Assessing Coachella 2012: Expected Headliners Lead An Awesome Undercard

Here’s my take on the lineup for Coachella 2012, which was revealed Monday night: At least it’s not the fake one that was making the rounds in November.

Back then, the rumored headliners were No Doubt, Foo Fighters and Radiohead, with acts like Chris Cornell, Feist and LMFAO (!) on the sub-ledger. It was a pretty good guess (I mean, they got Radiohead), but would have made for a pretty bland weekend … which is why it comes as a great relief that the actual Coachella lineup does not feature a single member of Berry Gordy’s extended family. Instead, we get headliners the Black Keys, the aforementioned Radiohead and the double-bill of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg — all solid, all worth the price of admission and all filling various slots (the new kings of rock, the established, professorial legends and, uh, the hip-hop act) — and an undercard that ranks amongst the best in the fest’s history.

Of course, the usual suspects are all accounted for (Bon Iver, Beirut, the Shins, Florence and the Machine, Justice, et al), but it’s the spate of reunited acts — always a Coachella tradition — that really makes this year’s edition truly special: Britpop titans Pulp, the gauzy, gorgeous Mazzy Star, doomy instrumentalists Godspeed You! Black Emperor and a pair of proto-punk stalwarts — art-damaged Texas thrusters At The Drive In and Sweden’s Refused, who, with their oddly prescient 1998 album The Shape Of Punk To Come, basically predicted the next ten years of angular, angsty rock — all of whom elevate Coachella 2012 to can’t-miss status.

There’s also the Arctic Monkeys, M83, Noel Gallagher (and his High Flying Birds), Jeff Mangum, Cat Power, Girls, Tim Armstrong and Jimmy Cliff, Frank Ocean and the Horrors … all of whom I would (or have) pay good money to see on their own. And sure, purists may point to the overabundance of fist-pumping dance acts on the bill — Swedish House Mafia, Afrojack, Kaskade, Avici, etc — as evidence of Coachella’s downfall, but, hey, at least they represent fest organizers’ attempts to reflect the current state of popular music, and perhaps even forecast the future. Coachella can’t always be about nostalgia, after all.

So, yes, I’m pumped. Yes, I will be there. And even if you have reservations about this year’s Coachella (too many DJs! too boring headliners!) at least you can take solace in the fact that the undercard packs a serious, once-in-a-lifetime wallop. And absolutely no LMFAO. Small victories, people.