For Brit-pop fans, Thursday night’s Coachella announcement was like a birthday, Christmas, Hannukah and an unexpected inheritance check all arriving at once. Devotees of the dance-leaning Sahara Tent, however, might be taken aback by the light bill of major EDM superstars, or even rising newbies who haven’t played L.A. in the last six months, on the bill this year.
One has to scroll down to the third line of any given day before a proper dance act is listed (some electro-leaning bands like The Postal Service and New Order have higher billing). In more recent years, EDM acts like Swedish House Mafia and Tiesto have closed out nights on the main stage and drew more fans than the ostensible headliners.
But as festivals like EDC and HARD have edged onto Coachella’s well-manicured turf in the dance space, this year the festival is clearly prioritizing rock.
There are scene stalwarts like Moby (whom we have alliegences to, for our own reasons), Paul Oakenfold and Richie Hawtin, and the big debut of the new Skrillex/Boys Noise project Dog Blood. Possibly the most exciting set is from the new Hudson Mohwake trap project TNGHT, whose snare-heavy sound has set the tone for most hip-hop and pulled a big dance crossover crowd.
But L.A. EDM fans might be surprised by how familiar a lot of the dance card is. Pretty Lights headlined the Shrine in September; Infected Mushroom did Avalon in December; Bassnectar and Eric Prydz did the Paladium in October and July; Knife Party, Major Lazer, Tommy Trash, Dillon Francis, Birdy Nam Nam, Kill the Noise and Maya Jane Coles all played various HARD events in summer and fall. Simian Mobile Disco and The Faint were at FYF. And those brave sailors aboard the S.S. Coachella caught Hot Chip as recently as Chrismas break.
That’s not even discussing the artistic merits of the acts. We’d be more than happy to catch Maya Jane Coles in the pristine desert setting even if we watched her in Chinatown just a few months ago. But while we will concede that Knife Party and Bassnectar have major audiences, we will not concede that they stir our blood as some of Coachella’s main dance acts.
Granted, given the swell of regular dance shows and fests throughout the year, it’s harder and harder to book major DJs that somehow missed the L.A. market on a recent touring cycle. And obviously, Coachella is its own animal - repeat viewings can get a pass because of the beauty and sensuality of the desert setting.
But after a couple years where the story in festvals was all-EDM, all the time, this year’s Coachella looks to have de-escalated the arms race a bit.