19 Thoughts On The Coachella 2024 Poster

19 Thoughts On The Coachella 2024 Poster

I’ve been doing this for so long that I almost can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing this. I’m lost in the sea of tiny-font band names. Somewhere amidst all that chaos, there must be a pattern. It must mean something. I close my eyes, and half-remembered band names dance across my mind. Eagulls. Raury. Dreamcar. Idris Elba. Were these people ever real? Did I just… imagine them? The universe is trying to tell us something. I just need to figure out what.

Once, a very long time ago, it all made some kind of sense. Many thousands of people went to the desert every spring to ingest drugs and take selfies while music played in the background. The bookers roped in about a million musicians, from a ton of different backgrounds, and then threw all those musicians’ names on the poster. That poster was mercilessly, unsentimentally striated — big acts in big fonts, little acts in little fonts. Famous artists could look at the poster and learn just how famous they were, at least in the eyes of Goldenvoice, the company that put the festival together. The poster came out at the beginning of the year. It set the tone for the summer festival season and, in some ways, for the year in music. I started to investigate what those font sizes meant, and I never stopped. I’m in too deep. Now, I can never stop.

It was one thing when you’d look at the Coachella poster and see “Radiohead” or “Beyoncé” in big letters across the top. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now, the Coachella poster feels like a psyop designed to make the entire world feel confused and out-of-touch. But still, I force myself to dig deeper, to think more expansively, to find narrative threads amidst the confusion. One day, maybe it’ll all make sense. That’s why I’m dragging you into this. These posters have infected my consciousness, forcing me to think about things like “Wait, does it say ‘Orbital’ way down there?” I need you to see it, too. I need you to ask these questions. Once again, then, we’re going to stare at this poster until it tells us some things.

1. Coachella came late this year. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. Last year’s poster came late, too, and this one is a week later than that one. The other festivals have rushed in to fill that void. Bonnaroo, Gov Ball, Hangout, BottleRock, Shaky Knees — those festival posters are already out there, already telling their own little stories. Maybe Goldenvoice had to spend some valuable time negotiating with its biggest acts, locking things down. Despite the delay, Coachella has managed to son those festivals, putting names near the top of other bills — Renée Rapp, Faye Webster, Taking Back Sunday — in almost insultingly tiny font sizes.

Still, something about this Coachella poster feels slapdash and last-minute. I’m not even talking about the lineup of artists, though plenty of people have pointed out that there just aren’t that many names lined up for this year. (Sunday in particular looks thin.) I’m talking about the actual poster — the colors, the kerning, the resolution. I can straight-up barely read some of those names even after hitting command-plus a bunch of times. I get the feeling that someone rush-posted this thing before anyone had a chance to give it a final once-over.

2. It’s a rebuilding year. People love to complain about Coachella lineups, the same way they love to complain about Emmy snubs or playoff results or general-election presidential candidates. It’s always like: This is the best that they could do? It’s an annual ritual. It’s almost reassuring. But this year, the complaints about the Coachella lineup have largely drowned out the little bubbles of enthusiasm that usually pop up. Nobody seems to like this lineup. So: Why?

The obvious answer is that there are no truly huge stars. The headliners — Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator, and Doja Cat — are all extremely famous people who do big streaming numbers, but they’re not exactly omnipresent mainstream stars. Coachella could’ve gone that route. Early reports suggested that big names like Shakira and Travis Scott were trying to lock down headliner spots. You can see why people like that would want to be Coachella headliners. I’m sure that Jack Harlow’s people were seeing if they could pull it off, too. Goldenvoice reportedly kicked the tires on Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo, too. Instead, they’ve gone a different direction.

None of this year’s headliners have much to do with Coachella’s alt-rock past, but all three represent the festival’s roots in different ways. They’re all genuine California weirdos who are big enough to tour arenas on their own. Lana Del Rey is originally from Lake Placid, but she’s arguably more California than any of them these days. The others are SoCal natives. They’ve all come up through the same online-hype system that powered the indie rock bands who once filled up the Coachella poster. (I was thinking that Tyler must be the first Coachella headliner I’ve seen play a bar’s back patio at SXSW, but then I remembered Kendrick Lamar.) All of them have played Coachella before, and all of them definitely understand the pressures and opportunities associated with headlining a festival like this one. I think that all three will be very good, even if they’re not the headliners that you want to see.

