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Coachella 2016: 25 Must-See Acts

Headliners and emerging artists that will define your weekend – and maybe your year

Coachella 2016

Guns N' Roses, Calvin Harris and Halsey are must-see shows at Coachella 2016

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For the 17th 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 and one monster reunion — that could set the tone for the weekend(s) and beyond.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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The 1975

The spectacular live shows put on by this group of British blokes were made for a festival setting. Songs like the giddily snarky "Love Me" and the playfully biting "UGH!" are simultaneously syllable-stuffed and anthemic; and frontman Matty Healy's hyperactive, fanciful stage presence brings to mind both Michael Hutchence and Freddie Mercury. Their U.S. fanbase so far remains incredibly devoted but relatively small; playing to Coachella's minor-metropolis-sized crowds should give them a leg up in the pop world that their second album, I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware of It, is clearly aimed to dominate.  

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Courtney Barnett performs on stage at the Forum on November 25, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by C Brandon/Redferns)

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Courtney Barnett

Aussie alt-rock star Courtney Barnett's Indio adventure extends a winning streak that spans back to her last Coachella appearance in 2014. Sure, there was her Best New Artist Grammy snub – Meghan Trainor of "All About That Bass" fame got it – but she has otherwise nabbed nearly every songwriting honor put in front of her for last year's Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Expect to hear those songs – but Barnett could use the occasion to air out her version of the Grateful Dead's "New Speedway Boogie" off the forthcoming massive Day of the Dead comp. Known for propping up acts she admires with her band T-shirt choices, the avowed GNR fan just might cruise the fest's merch for her performance wardrobe.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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Alessia Cara

Pop's reigning introvert has had quite the year, with the stormy "Here" and the brash "Wild Things" attracting crowds despite their arm's-length attitude. The 19-year-old will pack her set with tracks from her debut Know-It-All, bringing her moody brand of R&B-infused anthems to Indio's wide-open spaces. Cara, who won the Breakthrough Artist at the Juno Awards earlier this month, is just getting started playing to big crowds: In addition to being on the schedule for festivals like Firefly and Lollapalooza, she'll be the opening act for Coldplay's stadium jaunt later this year.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 28: MC Ride of Death Grips performs during Riot Fest at the National Western Complex on August 28, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

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Death Grips

Will they or won't they? The combustible anarchist noise-rap crew have a seemingly endless string of headlines involving band breakups, no-shows, and "final" albums on their sweat-soaked dossier. If they show, the oft-elusive Death Grips could use the occasion for their most brutal set to date – or just the latest bird-flip on one of music's biggest stages. Their latest studio album, Bottomless Pit, is reportedly due later this year.

Flume

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 17: Flume performs at Le Trianon on March 17, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns)

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Flume

When he made his Coachella debut two years ago, Harley Streten, the Australian DJ who performs and records as Flume, was already a major EDM star on his native continent with a well-received self-titled 2012 album under his belt. But the remix of Lorde's "Tennis Court" that he debuted during his set helped make his name in the U.S, and he continued to gained fans on the festival circuit while drawing critical raves as well: Rolling Stone dubbed his patriotic set one of the highlights of that year's Lollapalooza and noted that he had the best fans at the Governors Ball as well.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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Girlpool

The duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad recorded their debut full-length, Before the World Was Big, while still in their teens, then moved from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, a city that becomes more of a bustling indie-rock hub each day. Less than a year later, Girlpool makes their Coachella debut. The duo's sound – just guitar, bass and two voices joined in close, supportive harmonies – recalls the K Records bands of the Nineties, a sharp contrast to the weekend's high-volume EDM and heavy rock. But Tucker and Tividad both have voices that can fill a room, and that will ring out loud and strong in the desert as well.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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Guns N’ Roses

