Three gigantic US music festivals just announced their lineups this week: Coachella, BottleRock, and Governor’s Ball. Headliners for these festivals include rock giants like Radiohead and Foo Fighters, pop stars like Beyonce and Maroon 5, and rappers like Chance The Rapper and Kendrick Lamar.
I broke down the lineups for all these festivals and gave my suggestions for which juggernauts you should see (and which you should skip) and which new up-and-comers you should see. I also included the full lineup posters for each of these festivals, so you can see everyone that’s playing and compare the lineups for each festival.
Coachella (Indio, CA) – April 14-16, 21-23
To start off, let’s discuss the headliners. Of course, you’d be a fool not to see UK rock legends, Radiohead, who released their successful, critically-acclaimed ninth album in 2016, A Moon Shaped Pool (it was also my favorite album cover of the year). Their newest singles, “Burn The Witch” and “Daydreaming”, which feature Thom Yorke’s signature falsetto, are both works of utter genius and the songs’ accompanying music videos are yet another extension of that genius. In terms of the other headliners, I have to admit that I’ve never been a Beyonce fan, so if I was going, I’d skip her set, but obviously many people view her as some kind of goddess, especially after the successful release of her visual album, Lemonade. If you’re a fan of rap, you already know that Kendrick Lamar is a must-see act because his last two records, To Pimp A Butterfly and Untitled Unmastered, have been hailed as masterpieces by fans and critics alike (and I must say, even though rap’s not really my thing, his track “Alright” is catchy as hell).
In regards to other big acts you should see, you have to check out Manchester alternative-dance legends, New Order. The band was formed in 1980 by the remaining members of post-punk band, Joy Division, and they are best known for their song “Blue Monday.” Their last full-length release, Music Complete, came out in 2015 with universal critical acclaim. Another legendary band you should see are Jamaican reggae and ska legends, Toots and the Maytals. My favorite tracks by the band include their cover of “Louie Louie”, “54-46 Was My Number”, and “Pressure Drop”, which all feature in one of my favorite films of all time, Shane Meadows’ This Is England. One other legendary yet strange addition to the lineup was Hans Zimmer, a German composer known for work on films like The Lion King, The Pirates Of The Caribbean, and Inception, the latter of which featured my favorite guitar player of all time, Johnny Marr. It’s strange to think that a bunch of drunk and high hipsters in a desert would be able to appreciate such high culture in this type of setting, but it’ll definitely be a highlight, that’s for sure.
In terms of bands that have released a decent amount of records but haven’t been around for too long, you should definitely see Jagwar Ma (pictured above), who released my second favorite album of 2016, Every Now And Then, and are one of my favorite bands at the minute and are easily one of the best bands in Australia. I’d also recommend seeing a really cool band from LA called Allah-Las who are three albums deep and who sound unapologetically retro with influences like The Doors, The Zombies, The Kinks. Be sure to check out their fantastic song and music video, “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind)” below. There’s also another Australian band playing called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard who are known for their insane musical output despite only being around since 2010 (they’ve released eight full-length albums since 2012) and their schizophrenic fusion of psychedelic rock, prog rock, garage rock, surf rock, Krautrock, jazz, soul, folk, and heavy metal. C’mon, after reading that, how could their set be anything but brilliant and interesting?
While we’re on the topic of Australia, you should also try to catch Pond, one of the many Tame Impala side project bands, featuring Tame Impala’s Jay Watson and Nick Allbrook. Then, there’s also Irish indie rockers, Two Door Cinema Club, who released their latest album, Gameshow, in 2016 and who I’ll be seeing this year because of their support act, Sundara Karma, and because I’m a sucker for TDCC’s earlier singles. You may also want to check out a band from Virginia called Car Seat Headrest who are led by Will Toledo and like King Gizzard, they also have quite an extensive back catalogue despite only forming in 2010. They released their tenth album, Teens Of Denial, to critical acclaim in 2016 and they even scored appearances on Stephen Colbert’s and Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk shows. I’m particularly fond of their track “Fill In The Blank” where Toledo channels the vocal style of Julian Casablancas.
