The sonic history of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival is as diverse as the demographic that attends the three-day music extravaganza each year. Since its inception in 1999, the number of genres constituting each fest has expanded as the number of performers has doubled over the past decade and a half. This year’s Coachella lineup — which will return to Indio, Calif. for Weekend 2 on Friday — includes an eclectic mix of indie, alternative, rap/hip-hop, electronic, dance/house, rock, punk, pop and several other genres. But then again, Coachella has always included that wide range of musical options, with varying percentages of representation, as evidenced by the breakdown of performing acts by genre since Coachella’s inaugural year.
When Coachella humbly began in 1999, 75 artists were booked to perform, and the roster was dominated by electronic acts like Moby, Underworld and the Chemical Brothers, as well as a healthy smattering of (mostly underground) hip-hop artists like Jurassic 5 and Kool Keith. In the early 2000s, indie and alternative music began to take over the festival, with headliners like Oasis, Björk?, Weezer? and Jane’s Addiction? bringing in the masses. By 2006, the year Depeche Mode? and Tool headlined, indie music made up the biggest piece of the genre pie, while pop music had also showed some legs at the fest (thanks, Madonna?!).
Over the past five years, Coachella has struck a unique balance between the worlds of indie, dance, pop and hip-hop as its lineup has swelled to about 150 acts a year and its profile as a premier summer festival has grown. Traditional indie performers (recently, artists like Arcade Fire, Tame Impala, Phoenix and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) typically compose roughly one-quarter of the lineups, while dance and electronica will always be well-represented thanks to the ever-popular Sahara Tent, which primarily hosts top EDM acts like Skrillex, Avicii and David Guetta. Pop and hip-hop fluctuate more regularly on the lineup: 2014 was a great year for top 40 fans thanks to acts like Lorde and Lana Del Rey, while rap received an uptick this year with Drake, Run The Jewels and Tyler, The Creator on the bill.
One interesting trend: traditional rock has never comprised more than 10 percent of the Coachella lineup in a given year. On the bright side for those about to rock, AC/DC will properly salute you as a headliner when Coachella continues this weekend.