Dissonant groans among music fans shriek toward a fever pitch annually, in the earliest days of the year grâce à the unveiling of Coachella’s polarizing line up. Lately though, the complaints have taken on somewhat of a theme; the festivals distance from the “Rock ’N Roll” acts that brought the desert event to prominence from the dribble.
In 1999, Coachella’s inaugural year, drawing cards included guitar-wielding, amplifier-reliant acts including Beck, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, and Morrissey. Even the sounds of Electro-leaning headliners The Chemical Brothers and Moby vibrated largely over strings and traditional trap set drums. Not to mention acts like Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminal on top of bill-burgeoning outfits like At the Drive-In and Modest Mouse.
I get that line ups have to change & evolve to keep up with the temperature of music, so I’ll never hate on a festival, but I agree, it’s definitely turning a blind eye to rock bands. However, I loooooove the desert and it always delivers magic in some form. #Coachella
— NicAlvarez (@NicoleFAlvarez) January 3, 2018
This year, fans were up in arms regarding the lineup that seemingly favors Trap while throwing out the trap set. Migos, Cardi B, and Post Malone see their names in larger scale than the majority of acts on this year’s poster creating backlash that would lead an outsider to believe this year’s version of the festival was a bastardized one.
Another look at the bill draws eyes to the headliner who Polo Ground purists thought they dodged last year when she backed while pregnant with twins. When Coachella launched a year before Y2K, 19-year-old Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child had just dropped their sophomore album The Writing’s on the Wall and were gearing up to support TLC on tour. To have her headline nearly twenty years could only signal a paradigm shift supporting claims that Rock ’N Roll and Coachella couldn’t not have grown further apart.
But is the lack of “real music” at this year’s events synonymous with a diminishing Rock ’N Roll presence?
What true Rock fan could write off legendary names like David Byrne and A Perfect Circle, acts that kicked off movements within the sphere of the genre that dominated music for a large chunk of the last century.
Torch-carrying acts on this year’s bill ensure Rock ’N Roll will jam into the next decade. Portugal. the Man poised themselves to represent the genre on a mainstream level when, more than a decade after their debut, they dropped their biggest smash yet, “Feel It Still”. The track brought them a Grammy, over four million worldwide sales, and ad placements on a bevy of platforms.
In addition to commercial vitality, purists can count on the The War on Drugs and Fleet Foxes to produce a more orthodox festival vibe when they take the stage with their folky, indie ethos in front of that epic, signature dusk backdrop featured on this year’s poster. Surely, this will pacify those who have lashed out at the talent buyers, although both parties likely sneer at each other with accusations of myopia.
Wander down to the smaller names contributing to his year’s folklore and find King Krule, the 24-year-old London native with a timbre that is more Damon Albarn than anything else haters can point to in hopes of discrediting the musicianship of this latest lineup. Also to be found are 2013 performers, The Neighbourhood and California punks FIDLAR.
And that legacy Rock act manifesting itself as AC/DC, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Guns N’ Roses in the past? It’s Eminem.
That zany White kid from the middle of America who turned the country on its head with an edge Black Sabbath could only dream about. His anti-ness recaptured the defiant energy delivered by virtually only Rockers up to his arrival. Not to mention his latest oeuvre, Revival, brings his total sampling of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ anthemic smash “I Love Rock ’N Roll” to somewhere around 349. Was it better when Drake headlined in 2015? How about Jay-Z’s (who dealt with similar outrage ahead of his 2008 Glastonbury performance) headline five years before that? Kanye West? The Tupac hologram?
The heart and soul of Rock rages in a place that is hardly being considered today; Rap music. Take for instance Post Malone, the Hip-Hop Hillbilly, who can play guitar and wasted no time playing getting into covers of Fleetwood Mac on his earliest releases. Late last year, the tatted, mullet-sporting, rhinestone boot-wearing crooner notched his first number one in the name of the badass genre with the song “rockstar”. His Rock-like, lack of fucks stopped him short of titling it properly. Recently, he revealed his next album Beerbongs & Bentleys would feature Tommy Lee.
On Saturday, attendees can lay their eyes on the Migos, the familial Atlanta trio, who hijacked several performances at last year’s fest after not being scheduled for any. Their 2016 track “Bad and Boujee” shot them into orbit and made it harder to dispute the claim as this generation’s Beatles, as they rapped on tracks before Donald Glover handed down the title in their most important co-sign to date. In true Rockstar fashion, the Migos propelled past the music becoming stalwarts of lingo, fashion, and pulling the ultimate Rockstar in having the most desired woman by their side.
The three have etched their names in the history books less than five years after breaking out showing no signs of slowing and most importantly, doing it all their way. And if they were to burn out tomorrow, after a historical, game-rattling streak, what would be more Rock ’N Roll than that?
I listen to music. I write about it. I like hot sauce on my chicken.