The Coachella 2016 lineup will most likely be remembered as one of the weakest in years. While last year’s lineup at least offered variety, this year’s slate somehow seems … limited.
Still, with a little searching, you can find some great acts, both unheralded and well-known.
Friday, April 15 and 22
This Danish metal band is of the more surprising additions to the Coachella lineup, although metal isn’t entirely shunned by Coachella, considering Mastodon played in 2009, and Motorhead played in 2014. Volbeat combines rockabilly, rock ’n’ roll and metal to create an interesting sound. I’ll be the first to admit that Michael Poulsen’s voice is hard to take in, but former Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano helps make it all work. Volbeat might be the thing you’ll need to shake off the EDM/electropop vibes on Friday and prepare yourselves for Guns N’ Roses on Saturday.
At the age of 76, Mavis Staples (pictured above) has been enjoying a career rebirth thanks to collaborations with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and a new album, Livin’ on a High Note, produced by M. Ward. Staples was part of the Staple Singers with her father, her brother and her two sisters. At The Band’s last live concert in 1978, she sang “The Weight.” While she’s been singing gospel for most of her life, and you’ll definitely hear some in her set, never fear: She’s got a powerful voice and will be a delight of your first afternoon at Coachella.
G-Eazy is a rising star in the hip-hop world. The Oakland native has toured with 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg. He also was part of the Vans Warped Tour in 2012. His most recent album, When It’s Dark Out, features collaborations with Big Sean, E-40, Chris Brown, Kehlani, Grace and others. Check out his recent track “Me, Myself and I.”
M83 has been around since 2001, but it took a decade for the band to reach is critical and commercial peak to date, thanks to the concept album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. This French electronic band records music that’s catchy, ambient and haunting. The group will soon be releasing the follow-up to Hurry Up, titled Junk, which is sure to be a smash-success. Fun fact: The new album is inspired by ’70s and ’80s shows such as Punky Brewster and Who’s The Boss?
Saturday, April 16 and 23
The name is quite funny, but this Canadian group (right) has left a serious mark on the modern music world. While the group has recorded jazz instrumentals, it is also connected to the hip-hop world, and recently recorded an album with Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul. BADBADNOTGOOD is no stranger to Coachella; the band played the fest in 2012 and surprised the audience when it backed Frank Ocean. The jazzy instrumentals are fantastic, as is the collaborative spirit. Who knows what tricks the band members will have up their sleeves for Coachella 2016?
If you call yourself a punk-rocker, and you aren’t familiar with The Damned, it’s time for school on Saturday. The Damned is one of the early British punk bands that formed in 1976 and defined the genre along with The Sex Pistols and The Clash. With goth, psychedelia and punk-rock attitude, The Damned was in a league of their own. Guitarist Captain Sensible struck out on his own in 1978 while The Damned were on hiatus and recorded a recover of “Jet Boy, Jet Girl.” He then went on to have hits with songs such as “Happy Talk” and a hilarious song titled “Wot,” as in, “You say Captain; I say ‘Wot.’” Be sure to make time for The Damned at Coachella; who knows when you’ll be able to see the group again?
Hailing from Atlanta, Deerhunter is part of the awesome psychedelic rock scene you’ve been hearing thanks to a new group of bands. Frontman Bradford Cox identifies as gay; the title of the group’s debut album, Turn It Up Faggot, referenced what audiences used to scream when the band was first starting out. Few bands have been able to combine shoegaze and the indie-psych garage band sound together so well.
While many people know Ice Cube for his horrible comedies, his hip-hop career is the stuff of legends. He penned most of NWA’s early material and then went on to a very successful solo career (even if a lot of his early material was in response to NWA’s diss tracks against him for leaving the group). Ice Cube was a straight-up gangsta rapper who had a voice and attitude that sounded like he was kicking in your door to come and get you if you were on his shit list; much of that attitude is still present when he performs live. While Ice Cube said he’d “try” to make a partial NWA reunion happen at Coachella on the heels of the biopic Straight Outta Compton, don’t expect Dr. Dre to show up; if anyone does appear with him, expect Yella, MC Ren, or possibly both.
Sunday, April 17 and 24
When you listen to Pete Yorn, not only do you hear some indie-rock; you also hear folk music and a bit of that Bakersfield country music sound from the ’70s. One of the best songs I’ve heard Yorn do is his cover of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” Considering this guy has shared the stage with everyone from the Foo Fighters, to the Dixie Chicks, to Coldplay, take some time to check him out.
Along with Pennywise, the Descendents, Black Flag and Social Distortion, The Vandals are one of the bands people think of when it comes to Southern California punk. The band also has a humorous side, including hilarious takes on cowpunk, and a well-known Christmas album and song titled Oi to the World. Bassist Joe Escalante also well-known for being a lawyer, a radio show host and a conservative. Regardless of politics, nobody can deny that the Vandals kick ass.
The group Death Grips has a wild reputation. The experimental hip-hop trio from Sacramento has shunned the traditional ways of doing business and instead opted for shock value and performance art. The group used a picture of a member’s penis as the cover art for the album No Love Deep Webb. This was initially rejected (before later being used with a black slipcase over it); one of the alternative covers featured the legs of a man wearing khakis, white socks and black shoes. Written on the socks: “SUCK MY DICK.” One of Death Grips’ shows in 2013 ended quickly when the intro played, and a career suicide letter appeared onscreen—the group’s way of saying the show wasn’t happening. It seems Death Grips was never meant to be taken seriously, which is probably why it’s such a great group. Warning: Don’t get too close to the stage.
I don’t think there’s a soul on this planet today who does not know who Diplo is. He’s been interviewed by Charlie Rose, produced a Madonna album, made a cartoon TV show … and made many infamous tweets. When Diplo gets together with Jillionaire and Walshy Fire for Major Lazer, it’s quite a spectacle. At Coachella in 2013, when they performed in the Mojave Tent, it was crammed beyond belief—and the energy drove the over-capacity crowd nuts to the point where I feared for my life. Major Lazer (below) will likely be performing at the same time as headliner Calvin Harris on the final night, but the group will bring the party. And remember: No Coachella story should end with the phrase, “and then I watched Calvin Harris.”