Coachella time. Again.
You know the drill by now, or at least you should—this is the eighth desert extravaganza since the fest’s 1999 birth, and this year the beast has ballooned to an exhausting three-day affair—Friday through Sunday, April 27-29—highlighted most improbably by a Rage Against the Machine reunion. While we’re still not exactly sure what prompted this notoriously feuding quartet to dump their egos and just play music again, we’re awfully glad they did. (Except for Shawn Smith, who wrote the blurb on them in our guide. Hey, opinions are like assholes . . .)
But there’s a whole lot of other music going on at what’s easily the most eclectic Coachella bill ever, from the DJ stylings of Tiësto (he and Björk should have an umlaut war!) to the Latin rhythms of Manu Chao to the reggae of Stephen Marley to the superb pop of Crowded House (who, like Rage, are also reuniting for Coachella) to the classic country of Willie Nelson (we at the Weekly are still trying to figure out a way to sneak aboard Willie’s bus and have a smoke—and we don’t mean cigarettes, either). There’s even a gaggle of standup comedians, who hopefully won’t try to sing.
So you’ve got your hotel room booked, you’ve got the car gassed, you’ve got the sunblock and the big-brimmed hat and your left shoe stuffed with freshly-rolled Mary Jane. Only other thing you need to pack for next weekend is this issue of the Weekly, where once again, we break down each day into three groups: Can’t-Miss Picks (bands you need to see before you die), our Kinda Mixed selections (bands that could go either way—check out at your own risk) and our Just Say Nix (bands to avoid like the plague, or at least hit the porta-potties during their sets). And as an added bonus, flip to page TKTK, where Anna Hirsh, our Mind Body Spirit columnist, provides tips on avoiding dehydration in the desert. (Hint: it’s called water. Drink some.)
FRIDAY’S CAN’T-MISS PICKS
Winehouse is a saucy brit who croons soul and jazz—cool and retro, with a feel that’s contemporary enough not to lull you to sleep or sound like the recycled hits of yesteryear.
God bless the Arctic Monkeys for finally letting the Libertines take a break.
Brazilian Girls pump out new wave-ish dance music with an eclectic blend of reggae, samba and lounge stylings that’s refreshingly inventive, mellow and seductive. We hear they’re infamous for racy live shows, but don’t expect a lot of girls—Brazilian or otherwise—on stage.
Known for his rapid-fire delivery and free association rapping, Busdriver drops bottom-heavy beats and exceptional rhymes. He’s signed to Epitaph, which also signed seminal hip-hop act the Coup. And he’s not above playing budding Upland venue Biacci’s a month ago, where he popped in for a set. On a Monday night.
Contrary to what their name implies, this German electro duo don’t deliver a dissertation on electronic music, but they don’t have to. Their music is fun and dancy and original enough to not feel played out. They could be winners of the “ridiculously long build-up award.”
Dense, aggressive lyrical attacks dealing in sci-fi imagery accompany dense, aggressive music, El-P makes you wonder why most hip-hop acts strip their tracks down to minimal bass and beats. He’s been a driving force in the underground hip-hop scene for the last decade, and has worked with everyone from Aesop Rock to Alec Empire. See why he’s still the future of hip-hop.
Trip-hoppy goodness without the lethargy or broken-heartedness. Even though their amazing single “God is a DJ” came out almost 10 years ago, the UK trio is still adept at making breezy dance beats that are less pretentious than Portishead or Massive Attack.
FELIX DA HOUSECAT
A Detroit-based house DJ and record producer who has enough talent in his bag of tricks to mask Miss Kittin’s annoying vocals with musical grooviness on his “Silver Screen Shower Scene” single a few years back. He’s still making poppy, catchy electronica that commands you to dance.
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN
Noisy, minimal rock that sounds like what Echo & the Bunnymen could have been if they were good.
This San Diego band play twang-addled indie country, complete with whining violin and intimate, breathy vocals. While their tunes probably won’t win awards for musical inventiveness, their rootsy charm sets them apart.
The Satellite Party makes us wish we believed in a personal god so that we can drop to our bleeding knees and thank him/her for giving us another Perry Farrell-fronted band. We’ll thank him/her anyway. It couldn’t hurt.
Amazing. Noise. Pioneers.
