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, Björk in 2007. Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne is the only other women to top the bill, with her band headlining 2011 and 2014.
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 nine 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.