There’s also two bands that I really love who are playing Coachella for the first time after releasing successful debut albums in 2016. I’m very proud of them for scoring slots at such a mega US festival like Coachella and I’ll be seeing them both next year in London. The first band is British synth pop rockers, Blossoms, who I’ve been loving since 2015 and whose self-titled album was one of 2016’s best-selling debut albums in the UK. My favorite tracks of theirs include “Blow”, “Blown Rose”, “Charlemagne”, and “Cut Me And I’ll Bleed.” The second band is Long Island’s duo of brothers, The Lemon Twigs. The band is influenced by the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, and Big Star and consists of Brian D’Addario who does a great Brian Wilson and Michael D’Addario who does a great Keith Moon.
BottleRock (Napa Valley, CA) – May 26-28
When discussing the headliners for BottleRock, it’s another case of hit or miss. You don’t even deserve to go the festival if you plan on missing legendary US rockers, Foo Fighters, who are led by one of rock’s finest spokespeople, Dave Grohl. Even if you’re not a diehard fan, I feel like everybody probably knows at least 10-15 Foo Fighters’ songs just because their music is everywhere. I mean if you aren’t able to spontaneously belt out the words to “The Pretender”, “Everlong”, “Best Of You”, “My Hero”, “Times Like These”, etc. by now, then have you even ever lived? The next headliner, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, are without a doubt another must-see act. Tom Petty, the legendary rock singer-songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has been a mainstay on classic rock radio for decades (especially his track “Free Fallin'”), but he also has a huge following among younger generations, which is really admirable. He’s also known for being a member of the supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys, which consisted of Petty, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison. Now, the third headliner, on the other hand, Maroon 5, is worth skipping altogether because anyone who says they aren’t sick of Adam Levine’s irritating voice being all over the radio for years and years is a bad liar.
Moving down the lineup, you have to check out British indie rockers, Catfish and the Bottlemen, who released their second album, The Ride, in 2016 and have been taking over the world with their new singles “7”, “Soundcheck”, and “Twice.” Led by charismatic frontman, Van McCann, the band are known for their energetic live performances, mainly because of the fact that their fans pride themselves on knowing all the lyrics. Out of all the shows I’ve been to (besides maybe Noel Gallagher’s show), the Catfish and the Bottlemen gig had the strongest sing-alongs. You also absolutely have to see Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, a group that is unlike any other on this lineup. If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary, Charles Bradley: Soul Of America about Bradley’s extremely difficult life as a James Brown impersonator, then you need to watch it because this 68-year-old black man just oozes of pure soul, funk, and most of all: his performance style is the most emotional, passionate, and sweaty singing that you’ve ever seen.
A newcomer that you should see is an English singer-songwriter called Barns Courtney. He doesn’t have an album out yet, but he’s already opened for some big names like Caral Barât (from The Libertines) and Tom Odell. His bluesy and folky sound can be heard on tracks like “Fire”, “Hands”, and “Glitter And Gold.” There’s also an experimental folk pop duo from New York City that’s playing the festival called Lewis Del Mar. I heard one of their tunes “Loud(y)” the other day and was really intrigued because I couldn’t quite put my finger on their sound. I cringed a little bit when I saw the phrase “folk pop” associated with the group because I tend to think of bands like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons, which I really dislike, but keep in mind that Lewis Del Mar are more of an experimental band than anything else, so worry not. I heard about them after seeing a video of a show they played with Blaenavon and Isaac Gracie, both of which I really like and I’ve mentioned both of them before on this blog. I’d highly recommend watching the video of that crazy, intimate gig with those three artists in France and you can do so here.
