Why do youth flock to Coachella?

Coachella is a major music festival that happens once a year for two weekends in April. Youth flock to Palm Desert, California to experience soulful vibes and a cultural space where strangers can easily become friends and self-expression is celebrated rather than stigmatized.Tickets are a pretty penny with general admission at $399 plus travel expenses and hotel costs. At such an expensive price, what is it that drives youth from all over the world to make the trip to the deserts of Southern California? Surely, it is more than good music as most of them can experience that in their own hometowns.Many speak of wanting to be a part of the ‘festival experience.’ But, what exactly does that mean? For many, what really brings people to the grounds isn’t so much the entertainment but rather, the connection that happens within the entertainment.Music festivals create a cultural space wherepeople from all over the world can become a part of something that celebrates people of all backgrounds, melting the boundary of “neighbor and self” to create the type of connection that eliminates separateness.Social worker and researcher Brene Brown defines connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”When everyone is dancing, holding hands, high-fiving and above all- experiencing the type of connection Brene Brown speaks of- the energy in the festival makes youth feel like they belong. This energy is the basis for spiritual connection; an offering that Brene Brown says grows with trust, respect, kindness and affection.Many people may be thinking, “While it’s nice that all these boundaries seem to dissipate into a sense of unity…but is that just the effects of drugs and alcohol? Would people still be as full of appreciation, joy, compassion, and connection without these substances at the festivals?”Although its hard to answer objectively, at the root of doing drugs and drinking, youth really are still just looking to find a space to express themselves – drugs and alcohol tend to accompany this simply because of the insecurity that sometimes comes from seeking greater levels of intimacy and not really knowing how to reach it. After all, it’s not exactly modeled for them in this digital day and age.Youth are craving an understanding of who they are and where they fit into the world and festivals are place where they feel like they can just be themselves and that whoever they are is a perfect fit rather than feeling a need to do more, be more, or achieve more.If people were able to experience the connection that flowed freely in a festival without the atmosphere of drugs and drinking, would they still feel propelled to experiment with these substances? If people felt this greater sense of intimacy and rooted identity on a regular basis, would the ‘festival experience’ transcend into everyday life?Young people go to festivals thinking that what they want is to go hear music from their favorite bands, meet interesting people and party and in doing so, get a taste of the liberation that they really crave spiritually: to be loved exactly as they are and to love others in such a way in return.This yearning for connection and rootedness is what brings youth back to festivals again and again. Some are more aware of their ability to tap into this deeper well of unconditional love in their everyday life, while others are still grasping at how to translate the transformational connection they experience during festivals into their day-to-day reality. Regardless, the capacity to love boundlessly is felt and the freedom that it ignites keeps youth flocking to Coachella.

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