The Great Divide

Electric Rodeo

The early part of January, music news was dominated by two big announcements: first the 2014 lineup of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in the California desert about three months from now, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's entertainers for its 83rd season this coming March.

On the surface, the two events could not be more different. Coachella is shorthand for all that is hip and current, a magnet for the blue-state bicoastal media that fancies itself the arbiter of respectable musical taste. Much like Memorial Day weekend at the movies, it's also the opening salvo of music-festival season and the biggest island in the archipelago that also includes Bonnarroo, Sasquatch, Hangout, Outside Lands, Houston's Free Press Summer Fest, ACL Fest and others.

The rodeo, meanwhile, is exactly that: not only the world's largest roping-and-riding competition, but also the biggest expression of traditional values and Go Texan pride to be found anywhere, period. Here, signs of faith, family, patriotism, and respect for both education and the armed services are around every corner, on every video screen and in every exhibition hall. Although the beer and liquor flow liberally, for sure, it's a long way from the cornucopia of hedonism Coachella and most other big music festivals are usually made out to be.

Musically, alternative/indie rock, hip-hop and EDM continue to dominate Coachella, while the rodeo casts a wide net across country, pop, R&B and classic rock in its three-week run. The difference is that it takes one entertainer to pull the same-size daily crowd at the rodeo versus dozens at Coachella, whose 2014 headliners include OutKast, Muse, Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, Skrillex and the Replacements. The desert festival prefers the "something for everyone" approach, while Houston's mega-carnival aims more for "one size fits all."

But even after all that, the two are more alike than you might think. For starters, both are tremendously successful. Coachella has already sold out both weekends this year, April 11-13 and 18-20. The rodeo bested its top five single-night attendance records in 2013, and looks poised to do it again with a concert lineup that includes Reba, Robin Thicke, Eli Young Band, Selena Gomez, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band and a trifecta of alumni from NBC's The Voice — Usher, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine's Maroon 5. (The one festival whose roster arguably bridges the Coachella/rodeo divide, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, announced its own 2014 lineup somewhat quietly last week.)

But on an even bigger level, both events dominate the cultural conversation of their respective domains for weeks. If you work anywhere near the music business, the sun rises and sets on Coachella from well before the lineup is announced until long after the last load of trash has been recycled. Many Coachella headliners pinball around the festival circuit the rest of the season; it will hardly be surprising to see more than a few land at both FPSF and ACL.

As the Houston area grows further and further away from its actual agrarian past, it has embraced the rodeo more and more enthusiastically, setting new overall attendance records every year since 2009. (Last year's count was approximately 2.5 million people.) Starting with the barbecue cookoff and Rodeo Parade, it's difficult to think about anything else around here the entire month of March — a rodeo fever driven by Go Texan sales at big retailers and dealerships, traffic snarls around the South Loop every night, the jam-packed MetroRail and local media that seems to think of little else. How could we?

The similarities don't end there; for another example, both events appreciate the value of giving something back. The rodeo will award more than $12 million in scholarships this year, plus millions more in graduate assistantships and educational grants. Coachella funnels a portion of its box-office take to a list of about ten charities, including the City of Indio, Coachella Valley Community Trust, Martha's Village and the Silverlake Conservatory of Music.

Finally, the engine driving both is youth. It's a given that Coachella will be overrun with high-schoolers and twentysomethings. Most music festivals are, almost by nature, but this might surprise you: According to the rodeo, whose exhaustive market research borders on the census-like, the percentage of attendees under 25 years of age varies year to year, but hovers right around 35 percent.

That means one in three people at Reliant Park between March 4 and 23 this year will have been born after March 1989. Hundreds of thousands of them. That's enough children of the smartphone age to drive the rodeo into Facebook's Top 10 most checked-in locations last year, not far away from Fenway Park and Universal Studios Hollywood.

But the greatest similarity of all is pretty simple: Both organizations have placed fans front and center, and reaped the benefits handsomely. Although we feel like we should point out that we don't see Coachella anywhere on that Facebook check-in list.


March 4: Brad Paisley

March 5: Eli Young Band

March 6: Reba

March 7: Usher (Black Heritage Day)

March 8: Chris Young

March 9: Selena Gomez

March 10: REO Speedwagon

March 11: Jason Aldean

March 12: Jake Owen

March 13: Maroon 5

March 14: Keith Urban

March 15: Hunter Hayes

March 16: Grupo Pesado/Banda MS

(Go Tejano Day)

March 17: Luke Bryan

March 18: Robin Thicke

March 19: Florida Georgia Line

March 20: Blake Shelton

March 21: Easton Corbin

March 22: The Band Perry

March 23: Zac Brown Band

Rodeo tickets are on sale now. See for more information.

Ask Willie D

How Fast Is Too Fast?
Thirty days and they're married. Now, about telling their families...

Dear Willie D:

I met a man and we instantly connected. Five days into meeting each other, he asked me to marry him. I said yes because I had no reason to say no other than that we had just met.

Within 30 days we purchased a home, and on the 35th day we were married. No one knows how long we have known each other but him and me. Ikeep being asked by family members how long he and I have been dating, because they have never heard of him. Both of us always answer, "Fora while."

They're putting the pressure on us. Yes, what's done is done, but we agreed that after being together for at least four and a half years, we'll share with them in full the details of our connection — ifthey're still interested. What are your thoughts on this?

Instant Connection:

Life has but a few guarantees. Being drilled by family members and friends after you've bought a house with and married a man they don't know is one of them. Stick to your plan to reveal details of your connection later if that's what makes you comfortable. Although it's not necessary that your family and friends know how long you've known your husband, you should make an effort to get to know his background and find out if he is who he says he is.

Waiting gives you a chance to observe a person's true character and address any anxieties you might have. But like you said, what's done is done.

Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray