Wednesday, January 20, 2010
With Jay-Z, Muse, and Gorillaz topping the bill, the 2010 edition of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival marks a departure from the recent model of a stadium-filling legend like Madonna, Prince, Roger Waters, or Paul McCartney on the bill to its youth-oriented roots. After having already headlined the largest festivals in Europe, Muse comes as a new and welcome addition to the short list of acts from the past decade that can actually headline a festival. Does anyone still question if Jay-Z, the biggest hip hop artist in the world, could or should headline a rock festival after he already silenced naysayers with his controversial headlining set at Glastonbury? Most surprising is Gorillaz, for their last tour consisted of multiple nights in New York and London, but nowhere else. Considering the probable logistical nightmare of securing a wide variety of special guests to join Damon Albarn and company on-stage, this just might be the only Gorillaz performance in the US this year. In any case, all eyes will be on Gorillaz on Sunday night, and nobody knows what to really expect.
The mid-tier of acts for the 2010 lineup appears to be larger and more diverse than ever. Recent breakthrough acts like LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, MGMT, Grizzly Bear, and She & Him are all playing, as are supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, Jack White's latest project The Dead Weather, and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's solo outing. If anyone can get away with touring a solo album four years after its release and demanding to be billed with four question marks attached to his name, it's Thom Yorke. Joining them are less contemporary surprises including disco legend Grace Jones in a rare performance, Echo & the Bunnymen, Devo, and Gary Numan.
If any festival is not about the headliners, it is Coachella, and this is more true than ever in 2010. Included in the lineup are several reunions and rare acts that are touring for the first time in years, or ever. The unfathomably-influential indie rock band Pavement and 2 Tone ska legends The Specials will be doing their first American reunion shows at Coachella, as will the recently reunited Faith No More, Public Image Limited, and Orbital. Most surprising is the presence of Sly and the Family Stone on the lineup. The genre-defining funk/soul legends are the kind of completely out-of-left-field surprise Goldenvoice is renowned for making happen and are the first Woodstock veterans to ever appear at Coachella.
Additionally, the Empire Polo Club will be host to the only 2010 performance of Fever Ray, the solo project of Swedish electronic duo The Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson. Like The Knife, Fever Ray is another act that has done only a literal handful of performances in America, and getting her to come back for one last show is a major coup. Coachella also will feature the first festival performance from Charlotte Gainsbourg, as part of the first ever tour from the French actress and singer. Considering Gainsbourg's busy schedule with films, it would be unwise to expect another tour anytime soon, as she did not tour for her 2006 release 5:55, a collaboration with Air, Jarvis Cocker, Neil Hannon, and Nigel Godrich. Considering how Beck co-wrote and produced Gainsbourg's IRM and lives in Los Angeles, will he join her band on-stage? Other inspired bookings include electro dj supergroup Club 75, Sigur Rós frontman Jonsi, Richie Hawtin's Plastikman alias, and most randomly, DJ Lance Rock of Nickelodeon's Yo Gabba Gabba, a favorite among children and stoned adults.
This year's edition of Coachella offers top-notch talent from top to bottom and not only bring something for every type of music fan but also gives the opportunity to see acts that cannot be seen elsewhere. Will the absence of a boomer headliner affect attendance? How in the world will the set times allow everyone to see all those rare and unique acts, especially on Sunday? Can the city of Indio please allow the festival to run all night? Instead of attempting to predict the future, it is better to simply have faith in the most forward-thinking major festival in the US.
Stay tuned for future posts on which acts in the small print are not to missed and why.