By Lisa Morgan
Like sands in the hour glass, so fly the days of our lives between music festival seasons, and every April, so do the numbers of transient music fans pouring into the Coachella Valley. This festival that takes place in our own back yard, now in its 15th year, has become one of the largest, most famous, and most profitable music festivals in the United States, last year tallying an attendance of 579,000 over six days, and grossing a record-breaking $78.3 million. Hopefully this year, the sand won’t be whipping us all in our faces, and teeth, lodging itself in parts of our anatomy that we never realized were exposed at 50+ miles per hour. Monsoonal weather conditions have made national news the last two years in a row during the festivals first weekend, so I asked Patrick Evans, Chief Meteorologist for CBS local 2, what conditions to expect this year. He happily replied, “Expect great weather for the first weekend of Coachella. Mid to upper 80s, and lots of partially clad 20-somethings is my forecast, with a significant chance of bands you’ve never heard of.”
The growing presence of technology is not only a significantly large part of the festival’s showcased music, but also apparent in some interesting developments in the Coachella mobile app. By downloading the free app on your phone, you will be able to activate your wristband, find a map of the entire festival, or find your friends, who will automatically update their location whenever they open the app. You can schedule your must see bands, and you will be immediately be made aware of any conflicts, as well as share schedules with friends. You can schedule your meals the exact same way. You will be able to either efficiently keep track of your friends this year, or avoid them like a ninja. EDM artist, Kaskade, has been contributing to the “News & Social” portion of the app with pictures and blogs from his last couple of Coachella Fest performances. Artists are also providing a Spotify stream this year (this in spite of record label, Universal and Taylor Swifts’ recent bold statements against the music streaming mogul).
Within the app, you will also find the festival dos and don’ts (under FAQ) which seem to have changed a bit so pay attention my friends. Don’t hate the messenger – I am just reporting the facts, but apparently, you may NOT bring in chairs or blankets or umbrellas, but you MAY bring your beach towel, fanny pack, and parasol. Do not be the chain wearing, weapon packing, laser pointing, flag waving, bota bag carrying narcissist with a selfie stick, who gets left out of the festival while you watch the camel pack wearing guy in dancing shoes and a back pack get in with his Go-Pro and a smile.
I am going to list a little bit about each of the bands I think should definitely be on your nifty Coachella App schedule. By no means do I mean to disqualify or discourage anyone from any part of the lineup, or to be incomplete in my information about them, but I only have space for 2000 words and, like you, I have to make my choices.
Now I’ve heard people complain about these guys being on the bill, and I respond with stunned silence, followed by the smacking sound of the palm of my hand against my forehead (because smacking other people is not socially acceptable). This may not fit in the with the EDM lineup, but this band is legendary. With original founding member, Angus Young, still fighting the good fight, after decades of riding the industry roller coaster amidst painful losses, opposition and disappointments, nobody has more to bring to the stage. Since forming in 1973, AC/DC has sold more than 200 million albums, making them one of the best-selling acts worldwide. These guys ripped through the glass boundaries of commercial rock and roll and are credited with opening the door for the Heavy Metal industry. If you fault Paul Tollet for his choice of headliners, I would do so quietly. You may be confronted by the spirit of the bands departed, original vocalist, Bon Scott, that lives in all of us who were saluted by this ground breaking band: “We just want to make the walls cave in and the ceiling collapse. Music is meant to be played as loudly as possible, really raw and punchy, and I’ll punch out anyone who doesn’t like it the way I do.” (Bon Scott’s words, not mine) Being able to see this band live is a gift, and you need to tell Paul Tollet, “Thank you.”
It happens only once in a while, when a band blows every industry theory about what “sells”, clean out of the water. This band was just too good to ever be ignored. They are the stuff that the greats were made of back in the day when music was more than marketing. Alabama Shakes is sheer authentic melodic soul food for starving times.
This band captures all that is good about the old school days of rock and roll (What would happen if SoCal beach music met London’s Kinks, fell in love and had a baby who grew up to be best friends with Arthur Lee and his band Love). Although it can’t be proven, these guys may be the contemporary grandchildren of such beautiful fusion.
From Leeds, England, this band would be the definition of English Indie Art Rock. Ever fascinating to listen to and sonically delicious, they stir in the strong flavor of EDM without burying their beautiful, human element. The band’s unusual sound comes from their university days together, making music in student halls on a garage band program with noise restrictions, unable to use bass drums or bass guitar. Drummer Thom Green suffers from Alport syndrome and is now about 80% deaf. Scream loud for these guys – you will be compelled to, and they deserve it.
