This year as opposed to any other year of Coachella serves a reminder that the branding of the event is bigger than any of the bands playing, including headliners. While there was plenty of grumbling by younger, pre-Brit pop fans about The Stone Roses, overlooked is the head scratching move to put Phoenix on tonight on the main stage in the prime slot. Seriously people, that's what you should be mad about, not that one of the more influential you never heard of playing.
For starters, what does Phoenix really have going on? Yes, their last record had plenty of hits and high points. However, it may just be me but after seeing them live, not only was I not impressed, but wondered if they'd ever become more than a mid-card band. Most of their songs sound the same, which is nice for continuity and for background music, but c'mon. This is Coachella and compared to last year when Radiohead took the Saturday headlining slot, this has the feel of going from royalty to recycling.
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Granted, this isn't a jab at Phoenix and what they've accomplished. By all indications their new album, Bankrupt!, has received fairly good reviews and they seem like nice guys, but does that make a headlining band? Maybe it's a lifetime achievement award or perhaps I'm underestimating their appeal, but far too many people whose opinions I hold in high regard have said the same thing, so either I know a bunch of cynics or we're onto something here. Seeing them play an extended set may sound exciting in theory, but they'll need to have a Pink Floyd-esque stage show to wow fans. For those of you who don't remember the British prog rockers, that includes lasers, beautiful visuals and intense lights. All of the hallmarks that make a good show a great one.
Even if Blur headlined Saturday night instead of playing appetizer to their fellow Mancunians, it would be a tremendous upgrade over the Frenchmen. The only thing that would remotely make any sense to why they have Saturday night's slot is to make way for a surprise set from someone else. That remains to be seen but it would certainly be an upgrade. In fact, nearly any other high tier would be better (An Oasis reunion would have made this a Brit pop weekend, but it doesn't seem like that's meant to be).
No matter what happens tomorrow night, concertgoers will be in good spirits and deservedly so. This is a weekend of fun in the desert where they can chill and party with their friends to the wee hours with music as the wonderful soundtrack to their lives. Too bad the band they'll be seeing an obvious, yet uninspired choice to headline the grandest of American festivals.