Wednesday, April 05, 2017

2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Preview

A look back at Coachella 2012 / Photo: Robert Kinsler
One of the best things about springtime is the arrival of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, better known simply as Coachella.

The 2017 edition of Coachellafest will feature headliners Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar. The event will be held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio April 14-16 and April 21-23.
Coachella 2015 / Photo: Robert Kinsler

This round-up will highlight my "wish list" of performances that I hope to catch at Coachella. However, there is always the good chance that two or even three of my "must see" artists will be performing at the same time confirming the age-old advice that life is often about making choices. With 180 or so acts performing, it is simply impossible to see every artist at the festival. And it would be criminal to not carve out some time to enjoy the always-impressive art installations that inhabit the polo club grounds during the event.

Fridays, April 14 and 21
Klangstof / Photo credit: Jack McKain

Fans of the artistic approach of Radiohead, As Tall As Lions and Other Lives will want to get to Coachella early Friday to catch Klangstof. This writer was more than impressed by the power of the Norwegian band's 2016 release Close Eyes to Exit. The experimental instrumental track "Doolhof," intense "Hostage," and sweeping "Island" are all selections I hope to see the group perform at the festival.

Those looking to groove and move to the music will find plenty of company when Glass Animals takes the stage. The group's 2016 album How To Be Human, is filled with a great batch of dance-minded tracks mixing up electronica, synthpop, trip hop and indietronica. My favorite on the album is "Life Itself," a stunning foray capturing the intoxicating spirit of the Oxford, England-based quartet.  

Guided by Voices / Photo: Sandlin Gaither
Guided by Voices is set to release August By Cake on April 7, perfect timing for those who plan to catch Robert Pollard and company at Coachellafest. The new album will reportedly be a double-disc affair, and feature 32 tracks. Dayton, Ohio-spawned Guided by Voices has been a leading artistic voice on the indie rock scene since the mid-1980s and it's fitting that the group will bring its mix of indie rock, punk, lo-fi and prog rock to Indio. The strength of the first single from the album, the dynamic "Hiking Skin," has further excited the faithful.

The highly-anticipated return of Radiohead to Coachella is especially sweet because a majority of the band's Southern California fans couldn't get into their two Shrine Auditorium performances in Los Angeles in August 2016. The British rock quintet's upcoming appearances at Coachella (their first at the festival since 2012) mark a chance to see the band play material off their ninth studio album, 2016's A Moon Shaped Pool. That album was one of the best of 2016 and immerses listeners in a world blending acoustic, symphonic and electronic soundscapes adorned with intoxicating rhythms, sound effects and singer Thom Yorke's ethereal vocals. 

Saturdays, April 15 and 22

DREAMCAR (from front to back: Tony Kanal, Davey Havok,
Adrian Young and Tom Dumont) will release its debut
self-titled album on May 12. Photo: Steve Erle
There has been a burgeoning buzz about DREAMCAR, a new supergroup teaming No Doubt's Tony Kanal (bass), Tom Dumont (guitar) and Adrian Young (drums) with AFI frontman Davey Havok (lead vocals). The first single off the quartet's forthcoming Columbia Records debut, the infectious single "Kill For Candy," has a thrilling '80s new wave sound that recalls early Flock of Seagulls. 

Local Natives are arriving at Coachella less than a month after the release of their excellent new single "I Saw You Close Your Eyes." The song is awash in dreamy synths and a lush soundscape. One of Los Angeles' most hailed young artists, Local Natives released their much-praised third full-length album "Sunlit Youth" in September 2016. 

Northern Ireland's Two Door Cinema Club impressed me mightily when I caught them at Coachella in April 2013. And now they are back, set to perform in support of their latest album, the dance-minded Gameshow. The lead-off track "Are We Ready?"  and classic band cuts such as "What You Know" and "Sun" will transform the Empire Polo Club into a dance floor.

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga, arrives at Coachella at the top of her game, having been featured at the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 5, 2017; that performance attracted more than 150 million viewers across television and other platforms, exceeding the number of viewers who watched the football game! Now she is set to bring her personae and parade of hits to the main Coachella stage. 

Sundays, April 16 and 23

Baltimore-based trio Future Islands is set to release their latest album The Far Field on April 7. As of this writer's deadline, two songs from that LP had been released, including the introspective "Ran" and electronica juggernaut "Cave." Anticipation to see Future Islands perform those and other songs from that disc should make the Coachella sets especially great.

Composer Hans Zimmer has scored a number of iconic scores since the 1980s, including "The Lion King," "Gladiator," "The Dark Knight Trilogy" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean." Because his scores are well recognized for fusing electronic music with traditional symphonic traditions, it makes sense that Zimmer would bring his music to a setting such as Coachella. To be sure, Zimmer will be on stage performing some of his most beloved compositions surrounded by dozens of top-tier musicians for a dramatic presentation. 

New Order / Photo credit: Nick Wilson
New Order's appearance on the main stage at Coachella back in 2005 remains one of my all-time favorite festival performances, with the Bernard Sumner-led quintet featuring amazing original material off its then-new release Waiting for the Sirens' Call. Now the groundbreaking band out of Manchester, England is returning to Indio on the heels of the release of its latest masterwork, the aptly-titled Music Complete that was issued in late 2015. The group's shimmering electronic-adorned synthpop sound is ideally suited to a festival setting.

Robert Kinsler

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in Desert Local News on Monday, April 3, 2017.

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