Unfortunately, between the three lineups, this one seems to be the weakest with the likes of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, House Of Pain, and Gavin DeGraw being easy targets for laughter. However, after digging through and listening to a great deal of artists on the lineup, there’s still a decent amount of artists that I’ve never heard before, so I’m sure there’s plenty of hidden gems that will be playing as well.
Governors Ball (NYC) – June 2-4
Let’s talk headliners first. The obvious one that I would recommend out of the four headliner are French indie rockers, Phoenix, who are best known for their fantastic 2009 record, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which featured hit singles “Lisztomania”, “1901”, and “Lasso.” This would be the band’s first show since 2014 and they’ve also been teasing new music on social media, fueling rumors that the band are due to release their first full-length album since 2013’s Bankrupt!, which was very well-received among music critics. Before I move on to the other headliners and while we’re still on the topic of Phoenix, you should also check out another French group who are playing the festival called AIR. They’re an electronic music duo and they’ve collaborated a few times with Phoenix frontman, Thomas Mars, on tracks like “Playground Love” and “Easy Going Woman.”
Now, for the other headliners. Again, if you’re into rap, you don’t need me to tell you to see Chicago native, Chance The Rapper. He released his latest album, Coloring Book, to widespread critical acclaim and he also received a Grammy nomination for best rap album (and he’s one of the early favorites to win). Another hip-hop artist who is headlining the festival is Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover, who is also a famous actor, writer, producer, and comedian. He released his last album, “Awaken, My Love!”, to critical acclaim and the album is considered his most adventurous yet with ventures into psychedelic soul, funk, and R&B and because of this, I’d say I definitely prefer his sound to Chance The Rapper. After recently hearing his music for the first time (his song, “Redbone”), I already feel the need to go back and listen to more of his stuff because his sound is really funky and soulful and he even reminds me a bit of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, which is always a win in my book.
After just mentioning Parker, it’s a good time to let you know that he’ll also be making an appearance at the festival with Mark Ronson and he’s cryptically listed on the bill as Mark Ronson vs. Kevin Parker. I’m not all that familiar with Mark Ronson’s work, but he did produce Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, so he’s probably doing something right. As for Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, I don’t think I need to say anything besides “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” or “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, which are already classics. The way their name is on the bill implies that they’ll probably be doing some mash-ups and a duel DJ set, which they’ve done together before, but no matter what they do, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t one of the highlights of the festival. Now, on to the dreaded last festival headliner out of the four: Tool. I’ve never been a fan of heavy metal or progressive rock, so I don’t think I can really make a fair comment on their music. In my book, anybody who cites Rush as an influence pretty much automatically goes down a peg or two, so unfortunately I’d say that you’d be better off skipping Tool’s set.
Next, onto some artists from the UK who I think you’d enjoy seeing. The first are Scottish indie rock veterans, Franz Ferdinand, whose last album came in 2013 with Right Thoughts, Right Words and are probably best known for their 2004 track “Take Me Out.” You should also see the British rock duo, Royal Blood, who are expected to release their second album this year, which will be a follow up to their successful, self-titled debut album. They are known for their in-your-face, garage rock sound and tracks like “Out Of The Black” and “Figure It Out.” Last but not least of these Brits, you should see a new band called Vant, who are another band that I’ve talked about a lot before on this blog and I’m excited to say that their highly-anticipated debut album, Dumb Blood, is finally coming out in February. It’s set to feature singles like “Karma Seeker”, “Parking Lot”, “Peace & Love”, and probably my personal favorite: “Fly-By Alien.”
Now, there’s three groups playing here that I’ve already mentioned above, which are Blossoms, Charles Bradley, and Car Seat Headrest, so I’d obviously recommend seeing all those groups. In regards to other bands that I think you should see, I’d give my last shouts to a couple of American bands, the well-established Cage The Elephant from Kentucky and The Orwells from Chicago. Cage The Elephant have been touring their fourth studio album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, which included their hit single “Trouble” while the younger guys, The Orwells, are perhaps best known for their notorious and insane performance of “Who Needs You” on David Letterman a few years ago.