You see some, you miss some. You go to the day parties and skip half the best shows. Turn away or hang too long with your too-cool-for-the-crowd VIP idiots and kick yourself in the morning when the bloggers rave (and the ravers blog). Yes, you should be front and center for Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Morrissey and the Silversun Pickups, the Cure and all the other headlining shows. It’s a good mix of established talent. Then there are the buzzing bands, those that you know you should see: Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio, Jenny Lewis, Airborne Toxic Event, Superchunk, Calexico, No Age, Fucked Up. And there’s the one that we demand you see: Antony & the Johnsons, which for this performance will feature electronic-music composer/Björk collaborator/genius Matthew Herbert providing beats and rhythms. (Seriously: This has wild promise.) Below are 10 potentially transformative Coachella moments that, for one reason or another, might not be on your radar. Some of the artists are fresh-faced and clean; others are more seasoned but have yet to peak. But then, that’s what Coachella’s for.
Genghis Tron (Friday, April 17)
Genghis Tron have managed to plunder Philip Glass’ extended repetition, Robert Fripp’s buzzing, soaring chords, and Rush’s metal-ballad theatrics, then pulverize all that braininess against throat-ripping vocals and shuddering beats reminiscent of Cattle Decapitation and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Genghis Tron’s force-fed opera from hell shifts fast in speed, tone and velocity, reaching pinnacles of intensity and crashing back down in dramatic, overloaded feedback and speed-metal noodling — all the while maintaining a totally memorable, melodic foundation. Plus they wear glasses and met at Vassar. These epic motherfuckers have a buttload of tricks up their collective sleeve (like having no drummer and programming all their beats), and yet they’ve been blowing out audiences’ ears regularly on tours with the Faint, Baroness and HEALTH. (Wendy Gilmartin)
A Place to Bury Strangers (Friday, April 17)
No, it’s not just hyperbole: A Place to Bury Strangers is indeed New York City’s loudest band. I know it for a fact. I went to one of the band’s shows and the impossibly dense, shoegaze-infused psychedelic riffs made my ears ring the entire next day. Listening to “To Fix the Gash in Your Head” once made my friend Spencer’s left contact lens fall out. A guy who works with my cousin saw them open for Nine Inch Nails, and he had to go to the hospital when Jono MOFO’s bass liquefied his spleen. The old lady who lives next door to me just suffered a massive stroke from hearing me type this. Even Chuck Norris tried to go to a concert without earplugs, and his beard spontaneously combusted. That’s how loud A Place to Bury Strangers is. And I know it for a fact. (Julie Seabaugh)
Gui Boratto (Friday, April 17)
Minimal techno is a misnomer of a term, likely designed to distinguish the newer crop of technicians from some of the infantile cheese that was 1990s rave music. In fact, the new generation of artists can get quite maximal, and no one gets more so than the critic’s darling from Brazil, Gui Boratto. The classically trained musician has taken a genre once known for its bleeps and hi hats and expanded its breadth, creating lush story lines and epic emotions with his synthesized symphonies. His is techno’s wall of sound. Boratto’s latest long-player for the Kompakt label, Take My Breath Away, soars with joy and bittersweet drama, even as it stays anchored in the brooding percussion of Berlin-based minimalism. Don’t call it trance, but we won’t blame you if you trance out. (Dennis Romero)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (Saturday, April 18)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti is a psychedelic trip through all the moments in junior high you never thought you’d have to relive. In the song “For Kate I Wait,” for example, the whisperings of longing are grounded in a gauzy faraway filter that makes the memory of waiting so much more haunting, as if you’ve been waiting for her for 15 years and she’s never arrived. Every song is an emotional acid trip pulling you through porn soundtracks and abandoned airports in Third World countries. The music layers itself with such effortless surrealism, it’s like being dragged into an art film from which you have no escape. The moment is cinematic and disturbing ... in the best way imaginable. (Nikki Darling)
Band of Horses (Saturday, April 18)
