Beyond the Headliners
FRIDAY, APRIL 16
Sleigh Bells: The love child of a former hardcore musician and a sugar-voiced teeny bopper (who’s all grown up now), Sleigh Bells have rocketed upward in the year they’ve been airborne. After a much-hyped performance at last year’s CMJ festival, the Brooklyn duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller have become a favorite among fans of crunchy, low-budget, written-on-a-laptop digital music—as seen by their smashing success at SXSW. With the louder-than-loud “Crown On the Ground” and the starry-eyed teen anthem “Ring Ring,” Sleigh Bells seem a perfect fit for MIA’s NEET Recordings label, to which they were just signed. Highlighting tracks from their album Treats (to drop in May), their beat-heavy Coachella set will be equal parts tough and pretty. (Erin DeWitt)
Yeasayer: Returning from a trek through Europe and diving straight into a U.S. tour while the landing gear is still warm, Yeasayer are nothing if not hard-working, as they relentlessly promote their recent album, Odd Blood (in heavy rotation on satellite radio). Their sophomore effort may see the group honing Western pop skills more than before—but they’re in no danger of being labeled mainstream. Taking cues from African and Middle Eastern folk music and blending those with traditional hipster pop, Brooklyn foursome Yeasayer have that Animal Collective spastic-worldbeat thing going, with a nice dose of electro dance and some seriously trippy visuals during live performances. (ED)
Wale: Jerry Seinfeld is not a rap icon. He was, however, a rapper’s inspiration in 2008. That’s when Washington, D.C.’s Wale dropped The Mixtape About Nothing, 19 tracks that channeled the seminal ’90s sitcom by rolling its title-sequence bass slaps and Michael Richards’ racist rant into a package that, at first, seemed like a genius gimmick and later just seemed genius. Like “the gang,” Wale is both a navel-gazer and a guy with a chip on his shoulder, which means his rap persona is part aggrieved Everyman and part self-aggrandizing schizo. It’s hard to say who exactly he’ll be at Coachella, but it’s likely his set will be the only place in Indio where it’s okay to throw down the Elaine Dance. (Spencer Kornhaber)
SATURDAY, APRIL 17
Flying Lotus: The man to go see right as those mushrooms (you can get a prescription for those now, right?) start kicking in. As experimental and psychedelic as the name suggests, his is a saturated hip-hop offset by a digital foundation and jam-band vibe—long, looping verses peppered with computerized blips and shiny instrumentation that leave listeners no choice but to go down the rabbit hole. FlyLo (to his fans, but Steven Ellison to his family) debuts a new album in May, Cosmogramma. Adult Swim fans should take note: This is the guy who creates all that awesome bumper music. (ED)
Mew: Are this Danish trio an embarrassing prog act? The title of their latest album—No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away—would appear to be damn good evidence for “yes.” So would the fact they’ve got songs meant to be played backward, their guitar lines twist into rainbow-toned knots, and vocalist Jonas Bjerre seems most comfortable singing in a reverb-washed, plaintive, uh, mew. But their songs are more spiky and purpose-driven than, say, the average Dream Theater wank. Mew have the power to go wherever they want; lucky for us, they’re using that power for good. (SK)
The XX: Boy-sings-to-girl-who-sings-to-boy indie-rock outfits are as played-out as Zooey Deschanel’s sundresses or Matt & Kim’s cribbing of “The Final Countdown.” But London trio the XX aim for something darker and newer than all the other couples’ acts. On their 2009 debut, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft whisper obliquely to each other over spare drum clicks and guitar tones that could have been lifted from some grimly existential spaghetti western. In concert, the black-clad band members are dwarfed by giant white X’s on their amps. We’d call it mood music if it weren’t so captivating: Seductive and profound, their performance might come off like passionate pillow-talk between people just back from a funeral. (SK)
SUNDAY, APRIL 18
The Big Pink:Past Coachellas had My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus & Mary Chain; this year, the best you can do if looking for candy-sweet melodies swathed in fuzz would be to stop by the Big Pink’s set. To be clear, this London duo’s tunes are more sing-songy than those of the band’s spiritual/sonic forbears. After all, noise alone didn’t get them onto the U.K. rock charts. But when the Big Pink came through Southern California late last year—even stopping at Detroit Bar—their glossed-up single “Dominos” didn’t seem so glossed-up. Instead, you got the sound of what might have been the continents breaking and, in the middle of the calamity, a man singing the last love song on earth. (SK)
King Khan & the Shrines: The crooner who calls himself King Khan dresses for the desert all the time, which is to say he doesn’t dress at all—save for the bone amulet around his neck and the sparkly hot pants peeking out from below his beer belly. Onstage, he shimmies and jiggles, sometimes sticking the microphone in places best described as “naughty.” If that sounds obscene, consider that Khan has a shout like Little Richard and his Shrines have studiously collected the most swaggering bits of Motown, soul and punk. In other words, a King Khan concert pays tribute to the best music made 40 years ago while mooning the inhibitions that endure. It’s a party. (SK)
Yann Tiersen:This French composer first garnered American accolades for scoring Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie; his was a classical-music soundtrack that surpassed the film’s style and beauty by strides. So what’s he doing playing Coachella? A violinist and pianist since childhood, Tiersen strayed to the post-punk side of les tracks as a teenager. His composition style may be elegant (he has been compared to Frédéric Chopin), but his avant-garde edge gives him cred with the new-music crowd. (Plus, he has a knack for making songs with titles such as “Fuck Me” sound devastatingly romantic.) Playing fresh cuts from the March-released EP Palestine, think of Tiersen’s set as a cool breeze cutting through the dusty desert air. (ED)
Coachella, Empire Polo Field, 81-800 Ave. 51, Indio; coachella.com. April 16-18. See website for full lineup. Three-day pass, $272, plus fees.
This article appeared in print as "Headliners, Schmeadliners: The Weekly scans the Coachella setlist for you and recommends these lesser-known gems."
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