THE Coachella festival kicks off Friday with performances from Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar and its highest-ever attendance as it weathers growing competition in the live music world.
Taking place over two successive weekends with identical lineups, the festival in the southern California desert has for years been a trend-setting global event for music and fashion – and the envy of rivals with its multimillion-dollar profits.
The council of the city of Indio approved Coachella’s plan to expand to 125,000 fans a day, an increase of 26,000, with the festival this year adding an additional main stage to bring the total to seven.
When it debuted in 1999, Coachella was at the vanguard of a live music boom in the United States with new events popping up constantly on the calendar.
In one sign that the sold-out festival has succeeded in preserving its buzz, leading ticket reseller StubHub said that passes for the first weekend were 60% more expensive than a year ago.
StubHub said that buyers from 17 foreign countries had bought tickets, led by Canada, Britain, Australia, Mexico and The Netherlands.
In a performance that without doubt would have stirred major attention, Beyonce was scheduled to play her only 2017 show at Coachella both Saturdays – while expecting twins with husband Jay Z.
The increasingly experimental diva bowed out on doctors’ advice but was replaced by another top pop figure – Lady Gaga, who will offer a glimpse of her global tour set to begin in August.
Lady Gaga, famous for her attention-grabbing outfits, took a more subdued sound on her latest album Joanne but gave an energetic and well-received performance at February’s Super Bowl.
With Lady Gaga, Coachella will ensure it has a female headliner for the first time since Bjork in 2007.
Lamar, whose 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly was quickly hailed as a hip-hop classic, will headline Coachella on Sunday two days after releasing a new album.
Credits for his album, DAMN., show songs with U2 and Rihanna. Coachella is famous for surprise guests on stage – a sure way to trigger posts on social media.
Rising international focus
Staying true to Coachella’s alternative roots, Radiohead will play Friday, the third time the arthouse English rockers will be a headliner.
Radiohead last year released A Moon Shaped Pool, a lyrically dark album that moved a notch back to the group’s early rock style.
Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Lamar are all known for their left-leaning politics, meaning Coachella could be yet another major culture event to see denunciations of President Donald Trump.
Other performers expected to draw close attention include Lorde, the New Zealander who found phenomenal success as a teenager with the 2013 song Royals and has deliberately kept a low profile in the past couple of years.
Coachella will mark another step in the return of Lorde, who in March debuted the dance track Green Light and plans to release her second album, Melodrama, in June.
The festival’s newest stage – like others, named after deserts – is the Sonora which, in a nod to California’s audience and the festival’s international reach, will feature a number of Spanish-language acts.
Sonora stage performers include Colombian rockers Diamante Electrico, Argentinian indie group Las Ligas Menores and Mexican surf rockers Los Blenders.
Other international performers making their Coachella debuts include dark atmospheric rockers Klangstof, the first Dutch act at the festival, and French rappers PNL.
Besides Lamar, plenty of major rappers will be at Coachella including Future, DJ Khaled, ScHoolboy Q and Travis Scott.
But Skepta, a dominant force in Britain’s grime scene and winner of the latest Mercury Prize, scrapped his appearance, citing visa problems. — AFP