Coachella 2016 is upon us, happening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in California, and then again on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday after that. Obviously you should make an effort to catch the returns of LCD Soundsystem and Guns N' Roses, not to mention big/big-on-the-poster names like Sufjan Stevens, Underworld, Beach House, A$AP Rocky, Rancid, Grimes, Courtney Barnett and Ice Cube who could bring out some very special guests, but we also wanted to bring your attention to 15 slightly less obvious, but not always smaller, selections.
Set times aren't announced yet (stay tuned), but check out our list and a related Spotify playlist, below. If you can't be at Coachella (or wouldn't dream of going), you can always just watch the livestream.
15 ARTISTS TO CHECK OUT AT COACHELLA:
who aren't LCD Soundsystem, Grimes or Guns N' Roses
Lush (4:35 PM Saturday, Gobi Tent) - Coachella may be more about the fashion than the music now, but they still show their roots (pun intended) by landing reunions that get real music nerds frothing. Catch up on the influential shoegaze/Britpop band's catalog now, not to mention check out their new material, and help make their first U.S. trip in about two decades a memorable one.
The Damned (8:20 PM Saturday, Gobi Tent) - Not as rare a show as Lush, but an even more important band. Just ask Coachella headliner Guns N' Roses who have been covering the Damned in one version of their reunion setlist. Punk as we know it wouldn't exist without their first album (even if Rolling Stone doesn't agree), and the band's later albums were some of the earliest examples of goth rock. These days, they usually give you a solid mix of both.
Ex Hex (1 PM Saturday, Outdoor Theatre) - Speaking of respected musicians, Helium/Autoclave's Mary Timony leads this band which plays glammy, punky rock n' roll. You may also recognize Mary from Wild Flag, the early 2010s band that went on hiatus in 2014 so that Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss could go back to being in Sleater-Kinney.
Mavis Staples (2:10 PM Friday, Gobi Tent) - Mavis is a real-deal veteran of soul, having put out excellent music as a solo artist and as a member of The Staple Singers since the '60s. She's not just nostalgia though. Earlier this year Mavis released the excellent album Livin' On A High Note that had her singing songs written specifically for her by Nick Cave, Neko Case, Justin Vernon, Merrill Garbus, and more.
Anderson .Paak (8:25 PM Sunday, Mojave Tent) - 2016 is the year of soul/funk/rap hybrid Anderson .Paak, who caught a lot of people's ears when he made significant contributions to Dr. Dre's 2015 album but who has since proved how much he shines on his own. His newest album Malibu is one of the year's best, and his live show solidifies his greatness. He can sing, rap and drum, and he's seriously impressive at all three. You won't forget this set if you see it.
Kamasi Washington (3 PM Sunday, Outdoor Theatre) - Jazz up your Coachella experience with the biggest crossover artist in recent memory, Kamasi Washington. It makes sense why he quickly found fame outside of the usual jazz circuit -- he's worked with Kendrick Lamar and Thundercat, Flying Lotus liked him enough to release his 2015 album The Epic on his Brainfeeder label, and everyone from Rolling Stone to The FADER to Pitchfork is in love. He's got a pretty huge live band too. This is destined to be one of Coachella's most unique sets.
BADBADNOTGOOD (10:55 PM, Gobi Tent) -- Like Kamasi, BadBadNotGood is a jazz group that collaborates with a hip list of rappers, including Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Ghostface Killah and more. They've also done cool jazz covers of non-jazz songs by James Blake, My Bloody Valentine and more.
HEALTH (2:35 PM Friday, Mojave Tent) - HEALTH were noise rock staples for years, but as of last year's fantastic Death Magic, they started incorporating industrial, synthpop, and a lot more accessibility into their sound without sacrificing the abrasion. Recent live shows have almost been closer to metal shows than what you might expect from listening to the album.
Deafheaven (10:45 PM Sunday, Gobi Tent) - Even if HEALTH's shows can feel kinda like metal shows, possibly the only actual metal band on this year's Coachella lineup is Deafheaven. (Unless you count GNR too?) Like Kamasi Washington, Deafheaven have entirely transcended their genre and it's not a surprise that this is the one band with exclusively-screamed vocals that Coachella wanted to book. They're part black metal, part post-rock, part screamo, part thrash, part indie rock, and that's not even all of it. Vocalist George Clarke's stage presence can get a festival crowd going, alone.
The Front Bottoms (2:35 PM Friday, Outdoor Theatre) - Also a little out of place on this year's Coachella lineup, but sure to be one of the most fun Coachella sets, are The Front Bottoms. This folky pop punk band rarely writes a song that doesn't make you want to sing along loudly while you're jumping off the stage with your fist in the air. On festivals that are geared towards music like this, TFB often draw the biggest crowds of the day. It'll be a nice change of pace to see a wild, young punk-ish crowd at Coachella too.
Savages (9:35 PM Friday, Mojave Tent) - A true see-it-live band, Savages really shine on stage, were their tight rhythm section, stitch-perfect look, and charismatic singer Jehnny Beth coalesce into a powerful force that rarely fails to thrill.
Chris Stapleton (7:10 PM Sunday, Gobi Tent) - Chris is a huge country star now, and also happens to be great. You won't get a chance to so easily catch a set like this from him again (except maybe at Summerfest, Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza), so don't miss out on what is sure to be a crowd-pleasing, laid back, outdoor, festival set. Here's a picture of him holding the zillion Country Music Awards he just won:
Sheer Mag (noon Friday, Mojave Tent) - Coachella's main draw is increasingly pop acts (and again, fashion), but it's still a good place to cross some new buzzy auth bands off your bucket list. Here's your chance to see if this Thin Lizzy-inspired Philly punk band lives up to the hype, recent Best New Music on Pitchfork included. (Sheer Mag are too DIY for Spotify but you can listen here.)
Girlpool (1 PM Sunday, Outdoor Theatre) - Another small buzzy band to catch is Girlpool. Like Sheer Mag, they're from the punk breeding ground Philly (but they moved there from LA), but this band is more punk in spirit than in sound. They're a folk-ish duo with bass, guitar and no percussion at all, and both members sing in unison for an effect unlike much else in their thriving hometown scene.
The 1975 (6:10 PM Sunday, Coachella Stage) - Our most uncool choice on this list.... The 1975, who are not small at all, are here because we would never actually suggest you spend money to go see the 1975, but you're already at Coachella, you're curious, and this is our pick for most likely to be your new rock n' roll guilty pleasure. Plus, "The Sound" goes.