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Thoughts on the just-announced Coachella 2014 Line Up

January 9, 2014

I’ve never actually been to Coachella, and I have no intention of going out to Indio this April either (after all, I’m the guy who wrote this) but I enjoy looking over the lineup every year as I feel that it is a cultural signpost of where things stand in the music world. I find the list of performers itself interesting – a Coachella lineup is like a time-stamp of what music was like in a given year – but I also like to think about the artist hierarchy that the Coachella format indelibly stamps on its performers. For example, I found it interesting last year that the organizers had Blur as a headliner (day 1) and New Order as a line 2 band (day 2). I would have had those reversed. Similarly, I was a bit surprised that Phoenix got a headlining slot (day 2) over Vampire Weekend (line 2, day 3). Obviously the slots aren’t a measure of the quality of the bands – it’s all a popularity contest – but I still like looking up the bands I like and considering where they sit in the lunchroom. Are they at the head of the cool table, or off to the side with the freaks and geeks? The other thing I sometimes think about is which bands I’d see if I were actually attending the festival.  So, with the release of the Coachella 2014 lineup, here are my choices on a line by line basis for which bands I’d most want to see, and some observations about the state of music hierarchy. Luckily, we get to start off with the band I can’t believe is the headlining act for Coachella Day 1:

Line 1: OutKast. It’s a sign of the times that a relatively brief (six year) hiatus by a hip-hop duo is enough to build momentum for a headlining slot at Coachella. The festival tweeted out the lineup with the tagline “Share it like a polaroid picture!” Ugh.

Line 2: The Replacements. This is a reunion worth getting excited about. As far as I’m concerned Paul Westerberg and co. should be headlining Day 1. In my world they would be, as after a Replacements set there is no way I’d stick around and come down off that high for OutKast.

Line 3: HAIM. I don’t love this group of sisters the way others do – they feel like a flavor-of-the-month band to me – so I wouldn’t make the effort to see them headline a NYC club, but that’s what festivals are for right? To sample a group in an effort to see what all the hype is about. In that way, HAIM is a perfect line 3 band.

Line 4: Jagwar Ma. There’s no one I really love here, so I might do a little research before actually settling on one of these bands. Jagwar Ma gets my pre-research vote because they get the most airplay on SiriusXM U.

Line 5: Kate Nash. After the Replacements, the artist I most want to see on Day 1. By far.

Line 6: Dum Dum Girls. Since I’ll have seen them twice in 2014 by the time Coachella rolls around, I would strongly consider skipping them here. The problem is I don’t have any other band to replace them with. On name alone I’m intrigued by the Flatbush Zombies.

Line 7: Wye Oak. Seems like a nice way to start the day.

Day 2:

Line 1: Muse. I like Muse. I think they’d put on a really good festival performance. That said, the fact that they are one of the three headliners is a bad sign either for the state of music or the state of festivals. Muse isn’t a hot band (like our Day 3 headliner) or the reuniting  an immensely popular act (like our Day 1 headliner). They are a good-but-not-great band coming off a somewhat disappointing album that was released over a year ago. Even worse, they’ve been a Coachella headliner once before! Back in 2010, when Muse was scorching hot, they got top billing over up and coming acts like Vampire Weekend, Phoenix and Passion Pit. It’s time the festival promoters made room for the new guard.

Line 2: Skrillex. I’ve never been to an EDM show. This is probably as close as I’ll ever get. Meanwhile, how is it possible that Foster the People gets a line 2 slot while HAIM is in line 3? Isn’t Foster the People also a flavor-of-the-month band, whose month was October 2011?

Line 3: Sleigh Bells. This one was very tough. I’ve seen Sleigh Bells twice recently. I haven’t seen MGMT in several years. But I’ve heard bad things about MGMT’s festival performances and the stranger this band has gotten the less suited I think they are for Coachella. I also considered the Pet Shop Boys and Fatboy Slim.Ultimately I just liked what I saw out of Sleigh Bells so much that I would just want to see them again, outdoors.

Line 4: The Naked and Famous. I don’t like what I’ve heard from their second album, but I loved the first. That’s good enough for line 4.

Line 5: Foxygen. A lot of interesting indie bands here. Washed Out. Bombay Bicycle Club. Solange. Holy Ghost! Of all of these, Foxygen has a sound closest to what I typically like. But I could see picking any of them and having a relaxing good time.

Line 6: Blood Orange. Why? See Jagwar Ma above.

Line 7: Drowners. The only band I’m familiar with on this line is Bear Hands and they don’t quite do it for me. Something about the name Drowners makes me think I’d like these guys. In fact. I’m probably going to check them out right after I publish this post.

Day 3:

Line 1: Arcade Fire. Well they certainly got this right. I can’t think of a band more perfectly suited to headline Coachella Day 3 in 2014. This is a perfect match of band and festival. It’s almost enough to make me want to go out there this year. Almost.

Line 2: Beck. I don’t even know where to start by how outraged I am that Beck is not a headliner. Muse over Beck?? Really?!? If I lived anywhere but the East Coast I’d drop in to Indio just for Sunday to catch Beck and Arcade Fire back to back. I was lucky enough to see Beck perform outdoors at the Prospect Park bandshell this past summer and he put on a virtuoso performance. Plus he will have new music out by then, with his new album due out in February. To put this musical legend on the same line as Lana Del Rey and Mötorhead … ye gods.

Line 3: Anyone but Beady Eye. I don’t really know the other bands (which is an indictment of Coachella since this is only line 3) but I could not possibly have less interest in seeing Liam Gallagher. The other bands here have some pretty cool names: Duck Sauce, the Toy Dolls, Flosstradamus.

Line 4: STRFKR. A perfectly decent band, but the pickings are getting pretty slim by this point. Are they really more popular than lower bands on the totem poll, like Dum Dum Girls or Foxygen? I wouldn’t have thought so.

Line 5: Superchunk. A slap in the face to the ’90s alt-rock band. It’s not the Replacements getting back together, but is Superchunk really held in such low regard? Right now, in 2014, Superchunk is producing much better music than most of their more famous contemporaries – Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Mudhoney, etc. Also, is it possible that there is anyone out there who prefers Beady Eye to Superchunk?

Line 6: Surfer Blood. Another travesty. I’m stunned that this up and coming indie punk band is buried on line 6. I’d rather see Surfer Blood than all but about 5 bands on the 3-day bill.

Line 7: J. Roddy Walston & The Business. I don’t know the music of J. Roddy but I’ve heard good things. So I’m glad that for my last entry I will do what one is supposed to do at a festival – try an artist that I’ve heard only good things about, but never listened to directly.

Alas, I won’t actually be doing that, as in 2014 I will keep my streak alive of having never gone to Coachella. I feel bad about missing the Replacements and the festival-closing sets of Beck and Arcade Fire, but I need a little more firepower than Muse and a little more hipness than OutKast to get me to fly cross-country. Hey ya.

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