I like to view Coachella as a meal. Most meals, you take it a little bit slower at first – an appetizer or two, finger food to get your mouth watering. Then you have your main meal, where you eat slow, enjoying the flavor and filling yourself up, but leaving just enough room for a light desert. An affogato, maybe, or a shot of Limoncello as a digestif. You finish leaving satisfied and comfortable. Yeah, Coachella is exactly like a meal. Except, it’s the kind of meal where for the appetizer, you cram a fuckton of drugs down your gullet and go to town on two dozen breadsticks, then eat a live cow – mooing on the way down, of course – for the main meal, and then for the dessert, you smack your face straight into somebody else’s wedding cake, frothing out the mouth and screaming gibberish in front of the bridal party.
The Coachella 2015 lineup is pretty amazingly well balanced, but still, Saturday is the main meal. There are more bands than any of the other days, and if you’ve done it right thus far (done right = camping on Thursday), you’ve got a good two days of raging behind you. Enough time to work out the kinks of your festival habits, but not so deep into the madness that you’re slowing down. You’re gonna get cocky at this point, try to see as many acts as possible, there’s so many choices, what would you stand around for? I agree. Go in early and see everybody you can. But put a method to it, at least. Here’s how to rank ’em today.
- Jack White is a showman. That’s all there is to it. The guy behind every awesome modern rock band from The White Stripes to The Dead Weather to The Raconteurs makes every show incredible, be it through marathon sets, crazy covers, or just pure virtuosity. And regardless of the music, you don’t write the lick that became the chant for every football game without knowing how to command a massive crowd. If and when he plays Seven Nation Army, you’ll need earplugs just for the audience participation.
- Axwell^Ingrosso are 2/3rds of the “dead” house group, Swedish House Mafia, who basically headlined in 2012. That group broke up after only a few years in grand fa$hion for some rea$on, but Axwell and Sebastien Ingrosso continue to make music together in the same sort of Ultra Pop House of their old moniker. The Swedish House show was a lot of fun with a big production, so if Axwell^Ingrosso carries on the same trends (and why wouldn’t they?), it’ll be worth the late night slot they’re sure to get.
- Belle & Sebastian makes white music for white people. No, for real, it’s statistics. They make Bon Iver look like DMX. But that doesn’t mean they’re not awesome. Their lighthearted folk is the perfect thing to feel good about in the afternoon. You could have moves like twigs (read further…) and still wind up dancing like a drunk bro at a Dave Matthews concert, because it brings that out in people. I’d bet on them taking a Neutral Milk Hotel-like time slot on the Outdoor stage.
- FKA twigs plays amazing neo-RnB music. But British-born singer/dancer Tahliah Barnett’s art is meant to be seen. Sure, the weird, part electronic, part gasping singing style of her music is appealing on its own. But twigs is a dancer at heart, and I don’t mean she does ballet. I mean, her limbs contort like the body of a woman possessed, threatening to snap off and fly away on their own volition. Like the shadow of a tree against a horror film’s bedroom wall. It’s fascinating to watch in a scary way.
- The War on Drugs may classify to some people as Beer Commercial Lead Guitar Shit, but they made the second best album of the year in 2014 (who made the first? read on!), and I think they sound a little more like Don Henley having an affair with Bruce Springsteen anyway. Have those guys made a beer commercial before? If you had a good time at Kurt Vile‘s set a few years ago, who used to be in the band and left amicably, you’ll enjoy The War on Drugs.
- Run The Jewels really should be a lot higher on the billing. They made the best album of the whole last year, let alone the best rap album. Made up of MCs Killer Mike and El-P, RTJ makes the kind of music that makes you want to rip a car in half with your bare hands and use it like a couple of boxing gloves. It says a lot about their talent (and their ethos) that I’m more excited about their album Meow The Jewels, where they rerecord their entire first album using cat sounds, than I am for just about any other release this year.
