a guide to Coachella 2018 (and a playlist of acts we’re excited to see)
Coachella 2018 is coming up very soon; its first weekend is April 13-15 and its second is April 20-22. The festival is long sold out, but for anyone not going, 75 sets from weekend one are streaming live. If you are going, we've put together a guide to Coachella 2018 which might help you navigate the festival's massive lineup, from the headliners to the great small-font acts who do not deserve to go overlooked.
We've broken the guide down into a few different categories that will hopefully help you navigate the 150+ acts playing the fest. Read on for our guide...
All three headliners are hip hop this year, which is a first, and all three are great. The Weeknd is fresh off releasing an EP that hearkens back to his early, more atmospheric material, and if you're at all surprised that he's headliner material, don't forget that he's armed with an arsenal of Top 10 Hits ("Earned It," "The Hills," "Can't Feel My Face," "Starboy," "Feel It Coming"). Beyonce is still riding high off the release of the best album of her career, and it really goes without saying that there aren't many better festival headliners in the world right now than the Queen Bey. Eminem may have just released one of the worst albums of his career, but the classics hold up super well and it's a real treat that he's doing the festival circuit this year.
Festivals like Coachella are usually a good place to knock some legends off your bucket list. There are a couple playing this year, including David Byrne, who recently released his first solo album in 14 years, which has at least a few jams ("Everybody's Coming To My House" is probably gonna sound great on a festival stage), and Byrne has a new, ambitious stage show and isn't shying away from playing Talking Heads songs. There's also disco legends Nile Rodgers & Chic, who have been in the midst of a major comeback for the past few years. Between Chic and the other artists Nile Rodgers wrote/produced for in the '70s and '80s, he's responsible for so many disco and pop classics ("Good Times," "Le Freak," "Everybody Dance," Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" and "Upside Down," Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," David Bowie's "Let's Dance"), and he re-entered the zeitgeist as a collaborator on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." Judging by other recent Chic shows, you might hear all of those songs.
RISING INDIE ROCKERS
Coachella may cater more towards popular rap, EDM and pop these days, but buried in the small font of the Coachella 2018 lineup is a substantial amount of great smaller/up and coming indie rock bands whose sets do not deserve to be ignored. Here are 12 that we don't think you should miss:
Alvvays: Canada’s jangly Alvvays released their second album, Antisocialites, last year which improved on their debut album in every way. Playing to bigger and bigger audiences on every tour, Alvvays seem ready for the festival spotlight in 2018.
Angel Olsen: Having started out as a revivalist of '60s psychedelic folk, Angel Olsen started to modernize and incorporate modern indie rock influences into her sound on 2014's great Burn Your Fire For No Witness and even more so on 2016's My Woman, which we named the #1 album of that year. If you like folk-ish indie rock at all, you can't go wrong with Angel Olsen.
Big Thief: Brooklyn's Big Thief have two great albums of folky indie rock on Saddle Creek (including one of our faves of 2017), and it seems like they just keep getting better. They have been debuting new songs on tour this year, and all the new stuff sounds great so far. Hopefully we'll hear new stuff at Coachella too.
Cherry Glazerr: Primarily the project of Clemetine Creevy, Cherry Glazerr made a big leap forward with 2017’s Apocalipstick which put a muscular band behind her songs’ big hooks. Live, Creevy’s bratty arrogance has mellowed into an assured performance style, but a gleeful sense of mischief is still present.
Fazerdaze: If you’re planning on catching Alvvays, you might want to clear time in your schedule to see New Zealand’s Fazerdaze, who have a similar winsome charm and breezy guitar pop style, as heard on 2017’s Morningside.
Hundred Waters: One of Hundred Waters' claims to fame is that every year they curate their own big festival, but they make their own great music too. Last year they released Communicating, which is a gorgeous mix of electronic and acoustic art pop.
Japanese Breakfast: With one of the best albums of 2017 under her belt, Japanese Breakfast will bring her fantastic dream pop revival to the Coachella stage this year. Her live show is at least as good as her album, especially when she gets to the auto-tuned love song about robots.
John Maus: After releasing 2011's excellent We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, avant-pop oddball John Maus took a break before returning in the past year with not one but two new albums. His live show is also truly unforgettable, and not what you might expect from listening to his records.
