Since its inception in 1999, thousands of people have flocked to Indio, California, to attend Coachella, a six-day music festival in the California desert. In 2022, artists like Harry Styles, Shania Twain, Billie Eilish, Doja Cat, The Weeknd and Phoebe Bridgers took to the stage to perform full sets.
With the advent of social media, though, Coachella has also become less a music festival, and more a place to see and be seen on the internet. TikTok commentator Meghan Rienks referred to the festival as an “influencer work trip” in a comment on a post about her past experiences at the festival. “Brands want to be seen so they invite influencers to market them,” she added.
Accompanying the festival, which costs upwards of $429 to attend, are branded events. And one of those events — Revolve Festival, hosted by the clothing brand Revolve — is receiving ire from influencers this year.
TikToker Averie Bishop deemed the experience “difficult and unsafe,” and TikToker Emily Hemelberg compared Revolve Festival to Fyre Fest, a hyped-up music festival that beckoned people to the Bahamas with the promise of a once-in-a-lifetime party in 2017, only to be a disaster, stranding tourists on the island of Grand Exuma without food, water or shelter.
Below, discover how Revolve Festival, meant to be an exclusive party with free tequila and an Instagram-worthy pink swing set, became one of the biggest stories out of this year’s Coachella.
What is Revolve Festival?
Launched in 2015, Revolve Festival is an invitation-only party held the first weekend of Coachella. Revolve Festival is not affiliated with Coachella.
Its “essence,” according to Raissa Gerona, chief brand officer of Revolve Group, in a statement to WWD, is “celebration of life and living it to its fullest.” This year’s event, held on April 16 and 17 between 1 and 8 p.m., was a collaboration between the clothing retailer and the hospitality group h.wood.
The press release promised an enticing experience: Drinks from Kendall Jenner’s tequila brand, 818; food from the California luxury supermarket Erewhon; free shopping experiences from sponsoring brands (including a LaCroix booth and a Spotify cafe devoted to K-Pop); performances by Post Malone, Jack Harlow and Willow Smith; and a pink swing set, which appears in many photos.
This year’s Revolve Festival had trouble with transportation
This year’s star-studded Revolve Festival saw many celebrities in attendance: Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Leonardo DiCaprio, Timothée Chalamet, Sydney Sweeney and Halsey.
But some of those who weren't household names struggled to reach the event. According to some influencers, the event wasn’t quite what the press release promised. “It was a complete disaster,” TikTok creator Mandi Awadis said in a post.
She detailed the drawn-out experience of getting checked in and obtaining wristbands ahead of the event. "There were 10 people in front of us. It took them an hour to get those 10 people in," she said. Then, she claimed insufficient security measures: "There were metal detectors ... but no one was taking care of them checking peoples' purses. We were just going through."
One TikToker, Lauren Ashley Beck, pointed to the gap between the “expectation” and the “reality” of the Revolve Festival in a post.
The trouble was largely related to transportation and capacity. Both Revolve Festival and Coachella are held in nearby towns in Palm Springs, California — Revolve Festival in La Quinta, Coachella in Indio. The only way to reach this year’s Revolve Festival was by shuttle, which picked invitees up in a parking lot a mile-and-a-half from the event. TikToker Madison Crowley explained in a post there is “no address” for the Revolve Festival grounds: “You had to be on the shuttle to enter the festival grounds. There is no other way to enter.”
While waiting for transportation to the party on Saturday, April 16, some influencers reportedly were stuck outside in the SoCal heat for hours, without water. Awadis said that people were "dehydrated and passing out," and claimed that her sister asked for water, but her request was denied at first. According to Awadis, fights broke out in the parking lot.
Once the shuttles arrived, TikToker Bishop reported that transportation was not equipped for the large crowds Revolve Fest was expecting.
“There was pushing, shoving, shouting, yanking in front of the buses, people standing in between the buses ... while they were moving,” said influencer Averie Bishop. “Just to get on these buses and get to the Revolve Festival.”
Crowley captured the image of people trying to crowd onto a shuttle in a video.
Awadis had a similar experience, which she detailed in her video: “Every time a shuttle came, people would mob the shuttles. They would either put a halt to everything or the shuttle would just drive off with nobody in it.”
Eventually, Bishop and her friend left the shuttle stop altogether, forgoing their exclusive invite to Revolve Fest. “Sorry Revolve, but I hope you take into consideration everyone’s safety and security next year,” she said.
This experience was not shared by all attendees. Heaven Marley wrote in a TikTok caption that the Revolve Festival was "so fun," and that it "(made) her sad" that people were "bashing" the event.
Revolve Festival responded to the criticism in a statement
On Tuesday, Revolve issued a statement responding to the critiques, and "sincerely (apologizing)" to those impacted.
The statement explained how the brand worked "closely" with city and safety authorities to "ensure a safe and secure path" for guests to attend the highly anticipated event.
The statement explained why guests had to wait in a parking lot for a shuttle. According to city regulations, per the statement, an event of this size required an "off-site location for guest check-in and parking," as well as shuttle transportation. The statement said the off-site lot was equipped with rideshare drop-off and pickup access, restrooms, shade, water, medics and security.
The statement explains that Revolve Festival became crowded, shuttle service slowed down, resulting in the conditions captured in the videos.
"As the festival was reaching capacity late Saturday afternoon, shuttle access to the venue was limited in order to remain in compliance with safety requirements causing longer wait times for entry and resulting in some guests not being able to attend the festival," the statement said.
The statement ended with an apology: "The safety of our guests is of the utmost importance to us and we will always make that a priority. We sincerely apologize to all the guests who were impacted. We always strive to provide a great experience and we promise to do better.”
Today.com reached out to Revolve for a statement.