Coachella Report 03/10 – Howlin’ for Who?: The Black Keys

The day had been wet and cold – the night even colder – and I leaned against the handicap platform; sitting next to a lonely girl, hidden by a jacket that covered her face and head, who did not stand up when The Black Keys took to the stage. She might have felt the same way I did – as though somebody plunged knives into my thighs – but I forced myself up so that I may painfully jump and rock to a very exciting band that has been invading the festival circuit in recent years. I wondered if that girl sat waiting for Swedish House Mafia and if this was just some difficult trail for her to get through. It may have been, but The Black Keys are too excellent a live band, and by the time they played “Tighten Up,” she battled the cold to her feet so that she can see what it was that was making her suffering more bearable.

The band’s brilliant guitarist and singer, Dan Auerbach, told the audience to wish the duo’s drummer, Patrick Carney, a happy birthday, which reminded me that I had been there before. The Black Keys played Coachella last year, also on Friday night, and they were practically the day’s headliner – well, it was Kings of Leon, but you know what I mean… Why did The Black Keys return to Coachella so soon? I suppose the biggest consideration might be their release of El Camino, which received no play during the 2011 Coachella. But still, when I think of the headlining placement on a festival’s poster, I think of Paul McCartney, Prince, Roger Waters, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and all those colossal acts that feature in the legends told by music-lovers.

I think there may be something happening to the headliner status that is a combination of there being less of these gigantic acts, as well as festivals giving “promotions” to bands that usually ride the second – or lower than that – tier. It seems like a lot of those available classic acts have already headlined Coachella; the others have become unavailable; and, frighteningly, that today’s bands cannot naturally reach the thrones taken by acts like The Cure – Billy Corgan thinks so, at least. But, aside from that, we’ve also seen those “promotions” before: Jack Johnson at Coachella 2008, The Killers at Coachella 2009, Kings of Leon and (perhaps) The Arcade Fire at Coachella 2011. Are The Black Keys becoming legendary or are they following those “promoted” bands?

I personally feel that The Black Keys, while being a very good band, are more so enjoying the success from their popular singles; they hold a coolness factor that might fade away when the next popular act does something similar. I hope that The Black Keys has only just begun (despite their seven albums), and that they’ll create something that will allow them to endure for hundreds of years. It all makes me wonder who will be the future headliners for Coachella, among those lower tier bands; and I think if I had to name some names, those names would be these: Beach House, Metric, The National, and Phoenix.

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