Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Danny Clinch)


How Pearl Jam inspired Coachella Festival


We’re in the midst of yet another summer festival season, and thanks to the reduced proliferation of (or, actually, just the less amount of people caring about) Covid-19, all of your favourite festivals are back. This year, the season has really kicked off with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, of which we are currently in between weekends.

Thanks to its semi-remote location in Indio, California, Coachella has taken on its very own culture that blooms just as the weather starts to rise. This year has headliners like Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, and The Weeknd pumping out the jams, but on the Thursday before the first Friday of the festival, Arcade Fire announced that they would be part of the festivities as well.

If you happened to catch their set, which was heavy on new material from their upcoming sixth studio album We, you might have heard frontman Win Butler give some very specific shoutouts, one of which was to grunge gods Pearl Jam for being the impetus for what eventually became Coachella.

Giving what he called a “Coachella history lesson”, Butler explained on stage that festival co-founder Paul Tollett was a concert promoter who booked underground shows for the likes of Black Flag. When Pearl Jam was boycotting Ticketmaster venues in the mid-1990s, Tollett helped find them an alternate performance space, which wound up being the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.

Thanks to the successful Pearl Jam show, Tollett began hatching an idea to hold an annual festival on the grounds. That dream wasn’t realised until 1999, when the first Coachella Festival was officially a go. Headlined by Beck, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine, the first Coachella Festival actually lost its central company nearly a million dollars, which contributed to there being no Coachella in 2000. The festival returned in 2001, and apart from the two-year gap that Covid forced on the event, Coachella has been a part of music culture ever since.

For whatever reason, Pearl Jam has yet to play the massive festival despite being part of the event that eventually birthed it. At this point, Eddie Vedder has his own music fest, the Ohana Festival, so it’s not as though Pearl Jam are still anti-corporate shows. Maybe one day Pearl Jam will come back around to where it all began and be celebrated for helping kick off one of the most successful music festivals in the world.

Check out Butler’s history lesson and see footage of Pearl Jam performing ‘Go’ at the 1993 Indio show down below.