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A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone about Coachella, and specifically this year’s lineup.

“It’s not as fun as it used to be,” he said.

On Friday, as I walked around the Empire Polo Club, I pondered my friend’s assertion. I don’t agree: Coachella is still fun!

There were a lot of changes made to the layout this year. The new Sonora Tent, an air-conditioned space inspired by the Glass House in Pomona that hosts a lot of the smaller rock acts, has been moved to where the Mojave Tent used to be. The Mojave Tent has been moved to where the Sahara Tent used to be, while the Sahara Tent moved to the front lobby area, close to the Ferris wheel.

I spent a couple of hours of wandering aimlessly and taking in the vibrant art installations. One highlight: Spectra, designed by design studio NEWSUBSTANCE (right). I was in awe: At 75 feet tall, the interactive tower features colored windows that spiral along with the design to the top. These different colors make for interesting views when you stop to look out the windows as you go up and down.

Here are some music highlights from Friday.

• Fazerdaze, a band from New Zealand, rocked the Sonora Tent’s early-afternoon crowd. Frontwoman Amelia Murray said it was surreal to go from recording music in her bedroom to playing at Coachella just a year after releasing the band’s first album, Morningside. The garage-rock-meets-dream-pop sound was a hit with the crowd, who gave the band a fantastic round of applause at the end of the 45-minute set.

• Cash Cash, a house-music trio, performed an energetic set in the Sahara Tent in the late afternoon. At one point, they stopped to lead the crowd in a sing-along of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” Hearing the entire tent sing the chorus was beautiful, and the trio complimented the crowd, saying we were all beautiful singers, before continuing on with the blasting set. 

• SuperDuperKyle, a rap and pop star on the rise, put on a hilarious and entertaining set on the Main Stage in the afternoon. When Kyle went crowd-surfing, one of his onstage collaborators screamed at the crowd to bring him back to the stage: “Get in, loser! We got a Coachella to do!” During Kyle’s final song, he was on a surfboard—being passed around by the audience as he told them in which direction to send him.

• Whatever The War on Drugs’ sound is—’70s? ’80s?—it was perfect for the early evening as the sun set behind mountains. The drummer is a show of his own, looking like he came right out of a time machine from the ’70s. 

• After all the talk about St. Vincent’s Weekend 1 performance, she managed to live up to the hype during her Weekend 2 set: It was everything that’s awesome about pop and rock, with intense 3-D visuals and a psychedelic pop feel. I suspect that Lady Gaga wishes she was St. Vincent, because St. Vincent has edginess and charisma—a woman who isn’t afraid to make people shake their asses and rock out during the same show

• Jean-Michel Jarre (below) might have played to crowds of more than 1 million, but at Coachella, his crowd was sparse during his Outdoor Theater-headlining slot. This is a shame, although it’s understandable: He’s in the midst of his first-ever American tour, and he had to compete with SZA and Soulwax, Jarre did start to win people over at the end, who were most likely wondering what in the hell was going on, as the visuals from the stage included pyramids, distorted video footage of Edward Snowden talking about Internet privacy, lasers and lights shooting around everywhere—all along with the French electronica that is Jarre’s sound. The further you stepped away from his show, the more impressive his visuals looked.

• Whether or not you’re a fan of The Weeknd, it’s indisputable: He was incredible on Friday night. His visuals on the Main Stage were over the top and intense. At times, The Weeknd reminded me of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, as he’d perform—and you’d only see a little bit of him as visuals played over the entire stage.

As people were exiting the festival for the night, many of them felt compelled to stop and watch The Weeknd a bit—it was hard to walk away.

Published in Reviews

It’s becoming an age-old tradition to gripe about the Coachella headliners. However, if you look past the big names on the poster, you’ll find a lot of great acts. Here are some to consider including in your Coachella schedule.


Friday, April 10 and 17

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

I’m amazed that this band is listed so low on Friday’s lineup. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger consists of American fashion model Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Sean Lennon (yes, John Lennon’s son). After meeting each other and falling in love at Coachella in the mid-2000s, Lennon realized Muhl had talent as a singer. In 2010, they released their first album, Acoustic Sessions, which was warmly received. This band definitely belongs at Coachella.

Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band

Sadly, this is another small-print booking. Locals should recognize this name—and if you don’t, you have some learnin’ to do. Brant Bjork was one of the founding members of the legendary desert-rock group Kyuss, with John Garcia and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. You definitely don’t want to miss Bjork’s performance at Coachella, given he’s one of the people who put the Coachella Valley on the map, music wise. Check out our interview with Bjork at the start of the music section.

Trippy Turtle

Last summer during one of Splash House parties, Independent contributor Guillermo Prieto and I were mystified by this young DJ who wore a green hoodie with a turtle on it. His DJ set was upbeat and fun—and you’ll hear a clip of that YouTube video of the little boy saying “I like turtles” several times throughout his set. (See a photo from Prieto at the top right.)

Steely Dan

This was the one listing on the lineup that had me saying “WTF?” when I first saw it. Steely Dan is a delight for true music-lovers, even though many of the people who will be at Coachella did not yet exist (myself included) back in 1972 when they first formed. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are musical geniuses, and while their blend of jazz and rock is considered “soft rock,” Steely Dan shouldn’t be lumped into the same genre as the Eagles and Michael Bolton. This is a strange booking for Coachella—but it will probably still be awesome.


Saturday, April 11 and 18

Parquet Courts

This New York City post-punk/garage band has managed to drum up momentum from the DIY, indie and mainstream scenes since it seemingly came out of nowhere in 2010. I’ve seen them once before, and I can say that if you like an edgier and dirtier (in a good way) sound, Parquet Courts are for you.

Royal Blood

A gentleman I talked to not too long ago at Pappy and Harriet’s suggested this band to me after we talked about the White Stripes and the Black Keys. This duo from the United Kingdom has an impressive sound, and the self-titled debut album is balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll from beginning to end. I can’t wait to see Royal Blood’s live show.

War on Drugs

While the name is amusing, War on Drugs is no joke: Front man Adam Granduciel has exemplary skills as a singer-songwriter. War on Drugs, which once included Kurt Vile, has a sound similar to that of Destroyer, The New Pornographers, and Real Estate. Make sure you check this band out. (Photo below.)

The Weeknd

In 2010, this guy became the talk of the underground-music scene, and his debut album, released a year later, was highly anticipated. The Weeknd has an interesting genre listing: PBR&B, in reference to the hipster culture’s love of Pabst Blue Ribbon and R&B, or hipster-based R&B. Whatever. The bottom line: The Weeknd makes great R&B that is soulful and dark at the same time—and the fact that he’s on the reclusive side adds a little mystery.


Sunday, April 12 and 19

The Orwells

This Chicago outfit has been on the rise since 2009. After they toured with the Arctic Monkeys, played at Lollapalooza and recently appeared on Late Show With David Letterman, it makes sense to see The Orwells playing at Coachella in 2015. I suggest listening to the band’s most recent album, Disgraceland, before the festival; you won’t be disappointed.

Chicano Batman

I have had a number of opportunities to see this band—and thanks to bad luck, I’ve missed them every time. These guys are not only one of the best DIY indie-bands in the Southwest U.S.; they also have a unique sound that combines Latin music with soul and psychedelic rock. Check out The Lucky 13 on Page 38 for more info.

Jenny Lewis

When I was a third-grader, I was a Nintendo-playing kid who was fascinated with the movie The Wizard, which Jenny Lewis, then a child actress, appeared in with Fred Savage. Lewis is now all grown up and playing music—and she’s pretty awesome. Her Americana-meets-pop sound is a lot of fun; she was even a part of Bright Eyes at one time. For giggles, look up the Christmas-themed comedy skit she took part in with Megadeth back in 2013 on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds were beloved by some of my co-workers at Borders Books and Music (R.I.P.) back in 2010 after she dropped her debut album, The Family Jewels—and Marina Diamandis has been pushing the envelope ever since. She has a new album out, and Marina and the Diamonds should be a highlight of the festival.

Published in Previews