By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Coachella has overtaken Lollapalooza as the major gathering of alt-music tribes. For three days in Indio, California, music fanatics congregate to hear sanity-threatening numbers of bands in intense heat and nipple-hardening cold. Braving Coachella's elements, vile toilets and clogged parking lots has become a rite of passage for adventurous hipsters. This year's fest abounds with quality artists in the rock, pop, rap, electronic, mash-up, Israeli trance, reggae, world-beat genres . . . and Happy fuckin' Mondays. Stuff this in your backpack with the sun block, herbal X and TP, amigos.
FRIDAY, APRIL 27
The quirkiest superstar in the poposphere will likely reduce her devotees to tears of bliss—and drive the infidels to the mist tent. Love her or hate her, this shapeshifting Icelandic vocal acrobat takes sonic risks and flaunts sartorially like nobody else. (DS) 10:45 p.m.
LA rapper Busdriver spits 9X more words per bar than any other MC—and they're wittier, too. He's 'bout to blow up with the fantastic new Roadkill Overcoat. Sure, it's nerd rap, but it's ablaze with amazing, skewed-funk production (from Nobody, Boom-Bip and Bus) and incisive intelligence. Speed (s)kills . . . (DS) 8:25 p.m.
Def Jux honcho El-P returns to the fray with I'll Sleep When You're Dead, a new pressure cooker of tracks to stoke your paranoia and angst. This stalwart indie hip-hop producer/MC always brings the densely rancorous production and lyrics that kick you in the eye. It's smarts that smart. (DS) 9:50 p.m.
Yeah, The Outsider is as patchy and misguided as your kid bro's beard, but Shadow's catalog has enough stunning, chameleonic beat science to make his live sets riveting. This sampladelic sorcerer can go in many directions (hyphy, orchestral psych rock, trip-hop, schmaltzy balladry), most of them worth the inevitable sunburn. (DS) 11:15 p.m.
You've got to give it to Interpol: Not only has it managed to revive and instill pride in New York City's music scene, but it's managed to survive too—five years after the release of its first full-length (not bad for a "hip" band). Chalk that up to mainstream appeal and almost-constant radio play or to, you know, a knack for penning four- to five-minute danceable hits. So, uh, Interpol: Indecipherable lyrics? Fine. Mooching off the beloved spirit of Ian Curtis? Maaaybe a little. Catchy-as-shit music that doesn't take itself (too) seriously? Definitely. (VC) 9:30 p.m.
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN
Let's all make one big collective sad frowny face at ourselves for not getting off our asses fast enough to buy Jesus and Mary Chain tix for the band's Glass House show. One . . . two . . . three: >:( (VC) 7:40 p.m.
Frontman Kevin Barnes stirred up controversy by selling one of his tunes to Outback Steakhouse (an indie-cred no-no) and, at a recent show in Las Vegas, by ditching his notorious mid-set costume changes and opting instead to perform totally nude (hey, it was 21+; relax). All controversy aside, focus instead on the band's most recent album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, which couches tales of psychological torment in danceable synth-pop. "I'm in a crisis, I need help, c'mon mood shift, shift back to good again," Barnes sings, and you'll dance as the tears well up in your eyes. (TC) 4:55 p.m.
Mike Patton's latest outlet for his omnivorous curiosity and contortionist cords finds him raiding his sonic pantry with schizo glee—and surprising beat-centric accessibility. Guests on Peeping Tom include myriad anticon superstars: Amon Tobin, Kool Keith, Kid Koala and Massive Attack. Patton even makes Norah Jones sound sexy. Miracles do happen. (DS) 8:40 p.m.
Hey, guys: it's okay to like orchestral, grandly composed melodies and ornate tunes that seem fit for Broadway, with lyrics sparkling with so much wit and charm you just can't seem to stop smiling whenever you see Wainwright live. No one's gonna laugh and call you gay. At least I won't. Promise.(VC) 7:15 p.m.
On her 2006 album Back to Black, this British vixen channels the authoritative soul power of Nina Simone and Ellen McElwaine; the rhythm & booze results transcend homage to become genre rejuvenation. Winehouse sings about her struggles with the bottle and her entanglements with dudes in gritty detail. She told us she was trouble, but damn is she good. (DS) 6 p.m.
OTHER MUST-SEE ACTS: BROTHER ALI/DIGITALISM/JARVIS COCKER/ARCTIC MONKEYS
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SATURDAY, APRIL 28
The ideal complement to LCD Soundsystem, !!! is yet another indie-rock outfit that discovered the holy grail of groove and rode it, mantra-like, to middling success. The Brooklyn octet has peaked with its latest opus, Myth Takes, which often sounds like Afrobeat icon Sunny Ade as interpreted by Talking Heads/Gang of Four aficionados. (DS) 6:40 p.m.
Remember that stuff I said about Rufus Wainwright? Strings and melodic movements and ornate compositions and lyrics oozing with wit? Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird's sorta like that—'cept a little closer to the sensible pop of Badly Drawn Boy than Judy Garland or Liza Minnelli. (VC) 6:15 p.m.