April in Southern California brings three certain, oft-dreaded events: rainstorms, tax day and Coachella.
In its relatively short tenure, Coachella has become a local staple. But what started in 1999 as a more formal extension of Pearl Jam’s Ticketmaster-boycotting 1993 concert at Indio’s Empire Polo Field is now run by concert-promoter powerhouse Goldenvoice and subsists on lackluster-yet-chart-topping headliners instead of the anti-capitalistic ethos on which it was originally founded.
Although it brands itself as an “indie” music event, the festival has become a larger-minded, mainstream-tailored affair. And year after year, Coachella consistently caters to the seemingly bottomless pockets of its 20-something audience.
But, with the exception of the pop-rock machine Vans Warped Tour and the return of the feminist-minded Lilith Fair, Coachella is the only large-scale festival for Southern California rock enthusiasts.
Even if you’re attending for the chart-topping headliners or the over-priced opportunity to party in the desert ambiance, try arriving before 10 p.m. to catch the slightly less mainstream artists that weren’t paid the ridiculously big bucks to make an appearance.
With the likes of rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures (which includes Nirvana drummer/Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Led Zeppelin member John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age founder Josh Homme), post-punk outfit Public Image Limited (helmed by former Sex Pistols’ icon John Lyndon) and Echo & the Bunnymen (which has been whittled down over the years to a two-piece), Friday’s lineup teems with has-beens attempting to cash in on their former fame.
An electro-rock outfit that won over beat-lovers’ hearts with its epic ballads and band name-dropping in tracks “Daft Punk is Playing in My House” and every audiophile’s nerd anthem “Losing My Edge,” LCD Soundsystem is the highest-billed act that will stir the most entertainment. Yet known as a club band and best suited for low-ceilinged venues with the right amount of dance-floor space, LCD Soundsystem will most likely be out of its element playing the mainstage.
She & Him is sure to deliver cutesy folk-pop and equally-as-cute eye-candy with its members, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, while North Carolina-based The Avett Brothers will bring a little less cutesy and a little more punk to the festival’s folk stage.
Yeasayer, a psych-pop outfit hailing from Brooklyn, adds a bit of Odd Blood with its swirling instrumentals, while the up-and-coming Portland group Hockey charges the festival with a high-voltage shock of dance-rock.
Saturday’s lineup overflows with an excess of electronic acts, 2009 buzz bands and 2009 electro-buzz bands.
Although the XX would have been the must-see band before the 2010 Winter Olympics, which frequently aired an AT&T commercial that utilized the group’s “Intro,” Beach House has usurped the XX for the top dream-pop spot.
L.A. locals Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros provide sunny, jam-band tracks appropriate for the desert location, while laptop musician Flying Lotus delivers the hard and heavy Dublab beats.
And it might be worth it to stick out MGMT’s set to hear tracks from its latest album Congratulations, which shamelessly departs from the duo’s sugarcoated electro-pop debut and ventures into sunny psychedelic rock.
With its highly publicized reunion tour and the March release of its compilation album, Pavement, the undeniable godfathers of indie rock, is easily the most anticipated act in Sunday’s lineup, save for those who really want to hear the Gorillaz play “Sunshine in a Bag.” Yet with its recent resurgence among youngsters who were barely toddlers when Pavement released its gritty rock gems — Slanted and Enchanted and Wowee Zowee — in the early ’90s, and the group’s sudden, money-grabbing reunion 10 years after it disbanded, it’s doubtful that Pavement’s notoriously rebellious spirit has hardly stayed intact. Riding on the wave of success of her third full-length album IRM, Charlotte Gainsbourg will back up her French sex appeal with breathy vocals and a darkly pop sensibility. And if you want to get away from the old folks, Deerhunter, a contemporary, less grimey-sounding Pavement just returning from a recent hiatus, will deliver straightforward indie rock.