FRIDAY’S KINDA MIXED
This Italian DJ cranks out electro-inspired house music and remixes everyone from Goldfrapp to Electric Six.
Look, it’s Björk! And she’s being weird! We know she has a cult following, but would she have been better suited for headlining this festival years ago? Oh yeah—she already has.
Finally, a British rocker who’s in the running for more staying power than Morrissey. We liked Pulp in the late-‘90s, and Cocker’s solo efforts aren’t bad either. Although, like Morrissey, his new tunes might be too much like his previous efforts to warrant acclaim.
COMEDIANS OF COMEDY
Wait . . . what? I thought someone said there were going to be really funny comedians at an all-day music fest. That’s weird. Sure, Brian Posehn looks like that nerdy metal kid that sat behind you in high school and decorated his notebook with pentagrams and Testament logos, but he’s really funny. So are the rest of the comedians in this traveling troupe, even if they are a little out of place.
FLOSSTRADAMUS FEAT. KID SISTER
This two-DJs-and-an-MC trio bumps out feel-good hip-hop mostly, but they also throw in some obscure mash-ups and other unexpected aural twists while Kid Sister MC’s. It won’t change your life, but it should make you move your feet.
At it since the late ‘80s, this French house DJ and producer serves up beats lightly sprinkled with disco and garnished with funky guitar lines.
Bands named after places are usually pretty bad—think Boston, Asia, Chicago, Kansas, the Bay City Rollers, America, etc. Because of this prejudice, it took us awhile to give Of Montreal a listen, but they play an infectious style of indie-pop that’s much better than any of the aforementioned bands, and your friends won’t make fun of you for hiding all their albums at the back of your record collection.
If you don’t think that the electro club sound is played out, or that Lords Of Acid didn’t make songs about gratuitous sexuality passé, break out those vinyl pants and dancin’ shoes—Peaches might be for you.
This stoner-rock band infuse their standard hard metal sound with bluesy riffs and System of a Down-style blasts of aggression. Their music isn’t groundbreaking, but definitely playful and fun enough to check out.
Mellow, often acoustic, symphonic singer-songwriter shtick that might be a refreshing break from all the rock and electronic acts.
TILLY AND THE WALL
If you came to rock out, this band might not be for you, but their ‘60s-inspired psychedelic sound is poppy and energetic, and their music is distinctive enough not to melt into the miasma of indie-pop this year.
TOKYO POLICE CLUB
Indie rock with a vintage garage feel that’s catchy, danceable and unvarnished, with garbled vocals that sound like they’re being transmitted from space.
Born in Tijuana, this lady has been studying music since the age of eight. She’s polished her pop-en-espanol to glistening perfection.
FRIDAY’S JUST SAY NIX
Devout Muslim lyricist Brother Ali is super positive, but even with Ryhmesayer’s in-house producer Ant writing his backing tracks, Brother Ali’s tunes are still a yawn-inspiring jaunt down Familiar Lane.
This emo-ish indie-rock outfit might seduce you with a slightly inventive sound, but the band’s experimental nature isn’t enough to separate it from the hordes of other slightly inventive emo-ish indie rock bands.
He’s a DJ. And he does what DJs do. While the live show might not be much to watch, he’s been at it since the early ‘90s, and has gobs of sample-heavy singles under his belt.
Innovative remixers who inject their dance music with everything they possibly can. The eclectic mix might seem ambitious, but does it actually work? Not really.
The bordello part of the name implies a sexy good time, but unfortunately the band is about as sexy and fun as 19th-Century Russian literature.
We miss Joy Division. Interpol isn’t a good substitute.
STEPHEN MARLEY FEATURING JR. GONG
Yawn. Gong Show, maybe—anything’s better than yet another attempt to blandly contemporize what Daddy Bob created.
These indie rockers bring punk energy and a refreshingly aggressive creative spirit to standard riff-driven rock, complete with Patti Smith-style vocal bellows that conjure up the bluesy passion of rock’s past
The LA indie “it” darlings of the last few years prove that their brand of pop-saturated fashionable rock isn’t dead yet—but it should be.
Yawnsville folk with an old-school country twang. Her retro vibe feels good, but it’s not enough to hold our ADHD-addled brains captive.
