Coachella Fonts

When the Coachella Festival, the first of America’s big summer festivals, announces its lineup every year, those of us who don’t go to the festival every year — and, presumably, some of those who do — like to play a little game called Font Size Confusion. Coachella has kept the same format for its posters — bigger bands up top in bigger fonts, going all the way down to tiny microscopic scribbles of bands you’ve never heard of. And because of the cold, merciless calculation that goes into its font size calculation, the people at Coachella always have to get a good idea of what’s a big draw and what’s not. Sometimes, they get things wrong; 2 Chainz, smallish on last year’s poster, apparently drew a crowd way too big for the stage he was playing. Also last year there was some confusion over Blur and the Stone Roses’ billings (they ended up swapping set times on the second weekend). Most of the time, though, it’s on the rest of us to puzzle out what, exactly, is going on with these posters — which bands are apparently way more popular than we realized, and which bands are apparently way less. (Then there’s also the fun question of why certain bands didn’t get booked.) So with this year’s lineup officially out there, let’s get into the winners and losers of this year’s poster.

The biggest winner for this year is, of course, the entire human race, since OutKast is now back together and getting ready to stand on stages and perform in front of people. This is phenomenal news with no downside, and if I do make it out to the desert this year, OutKast will be the primary reason why it’s happening. The other two headliners, Arcade Fire and Muse, are obviously hugely important bands with gigantic fanbases; it’s not a Phoenix situation where you’re like, “But wait, are they really festival headliners?” Further down the poster, though, things get a bit more confusing.

I had a bit of fun with this on Twitter last night, but judging by those font sizes, there are a few bands on that Coachella bill who are way more popular than I realized. Broken Bells, who I mostly think of as a half-interesting side project who don’t merit much consideration, are apparently large enough to deserve the spot right next to the reunited Replacements. Foster The People, years removed from their one hit and weighed down by a terrible live reputation, are still a bigger deal than, say, Nas or MGMT. Warpaint are a font size up from Solange. Disclosure, who I love and whose live show is fun as hell, are still a bit of a puzzler when I see them listed between Neutral Milk Hotel and Lana Del Rey. Other winners: Little Dragon, Kid Cudi, Beady Eye, A$AP Ferg, Shlohmo, semi-obscure reunited Brit-punks the Toy Dolls. And then there are all the people I’ve never heard of at all, who I am forced to assume are hugely popular dance DJs in some other corner of the music-fan multiverse. Get that money, Martin Garrix!

And then there are the losers — the people who, I would’ve thought, should be way higher on the bill than they are. The Dismemberment Plan, for instance, have been reunited for a few years now, and their last album wasn’t all that, but they’re still one of the great indie rock bands of indie’s last truly underground word-of-mouth moment, and they deserve better than tiny-font oblivion. The Cult are decades deep into a rock-anthem-factory career, and they’ve never entirely gone out of style, and yet here they are right next to motherfucking Bastille. Bryan Ferry sang “More Than This,” but that is apparently not enough to catapult him past Bonobo. Other font-size underachievers include Chance The Rapper, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Blood Orange, Dum Dum Girls, Wye Oak, and Frank Turner.

And then there are, of course, those artists who didn’t get booked at all — who you’d assume would be there but who aren’t. It’s weird, for instance, to have a legacy act like Motörhead on the bill but to neglect currently-vital metal bands like Kvelertak, Windhand, Kylesa, Inter Arma, Power Trip, and, especially, Deafheaven, who honestly should’ve been a lock. Similarly, the entire “emo revival,” which seems like straight-up Coachella-bait, is absent. Drake might not be on that headliner level yet, but he’s perfect for the second-from-the-top Beck spot. And plenty of other artists seem to be poised for big years but aren’t on this poster: Against Me!, Sky Ferreira, Migos, Fucked Up, the Hold Steady, Giorgio Moroder, Katy B, Robyn, Julian Casablancas, St. Vincent, TV On The Radio, and Speedy Ortiz.

