Coachella 2015: AC/DC, Steely Dan, Drake among headliners

#Coachella2015 lineup: AC/DC, Jack White, Drake, Steely Dan, Florence & the Machine, Alt-J, Vic Mensa, more

Coachella has gone classic rock.

No-frills hard rock band AC/DC will anchor the first night of the three-day Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the annual party in the desert city of Indio that’s held over two consecutive weekends each April. The festival, long known for its marriage of dance and independent music, will then put away the devil horns for its second and third nights, as promoters Goldenvoice have tapped bluesy rocker Jack White and earnest rapper Drake as fellow headliners.

Other acts at the top of the bill for the dual Coachella festivals, set for the weekends of April 10-12 and April 17-19, include Steely Dan, Alabama Shakes, Tame Impala, Ride, Florence & the Machine, David Guetta, Belle & Sebastian, the Weeknd, Squarepusher, Alt-J, FKA Twigs, Flying Lotus, Porter Robinson and more.

Remaining tickets for the two weekends will go on sale Wednesday at noon via the official Coachella website.

The bulk of tickets were sold in a presale that began in May. A three-day pass starts at $375, although general admission wristbands are listed as sold out. For both weekends a ticket/shuttle combo is available for $435. A VIP wristband is $899 (VIP parking is $150 and sold separately). 

Regarded as the launch of the summer festival season, Coachella is also its biggest moneymaker. The two Coachella weekends in 2014 brought in a record-breaking $78.3 million, according to data published by Billboard Boxscore. That was a jump from the $67.2 million the festivals tallied in 2013.  

As Coachella has grown in size, its bookings at the top have increasingly leaned mainstream. 

Some of the biggest draws in 2014 were hitmaker Pharrell Williams and idiosyncratic pop artist Lorde. In securing AC/DC, Drake and Jack White, Coachella seems a long way removed from the festival that put underground heroes' names in lights. Consider it lessons learned from placing dance-pop forebears the Stone Roses in a headline role in 2013, a set that was critically lauded but divided festival audiences, to put it mildly.

It's true that Coachella hasn't shied away from classic rock bookings, having secured in the past headliners from the likes of Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, but it's a surprise to see Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG, place a veteran rock act with no discernible ties to experimental or independent music in the leadoff role, especially after a year in which dance artists were clearly the largest draw. There's no denying AC/DC's stable of built-to-last hits, but the band's brand of beer-and-pool music is one that Coachella once seemed to rebel against, as the fest's reputation was built on of-the-moment acts and cult stars.

Still, there's no shortage of challenging acts on this year's bill, at least for those willing to arrive at festival grounds long before sundown. Chicago rapper Vic Mensa, scruffy rock band Parquet Courts and Danish should-be dance star MØ are among just a few of the lesser known highlights.

Coachella last year was the first under Goldenvoice's recently inked long-term deal with Indio, one that will run through 2030 and last year allowed Goldenvoice to raise Coachella’s maximum attendance. About 96,000 people were estimated to attend in 2014. Attendance is capped at 99,000.

Held at the Empire Polo Grounds since its 1999 inception, Coachella is known for presenting a heavily curated lineup that connects the dots among hitmakers, underground artists and those on the comeback trail, all within a desert setting that’s increasingly becoming more resort-like, with upscale options to match (on the high end of the VIP configurations is a $7,000 air-conditioned tent). 

In 2012 the festival responded to years of sellout attendance by doubling capacity, showcasing the same musical lineup on back-to-back weekends. Goldenvoice introduced Stagecoach in 2008, hosting such country all-stars as Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift, and expanded that festival from two days to three in 2012.

Last year Coachella hosted a reunited OutKast, a reunited Replacements and orchestral indie rockers the Arcade Fire.

Follow me @ToddMartens.

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