SATURDAY’S CAN’T-MISS PICKS
Symphonic indie-rock band whose sound almost defies description. They’ve skipped out on the bass and focus only on guitars, vocals and drums that give them an ethereal kind of feel that kind of sounds spongy, sprinkled with tiny bits of sharp.
Gotta have something to keep the old punkers happy while their kids are running around the Polo Field. Dukowski is the famed Black Flag bassman, and we love what we’ve heard so far from his latest project, like a “Venus in Furs” cover, where singer Lora Norton re-injects all the sexiness Lou Reed sucked out of the VU original. And Lynn Johnston’s horns out-Ornette Ornette Coleman—freaky sounds for freaky times. Plus they do “My War”—what could be better?
As Syd Barrett was to England, as Brian Wilson is to Cali, as Daniel Johnston is to whatever planet his mind is currently orbiting around, Roky Erickson is to the great state of Texas—a twisted sonic genius who succumbed to all matter of ‘60s intoxicants, but lived to tell the tale. Most of the Coachella horde won’t have a clue who he is, but us oldsters will welcome him as the hero he is, between shouts for “Starry Eyes.”
New Yawk’s own Cheap Trick, FOW are the current quintessential power popsters. Haven’t heard their new Traffic and Weather yet—probably because we’ve still got it goin’ on with “Stacy’s Mom.”
GFK ain’t nuthin’ ta fuck wif, sure—but we still don’t get his current seafood fetish.
THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE QUEEN
Mellow, inventive ballads that mix elements of rock, folk and electronica, this band makes melancholy anthems seemingly for hapless barflies and down-and-out derelicts. And you, too.
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
Pornography has been a crowd pleaser since mankind first stood upright, but this band ignores the mass appeal of the behemoth-boobied blonde—musically, of course— by avoiding the steamroller sing-along power pop anthems, preferring instead to forge finely-crafted rock tunes that are both subtle, inspiring and fun.
It’s you didn’t already know, it’s ex-Audioslave, ex-(and future) Rage Against the Machiner Tom Morello, doing the solo acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad thing. And damn if he hasn’t a better, albeit calmer, singing voice than Zack de la Rocha—think of a warmer Johnny Cash. He inflects feelings of a passionate patriot, singing about hards roads that must be traveled, etc. etc. Question is, will he talk politics? Was Lenin a Commie?
There’s nothing like an Ozomatli gig, especially when they begin a show at the back of the audience, then march through the crowd, horns bleating, drums pounding, throats chanting, legs twitching to the point where they look like they’re about to leave their sockets. But that’s every Ozo show. And if you aren’t moved the same way, you have no pulse.
Queens guy’s been doing hip-hop forever, and only now are people finding out about him and his excellent marriages of rhymes and classic ‘70s soul. If you only see one hip-hop act at Coachella, Monch is the one.
This New York quartet keeps getting better and better. They seamlessly combine ‘70s rock with funk guitar and disco beats with surprising mastery. Although they weren’t the first band to glom on to this indie-electro style, they do it best.
SATURDAY’S KINDA MIXED
Love this Chicago guy’s arty instincts—he comes across as a sort of smarter Jeff Tweedy, minus the pretentious smarm. And he’s got a cabaret fiddle player who strokes out some beatific, lilting melodies. But the weather question comes into play: is this something you’ll really want to hear in the desert heat?
THE BLACK KEYS
[Insert obligatory White Stripes comparison here.]
Japan techno that at first was a tad too Hello Kitty for our discerning ears, until we heard the track “Gum,” which rocks a deck like nobody’s bidness. In the dance tent, we’ll assume, so it should be the perfect soundtrack while you go over your Coachella pocket guide and figure out what stage to trek to next.
Not your average indie-rock band, the Decemberists use their eclectic assortment of non-traditional instruments to tell stories through music that Stephen Colbert calls “hyper-literate prog rock.” And that pretty much sums them up.
This selecter mama’s got the right influences—lots of Chicago house, which she was raised on—but her taste runs toward the rather ordinary and unadventurous (a lot of ‘80s synth music). Still, like any and all DJs, her live set must be able to outshine anything that’s in her discography.