Other questions worth asking: How’s that Arcade Fire dress code supposed to work? And are the Knife going to switch up their breathtakingly pretentious performance-art live show? Because I saw that thing in Sweden and I can’t imagine American audiences will be OK with it.

Commenters! What about this year’s poster seemed weird to you? And who were you surprised to see omitted?

Comments (54)
  1. Disclosure is BIG. That’s a band that a lot of my non-music fan friends know and love. They’re making huge inroads with, like, everyone.

  2. “Breathtakingly pretentious”? Wait Grimes isn’t playing Coachella.

    (Seriously, I pray to Satan and White Jesus and Fiona Goode that The Knife’s Shaking The Habitual show stays the exact same as it was in Europe. Going to Coachella? You deserve a post-structuralist faux-dance camp-troop narrative about the dangers of excessive wealth while you’re ODing on molly.)

    • Or you deserve to enjoy yourself and be with your friends because really, why must we bear ill will toward those that want to go to a music festival and see good bands and have fun?

      • i mean, as far as i’m concerned the knife’s current touring show is fun. loads. but bc they don’t “bust out any instruments” or w/e it is people want they’re, uh, ‘painfully pretentious” or whatever was suggested?

        it’s fun with a message.

  3. I would also say that lots of the omissions have to do with the minutiae of radius clauses and conflicting touring commitments. They aren’t being snubbed.

  4. What really stood out to me was Superchunk’s name buried so low on Sunday. I understand they were never the most popular band, but they deserve a bit more than what they were billed.

    • When they returned to the stage even in 2009, the post really didn’t put a huge spotlight on them either:

      • Ahhhhh yes. When small font bands included: Liars, Junior Boys, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, No Age, Fucked Up, etc.

        I feel this type of Coachella line-up is a thing of the past now :(

        Also, this is an old 2009 poster. Amy Winehouse got cut, replaced by M.I.A. Hercules & Love Affair were cut (sad face), and they later added The Orb, which was hella tight. Also, Clipse no showed.

        Still, good year. Watching Henry Rollins talk for 45 minutes straight was a bigger highlight than you’d think.

  5. Not to mention, U2 is in the small font category!

  6. Needs more Fuck Buttons. And Janelle Monae. And Flying Lotus.

  7. So is Pharell just going to perform N.E.R.D. songs, “Grindin’” and “Drop it like it Hot” with no rapping, and “Get Lucky” 3 times in a row?

    Because that sounds AWESOME.

  8. - First and foremost, font size doesn’t equate to quality or when an act’s set is. It’s more of a marketing mechanism to lure in people who need to see the popular hot acts listed first in order to be sold.

    - Speedy Ortiz is touring into Seattle on the Saturday of weekend 1. There’s no way they’d drive down to Indio on time to make a Sunday slot on that schedule.

    - Sky is touring with Miley on the east coast in April so it would have been a stretch for that to happen

    - I actually don’t agree that the “emo revival” would be Coachella bait. Saves the Day played way back before Coachella became a thing, Sunny Day Real Estate played a few years back to a barren Outdoor Theatre and maybe if you get anything relative to that genre, it’s the post-hardcore side of it (which is repped by Title Fight and recent Touche Amore pals, AFI.)

    - Finally, this should have happened:

  9. Stereogum favorites Austra sitting on the bottom of Friday deserves to be pointed out.

    I didn’t even notice them my first few scans of the line-up. They opened for The xx on a number of shows last year and I have only heard great things about their live show. In fact, Amrit was the first person who told me how great Austra is live.

    But way to go Shlohmo. He literally played a show at a bar half a mile from my house a few months ago. Considering where I live in the mid west, that spot on the Coachella poster deserves a pat on the back.