The Coachella reunion of Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan – all part of the Guns N' Roses lineup that dominated hard rock in the late Eighties and early Nineties – will serve as a preview for the reconstituted band's stadium tour this summer. Rose won't be whirling around the stage thanks to a foot fracture, which he suffered during the reconstituted group's preview show at Los Angeles' storied rock club The Troubadour. "This is what happens when you do something you haven't done in nearly over 23 years," he tweeted on Friday, adding a "Get in the Ring"-style emoticon for good measure. He performed the group's Coachella warm-up shows in Las Vegas while seated on Dave Grohl's recuperative throne, and it did little to muffle the spark with his once-estranged bandmates.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Halsey performs on stage at the O2 Academy Brixton on February 23, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)

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Halsey

Just a year after "New Americana" made her a star, 21-year-old Ashley Frangipane is shaking her head at the response to her breakthrough hit. In an interview with Rolling Stone in February, she called it "this tongue-in-cheek song that kind of got shoved down people's throats. It became this cultural anthem that it wasn't supposed to be, and it got so blown out of proportion." Regardless, expect that song to be a major festival sing-along, and for plenty of festival-goers to be just as familiar with the rest of her sexy, edgy, catchy full-length debut, Badlands.

Calvin Harris

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Calvin Harris performs onstage during Z100's iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2015 at Madison Square Garden on December 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)

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Calvin Harris

The U.K. hitmaker will headline the third night of the festival, making him the first DJ in Coachella history to occupy the top slot. Forbes declared Harris the highest paid DJ of 2015, and this headlining gig further confirms his dominance in the worlds of both dance and pop — he's the rare EDM festival attraction who also regularly scores radio hits. Harris hasn't released a new full-length album since Motion, which Rolling Stone selected as one of the best pop albums of 2014; though he's kept a hold on mainstream ears with his most recent single, "How Deep Is Your Love," a slow-building, piano-driven collaboration with U.K. production team the Disciples.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

POMONA, CA - AUGUST 02: DJs Skrillex (L) and Diplo of Jack U perform during Hard Summer Music Festival at Fairplex on August 2, 2015 in Pomona, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)

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Jack Ü

Paving Justin Bieber's way to respectability with "Where Are Ü Now" was just the start for Diplo and Skrillex, a.k.a. Jack Ü. They kept busy in 2015, and if you want to know just how busy, watch the video for "Mind," released in February, which is packed with clips of their globetrotting performances. Diplo's EDM global fusion smorgasbord Major Lazer will also be performing at the festival, fresh from the trio's historic March gig in Cuba. While in Cuba, Diplo also promised that new Jack Ü material would surface around Coachella time.

LCD Soundsystem; Coachella

LCD Soundsystem perform for the first time in 5 years at Webster Hall in New York City on April 27th, 2016.

Photograph by Nicole Fara Silver

LCD Soundsystem

The other big reunion at Coachella 2016 suffers from far less controversy than Guns N' Roses. With no Spaghetti Incidents to speak of, James Murphy's dance-rock powerhouse broke up in 2011, and recently returned for a season of shows. A new album is expected, so Coachella could a display of what their next chapter sounds like.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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Lush

After a 20-year break, this British band, who gained a devoted following thanks to the crafty way they added a dash of cheekiness to shoegaze's blissed-out textures, returns to the stage – and the States. Beloved by Britpop devotees and girl-power acolytes alike, Lush will be bringing new music to the Coachella stage as well: Blind Spot, their first release since 1996's Lovelife, comes out on April 15. ("Out of Control," the first single from the project, is besotted and gauzy, foregrounding the group's otherworldly harmonies.) Later this year, they'll return to the U.S. for a short theater tour.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

UNVERSAL CITY, CA - DECEMBER 9: Yann Gonzalez (L) and Anthony Gonzalez of M83 perform during KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas Day Two at Gibson Amphitheatre on December 9, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

