Ahhh Coachella. Every year we scrutinize the lineup, gripe about headliners, and ask ourselves if it's really worth it. Then, of course, we pull out our wallets, dust off our credit cards, and take the plunge. The thing is, though, even if Eddie Money was headlining all three days, it would still be worth it.
Here's our reasoning: Slot and dollar for dollar, the sheer number of bands playing the festival's three days makes it impossible to see every band you want to. Even if you did happen to go to both weekends — an exhausting feat, but not impossible — you'd still be hard pressed to catch all the best performances. That said, we've picked 10 of our favorite acts whose shows are absolutely can't-miss experiences. If Coachella were only these few bands, your trip to the desert would still be justified.
Doesn't it seem like just yesterday that Phoenix was that one band we loved from the Lost In Translation soundtrack? Now the French electro-pop mainstay is headlining one of the world's biggest music festivals, but it hasn't lost any of its bashful charm. You know you want to be front and center for "1901," and the new material from the upcoming Bankrupt! (or what we've heard so far) is already shaping up to be another classic.
The Stone Roses
When The Stone Roses were announced as headliners, it left many Americans scratching their heads, which is a shame for them. For those in the know, the classic British band was one of the truly great acts of the Madchester club scene. This is The Stone Roses' chance to perform for a whole new generation ready for its "baggy beats" and guitar-driven psychedelia.
The Postal Service
If you're anything like us, the first time you heard The Postal Service was an emotional moment. Maybe you were 16. Maybe you were driving in your friend's car when you first heard it…. "What's that sound?" you asked. "Why do I feel so nostalgic right now?" you wondered. For the first time in 10 years, you can ask these questions all over again, while listening to Ben Gibbard's wonderfully drawn-out analogies for heartbreak.
Baauer may be having a moment right now, but that won't stop us from going absolutely bonkers with the rest of Coachella when the beat drops on "Harlem Shake." And yes, we know that it isn't really the Harlem Shake, and that there may be a new YouTube craze to replace it by the time Bauuer hits the stage. Well, we say F that: The song is great, and we're going to have the time of our lives dancing to it.
Canadian duo Japandroids are taylor-made for the music festival circuit. Every song is an anthem, every guitar lick is epic, and every lyric begs to be chanted along to. From "Younger Us" to "Young Hearts Spark Fire" these guys put every ounce of themselves into each song they perform.
Few bands are able to capture an audience with the quiet precision of Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear. While other acts go for brash noise or huge choruses, Grizzly Bear trusts its audience to patiently follow it wherever it may go. Even at Coachella, where the crowds and scale can subdue large acts, Grizzly Bear carves out its own niche of harmonic perfection.
For those who want more guitar at their music festivals, Tame Impala could be seen as a saviors sent from rock-god heaven. The Aussie band, lead by ignitable creative force Kevin Parker, create a psych-rock whirlwind of guitar and keyboard that should have even the most die-hard rock 'n' rollers bobbing along.
Damon Albarn has been heading up Blur for so long that you may just take it for granted. The band never really broke up for long, so it doesn't have the pizzazz of one of the big reunion bands. Still, out of all the so-called brit-pop acts of the '90s, Blur is our favorite. If Albarn actually goes through with his threats to disband (though, granted, he's been making them for years), it would be a shame to have missed one of its last shows. Why chance it?
There's nothing quite like seeing The xx take over a festival stage. You'd think it wouldn't work: a band whose entire persona is predicated on its quietude, out in the open competing for sonic real estate. Yet some how, when Romy Madley-Croft, Jamie xx, and Oliver Sim take the stage, everything around them seems to shut down. It's just these three young people's cavernous voices echoing through the desert heat. Magical.
On the other spectrum of festival action is Diplo's ever-evolved dacehall-electro-dubstep chimera Major Lazer. Watching these guys absolutely dominate a huge crowd, with their dapperly dressed leader behind the laptop, is truly a reason to let yourself go. Try not to dance: we dare you.