Current iPod advert of the moment, their song “Flathead” is so simple and annoyingly catchy that it stands as proof that anyone can pick up a guitar, play the same four notes over and over, mumble incoherently, and call it a song. For purists, they’re pathetic. Yet the shit’s undeniably catchy, so they must be doing something right. This year’s Wolfmother, if only for their shag carpet haircuts.
Using tango and samba beats as the core from which it builds, Gotan Project throw in some breaks and electronic beats to keep you on your toes. But the music is primarily tango, so don’t go twirlin’ glow sticks or anything.
Lessee . . . Andrew McMahon, Orange County guy, used to be (or maybe still is) in Something Corporate, got cancer, beat cancer . . . and that’s all we know. See what happens when your band’s MySpace goes down?
Wily Parisians drunk on old Donna Summer records—that, or maybe Junior Senior under a fake name. Whatever, it’s fun music to dance to. Supposedly they’re Christian, but we think they’re just going for the irony rather than the spirituality. Hope they play in mid-afternoon, when you’ll most be in need of an energy boost.
KINGS OF LEON
Straight-up Nashville rock without any cheap embellishments or pretense. If the Velvet Underground had a four-headed illegitimate love child with the Rolling Stones, its midnight wailing would sound something like Kings Of Leon.
A scratcher with a penchant for ‘80s music (specifically, the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack), though if you tune into his “Radio Fryer” mix, he’ll throw in the White Stripes and clips from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Fun and all, but look kids—stop romanticizing the ‘80s. We were there, and the music wasn’t nearly as good as you think it was.
Although we think that the Chili Peppers are slightly overrated—okay, a lot overrated—they put on an amazing live show. Saving Graces: Dynamic songwriting skills and boasting the best bassist this side of Les Claypool. The Band’s Downfall: Too many cheap rhymes and pop ditties that fuse other words with “California,” which was cute at first, but has since become the musical cousin of terms like “Brangelina” and “Bennifer.”
The biggest indie rock band no one’s ever heard of? Yeah, you kinda have to really be into them—there is no such thing as a casual Sparklehorse fan. But they’re awfully boring, probably not helped by the fact that de facto leader Mark Linkous always sounds like he’s just swallowed a fistful of Sominex.
This Russian-born songwriter plays textured acoustic or piano music, sometimes showing influences from jazz to hip-hop, but it’s mostly in a Tori Amos vein. Her unparalleled lyrical and musical prowess keeps her from being defined as an impersonator, but not by much.
The band that never got credit for paving the way for the likes of Coldplay and Keane, but they have a new album coming out on May 7 that might garner them some well-deserved acclaim.
What happens when Puerto Ricans discover the Grateful Dead and form their own bands? You get Yeva, equal parts funky, fluid and flowing, but en espanol. Perhaps the most perfect Saturday band to roll a number to.
SATURDAY’S JUST SAY NIX
Drum-and-bass girly-girl rap crossed with . . . Enya? Fine as background music for hipster study hall sessions, but better heard in a nightclub, not at the dusty expanse of Coachella.
Brit indie rock that you’ve heard 1,000 times before by just-as-atrocious American kids—catchy, but with bonus lisping! Depending on the time they go on, the wheedley electric guitars could be a welcome sound, but as for us, we’ll be over in the beer queue.
My Bloody Valentine lives—unfortunately. Sleepy Euro-pop, played with a lazy shimmer. Catch ‘em only if they’re playing in a tent, so you can stretch out and fall asleep and not worry about sunburn.
What might be fresh and arty and passionate to the Irish just comes off as so much generic alt-rock stateside. Why does their singer sound like he’s crying? And why do we keep getting them mixed up with the Shins?
Pittsburgh DJ/mash-up wunderkind, who throws together Phantom Planet, Smashing Pumpkins, Elton John and assorted other bits from others. Probably entertaining as hell—but really, if there was any argument that DJs aren’t really musicians, this would be it.
A London-based electronic act that’s trying to bring more imagination to pop music and claims everyone from Devo to Madlib as an influence. The music is a little more new wavish than the band will let on, but that’s only because new wave isn’t that new. But they do get props for being live purists and not using programs or recordings during their stage show.
LCD Soundsystem describes their sound as “records that you used to hate but are kind of cool now that you’ve heard them again years later at your friend’s house.” He’s right that his sound is a rehash of all things past, but we all learned when we were 10 that just because our friends are doing it doesn’t mean it’s okay for us. What if they all jumped off a bridge or lit themselves on fire?
