For the 16th year, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is planning to throw a desert party that serves as the unofficial kickoff of Summer Concert Season. Here are 25 acts — huge names, upcoming talents, exciting reunions — that could set the tone for the weekend(s) and beyond.
Last year, riff smashers AC/DC put out their first LP in six years, Rock or Bust, and it sounded like it could have come out in the early Eighties. As hard rock's most dependable crew, the perennial Doers of Dirty Deeds managed to stay consistent despite founding rhythm guitarist and songwriter Malcolm Young departing the group due to illness (his nephew, Stevie Young, has joined the band) and now they're showing their enduring mettle in concert. With drummer Phil Rudd facing assault charges in New Zealand, former member Chris Slade has assumed the drum throne — he helped them turn in an explosive Grammys performance.
Sure, older songs like "Strictly 4 My Jeeps" had bumped in heavy rotation, but Bronson's latest album, Sincerely, Mr. Wonderful, signals a definitive leap from hip-hop-head/hipster favorite to mainstream breakout star. His major label debut has already jumped into the Top 10 of the Billboard 200, and he recently hit Letterman with Chance the Rapper. But, more importantly, his live show is awesomely unpredictable — he recently told RS about some of his more notorious antics, including stealing a golf cart and tossing out an XBox.
The Alabama bar band, lead by the explosive voice of Brittany Howard, is undeniably one of the great live acts going — in addition to Coachella, they've got upcoming dates at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, the U.K.'s T in the Park and more. Their killer new LP, Sound & Color, hits shelves a week after Coachella's second weekend, taking their sound to new directions. In the latest issue, Rolling Stone says it runs "from volcanic thrashers ('The Greatest') to silky soul ('Dunes') to spacey psychedelic-soul jams ('Future People')." Said Howard, "When it came time to gather all the songs, we thought, 'What kind of record is this?' And we said, 'Very strange.' But I love it."
Unlike David Guetta's "Just for One Day (Heroes)," Alesso's "Heroes (We Could Be)" has little to do with David Bowie. Although the Stockholm DJ and vocalist Tove Lo borrow the most famous four words from the elder singer's hit, they drop the irony and add a gummy new melody that explodes into bittersweet synth fireworks. The combination made for the 23-year-old's first dance Number One — you may hear it as part of a massive Friday set.
Late last year, Harlem-raised MC Azealia Banks released her long-in-the-works debut Broke With Expensive Taste, a confident album that justified the hype when the party jam "212" dropped in late 2011. Brash yet vulnerable, filled with tongue-twisting rhymes and glittery beats, the record showed why the charismatic, sly Banks should get much more attention for her music than she has for her antagonistic social media presence and outspoken interviews. Following a few months of Perez Hilton headlines ("Azealia Banks Totally Wants To 'F–k' President Obama! Say What?!" "Azealia Banks Hates America & 'Fat, White Americans!' Read Her Controversial Playboy Interview HERE!"), Coachella may be a great refresher course on her eclectic music.
At this point, you'd think America would be hoping to actually turn down "Turn Down For What," this French producer's breakout hit with Lil Jon — however, it's getting a second life on the Furious 7 soundtrack alongside his Dillon Francis collabo "Get Low." Beyond his huge hit, Snake is the purveyor of some pretty bangin', trap-influenced, big-room beats — and you should probably prepare yourself for another inescapable hit. "Lean On," his recent collab with Major Lazer and Mad Decent singer Mø, is on its way up the pop charts of pretty much every country except ours.
Last year, Drake tried to take the summer off. With the ease in which he has dominated the charts the past few years, it was hard to tell. Back with a surprise mixtape (If You're Reading This It's Too Late) and several festival dates lined up (including his own OVO Fest in August), his Sunday night headlining set is not just promotion for new music but a victory lap following a steady reign as one of hip-hop's hugest stars.
Over five years and two albums, these Nineties alt-rock trailblazers defined the shape of emo and post-hardcore to come: No Drive Like Jehu, no At the Drive-in, Hot Water Music, Cursive, et al. Last year, after 19 years of inactivity, the band, whose members went on to play in Rocket From the Crypt and produce Blink-182 records, reunited for what looked to be a one-off, organ-accompanied gig in San Diego — except that now they have seven shows lined up for 2015, including Coachella and ATP Iceland.