M83

Not unlike the retrophile mastery of Daft Punk, M83 bandleader Anthony Gonzalez's nuanced electro-rock has gradually evolved while still living in some imaginary past. On their just-released seventh album, Junk, inspiration came via TV theme songs from the Seventies and Eighties, and guitar shredder Steve Vai plays a sick solo on "Go!" (A quick peek at his tour routing makes a surprise appearance look unlikely, however.) With plenty of big choruses, bass drops and enduring hit "Midnight City" in their back pockets, this is a set for both glow sticks and closer listening.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Mbongwana Star perform on stage during the 2nd Day of the Womad Festival at Charlton Park on July 25, 2015 in Wiltshire, England. (Photo by C Brandon/Redferns)

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Mbongwana Star

In 2014, producer Liam Farrell travelled to the Congolese city of Kinshasa to record with Coco Yakala Ngambali and Théo Nozonza Nsutuvuidi, former members of the group Staff Benda Bilili; he later overdubbed masterful guitar work from Jean Claude Kamina Mulod back in France. The result was From Kinshasa, an exhilarating mix of the rough clatter of modern Congolese street music with the sweet guitars of traditional soukous that became the most celebrated Afropop album of 2015. The Coachella date will be a rare opportunity for U.S. audiences to experience this Rolling Stone Artist You Need to Know live – the group has just two other American shows booked after the festival before they resume their European tour.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Nathaniel Rateliff of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats performs on stage at The O2 Ritz Manchester on March 10, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Andrew Benge/Redferns)

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Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

The Missouri son of a strict Christian family, Nathaniel Rateliff was exposed to little secular music as a child. So perhaps he's rebelling a bit by yelling "son of a bitch!" on the chorus of his band's breakthrough single. However, their 2015 album for the iconic soul label Stax is driven by Rateliff's gospel influences, even the profane, Gold-certified rock radio hit "S.O.B." With the album selling steadily since its August release, standing out at Coachella could be what elevates the Night Sweats to an Alabama Shakes-level roots-rock phenomenon.

Anderson Paak

Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals (Stubbs)

Photograph by The1point8

Anderson Paak

His first album, Venice, made this 30-year-old L.A. singer and MC a Rolling Stone Artist You Need to Know back in 2014 — that seems like an eternity ago when you consider what he's accomplished since. He contributed to six tracks on Dr. Dre's powerhouse comeback, Compton, and released his own critically acclaimed LP, Malibu. More recently, he dropped "Money on Me," a simmering, self-assured collaboration with Snakehips. As for this Coachella gig, Paak and his touring funk band the Free Nationals are more than warmed up: They performed 13 times in one week in and around South by Southwest.

Sheer Mag

Photograph by Chona Kasinger

Sheer Mag

This hard-hitting Philadelphia quartet rushes forward with punk abandon, driven by Tina Halliday's brassy vocals and guitarist Kyle Seeley's classic-rock-indebted riffs. Last month they released III, their third gritty lo-fi EP in about a year and a half, which included their best track yet, "Can't Stop Fighting," an anthem of feminist solidarity. But the recordings only tell half the story, Seeley says. "Onstage there's so much more energy. And we play our songs a lot faster — sometimes crazy fast," he told Rolling Stone last December. "The live show is where we strive to get that standard, ass-kicking rock-band thing happening. Because that's how we want the music to be consumed."

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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Sia

The hitmaker for the likes of Rihanna ("Diamonds"), Carly Rae Jepsen ("Boy Problems") and others will show off tracks from her recent album of songs she initially penned for other pop stars, This Is Acting. No word on whether or not Dance Moms star and music-video muse Maddie Ziegler will show up for Sia's performances, but given the often-bewigged tunesmith's flair for the theatrical, expecting a desert spectacle isn't entirely out of the question.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: Skepta performs during the Red Bull Studios Future Underground third night at Collins Music Hall on September 11, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images for Red Bull)

Samir Hussein/Getty

Skepta

For nearly a decade, Skepta has been one of the leading lights in grime's creative rebirth, commercially blossoming in the U.K. alongside his brother JME and other members of their Boy Better Know crew. Grime, long kept at arm's length by the hip-hop mainstream across the Atlantic, has edged closer to acceptance in the past year thanks in part to Skepta's friendship with Drake, who has a BBK tattoo and collaborated with him on a remix to WizKid's "Ojuelegeba." He seems determined to break America in 2016, lining up a number of U.S. festivals in advance of his upcoming fourth album, Konnichiwa.

