Photo: Mubashir Abbas Zaidi/Shutterstock

The Best Bands at Coachella You Might Not Know

Music + Nightlife
by Scott Shetler Mar 29, 2010
Coachella is a place for camping, partying and enjoying live music and any and every combination of the three.

The three-day music and arts festival, held April 16-18 (this time around) in the desert town of Indio, California, draws more than 150,000 visitors each year. The 2010 lineup features superstars like Jay-Z, Muse, Pavement, and Vampire Weekend.

One of the thrills of Coachella is discovering new bands you hadn’t heard of before. Many of them will be playing early in the afternoon, so don’t let your hangover keep you from catching these great lesser-known acts.

The Avett Brothers

One of the highlights of Coachella’s first day will undoubtedly be this four-man band led by siblings Seth and Scott Avett. Though the Avett Brothers prominently feature acoustic guitar, banjo, and upright bass, it would be a crime to refer to their music simply as folk or bluegrass, because it’s so much more than that.

They deliver each song with a punk rock ferocity. Acclaimed producer Rick Rubin recognized the band’s artistry and signed them to his American Recordings label, where he produced their most recent album, I and Love and You.


Jay-Z might own the headlining slot on Friday night, but earlier in the day another worthy hip hop artist takes the stage. Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. has already earned respect within the industry, having recorded with Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and Slug from Atmosphere, and he’s starting to make a name for himself among the wider music community.

P.O.S. actually began his career as a punk artist and many of his raps feature drums and guitars accentuating frenetic choruses. His newest release is Never Better.


Matt & Kim

If you find yourself groggy after partying on Saturday night, Sunday performers Matt Johnson & Kim Schifino are the perfect antidote. The duo’s spunky melodies and silly pop songs will have you jumping around in no time.

Matt & Kim’s video for “Lessons Learned” ( from their latest record Grand) made them one of the few indie bands to win an MTV Video Music Award in 2009 for Breakthrough Video in which Matt & Kim strip naked while walking through Times Square.

Kate Miller-Heidke

You may not recognize her name, but if you spend a lot of time online you’ve probably seen Kate Miller-Hiedke’s viral video hit, “Are You F*cking Kidding Me?” ( aka ‘The Facebook Song’, featured on Live at the Hi-Fi), a hilarious tale of getting a Facebook friend request from your heartbreaking ex years later.

Miller-Heidke has much more to offer than this novelty song. The rest of the Australian singer’s music is characterized by clever lyrics and theatrical vocals.


White Rabbits

A unique combination of piano, vocal harmonies and multiple drummers makes this Brooklyn six-piece one of the more entertaining acts anywhere. The group has two full-time drummers, and during some live performances as many as four band members bang away on the drums at the same time.

White Rabbits embrace their anonymity – they claim to be the least-known band ever to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman – but their 2009 release It’s Frightening seems about to rip a big chunk out of their obscurity.

Owen Pallett

If you’re in the mood for fist-pumping, ear-shattering hard rock, Owen Pallett is not your guy. But his intricate violin arrangements may well be one of the artistic peaks of the Coachella weekend.

Pallett, who recorded under the name Final Fantasy until the makers of the video game got on his case, creates textured songs by recording violin and keyboard solos and looping them together.

Pallett performs on Sunday, making his set a good opportunity to relax and enjoy some calm and serenity before raucous headliners Pavement and Gorillaz take the stage that night. His latest album is Heartland.

Florence and the Machine

This British group led by Florence Welch won’t be under the radar much longer. Their debut release Lungs won Best Album at the 2010 Brit Awards, the first of what may prove many awards for this talented group.

Florence has been compared to the likes of Kate Bush and Nick Cave for her moody and dramatic style. Many of her songs deal with dark topics like death and violence, but others like “You’ve Got the Love” express a more joyful outlook.

Tokyo Police Club

The Ontario band Tokyo Police Club writes peppy two-minute rock songs loaded with hand claps and group chanting. The band became darlings of the indie rock world with a 2006 16-minute EP and followed that up with the successful full-length Elephant Shell.

They’re music festival veterans, having played Lollapalooza, All Points West, and Bumbershoot. If you missed TPC’s first Coachella appearance in 2007, here’s a chance to redeem yourself.

Temper Trap

Many Americans first became aware of the Temper Trap thanks to the high-profile placement of their song “Sweet Disposition” in the film (500) Days of Summer.

The four-man Australian act teamed up with producer Jim Abbiss, who’s worked with Adele and Arctic Monkeys, to crank out atmospheric rock songs like “Science of Fear,” one of several epic tracks on their debut release Conditions.


Ra Ra Riot

Syracuse-based Ra Ra Riot hit on a successful formula by adding cello and violin to the typical indie rock blueprint. The combination of sounds makes for an entertaining live show.

Rolling Stone named Ra Ra Riot’s last full-length The Rhumb Line one of the top 50 albums of 2008, praising the record for its beautiful, sorrowful songs, many of which were written by drummer John Pike, who died before the album was recorded.


Beach House

One of the highlights of Saturday’s lineup is Baltimore duo Beach House. Alex Scally provides slow, mesmerizing instrumentation while Victoria Legrand supplies dreamy vocals which recall Nico of the Velvet Underground.

Beach House just released Teen Dream in January 2010, their third album overall and first for Sub Pop, which surprised many by cracking the top ten on Billboard’s Rock Albums chart.


Miike Snow

Miike Snow is not a dude but a three-man Swedish electropop group. Critics call Miike Snow one of the few electronic acts that sounds decidedly better live than on record. That’s a big compliment considering great songs like “Animal” from their self titled album, the synth-y pop confection that served as the band’s introduction to the world.

Coachella is the first of three major festivals Miike Snow will be hitting up this summer. Jump on board the bandwagon before your friends do!


Community Connection

If you’re headed to Coachella, you won’t be too far from Joshua Tree National Park. If you’re thinking of detoxing from all the noise and booze in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the U.S. who could blame you? Hop on over to MatadorTripsCalifornia’s Most Spectacular Deserts for a preview.

MatadorNetwork’s California Focus Page gives you ideas for trips and things to do and not to do in California.

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