By Shannon Carlin
Now that the first weekend is over and we’ve siphoned the pounds of dust out of our lungs, let’s examine this year’s headliners at Coachella.
There’s Arcade Fire, who held their own as everyone’s favorite arena indie rock band. Muse stayed dependable with a set that managed to brave the elements. And Outkast, well, they reunited and caused people to have mixed feelings, most of which had more to do with the crowd than the performance itself.
But to be honest it was the women in the desert who were getting the most attention.
Lana Del Rey’s performance at the Outdoor Theatre on Sunday evening was so packed they were turning people away and when she debuted her latest single, “West Coast,” the Twittersphere blew up. HAIM’s Friday evening set at the Outdoor Theatre continued to solidify them as one of the best acts to see live. And also proved Este Haim’s bass face can and will not be matched by any man, woman or other living organism.
On Saturday night at the Outdoor Theatre, Lorde showed why she won all those GRAMMYs and how to rock a gold cape. She even got a little sentimental remembering when she got the call to play the festival. Jhené Aiko played the Gobi tent at 10 pm on Sunday night, holding her own with tracks off her Sailed Out EP–yeah, her official debut hasn’t even dropped yet–and showed off her Rolodex with guest appearances from Childish Gambino and Drake. But let’s not get it twisted, that was her show and those guys were just there to recreate their verses and go.
And there was Debbie Harry, who Win Butler anointed Debbie “Motherf—ing” Harry. And Janelle Monáe, who rocked her Big Boi-assisted track “Tightrope” during Outkast’s set. And Gwen Stefani, who came out during Pharrell’s Saturday night set at the Outdoor Theatre to perform “Hollaback Girl,” that people really seemed to go crazy for (less than a month after having her third baby, no less!). Not to mention Queen Beyoncé just being there with her sister Solange incited pandemonium.
What we’re getting at here is right now Coachella has a woman problem. Since 1999, when the festival debuted, only one female singer has headlined the main stage, albeit twice: Björk in 2002 and 2007. Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne is the only other women to top the bill, with her band headlining 2011 and 2014. Though they didn’t headline, the female-fronted band Portishead also played the main stage right before the night’s headliner Prince in 2002.
Nine women have headlined the Outdoor Theatre including one female singer–PJ Harvey in 2012–and five female fronted acts – Le Tigre in 2004, Alison Mosshart with the Dead Weather in 2010, Florence and the Machine in 2012, Tegan and Sara in 2013 and The Knife in 2014.
This total also includes bands with at least one permanent female member like singer, Ana Matronic who played with the Scissor Sisters in 2006, bassist, Nikki Monninger, who played with Silversun Pickups in 2010 and fiddle player, Bridget Regan, who played with Flogging Molly in 2011.
In recent years, female artists and bands with female members have gotten some love at the smaller Gobi tent with eight acts being given the honor of closing out the night: The (International) Noise Conspiracy (2002), Brazilian Girls (2007), Sons and Daughters (2008), Gang Gang Dance (2009), Little Boots (2010), Sia (2010), Scala & Kolacny Brothers (2011) and Jhené Aiko this year.
And at the Mojave Tent, 10 acts with women topped the bill including Ash (2004), Art Brut (2006), Gogol Bordello (2007), Black Mountain (2008), Throbbing Gristle (2009), Fever Ray (2010), Gayngs (2011), Scissor Sisters (2011), How To Destroy Angels (2013) and Dead Can Dance (2013). Knowing there’s been two to three nights of time slots to fill, these numbers are quite pathetic.
But the fest’s promoters Goldenvoice have a chance to right this wrong by finally putting another female artist at the top of the bill. And why not start with 2015, the fest’s official 15th anniversary? (The fest began in 1999, but did not take place in 2000.)
To help will this into happening, we’ve come up with ten possible female headliners that run the gamut from superstars to icons that play by their own rules to some that, in our opinion, have just been gone for way too long.
The 10 Women Who Should Headline Coachella continues here.
Yeah, this is an absolute no-brainer. Bey is the biggest star in the world. Not even the hippest music snob can resist her cross-genre appeal. So why doesn’t she bring her Mrs. Carter World Tour to the California desert so she can show everyone why girls really do run the world. She’s already proven she can handle herself in high pressure situations. I mean, hello, 2013 Super Bowl halftime show, which had Rolling Stone asking, “Why would you ever have a Super Bowl without Beyoncé?” The answer is basically, we shouldn’t. Sorry Bruno Mars. And she hasn’t done much on the festival scene, besides headlining her hubby Jay Z’s Made in America festival in 2013. Seriously, this is a ***Flawless choice. We’re so confident she’ll get the call, we already started making our “SURFBORT” signs.
2. Kate Bush
Kate Bush just booked her first tour in 35 years, with a 15-date residency in London. The tickets sold out in 15 minutes. And while we’re all happy to see she’s playing shows again, what we really need to do is to get her over to the States. It would be the first time she’s ever played in America, barring an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1978. And what better place is there for her to make her American debut than at Coachella? We’ll even start a Kickstarter to help foot the bill. That how much we want to hear her sing anything off Hounds of Love.
3. Lana del Rey
With her disastrous 2012 SNL performance behind her—like way, way behind her—Lana has proven her fans will go anywhere to see her perform. With her new album, Ultraviolence, set to drop sometime this year, the festival could help solidify Lana as one of the biggest female artists in the game right now. Don’t think she could headline the main Coachella stage? Put her in the Outdoor Theatre again. But know, you’re gonna have some angry people on your hands when its filled to capacity and they can’t see their favorite songstress. We’re talking about some very real summertime sadness here.
4. Fleetwood Mac
Yes, there are more men than women in Fleetwood Mac. But if you don’t think Stevie Nicks is the star of the show, you’re crazy. With them reuniting with Christine McVie for an upcoming U.S. tour, what would be the harm of tacking on a few additional dates to play a weekend at Coachella? I mean this is the band’s chance to play their hits for all those twenty-somethings who’ve just discovered Rumours. Maybe those youngsters can even chaperone their parents who just want to see Nicks stare Lindsey Buckingham down during “Silver Springs” one more time.
Robyn is Coachella’s kind of pop star, you know, the kind that no one feels guilty about liking even though she’s toured with Katy Perry because on the flip side of things she helped soundtrack one of the best musical moments on TV with “Dancing On My Own” being used on Girls. Her headlining gig–she previously played in 2011–would be loud, vibrant and include a lot of dancing in platform sneakers. Which, at this point, the fest is certainly lacking. Will she have an album out in time? Does it even matter? She’s Robyn and she’ll make sure no one is dancing alone on whatever night she takes the stage.
Repeat headliners are kind of a drag, but this is Björk we’re talking about so there’s no way this performance will be anything like her last, which happened eight years ago. That’s like centuries ago in Icelandic time. We’re thinking Björk, who turns 50 next year, comes back in celebration of her storied 23-year solo career with a focus on the visuals. Maybe she gets director Michel Gondry to help her out, revisiting their past music video collaborations for a set that recreating those clips live. She created one-of-a-kind instruments for her last tour, for god’s sake. And if she did pull something that cool off, we’d be first in line to see it. And we’re pretty sure, you’d be right behind us.
7. Ms. Lauryn Hill
It’s been 16 years since Lauryn Hill released her debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but people still can’t stop talking about it. We propose Ms. Lauryn stops by and performs that album from front to back, perhaps with The Roots as her backing band. You know, she throws in a few new songs here and there. And say, halfway through, she announces she’s got some special friends she’d like to bring out and then we see Pras and Wyclef Jean take the stage for a Fugees reunion that has them pulling out all the hits.
8. St. Vincent
Want to prove you’ve got some clout, Coachella? Give Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) a chance to headline. Sure, right this minute she’s still a mid-level artist in terms of name recognition, but with her self-titled fourth album getting rave reviews and Nirvana giving her the call to come fill-in for Kurt at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week, she’s on the rise. And you could be the ones to speed up the star making process. Besides, it’s about time we got a woman who could really shred out there on that stage.
9. Janet Jackson
We need to bring the Rhythm Nation to Coachella. Janet Jackson has been out of the game for a bit–since 2011’s Number One, Up Close and Personal tour to be exact–but that makes the idea of her headlining Coachella even more interesting. She’s got 10 studio albums to choose from when it comes to a set list and even more famous friends and admirers she could recruit to come help her out. Maybe she even sings the hook for a special version of Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice,” complete with an appearance from Drake. The possibilities are endless. Just make sure you don’t call her baby, it’s Janet, Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty.
She’s sold millions and millions of records and she’s your sister’s, your mom’s and your grandma’s favorite artist, but she’s also a great fit for Coachella. Here’s why: in her career she’s only played a handful of U.S. shows due to vocal problems so a gig at Coachella would be one of the first times Americans could see her. Ryan Tedder swears her second album is in the works, but she’s in no rush to release it. Perhaps next April, Adele would like to make her live debut for her follow-up to 21, which may or may not be out yet. That date is Coachella and those millions and millions who bought her record, they definitely all want to see that. We’re talking record breaking ticket sales and the highest number of streaming views. Besides, don’t even try to tell us you wouldn’t ball your eyes out if you heard Adele belt out “Someone Like You” on the final day of the festival? No one is strong enough to resist that. No one.