I like to think I’m a pretty musical guy. I mean, I can’t really play any instruments outside of jamming Wonderwall, and nobody wants to be that guy at a party. So I relegate my musical interest into finding new and amazing bands to only stream legally through proper channels like Spotify. But no matter how deep I go (and I always go deep), Coachella always finds ways to surprise me.
Unless you live under a rock, and I’m not saying that’s not something I’d like to try someday, then you’ve probably seen that the Coachella 2015 lineup dropped today. And while the headliners are nothing to write home about on paper, when you actually delve into who’s on the lineup, you’ll find that that the whole thing is fucking stacked from top to bottom. There’s a lot of overlap with the Laneways Festival lineup, but Coachella is an entirely different animal. A much bigger, fiercer animal.
It can be overwhelming. Six stages and dozens of people to see each day. Today has a pretty heavy electronic/hip-hop tilt and my recommendations will reflect that a bit, but keep in mind that each stage caters to different tastes and you’ll always be able to find something that you want to do.
But if you need help deciding where you’ll be, I can help.
Tame Impala was on the lineup only a few years ago, with a sunset set during the craziest sandstorm Coachella’s ever had. It was like a music festival hosted by Mad Max, and it fucking rocked. These guys will be putting out their third album right around Coachella, so they’ll be playing a ton of new music that hasn’t been heard before, and if its anything like their last two albums – which, by the way, are considered some of the best Australian music to come out lately – then it’s going to be awesome. Fuck AC/DC, these are the Australian Rock Stars you should be seeing today.
- Porter Robinson is a pretty amazing artist in his own right, but right now, he’s probably best known for his utter hatred for the EDM scene from whence he came. Dude had a mental breakdown during a show because he couldn’t stand it anymore. So he jettisoned all the music that he used to make and came out with his new album Worlds, which is probably what Beethoven would have made had he only a single Pokemon game as an instrument. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and Porter’s put together a new live show to go along with it that’s way different than the typical EDM lightshow.
- Caribou will probably end up taking a late slot in the Mojave tent, which is really the only place you could conceivably put him. His brand of music is too rockin’ for the Sahara tent, too clubby for the Gobi, too intimate for the Outdoor, and too popular for the Yuma. Dan Snaith, the guy behind the pseudonym, is an adventurous guy and likes making music of all kinds. His new Caribou album is the first in four years and he’s already remixed his own songs under different monikers, so this will be a great, eclectic set.
- Gorgon City is a pair of producers out of North London making danceable house music with vocals. Basically, they’re the most generic followers of Calvin Harris around. That would be a problem, if they weren’t so fucking good. I almost hate myself sometimes by how much I enjoy this kind of music. They’re the ultimate representative of what the Sahara tent is now, so if you can get into their set, somewhere near the front, you’re sure to have an absolute blast.
- Sylvan Esso makes really nice ambient electronic music that feels like somebody’s rubbing your head with silk and telling you that everything will be okay. It’ll be an amazing set for sure, but speaking of connections, the producer in the band, Nick Sanborn, also works with Megafaun. Megafaun is the group that formed when Justin Vernon split off from DeYarmond Edison to create his Bon Iver project. I’m not saying anybody will show up in their show, but the pedigree is interesting.
- Kele occupies a pretty small slot on the lineup poster, especially given the fact that his old band, Bloc Party, was a third line booking way back in 2006. Yeah, that band you used to love back in middle school when you couldn’t decide whether you wanted to be a rocker or some new wave shoegazer. You may not recognize the name, but you’ll recognize the distinctive voice immediately. Kele is doing his own solo thing now, and it’s pretty fantastic.
- Ab-Soul may not be the biggest name coming out of Compton lately, but god knows he’s friends with them. The West Coast rap scene is killing it right now (I mean, shit, Tupac came back to life), and a big part of that is because of Ab-Soul and his friends, known as Black Hippy, focusing so heavily on lyricism and flow. Like Tyler the Creator’s crew (more on them on his day), Black Hippy – being Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and Jay Rock, is really entrenched in each other’s music despite not having any official albums together, which means you should expect some big guest appearances at his show.
- HAERTS is basically 2015’s answer to CHVRCHES. A female-driven pop group that released an album the fall before the festival and changed the spelling of their name to make themselves easier to find through the Google. They haven’t blown up quite as much as CHVRCHES did, which is a shame, because “Heart” is every bit the tune that “The Mother We Share” is. Oh well. More room at the front for me.