Moses Sumney: Maybe not exactly indie rock but close enough, Moses Sumney has a voice that's to die for and not like much else out there. His fantastic 2017 debut full-length Aromanticism (on Jagjaguwar) was one of the best debuts of last year, and the fast-rising singer is fresh off collaborating with Sufjan Stevens on the Oscars stage.
Perfume Genius: Perfume Genius changes things up from album to album and just keeps getting bigger and better. From his somber piano-led debut Learning to the more rock-oriented Put Your Back N 2 It, to the body music of 2014's Too Bright, to the soaring art pop of last year's No Shape, he is unstoppable.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever make driving guitar rock that jangles but has a weathered toughness to it as well. (Like Courtney Barnett, RBCF exude Australian-ness.) Rising stars in their native country -- they were part of this year’s Laneway Festival -- and with a new record for Sub Pop likely before the end of the year, they seem ready for America.
Snail Mail: Baltimore native Lindsay Jordan is primed for the spotlight when Lush, her full-length debut as Snail Mail, is released in June via Matador. She’s got the songs already, and charms in small clubs, but Coachella will be Snail Mail’s first big festival audience.
POPULAR INDIE ROCKERS
We want to make sure you don't miss the smaller, easier-to-overlook indie rockers, but there are a handful of popular indie acts that we'd be remiss not to mention too. Fleet Foxes are still in the midst of a major comeback that included 2017's proggy hiatus-ending album Crack-Up. St. Vincent continues to become one of the biggest and best indie acts around and she's still riding high off the far-above-average MASSEDUCTION, our third favorite album of 2017. The War On Drugs have basically become the leaders of modern heartland rock, and with their major label debut dropping last summer, the anticipation to see them is perhaps bigger than ever. Not to mention there's the exceedingly popular alt-J and Portugal. The Man too.
As in past years, there isn't much. The only harder bands this year are the Maynard James Keenan-fronted supergroup A Perfect Circle, whose first album in 14 years comes out on April 20; long-running punk n' rollers The Bronx, who released V last year; and garage punks Oh Sees. Through myriad lineup changes and variations on the Oh Sees name (OCS, Thee Oh Sees, etc) over the last 20 years, John Dwyer never loses sight of his sonic vision. While their hyper-prolific output can be overwhelming, their blistering live show -- currently powered with a dual-drummer chassis -- is always worth seeing.
MORE HOP HOP
In addition to the hip hop headliners, there are plenty of other great rappers and R&B singers worth seeing at Coachella this year. Some are still on the small side, and others may be ready to headline before you know it.
Brockhampton: Brockhampton have been called "the new Odd Future" and that suits them well. They take a noticeable influence from OFWGKTA, but mostly the comparison is apt because Brockhampton are a rowdy, fearless, rapidly rising young rap group with a very distinct identity and sound, like Odd Future were at the beginning of their career. They released three of 2017's best albums, and they say a fourth is coming this year, presumably on their new home of RCA Records.
Cardi B: After releasing two mixtapes and a string of fantastic hit singles (as both a lead artist and a guest), Cardi B is finally set to release her proper debut album this week. With Coachella right around the corner from the album's release, Cardi's set is one of the most anticipated of the festival.
DeJ Loaf: With a seriously impressive EP and some quality mixtapes, Detroit rapper DeJ Loaf's proper debut album couldn't be more anticipated (release date is still TBA). All of the singles she's released for it have been fantastic, and there's no reason to believe DeJ's Coachella set will be any different.
Jorja Smith: UK soul singer Jorja Smith has been featured on Kendrick Lamar's Black Panther album and Drake's More Life, and it's not hard to see why these massive rappers (and past Coachella headliners) are such a fan of her. One listen to her powerful pipes and you'll probably be a fan too.
Kamaiyah: The Oakland rapper's anticipated major label debut remains TBA, but going by early singles and mixtapes (including her excellent 2016 debut A Good Night in the Ghetto), we have faith that it's gonna be a good one. Her live show is a real party too.
Migos: Migos are basically running rap radio and the charts right now. Whether it's the group themselves, one of the members on their own, or the many Migos copycats, their distinct trap-pop sound is everywhere. It also feels like there's a good chance that their set will include high-profile guests. Who haven't Migos collaborated with?