- Tycho doesn’t really fit into any one genre – he’s not quite post-rock, but he’s definitely not really electronic either. He’s like what would happen if M83 or Toro y Moi remixed some Explosions in the Sky tracks. I can actually imagine him taking EITS/Sigur Ros slot from the past few years – he’s the kind of guy you want to see on the Outdoor Theatre once the sun’s gone down. Which sucks, because this inevitably means he’s going to have a bad conflict with somebody else.
- Chet Faker is an Australian darling who’s currently topping everything from the ARIAs to the Triple J Hottest 100. That is to say, he’s a big deal in Australia. I’m not sure if he’s picked up quite as much in America, but based on how well Flume did in the same position last year, it’s safe to say his show is gonna be huge. He usually makes pretty mellow, electronic crooning songs, but his live shows occasionally switch it up (more on that later), so no matter what slot he’s given, it’ll be a good atmosphere.
- Jungle fucking rocks. I caught their set at Splendour in the Grass this past year, and even though i wasn’t able to get into the actual crowd (that tent was packed), I had a blast dancing in the back, where the thinner spacing lets you move more. On their albums, the band is basically two guys and has a more electronic tilt. For live sets – and this is what makes them great live – they translate the whole thing into a seven-piece band so that they can be more interactive with the audience.
- What So Not takes up a far too small font on the poster, especially considering the fact that Flume, one half of the DJ/Producer team with Emoh Instead, packed the absolute shit out of the Gobi tent last year to over-maximum capacity. Now, Flume doesn’t actually perform with What So Not, leaving the live work to Emoh, but you can expect the number of people that know that fact to be a pittance to the number of people that know Flume is involved in the first place. And hey, given Chet Faker’s same day appearance, and given Coachella’s propensity for making things happen, maybe he’ll end up onstage after all. But even if he isn’t there, What So Not goes off live, and won’t disappoint.
- Glass Animals is one of my favorite new bands of the year. Their music is solid indie rock with a weird, liquid rainforest vibe to it if that makes any sense. It should, since the band made their music specifically to get that feeling, using samples of animals and nature (and jungle percussion instruments) in their recordings. I could imagine this set being absolutely insane on acid, especially combined with the visuals of their music videos and live shows. Not that I’m promoting using drugs at a music festival, unless saying “drugs at music festivals are awesome” constitutes promoting them.
- PHOX is another band I had never heard of before seeing their name on the lineup, but now I feel like I can’t miss. They make alternative folk/indie pop music, and just imagining laying in the shade at 2 PM (when they’ll undoubtedly play), eyes closed, listening to the lead singer croon (and I know I’ve used that word a lot lately, but come on, is there a better one?), is making me crave Coachella more and more already.
- Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness may not be performing under a familiar name, but anybody excited by Brand New’s booking should be just as excited to see the guy behind Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin coming to play the polo fields. He’s undoubtedly going to be playing mostly new stuff, but for anybody nostalgic for their Emo phase (not sure why you would be, but I digress), this is going to be a good chance to sing Konstantine and not be ashamed of the single tear rolling down your cheek.
- Ryn Weaver blew up out of nowhere overnight last summer, prompting some people to speculate whether she was a music industry Lizzie Grant/Lana Del Rey situation all over again. The real story is a lot of luck and chance meetings with the right people, and you can’t deny that her pop melodies don’t carry themselves. Every Coachella seems to have an early day pop princess to fall in love with (Eliza Doolittle and Ximena Sariñana for recent examples), and Ryn Weaver could be this year’s.
- The Weeknd also played at Coachella back in 2012 (there are a lot of repeats this year), and the show was huge. People were shoulder to shoulder for as far back as the Outdoor Stage could contain, and while it wasn’t a particularly active set, it was emotional. People were crying. I’d imagine his set this year, after more material to pull from (although I found his last album underwhelming), he’ll make an even bigger show of it.
- Ratatat has been mostly silent for the past couple of years. They haven’t had an album since 2010 and they haven’t been doing a whole lot of live shows in the meantime, although their Coachella set in 2011, with its trippy, druggy experimental electronic stylings, was pretty spicy. Their big comeback here will spell big things, especially since it’ll be the first chance to hear some new music from them in ages.
