This week, a New Yorker profile revealed that William Morris music head Marc Geiger had suggested Kate Bush as a possible act for Coachella 2017. But he was shot down immediately, with Coachella founder Paul Tollett vetoing the English art-pop titan outright. Here’s the exchange:
“I’ll say, ‘Kate Bush!’ And [Coachella CEO Paul Tollett will] go, ‘No!,’ and we’ll talk through it. I’ll say, ‘She’s never played here, and she just did 30 shows in the UK for the first time since the late seventies. You gotta do it! Have to!’ ‘No! No one is going to understand it.’”
Once the Internet caught wind, the story (understandably) blew up.
Who would say no to Kate Bush at Coachella? The famously reclusive “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” singer has only done two real tours—the first was “The Tour of Life” in 1979, and the other was a London-based “Before the Dawn” residency in 2014. There have only been a smattering of performances in between. Even Bush’s response (via a representative) was filled with shade toward Coachella: “The [Before the Dawn] show was conceived for a very specific type of venue. No discussions were ever had with Kate about playing any festival, including Coachella.” So Bush never even wanted to play Coachella. Case closed.
Leaving aside all he-offered-she-said-no semantics, it’s important to understand that Kate Bush performing at Coachella was never even an option. Bush famously hates touring; she allegedly finds it too physically demanding. She’s also rumored to have an intense fear of flying. What’s more, the subject of Bush at Coachella was never more than a pitch from a William Morris music head to Coachella’s CEO. It was only an idea—one that died immediately.
But it didn’t die for the right reasons. Coachella’s CEO could have said, “No, it’ll never work. Kate has never played in America, and she probably can’t be coaxed to no matter how many millions of dollars we throw at her.” Instead, Tollett fixated on the idea of accessibility. By saying “No one is going to understand it,” you’re immediately discounting the possibility of Coachella drawing audience members over 25. (Is that so crazy?). You’re also forgetting how many contemporary artists Bush has influenced over decades with her theatricality, her literary lyrics and sharp ear for hooks. Coachella headliner Lady Gaga has to count Bush as a direct influence, as do, say, pop eccentrics Devendra Banhart, Father John Misty, Hinds, Lorde(!!), Shura and Tove Lo, among others.
Say Coachella did manage to tempt Bush across the Atlantic Ocean—it would be a win comparable to reuniting The Smiths. Tickets would pay for themselves—maybe not out of the pockets of flower-crowned 20-year-olds, but, oh, say, their parents. But as this is all a moot point, and it’s 100 percent not happening, Tollett would do well to gain a better understanding of who influenced the moneymakers currently cramming Coachella’s bill.