    Definitely missing Deafheaven. :(

    Finally, I found out something neat about Capital Cities. In 2010, I attended a wedding where the live music was these two guys playing 80s cover songs and other wedding fare. It was actually a really great time and I danced for, no shit, three hours straight. Afterwards, we were talking to the guys and they said they normally take breaks, but saw me dancing non stop and decided to keep going. When the wedding couple tried to hire them to play at their joint birthday party, they had to respectively decline. Because they are in Capital Cities now. I thought that was neat.

    • Yeah, I was sad about Austra’s inclusion in the microscope row (seriously, that is the most ridiculous font), and a little surprised that they weren’t a row or two higher. They’re definitely worth checking out live! I’ve seen them both with the backup singers and without, and it was interesting how much Katie Stelmanis’ performance differed between those two conditions (though it was a little sad to not get to hear all those wonderful harmonies).

  10. This for sure:
    “to have a legacy act like Motörhead on the bill but to neglect currently-vital metal bands like Kvelertak, Windhand, Kylesa, Inter Arma, Power Trip, and, especially, Deafheaven, who honestly should’ve been a lock.”

    Deafheaven is touring. Looks like they are wide open after 3/29 in Las Vegas. They’re from San Fran?!
    It feels like a glaring omission. And it makes Motorhead look even stranger. Like: “Whoops, we missed a genre. Better add someone.”

  11. I also agree that there are way too many unrecognizable names on the bottom two lines who I assume are DJ/electronic acts. But hey, at least they got that Deftones witch house project Crosses, right? Or that band Preatures who got a BNT on Pitchfork and you never heard from again? And everybody’s favorite women-beaters Surfer Blood (how are they still getting jobs even after getting dropped by their label?)

  12. I will find it hilarious if The Knife open for Outkast.

    Reminds me of the last time Arcade Fire played. Mainstage went Mumford & Sons (when they were already depressingly HUGE) – followed by Animal Collective and then finally AF.

    I was having a fantastic time at Animal Collective, but they literally took their main stage near headline gig and proceeded to shun the whole crowd. If I remember, they only played one song from Merriweather and it wasn’t “My Girls” haha. 90% of the crowd was so confused and disrespectful to them, just waiting for Arcade Fire… but I think they liked it honestly.

    The Knife should headline the Outdoor stage, But literally 2nd on the bill? Looks like Mainstage to me.

    • Wouldn’t The Knife be exactly the kind of act demanding to be at least 2nd on the bill to agree to play? I can imagine the Dreijers kind of in spite going “Coachella? Well, tell them to put us on top of the poster and we’ll do it”. They kind of just do what the fuck they want.

  13. The more I look at this line-up the less I regret not buying a ticket this year. Still, if a full tour doesn’t come of this Outkast reunion and I don’t get a chance to see them there will still be regret.

  14. Foster the people was more than a one hit wonder. Helena Beat was pretty popular too and I still hear other songs from Torches around LA. They’ve also got a new album this year so they should be about as relevant unless they make some huge change in their sound. I’ve also don’t ever remember them having a bad live reputation. When did you see them? I saw them at the last leg of their tour and it was one of the better shows I’ve been to.

    • I , in no way, enjoy or endorse the enjoyment of listening to Foster The People but to say they are “years past their one hit” is simultaneously both an exaggeration and a falsehood. Their huge hit was inescapable a little more than two years ago and they have another song that is a pretty big hit right now.

  15. Didn’t Beady Eye play Coachella last year? Or am I confusing all those Gallagher brothers up????

  16. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  17. …Wait, I’m sorry, did you ACTUALLY think that underground metal and twinklecore bands are relevant enough to the average Coachella attendee that omitting them is an oversight, or did you just need an excuse to remind readers that you are still invested in those genres?

  18. “the entire ‘emo revival,’ which seems like straight-up Coachella-bait, is absent.”

    Ummm… Title Fight anyone?

  19. If we’re talking font sizes, WTF Jagwar Ma? Seriously? How did they get on that line, and why is Ty Segall so small?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2