A New Breed of Coachella?

The rumors surrounding the unveiling of Coachella’s 2011 lineup were particularly enticing this year, not to mention backed by some feasible evidence. Among the whispered possibilities were an evening appearance by Neil Young, a headlining set by Daft Punk, and even a $5 million deal with The Rolling Stones to close out Sunday night.

Instead, the festival’s confirmed lineup – announced on Tuesday night – has been received dubiously within the media and the festival’s online message boards.

Arcade Fire | Creative Commons

Kings of Leon will kick off the event on Friday night, with Arcade Fire headlining Saturday’s bill, and Kanye West finishing the festival on Sunday night – provided he doesn’t pull a Bonnaroo and decides to show up on time. Duran Duran, a newly reunited The Strokes, and Animal Collective will also perform.

Although Coachella has never been a headliner-centric festival, the 2011 bill is surprisingly underwhelming. Since their return to live shows at  2010’s Lollapalooza, both Arcade Fire and The Strokes were long pegged for an April appearance in Indio. Kings of Leon, after headlining nearly every 2010 festival in the world, were not only suspected but also dreaded by many as a likely headliner.

Even the staggering list of supporting acts – including Bright Eyes, Cut Copy, The National and Empire of the Sun – is notably lacking in surprises. There are a few impressive grabs to be found, such as European-sensation Robyn, Mount Kimbie and a reunited Death From Above 1979. But there is little here to rival the “WOW” factor of previous lineups.

Some may argue that the point of Coachella is embracing the future of music, regardless of prior prestige. Fair enough, but one can certainly set trends while also hauling out a few of the industry’s most impressive dinosaurs for fans. 2008’s late inclusion of Prince amid a mostly contemporary lineup was one such instance of generational appeasement that is still raved about by festival regulars.

Even the 2010 appearances by the more modern Thom Yorke and Fever Ray were unique treats for contemporary music fans. To this day, few people can boast of having seen The Knife or Atoms For Peace in concert, whereas most of the bands on the 2011 poster have been through the United States in the past year, some more than once.

Whether this notable cutback in special names is due to a tight budget or more sinister motivations, one can only hope that event promoter Goldenvoice has a few tricks up its sleeve for April. If any United States festival has repeatedly proved itself capable of pulling off the impossible, throwing together a biblical-sized, three day party worthy of flying from Germany or Australia for, it’s Coachella.