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Coachella 2014: 20 Must-See Acts

The headliners and emerging artists that will define your weekend, and maybe your year


For the 15th time, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is planning to light up the desert. Here are 20 acts that are worth springing for some sunscreen.

By Richard Gehr, Keith Harris, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray and Jessica Suarez

pharrell williams

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Pharrell Williams

Who: The Neptune who helped push "Get Lucky" and "Blurred Lines" to ubiquity is now "Happy" to step into the spotlight on his own. 

Why You Can't Miss Him: The newly minted Voice judge with the silky falsetto is a sly, slippery performer whose glittery funk-pop will most definitely inspire a desert dance party. Plus, it's worth seeing how all the speculation over whether or not Pharrell's set will double as deep cover for Daft Punk to make an appearance — last year, after all, the French robots made headlines simply by showing a video teasing Random Access Memories.  



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Who: The all-female Los Angeles quartet whose dreamy post-punk took a darker turn on their recent self-titled second album.

Why You Can't Miss Them: The band carefully crafted its increasingly atmospheric meld of space-rock and trip-hop on Warpaint with veteran British producer Flood. But their synth washes, delicate guitar and thick bass tones only achieve their fully seductive effect when the band stretches out live.

ty segall

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Ty Segall

Who: A prolific California garage-rocker who averages an album a year — plus one or two additional releases from one of his other half-dozen bands.

Why You Can't Miss Him: Segall is an endless font of songs — basic three-chord psychedelic bashes that he roughs up with a signature fuzz pedal. But that kind of noisy fun requires a live audience for full impact, and Segall attracts just the sort of unruly crowds you'd expect.

trombone shorty

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Trombone Shorty

Who: A – you guessed it – trombonist who grew up in New Orleans' Tremé district before eventually appearing on the HBO show where it takes place. Shorty has been releasing albums since the age of 12 and serving as an unofficial ambassador for his city since at least 2006, the year he worked with U2 in London and played the Monday Night Football pre-game show back at home.

Why You Can't Miss Him: Trombone Shorty's horn sounds so good that it almost redeemed Zac Brown's syrupy sex jam "Overnight." His own works, meanwhile, are rarely in need of such assistance: Recent tracks like "Fire and Brimstone" and "Say That to Say This" rock with the kind of riffs that, had they been released a few decades earlier, Kanye West would have flipped for a hit.


Chelsea Lauren/WireImage


Who: Recent Rolling Stone cover star and EDM live-circuit staple who, five years after bidding farewell to guitar rock and launching his DJing career, finally released his debut full-length.

Why You Can't Miss Him: Skrillex is one of dance music's most innovative producers, using workaday elements like "the drop" in ways that simultaneously turn heads and force hips to move. Recess, his recent album, is an in-the-red blowout full of guests (including the also-at-Coachella Chance the Rapper) and hyper-Technicolor party jams. Its maxed-out sound should translate well to the desert's expanse.

Josh Homme Queens of the Stone Age

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Queens of the Stone Age

Who: Josh Homme's band of robo-bummer brothers, one of rock's premier bands.

Why You Can't Miss Them: Dude, you're going to the desert! So, you better see some "desert rock."

the replacements

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The Replacements

Who: Two core members of Eighties indie-rock's classic failure-as-success story, singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson, playing some of their first live shows in 22 years.

Why You Can't Miss Them: After three festival appearances last year, and with no future spots lined up, Coachella could be your last chance to catch the mini-'Mats. With Westerberg cheerfully flubbing lyrics and covers ranging Chuck Berry to "Everything's Coming Up Roses," the performances so far have showcased all the joyful screw-uppery of yore.


Rick Kern/Getty Images


Who: An L.A. daytime disco duo who received a boost when James Murphy added their fizzy cover of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" to his DJ sets.

Why You Can't Miss Them: Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise are all about pastel colors, warm waves and cool breezes. Their gentle Sunday set won't be a performance as much as an oasis in the midst of Coachella's oppressive heat.


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Who: Big Boi and Andre 3000 – the rap royalty behind six platinum records and three Number One singles – reuniting to kick off their first tour since 2002.

Why You Can't Miss Them: Outkast will perform at more than 40 festivals this year, ostensibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. But reunited acts tend to be at their freshest and sharpest at the start, when they're still excited – and before they start remembering why they stopped touring.

neutral milk hotel

Courtesy of Neutral Milk Hotel

Neutral Milk Hotel

Who: The project of beloved former-recluse Jeff Mangum.

Why You Can't Miss Them: The band is in the middle of a large worldwide reunion tour, but that doesn't mean you can skip Coachella. Neutral Milk Hotel called their next set of East Coast dates their last "for the foreseeable future." Last time around the "foreseeable future" lasted a decade, and these shows have been spectacular.

Lemmy Kilmister Motorhead

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Who: Lemmy-led titans of harder, faster metal, nearly in their 40th year.

Why You Can't Miss Them: The rip-roaring band behind "Ace of Spades" and other speed-limit-breaking tunes has been on a bit of a break lately because of diabetes-related issues suffered by their frontman, the still-powerful growler Lemmy. In January, Motörhead canceled their February slate of tour dates. Coachella will be the band's second live appearance in 2014, after a pre-fest date at Los Angeles's Club Nokia.


Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images


Who: The 17-year-old New Zealander that is currently is touring the U.S. and riding the high of her February Grammys performance – not to mention a Rolling Stone cover story.

