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Coachella iPhone app and the festival experience

Once upon a time, festival attendees had to guess which unknown acts to see and navigate around the in a kind of game of blind man's bluff. Thanks to on-demand music sites and mobile apps, that's no longer the case.

Rock festivals have sure gotten easy. Back when I attended the first Lollapalooza in 1991, I had only a glancing knowledge of most of the acts on the bill, and the only way to hear them before the act was to find a friend with a deeper music collection or beg the local DJ to play, say, a Siouxsie and the Banshees song from before the MTV era. (As if.) In more recent years, navigating big multi-stage festivals like SXSW and Seattle's Bumbershoot have required the mind of a military logistics expert. To catch all the acts I wanted to see, I had consult a printed schedule, cross-reference set times with maps, and race from stage to stage, hoping to catch at least part of a set before the venue got completely filled up.

The Coachella iPhone app tells me where and when my chosen acts are playing. Screenshot

So far, planning has been much easier for Coachella, which starts this Friday in Indio, Calif. First, I used Grooveshark to listen quick samples of all the small-font acts on the bill that I'd never heard. Next, I went to the Coachooser application on the Web site and picked all the bands I knew I wanted to see, plus any acts that I wanted to hide, and used the link at the top of the page to send myself an e-mail with my selections. After that, I selected the I downloaded and installed the free Coachella iPhone app, which was first introduced last year. Finally, I clicked the link in my iPhone's e-mail box. Amazing--after a few seconds, all the acts I'd selected showed up in the app with their estimated set time and exactly which stage they're playing on. I can filter the listings by day or stage, and there's a handy map that shows all the stages (plus water and medical tents), and will eventually show my precise location on the massive Indio Polo Field where the show's taking place.

Finally, I shared my Grooveshark Coachella playlist (free registration required) with the friend who's joining me for the show, so he can listen to the bands I've "discovered" today. Then we can debate whether to see Camera Obscura or Frightened Rabbit. Unfortunately, there's no technogical solution to resolve that debate--some things still have to be done the old-fashioned analog way.