- Steely Dan may or may not be actually worth seeing live. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that much about them. I don’t even know which one of them is Dan! But I’d feel guilty if I wrote this article without including how awesome it is they were booked, because my dad is a huge fan, and from what I remember on those childhood road trips, the dudes can rock. Of course, it could be like AC/DC where they’re just a bunch of geriatrics on stage (it didn’t work out for Rodriguez), so who knows.
- Ride is the reunion show that everybody’s been talking about this Coachella. There’s always one or two. This one brings back one of the original shoegazing groups from the English 90s. Normally I don’t get off on nostalgia, and I don’t get sucked into a show just because I liked a group a long time ago, but Ride is genuinely pretty great and their music holds up in modern times surprisingly well. Music really is cyclical.
- Nero is like a proto-Skrillex, with big bro-step and DnB songs that you’ve probably heard a million remixes of at this point. A lot of the electronic music at this Coachella skews towards more club house and experimental and the like, so this is a good opportunity to really get down and grimy for once.
- Azealia Banks – I really didn’t want to include Azealia Banks, as I find her to be a completely reprehensible person. I mean, fuck, does anybody in the music industry still even like her besides Ariel Pink? But either way, girl’s got talent, and her new album is pretty dope. She put on a good show last time she was here, and that was back when all she had in her lineup was 212. Now that she’s grown, well, not up, but at least laterally, she should have even more to offer.
- Flying Lotus‘ experimental electronic music appeals to a… stranger set of people (he makes all the music for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, for example), but it draws in awesome collaborators like Kendrick Lamar and Odd Future. Much of it gets closer to hip-hop than electronic. Lucky for you, this means he’s likely to bring out some collaborators to perform. Earl Sweatshirt used him as his set DJ a few years ago, so it’s likely the Odd Future guys will return the favor.
- Lykke Li is actually a huge question mark. She’s got some awesome pop music, although don’t expect her to play any of her old stuff, as she’s admitted she’s actually ashamed of her first album. However, that all hinges on her being there. A few days before the lineup dropped, she announced that she was canceling all her festival dates to focus on her health. She’s still on the Coachella lineup, so maybe she assumes she’ll be okay that far in the future, but she could drop out at any minute.
- DJ Snake. Turn down for what?
- Todd Terje is a pretty good DJ. He’s also Todd Terje. So the fact that he’s billed as Todd Terje and the Olsens (worth noting that his real name is Terje Olsen) on the lineup suggests that he’s going to be bringing in a live band and a whole new show to the polo fields. There’s nothing to compare it to, so you might as well see what it turns out to be.
- Angus & Julia Stone are another Australian act, a brother-sister folksy duo you probably know because they want to take you on a ride in a big fat plane. I think that’s the lyric. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been in Australia for so long, but I’m suddenly noticing just how many Australian bands there are here. You’d be surprised how many people think AC/DC is American.
- Hot Natured is a DJ group fronted by Jamie Jones and Lee Foss. In a live setting, they play as a full band, which avoids the standard DJ group dilemma where one person actually controls the music and one person rhythmically browses Tinder to find the hot chicks in the crowd.
- George Ezra is one of those guys you think is a one hit wonder, until you realize that that other song you love is his as well, and so is the other one. His deep, almost country-style voice goes completely against what you’d expect him to sound like through a picture.
- Squarepusher goes back a ways. Like, holy shit. I had never heard of him before the lineup dropped, but after loving the acid techno jazz he makes (or whatever the hell you’d call his genre), I looked him up and found he’s been active since ’94. He’s like Daft Punk before Daft Punk. Random Access Memories. No idea where they’ll stick him, but if you’re not seeing somebody you already love, make the trip.
- Kiesza is somewhere between pop and electronic – the kind of person you’d expect to see following the “Feat.” on a lot of tracks but not so much on her own. Her song “Hideaway” was a big hit and if the music video is any indication, she’s got the moves and the stage presence to command a show. And if that doesn’t work, she’s got those Jack U connections to fall back on.
- Action Bronson played a few years ago, and during his set, he got in trouble for throwing a garbage bag of weed into the crowd. A fucking garbage bag. The New York rapper will have an entertaining set. Personally, I’m hoping he’s up against Azealia Banks and we get some Sun Kil Moon/War On Drugs style stage banter, but with a whole lot more pettiness.
