It's coming. The long-speculated Coachella lineup is traditionally revealed in mid-to-late January. Since 2008, with a close ear to the ground, I've concocted posters reflecting my informed predictions of the festival's list of performers each year, and there's a real science to formulating a Coachella lineup: you have your headliners, the bigger and smaller of the undercard acts, exciting and unexpected "left-field" artists, the long-held Coachella tradition of band reunions, Sahara Tent/electronic acts, indie "buzz" bands, mainstream up-and-comers, and more. It's a challenge to strike the right balance of everything, but here's why I think my 2011 predictions poster reflects more or less what we'll all be seeing this April.
The White Stripes
The White Stripes disappeared from the touring circuit four years ago after drummer Meg White was diagnosed with acute anxiety disorder and was no longer able to perform. Since then, Jack White has said they've been working on new music and Meg has recovered—fans have been waiting impatiently for their return to the stage, and Coachella is the perfect platform for the band to launch back into live shows. [Photo via]
The Arcade Fire are the obvious headlining choice for 2011. The band has a history with Coachella, having played two legendary performances in 2005 and 2007, and it would make every bit of sense to have them run through on their planned victory lap Spring tour at the top of the bill.
Coachella's history with hip-hop performers coupled with two hip-hop headliners last year (Jay-Z and Gorillaz) makes Mr. West a perfect pick to balance out the other rock and roll headliners, and rounds out the festival's mission to avoid repeat ones.
In addition to my picks, names that have been getting the most buzz for potential headliners include Kings of Leon, Coldplay, Beastie Boys, Daft Punk, and a few birds have even been tweeting about Lou Reed getting an old band of his back together.
There's a lot of straightforward rock and roll this year. Critically-acclaimed bands such as Interpol, The National, and The Black Keys will pull in fans and put on great shows.
Coachella always has a few time-established "Dino-chella" acts, and Neil Young is my highest-profile guess for this year. The Strokes and Duran Duran both have new music coming this year. [Photo via]
Caifanes are like The Rolling Stones of Latin America, and are reuniting this year after fourteen years apart. After announcing the 2008 lineup live from Mexico and working to tie the festival in more with the Mexican community just south of Indio, this is the festival's biggest Spanish-singing act yet.
Renunions, Buzz Bands, "Left-Field" Acts, and Indie-Alternative Institutions
The larger undercard runs the gamut of reunions (The Pogues, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Dismemberment Plan), high-profile electronic acts (Justice, Crystal Castles, Soulwax, the Bloody Beetroots, Swedish House Mafia), buzz bands (Fleet Foxes, Foals, Cut Copy, Janelle Monáe, Empire of the Sun), "left-field" acts (Lauryn Hill, Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum), and indie/alternative institutions (Broken Social Scene, Animal Collective, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, Joanna Newsom). [Photo via]
Predicting this level of performer is generally the easiest, because it comes down to album release dates and band activity. For example, Lauryn Hill booked a series of shows in New York City for this January and February, and has a recent history of one-off festival performances. Cut Copy and Bright Eyes are among the many bands releasing albums around the time of the festival.
As the text gets smaller, the bands and artists become infinitely more difficult to predict, because there are much larger pools of talent to choose from, but some names remain more likely than others. Mew, Bad Lieutenant, The Cribs, and Gary Numan were among acts booked for the 2010 festival that could not make it because of the volcano in Iceland preventing transatlantic travel. Expect to see at least a few of those last-minute canceled performances at this year's festival.
Album releases are also indicative of tours at this level, so bands such as White Lies, Cloud Nothings, Rye Rye, and Hercules And Love Affair go up in likelihood. Then of course are the buzz bands: Zola Jesus, How To Dress Well, Twin Shadow, Memoryhouse, Wild Nothing, and Avi Buffalo are a portion of bands currently skyrocketing in popularity. The smaller names may not be the draw for most festivalgoers, but a few of them will find huge popularity in years to come. After all, The Killers were on the last line of Coachella's 2004 lineup, and the Black Eyed Peas barely made the second-last line in 2003. [Photo via]
Henry Conklin follows all things Coachella and has been quoted in publications like the Los Angeles Times for his expertise and insight on the annual festival. See his website henrycoachella.com and follow him at @henrycoachella.