Saturday, February 18, 2012

Coachella 2012 Series - Part I

This year, my buddies and I decided to embark on a trip to the Hipster musical Mecca that is Coachella. My boy Mike from over at Past The Bar  is going to be documenting the process from start to finish - from buying tickets to a concert a year out and having no idea who is performing, to having a fantasy draft to guess the artists performing, the announcement of the 2012 acts performing, housing arrangements, and the trip itself. Buckle up - its going to be quite the journey! Part I of the madness covering the epic Fantasy Draft is after the jump - all for your reading enjoyment!


On April 13 thousands of hipsters, music aficionados, and fans of simply having a good time will caravan into the California desert for three days of eclectic music (indie, rock, hip-hip, electronic, r&B, reggae, and everything in between), art, beer, and interesting people watching; including people in face paint, headdresses, neon, jean shorts, bathing suits, skinny jeans, floppy hats, and 80s/90s ironic (awesome if you ask me) basketball jerseys.

This will be my fourth consecutive Coachella Festival. Each year is an incredible unique fun experience. I mean…where else can you be in a giant tent dancing and jumping up and down like a madman to Afrojack when what do you see but Sir Paul McCartney and Usher together fist pumping along. Needless to say, Coachella is always one of my highlights of the year. But…what do Coachella

fans do the rest of the year? (Besides check Pitchfork, drink PBR, and complain that their previously favorite artists now suck because they've become too popular). Or worse…what do those Coachella fans who sat online today for two-hours starring at the Standby squares of death only to come up empty handed do to bide the time before next year's Coachella?
Introducing the Fantasy Coachella game.

Fantasy sports players are sports nerds. Hipsters are music nerds. So embrace your inner Lewis, Gilbert, and Booger and nerd out with me for a moment. Based on my knowledge and the infinite wisdom of Google, this is the first and only Coachella Fantasy League/Draft ever. As of January 2012, I've googled and come up with nothing similar, which is not all that surprising as sometimes I like to think of myself as the Steve Jobs of time-wasting. This year tickets for Coachella initially went on sale in June 2011, despite the fact that the event was still 10 months away and not a single artist had been announced. Despite not having any guarantees about the lineup, with the possibility of facing three days in the desert with Kesha, Rebecca Black, Creed, Nickelback, the Jonas Brothers, Mr. Mcgibblets, and the Wiggles, my group of friends and I intrepidly plopped down the roughly $300 necessary to guarantee our spots. But we had faith in the Coachella desert music gods. Speculation of who might fill the bill spread faster than an STD through the Jersey Shore house (ya that's played out..but it was too easy) as blogs rushed to name their projected headliners and fake "official" lineups were "leaked." The thing was, no one knew for sure and the Coachella organizers were not giving away any tips as there wasn't even any announcement of when to expect to hear what lineup we had paid $300 for. An idea was born. Fantasy Coachella.

Before I get into the details, the true purpose of Fantasy Coachella is simply an excuse to get together with friends. As people get older and busier with life it is common for the gap between in-person or sit-down visits between friends to grow. Luckily for me, my core group of friends have remained extremely tight and still see each other in person quite frequently, save our friends who have migrated East to Chicago and Atlanta, and far east all the way to Albania. But even if you are blessed to be able to see your good friends often, it's also nice to come up with other ceremonial events like the Coachella Draft to change the regularly scheduled programming of meeting up to always go to the same restaurant/bar/fill in the blank. Though the actual Coachella Festival is the real headliner, the Coachella fantasy draft is a great opening ceremony. As Bill Simmons once wrote, "The trick is to find dumb reasons to get together."


Now lets start with some basic explanations of fantasy sports for those of you new to the program. Go ahead and close the flip phone and log out of myspace because it's time for an elementary education in pop culture and fun.
Fantasy Football is a game where participants act as owners to build a team that competes against other fantasy owners based on the statistics generated by the real individual players of that particular sport….Or as some have called it…the Dungeons and Dragons of the jock community. And you're getting this from a true junkie, though honestly not a particularly successful one, with no Mark Renton redemption in sight. Each year I generally have about three fantasy football teams, two basketball, two baseball, one hockey, and I've even dabbled in Soccer (EPL, Champions League, and MLS), Nascar, etc. Some have decent amounts of money wagered on them, some are just for fun with friends, some are out of curiosity and boredom. Fantasy sports are now a billion dollar industry with millions playing across the globe. They have their very own language; Rotisserie, Head-to-Head, Snake, Auction, etc. and are also focused around the sports centric statistics lingo (WHIP, A/T, etc.).
First you pick your team name, which generally leads to competitors trying to outwit each other with clever/funny/suggestive/inappropriate plays on words, names, or terms relating to the sport. Of course there are always a handful of lazy unimaginative people who just use their last name, or have some generic, My Fantasy Team, LA Ballers, etc. You shouldn't be friends with those people. But anyway…the next big step in any fantasy league (and many would argue the most fun) is the Fantasy Draft.
In the draft each player selects their team, via a standard draft where owners each take turns selecting players in some predetermined order (most use some automatic/lottery system to get a random order like picking out of a hat, or go based on the standings from the previous year or make draft order selection a whole other event - like a foot race, chug off, blindly selecting a horse in a race, or even picking random children in a sack race as exhibited in The League). There are also auction value drafts, but those will be ignored for the purposes of theCoachella Draft (for now!). Once your team is selected, the final step is the management of the roster throughout the season (including adding or dropping free agents, playing players on your roster based on health/matchups/irrational hunches/etc, trades, criticizing trades, criticizing the commissioner, trash talking, and a generally absurd amount of time mocking one another - for those more curious, check out The League on FX). You then compete against the other teams to make the playoffs and eventually win the championship.