Of the three headliners, only Doja Cat has made big mainstream hits in recent memory. This week, she’s got two songs in the top 10. In some ways, though, Doja is the most abrasive and restless of the headliners. Her transition out of hypercharged Dr. Luke pop-rap into something more idiosyncratic has been a mixed bag, and she’s definitely going to want this to work. There are certainly people who think Lana Del Rey is too chill and messy to headline a festival of this size, but I saw Lana headline an admittedly smaller festival last fall, and people lost their minds for her. Her performance had its glitches — late start, jangled setlist, awkward and unnecessary choreography — but she cares enough about Coachella that she once released a song called “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind.” At this festival, she is going to try.

Anyway, these are the kinds of headliners that I want to see at a big festival like this one. Too many of Coachella’s competitors keep going back to the tired warhorses of alt-rock radio, your Red Hot Chili Peppers or your Foo Fighters. Rolling Loud seems to cycle through the same six headline-level rappers at all of its branded fests. With this lineup, Coachella has thrown three more artists into the top echelons, and I think that’s a brave choice. It’s especially brave to book another Odd Future guy after last year’s instantly infamous Frank Ocean boondoggle, which maybe could’ve fucked up Goldenvoice’s budget for this year. I like those leaps. Coachella has already sold out anyway, so why not elevate a few more people? It won’t be enough to convince me to jump on a plane out to the desert, but I appreciate the effort.

3. ’90s rock is back, baby! Sadly, the “returning to the desert” spot at the bottom of the poster, previously reserved for superstar DJs Swedish House Mafia and Calvin Harris, is gone. In its place, we simply get “and.” That’s because No Doubt, slated to play their first show in nine years, have apparently never been to the desert before. I cannot imagine how No Doubt will fit in with the rest of this lineup, but their spot on this poster announces the return of big-name Coachella reunions, an old staple of the fest. No Doubt have company, too.

Look at this: Sublime. Without Rome. Just Sublime. We know what that means. Sublime are gearing up to play shows with Jakob Nowell, son of late frontman Bradley, filling in for his father. That sounds weird and uncomfortable, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a Coachella poster with two ska bands, or at least two ska-adjacent bands, in positions this prominent. The ska revival is really happening, but Jeff Rosenstock doesn’t have anything to do with it. Instead, it’s a couple of huge ’90s acts popping up on the same lineup at the same time. Maybe we’ll get Gwen Stefani doing “Saw Red” with the zombie version of Sublime. Anything’s possible. And hell, we’ve even got the Aquabats on this poster. I have no idea what a 2024 Aquabats show would even be, but there will probably be multiple checkerboard-print bowling shirts on the grounds of the Empire Polo Club.

It’s not just the ska bands. Blur, who famously got one of the flattest Coachella reactions in history when they first reunited, are in the spot just below the headliner — the same spot that Gorillaz had last year. That can’t just be because Goldenvoice wants to stay in Damon Albarn’s good graces; Albarn just tried to say that the Blur reunion was done for now. Goldenvoice must think that Americans really want to see Blur this year. And Deftones, currently riding the wave of the TikTok shoegaze thing, are way up near the top of the bill, higher on the poster than any heavy rock band in recent memory. Also, it’s not technically ’90s rock, but I think I see “Orbital” down there somewhere.

Maybe the ’90s thing explains why Taking Back Sunday, a band I once saw headline a huge festival, have been relegated to tiny-font status. They’re just not on the right nostalgia cycle. Also, do Skream and Benga count as a band reunion? Are we doing 2008 dubstep nostalgia now? Can we get Katy B back out there?

4. The global pop wave continues. Last year, Coachella made history by booking two headliners, Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK, who primarily sing in languages other than English. This year’s headliners are all anglophone Southern California locals, but the bill is even more jammed with people whose main target audiences might not be American.

