For the last few years, I’ve made it a ritual to log into Spotify and search down the official Coachella artist playlist. While most of the time my general reaction is to bypass onto the next track, I force myself to imbibe more than just few seconds in order to truly assess each act. Certain styles are just not my thing despite how much I love discovering new music. But alas, I continue through the list until the very end, hoping for a few new musical discoveries.
If you’re a Main Stage, Outdoor Stage, and Gobi tent kind of Coachella-goer, the initial part of this collection of artists might be more in your wheelhouse. If you’re reading this and that’s the case, do yourself a favor and also step outside your normal boundaries by reading all the way through to examine every type of genre represented at this year’s festival. Balance out the rock music with a little relief in the form of electronic, the hip-hop with some female fronted pop, and so forth. You might find that you actually enjoy things that you never expected. Here’s a quick and easy guide to categorizing the Coachella acts you need to see.
Guns N’ Roses
Obvious to the older crowd, but what about the young generation who can kinda sorta tell you who Axl Rose is? There is all sorts of skeptical chatter on how this reformation will ever really come to fruition, like a ticking time bomb set for the weekend of Coachella. We want the band to set differences aside, come together, and kick ass, but Axl is a loose canon that might bring the whole house of cards down. Whatever the result is, there’s no way you should miss that set. If they pull it off, it might be one of the most memorable throwback moments of rock.
Any time you can see one of L.A.’s most venerated gangsta rappers bring back N.W.A. (yes, it’s long been confirmed) then that day is a good day.
Reunion! The band is back together! This is going to be epic! That seems to be the mood with headliner LCD Soundsystem, so why would you miss it?
English alt-rockers Lush helped lay the foundation for ‘90s shoegaze. Their dreamy pop elements still keep a tinge of garage rock, and the combination will make you dance and reminisce—that is if you were around to watch their career when it first began.
As a multi-instrumentalist indie rocker who displays folk-style vocals, Yorn is not lacking talent—even after a long run lasting over a decade. His deep catalog should be mixed in with tracks from his newest release, ArrangingTime, released March 11th.
You know you want to see “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” played in the flesh by this established punk band that has served as a cornerstone for their community. If you’re actually attending Coachella and you grew up as a fan of punk, be sure to pay your respects.
Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince are the type of artists who hold down a cool image, and back it up thoroughly with their bluesy rough rock laced with hints of punk and grit. After forming the supergroup, The Raconteurs, with Jack White, Mosshart has finally returned to The Kills and we can’t wait to see how that growing experience will add even more to the performance.
This West Coast punk quartet hailing from Orange County is wild, unpredictable, and rude in the cheekiest of ways. Legends in their own right, The Vandals are sure to cause some trouble out in the desert and represent the punk rock scene by adding the diversity that is necessary to this years’ roster.
Before the purely electronic music of this modern day, there was new wave. Underworld started there in the ‘80s and progressed into being a ‘90s staple at the forefront of the electronic music movement. Without Underworld, would we still have the likes of Calvin Harris, Diplo, and Miike Snow? Maybe not.
Indie, Folk Rock and Lo-fi
This whimsical indie garage rock ensemble led by ‘90s-style female fronted vocals might be better suited for Moon Block’s Desert Daze, but they are certain to gain more of the exposure they deserve by being a part of the Coachella lineup.
Cold War Kids
Established Long Beach indie rock artists who have worked their way up the ladder, and solidified their position as a repeat performer. Back in 2011, they wooed the audience with their sunset performance, and people are certainly hoping for a repeat.
If you have the chance to check out this popular, yet underground, indie psych folk rock band hailing from Georgia, do it. Next time you see them on a Coachella flyer, they will most likely be in with the headliners.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
A showman, Alex Ebert, has been recently touring for the first time not alongside muse and fellow vocalist Jade Castrinos. Despite that, hopefully his accompaniment of many talented musicians might still fulfill that American indie rock musical persona Edward Sharpe is known for.
Their style is a little bit of Blondie meets Courtney Love meets Joan Jett, which sounds like a good mix to me.
