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.
PiL (PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.)
WHEN: Friday, April 16, 11:20 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Contrary to popular perception, John Lydon's (née Rotten) biggest “fuck you” wasn't “God Save the Queen” but rather Public Image Ltd., the dub-infused post-punk band he formed after the breakup of the Sex Pistols. Flipping the bird at punk rock and his saliva-spewing fan base, Lydon recruited funky bassist Jah Wobble and ex–Clash guitarist Keith Levene to make mesmeric experimental post-rock. After a 17-year hiatus, the band re-formed last year, minus all of the original members (save for Lydon).
WHY THEY COUNT AS AN L.A. BAND: Lydon has lived in L.A. for so long, he probably peppers his sentences with “like” and owns a surfboard.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: You missed Lydon's appearance on British reality show I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, his butter commercials (where he rocks a tweed suit) and the reviews for the last Sex Pistols reunion. You're interested in seeing a version of one of the greatest and most influential post-punk groups of all time.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: PiL: Metal Box (aka Second Edition). —J.W.
Also playing Friday:
ALANDA GRACE, IGLU & HARTLY, PABLO HASSAN, STREET SWEEPER SOCIAL CLUB.
WHEN: Saturday, April 17, 11:50 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Hopefully, a stack of “energy domes” for the audience. For the uninitiated, those are the red, terraced hats that usually top off the sexagenarian rockers' yellow tear-away jump suits. Don't let the band's gray hair and Midwestern roots fool you, though — Devo, since relocating to Los Angeles some years ago, has only become fiercer, livelier and more angular with age.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: Main brain Gerald Casale has promised to unveil new songs from the seminal group's pending ninth album. The still-untitled record will be Devo's first in 20 years, and is set to feature collaborations with Santigold, at least one Dust Brother, and Bird and the Bee piano man Greg Kurstin. And, of course, because they are the quirky, parody-loving new-wavers behind the perennially weird (and great) 1980 chart-climber “Whip It.”
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, the group's dissonant, Brian Eno–produced debut. —C.M.
EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS
WHEN: Saturday, April 17, 5:10 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Perhaps the better question is, “What's bringing them to Coachella?” The Zeros are part of a greater, L.A.-based creative cult, the Masses, which means they roll deep — up to 15 players — and with the potential for multimedia trippiness. The troupe, led by Alex Ebert, the born-again (psychedelically speaking) former singer of Ima Robot, has been known to travel in an ancient, customized school bus, which befits their earthy, seemingly peyote-inspired forays into epic, jangling, big-band folk.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: Despite their inherent stonerishness, these guys and gals know how to put on a show. Frontman Ebert/”Sharpe” is an apt ringmaster who makes full use of whatever stage he's on (plus the floor, fans' bodies, etc.), and the band is always able to strike a careful balance between pop and groove.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: “40 Day Dream,” from 2009's Up From Below. —C.M.
WHEN: Saturday, April 17, 10:45 p.m.
WHAT HE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Beautiful mutations exist on the extended branches of hip-hop's family tree. Of all the strangely grafted hip-hop hybrids, few embrace being a musical outlier like L.A.'s own Flying Lotus. Internationally, Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) is known for his part in the phenomenal producers' showcase Low End Theory, and for his Brainfeeder label. But Ellison is also a hometown hero. He grew up in a sleepy San Fernando suburb, Winnetka, raised on video sound tracks and the far-out sounds of his aunt Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane's wife. On his new album, Cosmogramma, Ellison investigates his esteemed jazz lineage and the youth-shredding records in his bedroom. Mixing bass music and electronica with free jazz and glitch hop, Ellison obliterates convention and reshapes the sound of hip-hop to come.
CHECK HIM OUT BECAUSE: On his albums, 1983 and Los Angeles, Flying Lotus crafts evocative headphone music and crackling vinyl soundscapes perfect for cross-country drives. But live, Flying Lotus plays a different game. His beats are heavier, the visuals trippier, and Ellison drops bass so low, it creates booty quakes in posteriors finely attuned to dub-plate tectonics.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: “Parisian Goldfish.” —D.T.