Why You Can't Miss Her: Despite her relative inexperience, Lorde's performances are theatrical and electrifying: part Kate Bush, part David Byrne.

the knife

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The Knife

Who: Swedish siblings whose take on electro has become exponentially more ambitious – both sonically and politically – with each album.

Why You Can't Miss Them: Last year, Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer released Shaking the Habitual, a sprawling assault on the ears that doubles as a scalding take on 21st-centrury hypercapitalism. The group's live shows in support have been rhetoric-charged and elation-inspiring, with forays into "danceoke" and "DEEP Aerobics" ("Death Electro Emo Protest Aerobics"), and other mini-spectacles designed to "disrespect borders." Beyond that, Coachella is one of only eight venues the Knife are playing this spring, and this trip to North America is the duo's first since 2006.

martin garrix

CC Image Courtesy @Kmeron on Flickr

Martin Garrix

Who: He's not the first laptop-wielding whiz kid to create a genre-defining smash before taking his first legal drink, but right now he's the biggest.

Why You Can't Miss Him: As time passed, his hit "Animals" went from Tomorrowland favorite to pop radio hit (peaking at Number 23), but because of visa issues, he couldn't perform in the U.S. until two months ago. Unless you had the money for a plane ticket to Ultra or the determination to stand in line at Pacha, that probably makes this your first chance to him live and hear his new songs as they're meant to be heard – on a sound system larger than your kitchen, surrounded by thousands of people who will react to the bass drop with equal fervor.

Future Islands

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Future Islands

Who: One of our New Artists You Need to Know, this Baltimore synth-pop group is making the leap from hometown heroes to indie stars – and TV sensations – with their 4AD debut, Singles.

Why You Can't Miss Them: Frontman Samuel T. Herring recreates new-wave's emotive consonant-cradling at its most exuberantly butch, occasionally adding a rasp that verges on a death metal growl. The band's recent Late Night performance of "Seasons (Waiting on You)" enraptured David Letterman as the singer launched into the most emphatic free-form full-body flailing since Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" video. Now imagine a full set that intense.

disclosure guy lawrence

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Who: The brothers Lawrence, who caught the ear of dance music fans with 2012 tracks "Latch" and "Tenderly/Flow," parlayed that success into 2013's breakthrough album Settle. The open arrangements and stuttering rhythms on the U.K. chart-topper pushed the LP to Number Two on Rolling Stone's list of the year's best dance albums.

Why You Can't Miss Them: This February, right when it seemed like duo couldn't get any more mileage from their LP, Mary J. Blige contributed verses and vocals to "F for You," adding some early-Nineties New York garage-soul to their early-Aughts U.K. garage bounce. As Blige reminded us, playing the record remains the easiest way to get a group of young people moving in place. For example, the duo's closing set at last year's festival was so energetic that fans attempted to jump the barricades separating the audience from the stage. This year expect extra security.

lana del ray

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Lana Del Rey

Who: The smoky, mysterious, nostalgia-addled pop artist that critics in 2011 called a flash in the pan. Welcome to three years, two Grammy nominations and a platinum album later.

Why You Can't Miss Her: Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" and the Cedric Gervais-remixed "Summertime Sadness" kept her buzz going in 2013 while she wrote material for the follow-up to her breakthrough Born to Die. On Sunday she'll likely debut new material from that album, Ultraviolence, which is produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.

chance the rapper

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Chance the Rapper

Who: Twenty-year-old Chicagoan Chance the Rapper recorded his first mixtape, 10 Day, when he was on suspension from school; his second, Acid Rap, earned him features on records by everyone from Lil Wayne to Justin Bieber to Skrillex to James Blake.

Why You Can't Miss Him: If Outkast's Friday night headlining set is a reminder of where hip-hop was willing to go 15 years ago, Chance's Sunday performance will demonstrate where it's willing to go today. And while the younger artist might not have the on-stage experience of his forbears, he puts on a good enough show that, as he recently told Rolling Stone, he "might not ever drop a for-sale project" and "just make my money touring."

omara bombino

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Who: Hailing from Agadez, Niger, singer-guitarist Omara "Bombino" Moctar is a youngish master of the Tuareg desert blues known as assouf.

Why You Can't Miss Him: Bombino is a guitar-slinging standout among the growing coterie of Tuareg acts like Tinariwen and Tamikrest. Last year's Dan Auerbach-produced Nomad offered a relatively restrained taste of Bombino's onstage magic, but anyone who's heard the 13-minute live version of "Tigrawahi Tikma" ("Bring Us Together"), or seen him on a stage, knows just how deeply Bombino plunges into assouf's hypnotic embrace.

Win Butler Arcade Fire

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Arcade Fire

Who: The 2010 winners of the Album of the Year Grammy back for more critical acclaim. Arcade Fire have picked up James Murphy to produce last year's Reflektor, a record that augments the group's sound with dance-influenced elements like thicker bass lines and Salsoul-esque congas.

Why You Can't Miss Them: They promoted Reflektor with a series of smaller gigs – "The idea was to play these like they were our first shows ever," Win Butler told Rolling Stone. But Coachella marks their return to U.S. festivals. Arcade Fire have been traveling Latin America playing fests like Vive Latino and Lollapalooza, so their live set should, once again, be Coachella-ready. Expect the rhythms of new tracks like "Reflektor" and "You Already Know" to provide the perfect counterbalance to the more serious anthems that they've been playing since day one.

In This Article: Coachella

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