10 Reasons Why the 2016 Coachella Lineup Is Better Than You Think It Is
Reason No. 7: Guitar god Gary Clark Jr.
Photo by Frank Maddocks
Coachella announced its 2016 lineup last night, and as usual, the haters were quick to pounce. No Bowie? No Kendrick? No Radiohead? Screw this year! I unleash my sad emoji army upon you, Coachella!
But not so fast. Before you cancel that overpriced La Quinta vacation rental, peruse this year's fine print, and you'll find plenty of reasons to brave another year of desert heat and sweaty fashionistas. Here are just 10 of them.
1. The return of Lush.
From Swervedriver (2008) to My Bloody Valentine (2009) to Ride (2015), Coachella loves a good shoegaze reunion. And Lush is a big one; though the band never quite achieved the same stateside success as many of their peers, they haven't performed live together since drummer Chris Acland's 1996 suicide, and so far, Coachella is their earliest confirmed reunion gig. Founding vocalists/guitarists Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi are back together with longtime bassist Phil King (who also now plays bass for The Jesus and Mary Chain) and new drummer Justin Welch (Elastica, Suede). Here's hoping their set leans heavily on material from their early days, including their now-classic Scar EP and their '92 debut LP, Spooky.
Photo by Darren Ankenman
2. Meg Myers.
Since she first blew L.A. Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss's mind in 2012, we've been over the moon for Meg Myers, a pop-rock spitfire who somehow channels the best parts of Fiona Apple, Lykke Li, Katy Perry and Trent Reznor into a foxy, feral persona wholly her own. Her dark yet catchy anthems have flirted with mainstream success, but Coachella could finally be her moment to break through to the wider recognition she deserves.
3. The Yuma tent.
Lineups for individual stages haven't been announced yet, so we're guessing here. But based on how Coachella has divvied up its DJ talent in past years, the air-conditioned Yuma tent (rather than the massive, EDM-focused Sahara tent) will play host to yet another who's-who of house and techno talent, including Sasha and John Digweed (playing separate sets, as they did last year at EDC Las Vegas), Matthew Dear (unless he does his full live show), Nic Fanciulli, Nicole Moudaber & Skin, Dubfire, Soul Clap and DJ EZ, to name a handful.
Photo by Kristen Coffer
Helping to pioneer a black-metal/shoegaze hybrid dubbed (wait for it) "blackgaze," this San Franciso–bred group, now based in Los Angeles, released one of the most acclaimed rock albums of 2015: New Bermuda, a white-knuckle plunge into the darkest and most eerily beautiful depths of this emerging genre. With a rapidly growing fan base in both the metal and indie-rock communities, their set should inspire the weekend's most frenetic and stylishly attired mosh pit.
5. Super side projects.
OK, so it's been a while since either The Black Keys or Arctic Monkeys released any music of note. But the frontmen of both bands have been busy with other, more intriguing projects. Head Monkey Alex Turner has been working on the long-awaited second LP from The Last Shadow Puppets, the baroque pop trio he founded with Miles Kane (The Rascals) and James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco) in 2008. Their debut album, The Age of the Understatement, cast Turner's expressive Yorkshire drawl against lush orchestral arrangements, revealing the laddish singer of "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" to be a surprisingly heartfelt balladeer. Dan Auerbach's new band, The Arcs, has had a similar effect on The Black Keys frontman, helping him to unlock soulful new corners of his bluesy rasp on a collection of glittering garage/psych-rock jams.
Photo by Meredith Truax
6. The best L.A. rapper not named Kendrick.
Though he doesn't yet rate Coachella headliner status, Long Beach's Vince Staples actually might be even better than Kendrick Lamar; at least, that's what we thought when we gave him the nod in our Best of L.A. issue last year. Staples' stunning major-label debut, Summertime '06, was a bracing counterpoint to Kendrick's To Pimp a Butterfly — rawer and grittier but no less ambitious, full of harrowing dispatches from the front lines of an urban American still starkly divided along racial and economic lines. If anyone at Coachella can challenge the most privileged attendees' world view head-on, it's Vince.
7. The best guitarist at the festival not named Slash.
Booked the same day as Guns N' Roses, Texas guitarslinger Gary Clark Jr. actually has the chops to upstage the legendary headliners. Capable of kicking up a Texas blues tornado worthy of Stevie Ray Vaughan one minute and crooning a Southern soul ballad like Curtis Mayfield the next, Clark is the kind of once-in-a-generation talent capable of stealing the entire festival before the sun has set.
8. Four words: "Despacio all weekend long."
Created by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Belgian duo 2manydjs, Despacio is a 50,000-watt sound system engineered specifically for vinyl. It's not clear yet where Despacio will be set up or how it will be used, but it's safe to assume that Murphy will work his connections to book some pretty special DJs to helm the controls, from the DFA Records roster (Hot Chip, anyone?) and beyond.
9. Mbongwana Star.
A Congolese supergroup of sorts, Mbongwana Star burst onto the international scene with last year's From Kinshasa, a mesmerizing blend of African rhythms, psych-rock guitars and lo-fi "Congotronics." The Guardian described the effect of listening to From Kinshasa as being "like arriving in a bustling, unfamiliar city, a very long way from home: a gripping mix of excitement, apprehension and sensory overload." Coachella is Mbongwana's first announced U.S. show, but it won't be their last.
10. The jazz invasion.
The Empire Polo Grounds have not historically been welcoming to jazz artists, but 2016 looks set to change that. L.A. Weekly readers are familiar by now with Inglewood-bred saxophonist Kamasi Washington, whose aptly titled The Epic was one of our favorite albums of 2015 in any genre. (And c'mon, Coachella — he deserves billing ahead of Pete Yorn and Hudson Mohawke.) But you may be less familiar with the equally outstanding BadBadNotGood, a Toronto trio that skillfully navigate the choppy waters between instrumental hip-hop, post-bop and the jammy explorations of such stoner-jazz combos as Medeski, Martin and Wood. Then there's resurrected French jazz-house group St. Germain, who brought down the house at Coachella way back in 2001 with a 20-plus-piece jazz orchestra stacked with wailing soloists. As Steely Dan proved last year, even the EDM generation is not immune to the power of well-rehearsed, conservatory-trained musicians locking into a good groove, so here's hoping this year's Coachella mints some new jazz fans.
Still not convinced the detractors were too hasty in dismissing this year's lineup? Cue up our ever-growing Coachella 2016 playlist below, featuring artists from this article, as well as other nuggets from the fine print, and tell us you're not excited for another trip to the polo grounds.
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