Performing at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival will be a family affair in more ways than one for New Order keyboardist and guitarist Gillian Gilbert and her husband, drummer Stephen Morris.
The couple, who have been married since 1994, will be accompanied at Coachella by their daughters, Matilda and Grace.
“Grace, who is 17 and in college, wants to go to Coachella this year, so we’re bringing her,” said Gilbert, who first performed at the festival in Indio with New Order in 2005 and again in 2013.
“Of course, she’d like to see Beyoncé, who’s pregnant and not in the lineup any more. We’ve seen Lady Gaga (Beyoncé's Coachella replacement) three times.”
Eager to assert their independence, most teenagers would regard being accompanied by their parents at any festival with alarm. Does this apply to Grace?
Gilbert, speaking from her family’s home near Manchester, England, laughed knowingly.
“Yeah,” she replied. “That’s why we’re bringing her older sister, who’s 21, to keep an eye on her. But Grace is not such a wild child. She’s looked at all the bands who will be playing to pick who she wants to hear. It’s a big step to do your first festival. If you survive it, you can do anything!”
Gilbert is something of an expert when it comes to survival.
In 2007, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After treatment, she made a full recovery and vowed to rejoin New Order. She had stopped touring with the band in 1998, after Matilda was born, then quit altogether in 2001, when Grace was diagnosed with transverse myelitis and became paralyzed from the waist down.
Gilbert’s husband volunteered to leave New Order to take care of their daughters, but Gilbert declined his offer. Happily, Grace eventually rebounded. In 2011, after a decade-long absence, Gilbert rejoined New Order.
2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
When: Friday through Sunday, and April 21-23
Where: Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, Indio
Tickets: Sold out. A limited number of Outstanding in the Field gourmet dinner packages are available. They include a three-day festival pass and one dinner, and cost $624 (general admission) and $1,124 (VIP package) per person.
“It was hard at the time, leaving the band,” she recalled. “It was hard to be replaced quite quickly. And with Stephen still being in the band, it was very hard.
“But you can never replace the time with your kids. It goes so quick - and you can never get those years back - so I’m glad I left the band. And I’m glad I’m back. I think it would be different if we’d had kids when we were younger and took them on tour with us.”
New Order’s lineup now includes Gilbert, Morris, singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Tom Chapman and guitarist Phil Cunningham, who replaced Gilbert and stayed on after her return.
The band was formed in 1980 from the ashes of the band Joy Division, whose troubled lead singer, Ian Curtis, killed himself that same year. New Order, which helped pioneer a dance-happy brand of post-punk electro-pop, performed at England’s famed Glastonbury festival for the first time in 1981.
Gilbert and her band mates have since played at numerous festivals around the world. Many of those festivals have been modeled after Glastonbury and Coachella, whose producers have in turn cited Glastonbury as a key inspiration.
“We didn’t have a lot of festivals in the early 1980s,” Gilbert noted. “A lot of people come and there are a lot of different age groups, instead of playing just to an older audience who have grown up with us. It’s quite refreshing to play at festivals and have a lot of people dancing along to our new songs.
“Coachella is totally magical! It’s brilliant and it’s very different from English festivals, because of the weather. We had a great time playing Coachella in the past. Everything seems a lot more positive and people are there for the music and to have a good time.
“When you perform in concert halls, it’s all very serious and you can’t relax. But with everything that’s going on at Coachella, it’s just amazing.”
Did you know?
In 2016, New Order launched its first beer line, Stray Dog. Named after a song on the band’s 2015 album, “Music Complete,” the beer is “a refreshing and clean tasting golden ale with hints of citrus fruit and lychee, all balanced by a subtle bitterness.”