Will Coachella's Cameos Ruin Music Festivals?

Monday, April 21, 2014 - 11:00 AM

(Left to right) Beyoncé and Solange perform during the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California. (Left to right) Beyoncé and Solange perform during the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty)

The main draw at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival used to be the reunions: the Pixies, Rage Against the Machine, Portishead, Pulp, and Pavement, to name a few. Even this year had a big ticket comeback in Outkast. But Andre 3K and Big Boi had to settle for being the festival's second-biggest event, overshadowed by a glut of show-stealing cameos. The sheer number of headline-worthy surprises sets an ugly precedent for future festivals, Coachella and otherwise.

See a list of Coachella cameos below

Coachella has seen this sort of thing before. R. Kelly joined Phoenix on stage for a further remix to "Ignition (Remix)" last year. In 2012, Dr. Dre brought out Snoop Dogg and — to everyone's surprise — resurrected Tupac Shakur. But this year, cameos seemed to dominate the festival in a pile-up that became the story, rather than the acts themselves. Jay Z joined Nas on Weekend One and Pharrell on Weekend Two (below). Beyoncé didn't sing, but came out to bust moves with her sister, Solange. Debbie Harry played "Heart of Glass" with Arcade Fire. If you took all the surprise guests and gave them a separate festival across the street in Indio, it would have been a bigger draw than Coachella itself. 

Some walk-ons enhanced sets. Pharrell isn't the most dynamic performer, but he's a lot more fun to watch when Gwen Stefani or Usher is standing next to him. But is this the new standard for major concerts? Will fans be disappointed if Janelle Monáe doesn't drop by the dozens of other festivals Outkast is playing this summer?

Yes, and that's a shame. Waiting for a cameo takes festival-goers out of the experience and turns an already hit-heavy set into a backdrop for celebrity-sightings and gawking instead of, you know, the music. We should be into Outkast for Outkast. 

The biggest surprise guests (and the artists they joined) at this year's Coachella

Future (Outkast)
Janelle Monáe (Outkast)
Jay Z (Nas and Pharrell) 
Puff Daddy (Nas)
Lauryn Hill (Nas)
Damian Marley (Nas)
Beyoncé (Solange)
Slash (Motorhead)
Drake (Jhené Aiko)
Childish Gambino (Jhené Aiko)
Blondie (Arcade Fire)
Mary J. Blige (Disclosure)
Justin Bieber (Chance the Rapper)
Billie Joe Armstrong (The Replacements)
Snoop Dogg (Pharrell)
Tyler the Creator (Pharrell)
Gwen Stefani (Pharrell)
Diplo (Pharrell)
Busta Rhymes (Pharrell)
Puff Daddy (Pharrell)
Nelly (Pharrell)
Usher (Pharrell)
Pusha T (Pharrell)
T.I. (Pharrell)
A$AP Rocky (A$AP Ferg)
E-40 (Girl Talk)


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Comments [1]

John from Brooklyn

Weellllll, this kind of misses the point that Coachella has built a reputation on this for years -- they actually pitch collaborations to artists and want that to be something the festival is known for. And with SO MANY bands/artists playing the fest, why not? I don't think anyone at an Outkast show in Seattle is going to make the mistake of thinking that Janelle Monáe will be coming onstage just because she did at Coachella, and I also don't think they'll care. I do agree with the author that these moments can be annoying, and feel a bit too precious and calculated at times (see: Solange, whose sister literally came out and DANCED, didn't even sing). But I also think that when it works it can be a lot of fun and a rare treat for audience members who want something more from a festival.

Apr. 22 2014 11:49 AM

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