Coachella’s 2014 lineup is now one day old and that means it’s time for some post-reveal analysis. In the pages that follow, we run through the biggest highlights and surprises appearing on this year’s bill, in addition to the most glaring omissions and the least interesting bookings. Do you agree with our selections? Voice your thoughts in the comments below.
But first… a few quick observations on the lineup as a whole. Festival organizers Goldenvoice did manage to improve on 2013’s lineup, which looks more and more like a trainwreck one year later. But scrolling through various message boards and my Twitter feed late last night, a loud contingent of Coachella diehards, the ones who’ve been attending the festival for almost a decade now, seemed visibly frustrated. Long known for quality lineups brimming with critically acclaimed acts from top to bottom, the festival now finds itself the butt of jokes due to the questionable booking of subheadliners that aren’t actually subheadliners. You’re not alone in asking why Broken Bells is the fourth act on Friday. Or, why Calvin Harris, Disclosure, and Lana Del Rey make up three of the festival’s top five acts on Sunday. Yes, acts such as Disclosure and HAIM had rapid ascents over the last 12 months, but if this was three or five years ago, it’s hard to imagine either billed so high.
Coachella’s increasing fascination with EDM and mainstream pop has also left less room for riskier alternative bookings and cult reunions. In 2007, Coachella booked Jarvis Cocker and Sonic Youth in the spots currently occupied by Zedd and Girl Talk, and Damon Albarn’s The Good The Bad and The Queen was listed where Foster the People is. The 2008 lineup features Madness in Broken Bell’s current spot, Kraftwerk where Skrillex is currently billed, and Vampire Weekend in place of Duke Dumont. In 2009? Leonard Cohen, and not Broken Bells, was the fourth act on Friday. Even the bottom line acts were better than then: In 2007, it was Amy Winehouse, Justice, and Grizzly Bear. In 2009? Cage the Elephant, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafiti, Tinariwen, and The Gaslight Anthem. Nothing against Syd Arthur and The Bots, but yeah.
Obviously, a lot of it comes down to economics: how much money the festival spent on an act such as OutKast and how much more money the festival can make by nabbing acts such as Skrillex, Zedd, Lana Del Rey, and Foster the People. Based on their ability to sell out two weekend’s worth of tickets, we know their current blueprint is working just fine. What is unclear, however, is whether Coachella can — even wants — to get back to the critically-acclaimed lineups that earned the festival its reputation it has today, or whether it will continue to shift more and more mainstream a la Lollapalooza or Austin City Limits. –Alex Young