As my cohort Melinda Newman reported last night, the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival lineup has been announced, with several notable reunion and rare appearances. Additionally, this is the first year the event runs over two weekend, April 13-15 and April 20-22, with identical billing.
Below are 10 things that came to mind:
1. Personally, I cartoonishly wiped my eyes when I saw the Black Keys as Day 1 headliners. Radiohead: there’s a headliner for you. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg: talk about a pair-up. But the Black Keys have spent the last couple years teetering on the edge of that vaunted main-stage top bill status, and I’m still not convinced.
The duo (who will likely perform at this joint with more players) certainly have the catalog to take up a two or two-and-a-half hour slot: 2011’s “El Camino” puts them seven albums deep, and last year’s Grammy Awards win was also a critical win. Their commercial placements earned them some recognizability and touring schedules and side-projects are a testament of stamina. What I feel like a two-hour, main-stage set would lack is a “wow” factor. And I really, really like the Black Keys.
My own lackluster reaction to that announcement had me thinking they were taking a vacated placeholder. And, it seems, organizers had another band in mind.
More specifically, Black Sabbath. It’d be a Black-on-Black marquee. However, according to Billboard, the recently reunited metal forefathers were forced to back out due to the announcement that guitarist Tony Iommi has cancer. My guess is that’s how Black Keys fell in.
2. And that being said, I thought Swedish House Mafia would have been a good top-bill replacement, too. Massive dance acts are getting theirs this year (sans Skrillex, who near-headlined last year’s Coachella), with big billing from Justice, HitFix’s 2012 on-the-verge artist AVICII, David Guetta, La Roux, Afrojack and others. Coachella is becoming more and more what it’s destined to be, because its young attendees have spoken: kids want to dance in the desert. Give them something to dance to. Suck it, Coldplay.
3. What a thrill to finally see Pulp heading to America. Ever since they announced their reunion last year, I, along with many other fans, pleaded to have the ‘States added to Pulp’s stint. British bands need to gauge interest in their homeland before they drop the cash and serious devotion to promoting a tour overseas; Jarvis Cocker and Co. obviously liked what they saw, and Coachella has a history of making offers hard to refuse (though the Smiths always, ALWAYS will refuse them).
Acts like the Stone Roses and Suede still have the jury out. Blur didn’t come across the sea. But Cocker and Pulp’s have serious loyalty in North America, so this could be the start of a beautiful tour. I can’t say the same for some other artists.
4. Speaking of reunions, you can read more about the reformation of At The Drive-In here. And then there’s Refused, which Epitaph strongly advised this morning are “NOT F***ING DEAD.” The influential Swedish hardcore quartet are not only heading to Indio, but are also confirmed to headline their country’s Way Out West Festival, which runs Aug. 9-11.
The band broke up 14 years ago and admitted that a reunion, to them, was, well… stupid.
“We’ve sort of looked down from our high horses and made fun of people who’ve just wanted to share the psychopathic intensity that we would deliver on a nightly basis in our post-pubescent prime. A reunion has just seemed irrelevant to us,” Refused wrote in a statement on their website. “We never did [1998’s] ‘The Shape of Punk To Come’ justice back when it came out, too tangled up in petty internal bickering to really focus on the job. And suddenly there’s this possibility to do it like it was intended. We wanna do it over, do it right.”
They conclude that they’re not doing interviews right now but they will be touring beyond just these announced dates.
5. Coachella doesn’t sell single day passes, but if I had to choose one day to give my all, it’d be the Sundays. Florence + The Machine will doubtless put on a visually dominating show, Girl Talk can fit at least 300 naked people on stage, the Weeknd will be spending some much-needed face time with his fans, Santigold and La Roux can show us what they’ve been working on, Wild Flag and Fitz & the Tantrums can further prove why they deserve higher billing, and, of course, there’s At The Drive-In. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg will have a lot to
smoke think about.
6. The good Doctor may be in, but I doubt he’s taking on new patients. Or something. What I’m trying to say is that Dr. Dre may be making a rare mainstage appearance at Coachella, but I don’t think that’s necessarily going to bring fans any closer to hearing his long-awaited album “Detox.”
In November, Dre told Fader that he’s taking a break from music, which is a punchline on the punchline that is “Detox.” He, of course, has been hard at work producing efforts for Slim Da Mobster and one of HitFix’s Hip-Hop New Class members Kendrick Lamar, but not so much on the follow-up to his last “2001” (from 1999). His responses to journos all of last year were basically: “Detox” will be ready when it’s ready.
Snoop Dogg wouldn’t have held down top bill all by himself. You could say the same of Dre. But this classic come-together is perfect California Love.
8. It’s good that Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed! You Black Emperor aren’t performing on the same day back to back because then thousands of people may depart their bodies to never return again, to hear Thom Yorke mutter something self-effacing and confusing in concert. Andrew Bird next to Feist, however? Love them, but I hope they let lawn chairs into the park.
9. I don’t doubt Coachella will sell out both weekends, at the identical price for passes. It’s a bold step on behalf of promoter Goldenvoice, but a fair investment. Fans may feel the unsteadiness, however, with the diminishing “event-ness” of a singular annual event. Friends (and spring breaks) may be divided, that cute girl you hooked up with last year might not be on the same weekend, and the Week 2 folks may still be seeing chicken scratches in the ground where 60,000 folks reveled five days before.
Obviously the headliners will be smart enough to make tweaks and changes to their setlists from week to week — even the heaviest touring bands know that fans need no reminder that their show is just one stop on a long line. The hardest tickets to get during an artist’s residency is opening night, and there’s a reason for it. As a fan, does it matter to you what weekend you attend Coachella?
10. I wonder how Coachella will handle Jeff Mangum’s precious “please no photography of video EVER” policy.