By Scott T. Sterling
With the release of this year’s Coachella lineup, the internet, again, ignited with a tidal wave of shock and outrage. Online pundits raged with indignation, primarily directed at two of the three headliners, AC/DC and Drake, as well as ’70s jazz-fusion stalwarts, Steely Dan.
Despite the bill being packed with the cream of 2014’s critical darlings (fka twigs, St. Vincent, Run The Jewels, War on Drugs, Azealia Banks, Mac Demarco and Flying Lotus all released albums that populated countless year-end lists), the presence of OG hard rock heroes AC/DC and arguably the world’s most popular rapper, Drake, was taken by many as a direct affront.
It wasn’t just the digital hoi polloi questioning the bookings. The L.A. Times pondered how AC/DC fit into the Coachella landscape (“the band’s brand of beer-and-pool music is one that Coachella once seemed to rebel against”), while British newspaper The Guardian wondered if Steely Dan and AC/DC’s presence means that the festival has “gone dadrock.”
Given the intense swirl of debate over this year’s Coachella bill, the real question is: why does everyone care so much?
America is over-saturated with music festivals. It’s a bubble. From the big tent-pole events like Chicago’s Lollapalooza and New York’s Governor’s Ball to more niche-based shows such as Detroit’s dance music festival Movement to the Austin Psych Fest, there is no shortage of multi-day music fests to fit a wide range of tastes and price points.
None of those other events, however, deal with the intense scrutiny that Coachella seems to endure on an annual basis. While Drake’s headlining status at Coachella is still being debated, his presence as a headliner for this year’s Governor’s Ball has raised nary an eyebrow.
Coachella has achieved an almost mythical status that seems impossible to attain, yet every year the festival sells in excess of 95,000 tickets (this year GA passes cost $375 plus fees) over not just one but two weekends, most before the lineup is even announced.
Over the past 15 years, show promoter Goldenvoice has built Coachella into America’s premier and most scrutinized music festival over a variety of fronts. As such, Coachella is held to a higher (if murky) standard. Pundits have come to expect something earth-shattering with the annual lineup announcement (fans still pine for Radiohead and Daft Punk to return), and anything perceived as “less” is considered a major disappointment.
So how did we get here?