Earlier this week, Coachella announced one of its most woke lineups yet. The California music and arts festival – known for its selfie opps and throwback-hippy aesthetic – managed to secure Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar and Radiohead as its 2017 headliners. Given the festival’s reputation as a haven for free-spirited liberals, it didn’t seem all that surprising.
Unfortunately, beneath all the flowery headbands and fair trade ponchos, new reports suggest that Coachella is hiding something a little more sinister. According to Afropunk and Uproxx, thefestival’s owner, Philip Anschutz, has been tied to extreme right wing organisations, and may be using the festival to fund anti-LGBTQ groups and climate change denial strategy.
Anschutz owns AEG, which is one of the largest sports and entertainment companies in the world. Coachella is one of the events run by the organisation. Data unearthed by the Washington Post reveals that Anschutz has been giving profits made by the company – hundreds of thousands of dollars worth – into several right-wing groups. These include the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and the National Christian Foundation, which have all campaigned heavily against LGBTQ rights.
Greenpeace has also accused Anschutz of funding a series of “climate science denial groups”. The environmental organisation claims that the oil and gas billionaire raises millions of dollars each year to influence state politics – a fact that was backed up by ProgressNow Colorado director Ian Silverii in 2016.
“Phil Anschutz's extensive influence in Colorado politics has been known for years, but the degree of his support for anti-LGBTQ groups that fund extremist hate groups like Gordon Kligenschmitt's 'Pray in Jesus Name' is shocking,” Silverii wrote in a press release. “At a time in American history when discrimination and violence against LGBTQ citizens is on the rise, support for pro-discrimination groups puts Anschutz on the wrong side of Colorado, and on the wrong side of history.”
Despite the questionable connections, the 99,000-capacity Coachella sold out in just three hours yesterday. That’s at $399 (£324) a ticket. Probably best not to think about all the profit that's going to produce.