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Coachella Under the Microscope

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The biggest music news last month was the revelation of the 2012 Coachella line-up. The gaudy fakes from last year have cleared, and what we have left looks to be one of the most stacked festivals yet. Coachella has earned the reputation of being the premiere music festival for its hype, early occurrence, and inspired “stunt casting” in their line-ups. It seems every year they dip into a bag of tricks, setting fire to an inevitable debate, not just about the headliners, but all the way down to day placement and font size. Let's unpack the semiotics of this year's flier together, like a family. The first thing you'll notice is the headliners. The Black Keys get an upgrade from last year and are now headliner status, which is as good a celebration of “making it” as it gets. Radiohead is an easy crowd pleaser and solid booking, few if any complaints there. Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre is interesting, but provides the necessary variation to the rock-driven proceedings. Snoop alone isn't really much to write home about, the dude still travels fairly often and is in a weird post-gangster rap pop culture space. But Snoop & Dre? That's a pretty cool deal and nice throwback for fans of Snoop before he was that rapper on TV that your mom thinks is funny after she saw him on Jay Leno. Day one, Friday, looks like a strong indie rock day. Some of the biggest wave makers of last year like Yuck, Girls and WU LYF are doing sets for those tapped into the underground. In terms of reappearances, we have Mazzy Star on a big stage and the reunion of Pulp for the common people. Get it? Okay. Swedish House Mafia, M83, Amon Tobin and probably a couple of these other acts I'm not familiar with will be bringing up the electronic edge for festival goers that want to dance. Otherwise, doesn't it seem like Frank Ocean would be a cooler fit on one of the other days? Saturday, for example, is Radiohead day, but it's also crazy for being Jeff Mangum Day. Jeff Mangum is the JD Salinger of indie rock, a reclusive twice-publishing wordsmith, and the number one reason I am sad that I'm not going. The Neutral Milk Hotel frontman might not translate to such big stages and wide crowds, but that's not going to matter with a thousand people singing their throats sore. There's indie rock pillars like Bon Iver, Feist and the Shins, which is almost a stereotypical indie trinity. Sometimes I don't understand the billing/font size. What makes Andrew Bird a bigger act than the legendary post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor? Or the comparatively skilled St. Vincent? These are the mysteries of Goldenvoice we may never know. Sunday's just a strange and exciting day overall. There's plenty of dancing – or at least, getting swept up by sardine can-like compression of crowds trying to dance – to be done with Justice, Girl Talk, La Roux and more. Go there if you're aiming to get down. But what's particularly amazing is The Weeknd's second billing. There's no debate they're a big deal, but the fact that the guy hasn't even done a full fledged tour yet is kind of amazing. One of his earliest gigs is going to be a second billing Coachella show, and that's quite the accomplishment. Also, At The Drive-In comes back to life, like so many zombies. The late '90s/early '00s scene is back! We just need Sparta back to complete the nostalgia triangle. It's a really stacked line-up no matter what your tastes and inclinations are. The question of whether it's worth the hundreds of dollars, though, is between you and your bank account. And if your bank account scoffs at such a tiny purchase, maybe you could send a ticket my way as a tip. Just putting that out there.

Be sure to check out: Vitamin String Quartet Performs Bon Iver Available at iTunes

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