The Good: The 2007 edition of Coachella featured a bunch of tiny-font gems: Brother Ali, The Avett Brothers, and Lupe Fiasco, to name a few. The headliners are all great, and, in fact, Saturday’s reimagined top three acts – LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, and Tiësto – could easily serve as three headliners for a festival today (and you’d have Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Black Keys to spare). Similarly, the Friday trio of Amy Winehouse, Arctic Monkeys, and David Guetta could also carry a festival in 2016. Coachella also had some great mid-tier picks, like Against Me!, Ratatat, and of Montreal.
The Bad: Sunday featured the most glaring inclusion of artists that would not make the cut for second-row billing on a festival lineup today: Manu Chao, Air, Happy Mondays, and Paul Van Dyk.
Notes on the Original: When Coachella rolled around, David Guetta had never charted in the US. The now-famous DJ was years removed from major singles like “Sexy Bitch” (2009) and “Titanium” (2011). His production career took off later down the road with the likes of The Black Eyed Peas’ The E.N.D. (2009) and Rihanna’s Unapologetic (2012). Despite being billed in the last row on the day of performance, Amy Winehouse already had released Back to Black the previous fall, and the record was destined to go platinum.
The Good: Whoa, look at that weird poster. The festival looks pretty nuts with everything lumped together, and about four more lines of top-tier talent. Particularly cool are the now legendary appearances from Prince, Roger Waters, Portishead, and Aphex Twin, as well as a number of then-rising acts that have proven to grow massive, like Vampire Weekend, St. Vincent, Calvin Harris, and The National.
The Bad: Coachella bought a little hard into indie rock in 2008, with acts like I’m From Barcelona, Midnight Juggernauts, and Black Kids all appearing like little time capsules of our collective questionable taste. Also the revised lineup hides one of the worst things to ever happen on the main stage on a Coachella night: Jack Johnson.
Notes on the Original: Portishead was initially tapped to headline this Coachella but got bumped down with the late add of the Purple One. This was also the year that Sean Penn gave his motivational speech to have people get on a bus and go to New Orleans with him. A number of acts were dropped from the poster, including Madness, The Horrors, Turbonegro, and The Streets, with most getting booked the next year.
The Good: Close to a knockout, 2012’s lineup is notable for its diversity and foresight. Reunion performances by Pulp, Refused, and At the Drive-In stand out from the crowd, but there are plenty of gems to unearth in the rest of the lineup, as well. This year featured the likes of Frank Ocean, Laura Marling, Gary Clark Jr., and St. Vincent before any of the above broke out as proper stars. As for the headliners, it’s hard to argue with Radiohead and the one-two punch of Dre and Snoop.
The Bad: That other headliner. Look, there’s nothing wrong with The Black Keys, but it’s kind of crazy how hyped they were for a while back there. A lineup that already had so much going for it deserved a better top dawg.
Notes on the Original: Coachella had already hit its stride a few years prior to 2012, but this lineup represents the festival at or near the peak of its powers. Say what you will about the headliners, but each represents a very different fan base and thus a new entry point for fans who might not have considered attending previously. Not surprisingly, 2012 marks the year Coachella expanded to two separately ticketed weekends with identical lineups.
The Good: Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than this at the top of lineups. With three acts on each day that could be legitimate headliners, the third line is made up of strong amphitheater-level acts. From there you would still see rare performances from the likes of Stereolab, Le Tigre, Thursday, and Sparta. If this Coachella happened today, people would lose their shit.
The Bad: The bottom three lines get really obscure, again speaking more to the length of time between 2004 and present day, rather than poor booking on Coachella’s part.
Notes on the Original: Wilco actually ended up not performing, while Jimmy Eat World skipped and was dropped from the poster. The Killers managed the complete turn from last line to eventual headliner, truly a testament to how far the band came in a short amount of time. Both them and LCD Soundsystem played in the Gobi tent, while the Main stage on Sunday went Muse->Thursday->Belle & Sebastian->Air->The Flaming Lips->The Cure. Pretty great even without our shuffling.