LOS ANGLES — Last year the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival used technological trickery to make it look as if Tupac Shakur had been brought back to life. So what do you do for an encore to one of pop music’s biggest magic shows? Coachella organizers have turned to reunited Brit-pop act Blur and one of L.A.’s longest-running rock acts in the Red Hot Chili Peppers to anchor its 2013 festival.
Blur will be joined by reunited countrymates the Stone Roses, rock act the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, legend Lou Reed, French pop band Phoenix and Trent Reznor’s How to Destroy Angels at the top of the bill for the dual Coachella festivals, set for the weekends of April 12 and April 19 in the desert city of Indio, Calif. Other upper-tier artists include Modest Mouse, a double-dose of Nick Cave (performing with Grinderman and the Bad Seeds), Yeasayer and Skrillex project Dog Blood.
Held at the Empire Polo Grounds since its 1999 inception, Coachella has a reputation for presenting a heavily curated lineup that connects the dots among hitmakers, underground artists and those on the comeback trail, all within an unique desert setting that’s increasingly becoming more resort-like, with upscale options to match (at the highest end of the VIP configurations there are $6,500 air-conditioned tents).
The year’s lineup once again features a bundle of veteran artists and beloved cult acts, including the long-awaited return of the Postal Service, the electro-pop act featuring L.A. electronica producer Jimmy Tamborello and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. The Postal Service released one album 10 years ago, but has been largely dormant since.
Other veteran acts looking for a Coachella victory lap include new wave act New Order, alt-act the Violent Femmes, pop-punk band the Descendents and the return of celebrated local hip-hop group Jurassic 5. Also appearing are punk heroes Social Distortion and rap act the Wu-Tang Clan, who are appearing at Coachella in celebration of its 20th anniversary.
For those looking to Coachella as a predictor of future, the lineup is once again rounded out with an assortment of buzz acts. Among the highlights: Wild Belle’s dapper, tech-savvy mix of Island grooves and studio gleam, the bluesy hip-hop of Kids These Days, soul singer Allen Stone and the dreamy electronics of Purity Ring.
The appeal for the industry is simple. “They pay you lots of money, and there’s a large captive audience,” said Laura Ballance, co-founder of North Carolina indie label Merge Records.
Remaining tickets will go on sale Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 10 a.m. via the official Coachella website. The bulk of tickets were sold last May. Those interested in attending the first weekend must also commit to purchasing a shuttle pass. During the May sale, a wristband and a shuttle pass went for $399. Three-day wristbands for the second weekend will start at $349 and VIP options are available for $799 and up.
As in previous years, Goldenvoice will follow its Coachella festival with the country-focused Stagecoach Festival, set for the weekend of April 26. This is the final year of Goldenvoice’s contract with the city of Indio.
Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG Live!, is in the process of seeking a long-term agreement with Indio through 2030, and a decision is expected in February. Residents have through Feb. 11 to express whether they support or oppose the contract extension, which would allow Goldenvoice to stage an additional two festivals in the fall.
The company in 2012 doubled its Coachella crowd by expanding to two weekends, and added a third day to the Stagecoach festival. The aggregate attendance at the desert festivals passed half a million for the first time, reaching 650,000.
The dual Coachellas grossed more than $47 million, according to data from Billboard Boxscore, the highest box office total ever for a festival. The industry trade reported that more than 80,000 passes were sold for the first Coachella weekend in 2012 and about 77,000 were sold for the second.
The festival’s popularity is such that the act of simply announcing the lineup has become an event unto itself. With an audience already committed to attending long before the lineup is revealed, pre-Coachella questions have shifted.
For instance, it’s no longer a mystery as to whether the event will sell out (Coachella has sold out three years running), but rather whom festival-goers will be seeing. It counts as news, for instance, when an artist releases tour dates with a not-so conspicuous hole around the Coachella weekends. Such was the case with the mysteriously moody Bat for Lashes and the finely tuned pop of Grizzly Bear.
Mock Coachella posters have long been an annual ritual — some relatively accurate, and some touting an all “hologram” lineup — and this year the Coachella message boards even birthed a fake news story. This week a hoax article that was said to have originated from this newspaper’s website was posted and picked up by other media outlets.
For weeks prior to the announcement it was rumored Coachella would be among the stops on the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary trek. Speculation began in mid-December when a purported screenshot from the Rolling Stones smartphone app listed Indio among the band’s dates. When the official Coachella Facebook page posted what appeared to be a stone on the Empire Polo Grounds, it was taken as a not-so-subtle hint from promoters that the Glimmer Twins were bound for the Colorado Desert in April.
But it wasn’t to be. Still, Coachella will be relying on overseas artists to carry its fest. The gleaming Parisian pop band Phoenix, fest veterans, will return in a headlining slot anchoring Coachella’s Saturday evenings, and the opening nights will rely on British co-headliners the Stone Roses and Blur.
Coachella will mark the first U.S. performance by Blur since the band reunited for 2009 shows at London’s Hyde Park. Blur leader Damon Albarn has appeared as a Coachella headliner with his other band Gorillaz, but it was Blur that throughout the ‘90s created the kind of genre-blurring catalog that set the stage for the anything-goes, multiday feel of destination events like Coachella, Outside Lands in San Francisco, and Lollapalooza in Chicago.
The Stone Roses will also be making their first U.S. appearance since they reunited.
Coachella is considered the start of the annual summer festival season and has positioned itself as one of the premier music events in the country. But the festival market is a crowded one. This week New York City’s June Governor’s Ball revealed a lineup that includes much Coachella overlap, including Grizzly Bear, the xx, the Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men and Local Natives.
Coachella launched in October 1999 and has been staged in the spring annually since 2001. In 2007, it was joined by Stagecoach.
// Notes from the Road
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