SHOOTER JENNINGS & HIEROPHANT
WHEN: Saturday, April 17, 2 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: With a backing band named Hierophant (meaning “Grecian interpreters of sacred mysteries”), it's nice to know that Shooter Jennings inherited an ego befitting his Highwayman father, Waylon. And on his latest album, Black Ribbons, the L.A.-based Viper Room regular plumbs the depths of the occult, incorporating his study of Masonic conspiracy, UFOs and that hoary tinfoil-hat standby, the New World Order. Repudiating his country-rock roots for spaced-out Pink Floyd atmospherics, Jennings enlists the King of Eerie himself, Stephen King, to play a narrator named Will O' the Wisp, a radio talk-show host facing severe government censorship. But be forewarned, while his handle on horror is unparalleled, King once compared mash-up maven Girl Talk and his glorified MTV Party to Go jams to Joyce's Ulysses.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: You got confused and think you're at the Stagecoach festival (that's the following week). You can bench-press 200 pounds or more. You're hoping for a Waylon Jennings guest spot. At some point in your life, you acquired a nickname that evokes a Wild West outlaw.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: “Wake Up!” —J.W.
WHEN: Saturday, April 17, 12 p.m.
WHAT SHE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: A new album (We Are Born), an Australian accent, bright, strange costumes and her girlfriend, Le Tigre's JD Samson.
CHECK HER OUT BECAUSE: Sia's got as much soul and as ripe a potty mouth as Amy Winehouse, minus the baggage. Go to hear the Aussie singer's bathtub ballads, and stay for the new dance-party version she's set to unleash. There's a 92 percent chance Stroke Nick Valensi will guest on guitar.
SHE COUNTS AS AN L.A. ARTIST BECAUSE: Sia is now a part-time Angeleno: She's one of those people who only goes places she can take her dogs. In fact, Sia recorded her upcoming album at Eagle Rock's Kingsize Studios for this reason. Her L.A. history includes living with Fab Moretti of the Strokes, singing a duet with Beck of “You're the One That I Want,” from Grease, and stepping in the studio to write songs for Christina Aguilera's new album. Once, at a Troubadour show, she made KCRW's Nick Harcourt an honorary member of her band and nicknamed him Shit Face. Her nickname was Vagina Croissant. Plus, her girlfriend's a much better DJ than Lindsay Lohan's (former?) girlfriend.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: We Are Born, and her cover of Britney Spears' “Gimme More.” —D.F.
Also playing Saturday:
RX BANDITS, Z-TRIP.
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 6:45 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: These electronic producers laugh in the face of laptop-and-mixer setups. Infected Mushroom performs with a full band, including live drums, two guitars, keys and seven albums' worth of material. No, they don't hand out mushrooms.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: Israel's Infected Mushroom has steered the psychedelic-trance genre (aka psytrance) since the group helped pioneer it around 1998. For historical reasons alone, step up and witness the sonic aberration of Goa infused with alternative rock. Strange candy-flipping ravers shall appear in droves.
THEY COUNT AS AN L.A. BAND BECAUSE: Amit Duvdevani and Erez Eisen have lived in Los Angeles for more than five years. What sets them apart from other electronic acts and made them world-famous is their absolute devotion to the leather-pants mythology of the Sunset Strip Hall of Fame rockers. Infected Mushroom has a glossy trash-metal rock song itching to leap out from every psytrance synthetic hook. Perry Farrell (see above) and Korn's Jonathan Davis both sing on their latest album, Legend of the Black Shawarma.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: “Bust a Move” (Classical Mushroom, 2000). —D.F.