Dance to the post-punk techno rock sound emerging from this Oxford, England band that is amongst the big name acts for good reason. With the band members now having more than 10 years in the game (just in this project alone), Foals has progressed internationally, and will certainly have loyal followers waiting for them at Coachella.
Quirky and cute garage rocker female duo building off of their musical debut album from 2015, Before the World Was Big. After establishing an audience in Los Angeles, Girlpool has managed to get in the Coachella loop and bring their lo-fi sound to the festival stage.
Ethereal indie folk rock artist Lord Huron will definitely draw a crowd with his dynamic sound. If you are a fan of Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty, Dr. Dog and so on, this will be a set you won’t want to miss.
Of Monsters & Men
Hey! This Icelandic indie pop band mixes well-constructed acoustic elements with serene harmonies. These minor headliners are known worldwide after their well-received first album, My Head Is An Animal, and their 2015 sophomore effort, “Beneath the Skin,” is getting similar acclaim.
Indie rock ensemble Silversun Pickups have been essential to solidifying that specific music scene. With over ten years in the industry, this Los Angeles group has successfully filled the need for true instrumentalists with strong musical standards. Expect intelligent rock compositions balanced with clear and relevant lyrics, supported by smart and driving drum beats.
The Last Shadow Puppets
Arctic Monkeys lead singer, Alex Turner has that distinct kind of voice that is so recognizable, you can’t help but cling to it when it’s heard. While this project is not quite like Artic Monkeys, the duo of Turner and Miles Kane have produced smart, magnetic rock in the British invasion style that pays a bit of tribute to the likes of Scott Walker and Bowie.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
UMO has a style all their own, and that’s what makes them so distinct as a band. Ruban Neilson leads this ensemble that interlaces elements of psych, soul, experimental electronic, and pop sensibility that grooves seamlessly.
World, Blues, Reggae and…Country?
With a debut experimental American rock band with Georgia roots, Algiers has an eclectic mix of modern rhythm and blues that will stimulate any true music lover. There’s vibe, there’s jazzy composition, there’s soul, with some rough rock elements around the edges. Don’t make the mistake of missing this up-and-coming trio.
A Mexican pop star with two Latin Grammy’s, Morrison is lyrically enchanting. Even if you haven’t a clue to what she is saying in her native tongue, her stage presence and powerful pieces of music are going to move you just as good music is meant to through melody and rhythm.
He’s country and performing at both Coachella and Stagecoach. He must really like the sun. But despite him being an undoubtedly talented performer who has captured major attention. Will Coachella be the right festival for him?
Legitimate reggae will be at Coachella this year, and Chronixx is the real deal straight from Jamaica. Son of the reggae dancehall artist, Chronicle, singer Jamar Rolando McNaughton Jr. is carrying the family torch well. So settle in, spark up, and get with the rhythm.
Gary Clark Jr.
If you have any respect for traditional blues, soul, and R&B, Clark Jr. needs to be on your list of artists to see. His soulful guitar is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix mixed with B.B. King. His stage presence and Austin, Texas style of blues-rock is helping him solidify his well-deserved place in music history.
The duo of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz is mesmerizing and drenched in a haunting mood. With exotic percussive and vocal elements from their Cuban and French heritage, Ibeyi bring an intriguing element to this Coachella lineup.
Musicianship, innovative, classic, modern, eclectic. These are words to describe the ensemble led by saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington. New jazz-fusion mixed with soul, funk, psychedelic and pop elements—but played by a younger generation of jazz performers. The music is visceral and stimulating to the senses, with a complete sound that will stir you when watched live.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
A little rough around the edges, stomping, bold and rocking Americana artist that is sure to rumble the stage at Coachella. Their vintage roots feel like a mix of gospel rhythm and blues, mixed with an aged bourbon, and tendency to get into a bar brawl from time to time.
Also a Jamaican native and son of an established musician, Protoje will also be properly representing the reggae sound. Expect Chronixx to possibly make an appearance, since the two currently hold the #1 reggae song in the UK.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys seems to have the magic touch. Whether it involves writing, recording, or playing live music, he continues to succeed as a bluesy alternative rocker powerhouse. Joined by members of The Shins and the Dap-Tones, Auerbach and the crew are reinvigorating modern music by throwing it back to the soulful rocker style of predecessors, and it sounds so good.
