Coachella 2015 makes space for rockers and ravers this year

Seth Troxler will add Detroit techno bounce to sounds from Jack Master, Skream, Eats Everything.
Seth Troxler will add Detroit techno bounce to sounds from Jack Master, Skream, Eats Everything.
(Leandro Quintero)

At this year’s Coachella, it’s glow sticks down, lighters up.

In the festival’s 2015 lineup announcement, the great beer-crushing classic rock act AC/DC, jazz-jamming curmudgeons Steely Dan and the sad-rap seducer Drake are among the headliners. It’s a marked contrast with last year, when dance acts like Calvin Harris and Disclosure overshadowed seen-'em-before headliners like Arcade Fire and Muse, and the conversation turned to whether or not Coachella was now in the rave business more than the mainstream festival market.

Given the rowdy charisma of this year’s rock and R&B headliners — and a relatively predictable EDM bill with David Guetta, Kaskade and Alesso atop the dance card — that doesn’t seem as likely in 2015. There are notable attractions behind the decks — a new supergroup from Seth Troxler, Jack Master, Skream and Eats Everything; Kaytranada’s after-hours mood music; and the Norwegian disco savant Todd Terje with a live group, the Olsens.

But more than anything, the coupling of this year’s classic-rock contrarians with a rangy dance lineup underlines the singular motivation at Coachella in 2015. For those about to party, Coachella salutes you.


A unifying force like Drake can probably bring all these disparate crowds together (and who among us is truly above pounding a Heineken at the finger-tapping guitar intro to “Thunderstruck?”). But it’s worth noting that dance music at its formation was intended as a direct rebuttal to the caveman classic rock of AC/DC. Go back to the ‘70s and tell gay downtown disco fans and Dodge Challenger-driving rockers that they’ll be sharing lines for margaritas at music festivals in 2015, and they’d likely both seriously question your sanity.

Way beyond the conversation about what each top headliner “means” for pop culture, there’s a whole universe of the festival’s fans that comes for a pure escapist romp, usually fueled by EDM. They buy tickets before lineups are announced and weave between the Sahara Tent and the new Yuma Tent for almost the whole weekend, checking out headliners as it suits their needs to keep a buzz going.

That’s not to say that these worlds can never intersect. There probably are plenty of Coachellans for whom the apocalyptic noise of Swans, the Detroit techno bounce of Seth Troxler and the smooth-jazz provocations of Steely Dan all share “S"-section space on a vinyl shelf.

But is it really possible that Hozier’s moon-eyed Irish blues and Berghain’s resident body-mover Ben Klock share an audience at Coachella? Maybe, but not out of any super-progressive impulse from a taste standpoint by its bookers or fans. Anyone who took a walk between Lorde, Pharrell and Foster the People last year knows that hands-up pop hits are Coachella’s lifeblood, and the four-four kicks from the dance tents are what keep it pumping.

At a festival like Coachella, the ‘90s-revival techno and house thumps of Danny Tenaglia, DJ Harvey and Carl Craig serve the same function as Drake’s “Headlines,” DJ Snake’s “Turn Down for What” and AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” (or heck, even Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years”). It’s all fuel for getting down, and anything with a hint of familiarity or high energy will do.

This isn’t a shocking revelation about music festivals — it’s their fundamental purpose, after all.

But it’s interesting to see how in 2015 the pleasure principle at Coachella is so all-consuming that it’s able to absorb the most deliciously knuckle-dragging rock alongside the most avant-garde techno. Why choose between glow sticks and cigarette lighters? You can hold up either in one hand and still have room for a drink in the other.