Ignored 7: The ascendants


Bold Statement: Headlining the Coachella Festival has become arguably the single greatest means of confirming your superstar status in the modern musical climate.

The official Coachella Festival “Rumors/Gossip/Wish List” forum is a great website to visit if you like to talk about posters on the Internet. With the 2013 version of the festival now in the books, the forum is already in crap-talking overload, speculating about 2014 and beyond.

Its patrons display seriously obsessiveness tendencies and much of this discussion revolves around the iconic Coachella poster. Specifically, there is much talk about where certain bands reside on the poster in terms of position and most importantly, in terms of font-sized. Basically if you get a thick, dense font goin’, you’ve made it!!

It’s a unique counterweight to an event that has veered widely from being about music in recent years and into becoming an exercise in  fashion, branding and other things.

…. and yet, Dead Can Dance still gets booked.

Here is a sampling of the poster fervour (P.F.) you can find on this website:
icedKeg: Low billing [for Purity Ring] on the poster doesn’t necessarily mean a daytime spot.
Bumblebee: Some versions of the poster have Blur first and some have Stone Roses. Wonder if they will swap final spot between weekends.
HeavensWeep: What the [heck] is Kurt [Vile] doing so low on the poster in such teeny-weeny font size?
jayrizzo: Stoked to see [Wild Belle] on poster!

It’s an interesting and slightly nerdy subculture that seems more akin to fantasy baseball (which is awesome BTW) than musical fandom since it’s all about predicting and positioning and the like. However, in 2013, headlining the Coachella festival (or getting big-ass poster font, in the forum’s pig latin) is a great indicator that you have hit a new strata of stardom as an artist. In year’s past, being on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine or appearing on Saturday Night Live was perhaps this indicator. No longer. Or not so much.

This is a complete list of outfits that have headlined Coachella (multiple time headliners shown in brackets):
– Beastie Boys
– Beck
– Bjork (2)
– Black Keys
– Blur
– Coldplay
– Depeche Mode
– Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg
– Gorillaz
– Jack Johnson
– Jane’s Addiction
– Jay-Z
– Kanye West
– Kings of Leon
– Muse
– Nine Inch Nails
– Oasis
– Paul McCartney
– Phoenix
– Prince
– Radiohead (2)
– Rage Against the Machine
– Red Hot Chili Peppers (3)
– Roger Waters
– Stone Roses
– The Arcade Fire
– The Cure (2)
– The Killers
– Tool (2)

In most cases, these headliners made sense from a dollars and draw perspective. However, especially in the last five years and perhaps in an effort to avoid repeat headliners, organizers have shown a willingness to push former small font-sters into headliner status and thusly, cement them as something in the hearts and minds of…. well, some random people on the Internet.

Phoenix in 2013 fit the bill and no doubt inspired a lot of “I had no idea they were THAT popular” discussions. You could also point to the Black Keys in 2012, Kings of Leon and the Arcade Fire in 2011, Muse in 2010 and Jack Johnson in 2008 as artists who made the leap.

I refer to these outfits as the ascendants.

Now, getting back to our friends in “Rumors/Gossip/Wish List” land, speculation on future ascendants is always rampant. Organizers seem willing to roll the dice on at least one fresh headliner each year. So based on the sample size of 2008-2013, we should continue to see a fresh yield of ascendants for the remainder of this decade.

Here is some speculation on 10 former Coachella small font-sters who could make the leap by 2019.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Purely from a draw perspective, both the Stone Roses and Blur headlining over the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Day One 2013 was a bit of a head scratcher (which says nothing of quality since all three are quite fantastic). While they’re not quite at stadium status, aesthetically then YYYs seem like a bit of a bullseye for the Coachella crowd: visually interesting, immediate, based in NYC, etc. Still, they were plopped in a “big not that big” font size for 2013. Assumedly, they’ll be shucking their 5th full-length by the next go-round of consideration (assuming they don’t implode) so there is still time for a full ascension, one would think.

Sigur Ros: The Icelandic weirdos provide the kind of sweeping grandiose platitudes that hipsters and (really) everybody else loves and again, a wonder that Phoenix headlined over them already during Day Two 2013.

Mumford and Sons: Liam Gallagher’s thoughts aside, very surprising that these guys didn’t headline at one of the nights at Coachella 2013. Probably was because they were already dabbed to headline a pantload of other festivals across the globe in the coming months. I’m not sure that stylistically, these guys will have staying power as stadium fillers but anything is possible, I guess.

Deadmau5: He already headlined Lollapalooza so a Coachella headlining slot doesn’t seem farfetched at all. Could be a matter of whether Daft Punk beats him to the punch. He did kinda sorta morph their gimmick so either way…

Tiësto: One of those guys I know nothing about besides the fact he’s massively popular and plays large rooms. And stuff like this happens when he plays, which gets bigger reactions than the Stone Roses apparently.

Frank Ocean: What would Frank do? A bit of a contradiction because commercially and critically, Frank would seem to be on a fast track to headliner status. But he doesn’t seem too interested in playing live at the best of times so big picture, it’s hard to see him at this point developing those large font chops.

Florence + the Machine: Florence Welch is beloved and splashy. This much we know. Considering Coachella’s heavy fashion slant in recent years, the promise of MULTIPLE costume changes (!!!) could be an admission of sorts from organizers. The music would be completely fine as well.

Justice: See the pattern emerge: if there is not a bon afide “traditional” headliner available (i.e. guitars), just etch out a big name electronic act and create a veritable… super rave! The last Justice album was kinda loopy (i.e. sounded like Rush at times) but also kinda underrated in my opinion. The next one is shaping up to be a fork-in-the-road moment but these guys seem engaged enough to pull off something massive if needed.

Bon Iver: You could probably swap Bon Iver for Vampire Weekend or the National if needed as the potential next generation Phoenix-esque ascendants. They all play guitars and again, Coachella seems to prefer that its headliners play guitars. Objectively, Bon Iver seems like they’d be a bit of a soft touch as a headliner but there’s the Kanye bromance so maybe some surprise collabo could work.

David Guetta: See Tiësto and acknowledge Guetta’s insane YouTube view counts.



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