Janelle Monáe, Bad Bunny, Khalid, Ella Mai, H.E.R., Kid Cudi and Pusha T. Beyond the festival itself, Coachella is also known as a playground for A-list stars to hit up the huge parties held in honor of the weekend-long event.

Matt Cowan/Getty Images for Coachella

While Coachella has become the unspoken gold standard of music festivals, its success was hardly assured from the start.

When the first Coachella festival took place during a hot weekend in October 1999, only about 10,000 people attended the two-day event. Beck, Morissey, The Chemical Brothers, Tool and Rage Against the Machine headlined, and about 50 other acts joined them.

Coachella lineup 1999

Since the festival came just three months after the fires and riots of Woodstock ’99, on-site camping was not permitted as event organizers Goldenvoice feared something similar would happen.

Though the festival largely got positive reviews, it failed to attract the 70,000 attendees that Goldenvoice needed to turn a profit with just $50 daily admission fees. Subsequently, the next time the festival was held was 2001.

Due to its rising popularity in the following years, Goldenvoice decided to add a second weekend of the festival in 2012. Several years prior, Coachella also got its country cousin Stagecoach in 2007.

While the location at the Empire Polo Field has remained the same throughout the years, much about Coachella has changed — including the price of a ticket. Despite it now costing $429 for a general admission ticket and almost $1,000 for VIP passes, Coachella is known to sell out within minutes of tickets opening up.

The scale of the festival has also grown immensely, with the 2019 edition featuring around 160 acts that will perform on two weekends. In addition, it’s expected to draw crowds of 125,000 each day and just keeps getting bigger each year.