Proof that something good can come out of Washington DC, Marcio Alvarado, brother to the artist known as Painted Face, has been producing electronic music behind an angelic voice and working with associates like Skrillex, since 2003. EDM fans will love the artistic power and technical expertise of this artist.
Angus and Julia Stone
Representing the indie folk genre with strong pop sensibilities, the brother and sister duo from Sydney, Australia are enchanting. They are winners of several APRA Awards (Australasian Performing Right Association): Songwriter of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Producer of the Year, Single of the Year.
One of the best-selling punk rock acts of all time. Shame on you if you do not leave your EDM love fest to see them! And if this is one of the bands you’ve never heard of, tell no one and google them immediately. It may be time for some serious life changes. But that’s ok. Bad Religion is the band that will take you there. With their hard driving honest attack on everything that makes you feel safe, you will be better for it.
Booker has been described by the Chicago Tribune as “a raw brand of blues, boogie and soul”. Having cut his teeth as a kid on DIY Punk, and beginning his performing career in New Orleans, this guy’s first 4 track EP Waiting Ones, was a collection of low-fi, blues influenced, folk punk with handclap percussion. This artist is ever evolving and will be a treat to watch.
Belle and Sebastian
Like traveling purveyors of light infused folk, this group from Glasgow, Scotland, just released their 9th studio album (yes, they’ve been at this a while). The album, Girls in Peace Time Want to Dance, is a catalyst for such celebratory things. Their group energy, both in their music and stage presence, will cast a spell on you and infuse a little bliss into your dehydrated sonic senses at a festival that can cause a bit of heavy sensory overload. This band will refresh you in more ways than you will expect.
Built to Spill
Guitarist/Vocalist, Doug Martsch (formerly of Treepeople), is the founder and the one constant in this group, and signed Built to Spill to Warner Bros. Records in 1995 and a rare deal that allowed it to retain a large degree of creative control over future albums. Built to Spill produced its first major label release in 1997 with Perfect from Now On which was met with critical success, and caused Built to Spill to become one of the United States’ most recognizable indie rock bands. They are supporting a new album, Untethered Moon due out April 21st, the first since 2009.
They released their first album Lungs in the United Kingdom on July 6, 2009. Much of the material on the album was written as a reaction to what turned out to be a temporary break-up with Welch’s former boyfriend. Welch said, “He prefers me not to talk about it. It’s funny then singing about it.” Always be careful how you treat a prolific songwriter…always. They have continued to be dominant in both the UK and the US charts ever since. This band has broad appeal and is just simply, brilliant.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne nown is an Irish musician and singer-songwriter who has been taking us to church with him since his debut single was released in 2013. By December 5, 2014, it was announced that “Take Me to Church” was nominated at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards for Song of the Year in 2015. You may want to block out your spot early to get anywhere close to this artist on stage.
There are some artists that constantly evolve. They never sit still, and are constantly at the helm of a new project with several others anxious to escape the confines of their mind. Jack White is one of those. A highly respected musician and producer worldwide, the experience of seeing this creative entity live, will be nothing short of intriguing and awe inspiring.
“Consider Lewis the Emmylou Harris of the Silverlake set” – Entertainment Weekly. “Her girlishly seductive vocals are more versatile than ever” – Rolling Stone “One of the best albums of the year.” – The Onion AV Club, Spin, and NPR music critic Meredith Ochs. These are things that are said about a talented girl who was invited by Conor Oberst to record a solo record with him and equally talented others for record label, Team Love. In 2008, Lewis released a second solo album, titled Acid Tongue. In 2014, Lewis released The Voyager, an album that took 5 years to complete and is a reflection on her previous band, Rilo Kiley’s, break-up and the death of her father. With few women fronting the Coachella stages solo, this artist, will shine as a gender representative, but stands on her own as a musical creator and performer, without bias.
McMahon is a singer/songwriter who was formerly the vocalist, pianist and primary songwriter for the bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. On April 30, 2013, he debuted his first solo work, entitled The Pop Underground, followed by his debut album Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, released October 14, 2014. Owning everything that made us love the Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men, but flying solo, this artist is a passionate treat.
Other obvious choices for me are St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a uniquely, bluesy rock I discovered while watching the music-passionate Dave Letterman show. Steely Dan will own me during their set for their legendary harmonies and timeless music (I doubt I can be friends with anyone who doesn’t appreciate them). And to my delight, Sturgill Simpson, who has brought authenticity back to a genre that at times breaks my heart for its shallow commercialism, will be present at both Coachella and Stagecoach, and will be most assuredly loved by both audiences.