Snakehips

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 29: Snakehips performs at L'Olympia on September 29, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns)

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Snakehips

With its sultry Tinashe vocal and a typically show-stealing guest rhyme from Chance the Rapper, "All My Friends," the woozy late-night dance track about slinking back to a lover who's no good for you after a lousy night at the club, was hot enough to merit a November 2015 Rolling Stone Artist You Need to Know nod for the London-based production duo of Oliver Lee and James Carter. This year, Snakehips once more showed excellent taste in collaborators, with critically lauded L.A. singer/MC Anderson Paak proving a cool and confident vocal match for their new single, "Money on Me."

Mavis Staples

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 19: Singer Mavis Staples performs at FirstMerit Bank UTF-8"?><rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf="htt

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Mavis Staples

Staples is a bona fide soul legend, as the recent HBO documentary Mavis! attests. And, as befitting a legend, the songs on her new album, Livin' on a High Note, were written specifically for the occasion by the likes of Nick Cave, Justin Vernon, Neko Case, Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards and album producer M. Ward. Staples offered her collaborators the same advice that her father, Pops, used to give songwriters who worked with the Staple Singers. "We want to sing about what's happening in the world today," she told Rolling Stone in February. "If it's something going wrong, we want to sing a song that could hopefully fix it.'"

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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SZA

St. Louis-born singer Solana "SZA" Rowe makes arty, sensual modern R&B that's well-matched to her iconoclastic Top Dawg labelmates like Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul. She's remained cultish-ly popular over the course of a series of EPs, but kicked off 2016 by unexpectedly appearing on "Consideration," the opening track of Rihanna's blockbuster album Anti, setting high expectations for her Coachella performances as well as her debut album, A, due later this year.

Tchami

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 27: DJ Tchami performs onstage during day 3 of the 2015 Life is Beautiful festival on September 27, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)

Filmmagic/Getty

Tchami

French house music producer Martin Bresso's 2015 didn't end particularly well — he and frequent collaborator DJ Snake were injured in a car crash in October, and Tchami was forced to cancel his headlining gig at Toronto's Monster Mash festival. But he did drop an EP, The After Life, before the year ended, and now he's back on his feet and behind the decks. Though his big, poppy co-productions with Snake, including "Turn Down for What" and "Lean On," are his most widely known work, Tchami's set will more likely lean toward his subtler "future house" sound, a term he coined to describe his blend of EDM and deep house.

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

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Kamasi Washington

In 2015, no jazz musician broke through to a wider audience as triumphantly as saxophonist Kamasi Washington. First came his brilliant work on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, then his own release, The Epic, a sprawling display of vintage jazz, gospel choirs and pop songcraft. Coachella audiences may get a chance to see how Washington's music has been evolving since then. "I definitely opened myself up," he told Rolling Stone last month. "I've changed up in the way that I approach, on a technical level, certain things. On the newer songs I'm writing right now … they're not in any particular kind of key. It opens up a different approach."

Coachella; 25 Artists; 2016

Photograph by Leslie Dela-Vega

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice's best response to tiring comparisons to their Nineties grunge predecessors is to turn up their amps and let their youthful limbs loose on their instruments. Led by singer-guitarist Ellie Rowsell, the thrilling British proprietors of shoegaze-tinged alt-rock blasted into public consciousness last year with the buzzy and beautiful My Love Is Cool. Listen for a tentatively titled new song, "Yuk Foo," which could be for their next album, currently in the works.

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