The Internet's instant responders sighed with contentment but did not experience hysteria when the Los Angeles Times revealed the lineup for this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival late Tuesday. The announcement silenced the din of whispers that builds excitement for the April event -- a rumor mill that this year featured talk of the Rolling Stones headlining, Daft Punk returning and Lady Gaga luring her fan army of "little monsters" to the Polo Grounds.
These tantalizing possibilities were left unfilfilled in the wake of worthy but more predictable headliners, many of whom have made big impressions at the festival before. The Arcade Fire is finally claiming the Saturday night anchor position that's been its destiny since the band's thrilling sunset set in 2005, and the Kings of Leon move up from the side stage the band burned down in 2007. New York's Strokes, finally reunited, can wow the kids too young to have seen them in 2002. Kanye West, who played Coachella in 2006, adds another notch to a designer belt already marked by performances at outdoor festivals Sasquatch (2005; he slayed) and Bonnaroo (2008; he flopped).
A grumbler could go on. Duran Duran will surely entertain in the big legacy-act slot, but the New Romantic royals have been back for a while, no news there. PJ Harvey's decision to grace the festival after a rumored multi-year courtship will surely result in fireworks -- the band's February release, "Let England Shake," is a killer of an album -- but it's hard to imagine Polly Harvey cutting a more stunning figure than she did in her Victorian finery during her 2007 White Chalk tour. And the overwrought "whoas" issuing forth from certain indie palaces about the reunion of the Toronto-based synth-punk duo Death From Above 1979 seem to be overplaying a marginal event in the absence of more significant ones.
What this year's Coachella line-up really does is thoroughly smack down the argument that a major music fest should stake its fortune on once-in-a-lifetime moments. Below the headliners, the weekend's bill unfolds impressively, containing a huge percentage of the artists earning accolades and buzz on the capricious cutting edge of pop.