Mostly, we’re talking about Spanish-speaking artists — a category so vast and vague that it doesn’t even really make sense as a category. On this poster, that takes a lot of different forms. J Balvin, a mainstream reggaeton superstar who’s honestly pretty washed, has one of the sub-headliner spots. Another goes to Peso Pluma, a regional Mexican artist who’s been on a meteoric rise. A little more than a year ago, the guy didn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Now, he’s in the same place that Gorillaz were last year.

The people who think that only rich white kids go to Coachella have probably not been to the festival in the past decade. It probably mostly is just rich kids at Coachella, but it’s rich kids of all different backgrounds. Southern California being what it is, many of those rich kids listen to lots of Spanish music. Coachella has been booking regional Mexican acts since long before regional Mexican acts were scoring top-10 hits, and this year’s lineup goes deeper than Peso Pluma. Mexican stars Carín León and Santa Fe Klan have prominent spots, too, as does Puerto Rico’s Young Miko.

Most intriguingly, the Argentinian producer Bizarrap is way up on that poster. Bizarrap got famous by making bedroom dance-pop beats and then bringing in different stars to make songs with him on YouTube. I’d expect his set to work the same as the Metro Boomin set last year — a chance to bring in a bunch of different ultra-famous guest performers. Don’t be shocked if Shakira shows up to perform with Bizarrap even after being deemed unworthy of headliner status.

There’s also a lot of K-pop on the bill. The boy band ATEEZ and the girl group LE SSERAFIM — K-pop loves the caps lock — are near the top of the bill, which makes me wonder why Coachella didn’t get NewJeans, the most playful and futuristic group on the current K-pop landscape. I’d never heard of the Rose, who are up in the top line on Sunday, but they’re apparently ultra-sentimental South Korean balladeers. Their Wikipedia page says that they’re indie rock, but this shit doesn’t sound like indie rock to me. It’s more like Keane trying to turn into Glass Animals, and I bet it draws a huge crowd.

There are plenty of other acts from across the globe, too: Punjabi rapper AP Dhillon, Brazilian pop star LUDMILLA, French dance-poppers L’Impératrice. Grime veteran Skepta might belong on the list, too, even though Coachella has a long history of booking UK rappers. And the bill also has at least two Japanese vocaloid acts, Yoasobi and Hatsune Miku. I’m still a little fuzzy on what that means, exactly, but they seem to be fictional pop stars that are really software programs? I’ve read articles about this thing, and I still don’t get it. In any case, J-pop girl group Atarashi Gakko!, also on the bill, seem like old-school traditionalists just by virtue of the fact that they’re all human. (The Japanese House, meanwhile, is not a Japanese act. It’s a British person. This shit gets so confusing.)

All these inclusions reinforce the idea that Coachella isn’t booking its lineups to draw in some big mainstream audience. Instead, it’s catering to many different minute and vaguely isolated cult fandoms. In recent years, the American mainstream has been drawing in more and more of this stuff. With that in mind, it’s a little weird that Coachella went light on African music this year, especially now that it’s a firmly entrenched piece of the American pop mainstream. Tyla and Tems, both of whom have American hits, are represented, but they’re both pretty low in the bill. Tems is an AFRICAN GIANT and will not be reduced to whatever that tiny writing means.

5. There’s still so much dance music. Back in the day, I could be pretty assured that any Coachella artist whose name I didn’t recognize would be a dance DJ. That’s not the case anymore. These days, it might be a TikTok star or a K-pop group. It might be Clown Core, whose gimmick is apparently dressing up like evil clowns to make freaked-out jazz. Still, dance music is a huge deal at Coachella. This poster has returning blog-house heroes Justice awfully high on the bill, and it’s also got fellow Frenchman Gesaffelstein in a top spot. Maybe that’s just Coachella’s way of signaling the traditional annual guest appearance from the Weeknd, or maybe Gesaffelstein, who just co-produced the new Lil Nas X single, really is big enough to warrant that font size on his own. If I were going this year, I would make sure to see him.