- Hozier will share this year’s role of “One Song Wonder” with Milky Chance. Like Gotye, everybody will go to this set and leave after the major hit, “Take Me To Church,” is done. But like Gotye (and Milky Chance, actually), that’s a shame, because the dude’s got an awesome catalogue of soulful music and it’s worth a stop through.
- Flosstradamus doesn’t give a shit about much. That’s my takeaway from following the dudes on social media, where they usually just posts pictures of photoshops people send them while typing in all caps. Their music kind of follows in the same persona: grimy, playful trap-hop music that sounds a bit like what would happen if Soulja Boy had peaked a few years later and wasn’t a piece of shit that should never have played music to begin with.
- SBTRKT follows in Daft Punk’s footsteps – taking himself out of the equation when it comes to his music by performing only in masks. His native tiki masks are a little less iconic than the Robots, but that’s also kind of the point. His music occupies some space in between dubstep and indie pop, with plenty of collaborations to draw on.
- Tyler, The Creator is a Coachella mainstay. I don’t think he’s missed the festival since he became a thing, whether it’s through an individual booking or his jumping up on somebody else’s stage for a song or two. Say what you want about him – that he’s an irreverent douchebag, that he doesn’t have the street cred to back up his image – he’s confident enough to make a crazy performance, and given that plus his propensity for bringing out his friends, he’ll be a good guy to see.
- Father John Misty, also known by his mother as Joshua Tillman, was the drummer for Fleet Foxes for a hot minute, and though he tries to downplay his involvement (he didn’t write the songs and he really only played live for a bit), the sounds of his solo project are pretty similar – a downtempo, introspective indie rock. But his live shows are bumpin’, and Tillman has a great onstage presence with a lot of banter that makes him really fun to watch.
- Deorro is that guy that I had never heard of before, but instantly recognized his beats from all the sets I’ve seen lately. Sucks I haven’t given him credit till now, because I really like his clubby house music. I’ve danced to it a few times, making a stupid face and trying to make words for the “duh duh duh doi duh doo da” bit in Five Hours, his most famous song. Don’t judge. You’ve probably done the same thing.
- Swans is one of those older bands (pre-Nirvana, even) that broke up for a long time. They’d count as a reunion, if not for the fact that they actually got back together four years ago, and their new album is pretty great. It’s very experimental rock, and probably not for everybody, but whatever.
- Toro Y Moi is a Chillwave producer, similar to Sylvan Esso from Friday. I don’t know who names these genres anymore, because half of them are just plays on the words of another until none of the words mean anything anymore. But Chiillwave does pretty accurately describe their sound: chill, electronic music that you’re not going to be dancing to so much as swaying. Or maybe dancing. I don’t know, I’m not your dad.
- New World Punx is a trance/house group made up of DJs Markus Shulz and Ferry Corsten. They’ve both been pretty heavily involved in the trance scene for a while, working heavily with the group Above and Beyond, who command the most ravenous fanbase I’ve seen out of an electronic group. I can’t say for sure how the new group functions, but I’ve seen Markus Shulz at the Marquee in Vegas and had a great time. Although, that was Vegas. Then again, this is Coachella.
- I actually used to think Clean Bandit was a DJ, considering their biggest hit is “Rather Be,” which leans as much towards electronic music as it does classical. They’re one of the few four piece bands out there with a dedicated strings section, which is awesome.
- Royal Blood came solidly on the coattails of the Arctic Monkeys obsession of the last decade, a rock-n-roll band from England that mixes garage rock and blues rock without sounding so fucking sad about it. I didn’t really get to know them until I got to Australia, wehre they are actually pretty huge for some reason. And I trust anybody that Triple J trusts.
