The Beat: KROQ Music Director Lisa Worden on Coachella Partnership

photo: Courtesy of Lisa Worden

Lisa Worden (right) with Matthew Healy from The 1975. 

Weekend one of Coachella is overflowing with parties, everything from traditions like Neon Carnival and the Lacoste soiree to this year, for the first time ever, a McDonald’s party. But only one event surrounding the concert actually works in conjunction with Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, LA radio station KROQ’s annual party house.

“We have been their partner from day one. We were their partner when you couldn’t give tickets away to Coachella,” KROQ Music Director Lisa Worden says at the house, between sets by Chromeo and Dum Dum Girls. “I know that’s hard to imagine because it was so long ago.”

Today of course Coachella is arguably the biggest festival in the United States, and by the day before the festival the few scarce tickets on Stub Hub were priced at more than $3,000 thousand dollars a piece. Worden is thrilled to see the success of the festival for Goldenvoice and the Los Angeles-based company’s president, Paul Tollett. “We’ve been along on this ride and this journey with Paul and it’s his baby and his show,” she says. “But he knows we were there from early on to help support him and to see this show be as big as it is, on the level of Glastonbury and Reading, we’re really happy for him.”

Working in conjunction with Goldenvoice has its perks, as KROQ is able to build almost a mini-festival at the house, this year featuring appearances for everyone from Foster The People and Cage The Elephant to Banks and Head and the Heart. It’s important to Worden that the three-day event at the KROQ house reflect the diversity of the Coachella lineup. 

“When I put the schedule together for the house I really try to blend all the different sounds of Coachella,” she says. “And even if some of those sounds aren’t the core sound of KROQ, I like to expose our listeners [to new music. For instance, Chromeo, I actually love that new song, our sister station, AMP, is playing it. It might be a little more appropriate for them, but I thought to have them here at the KROQ house would be amazing.” 

Programming such a diverse mix at the house not only allows Worden to make her own discoveries, but even find some new gems for KROQ. “Tom Odell, I’d never seen him live, hadn’t met him, knew the music, but I was like, ‘I want to have him over to the house,’” she says. “Such a sweetheart, such a pleasure, amazing musician, he played a cover of Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer,’ blew me away, threw it on the air.”

Worden is looking forward to the discovery that could happen at the KROQ Coachella house next year. “I can tell you a band that played last year that we had to the house and they are one of my obsessions, but they haven’t gotten that big yet, which is Foals. And I hope Foals have a new album and are in a position to be in a bigger place on Coachella, I believe so much in that band, I think they’ll be huge one day,” she says. “Thumpers I love, they weren’t on the bill this year, I love that band.”

Well before Coachella 2015 though Worden is thinking of the annual KROQ Weenie Roast, to be held in May. “I’m booking the bill, and we’re actually holding spots because we don’t announce for a few more weeks and there could be that one thing that drops in our laps. KROQ is always exposing new bands.”

What were some of her proudest breakthroughs that KROQ contributed to? “Bastille, Fitz & The Tantrums, we were the first station to add ‘Out Of My League’ and take them from this bubbling under band to having a legit hit, and now two hits,” she says. “KROQ was super early to add Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and I’d been dying for that band to be as big here as they are everywhere else and they’re finally getting that kind of success.”

However, as much as she loves exposing her audience to new acts she is not above the reunion fever that hits Coachella. “The Smiths, that’s my dream band to play the Weenie Roast.”