Coachella’s most memorable reunion shows

As Coachella ticket-holders sit indoors, watching old sets on YouTube instead of heading deep into the Californian desert, we delve into the festival’s twenty-year history and remember all the times a major band have buried the hatchet to reform on the Polo Club lawn. 

From Coachella’s humble beginnings – it was former punk-show bookers Goldenvoice’s first foray into festivalling – it has grown to be one of the world’s most renowned music festivals drawing the biggest names in rock, pop and electronic music. 

It was Goldenvoice’s reputation and indie creds that has led to some pretty epic reunions forming on the festival grounds. Here are some of the most memorable:

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, California. 2018.

Jane’s Addiction – 2001

What’s the story? 

Alt-rock heroes, Jane’s Addiction originally called it a day in 1991. After a rocky patch caused, in short, by the band’s incessant drug taking, tensions were high and the band played one of their last shows at Lollapalooza 1991, a festival founded by frontman Perry Farrell to wave goodbye to his band. 

The reunion

In 2001, Farrell recalls getting a phone call from his pals at Goldenvoice asking if he’d reform the band. The festival was in trouble financially and they’d failed to book a headliner for that year. The Jane’s Addiction reunion (and the band’s offer to defer payment until later) saved the fledgling festival and helped make Coachella what it is today. 

Watch a clip below.

The Pixies – 2004

What’s the story?

The Pixies disbanded in 2003 with Black Francis reportedly telling his bandmates Kim Deal and David Lovering that the band was over via fax after making an initial announcement on a radio show that Pixies were done. The band disbanded and solo projects followed from all including Deal’s stint with Breeders and their hugely successful debut album, Last Splash

The reunion

Billed under Radiohead on the Coachella lineup, Pixies’ desert set almost outdid the headliners. Their break-up came before the alt-rock rise in the mid-to-late nineties and so new swathes of young ‘Chella goers were thrilled at the chance to see the band – heralded by the likes of Kurt Cobain – in the flesh for the first time. Technically not their first reunion show (that was in Minneapolis a few weeks earlier) but the biggest to date, it goes down as one of Coachella’s most memorable performances.

Rage Against The Machine – 2007 and 2020?

What’s the story?

Anarchistic rock icons, Rage Against The Machine’s demise came as a result of in-fighting and – according to frontman Zach De La Rocha – “because our decision-making process has completely failed. It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal.” The remaining band members, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk stayed together, forming Audioslave with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell on vocals.

The reunion

After years of The Bush Administration ruling America, the fiercely political Rage Against The Machine could stay away no more. Agreeing to reunite for Coachella 2007 after seven years away, the band drew the biggest Coachella crowd ever seen (at the time) to the festival’s first ever three-day event.

Watch them play Testify from 1999’s The Battle Of Los Angeles, below.

The band broke up again in 2009. Morello, Wilk and Commerford went on to form Prophets of Rage in 2016 with B-Real from Cypress Hill and Ice Cube from Public Enemy on vocals. But despite vehemently denying a reconciliation with De La Rocha would ever be on the cards in almost every interview, in late 2019 it was announced that Rage Against The Machine would be reborn for Coachella 2020 and a worldwide sell-out tour. Then, of course, COVID-19 put a halt to all of that. As it stands, Coachella 2020 has moved back to October 9-11. Will public gatherings have resumed by then? It’s not looking likely.

Outkast – 2014

What’s the story?

Just as Rage Against The Machine reform, Outkast call it quits. After the phenomenal success of 2003’s double album ‘Speakerboxx/The Love Below’ and follow-up Outkast soundtrack ‘Idlewild’, Big Boi had a taste for going it alone (‘Speakerboxx’ was essentially a solo record) and decided to venture out on his own.

The reunion

Well it’s fair to say the fans were hyped for an Outkast comeback but on the night, not everything went to plan. Complaints of sound issues and a lack of production plagued the duo with others saying the chemistry between the pair just wasn’t there. One thing’s for sure though, the ‘Chella crowd still shook it like a Polaroid picture for ‘Hey Ya!’ Perhaps indicative of the type of audience the festival would attract in the years that followed, more concerned with hearing the big hit and posing for photos than enjoying a two-hour, career-spanning set.

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