First impressions of Coachella 2015: Disconnects, surprises and more

It's not a particularly jaw-dropping lineup on first glance, but there's enough to justify a Coachella ticket

With Tuesday's announcement that AC/DC, Drake and Jack White are headlining the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, the annual two-weekend gathering in the desert offers more than enough cultural dissonance to go around.

Guitar-bangers versus a rapper. Canada meets Australia meets America. "Worst Behavior" meets "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" meets "Trash Tongue Talker." 

Long considered the kickoff to the year's festival circuit, the 2015 Coachella roster is particularly rife with both genre and generational confusion, and prompts any number of questions. 

Specifically, how many hardcore fans of AC/DC thought to buy tickets when presale passes quickly sold out back in May? How many would be willing to endure a long weekend in the sun that's not the Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally? Do AC/DC fans know who Drake is? Do Drake fans know who Angus Young is, and why he dresses in a schoolboy's uniform despite being 59 years old? Are AC/DC fans even familiar with the White Stripes, let alone Jack White? 

Coachella made its name by connecting inventive rock, rap and dance music under the same banner -- in the process confirming and helping steer pop music's direction. But this year, more than most, genre distinctions and divides seem more apparent.

Where once Coachella bore the imprimatur of few excellent curators, 2015's grouping seems more curated-by-committee. Overall, it's not a particularly jaw-dropping lineup on first glance, but any fan can find enough to justify the ticket cost (starting at $375, with more three-day passes coming available at noon Wednesday).

Throughout the lineup, the cognitive (and artistic) dissonance is apparent. With a few notable exceptions -- John Talabot, Claude Van Stroke, J.E.S. & E., Danny Tenaglia (!) -- the EDM roster is notably thin this year, with a host of commercial-leaning thumpers including Kaskade, Axwell/Ingrosso and David Guetta among those leading the charge. It feels as if the fest has conceded the race for exciting dance music headliners to the Electric Daisy Carnival.

Yet the hip hop roster is hard, aggressive and notably weird. Other than the platinum selling Drake, the genre is represented by a host of independent spirits less interested in standard rap tropes than pushing at the edges: Tyler the Creator, Run the Jewels, Lil B, Azealia Banks, Action Bronson and the Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon and Ghostface Killa. It's an inspired selection.

The rock choices are deep, and constitute a big chunk of the roster. Jazz rock vets Steely Dan alongside instrumental dance-rock band Ratatat; pummel-rock band Swans alongside beguiling hypno-rockers the War on Drugs; upstart punkers Parquet Courts and Cloud Nothings on a bill with reunited San Diego spazz-rockers Drive Like Jehu and influential shoegaze band Ride.

Those looking for left-of-center commercial pop and rock will find joy in the inclusion of Florence + the Machine, breakout soul-rock singer Hozier, the remarkable vocalist/producer FKA Twigs, Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist St. Vincent, Australian soft-rock riser Vance Joy and the incendiary post-punk band Interpol.

Friday looks particularly strong: AC/DC, Tame Impala, Flying Lotus, Alabama Shakes, Ab-Soul and Jon Hopkins confirm the fest's desire for brilliant expansiveness. But Sunday looks particularly weak: bland EDM producer Kaskade, the British over-singer Florence Welch and the past-his-prime commercial dance of David Guetta. Other than Drake and St. Vincent, it's tough to find enthusiasm for much of the presumed after-sunset roster.

But let's leave some room to hedge here. After all, we've got three months to explore the lineup and its many crannies. By then, the dancecard will likely be filled and the first impressions supplanted by the usual pre-fest giddiness. 

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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