There’s been a ton of conjecture about how Coachella is going to be this year. Everyone from Diplo to your Aunt Susie has an opinion and, of course, the most vocal ones are on the level of: “This is the worst festival lineup ever!”
Surely, the headliners aren’t that exciting (especially considering Colorado has two outta three in Broomfield in the coming months), but A.) The Black Keys can rage it in front of a big crowd, B.) Radiohead always (and I mean always) kills it live and C.) Dre and Snoop together will be super fun, especially with the former’s long-awaited “Detox” forthcoming. But, still, heed these words: Forget the headliners. At Coachella, they represent three of over a hundred acts. At big festivals, the meat of the sandwich is right where it should be: in the middle. So, what’s the grade of the beef this time around?
At Coachella in 2012, it’s pretty damn good. Pulp plays the U.S. for the first time since reuniting last year; It will be hardcore. The same goes for post-rock, well, gods, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. GY!BE got back together in 2010 but hardly ever play live. Jeff Mangum, the man behind Neutral Milk Hotel, has also sparsely played shows since his recent return to the fold. The two NMH studio records are nearly faultless; it will be a joy to hear cuts from them in person. At the Drive-In is also back, as is the coup de grâce of the Coachella reunions: Refused, the Swedish hardcore band that’s been broken up since 1998.
But, it’s not just the surprises — the kind that Coachella has become known for — that make the heart of its batting order ready to hit. St. Vincent, Tune-Yards, Real Estate, Black Lips, Yuck, WU LYF and many more will take the stage in the daytime. And as any seasoned vet of these giant festivals knows, the sunny hours are the best time to see tunes without 75,000 sweaty drunks between you and the stage. (It might have technically just sold out, but you’ll be able to find a ticket to one of the two weekends if you really want to go. We heard your aforementioned Aunt Susie has a pair.)
So, does the formula translate to our own backyard? Hell yes. Sure, TV on the Radio and some off the larger electro names like Rusko and Bassnectar at Snow Ball will be fun, but if you want to go, look down bill. Unknown Mortal Orchestra will lend its fuzzy ’60s tunes to the proceedings while Deer Tick’s gruff, angular rock should get the party started right. And nobody likes to party more onstage than Detroiters Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and locals A. Tom Collins. Other solid Colorado representation — that will, hopefully, keep your mind off of your blue fingers — comes courtesy of Gauntlet Hair, the Lumineers and Nathaniel Rateliff.
I’ve been to Lollapalooza, CMJ, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and South by Southwest a number of times, as well as Pitchfork, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, All Points West, Snow Ball and others. And to be considered a success, the lesser-known acts have to be well-chosen and ready to keep you from loitering at the beer tent. While the festivals, themselves, use headliners as marketing tools and most media outlets (not us!) linger on the big guns, the daylight hours at these festivals are their time to shine.