The ultra-generic MSTRKRFT make house-ish electronic music. Word. Or here’s a better word: BLLSHT.
You know how on some band MySpace sights, they’ll have their music player on auto start-up, but then they’ll also have a video that auto-starts at the exact same time, which then creates a lot of annoying, cacaphonic noise? And then you click around a bit, and come across a gaggle of the most pretentious publicity photos you’ve ever seen? (Lookit me slouch on the couch! Lookit me wearing eyeliner just because!) Pop Levi have this problem in spades.
Isn’t VNV Nation enough trance for one three-day festival?
SUNDAY’S CAN’T-MISS PICKS
If you can find some wacky tobackey, these French songsters will blow your mind. If you’re dead sober, you may die of boredom. Either way, these two men make beautiful, ambient music together that will make you crave a creamy brie de meaux with a nice bourgogne.
Irresistible. Her music is drenched in two-tone backbeats that ooze charisma. Scream and scream and threaten to hold your breath until your eyes pop out until she sings “Alfie,” a song about her stoner brother who won’t get off his lazy arse.
Chainlinks and cookware never sounded so beautiful. Eight men finding melodies and harmonies in everything they touch. They sing a lot about an old Japanese couple, but you’ll grow to love it all.
The Avett Bros.
The Beatles with a banjo? Simple harmonies make sweet love to your ears. You’ll be happier for it.
Your booty called. It said it feels like shaking—and the Coup are here just in time. Part Outkast, part Roots, alllll funky.
The Kaiser Chiefs are that band that’s always on the verge of taking over the world, and they make rock critics purr like pussycats. If the name of the new album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob is any indication, things might get a little hectic. But their people-pleasing chants and love-happy song “Ruby” should quell the crowd.
The U.K loves ‘em. After Coachella, the oooyey-aaaah Brits head home for more than a dozen sold-out shows to drop psychedelic, progressive pop. Catch them while you can.
Music permeates the Congo, and Konono No. 1 represents with solid instrumentation on anything from broken hubcaps to likembes (hand-held pianos). They’re the Congolese Kraftwerk!
Simple, straight-ahead songs that you cannot help but love. Young melodic Brits are self-proclaimed music whores, which in British means “eclectic.” It also means they’re sassy young Brits fresh off the ship.
Backed by drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez of the Descendents, Evan Dando waxes rhapsodic with a ferocious beat like 20 years haven’t passed. Once named one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People, Dando repeatedly proves he’s more than just good genes.
Broken English over smooth beats. They’ll try to get you to do it in the front seat, and they’re so jangly, you just might.
Willie Nelson rules. In his 70s, still rockin, gettin’ nominated for Grammys and staying hip with the kids. You can’t go wrong with “Whisky River,” “On the Road Again” and “Songbird.” He’s the original alt-country king.
David Bowie, Robert Smith, Frank Black and Michael Stipe are fans, so why shouldn’t you be? Join the gaggle of glammed-up disciples as they work themselves into a frenzy over a top-selling band that’s able to remain under the radar and still carry high record sales.
The Guy With The Grey’s Anatomy Song will twist your heartstrings till you weep in your Guinness. Hot plus Irish accent divided by actual talent equals you front-and-center, so you can say you saw him when.
The Max Weinberg of hip-hop, ?uestlove, helps make every Roots show different. Jazzy, head-bobbing grooves layered over MC Black Thought’s masterful rhymes create a sort of New Millennium Funkadelic. Hells yeah, you better be there.
Look out, Fat Boys—Spank Rock has some time to kill. These beatboxers love Connie Chung and David Bowie, and claim to sound like a mixture of fat girls in a hot tub after playing slots all night mixed with the X-rated Motorcycle Diaries and Talib Kweli on crystal meth. That’s exactly what we were thinking.
Quirky like the Flaming Lips, nonsensical like Malkmus, Tapes ‘n Tapes lay it on thick without losing focus. Unpretentious yet not uncool. Yes, we just dropped a double-negative like its hot.
Are you a punk rocker? If you just thought to yourself, “Yes I am,” you already know whether you should catch the Teddybears. If you answered yes and you don’t know why, you may still want to show up for this one. Maybe Iggy will, too.