- Alvin Risk is an American producer who sounds like Porter Robinson took his “Gameboy Music” vibe to its logical conclusion – straight back into EDM. It’s upbeat and full of bits and boops that make it sound like you’re dancing to a street fighter match, if that street fighter match involved a whole lot of gurning and dancing like an idiot.
- Jon Hopkins plays some downtempo electronica that I’d love to chill to. He produced a few tracks for Coldplay’s new albums, for example. If he’s got an early evening set time, it would be a great choice for coming up to.
- Oliver Heldens has been getting a lot of attention recently for his remixes, which are very clubby house. He’ll be in the Yuma Tent for sure, and his original stuff is just as good as his remixes. Hopefully the Yuma tent doesn’t require queuing this year.
- Ryan Hemsworth reminds me a lot of Flying Lotus, actually. A very experimental producer who tends to lean more towards a hip-hop influence than a club house one. If you’ve got a big conflict and can’t see FlyLo, this guy is sure to be a viable alternative earlier in the day.
- The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, also known as GOASTT (hey, it works both ways!) sits right on the penultimate spot on today’s lineup, which basically means that they’ll be opening the festival and, as such, will have roughly twenty people attending their set while the rest of the crowd gets shitfaced back at the campgrounds. You could totally join in, too, but part of the fun of Coachella is discovering new music. Go in early and get shitfaced even earlier. Bit of trivia: this is John Lennon’s son’s band. Not that John Lennon really did much in the way of being a father, but maybe talent’s genetic.
- AC/DC – I’m kind of shocked to see AC/DC as the opening headliner this year. I mean, shit, one of them is in a nursing home for dementia and the other is batshit crazy enough to try and hire a hitman. You’d think a couple of old as shit bogans would have kept it together, you know? If you’re into metal, these guys have enough hits to keep you singing along, but frankly, I think they’re over the hill. Plus, if the Red Hot Chili Peppers taught us anything, it’s that these bands so used to playing stadiums won’t see Coachella as any reason to do anything special with their set.
- Raekwon and Ghostface Killah – I wouldn’t normally put these guys in this section, as they’re fucking legends and should really be seen. But Wu Tang Clan got back together at Coachella just two years ago, and it was a whole production, and frankly, it wasn’t as great of a show as it could have been. I’m sure these two members will bring out a few others, but it’s not going to be any bigger than what was already a bit of a let-down.
Special Guest Possibilities
If music festivals were gods, then Coachella would be big, bad Zeus, throwing lightning bolts at all the other gods and laughing just because he can, and who’s going to stop him? It’s big, it’s bright, it’s loud, and it’s got the kind of rep where anybody who plays there, from the undercard to the headliner, is honored to be there. So everybody needs to go all out to make their show something special, and usually this means bringing out special guests. It’s always a surprise (except for Weekend 2, I guess), but you can make some guesses.
- Azealia Banks doesn’t have a lot of friends left in the music industry, but I can see her using the opportunity to carve out a collaborative image by getting somebody to appear with her. The most logical choice would be Ariel Pink joining her on “Nude Beach A Go-Go,” which heavily samples Pink’s song of the same name.
- Flying Lotus, as mentioned, has a lot of connections in the industry and could bring out just about anybody from Odd Future, as they performed at Coachella together before. But if we’re lucky, we’ll get an appearance by Kendrick Lamar for his song “Never Catch Me.”
- Raekwon and Ghostface Killah may not have made my list of people to see, but as two members of Wu Tang Clan, they’re likely to bring out at least one or two other members to perform a few songs. My best guess would be at least seeing Method Man.
- Todd Terje’s live show gives a lot of possibilities. Could Bryan Ferry, a Coachella alum, appear for Johnny and Mary?
- Kimbra came out and performed with Gotye a few years back on “Somebody That I Used To Know.” I doubt an encore will happen, as Gotye really needed that collaboration for such a high profile gig, but a guy can dream.
- Gorgon City takes the Calvin Harris approach of getting great voices on their songs as features. I could see them bringing out at least Laura Walsh or MNEK to come out for their two biggest songs, and if we’re lucky, both.
- Ab-Soul is a member of Black Hippy along with Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and Jayrock. If I don’t see each and every one of those guys at Ab-Soul’s set, I will fucking riot.
There you have it. An analysis of the first day of the Coachella 2015 lineup. Who will you be seeing?