Noname: Hailing from the same Chicago scene that produced Chance the Rapper, Noname is a rising modern rapper like few others and her band makes her live shows very worth catching.
Princess Nokia: NYC's Princess Nokia's high-energy live set was one of the best that we saw at SXSW last month, and it seems obvious that she'll do just as well on a big festival stage. If you're unsure about seeing her, just do it. She's unforgettable.
SZA: Our two favorite 2017 albums were TDE labelmates Kendrick Lamar and SZA. Kendrick headlined Coachella last year, and this year it's SZA's turn to play. She's not headliner status just yet, but catch her now before she is. Given how addictive every single song on her album is, not to mention her big hit from the Black Panther album, we doubt she can be stopped.
Tyler the Creator: Tyler the Creator has come a long way from his days as the leader of Odd Future. His latest album, 2017's Flower Boy, was -- dare we say -- a mature album for Tyler, and it deservedly got a lot of praise.
Vince Staples: Vince Staples is one of the most talented MCs around, and his excellent new album Big Fish Theory is built for festival stages. His beats are closer to EDM than to traditional hip hop beats, meaning Vince Staples will give you two of Coachella's biggest styles of music at once.
Flatbush Zombies: The crazed NYC trio Flatbush Zombies have a rambunctious live show that we've seen go over very well at festivals. They never have trouble drawing huge crowds who know every word, and even if you don't, you'll have no trouble getting sucked into the madness.
6LACK: Atlanta R&B singer 6LACK (pronounced "black") went from seemingly small to noticeably big very quickly, and we have a feeling that his font size will be A LOT bigger the next time he plays Coachella. See him now so you can say you did.
Jamiroquai are playing Coachella 2018. Kinda weird, right?
Not everything we want to highlight fits into our above categories, so here's a list of a few act that defy easy categorization that we think are worth catching:
Kamasi Washington: You aren't usually likely to find much jazz on the Coachella lineup, but it makes sense that Kamasi Washington is here. He's a real-deal jazz musician, but he's also collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, and shared the stage with Dirty Projectors, and he's quickly taken off within hip hop, electronic, and indie rock worlds.
Soulwax: As 2ManyDJs, David and Stephen Dewaele’s impeccable ear and skill helped invent the mashup. As leaders of Soulwax, they bring a DJ’s knowledge of dynamics to a live band setting. Soulwax’s sets -- a rarity in the U.S. these days -- are seamless, awe inspiring and could melt faces even if this was Antartica.
Kelela: Kelela's an R&B singer but her sound is closer to dance music than hip hop. No matter how famous she continues to get, she still favors working with underground electronic musicians, as she did on last year's fantastic Take Me Apart, released on Warp Records.
King Krule: At 23, King Krule main man Archy Marshall still looks like he’s not old enough to vote and sounds even more of an old soul. Mixing jazz, hip hop, and other styles with his magnetic, marble-mouthed delivery, Marshall has been able to hold sway over large audiences for years (his band is ace).
Yaeji: Genre-defying producer/vocalist Yaeji mixes hip hop, dance music, dream pop, R&B, and more. She was born in NYC, lived in Korea for a while, and is now back in NYC, and her singing is in both Korean and English. Her two 2017 EPs were among our favorite release of that year, and we can't wait to see where she goes next.
Sudan Archives: Sudan Archives is a rising violinist/vocalist who's signed to Stones Throw and cites "the violin playing style of Northeast Africa" as a main influence. Her sound isn't like much else out there right now, and it's easy to see why she's taking off. Her original music is great, but we also really recommend checking out her Kendrick Lamar cover (above).
Benjamin Clementine: It's impossible to pin down London singer Benjamin Clementine's sound. Over the course of two albums, he explores art pop, soul, classical music, the avant-garde, and more, and it comes together in a way that's unmistakably his own. We can guarantee that you won't see another artist on the Coachella lineup like Benjamin Clementine.
Check out the full Coachella 2018 lineup HERE and stay tuned for live stream info. Who are you most excited to see at Coachella this year?
Stream a Spotify playlist with music from every artist in our guide, below: