The Evolution of Coachella and Doubling Down on EDM

Sahara Dance Tent - Coachella 2014

Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Coachella is a festival that possesses appeal for fans of just about every kind of music. There always manages to be something for everyone, from the indie hipsters to people who like Drake. But lately they’ve devoted massive resources into pleasing a newer group of attendees: Ravers. The shift began back in 2010, when Coachella featured its first EDM headliner since Daft Punk, Tiesto. The following year, DJs like Paul van Dyk, Fedde Le Grand, and A-Trak infiltrated the lineup. Then 2012 happened, and the floodgates opened.

In that fateful year, we saw major EDM artists featured on all three days of Coachella, with Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Kaskade, Avicii, Afrojack, and Calvin Harris. Upwards of 30-plus electronic music artists found their way onto 2012’s lineup, marking an official arrival of the genre into the mainstream consciousness at the world-famous festival. In 2013, Coachella further accommodated this growth when they super-sized the Sahara Dance Tent, the stage that typically houses electronic music every year. The length was built to exceed that of a football field, while the height got bumped up 35 feet, creating a place that ravers could call home.

On the other side of the aisle, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler found himself annoyed with the festival’s decidedly electronic lean. During the band’s 2014 Coachella performance, Butler shouted out to “all the bands still playing instruments this weekend,” a marked jab against the gathering movement. Of course never one to be silent, EDM luminary deadmau5 took to Twitter (as he’s wont to do) with some opinions of his own.

This brief spat represented the battle raging between Coachella attendees accustomed to the festival catering to your more typical instrumental offerings, and a movement that’s one of the fastest growing genres of music in the world right now. While some feel like their favorite festival is being overrun by a passing fad, others feel as though EDM is very much here to stay. Coachella seems to agree with the latter, evidenced by their 2015 lineup announced just yesterday.

This year, the Indio festival is featuring its biggest ever EDM presence, with almost 40 DJs and producers gracing the lineup (easily its highest total of all time). Headlining acts like Kaskade, Nero, and Alesso will be making triumphant returns, while even smaller up-and-coming DJs like Kygo and ODESZA made the cut. The result is a year that promises even more from the Sahara Dance Tent. But what does this mean for the mainstays who feel like their experience has been tainted?

Observe for a moment this year’s headliners: AC/DC, Drake, and Jack White. It almost seems like a mainstream reaction to the not-so-mainstream offerings of electronic music, with three headliners that are almost guaranteed to draw a crowd. Juxtapose that against the Sahara Tent that will exclusively feature a massive EDM presence, and we’d be surprised if the debate didn’t continue to rage on this year. With this many DJs and ravers flooding Coachella in 2015, the conflict could very well come to a head, with each side laying claim to their slice of the festival. As for just how dominant the genre will be following its biggest year ever? We’ll have to wait and see.

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