Emerging British singer/songwriter George Ezra, 21, plays the kind of buoyant folk-pop that often has the intimate feel of a subway busker but can still make it to the Saturday Night Live stage. His debut, Wanted on Voyage, was Number One for three non-consecutive weeks on the U.K. album charts and included two big European hits that are finally reaching U.S. airwaves. Ezra spent the first part of the year opening arenas for Sam Smith: the Coachella dates will be a great place to see how much his earnest charm is rubbing off on America.
Fleet Foxes vet Josh Tillman stumbled upon a drug-addled, narcissistic and oft-hilarious beardo rock star persona in Father John Misty. Filled out by extravagant orchestration, sunny Seventies rock production and Tillman's dew-kissed witticisms, I Love You, Honeybear stands as one of millennial angst's crowning moments. Live, he's a troublemaker unafraid to roast his audience for their obsession with filming crappy Vines and he recently added a heart-shaped "No Photography" neon sign to his stage decor.
Since the release of her debut album's lead single "Two Weeks," FKA Twigs has quickly become one of R&B's most compelling new artists — her songs are syrupy without congealing, weird without being alienating. Everything is adding up for her show to be one of Coachella's most talked-about moments: her performance skills, eclectic dance background, emphasis on visual art and new single "Glass and Patron."
Led by belter Florence Welch, these Brits are gearing up for a big return with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, their third studio album and first since 2011's certified Platinum Ceremonials. In a statement, Welch said that Beautiful will focus on "trying to learn how to live, and how to love in the world rather than trying to escape from it"; and the grandiose lead single "What Kind Of Man" shows that the band's larger-than-life scope has only grown since they laid down tracks like the crashing "Dog Days Are Over."
Flying Lotus's speaker-shredding beats and eye-melting 3-D projection light show make for a live experience felt for days. He's already somewhat of a legend for a solo catalog that twitches along the outer fringes of hip-hop, jazz and electronic music — last year's You're Dead was Rolling Stone's dance album of the year — but he's slowly building an even bigger reputation. Most notably FlyLo returned Kendrick Lamar's guest-verse favor by producing "Wesley's Theme" on To Pimp A Butterfly: His space-fusion anchored the very first track you hear on the year's most talked-about album.
In about a year, this Norwegian wunderkind went, basically, from bedroom producer to the composer of Ultra Music Festival's official theme song. It's the kind of lightning-fast success story that's common in EDM these days, but luckily Kygo brings something fresh to the festival crop. Dubbed by some to be a purveyor of "tropical house," Kygo offers chilled, melodic beats with a Balearic twist — no bludgeoning bass here. His vocal-heavy new single, "Stole the Show," is already earning European chart success.
Two of 2014's most claustrophobic post-punk albums came courtesy of the same Brooklyn outfit — albeit under different names. Both Parquet Courts' Sunbathing Animal and Parkay Quarts' Content Nausea are rife with confrontational, pit-stirring assertions that both outsmart and outpace their indie-rock colleagues. A scream-along on Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" is not out of the question.
From My Bloody Valentine in 2009 to Blur and the Stone Roses in 2013, Coachella is often the first (and sometimes only) North American landing spot for reunited U.K. alt-rock bands. This year, that honor goes to recently reformed shoegaze pioneers Ride. The Nowhere band initially broke up in 1996, but following the dissolution of Oasis and subsequently Beady Eye, guitarist Andy Bell was finally able to bury the hatchet with fellow Ride founder Mark Gardner. Coachella was supposed to be Ride's first U.S. show since 1992, but they've since added an April 8th gig at Los Angeles' the Roxy because, as the band wrote on Facebook, "You didn't really think the first time we would be walking on stage to play together in the U.S. would be in front of thousands of people at Coachella, did you?"
Run the Jewels — the hip-hop super-duo featuring Killer Mike and El-P — put out Rolling Stone's Best Rap Album of 2014, Run the Jewels 2. Its blend of gritty production and old-school, confrontational rhymes mix condemnations of society's ills like police brutality ("Early") with good-time, chest-puffing braggadocio ("Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1"). It's a Molotov cocktail that plays out just as well live as it did in the studio, as they've proven lately on Conan and at their gig in a decommissioned Paris train station.
