Who wouldn’t give up their house, fortune and limbs to have Kate Bush play their festival? That was the question yesterday (April 10), when hands-on Coachella boss Paul Tollett, who personally books each of the California’s fests acts, was claimed to have turned down the chance for a headline slot from the legendary musician.
As it turns out, Tollett’s rejection was slightly misconstrued. He was being pitched a Kate Bush slot from Marc Geiger, head of booking agency William Morris Endeavour. Tollett didn’t give an outright rejection, more a hypothetical response: “No one is going to understand it,” he apparently told Geiger.
Tollett isn’t turning a blind eye to one of this generation’s best musicians. He’s actually right in thinking she wouldn’t work for Coachella. And he’s applying the exact same logic that Bush herself would give. Kate Bush and Coachella go together like lemonade and HP sauce. They’re different beasts – one’s a theatrical innovator focusing on visual arts, the other a mass-pleasing space for contemporary giants.
When Kate Bush made her live return in 2014, it felt like the unlikeliest of comebacks. And for every bit of anticipation prior to ‘Before the Dawn’, there was huge trepidation – from fans and Bush herself – that she wouldn’t be able to match the expectations stemming from a 35-year stage hiatus. Her eventual return was equally majestic as it was bombastic, the result of meticulous planning. She played 22 shows at Hammersmith Apollo when she could have filled the O2 Arena a dozen times or more. She made a reported £1.7 million, but she could have made 100 times that figure. As Bush’s PR told NME today (April 11): “It was never Kate’s intention to play any more shows than she did in London. The show was conceived for a very specific type of venue. No discussions were ever had with Kate about playing any festival, including Coachella.”
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The shows in 2014 met demand head-on by transgressing the idea of a live performance. Divided into three suites, they combined theatre with fanciful puppetry, immersive visuals and a more traditional ‘band’ part. ‘Before the Dawn’ was created for a seated audience with no distractions. And when even Kanye West is forced to bring a bare bones show to Glastonbury (excluding that crane), it’s clear festivals aren’t suited to Bush’s multi-faceted brilliance.
That’s not to say Coachella couldn’t try and incorporate those elements. Sia’s performance in 2016 was one of the fest’s standout moments, more emphasis on dance than all-out singalongs. Plus, Bush’s eye for technological innovation could find the right home here. After all, nobody had witnessed a hologram on stage before Tupac turned up alongside Snoop Dogg in 2012.
But some acts don’t neatly fill headline slots. They’re instead better suited to creating an environment of their own. Dodging the headliner route in 2017, Gorillaz are imagining an alternate world with ‘Demon Dayz’ in Dreamland, Margate. If Kate Bush is ever to break her festival silence, she’d be more inclined to creating one of her own. Imagine a wild paradise of gymnasts, improvised theatre and otherworldly waterworks taking place in a location of her choice, backed by a perfectly-curated selection of supports. Traditional festivals are there to cater for over hundreds of acts and hundreds of thousands of fans. And any big-name festival, not just Coachella, can’t quite fill the requirements needed to make her first festival show worth the wait.