This year’s headliners will be Calvin Harris and two newly revived rock bands: Guns ‘N’ Roses, whose original members will play together for the first time in two decades, and LCD Soundsystem, who will return in April 2016 after breaking up in April 2011.
Five years might count as a record timeframe for a resignation-to-reunion narrative as high-profile as LCD Soundsytem’s. When rumors initially hit the Internet last fall about Coachella, I wrote about why it might seem cynical for the dance-rockers to come back so soon after making a huge deal about resigning—and why there might nevertheless be demand for them to do so:
With the way music is now, there probably is real, pervasive nostalgia that LCD Soundsystem could cash in on. In fact, you could argue that the 2011 Madison Square Garden show is as good a marker as any for the end of the era when “indie rock” was a term with any cultural significance. Cultural is the key word there—“indie” has long been more of a social description than a musical or economic one, though it originally referred to a truly countercultural movement that predated the Internet. When I use it here, I’m talking about the parade of aughts bands feted by Pitchfork, selling out venues, and making a musical canon that served as a plausibly vibrant alternative to the mainstream.
Defining golden eras and genre trends is always messy, limited, inevitably silly. Plenty of standard-bearers—Arcade Fire, Animal Collective—are still working; plenty of underground and alternative scenes thriving right now; a few newish acts, like Tame Impala or Haim, successfully fit the old definition. But Google “indie rock is dead” and you come up with a slew of think pieces in the last five or six years with that headline.
Frontman James Murphy is a self-aware guy with a very deep knowledge of music history. It’s not too crazy to suspect this was his plan all along. His band played Coachella before, once in 2007 and once in 2010, and their journey up in font size for this year’s poster is, if nothing else, a sign of how a band’s stock can rise in just five years of hibernation.