Your 2009 Guide to Upcoming Entertainment Festivals

Shapan: Spring is here, summer is quickly approaching, and soon we’ll all be baking in the sun. With everything so pleasant outside, these months beg for activity, activity that might be down a bit thanks to how easy it is these days to wrap yourself up in your little corner of the world. There are always things to do outside but sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it. But you’re an adventurous one, aren’t you? I can tell from the look in your eyes. Oh, and you like music, do you? Well, then you should be in luck.

But maybe not? Too many music fans cower at the idea of seeing their favorite bands live, as if it is some sort of death sentence. Either there’s other work to be done or they simply don’t have the money. Really? You can’t take a couple of hours out of your busy day to see a band perform an album that you’ve spent a dozen hours listening to, a band whose memorabilia is all over your wall? But you’re agoraphobic? Sure, buddy. You might as well not be coming to class.

I won’t lie; occasionally I’ve made stupid rationalizations myself and have missed out on some awesome shows, but those were seriously stupid choices. There is little else that compares to the rush of seeing a live band that you love. Music can be appreciated at a whole new level when you see it being performed in front of your eyes.

This feeling can be compounded at cool festivals like Coachella, an annual musical flagship here in Southern California. It’s nonstop euphoria, and the little fatigue that comes with it is canceled out by adrenaline. But, sadly, people are robbing themselves of the joys of music with their irrational fears.

But why should you deny yourself that joy? Why not see that band? It’s practically impossible for touring bands to avoid Southern California, you know. And even if you’re not into music, Southern California is a great place to be for summer attractions. The Newport Film Festival will be showcasing movies from around the globe. Burning Man is just up north and focuses on self-expression of any sort. And if you dig comic books or video games, the world famous International Comic-Con is just an hour away in San Diego.

So make some plans, why don’t you?

Pat: Woodstock was only a first instance of the great entertainment festival. Now premieres and concerts seem like a child’s birthday bash compared to the international block parties that trade shows and events have become, from the music industry’s Coachella to tech conventions like the Consumer Electronics Show and E3, and the orgy of all things entertainment-related that is the International Comic-Con.

Three years ago, when Sacha Baron Cohen, dressed as Borat, literally climbed a stage at Comic-Con (and fell off a teaser curtain on the proscenium) to let the audience know that they would be treated to a six-month advance screening of “Borat,” it became clear that comics are really playing much less of a role at the show.

But maybe it’s more complicated than that. While Comic-Con has always been about fusing all things nerdy, from anime to video games, to Star Wars and Star Trek, the show has become a bastion of entertainment-related mini-events bridging TV, movies, video games, comics, animation and all other pop art.

The show has so many fans that it has produced instant sell-outs and overcrowding for at least the last two years. Tickets last year were scalped on eBay for well above cost. What is really behind the show’s centripetal gravitational pull in the entertainment industry?

It certainly isn’t a phenomenon unique to Comic-Con, but the spike in the popularity of comic book movies and video games in the last 10 years has certainly made the show more visible than its counterparts.

A similar phenomenon occurred with E3, the Electronics Entertainment Exposition, so much so that the Entertainment Software Association, who puts on the show, called for it to be downsized drastically in 2007 because exhibitors complained of the overcrowding, smell and noise in the L.A. Convention Center.

This year, Coachella launched an iPhone application to promote the event and featured Sony tents, where visitors could try out the latest PlayStation games.

While one could certainly argue that nerd-dom has been legitimized by movies like “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight,” as well as mass-appeal games like “Halo” and “Wii Fit,” thus increasing the scope of events like Comic-Con, the impetus has been, since at least the ’60s and perhaps before (i.e. the Chicago World’s Fair), to be toward large, international festivals.

Is it a result of globalization? Maybe it’s mass communication or the Internet? To some extent, all of that comes into play. Whatever the reason behind the increase in scope of trade shows, do yourself a favor and stop by one. E3 is around the corner in June, re-expanded to its former glory, and Comic-Con is in the middle of the summer.

With every entertainment medium represented in one form or another, the modern trade show is at least the easiest way for companies to cut their advertising costs, and for consumers, it’s a chance to see an early screening of “Bruno,” meet their favorite cast member from “Lost,” hear a preview of that upcoming album or be the first to play “Halo 4.”