It’s been 8 years since Radiohead took the Indio desert stage and stared into the faces of thousands of festival goers at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Unlike many bands that in the space of eight years (or less) shoot to fame on a one hit wonder and fall just as swiftly, Radiohead is a band whose timeless music never ceases to have relevance. In just under a month the English rockers will once again prove the strength of their staying power by returning to Coachella as the coveted headliner on Saturday night.
Since the early 1990’s Radiohead has been a fixture in the music industry, causing many listeners to revel in the astral sounds of the band’s experimental rock and leaving fellow musicians in a state of speechless envy. With their most recent release, The King of Limbs, marking the band’s eighth album, Radiohead shows no signs of slowing down their nearly 20 year reign of quality music. Yet the road to rock-stardom has not always been smoothly paved for these Brits. Though Radiohead first loosely assembled in 1985, the band didn’t receive more than a blip of recognition (and even procured a slew of bad reviews) until their single “Creep” finally caught on in 1993 after being re-released, followed by the success of their sophomore album, The Bends.
It was from there that Radiohead rose to fame and dominated the airwaves amidst the grunge and Britpop controlled decade, with intricately arranged songs that showcased the band’s airy instrumentation and frontman Thom Yorke’s haunting falsetto vocals. Throughout the 1990’s and into the 2000’s Radiohead continued to gain popularity, all the while harboring a growing fear of becoming a product of commercialization and record label puppets. The band seemingly rebelled against any choices that were expected, releasing songs that were deemed “un-commercial” by major label execs and against all odds turned them into radio gold, time and time again. Additionally, in an effort to stop being pigeonholed as “the Creep band”, Radiohead obstinately scrapped the song from their live shows for several years, determined to shake the association, but in turn causing uproar from many fans.
Radiohead has rarely succumbed to external pressures, though whether due to a unique vision or inherent stubbornness remains to be decided. Radiohead has embraced eccentricity countless times, toying with commercial suicide and each time defying it. Upon the end of their contract with record label EMI, the band celebrated with a glaring middle finger to the corporate world by releasing their seventh album, In Rainbows, as a digital download, and generously offered it up to fans at whatever price they deemed fit. Though many fans chose to pay nothing for the download, In Rainbows still proved to be more profitable than the band’s previous record, Hail to the Thief.
It has been said that truly great artists are often unpredictable and Radiohead is no exception. This April when Radiohead makes their long awaited return to the Coachella to share their music with a new generation of fans, it will be a special occasion. There’s no predicating when and if these musicians will ever chose to make another appearance at the Indio festival. Coachella concert-goers would be well advised to relish the sound of this rare treat.
Radiohead performs Saturday, April 14 & 21 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival