Planning your attack of who to see at Coachella can make or break the weekend. To help map out your route, DiscoverSD and U-T San Diego reporters named their top picks for each day.
One of the highlights at Coachella each year is the opportunity to witness a long-dormant band reactivate, be it Rage Against The Machine (in 2007) or The Mars Volta (2012). While the reunion of OutKast is deservedly commanding much attention this weekend, the near-reunion of The Replacements is nearly as notable. The legendary Minneapolis quartet reignited last year, after a 22-year hiatus, for just three shows (none in California). Half the lineup is new, but with the mighty Paul Westerberg still at the fore, expect a raw, raucous set of gritty songs that rock and roll with infectious grit and spirit.
Even though the sisters that make up the band Haim were born in the late ’80s and early ’90s, they sound like children of the ’70s. Alana, Danielle and Este Haim (along with drummer Dash Hutton) sing melancholy pop songs in the spirit of Fleetwood Mac and Carole King. But the Los Angeles-bred siblings — who grew up listening to Destiny’s Child — bring their own modern flair that’s chic, relaxed and completely catchy. Given that so many Coachella attendees walk around wearing flower headbands and peasant dresses, the soft pop of Haim (rhymes with rhyme) will make everyone feel like they’re living in a sun-splashed music video.
When Swedish DJ Avicii released his song “Wake Me Up” last June, not many knew who the smooth voice on the summer anthem belonged to. Seven short months later, an uplifting, feel-good hit called “The Man” reintroduced the world to Aloe Blacc, a 35-year old singer-songwriter with a whole lot of soul. Blacc, whose real name is Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, wasn’t quite an overnight success story, however. After starting his music career with an underground hip-hop duo in the mid-’90s, the Cali-native graduated from the University of Southern California and launched a solo career that refocused on sending a socially-conscious message.
††† (Crosses) features Deftones frontman Chino Moreno, guitarist Shaun Lopez of Far and bassist Chuck Doom. Channeling Moreno’s penchant for gloomy, new wave music (see The Cure), ††† (Crosses) self-titled album debuted at number 4 on Billboard’s alternative chart with the help of the radio single “The Epilogue.” On recordings, ††† (Crosses) rely heavily on electronics and drum machines, but live, the songs possess more fire and emotion. At a recent San Diego show at The Griffin, the band included a haunting rendition of “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus in their set, sparking memories of Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs.”
Broken Bells is a collaboration between Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, and The Shins’ James Mercer. They often combine Mercer’s bread-and-butter acoustic guitar with Burton’s keys or electric guitar, and layer the sound with a poppy synthesizer. With songs like “The High Road” and “The Ghost Inside,” the band made an indelible impression on alternative-rock. Broken Bells came out with its new album “After the Disco” in February and songs from it include the slow, melodic “Leave It Alone,” as well as the eerily intriguing synth that underlies “Holding On for Life.”
At 17, the New Zealand singer-songwriter born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor is having a banner year. But what’s most notable isn’t the fact she won two Grammy Awards in January for “Royals,” her already classic song about confronting and rejecting the crass status quo of today’s youth culture and its worship of vapid, greed-fueled celebrities. Rather, it’s that Lorde has a vivid musical imagination, as evidenced by her haunting soundscapes, and her ability to craft provocative lyrics that celebrate otherness and feminism with a degree of maturity well beyond her tender years.
Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age founder Josh Homme is from the desert, not too far from Coachella. He understands the freedom of the desert’s wide open spaces, the isolation, the pressure from the sun’s oppressive heat. And all that’s perfectly reflected in the hard rock Homme creates with Queens of the Stone Age. Since the late 1990s, the band has been churning out brainy, alternative metal with songs like “Regular John” and “Feel Good Hit of the Summer.” QOTSA is already an intense live band, so just imagine how deep it will get when it plays in its own backyard.
During The xx’s set at last year’s Coachella festival, crowds were greeted with a bright surprise when Solange Knowles joined the duo on stage to sing Aaliyah’s “Hot Like Fire.” If that was a test to see if Knowles was ready for the big leagues, then she passed with flying colors. The singer — whose latest hit “Losing You” embraces R&B with electronic beats — is slated to perform her own full set Saturday. Sure, being sisters with Beyoncé has its perks, but Solange has paved her own way through the industry, even launching her own record label, Saint Records, last year.
After years of touring in support of MGMT, Passion Pit, and We Were Promised Jetpacks, Brooklyn’s Bear Hands has crossed over to headlining gigs and commercial radio play with their recently released sophomore album, “Distraction.” Possessing elements of pop, post-punk and new wave, the indie four-piece layers synth-laden infectious tunes with deep, thought-provoking lyrics. Live, Bear Hands deliver a high-energy, up-tempo show filled with pounding drums, thumping bass and sweet vocals delivered by Dylan Rau. See them now, before they blow up.
The Head and the Heart
In an age of indie music where acoustic bands can fade into obscurity, The Head and the Heart stands apart. They have established a loyal following through their shows, which endear audiences to their sound, which is by turns upbeat and light and slow and thoughtful. Last October, their sophomore album, “Let’s Be Still,” came out and capitalized on each of their three vocalists’ strengths, while experimenting more with electronic synth touches. The result was a record that expands on the folksiness of their first album while producing a richer sound that should fill the stage at Coachella.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Coachella often has the heat of summertime New Orleans, but not (thankfully) the humidity. Expect Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews to bring the sizzle of the Big Easy — and enough festive flair to make it seem like Mardi Gras has suddenly landed in the middle of Indio. His dance-happy fusion of funk, rock, jazz, hip-hop, blues, gospel, Latin and more repeatedly wins over new listeners, as he proved so convincingly at both the Playboy Jazz Festival in 2011 and the final edition of San Diego Street Scene in 2009.
Ever since the Canadian indie-art band won a Grammy Award in 2011, lots of hipsters have kept a distance from Arcade Fire. Maybe the band’s become more mainstream — it’s certainly mellowed in its advanced age — but, say what you will, Sunday’s headliner knows how to put on a show. The many French-Canadian band members, led by husband-and-wife singers Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, play everything from violin and xylophone to French horn and harp. They sing and scream and climb things and elevate their concerts into spiritual experiences. Arcade Fire is among the final bands to perform at Coachella, but resist the urge to cut out early because they put on the kind of unique performance that music festivals are all about.
When English electronic music duo Disclosure take the stage on day three of the festival, the age of the average fan will likely be older than both brothers. Guy Lawrence, 22, and Howard Lawrence, 19, have established themselves as musicians well beyond their years since the album “Settle” released in May of last year. A Grammy nomination, worldwide tour and collaboration with Mary J. Blige are a few of their recent resume additions, as well as kicking off the careers of other artists like Sam Smith, who was featured on the single “Latch.” They’ve stated that they’ll “drop off the map” to work on their next album in September, meaning Coachella is the time to bask in the Disclosure buzz.
Having pulled out of a month’s worth of festivals in May, consider yourself lucky to see Motörhead in the desert. Legendary frontman Lemmy Kilmister, 68, was sidelined with heart issues last summer, but in a recent interview with the Full Metal Jackie radio show, he said, “I am feeling a lot better than I did, which was terrible.” After nearly 40 years of touring, this will be the first appearance at Coachella for the “loudest band is the world.” When asked if he’s looking forward to it, the godfather of metal responded, “Yeah, yeah. Well, it depends how the first weekend goes.” Either way, the cult of Motörhead will be salivating (and, headbanging) during “Ace of Spades,” “Bomber” and “Overkill.”
Neutral Milk Hotel
Indie rock pioneers Neutral Milk Hotel created a timeless album with its 1998 release “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” Last year, the band broke a 15-year hiatus to play live shows again. Sunday at Coachella will keep the run going. The whine of lead singer Jeff Mangum’s voice gives the band a distinct sound that resonates with audiences and creates a thread that runs seamlessly through the album. Their use of unconventional instruments like bowing a saw in the titular song “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” gives Neutral Milk Hotel an authenticity that can’t be replicated.