Band of Horses hasn’t released a record since 2007, hasn’t even updated its blog since posting some New Year’s Eve pics in early January, but none of that matters. Not if Goldenvoice does right and the soaring lo-fi melodies of this Seattle squad soundtrack Indio’s desperately welcome sunset behind the Outdoor Stage. Lead singer and guitarist Ben Bridwell’s vocals seem to have been forged from the depths of a mystical aloe plant in the cooling hour of dusk. When added to the band’s spacious pretty-pretties — ones that always manage to explode into an exciting crescendo before lulling into lullaby land — the concoction is a soothing one. Don’t trip over the cuddling couples, cooing to each other in cross-legged bliss. (Brandon Perkins)
Mastodon (Saturday, April 18)
Someone is going to get punched in the face. And not just like the hissy-fit near-riot that happened at last year’s MIA performance, but in a way that incorporates all the wrath of an astral-traveling quadriplegic who flew too close to the sun and was consumed by the spirit of Rasputin. Because that’s the story inside Mastodon’s newest critical darling, Crack the Skye. The Atlanta band’s fourth album shreds in every sense of the word. Time signatures shift with excessive speed, outmatched only by the velocity of thrashing guitars and shockwave drums. Vocalist Brent Hinds stutters between the whining drawl of quintessential ’70s heavy rock and a throaty, guttural snarl that just barely touches the precipice of screaming (but thankfully never really screams). It’s enough to make a reincarnated czar in a wheelchair want to stand up. (BP)
MSTRKRFT (Saturday, April 18)
A firestorm on laptops, MSTRKRFT cranks out grating, punkish synths and pogos atop the ho-hum drum line of club culture. The Toronto-based duo of Al Puodziukas and Jesse Frederick Keeler has rock-band roots and machine soul, and is part of the vanguard of nu-electro acts crashing the dance party to try and outfunk Daft Punk. While too many of the breed are way too cool to actually sustain a groove, MSTRKRFT is a natural in the club, belting out waves of industrialized hypnosis: You are getting indie. With Fist of God, featuring John Legend, Ghostface Killah and more, MSTRKRFT reveals its pop ambition to topple Justice. No need to try so hard. The French act doesn’t hold a candle to these Canucks. (DR)
Vivian Girls (Sunday, April 19)
When Brooklyn’s fuzz-pop queens Vivian Girls bring their grungy West Coast surf and girl-group sound to the desert, lead singer Cassie Ramone will probably utter her lyrics with the disaffected look of someone simultaneously bored and saddened by the fact that she has to be singing at all. That’s how she does it, but the momentum of the songs’ melodies forces her to continue, and this tension is magnetic. The threesome, on L.A.’s In the Red Records, offers infectiously sloppy pop that slithers and slides coolly around choruses and breaks, rising and crashing like high tide. The band’s debut is a jangly mess of harmonizing guitar slop with a dash of ’90s grunge punk thrown in for good measure. (ND)
Mexican Institute of Sound (Sunday, April 19)
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Mexican Institute of Sound’s name is brainier than its party-appropriate mixes let on, but M.I.S.’s boundless blended tubas, electronic riffs, accordions, guitarrón strums, drunken cowbells and thundering, bottomed-out bass beats could only come from the schooled mind of a consummate and sophisticated vinyl hoarder. Camilo Lara — mixmaster of M.I.S. — brings the kaleidoscopic madness of his hometown, Mexico City, into the flux, and he can woo a crowd like an old-fashioned Mexican canción, wielding technical avarice and an ecstatic delivery. Unlike most MCs (who dangle their arms down with one shoulder holding the headphones), Lara gets ’em up immediately with an oom-pa-pa bounce that rolls with a glossy, pimped-out fatness — it’ll be the perfect elixir for a hot Sunday afternoon. (WG)
My Bloody Valentine (Sunday, April 19)
When My Bloody Valentine performed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last year, the sound nearly blew scalps off of skulls. It was of such volume and intensity — those screaming, feedbacking, tortured guitars pouring melodic drone and shimmering dissonance — that you had to wonder whether it was too much. With such fury, it was tough to hear what main Valentine Kevin Shields was trying to do, exactly. Coachella offers a different, potentially more rewarding way to catch said legendarily explosive sonics: If My Bloody Valentine is too loud, all you have to do is step back a few feet. Or a few more. Or maybe more. Careful you don’t fall off the edge of the world. (Randall Roberts)