One quick trip over the Coachella Message Boards or music blogs and one can began to see the parallels. Countless posts outlining people's dream Coachella line-up, posts extolling the virtues of one artist while fifty other people comment about how terrible the artist is. You're about as unlikely to see a musical opinion go unquestioned as you are to see indifferent graffiti (See Demetri Martin, "I think graffiti is the most passionate literature there is. It's always like, 'Bush sucks. U2 Rules.' I wanna make indifferent graffiti. 'Toy Story 2 was OK.' 'I like Gina as a friend, but I'm not sure about taking things further.' 'This is a bridge.'"). There are characters like Monklish who is one of the Coachella speculation gurus in the vein of ESPN's fantasy expert Matthew Berry. They try to examine artists tour schedules, supposed Coachella rules and contract stipulations that artists can't play within 100 miles ofCoachella or in LA within 100 days of the festival, when artists are releasing new albums, if the artists have playedCoachella before (apparently only 22 acts have made multiple Coachella appearances prior to this year), who is up and coming, who is overdue, and the new twist this year of who will agree to play two consecutive weekends. But at the end of the day…on paper you might think you have the best team/most possible lineup…but you never really know til it all plays out.


Before the Draft, listen to music. That's not too hard is it?! But really the nice thing is there really isn't much pre-draft preparation to do. Sure it would be great to find your Victor Cruz, your The Weeknd…who appeared to just come out of nowhere and dominate making you look like a genius (accidental or not). However, unlike professional sports leagues where each league has a limited talent pool with athletes that you know will be in play to research and select from, the music pool is basically limitless. If the Festival organizers want, they could roll out Mili Vanilli, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Shabba Ranks, and Sisqo. Or they could go with an obscure Tuareg singer, an Australian didgeridoo player, and S.Mouse…and that wouldn't even really surprise me. And just as in Fantasy sports, while there might be some selections that seem to be locks…you never know (Just ask Jamaal Charles owners how that worked out for them this year). Every year the message boards seem to be teeming with fans calling for a Daft Punk performance, hasn't happened since I've been attending. So there's not a ton to do…other than have fun with it. You know there's gonna be rock, some big DJs, and some hip-hop. If you wish to educate yourself a little though, check out previous lineups, check out the music blogs and magazines (see above with the fake line-ups and prognosticators)…see who the big names are and who appears to be up and coming…and just keep an ear open to see who you like.

Now…you've gathered somewhere with a group of good friends, all of whom should be planning on actually attending the festival. Sure, you could just do the draft for fun…but come on…who drafts a fantasy football player then never watches any football? Or maybe you and your friends are just compulsive gamblers…whatever works. There are probably some cocktails flowing…some craft beer, maybe some red wine, round of tequila shots, or who knows…dare I say some PBR? Choose a Commissioner to be in charge. They can maintain the draft board or list of who has been selected and keep the official record…since there is no established pool of players like in football…this has to be done manually somehow. Figure out how many rounds you want to go…there are a ton of bands at Coachella…but you can also probably sit and name random bands/artists for a pretty good amount of time. 25-50 is a good aim. Establish a draft order…draw names out of a hat, guess a number, play Mario Kart, do a Cowboy-Indian-Bear tournament, or figure something else out. Establish a time limit per pick. You want things to move along quickly. Impose penalties for those who don't pick within the designated time or who pick an artist who has already been selected. Our group imposed drink punishments as well as allowing the rest of the group to select for the person who has blown their turn (must be an artist who is alive AND theoretically capable of appearing…in other words sure, your Uncle Larry COULD perform on his washboard at Coachella…but it has to be a "generally known" artist). This is how one of our buddies ended up with Sisqo on his Fantasy Coachella team. But who knows…the Thong Song would be hipsterishly ironic, no? We also started making up rules as we got into the later rounds, like you couldn't select a band that started with the same letter as your name, etc. Then go around making your selections until all the rounds are done…or everyone has run out of picks/suggestions. We decided to keep it simple and assign 1 Point to every correct artist to appear on the official Coachella line-up and 3 points for naming one of the three headliners. You could also try to guess what day or what stage for extra points…or decide on points for various levels of headlining since there are multiple stages, or give points for correctly guessing the artist who opens, or any other scoring system you see fit. You could even take things further and select what songs they will play at the festival so that the game can continue...but who wants to monitor that...put the pen and paper down and enjoy the music. Finally, you can come up with some sort of wager or prize if you see fit. Our group has decided that the winner will have a drink bought for them by every other player each day of the festival and that whoever comes in last will also have to buy a drink for each player each day of the festival…including an extra one for the winner (Mainly because at the end of our draft and upon reading our rosters…everyone was uncertain they won, but felt confident they weren't the worst).

Our Commissioner is currently on leave from her Commissioner duties out in Houston and San Diego, so we haven't seen the draft board to determine points now that the line-up is out…but I'll update when we know!

At the end of the day, it's all just about having a good time with some friends. Whether it's five people in a living room or 34,982,304 out in the desert….see you all at Coachella 2012!