Previews by Wendy Gilmartin, Daiana Feuer, Chris Martins, Drew Tewksbury and Jeff Weiss
A lot has happened since that now-mythical first Coachella in 1999 — the original DIY, anti-Ticketmaster ethos and indie focus (Beck, Rage Against the Machine, Morrissey, Jurassic 5) somehow mutated over the years into a celebrity-studded (Audrina Patridge!), mainstream-friendly (Muse, Tiesto, Jay-Z) three-day behemoth owned by AEG, the hypercorporate entity behind the Nokia/L.A. Live/Staples amusement zone downtown. But behind the new corporate façade and the expensive tickets, for many L.A.-based bands Coachella still means what it meant more than a decade ago: a chance to leave the Southland in search of a large gathering of music lovers enjoying the rock & roll myth of a desert escape. Here are the L.A. bands that will head to the Empire Polo Field in Indio this year. It's definitely a motley crew, but it's our motley crew.
THEM CROOKED VULTURES
WHEN: Friday, April 16, 7:50 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Supergroups are seldom super. They're typically half-baked concoctions of over-the-hill rockers whose whole is far inferior to their parts. Them Crooked Vultures isn't a supergroup, but they are hard-rocking heavyweights. The lineup is killer: Led Zeppelin's bassist/multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, Nirvana's drummer Dave Grohl, and vocalist/guitarist of Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss Josh Homme. Like spotting Halley's comet, Them Crooked Vultures is an event that happens once in a lifetime. When Homme's sun-scorched desert psychedelia coalesces with Grohl's freight-train beats and Jones' heavy riffery, it's a perfect storm of face-melting, fist-pumping arena anthems.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: Watching Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones switch from 12-string bass to pedal steel to the Rhodes keyboard is like watching a sculptor of sound at work. After all, Jones was Zeppelin's wunderkind and the brain behind their brawn. Remember the string section on Zep's "Kashmir" and the Clavinet groove on "Trampled Under Foot"? That was all Jones. Now, more than 30 years since he showcased his florid arrangements and juicy grooves with Led Zeppelin, Jones plays harder, faster and heavier than ever before.YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: "No One Loves Me & Neither Do I," from their self-titled album. —D.T.
PERRY FARRELL VS. STEVE PORTER
WHEN: Friday, April 16, 3 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Perry Farrell is kind of like that one uncle you have who hugs for, like, 20 seconds too long. He just doesn't want to let go. But luckily Steve Porter is like that raver kid with the pacifier who's done a lot of Ecstasy and really wants you to trace the opening of Canterbury Tales on his back. So, when you've got a guy who embraces too long, and another guy who is a squeeze enthusiast, it's a Match.com made in hug heaven.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: There's this episode of Golden Girls where Rose (Estelle Getty) is anxious about dating after the death of her husband, but she decides to seize the day and play the field. So she meets this really great guy after going on a double date with Blanche (Rue McClanahan), and Rose falls head-over-Keds in love. So she and her new silver fox decide to go on a cruise, but Rose gets scared because she's nervous to share a cabin with him. Wink-wink. Farrell and Porter would be the sound of Rose bonin' in that cabin. All hands on deck! —D.T.
DJ LANCE ROCK
WHEN: Friday, April 16, 2:15 p.m.
WHAT HE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: The orange-'froed, boom box–toting host of Yo Gabba Gabba!, the hippest kids' show since The Electric Company, is energy personified and coolness incarnate. Before Rock moved to L.A., he owned a record store in his native St. Louis, where he also deejayed dance massives and played in the breakbeat-steeped alt-rock band My Other Self. Locally, he earned a name for himself as half of the Ray Makers — while working at Amoeba — before he became an international emblem of awesome.
CHECK HIM OUT BECAUSE: He derives his powers from a magical ghetto-blaster, possesses a deep, deep knowledge of funk, soul, hip-hop and techno (with the record crates to back it up), and, like any good children's-TV personality, he's unafraid to act the fool onstage.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: Music Is Awesome, the YGG! compilation featuring such original hits as "Party in My Tummy," not to mention inspired, kid-friendly turns from the Shins, Money Mark and the Roots. —C.M.
SHE & HIM
WHEN: Friday, April 16, 5:45 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: The duo of flannel-set pharaoh M. Ward and (500) Days of Summer ingenue Zooey Deschanel has upended the Jared Leto axiom that Hollywood actors can't earn critical respect and commercial success in the music business. Signed to Merge, Arcade Fire's label, She & Him conjure vernal visions of '70s AM Gold, attractive to both cardigan-clad teenage romantics and fans of Ward's rootsy guitar pop and alt-country inclinations. Darlings of NPR, Paste magazine and Yoga Works members, She & Him don't aspire to reinvent the samsara wheel but rather inculcate imagined nostalgia for barefoot and sun-stained days in Laurel Canyon wood cabins.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: You have a Paste magazine tattoo. You are actively invested in the question of whether "indie is dead." You admire Ward's recent facial-hair decisions that make him look like he's auditioning to play Troy (Ethan Hawke) in a remake of Reality Bites. You can overcome the fact that Deschanel will never be yours. You like songs best described as "pretty."
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: She & Him, Volume II. —J.W.