The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has been setting the precedent for music festivals since its inception. In part, this has to do with the time of year — Coachella is one of the earliest festivals of the warm season, set for the weekend dates of April 11-13 and 18-20 this year. It is in this respect that the festival often serves as a signifier for what’s to come later in the year, at the likes of Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza.
Year after year, Coachella manages to nab the most acclaimed talent, turning the valley festival into a powerhouse full of distinguished and up-and-coming acts alike (for instance, back in 2010, I could have seen Public Image Limited, Jay Z and Grizzly Bear in the same night). A quick look over the lineups of the last few years incites astonishment, simmering only into upset for those who could never make it to Southern California for the weekend.
Coachella’s selection of bands for 2014 further proves that it’s the quintessential festival of the century, carrying on its legacy of hosting the best. Even after having enacted a massive, two-weekend event for the festival in 2012, essentially repeating all of the shows twice, the passes have already sold out for both weekends this year. Should you be one of the lucky ones to have already nabbed access to Coachella — or plan to pay far above face price for it later on — I have undertaken the task of assembling the top five sets to see at Coachella.
This was a toughie, given that 2014 is looking pretty pristine. If I were to go several grand in the red to attend Coachella, these are the acts for which I would force my way to the front.
1. All of the headliners, but mostly OutKast (April 11, 18) and Arcade Fire (April 13, 20)
OutKast is touring in support of us loving them, and they decided to hit the festival circuit in celebration of the reunion of André 3000 and Big Boi. They’re doing up The Governor’s Ball and surely several others, but Coachella’s going to be their first stop. The group’s Friday set, especially during first weekend before attendees leak all of the videos they shot to YouTube, will be one to watch. This is worth foregoing a whole day of shows just to get in the line early for OutKast.
Arcade Fire’s arrival at Coachella comes with less surprise (the band also headlined in 2011) but with 2013’s “Reflektor” under their belts, the formally clad crew might bring their fresh, dancier vibe to the Sunday festival experience. Kudos to the Coachella-goers that abide by the band’s request for formal attire at their shows.
Muse is headlining on the Saturdays of the festival, which would be great if I was still 13.
2. Motörhead (April 13, 20)
These punk-inflected metalheads have been going at it since the mid-1970s, and I sincerely doubt that the years have treated them kindly. However, I still believe this band can melt face (a good thing). I live for moments like the introduction to “Ace of Spades,” and the rest of the record of the same name is one of the most quality metal releases to date. Sure, heat exhaustion might be more imminent with the rage Motörhead will fuel, but to me that would be a small price to pay. I am unable to think of a more felicitous way to burn out at Coachella than with a Sunday Motörhead set.
3. The Replacements (April 11, 18)
For those not in the loop: This is the band that directly influenced the band that inspired the band you listen to now (the indie, “innovative” band full of early 20-somethings).. The Replacements’ reunion is old news, having played some shows together in summer 2013. That said, at the time, these were the first U.S. concerts the band had done in more than two decades. To write that I would feel awestruck by seeing the Replacements perform cuts from their prime in 2014 would be a vast understatement. The crew is on right before OutKast on Friday, so don’t lose your breath entirely.
4. Neutral Milk Hotel (April 13, 20)
Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum did a bit of touring the last time we dealt with winter, and that in and of itself generated a ripple in the sphere of music nerds everywhere. Now, in a feat thought impossible, it looks like Mangum was able to persuade the rest of his band to come with him. The band behind “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” is shrouded in as much mystery as acclaim, and a festival stop for such a group seemed preposterous. So unimaginable that I would beg to see it.
5. Disclosure (April 13, 20)
The 2013 that Disclosure witnessed was reflective of a band that traveled the line from underground to fame quickly. This ultimately means its a primetime act at Coachella Sunday evening. The electronic dance duo from the United Kingdom nailed it with 2013’s “Settle” this past summer, a record full of rapturous beats with poppy, melodic counterpoint. In other words, Disclosure’s slated to curate a near-desert dance party at Coachella. It doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of them before or not, because it’s going to pull you in.