Rant: Coachella '08 Blows

By Michael Fraiman 2008-01-24 16:45:17
Coachella’s 2008 lineup was just announced: Jack Johnson, Portishead and Roger Waters are headlining, with Love and Rockets, Death Cab For Cutie and the Raconteurs trailing just behind.

It looks like it’s gonna be an especially dry desert this year.

I'm listening to Portishead right now on MySpace, a song called “key bored”, and nothing could be further from the truth. I can smell the LSD all over the field already. As for Jack Johnson, well, maybe once he stops playing the same song over and over again I'll give him a second chance. Death Cab? I don’t know how many 15-year-old kids they want running around the sands of Indio. And I really hope the Raconteurs’ second album is better than their first, because people might start to get bored after they play “Steady As She Goes”.

If this rant seems abrasive, maybe even rash, it’s obviously out of my own personal disappointment. You don’t need to be Freud to figure out that psychological mousetrap—past years of Rage Against the Machine, the Mars Volta, Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are apparently long gone. Even the old standards—!!!, LCD Soundsystem or the Roots, who love touring and making festivals worth going to—are nowhere in sight. So, yes, part of this is a personal vendetta. But part of it isn’t.

If it were just me, then the Coachella forums wouldn’t be riddled with threads titled “Portishead??? WTF”, “WORST LINE-UP EVER!!!!” and “Fuck You Jack Johnson”. Granted, their maturity may be questionable, but the point is that I’m not the only one finding it hard to relate to the excessively eclectic lineup. There are good bands performing, undoubtedly; maybe about a dozen or so on my own personal list. The lineup is not dismal; it's just sub-par. There’s no cohesion.

You may argue that that’s the point. Coachella is indie—too indie for most. In fact, it’s so indie that it’s in a desert in the middle of nowhere during university exams. But if that’s the point, I’d say that it’s a pretty stupid point. Just because Coachella appeals to elitist underground trip-hoppers doesn’t mean that it can’t have generally well-renowned artists. A Rage Against the Machine fan would go to Coachella and discover an awesome DJ by pure chance. A Jack Johnson fan will go to Coachella and discover a hell of a lot of artists that don’t sound like Jack Johnson. Big festivals need big, broad appeal, like the White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Daft Punk or Pearl Jam. All three of the big fests last year had fantastic lineups—what happened?

I will be no means attempt to predict the future, as I’m sure the Coach organizers expected this backlash of forum members and disgruntled amateur music critics, and will do their darnedest to put on a good show, and next year will be better. But as far as the present is concerned, I’m gonna hold off until Bonnaroo’s announced and hope to God that John Mayer doesn’t headline.
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