THE GLITCH MOB
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 3:45 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: A small, aggressive army of samplers, laptops, touch-screens and turntables sent into war by sergeants Ooah, Boreta and EdIT. In addition to loads of hardware designed to utterly destroy the dance floor, the Glitch Mob are bringing the propulsive, heavily textured sounds of L.A.'s beat scene out into the open — to a venue big enough to hold their noisy salvos and propel them into the sky.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: They're party-rockers through-and-through. While their contemporary Flying Lotus (see above) excels at whipping up heady soundscapes that go oh-so-well with major-league psychedelics, these three producer/DJs cater to the beer-swillers among us, imbuing their chopped-up bangers with loads of big-beat mash. Truth be told, the trio's long-awaited LP debut may hew to more expansive musical territory, but live, Glitch are steady mobbin'.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: The Glitch Mob's free, 40-minute mixtape, Crush Mode. —C.M.
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 2:10 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Arcade Fire's attention to detail, Fleet Foxes' ear for harmonies, Vampire Weekend's ebullience and the post-punk spikiness of their forebearers in the Frenchkiss roster. Local Natives wear their influences on-sleeve, but they wear them well, instilling that mixed bag with a precocious energy all their own. Plus, they're just good songwriters, plain and simple.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: The quintet's profile is rising fast. A youthful, ironically (and redundantly) named five-piece that relocated to Silver Lake from Orange County last year with a suitcaseful of tuneful, arty pop songs. They may have barely filled the Echo back in December, but their pending summer tour sports sold-out dates all the way into June, which means “intimate” will be out of the question. Impress your festival fling by becoming an early adopter.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: Local Natives' just-released debut, Gorilla Manor. —C.M.
MAYER HAWTHORNE AND THE COUNTY
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 3:20 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: Chops, for one. Hawthorne's band is populated by dudes with nicknames like Humbucker and Mudfoot — dudes who play real instruments, and whose numbers would be in the Rolodex of Holland-Dozier-Holland if this were Detroit in 1964. Hawthorne himself hails from Ann Arbor, and his DNA appears to be infused with a deep reverence for that region's past that exempts him from charges of cultural vampirism.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: Great R&B never goes out of style, and the Culver City–based, blue-eyed soul man and his seven-piece band have reclaimed the Motown sound for a whole new generation. Just ask Snoop Dogg, who's taken a real shine to his pasty li'l “nephew.” The legendary rapper has tapped Hawthorne for cameos in his recent directorial efforts, joked on Twitter about a collaborative album, and even tossed him a sizable bone in the form of a high-profile remix.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: “Just Ain't Gonna Work Out,” an early single released on heart-shaped vinyl. —C.M.
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 2:30 p.m.
WHAT HE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: It's been said that dubstep and death metal have a common bond: They are both loud, offensive and you'd never want to play either for your mother. Rusko is sure to offend. The U.K. native and recent L.A. transplant packs up the buzz-saw bass of his bowel-shaking dubstep and readies to unleash it upon Coachella's unsuspecting audience. He's the man behind the juiciest Kid Sister remixes and the upcoming dance hall–shaking album O.M.G., and Rusko's headbanging beats are sure to be ubiquitous. Rusko is the American Express of dubstep — he's everywhere you want to be.
CHECK HIM OUT BECAUSE: Rusko drops his first U.S. album in May and has buddied up with Mad Decent and the Diplo crew to help produce some major names in the pop world. Just beware of his bass because if the legendary “brown note” exists, Rusko holds the recipe.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: Kid Sister's “Pro Nails” (Rusko Remix). —D.T.
THE SOFT PACK
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 12:55 p.m.
WHAT THEY ARE BRINGING TO COACHELLA: These San Diego boys graduated Torrey Pines High in the aughts, and then hightailed it out of the beachy 'burbs for the big-city lights of L.A., where they regularly slay the local clubs with their brand of garage-punk hooks and Replacements-style fall-in-love-with-me odes to the ladies.
