Now in its seventh year, the two-day Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will overrun the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California, this weekend with an eclectic mix of music, art installations–and, oh, a certain leotard-loving pop icon named…Madonna.
While much has been said about the multiplatinum artist’s scheduled Sunday performance in the dance music-friendly Sahara tent, Coachella’s forward-thinking, wide-ranging lineup is still the main draw. The 80-something bands include ’80s synth giants Depeche Mode, Iceland’s Sigur Ros, heavy art-rockers Tool, Orthodox Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu and new hotshots like Infadels, Gnarls Barkley and Youth Group.
A poll on the Coachella.com message boards has mysterious French dance duo Daft Punk tagged as the performer to see this year, beating out Madge with nearly three times the votes. (Of course, some band named “other” is also racking ’em in. They must rule!)
“It’s different. We’ve never had an artist who’s sold 100 million records play Coachella,” says festival founder Paul Tollett, who made the offer to Madonna after floating the idea by a couple of close friends. “To me, it makes so much sense to have her in the deejay tent.”
The Madonna booking came when Tollett was looking for a marquee name to anchor the Sahara tent’s Sunday lineup, which has been modified to handle a larger crowd for the Confessions on a Dance Floor performer. Offers went out to Madonna, Daft Punk and Massive Attack, the latter two who haven’t appeared on a stage in years.
“I was hoping for one or two of those. Instead, all three came in. Any one of them would have been great on their own,” he says.
With Madonna, Tool and Massive Attack leading the lineup, Sunday’s installment has sold out. Organizers say tickets are still available for Saturday’s show, which is headlined by the aforementioned Depeche Mode, Daft Punk and Sigur Ros, as well as Kanye West, Franz Ferdinand, Common, My Morning Jacket and Damien Marley.
Scottish deejay Mylo, performing on Sunday, seems to take the attitude of most attendees. “I’ll be looking forward to Madonna,” he says, “And I’ll definitely be there to witness the very rare occasion that is a live set from my beloved Daft Punk. I just completely love festivals. It’s the madness and unpredictability of people in large numbers that attracts me.”
So, it’s not all about Madonna. No matter what she may have to say about it.
Tollett is equally thrilled about other aspects of this year’s fest: a MySpace-esque Website that allows ticketholders to communicate (you get access only after purchasing a ticket); Tool, one of the headliners from the festival’s 1999 debut, is using this year’s Coachella to end a lengthy hibernation; and that booking It Band of the moment Gnarls Barkley was a good (and kinda lucky) idea. The collaboration between soulful rapper Cee-Lo and producer Danger Mouse made U.K. chart history this year when their “Crazy” topped traditional singles charts based on digital download sales only. Gnarls Barkley’s debut album, St. Elsewhere, comes out May 9. They are on the bill for Sunday.
“I’ve got some of this booked in October or November,” says Tollett. “And someone like Gnarls Barkley isn’t really happening yet. But come April, look at them now. And some of these smaller bands have started happening too. That’s when it gets exciting, when we can bring it all together.”