Having performed as Squarepusher since 1995, Tom Jenkinson enters the EDM era as a progenitor of dubstep's proggier strains, an early adopter of Flying Lotus-style jazz fusion experiments and no stranger to a ridiculous light show. He'll be promoting his upcoming 14th album, Damogen Furies: Track "Stor Eiglass" sounds like trance music dragged through a forest of jittery breaks.
Genre-bending and virtuosic, Annie Clark's twisted, future-shock rock has garnered attention from the likes of David Byrne and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (she'll be performing with the latter in May). Coachella is part of a festival-heavy 2015 for Clark, whose schedule this summer is heavy on multi-day affairs like Roskilde and Governor's Ball. But her formidable chops and left-field approach to songwriting, both of which made St. Vincent one of last year's most compelling releases, can leave even a polo field-sized crowd spellbound.
Kentucky-born Sturgill Simpson's psychedelia-streaked Metamodern Sounds In Country Music was nominated for Best Americana Album at the 2015 Grammys and named the second best country album of 2015 by Rolling Stone — but he's way past genre distinctions. An outlaw in the tradition of Waylon Jennings, Simpson also isn't above covering (and devouring) New Wave hit "The Promise" by When In Rome. The recent Atlantic Records signee is only the fourth act to be booked by both the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals — joining elite company of Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam and the Avett Brothers — and brings the antithesis of EDM-tinged arena country to live shows that send steel guitar into the stratosphere.
They may have not released any new music since 2003, but Steely Dan remain an extremely impressive live act and classics like "Hey Nineteen" and "My Old School" sound as good now as they did 30 years ago. Contemporary Dan fans include all sorts of hitmakers and producers like Mark Ronson, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, who sampled them for "Champion." As Donald Fagen told Complex, "We said 'No,' at first, and then he wrote us a handwritten letter that was kind of touching, about how the song was about his father, and he said, 'I love your stuff, and I really want to use it because it's a very personal thing for me.'" The show should also be a nice preview of Steely Dan's upcoming summer co-headlining tour with Elvis Costello and the Imposters.
This Belgian singer — a smash in his home continent — has mastered quite a range of styles. While his early material played with everything from Cuban beats to French chanson, his 2010 breakout pop hit, "Alors on Danse," mixed a healthy helping of all of that with hip-hop and Euro-house. Even though that song has topped 54 million YouTube plays, he's aiming at the United States. And his chances look good: After a big SXSW, he's sitting on an upcoming song on the next Hunger Games soundtrack.
Three years after Tame Impala's second album Lonerism broke them out as a critical favorites, the Aussie psych-rock group has slowly begun ramping up to the release of new LP, Currents. The record's first official single — "'Cause I'm a Man" — finds the group exploring cinematic, blue-eyed Seventies soul, while its other available tune, "Let It Happen," indulges a lite-rock approach to Nuggets-style kaleidoscope prog. Both top out at over seven minutes and were performed solely by main man Kevin Parker.
After profile-boosting collabos with Ariana Grande, Drake and Sia, the Weeknd now finds himself in a position where Jack White is serving as his opening act: He announced on Twitter on March 26th, "Just found out that I'm now CLOSING the night at COACHELLA. This is such an honor." The woozy, lovelorn Toronto R&B star ascends from anonymous Drake-approved mixtape marvel to full-fledged festival headliner with a pair of Saturday night performances. Fresh off his biggest solo hit yet with "Earned It," the Weeknd's Coachella gigs, which have some major special guest potential, will serve as a test run before Abel Tesfaye and company play Lollapalooza later in the summer.
Last year's Lazaretto showed how Jack White has matured beyond his candy-colored blues-rock roots — its wide scope and elder-statesman attitude shored up his reputation as a musical innovator with chops and wit to spare. And now that he's partnering in a digital store to complement his vinyl-crazed Third Man Records — last month, he became one of the investors in the HQ streaming service Tidal — the White Stripes founder and keeper of real rock's flame can be seen as one of rock's bonafide businessmen. His Saturday's headlining gigs are two of the three scheduled shows he has in 2015 (he's flying to Honolulu in between). Plus, he collaborated with Robert Plant at Lollapalooza Argentina — even if his Coachella set doesn't bring a similar surprise, it'll still likely be one of the most explosive rock shows of the weekend.