- If you were just listening to The Gaslamp Killer Experience without seeing him, you’d probably never even realize that he’s a producer and not a full band. It’s like an indie/experimental/psychadelic vibe, and if you wanted to draw comparisons to Flying Lotus, be my guest. The dudes are friends and work together a lot. The producer goes by The Gaslamp Killer, so the fact that he’s billing himself as the Gaslamp Killer Experience means we may very well be getting a full live band. I’d expect to see him on the Gobi or Mojave stage for a late night set.
- Parquet Courts is a garage rock band from Brooklyn, leaning a little towards punk (there’s a lot of good punk music this year!). They played a set on Letterman recently that had the dude proclaiming he wants to become their manager. The last time a band went on Letterman and impressed him that much, it was Future Islands, and I think we all know how amazing that worked out.
- Yelle is a French electropop band with a flair for theatrics. I’d compare them to CHVRCHES, but I already did that with HAERTS yesterday, and besides, the only way they’re similar to CHVRCHES is if Diplo made a Major Lazer remix to “Gun,” with big drumlines accompanying the synth beats. Yelle, the lead singer and eponym, has a lot of energy onstage and makes it a lot of fun to watch, which is another way they’re different from CHVRCHES.
- LIGHTS will probably wind up competing with Ryn Weaver for the title of “early day pop princess.” She’s been around for a few years now, but she never really caught on with people. Hopefully that changes, because “Up We Go” is a fucking tune.
- Cashmere Cat makes pretty electronic music, and his live sets are a little more downtempo compared to the usual Sahara tent flair. It sounds more like what you’d expect from the backing track to an MSMR song. So if you’re feeling energetic, you may pass, but if you just want to hear good music, then you’ll love it.
- At this point, Matthew Koma is more well known for his featured appearances on electronic tracks – he’s given vocals to Zedd, Hardwell, RAC (see ya tomorrow), and more. However, his solo stuff is a lot more reminiscent of the mid-2000s happy pop like the Thrills than electronic, and it should be a fun daytime set. Also, apparently the dude is dating Carly Rae Jepsen, which, okay, I guess somebody had to have been.
- So, apparently Perfume Genius (stage name of Mike Hadreas) is the next big gay icon, with his song “Queen” being called the year’s best gay anthem. And I get that, considering the song literally is about embracing being gay. There’s also this quote from Hadreas – “If these fucking people want to give me some power—if they see me as some sea witch with penis tentacles that are always prodding and poking and seeking to convert the muggles—well, here she comes.” That’s awesome. However, I don’t really see it, especially not compared to somebody like Madonna or Lady Gaga. It’s more rock than art pop. But maybe that’s the point.
- Andrea Olivia reminds me a lot of Clean Bandit, making electro music that dips into classical composition with strings and keys being introduced into the medley. However, unlike Clean Bandit, Andrea Olivia doesn’t perform with a live band
I changed the title of the “don’t bother” section, as people seem to get a little riled up that I dare call their favorite band something you shouldn’t bother with. Rather, this section is more geared towards people that I personally am either completely uninterested in, or do enjoy, but have reasons to not see them live. If you enjoy the band, by all means, see them and have a blast.
- Jack White already appeared on this list in the must-see section. No, this isn’t a mistake. Here’s the thing about Jack White – he’s the kind of guy who fucks your brains out and makes you feel special, but you know that he does that with all his girls. Dude goes all out on all of his shows – crazy covers, marathon sets, whatever. And he tours a lot. So barring a White Stripes reunion, which, let’s face it, isn’t going to happen, there’s probably not going to be anything about his Chella performance that you can’t get at one of his others. In fact, I could see the strict time limits and festival scheduling actually holding Jack back. Pending the schedule, you may as well go to see somebody you’re less likely to see again.
- alt-J has gone from making songs about girls getting forcibly sodomized by brooms to songs about turning girls inside out and licking them like a crisp packet. Character growth! Not that you can understand a word he’s saying anyway. Personally, I love alt-J’s music, and I’d love to make this a must-see band if not for the fact that I found their 2013 performance (see? lots of repeats) to be underwhelming. It was good, to be sure, but not something I would regret missing for another show.
