Will new Madonna debut at Coachella?
“The Queen of Pop is one day away from extending her reign to the nation’s most significant alternative music festival”, writes Bruce Fessier today on The Desert Sun.
In his article, Fessier also talks to Billy Steinberg, who was living in the desert in Southern California in the early 80’s and co-wrote Madonna’s biggest hit, “Like A Virgin“.
Billy shares his thoughts and anticipation about what Madonna is going to perform live at Coachella – just like he did a few weeks ago in his exclusive interview with MadonnaTribe.
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is featuring more popular artists today and Sunday than it ever has before. Kanye West. Depeche Mode. Franz Ferdinand. James Blunt. They’ve all had No. 1 singles on the Billboard charts.
But most of the media attention at this seventh annual event is on the 50-minute set Madonna will perform in a dance tent at 8:10 p.m. Sunday.
“A lot of people (are) asking about Madonna on the media side,” said Coachella founder Paul Tollett of the Los Angeles-based Goldenvoice company. “I understand that. She’s a huge name.”
A lot of people are talking about her on the artist side, too. Tom Smith of the Editors, an English neo-punk band performing opposite Madonna on Sunday in the Gobi Tent, has predicted this Coachella will be known as “the Madonna festival.”
Geologist (aka Brian Weitz) of the indie band Animal Collective, playing at 4:25 p.m. today, says he’s more interested in seeing Madonna than any other artist on the weekend’s bill.
“Throughout her career, she has constantly looked for new ways to inspire herself and her listeners, as opposed to relying on a safe and marketable product,” he told The Desert Sun. “To see an artist care about that after reaching the commercial success and attaining the legendary status that she has should be refreshing and inspiring to all the so-called ‘cutting-edge’ bands.”
Tollett is reticent to discuss the special accommodations he made for Madonna’s set. “I haven’t given one interview on that end of it,” he said. “We’ve spent the last couple months coming up with a plan for the tent, her safety being the No. 1 issue. We feel we have a good system in place.”
Madonna is bringing a production team, indicating this will be more than just a DJ set. But Tollett is concerned that if he talks about the details of Madonna’s show, including plans to ensure adequate sightlines and crowd control, it might overshadow the other performers playing in that tent. He doesn’t think Madonna is doing that.
“I don’t think so at all,” he said. “We were flying on tickets before we added her. I think she’s made a conscious effort to fit in and not try and make it her show. But when she’s on, that will be her tent. She’ll kill it.”
Madonna has not only made herself unavailable for interviews for this appearance, her publicist didn’t provide a photograph or any text about her, as most other artists did.
Other than media attention, Tollett says the biggest boost he’s received from Madonna is the local respect she’s generated.
“Some years it doesn’t seem like the locals really know a lot of the bands we have on the bill – some of the adults,” he said. “This year I’ve heard, ‘Well, I finally heard of someone on your show.'”
Younger music fans have said Madonna, 47, really didn’t influence their decision to come to this festival.
Brandon Lipe, 18, of La Quinta, said he and his friends first thought her singing style was too old for the festival. But he reconsidered.
“Madonna will probably bring in some older – some more of the parents,” Lipe said. “I think it’s pretty cool when you’re standing next to a 40-year-old guy and they’re rocking out.”
Madonna is expected to perform electronic dance-oriented material in support of her most recent album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor.” That leads many to think she’s trying to re-invent herself for a younger audience.
Billy Steinberg, a Palm Springs High School graduate who co-wrote Madonna’s biggest hit, “Like A Virgin,” says, well, yeah.
“She’s certainly reinvented herself more times than you can imagine,” he said in a telephone from his Los Angeles home. “She just never looks back. For me, Madonna is right up there with Diana Ross as a great pop singer. I also think she’s extremely underrated as a songwriter.”
Madonna has written most of her own hits since “Like A Virgin,” and Steinberg says she writes them the old-fashioned way. She takes tracks submitted to her and, instead of just layering in the studio, “she takes these tracks she likes and she writes lyrics and melodies.
“People like to think she has this great team behind her,” Steinberg said. “But really, she’s doing it herself.”
Edgar Torres, 18 of La Quinta, believes Madonna is trying to reinvent herself for young people. But he doesn’t think it’ll work.
“I don’t think so because everyone knows Madonna,” he said. “So the image they have of her is going to stay the same. I don’t think she’s going to win people over by performing at the Coachella fest.”
But electronica star Paul Oakenfold, who precedes Madonna in the Sahara Tent, says her appearance at Coachella as a dance artist will bolster his genre.
“You’ve had some amazing acts before at Coachella and I think it’s cool that she’s doing it,” he said by phone from his L.A. home. “I think it’s fantastic for the electronic scene that she’s chosen to play the tent.”
“Electronica was super-hot for a while,” added Tollett. “It got a lot of press in Newsweek and Time magazine. It’s still been strong for us, but sometimes I hear from different people, ‘You’ve got a lot of electronica artists.’
“I think it means a lot that Madonna wanted to play that part of the festival. She’s acknowledging that that scene is super vibrant right now, and to me that is a shot in the arm.”
Oakenfold said Madonna’s appearance adds credibility to the entire festival. But Steinberg is more interested in the material Madonna might perform than the genre she’d explore.
Based on an article by Bruce Fessier. The Desert Sun.
To read what Billy Steinberg told M-Tribe in his exclusive interview last month about the way Madonna performed his signature hit in past and new tours, simply click on the image below.