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Since only the most diehard (and well-funded) devotees will make it to both weekends of Coachella’s inaugural double run, time during your three days of choice will have to be spent very wisely if you hope to see even a fraction of the 120-odd acts.
And while headliners like Radiohead, Dr. Dre, Black Keys and M83 will dominate conversation about the Indio, Calif., festival, all of the high-profile acts take the stage much later in the day. There are plenty of lesser-known, worthwhile bands loaded in late morning and afternoon.
So for those willing to get on site a little early, skipping the longest entry lines and justifying the pricy ticket in the process, here are 10 first-time performers worth checking out before the big guns take the five stages:
First Aid Kit:
If you’re a fan of sibling harmony, Stockholm sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg (better known as First Aid Kit) may be for you on Sunday in the Mojave tent. “The Lion’s Roar” is bombastic; the snappy, bygone-days-of-country “Emmylou,” is eulogistic; the band is crazily buzzy.
These Malibu kids have become favorites of totally-respectable old timers like Jackson Browne and Robbie Robertson by getting down to their Angeleno roots, in breezy Americana songs that are evocatively pastoral while sounding timeless. Thanks to lengthy touring, their live show has become first rate as well, with singer/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith selling his stories with an honest passion that’s sure to connect on the Polo Field.
Gary Clark Jr:
It’s rare that a cut-rate guitarist with licks inspired by axe-slingers like BB King and Jimi Hendrix is embraced by the indie-music world the way Gary Clark Jr. has been, but let’s be honest: it’s rare for a guitarist these days to play with the outright gnarliness imbued by this Austin rocker. Leave any noodle-jam pretension aside, ’cause this dude can play for days.
The Oklahoma band Other Lives clearly lives in the same world as fellow bearded folksters Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, but their aesthetics is a bit broader, with a sound that allows for texture and ambition musically as well as vocally. They’ve opened this year for Bon Iver and Radiohead — that’s really all the proof you need that it’s worth at least a watch.
The Head And the Heart:
These northwesterners killed at SXSW last year with Wilco-esque roots-influenced rock, but in the past year their emotional resonance (and performing confidence) has only grown. Like Dawes, their songs connect in a timeless way while sounding wholly of-the-moment; on the field, in the midday sun, they should be downright glorious.
Former Gowns frontwoman Erika M. Anderson makes her Indio debut on the heels of last year’s celebrated Past Life Martyred Saints. Her almost folksy interpretation of punk tends to dwell on her love-hate relationship with California, something that should really resonate if it rains, as predicted, during her first Friday set.
The latest ingenue of hip hop and electronic guru Diplo comes to Coachella on a wave of buzz thanks to her deliciously profane single, “212.” Her touring has been almost entirely relegated to Europe since she burst on the scene in the fall, making this her first proper introduction to U.S. audiences.
Keep Shelly in Athens:
With so many prominent chillwave acts sitting out this year, Keep Shelly in Athens is the perfect segue into Neon Indian‘s Friday set at the Outdoor stage. If you’re prepared to hustle over from Gobi after the Greek duo’s 3:15 p.m. set at Gobi, you can count on two hours’ worth of dreamy dancing on day one.
Hardly a stranger to the Coachella crowd, tUnE-yArDs frontwoman Merrill Garbus‘ distinctive blend of absurd twee and experimental pop has never seen a venue quite as large as the Polo Field’s Outdoor stage. How her riotous performance style and hauntingly ambiguous vocals might translate from her typically small shows is anybody’s guess.
This Canadian trio is best known for its 2011 collaboration with fellow performer Martin Solveig, the radio and commercial friendly “Hello,” but with their third album set for later in 2012, they might finally break out stateside. Familiar in both Canada and the U.K., almost every offering from Dragonette is dance floor ready and lead singer Martina Sorbara possesses a charm infinitely more authentic than her bubblegum contemporaries.
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