- Antemasque has a real hardcore rock pedigree – their members used to be in the bands At The Drive In (who had a huge show at Coachella a few years ago) and The Mars Volta. You’d think they’d put on a hell of a show, with lots of moshing and jumping around and all that, but really they’re pretty… bland. They just stand there. If you’re a fan of the genre or their previous bands then you’d probably value the set, but otherwise move on.
- I aw Alison Wonderland perform at the St. Kilda Festival last Summer. It’s a pretty good indication of what Coachella will be like, especially given the setting similarities: big open field filled with casual hipsters, lots of alcohol and drugs being passed around. I have great memories of the St. Kilda Festival, but Alison Wonderland’s set was so bland, so cliche, that the only solid memory I have of it is a man dressed as Jesus giving me a goon shower. Thank you Goon God. Alison Wonderland will no doubt have an early day Sahara Tent show, and you might as well see one of the other smaller acts on at mid-day.
Special Guest Possibilities
- Jack White has brought out a few people at his shows before to perform with him. They’re usually an eclectic bunch, so it’s hard to predict who he’d bring out at Coachella, but it’s safe to say that if Meg White came out for a few Stripes songs, everybody would lose their minds. They don’t talk anymore, so don’t get your hopes up, but a man can dream. Beck or The Dead Weather are more possibilities, but I can’t see him repeating things he’s already done on his last tour.
- Axwell^Ingrosso, as mentioned, are the majority of Swedish House Mafia, missing only Steve Angello for a full set. Axwell^Ingrosso doesn’t really have the history yet to let a SHM reunion overshadow their solo show, but considering the fact that SHM was only a group for a few years before they pulled that “One Last Tour” shit (you know, the one they kept adding “One Last Show” to), they don’t seem like the kind of people to give a shit about timelines as long as there is moolah involved.
- SBTRKT‘s latest hit single features Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon, who played a killer set last year. I could see her coming out for “Wildfire.” Additionally, he often performs live with Sampha, and it’s likely that Coachella will be no different in that regard.
- Tyler, The Creator always brings in his crew for features. Frank Ocean has been close to finishing his new album for God knows how long, so I could see him popping out on stage for a new tune. The others, like Earl Sweatshirt and Hodgy Beats, could be due to appear as well. Flying Lotus, who appears on Friday at Coachella, has performed with them before and could DJ the set. Really, it’s a crapshoot. Just check it out and see who shows up.
- Run The Jewels‘ set is gonna be huge, and not just because they’re awesome on their own. I’ll say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine will come out on “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck).” And that’s only one person I’d expect to be there – I could also see Travis Barker make an appearance, and, shit, let’s throw in a wildcard – Tkay Maidza, who the two have proven to admire.
- Chet Faker and What So Not are both appearing at the festival. Flume isn’t guaranteed to be there, but it’s not hard to imagine he’ll show up for a little Flume and Chet Faker performance. Now, whether that happens at the Faker set or the WSN set is anybody’s guess, but I’ll be disappointed and shocked if it doesn’t happen at all.
- Cashmere Cat has worked a bit with Ariana Grande, being a featured producer and artist on her latest album and opening for her on her last tour. She could potentially drop in (Coachella seems like her scene, in attendance if not in booking) for a quick performance, but her star is a lot brighter than Cashmere Cat’s and I wouldn’t bank on it outside of a hypothetical. More likely is Ryn Weaver, also playing this day. Cashmere Cat is a big supporter of Weaver and has helped promote and produce her, so it’s more likely she’s drop in to say hi.
- Until the Ribbon Breaks may take up the last spot of the day’s lineup, but they have some bigger credentials, with a song or two collaborating with Run The Jewels. You may remember that name from a few lines up, unless you have that Memento thing going on, in which case, Coachella must be really confusing for you. Since it’s completely unfathomable that they will conflict, I could see either Killer Mike or El-P, maybe both coming out to perform one of their songs.