We’ve got plenty of long-established big names on this year’s poster, like DJ Snake and Steve Angello, but many of them are surprisingly low on the bill. Some of the upper tiers seem to be reserved for people like Anyma, who are total mysteries to me. While working on this piece, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with these names that often look like random collections of letters, and that means I’ve been listening to a steady stream of house beats. It’s been OK, I guess? The Sahara Tent always seems like its own weird world, off to the side but sometimes threatening to swallow the rest of the fest. It’s disorienting, but it’s also normal.

6. The rap selections are so weird. Coachella didn’t have a real rap headliner last year, though all three of the top-billed acts at least had some familiarity with the stuff. This year has Tyler, The Creator and Doja Cat up top, and it’s got plenty of other rappers elsewhere on the bill. But rap is in a fractured state in 2024, and that’s reflected in this lineup. Other than Tyler and Doja, the top-billed rappers are Lil Uzi Vert, who always seems to be sub-headliner status at fests like this, and Ice Spice, who had better step up her stage presence quick. She just finished a stint on Doja Cat’s arena tour, so maybe that helped her performing chops. But every time I’ve seen Ice Spice, a genuinely exciting new star, on a big stage, she looks lost.

We’ve also got Lil Yachty up there, surprising absolutely nobody. Let’s Start Here. practically works as Yachty’s announcement that he wants to be the new Jenny Lewis, the artist who just shows up on the Coachella lineup every year for a decade. Kevin Abstract also made an alt-rock album and landed himself a Coachella spot, but his made way less of a splash, so his font size is way smaller. Beyond that, we’ve got what? Coi Leray and NAV, constant festival presences who probably thought that they’d be way higher on this bill by now?

And then there’s Ken Carson and Destroy Lonely, representatives of the glitched-out rage sound that’s been driving kids wild lately. Given their presence, it’s a little surprising that Coachella didn’t go for Playboi Carti, who might be close to headliner status these days, or Yeat, who would honestly be a huge draw even though his music makes absolutely zero sense to me. The various hyper-local underground scenes that have been fueling the rap conversation for the past year — Detroit, Milwaukee, Memphis, the different non-Ice Spice combinations of New York drill and Jersey club — are entirely absent. There’s no Veeze, no Sexyy Red, no Key Glock, no Luh Tyler, no Cash Cobain. The dense underground wordsmiths — Earl Sweatshirt, MIKE, Armand Hammer, Pink Siifu, JPEGMAFIA, Danny Brown — aren’t represented, either. 21 Savage and Kid Cudi, two stars with multiple past Coachella performances who just put out big albums last week, aren’t on there, either. It’s weird! I wonder why!

7. Lana Del Rey will have to hold it down for the sad girls all by herself. My daughter is 14, and she says that “sad-girl music” is her favorite genre. (She insists that she is not sad, that she just likes the music, and I have no idea how concerned I should be about that.) Sad-girl music might not be an actual genre, but you know exactly what she means, and that shit is huge right now. Lana Del Rey is the reigning queen of sad-girl artists, but she’s not the only popular one out there. You wouldn’t know it by looking at this Coachella lineup.

Last year, boygenius made a huge splash with their prominent Coachella performance; it was one of the big inciting incidents of their takeover year. Coachella wouldn’t just get boygenius back again, and the three women in that group haven’t gone back to playing their own shows yet. Still, it’s a little surprising to think about all their peers who aren’t on the bill. There’s no Mitski, Clairo, beabadoobee, Madi Diaz, girl in red, Lizzy McAlpine, or Samia. (It’s reductive to paint all of them with the sad-girl brush, but you know what I mean.) We do get the Japanese House, who might make the sad-girl cut, and Faye Webster, who’s really more of a mellow girl. And maybe the mellow thing explains Lana Del Rey’s inclusion more than the sad-girl thing. Maybe she fits into the same supremely chill slot as Khruangbin and, I don’t know, Sublime. (I am just now realizing that Del Rey might sing “Doin’ Time” with Sublime, which would be fun.)

