12 February, 2013
The 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival returns to the Empire Polo Club of Indio, California on the weekends of April 12-14 and 19-21, heralding the return of Summer Festival Season to the Northern Hemisphere. It's the festival's 12th event, and the second year they're running the same line-up all-over-again on two consecutive weekends, and, as per usual, Coachella will be a sunbaked, wind-blown orgy of celebrity, sunburn, and good old-fashioned indie-rockin'. Anyone adventuring into the desert in search of musical sustenance needs to know the bands beyond the big-name headliners, and this list is here to help: ten down-the-bill bands who loom as likely Coachella highlights.
After years in the child-rearin' wilderness, Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina quietly returned late in 2012, after six years away, with their third album, The Odds. Released on the eve of Thanksgiving, The Odds got lost in the end-of-year revisionism, but those who listened in were rewarded with another album of stark post-punk; The Evens' stripped-down guitars/drums/silence sound as sincere as the duo's melancholy singing. Live, befitting a pair of partners/parents, MacKaye and Farina play with intense, unspoken chemistry that makes their tunes feel like the musical embodiment of the space between them. Whether that subtle spell translates to the cavernous confines of Coachella is another story; but The Evens rarely play live, giving their appearance more of an 'event' feeling than the many sets from festival staples.
Father John Misty
For years, lurking at the back of the stage during Fleet Foxes shows, lurked a breakout entertainer. Joshua Tillman was never merely their drummer, having seven solo LPs to his name (J. Tillman) that Fleet Foxes fans were plenty fond of. But departing Fleet Foxes coincided with him departing from his past solo identity; and his transformation into Father John Misty was one of 2012's great indie-rock rebrandings. His first album under his new persona, Fear Fun
, was the start of things, drawing in doo-wop, soft-rock, soul, and psychedelia into a sound steeped in acid-casualty '70s singer-songwriters (see: "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
"). But Tillman pushed things further: his lyrics poetic and thoughtful, his interviews pieces of provocative performance, and his live-show now casting him as the messianic leader of a budding cult.
Grinderman broke up in 2011, on stage at Australia's beloved Meredith Music Festival, the latest piece of high theatricality for their leader, Nick Cave. After two albums, the noisier, nastier, uglier spawn of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds seemed somewhat unnecessary, given that their members all were doing double-duty, and the Bad Seeds themselves were starting to get plenty noisy and nasty. But, with the Bad Seeds playing at Coachella, Grinderman have been coaxed out of retirement for a one-off performance. And, though they lack the full-band spectacle and weighty back-catalog of the Bad Seeds, you can make a case that Grinderman are a better festival vehicle; loud and abrasive and discordant, with Cave able to throw himself into a sleazy, wild-eyed, somehow-shamanist performative state.
Lord Huron's debut LP,
, was one of the best albums of 2012
, and single "Time to Run
" was its standout jam. The song shows the Lord of Huron, Ben Schneider. at his best: matching My Morning Jacket
harmonies, polyrhythmic percussion, and Springsteenian swagger; the jam's locomotive chug en route to the Pacific, sounding like Heartland rock rattling along with California dreams. Schneider and backing-band aren't exactly seasoned festival bets thus far, but anyone looking for an early-in-the-day band from the bottom of the bill should take note. Lots of acts consigned to early slots struggle playing in daylight hours, but Lord Huron are so brightly sunny that the hour will suit.
Someone once called the Make-Up "the best band of the '90s that no one ever seemed to call the best band of the '90s
," and, well, okay, that was me. But you can take that sentiment as Gospel (yeh-yeh): truly no one called them the best band of the '90s (at the time, people were actually saying Oasis with a straight face), but they were awesome. And whilst their delicious discography —from their faux-live '96 debut Destination: Love; Live! At Cold Rice
to their awesome '99 single compile I Want Some
)— is more than enough to incite its own cult, where they were at their —and the decade's— best was on stage. There, their 'gospel yeh-yeh' shtick was a fascinating piece of high performance, with frontman Ian Svenonius (future author of The Psychic Soviet
), a wild, hilarious, provocative entertainer.
The Postal Service
The Postal Service's ten-year reunion
is the biggest curatorial story of Coachella, the band back after a decade's inactivity to fill one of the festival's obligatory 'reformation' spots. What makes The Postal Service's reunion seem notable is the fact that the duo —Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello and Death Cab for Cutie
's Benjamin Gibbard
— were a one-album project band that played only a few short tours, and then spent the next decade continuing to extinguish expectations for a follow-up; Gibbard pouring water on 'second Postal Service album?' questions with something approaching fury. Where other reformed bands may have vast back-catalogs to tend to and/or new albums to shill; Tamborello and Gibbard will basically be playing Give Up
, with the gathered masses bound to know every word of every song.
Unlike so many of their buzz-band, blog-music brethren, Purity Ring are an awesome live band. When the band's first single, "Ungirthed," attracted much online hysteria in 2011, the Canadian duo retreated into hibernation; slowly working at their brilliant debut album, Shrines
, as well as working out a live show. That pre-production paid off: rather than debuting as some playback-addled bedroom-project-turned-timid-live-entity, Purity Ring were immediately a forceful, commanding live concern. And came not just with Megan James' vivid voice and Corin Roddick's heaving bottom-end, but in an inventive light-show involving lamps triggered by Roddick's percussion, and illuminated 'cocoons' that respond in patterns influence by the soundwaves from James' singing.
stoked the fires of hype the old fashioned way: by playing killer live shows. In the era of the blogosphere, and its attendant ranks of bedroom producers afraid of stepping on stage, the London-based post-punks were a welcome throwback to a different, distant era; in which hot new bands were discovered by virtue of vicious shows in shabby venues. Even when Savages were digitized online, it was via live videos and recordings; their debut single, "Flying to Berlin
" b/w "Husbands
," coming only after footage of them tearing through "City's Full"
was already much-viewed. All this introduced them as one 2012's best new bands
, and a likely 2013 breakout act
; and a killer set at Coachella would certainly reinforce that upward mobility.
Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees long ago earned the reputation as one of the best live-acts in indie music; the Bay Area quartet playing with a blistering mix of fury, energy, chemistry, and personality. Each of their members is a true individual —John Dwyer barking madly from behind his high guitar; Brigid Dawson offering a sweet counterpoint from behind an organ; Mike Shoun a flurry of limbs hitting things; Petey Dammit a bass-throttling dervish in suspenders— but they function as taut, tuned-in unit. On record, the band are famously prolific: they have a new LP, Floating Coffin out on April 16, just in Time for Coachella; but they pretty much always have a new LP on the way. But their albums are just a chance to tour, and on stage is where they slay.
With Vampire Weekend's third LP, Modern Vampires of the City
, locked in for a May 7 release date, everyone's favorite (or, y'know, least favorite, if you go by angry internet trolls) polo-sporting preppy-pop-band will be playing Coachella at a most opportune time. On the eve of its release, the record will have served up singles, videos, review copies, and possible leak: all, perhaps, culminating in a set at Coachella. Vampire Weekend are a festival-friendly outfit: comfortable in shorts, possessing plenty of beloved pop-songs, and playing with genuine energy. Of course, whether or not Modern Vampires of the City
is as good as its predecessors is still TBC; but, at the very least, it'll be current