CHECK THEM OUT BECAUSE: If you're hitting the desert this weekend to check out San Fran's Girls, Camera Obscura and their Phil Spector–esque sound, or maybe if you're into the Raveonettes' kind of dark '60s shtick, you'd better pull up to the Soft Pack's set for some equally straight-ahead, ramped-up power-chord pop with tight riffs, shimmering guitar work and easy choruses that you'll be humming for days. Indio's gonna be a hot mess for these boys in their sweater vests, and sweltering for the femmes in the crowd.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: The Soft Pack's first full-length (The Soft Pack) is only 2 months old and a true contender for the perfect summer sound track of 2010. Download the track “Mexico” — a custom-made gem for the long drive out through the spiny yucca trees and dry breezes that lead to the Coachella polo field. —W.G.
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 5:40 p.m.
SHE COUNTS AS AN L.A. ARTIST BECAUSE: Beck produced, composed and co-wrote the lyrics for her excellent new album, IRM, which makes her current tunes as quintessentially Southern Californian as they are French countryside.
WHAT SHE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: An effortlessly breathy voice that delivers world-weariness and sensuality to spellbinding effect, as well as a repertoire of surging, mildly psychedelic rock songs with whiffs of Parisian etherea.
CHECK HER OUT BECAUSE: The daughter of French superlothario Serge Gainsbourg (that makes Charlotte music royalty, basically) is the envy of indie-waif types everywhere. She's a bold, award-winning actress to boot, which means she understands the nuances that make for a good musical performance.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: Her kaleidoscopic duet with Beck, “Heaven Can Wait.” —C.M.
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 5:35 p.m.
HE COUNTS AS AN L.A. ARTIST BECAUSE: Although he's quick to dispel any rumors that he's moving (or has moved) to the West Coast, Casablancas and his wife were confirmed Silver Lake leaseholders as of late last year, while he played out a November residency at the Downtown Palace Theatre (and popped into Spaceland for a surprise gig). He also spent several months in town recording his solo debut, Phrazes for the Young, with Jenny Lewis producer Jason Lader.
WHAT HE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: His unexpected newfound love of hectic digital production, swooning, stretched-out electro and exotic instrumentation that both complements and clashes with his well-known proclivity for economic pop.
CHECK HIM OUT BECAUSE: Who knows if the Strokes will ever tour again?
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: 2009 single “11th Dimension.” —C.M.
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 9 p.m.
HE COUNTS AS AN L.A. ARTIST BECAUSE: Thommy's extensive knowledge of our city's electronic underground earns him honorary Angeleno status. He's espoused the gritty wonders of Stones Throw producer Madlib in numerous interviews, and recently offered up a personal Top 10 list dominated by Dublab and Low End Theory affiliates like Ras G, Gonjasufi and the Gaslamp Killer. Yorke's new band, Atoms for Peace, which plays here, also includes Flea — who's as L.A. as they come — and Radiohead's new record was recorded in the Hollywood Hills.
WHAT HE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: A voice that melts faces. Oh, and a series of gorgeously eerie songs that would make knees knock in the hands of men far less adept.
CHECK HIM OUT BECAUSE: This'd be a prime opportunity for Atoms to debut some new material, as well as flesh out unreleased set staples like the haunted “Lotus Flower.”
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: Yorke's remix of rapper DOOM's “Gazillion Ear.” —C.M.
WHEN: Sunday, April 18, 7 p.m. (maybe)
HE COUNTS AS AN L.A. ARTIST BECAUSE: He belongs to the entire universe, really. Also he's been seen around town, allegedly, and he has family here.
WHAT HE IS BRINGING TO COACHELLA: The funk? Actually, nobody knows.
CHECK HIM OUT BECAUSE: We're not even gonna honor that with a snappy answer.
YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD: Everything he ever had any involvement with between 1968 and 1974. Plus a healthy sampling of pre-1968 and post-1974 projects, with the possible exception of 1979's disco atrocity Ten Years Too Soon (unless you're perverse, like we are). —Ed.