Coachella's Small-Font Bands for 2017 Are Almost as Great as the Headliners
Mitski: just one of many great artists you might overlook in Coachella's fine print
The Coachella 2017 lineup was announced yesterday and, although this year's headliners would've been even more exciting a year ago (when they all had new music out and hadn't already played Southern California several times), they're still pretty great: Beyoncé, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar. The presence of Beyoncé on the bill, in particular, is a major coup for the festival, which has never really had a pop star of her magnitude headline (unless you count Drake, who closed out Coachella in 2015 — but pre-"Hotline Bling," he was still more rapper than pop star).
Once you get past the headliners, however, it's easy to find this year's lineup a little disappointing, especially since many of the other big-name acts most heavily rumored to be performing (Frank Ocean, Solange, Daft Punk, Haim) are no-shows. In their place, Coachella 2017 is offering a solid but somewhat predictable slate of hip-hop (Travis Scott, Future, Gucci Mane, Schoolboy Q), a something-for-everyone raft of EDM (Justice, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, Dillon Francis, Porter Robinson & Madeon), the obligatory legacy act (New Order) and a whole bunch of the usual festival-circuit suspects (Father John Misty, Empire of the Sun, Mac DeMarco, Bon Iver). For anyone who isn't a hip-hop or EDM fan, only Lorde, The xx, Kaytranada and Future Islands offer much heat among this year's second-tier bookings.
But once everyone stops freaking out about Beyoncé and gets down into the Coachella flier's small fonts, it's hard to sustain any "Coachella-sucks-this-year" arguments. Again, festival organizers Goldenvoice have booked a compelling, diverse array of talent that, taken collectively, makes the $399 general-admission price tag almost seem like a bargain, even if you don't worship at the altar of Queen Bey.
Here are our picks for the 10 most compelling "small-font" acts playing Coachella 2017 (plus 25 honorable mentions because yeah, even without Solange and Daft Punk, this lineup is still pretty stacked):
Making their long-overdue Coachella debut, this Seattle quartet will inject a welcome dose of surf-punk into this year's lineup. Their most recent album, Lost Time, comes on like a more fun-loving version of Bleached, with big guitar riffs and sunny melodies masking some sly feminist and social commentary ("Men Explain Things to Me").
9. Chicano Batman
These longtime L.A. favorites are poised to have a breakout year with their third album, Freedom Is Free, their most polished and soulful effort to date. Produced by Leon Michels (The Arcs, El Michels Affair) and due out March 3 on ATO Records (Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket), it's the first time the Latino rockers have captured the infectious, danceable energy of their live shows in the studio, filled with songs that should win over a multitude of new fans in Indio.
8. Anna Lunoe
L.A.-based Australian DJ/producer Anna Lunoe is coming off a massive year, wowing festival crowds at EDC Vegas, Electric Forest, Camp Bisco and Electric Zoo, among others, with her gritty yet melodic style of house music. Her afternoon set in the Sahara Tent in 2014 was a highlight for those who got there early enough to catch it. Here's hoping Coachella rewards her with a better time slot in 2017.
7. Ezra Furman
Over the course of six albums and two EPs, Chicago singer-songwriter Ezra Furman has quietly built up an amazing catalog of witty, off-kilter confessionals set to an infectious, lo-fi style of bar-band rock that somehow manages to evoke early Springsteen, The Jam and Ariel Pink all at once — a combination that makes no sense of paper but makes perfect sense when soundtracking Furman's droll, occasionally strangled yelp of a voice. He's making his Coachella debut, and it's about damn time.
This New York City singer-songwriter had one of 2016's most critically acclaimed albums with Puberty 2, a sonically ambitious collection of atmospheric, punk-tinged folk-rock that earned her comparisons to St. Vincent and Bright Eyes. As heard on raw-nerve tracks such as "Your Best American Girl" and "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars," Mitski's cutting lyrics and elastic vocals — ethereal one minute, unhinged the next — promise to make her Coachella debut a highly memorable one.
5. King Sunny Adé
Though less famous to American audiences than his fellow Nigerian, Fela Kuti, King Sunny Adé has been no less influential in spreading West African music to the rest of the world. His high-energy live shows are the stuff of legend and, at 70, he can still dance, sing and wail on guitar with the best of them. He and his band, the African Beats, rarely perform in the United States, so world-music fans should jump at the chance to see him in action.
4. Guided by Voices
Amazingly, this will be the first-ever Coachella appearance by Robert Pollard's beloved indie rockers, whose small but rabid fanbase no doubt greeted their addition to the 2017 lineup with a mixture of glee ("Finally!") and outrage ("The second smallest font? How dare you, Goldenvoice? How DARE you?!"). Like all great auteurs, Pollard is a mercurial fellow, but even he should respond to a Coachella booking by bringing his A-game and a set list packed with fan favorites.
Warpaint have been one of L.A.'s best live bands for years, but with their recent headlining sets at the Fonda Theatre and Long Beach's Music Tastes Good festival, the quartet proved they're ready to take the next step and claim their place among the best live bands, period. Rhythm section Stella Mozgawa and Jenny Lee Lindberg's grooves are tighter and more sinuous than ever, and all four members, led by singer-guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman, intertwine their vocals to often jaw-dropping effect. This will be their third Coachella appearance, and they're poised to crush it.
2. The Belleville Three
For techno fans, the real headliners of Coachella 2017 are Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, who are scheduled to make an appearance together as The Belleville Three, the moniker they've shared since pioneering techno in the early ’80s from the Detroit suburb of Belleville. So far the trio's only other announced appearance of 2017 is at the Movement festival in Detroit, so this is a rare opportunity to see and hear three of dance music's most legendary figures showing today's festival kids where it all started.
1. The Avalanches
This Australian group essentially disappeared after releasing one classic album, 2000's Since I Left You, which represented the pinnacle of the sample-heavy electronic music popular in those days (see also: Fatboy Slim, Bent, Lemon Jelly). But last year, they finally rewarded their fans' patience with the release of a 10-years-in-the-making follow-up, Wildflower. Now pared down to the duo of Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi, The Avalanches sound at once frozen in 2000 and surprisingly of-the-moment, thanks, in part to smartly deployed guest vocals from Danny Brown, MF Doom, Toro y Moi's Chaz Bundick and Father John Misty's Josh Tillman among others. This will be their first Coachella appearance and first scheduled U.S. performance in 15 years, and it promises to be a nonstop (and possibly guest-laden) "plunderphonics" dance party.
Bonobo, Richie Hawtin, DJ Shadow, Loco Dice, Crystal Castles, Jagwar Ma, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Oh Wonder, Alison Swing, Local Natives, Four Tet, Moderat, Roisin Murphy, Hot Since 82, Classixx, Car Seat Headrest, Thundercat, Honey Dijon, Tove Lo, Maya Jane Coles, Lee Fields & the Expressions, Allah-Lahs, Marcel Dettmann, The Martinez Brothers, Hannah Wants
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