Lovers of the rock music, in its infinite manifestations, will face some difficult decisions as the master timetable-ists at Coachella skirt timing conflicts and try to please everyone, in the process pissing off the lot of ’em. Last year, for instance: It’s safe to say that lovers of Mike Patton’s off-kilter Fantomas didn’t lament missing Coldplay, but what of those forced to choose between Bauhaus and Bloc Party? Exactly. You may have some luck standing on the boundary of the main stage and the second stage, then hitting each of the three tents in rapid succession, but you do have the heat exhaustion to think of, so try to keep it to two or three acts an hour. ~Eric Solomon
TV on the Radio: The members of this band are an artist’s artists, or at least a hipster’s, but they’re certainly not dull. They may fracture their soundscapes and experiment a bit with vocal deliveries, but they keep their melodies at the center with the ambitious flourishes radiating outward. Peppered with just a bit of blues and soul influences, the music is finely layered without inducing too many shoegazing moments.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: One of those bands that Coachella seems to grab just as they’re riding the crest of newfound popularity upward. The music — and hell, the band name — exhort you to join in on the enthusiasm, with a singer whose reaching, yelping vocal inflections try to grab your soul and do loopy things to it. They’ve been good enough to ride along with word of mouth on the Internet alone, so perhaps they have a live performance better than Memorex.
Eagles of Death Metal: Lots of groups threaten to put the fun back into rock, but how many of them feature Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, a mustache stolen from Tom Selleck on frontman Jesse Hughes, and the promise to inflict “death by sexy”? If their catchy riffs and cheeky approach don’t put a smile on your face, or at least a bemused expression on your countenance, then you, sir, have no soul.
Devendra Banhart: Stripped down and exploring the trippier side of folk music, Banhart’s occasionally quavering voice invites you into some fairly surreal territory. What’s that? That’s your brain floating a few feet above your head. Don’t worry; it will come back after the set’s over.
My Morning Jacket: You want a little twang with your indie rock? This may be as close as you’ll get. With layers of reverb and sounds that suggest psychedelia via Kentucky, with music a bit too out there to be pigeonholed as alt-country or jam rock, though we do hope that the promoters have them rocking outdoors.
Cat Power: Shy and nocturnal, the koala keeps to itself and rarely makes displays for human’s behalf. So too, it is, for Chan Marshall, by all accounts a begrudging performance artist. Still for those who love her indie-rock confessionals, it will be worth remaining quiet and not making any sudden movements for the chance to see Cat Power singing into the desert air.
Bloc Party: If we gave them short shrift in the “Big Names” section, it was only out of love … and the desire for a punch line. Besides, these guys don’t need our love; after playing a tent last year that could hardly contain their newfound popularity, Coachella now has them riding high on the bill, with their propulsive rhythms and a punk and funk aesthetic.
Scissor Sisters: How glam(orous) can they be in the heat? Who knows? For those who have always wondered what early Elton John would sound like transported to the twenty-first century, here’s your chance to discover, live and in Technicolor. You may also hear them trample on the open grave of Pink Floyd with their disco cover of “Comfortably Numb.”
James Blunt: Coachella lacks a clear villain this year; you can hate on Madonna’s bandwagon club music of recent years, beat on the already cool corpse of electro-clash, or mock Matisyahu’s hasidic hype, but you can’t come close to last year’s band everyone loves to hate: Coldplay. We’ll nominate James Blunt just for player-hating points. His sensitive elegies have already taken the U.K. by storm. Don’t let him do the same to California.
Coheed and Cambria: It’s true: When you start numbering your tracks as musical movements within an album, you’re either R. Kelly or you’ve passed into the realm of prog rock. So if you heard “The Willing Well” parts one through three but haven’t made it to the fourth and final installment, perhaps Coheed and Cambria will indulge you. The metal tinges will keep the crowd guessing whether they should sway or band their heads, which may be an entertaining spectacle enough.
Wolf Parade: Customers who bought this album also bought Funeral by the Arcade Fire. We as humans require categories, or all the information out there would just overload our brains. Still, getting past the easy comparisons will net you fresh perspectives to the affected vocals and subtle fuzzy touches to the indie rocking of Wolf Parade.
Editors: This band has some big hooks, no doubt, and recalls the more aggressive notes of Joy Division without compelling you to suicide, unless some of the repetition in the vocals drive you to stage dive to your death.
Discuss this feature at The Prefix Message Board