Kanye West was ruled out of headlining this year’s Coachella festival because organisers said it would be impossible to build a bespoke stage that he requested at the last minute.
West, who was due to be announced as a headliner on 3 January asked Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett on 1 January for a custom-built dome stage in the middle of the festival grounds. The dome was to be designed by West’s collaborator John McGuire, allowing for an in-the-round performance featuring hi-tech production and immersive video.
Building the structure would have entailed rearranging the festival site and removing a large number of toilets. When Coachella parent company Goldenvoice explained the impossibility of doing so to West, he is said to have become irritated, saying that he was an artist with a creative vision who shouldn’t be spending his time discussing toilets, a source told Billboard magazine.
West had complained that the festival’s main stage was not big enough for his performance. Goldenvoice reminded him that previous headliners including Lady Gaga and Beyoncé – who brought more than 100 performers to her now-legendary 2018 headline slot – had found it accommodating.
The company decided to end talks with West and seek a new headliner. Ariana Grande replaced the rapper on the bill, and will headline the final night of the festival. Grande is represented by manager Scooter Braun, who also worked with West until December 2018.
A headline slot by West may well have proved controversial owing to the rapper’s defiant support of Donald Trump, which has divided his fans. His last album, Ye, released in summer 2018, was critically panned.
It was not the only last-minute reshuffle for the festival, which takes place in the California desert across two weekends in April. Despite a muted critical and commercial reception for his 2018 album, Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake was due to headline one night, but had to cancel after his rescheduled tour dates – having delayed performances to treat bruised vocal cords – conflicted with the festival’s radius clause. He has been replaced by Australian psychedelic band Tame Impala, who are expected to release their fourth album this year.
The controversial radius clause restricts performers from playing other North American festivals during a 100-day period, in addition to not performing in seven southern California counties during that period.
Childish Gambino – AKA Donald Glover – will join Grande and Tame Impala in headlining the festival. Guardian staff and writers voted his single This Is America the best song of 2018.