Way back in January, just for the hell of it, your favorite scrappy alt-weekly decided to apply for credentials for weekend one of Coachella. We didn't expect anything of it. This is the biggest musical event on the planet, after all, so they absolutely can be choosy about who they let in.
But then, last month, a funny thing happened: Our request was approved. We're going to Coachella, baby!
We'll be giving you updates from the festival every day this weekend, but first, we've got a little taste of what we're most excited to see in Indio. Culled from a massive lineup and listed in alphabetical order, here are our favorite acts on the Coachella lineup. Douglas Markowitz
In late December of last year, posters were plastered along Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles with a familiar image: U.K. electronic music god Aphex Twin's infamous logo, surrounded by concentric circles descending into a wormhole of psychedelic geography. The imagery, borrowed from Aphex Twin’s 2018 EP Collapse, held a key addition, with big block letters in a familiar font: Coachella.
After largely being dismissed as a rumor for a week or two, the announcement was made official: Aphex is coming to Coachella 2019. Three decades deep, Collapse proves the producer also known as Richard D. James is nowhere near the threshold of his creative output. James will return to Coachella for the first time since 2008, where he was a late addition to Friday’s lineup (headliner: Jack Johnson). Now, as Saturday night’s most prominent electronic act, he’ll play to more than twice the crowd and bend our senses to his liking. Gerrit Feenstra
Nigerian singer Burna Boy spent the better part of the last year building steam on his third continent. While he won Best New Act of the Year at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards back in 2013, Damini Ogulu has made moves since then in the U.K. and in the states. After working on songs for Drake’s More Life project, Ogulu’s 2018 LP Outside featured collaborations with Lily Allen and J Hus. Since then, he’s cameoed on a Fall Out Boy album and dropped a full EP with Los Angeles production duo DJDS. Ogulu is on track for the stars, and this year’s Coachella stop, alongside fellow Nigerian singer and “Miss You Bad” collaborator Mr Eazi, is the latest step in an unstoppable trajectory. GF
If you are the type to wonder why God gives all the talent in the world to some people and none to others, Charlotte Gainsbourg is not a good person to dwell on. As an actress, she's been gratuitously celebrated for her work with director Lars von Trier, among others. As a singer, she's five albums deep into a stunning career, backed by producers like Beck, Danger Mouse, and Daft Punk. The daughter of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin and an actress since age 14, she's grown into an artist’s life with grace and poise, and each new release showcases fresh life lessons put forth over lush French pop soundscapes. While Gainsbourg made an appearance at the Fonda in Los Angeles last year, her performance here at Coachella will likely mark her most prominent U.S. show yet. GF
Kieran Hebden doesn’t tweet often, but when the electronic producer known far and wide as Four Tet does tweet, he usually has something exciting to tell us. For example, February 21, 2019: “The Nelly Furtado sample has been cleared.” Hebden’s “Only Human”, which samples the opener from Furtado’s classic LP Loose, may just be the dance track of the year. Four Tet has explored a vast landscape of sounds over his 20-year career, ranging from experimental house and garage to 20-minute conceptual ambient works like Morning/Evening. But when Hebden decides to go full bore into dance territory, the result is pure magic, and there's little an audience can do to but relinquish control and let the pounding four-to-the-floor beat guide the night forward. GF
Kanye West's on-again, off-again flirtation with Coachella 2019 has been aggravating. He backed out of the fest after they wouldn't meet his demands to build him a giant dome, only to make a surprise return with his "Sunday Service" — on weekend two only. Bummer. At the very least, one of Kanye's more notable collaborators — Mike Lévy, the producer best known as Gesaffelstein — will be holding it down on both weekends.
Back on 2013’s Yeezus, West placed a big bet on French house and won, with Daft Punk tackling album opener “On Sight,” and two more French producers, Brodinski and Gesaffelstein, bringing the fireworks on “Black Skinhead” and “Send It Up." A week after Yeezus, Mike Lévy dropped a bomb on his audience with “Pursuit”, a John Carpenter-esque acid trip dance track that instantly put Gesaffelstein on lips across the globe. The accompanying album, Aleph, was just as fierce. Since then, Lévy has worked with The Weeknd, Pharrell, and HAIM on his own new record, Hyperion. Gesaffelstein’s Sunday night set will ensure that no stars are missed in the pursuit of the moment. GF
Let's Eat Grandma
It’s hard to be weird in 2019, but British electronic duo Let’s Eat Grandma pull it off. Childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth have grown into their adult selves making music together, setting their fears about the outside world to pop music for years and years. In turn, even with only two records to their name, Let’s Eat Grandma feel remarkably fully formed, subtle, yet surprising, letting wry wit counterbalance their brooding pop creations. After only a handful of North American dates in support of I’m All Ears last year, Let’s Eat Grandma return to California to top their biggest stage yet, where the Sophie-aided bass of “Hot Pink” will shake the desert floor beneath them like never before. GF
Somehow, despite playing more festivals than any other DJ in 2018, Nina Kraviz is still ready for more. The Russian dentist-turned-techno master has quickly become one of the biggest names in dance music, thanks both in part to her insane work ethic (seriously, what do they feed them out east?) and her label Trip, which has released record after record of very good, very hard techno. At Coachella, Kraviz will debut a new live audio-visual show alongside new music, marking the next stage of evolution for this exciting artist. DM
Is anyone having a bigger year than Rosalía? Coachella will mark the Spanish singer’s major festival stage of 2019 after Lollapalooza Argentina in March, and after Coachella, she'll move on to Primavera and Glastonbury. It’s all deserved, though — few records in 2018 had the arresting power of 30-minute stunner El mal querer. With singles like “Malamente” and the “Cry Me A River”-sampling “Bagdad”, Rosalía proved her immense prowess for storytelling and star power. Plus, an appearance on James Blake’s excellent new album Assume Form showed that she can shine in any context. This big-font appearance at Coachella 2019 is a well deserved reception into the pop history books. GF
Back after a busy three years, Scottish dance music producer Sophie returns to the Coachella valley a far cry from the artist we saw then. Back in April 2016, she was still riding the wave of Product, a collection of early hit singles like “Lemonade” and “Bipp” released on CD, vinyl, and (seriously) sex toy. She had also just worked on the Vroom Vroom EP with Charli XCX, which seemed in that moment to embody the future of pop music in a way that no one else could event comprehend. Fast-forward three years, and the political and interpersonal context Sophie exists in have changed. Her 2018 LP Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides captures this cultural commentary magnificently without sacrificing a touch of the kinetic, visceral production she is known for. This year, her fans will get to celebrate her massive strides both artistically and commercially in top form. GF
The last time I saw Yves Tumor live, he was screaming at the sound guy from his place on an outdoor stage in front of a sparse crowd. His set was mostly harsh noise. He didn't face the audience, preferring to focus instead on the guttural dissonance he was putting through the speakers. It was one of the most captivating things I've ever seen.
To say that Yves Tumor, a.k..a Sean Bowie, has gone through an artistic transformation since then would be an understatement. His new record Safe in the Hands of Love, one of last year's best releases, is basically a pop album. To be fair, there's still no shortage of noise and abrasive content on this record — take the paranoid, symphonic, police brutality ballad "Noid" — but it's mixed in with beautiful, '90s-sounding arrangements like "Licking An Orchid" and dance jams like "Honesty." It's a gripping piece of work, and however Bowie takes it live is bound to be more fascinating than 90 percent of what goes on at Coachella. DM