This English funk rock ensemble brings the energy with heavy bassline, robust vocals, rocking backbeats, and jazzy guitar. If you are looking for talent playing traditional music that you can dance to, don’t miss The Heavy.
Serious Female Singers
Her breakout hit “Here” might just be the antithesis anthem for Coachella, but it’s the reason she deserves to be there. Complex syncopated vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and soulful pop, Cara is young and starting her career with a forward force. If she can keep it up, there’s no limit to her musical rise.
Bat For Lashes
She has been there a few times now a one of those favorite Coachella artists that seems to rotate through every few years. Maybe that means there is new music to come from this eclectic and moody indie female multi-instrumentalist and vocalist?
Christine and the Queens
I’ve seen a lot of mention about how fantastic her performances are, and how well composed her selection of music is. Upon listening to her work, I’m reminded of a French version of St. Vincent but with more dance elements. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking her set while at Coachella this year.
Associative thinking vocals driven by punk beats that should cause a stir. Her recordings prove she is Grammy nominated for good reason, and hopefully the live show will translate her well-crafted collection of songs.
I can’t really keep her off this list. She’s huge. A sensation. A Main Stage lady. If you’re into the electronic pop music movement, go see her.
Canadian avant-garde pop princess Grimes draws a crowd no problem. Her newest album Art Angels is building the same kind of momentum as her successful 2011 release, Visions. This pale-skinned ballerina, nymph, vocalist and performer will bring her multimedia electronic and will surely woo her eager onlookers.
Haven’t heard of Halsey yet? It would be hard to believe, considering the millions of plays on her brutally honest pop tracks, millions of followers on social media, and over 40 upcoming shows on her Badlands tour that are on their way to selling out.
After growing up in Tennessee, and bouncing around the East half of America, Myers ditched her rough upbringing and headed to LA at the age of 20 to establish herself as a musician. Now with two successful EPs and a dark first full-length album released in 2015, the brooding female vocalist and songwriter has achieved her desired following—and with good reason.
There are few vocalists like Sia, and even fewer who can successfully ghost-write huge hits for the likes of pop queens like Beyonce, Rhianna, and Britney Spears. That being said, with her solo efforts, Sia has directed herself into a league of her own, and will be a standout worth watching during Coachella.
This desert princess is enchanting with her vocal prowess and attitude that is slightly rough around the edges. There is an element in her songwriting that projects the feeling of starry nights surrounded by Yucca trees, mildly tripping while looking out at the stars that stretch on forever. So Coachella should be the perfect place to fall under her spell.
The Heavy Stuff
The powerful style of Deafheaven unleashes will grab your attention and hit you with hard riffs and growling vocals. Some people passing by will probably be afraid and move along. Don’t be that person if you’re into metal, alternative and industrial music.
Get ready to freak out. Death Grips is going to be wild on stage and in the pit. This mix of hip hop and experimental electronic beats make people go primal, and the live performance of front-man Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride will infect you and make you enjoy the craziness.
Just as the name indicates, Savages are a bit of that, mixed with strong songwriting and intense, profound musical tracks. Labeled as post-punk, this British all-female band, led by singer Jehnny Beth, plays hard and will probably leave you a bit breathless by the end of their set.
Rap & Hip Hop
With a new age of hip-hop comes a new generation of artists. In that mix is the young, but solid, A$AP Rocky. Not only does he possess a keen flow and discerning lyrics, but his collaborators include the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Lil’ Wayne, and Mos Def. With company like that attracted to this growing talent, A$AP Rocky is on top of his game.
Badbadnotgood w/ Ghostface Killah
Last year’s 2015 release from BBND and Ghostface was received very well by music lovers. The combination of rock and hip hop was not contrived, but perfectly blended together to create a solid piece collection of tracks.
Looks like a hipster, rhymes like an Oakland underground rapper. This handsome, sharply dressed hip-hop artist has caught enough attention to headline Coachella, and sits in the same genre as Drake, J. Cole, and Childish Gambino.