Bringing Ibiza to Indio, the trance tycoon knows America loves him. We voted him America’s favorite DJ apparently in 2004, although we don’t remember being asked to register, let alone vote. That’s democracy, for all he knows—out of Communist East Berlin was born sick beats and a slick DJ who rocks a white linen suit like Lenin never could.
SUNDAY’S KINDA MIXED
See what happens when anarchist punks leave behind their DIY ideals and sign to a major label? They get better!
It’s been 11 years since the band called it quits, but “Don’t Dream It’s Over” feels like it never left, probably because every time we go shopping, we hear that sodded song. Neil Finn’s melodic pop is hard to hate, even if you’re tired as hell of the greatest hits.
All instrumental drama. The band released an album in August of 2001 that some say predicted 9/11, which wasn’t true, but nonetheless eerie in its exactness. Could be a great time to zone out and ponder conspiracy theories.
Watch this guy. He has that whole Swedish-Spanish guitar thing going. Easy-on-the-ears songs that make you bummed you’re with your buddies. He writes alluring songs with titles that sound borderline dirty—unless “Lovestain” means something different across the Atlantic.
We hope they aren’t getting paid in crack, because Happy Mondays are fuckin’ mint. The Manchester band bridged the gap for ravers and indie pop in the early ‘90s. The band just completed their first album in 14 years, but they have no label, so who knows. These guys should shake their moneymakers as hard as they can.
Techno, techno, techno. You either like it or you don’t. You know who you are—just stay hydrated.
There’s a new Hardest Working Man In Show Business. Kid Beyond sings, beatboxes, and loops all at once—a one-man vocal band like no other. How, you ask? Don’t know. Some may call it a sonic tapestry, but you’ll probably just say something like, “That’s some crazy-ass shit!”
Hmmm. He’s a little bit Hootie, but we kind of like him anyway. Soulful like Rashid, Philly groovy like G-Love without the eccentric funk, and with a little Ben Harper thrown in. Now if he could just hit it big, we’d have the perfect headline.
If you can’t get enough Spanish-French world music framing an anti-globalism slant, Manu is for you. The music has a reggae feel that doesn’t overpower its Latin roots.
Sounds like Elton John meets Rufus Wainwright running into Beck in a gay bathhouse. Time to love on each other.
“Stairway to Heaven” never sounded so romantic before. Light some candles and snuggle up to this classical guitar duo from Mexico, perfect for some down-time under the burning Indio sun.
Belgian new wave. If you can pair it with Belgian beer or chocolate, then this is a go (the country has set the bar high for its exports). Soul Wax Nite Versions pay homage to the days of 12-inch singles, when bands like Duran Duran and Human League ruled the charts.
SUNDAY’S JUST SAY NIX
Dear Brazil: Please stop trying to do cutesy pop, and leave it to the Japanese.
Throw some Spandex on these fellas, and the waaahhh! factor fits nicely. Lead singer Darroh Sudderth actually sounds like he’s gurgling, which is great if you’re a fan of gurglers—as gurglers go, he’s up there with the best. Try singing a Static-X song while brushing your teeth—congrats, you’re a Darroh dead-ringer!
Supertramp sucked the first time around.
Hey—we thought gay people were happy! This music just makes us sad. Droney and pretty, but kind of boring.
Grab your glowstick. Melodic, psychedelic trance inspired by Metallica and Prodigy. The duo dominates the Israeli trance scene—but that’s not a compliment.
Friggin’ Canadians. Two guys making music that sounds like two guys made it. In their dorm room. After a game of Naked Drunken Twister.
Lupe Catastrophe is more like it.
What’re you gonna rage against now? Not big money, because your asses just proved it can sell anything by taking this reunion gig (guess Zack needs more smokes?). Leave early, and beat the traffic instead.
Unless a horde of hip-hop stars show up to complete Ratatat’s line up, this is going to be one of those live shows that’s awesome at the start, but peters out while you secretly wish it would end, even though on the outside, you look like you’re totally into it.
You like dance, yes? You like the AFI? You see VNV Nation, you dance to bang-bang music. You take the happy pills and feel good. They’re huge in Germany and Holland, so you know what that means—but we don’t.