8. There’s lots of R&B but no SZA. If I had to blind-guess this year’s Coachella headliners a month ago, SZA would’ve probably been the first person I’d name. She’s right in the Coachella comfort zone — hugely popular but slightly left of center, breezy, druggy, vaguely identified with Southern California — and she’s just coming off of a gigantic career year. It’s not like SZA isn’t playing festivals this summer; maybe the competing fests just offered up too much money.

Even without SZA, though, this year’s Coachella reflects many of the big moments that R&B has had over the past year, though the font sizes of the different R&B acts have me utterly baffled. I know that Jhené Aiko is popular, and that she’s coming back to performing after becoming a mom, but third on the bill for Sunday night? Really? I have seen very little evidence that she’s a fun or compelling live act, but maybe I’m just wrong. I’d also mostly forgotten about Blxst’s existence, but he’s apparently on the second-line level.

The other R&B artists on this year’s bill are lower down that I would’ve expected. It’s good to see Victoria Monét, Tinashe, and British hitmakers RAYE and FLO on this list, but at least a couple of them of them should have serious talks with their booking agents. I probably read the whole poster eight times before I noticed the presence of Chloë, whose solo-debut rollout did not go the way that she wanted.

9. It’s a great year for small-font indie rock. The baby bands who get a lot of coverage on this website were never going to get big-stage placement at Coachella, but it’s cool to see that many of them are on the lineup anyway. You could put together a very good bill of just bottom-line bands, with Militarie Gun, feeble little horse, Upchuck, and Mandy, Indiana all on there. Goldenvoice also made room on the poster for folks like Oneohtrix Point Never, the Beths, bar italia, Eartheater, Narrow Head, Erika de Casier, Jockstrap, Mdou Moctar, and Black Country, New Road. You might seriously damage your eyesight while looking for them, but they’re there.

10. Coachella is not taking the indie twang bait. In the past couple of years, there’s been lots of really good indie rock that pulls in elements from alt-country and shoegaze, but the Coachella bookers do not give a fuck. Big Thief and Adrianne Lenker? Wednesday and MJ Lenderman? Ratboys? Waxahatchee? Julia Jacklin? Julie Byrne? Not here, baby! Take that to some other desert!

11. The stomp-clap folk-rock thing isn’t happening here, either. The one year that I went to Coachella, I can remember seeing Hozier up on the big stage and being like, “Nope.” Apparently, the Goldenvoice people felt the same way. The past year has seen an explosion in ramshackle country-rock, with people like Zach Bryan and Noah Kahan becoming stars. Plenty of other festivals are going all-in on that stuff. Not Coachella. Coachella does not care.

12. Coachella’s hardcore flirtation appears to be ending. Turnstile had a euphoric, triumphant moment at Coachella in 2022. Code Orange played that year too. Last year, the fest booked Knocked Loose, Soul Glo, and Scowl. This year, they’ve got Militarie Gun, a total no-brainer, and Narrow Head, a shoegaze band that sometimes plays hardcore shows. I’m happily shocked to see Clockwark Orange-themed early-’80s British bruisers the Adicts in mix, too. Hardcore loves the Deftones, even though you’d be crazy to call them a hardcore band. But that’s it for this year.

I guess it makes sense. Hardcore seems to be taking a turn toward harder, darker, heavier sounds lately, and those sounds would not work at Coachella. I would love to see what kind of insanity might happen if you put, like, Pain Of Truth up on that big stage, but it would be more of a morbid-curiosity thing than a genuine-excitement thing. Still, I can think of plenty of bands from the hardcore world who are surging right now and who would be right at home in Indio: MSPAINT, Angel Du$t, Gel, High Vis, Glitterer, resurgent post-hardcore shoegaze types like Superheaven and Basement.

13. Some acts are having big level-up moments. Peggy Gou was at the 2022 Coachella festival, but she was way off in the Yuma tent. Then, she scored a massive word-of-mouth indie hit, and now she’s in the top line. That’s awesome. By that same token, the Drums might’ve been considered blog-era has-beens until recently, but now they’ve got better placement than virtually any other indie rock act. Good for them! Veteran acts like Justice and Jungle can still apparently command bigger font sizes than I would’ve thought possible.