If you’re interested in the modern conscious hip-hop scene, then you already know about Joey Bada$$. He has become established with his well-versed rhymes backed by stimulating beats. After keeping it underground for the first part of his career, Joey Bada$$ officially entered the mainstream with his successful studio debut, B4.DA.$$.
Run the Jewels
Heavy, smart, innovative, honest, with driving beats. The hip-hop duo of El-P and Killer Mike merged in 2013, and hit the ground running with the self-titled Run the Jewels. By the time Run the Jewels II was released, RTJ had a cult-like following that earned them the honor of being one of the only artists to perform back-to-back in 2015 and now in 2016.
Representing the UK grime hip-hop scene, Skepta crosses the pond to show the Coachella crowd what growing up in the MC underground scene produces. Expect him to hold his own.
Straight from the LBC, this 22-year-old is just at the beginning of his career, and already gaining major acclaim. His 2015 release Summertime ’06 was majorly sought after by fans, and with his crew Cutthroat Boyz and connections with the Odd Future collective, he’s sitting in a good spot to continue to go big.
Synth-based Rock, Indie, Pop Music
An eerie live band with instrumental and electronic backing, Autolux is a great combination of both worlds. Falling into an almost industrial realm, this group balances a few styles to create a sound that is dark and unique.
This is a no brainer. Two new releases in the last six months, and a substantial and dreamy back-catalog makes this a hard-to-miss show for all sorts of music lovers. So don’t miss them.
This breakout artist is catching some well-deserved attention. Ethereal vocals from lead singer Garrett Borns are catchy, diverse, and supported by some fresh LA talent in the form of his dynamic backing band. Successful videos and touring have led to the release of his debut album, which is also catching fire, and should lead to a healthy crowd singing along at his Coachella set.
Still riding out the recent release of their sophomore album, Every Open Eye, Chvrches will definitely draw a crowd. This Scottish ensemble is led by female-fronted vocalist cherubic, yet clear and precise melodies. Combined with driving synth-pop backing arrangements, CHVRCHES has earned spot at the top of their caste.
Get ready to groove out. Clever lyrics and catchy constructions are perfect for the daytime vibe of the festival. Their Euro-disco rock beats are avant-garde in nature and will certainly enchant some dancing in the crowd.
There is something a little funky about Joywave, meaning that it is a bit difficult to place their sound. Electronic elements are certainly at the forefront, but they are a live band with live vocals. This mixture of these worlds creates an aesthetic that should be lively and interesting to watch.
Matt and Kim
This Brooklyn duo merges punk and dance elements to create an eclectic style of music that has set them apart from their contemporaries. These two are not foreign to the Coachella stage since they have already played a set in 2010 to a full audience. Expect similar this time around.
This ensemble projects dancing rhythms and modern tones in their synth-pop. If you want to dance—if you need to dance—at Coachella, Miami Horror’s set cannot be missed.
The mix of enchanting, powerful, and danceable synth pop has helped them sweep the world and establish Purity Ring as one of this decade’s top acts.
Is swoon the right word? The synth-heavy songs from the UK indie heartthrobs inspire their fans to do that, so expect an untamed energy and upbeat party vibe during The 1975’s set.
While I’m not really interested in the intense adrenaline rush of some modern EDM music, I am appreciating the mellow groove and shoegaze effect of Bob Moses’ compositions. With live vocals and guitar mixed with MIDI keyboard accompaniment and thick bass backing tracks, this duo is reminiscent of Nicolas Jaar and Darkside, with the vocal stylings of Chromeo downplayed, creating a soulful balance of groove and musical tangibility.
With a smooth house DJ set, Cassy is made for the mellow desert vibes of Coachella. Hailing from Austria, born in England, and with her father from Barbados, her diversity and European style of house music is subtle and deep. She creates a mellow ambiance, perfect for cooling off in the shade under a tented stage.
Expect all of the cool kids to be at this DJ and producer’s set. Disclosure’s most recent album release features songs with Sam Smith, The Weeknd, and Lorde, so you just might see some of the artists joining, especially since Disclosure is in a headlining spot.
Vibe out with headliner and electronic act, Flume. Maybe Chet Faker will join? Or Vince Staples? And who would want to miss that?
A brand-new soul artist that is equivalent to merging Sam Smith and The Weeknd into one. If you’re looking for up-and-coming artists between the mainstream acts, make sure to witness his smooth singing and peaking falsetto abilities before the word gets out and you’re the last to know.
If you’re at Coachella and planning to see Kamasi Washington, you may want to catch GoGo Penguin as well. This European electronic act merges jazz, trip hop and electro styles together to create something strange, complex, and beautiful.
Still new to the scene, Haelos are shrouded in mystery and haunting musical tones, while keeping a pop sensibility. Trip-hop beats set in conjunction with light interweaving male and female harmonies may spook and fascinate the audience.
I’ve heard “Midnight City” a million times now, and the song still affects me as much as it did when I first heard it in 2011 when I first became hip to M83. The longevity of their career and selection as a headliner is testament to their songwriting, and this will certainly be a packed performance with fans of their modern synth rock.
Melody’s Echo Chamber
The female French vocalist Melody Prochet is dreamy, with similar musical textures as Tame Impala, since lead singer Kevin Parker actually recorded her first album.
Light and ethereal compositions separate them from traditional electro projects, and align his instead with experimental artists like Flying Lotus and Tokimonsta. Relax and vibe out to his intelligent and beautifully crafted tracks.
Delicate compositions stem from the duo that is Rhye. If you haven’t managed to get their music on your radar until now, take the time to see their set. Best to just let the ethereal melody and tone wash over you, close your eyes, and take it in.
Ludovic Navarre is a long-standing producer successful since the early 90s. His clever use of jazz broken apart over house beats creates pleasant and diverse compositions that stimulate the senses. Rhythm and blues peaks out from the constant groove, making St Germain in a league of his own.
Smooth soul reminiscent of Erykah Badu, mixed with the occasional appearance from the softer side of hip-hop acts like Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar.
Cute is automatically what comes to mind when considering Tokimonsta, but she is so much more. Her calm but inventive beats complement vocals, or stand on their own as solid vibes perfect for resting in the shade while stretching out on that polo field grass.
Lose Yourself in a Trance
Who hasn’t this producer worked with? With 16 million monthly listeners on Spotify, it’s pretty apparent why this house and techno artist snuck into a headlining spot for this year’s Coachella.
Don’t be fooled by the name, this project is put together by electronic heavy hitting producers Skrillex and Diplo. Working with the likes of Justin Bieber have helped launch this specific effort into the spotlight and onto the Coachella stage as headliners.
Diplo strikes again with Major Lazer. He’ll have the electronic tents in the right headspace all weekend, especially with popular tracks like “Lean On.”
All three producers that comprise the powerhouse electro pop group Miike Snow have created a stronghold in their musical arena. If you’re planning on dancing to Miami Horror while at Coachella, then Miike Snow is another performance that should be on your radar.
Vaudevillian electro music is a thing, and people seem to love it. The legendary DJ Marcus Füreder is the brains behind this project, a noir-style genre that combines swinging rhythms with electronic bass beats.
Listening to this music makes me want to lose my mind, and I think that’s entirely what DJ and producer Henry Steinway intended in his music. So go ahead and let go, especially when that bass hits.
The Black Madonna
Mysterious, producer/ DJ, The Black Madonna seems to let the music do the speaking for her. Eclectic arrangements are never dull and full of house vibe that will keep the willing listener dancing all through her set.
Yes, “#SELFIE” was a huge hit, but the remixes and compositions that came after helped producers Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall keep on the top of the EDM foodchain. Expect this set to be unreal with the amount of people losing themselves in the music, drugs, and company.
This is one of the acts that the fans of the Sahara tent wait and long for. Between the heavy house and trance tunes, and the incredibly mesmerizing light show swirling on the ceiling of the tent, you’re sure to have an existential experience. Or maybe that’s just the drugs kicking in…