And this might be a good place to mention Dom Dolla and John Summit, two dance DJs whose names I barely recognize but who evidently merit top-line placement — multiple top-line placements, in fact. I spent some time researching the mysterious name “Everything Always,” way up near the top of the Friday-night bill. Apparently, it’s the superteam of Dom Dolla and John Summit. Two guys I don’t know, now joining forces to form a group who I also don’t know! I truly don’t know whether I should blame my own cluelessness or the forces who are evidently trying to make these guys a thing.

14. Some acts are apparently really not all that big. I’ve already been dunking on many of these poor unfortunate souls for this entire long-ass article, but find some compassion in your heart for Sabrina Carpenter, Renée Rapp, NAV, Suki Waterhouse, Coi Leray, Tems, Brittany Howard, Chappell Roan, Tyla, Kevin Abstract, Oneohtrix Point Never, and all the other artists whose font sizes could be considered actual intentional insults.

15. Someone is really trying to make Jon Batiste happen. I have gotten used to the idea that Jon Batiste, gifted if over-ambitious jazz guy and former Colbert bandleader, is one of these artists in the H.E.R. zone, the type who exists only to rack up awards. I don’t know who his audience is beyond awards-voter types. And yet there he is, up near the top of the Coachella bill.

Maybe Batiste is in the Hans Zimmer/Danny Elfman movie-composer slot. That’s not really something that Batiste has done much of, but he does share the Soul Best Original Score Oscar with past Coachella headliners Nine Inch Nails. Coachella does have one great film-score composer on its lineup, and it ain’t Jon Batiste. It’s Oneohtrix Point Never, who doesn’t even merit more than like a two-point font. I truly do not get it.

16. Some exclusions are just weird. I’ve mentioned plenty of acts who would make total sense on this Coachella bill and yet are not here, but I could mention plenty of others. PinkPantheress is the most obvious one. She’s a shaky live performer, but she’s also had a huge impact on the sound of left-of-center pop, and you’d think that she’d be right in that Coachella sweet spot. I guess not! Other obvious exclusions who I haven’t already mentioned: Vampire Weekend, Central Cee, 100 gecs, Hotline TNT, Nourished By Time, yeule, Mannequin Pussy, all those shoegaze kids who suddenly got huge on TikTok.

17. We can now do some new-music prognostications. Some of these acts presumably would not be on this bill if they did not have unannounced new records in the hopper. You don’t actually have to care about Coachella to note that we’re probably getting new Justice and Deftones albums sometime soon. Maybe that Grimes record is coming, too.

18. Oh yeah, Grimes. I have to write too many Grimes posts even when she’s not releasing new music. Everything that she does at Coachella — or, if she cancels, that she doesn’t do at Coachella — is probably going to be fascinating and irritating at the same time. And if she really is returning to music, from her seclusion in batshit deluded tech-lunatic universe, we’re really going for a ride.

19. I bet Coachella will be pretty fun. People love to complain, and as these many thousands of words will attest, I am one of those people. But I’ve been looking at this fucking poster for hours now, and I am not mad at it. I will not go to Coachella because I am 44 years old and also way too tall to comfortably fly on an airplane unless it’s something that I have to do. But if I were going to Coachella, I bet I’d have a good time.

This year’s headliners are all acts who I basically like. The sub-headliners aren’t really my favorites, but I’d be curious to see any of them in that setting. And there’s so much stuff on the undercard that I’d love to see. If I did go, I’d make a big elaborate plan to go see as many of these people as possible: Gesaffelstein, Bizarrap, Deftones, Peggy Gou, LE SSERAFIM, Sabrina Carpenter, Ken Carson, Skepta, Tinashe, Tems, Bicep, Victoria Monét, Chappel Roan, the Adicts, Two Shell, Narrow Head, Erika de Casier, Militarie Gun, Mdou Moctar, feeble little horse. Then I would get there, eat some edibles, forget my entire plan, and wander haphazardly among the tents, stopping at anything that sounded good. I like to pretend that the poster means something, but all it really means is that there are worse ways to spend a weekend.

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