Headliners. When it comes to music festivals, everybody’s obsessed with who’s headlining. Rumors swirl for months until the big reveal, and there are undoubtedly tons of people who are motivated to stay home or go to a given festival based solely on who’s headlining.
And that’s a shame, because big festivals pack a ton of talent over a multi-day span. The same can definitely be said for this April’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, which announced its lineup in early January. Headlined by a reunited Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean and Travis Scott, it’s plenty top-heavy — but the undercard, AKA the bands and artists whose names are printed in increasingly tiny font on the massive festival poster — is stacked.
If you’re going to Coachella this April and really want to experience some of the best the fest has to offer outside of the “big names,” here are some suggestions for can’t-miss sets. Just know that catching many of these acts will probably require being there all day and taking in some early afternoon sets in the blistering sun. Bring a hat!
Amyl & the Sniffers (Friday)
This upstart Australian punk/garage/glam band released its self-titled debut album in May 2019, and is riding the wave of buzz to a coveted slot at the polo fields in April.
Front woman Amy Taylor, a vocalist with frantic, frenzied energy, is flanked by Bryce Wilson, Dec Martens and Gus Romer, and together the quartet is a brash, in-your-face blast of throwback punk aggression and pissed-off lyricism.
On the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum is L’Impératrice, a French collective that plays a groovy style of disco/pop.
Forming in 2012, the six-person ensemble plays a style of music so dance-oriented and well suited to new audiences it’s easy to imagine their performance at Coachella becoming a big hit of the weekend.
The Hu (Friday)
You’ve never seen a Mongolian folk/metal band quite like The Hu. OK, you’ve probably never seen a Mongolian folk/metal band at all, but this ensemble burst forth in 2019 with one of the more captivating new sounds around.
With a style of music utilizing traditional Mongolian throat-singing, classical instruments and dark, ominous hard-rock compositions, the Hu is one of those acts that will definitely amass a large crowd at Coachella merely by taking the stage and playing … their music and epic live show will take care of the rest.
Make sure to catch Bristol, UK-based band IDLES for what promises to be one of the most high-energy crowds of the weekend. The band’s second album, 2018’s Joy As An Act of Resistance earned massive acclaim, its songs touching on hot-button issues including Brexit, masculinity and immigration, to name a few.
Here’s hoping to see this kind of crowd participation on the polo fields.
The Regrettes (Friday)
In the comment section for The Regrettes’ music video for “I Dare You” (off 2019’s stellar How Do You Love? LP) there’s a message that reads, “In case you wondered what the Strokes would sound like with a female singer,” and it’s hard to argue with that. The song does sound eerily reminiscent of the Strokes thanks to jangly guitars not unlike those that put the NYC indie icons fronted by Julian Casablancas on the scene,
But the Regrettes’ music also has a garage/rock, beach-y vibe to it that really resonates — even upon a first listen. The result is a versatile and relentlessly catchy pair of albums that helped put the band on the radar and, now, a spot on the Coachella bill.
It seems like a challenge to put together an album of catchy, edgy pop-punk tunes that touch on serious topics like death, anxiety and depression, but Canadian band PUP did just that with 2019’s appropriately titled Morbid Stuff.
That energy propelled the band to a spot at Coachella 2020, where they seem a logical choice to be another band that earns a dedicated mosh pit on whichever stage they end up playing, with hopefully more than a few fans screaming along with the impassioned vocals of lead singer Stefan Babcock.
Code Orange (Friday)
While there aren’t exactly a ton of hard-rock or “metal” bands on the lineup this year, Pittsburgh’s Code Orange ought to more than pick up the slack. But that’s not to say Code Orange is a “metal” band, even, as the group incorporates elements of indie, punk and hardcore into its sound.
And grunge, too, as evidenced by “Bleeding in the Blur,” taken from 2017’s Forever album. Catch Code Orange if you seek something a bit more aggressive at the festival.
Chicano Batman (Friday)
Chicano Batman is more than an excellent band name. The Los Angeles band formed in 2008 has earned a strong reputation over the years for its psychedelic indie music that leans into tropicalia — all this to say, it’s pretty tough to classify them by a specific genre.
2020 marks the band’s third Coachella jaunt after visits in 2015 and 2017, and that’s a well deserved badge of honor for the group, as is their placement pretty high up on Friday’s lineup. Catch ’em for a good time at the show.
Mannequin Pussy (Saturday)
Three albums in, Philadelphia-based punk outfit Mannequin Pussy earned the buzz necessary to land a vaunted slot at Coachella, and rightly so. 2019’s Patience is a high-energy affair, jagged guitars and propulsive drums pounding ahead as singer Marisa Dabice sings, shouts and screams her way through their alt/rock/punk/indie anthems.
See them on Saturday on the polo fields.
Orville Peck (Saturday)
Just who is the masked country singer Orville Peck? Haunting vocals and a well-maintained mystique propelled Peck to precipitous highs in 2019, as did his debut record, Pony.
While it is known who in fact is the man under the mask and cowboy hat, Orville Peck has enough allure and buzz around him to ensure his set will be one of the most talked-about at Coachella (and Stagecoach the following weekend, as he’s also on that Goldenvoice-curated country festival, too).
Black Midi (Saturday)
Black Midi’s 2019 debut record Schlagenheim turned many heads and earned the young English band a Mercury Prize nomination, and with good reason. The band’s music doesn’t sound like anything but itself, which is the mark of musicians who are truly comfortable in their own space.
Drummer Morgan Simpson frequently gets accolades for his work behind the kit, and taken as a collective Black Midi has a captivatingly fresh sound that is sure to win over many who are in the mood for something distinctly different this year.
Black Pumas (Sunday)
Way down on the third-to-last line of Sunday’s Coachella roster is Black Pumas — a band that’s actually been nominated for Best New Artist at the GRAMMY Awards this year. They’ll almost assuredly lose it to Billie Eilish thanks to her massive runaway success in 2019, but Black Pumas put together quite a year themselves.
The Austin-based blues/soul/rock duo earned acclaim for their self-titled debut album, a collection of songs emanating raw emotion and musicianship far beyond their years. Make sure to catch their set at Coachella no matter what time of day it may be … as they’re poised for big things.
Altin Gün (Sunday)
The less you know about Altin Gün, the better — because pressing ‘Play’ on a Spotify song or YouTube video from this Turkish rock/jazz/psychedelic/folk band, the better. Just go watch them at the festival, if you get an opportunity.
Viagra Boys (Sunday)
Glancing at the Coachella 2020 poster, way down on the second-to-last line of Sunday’s lineup, you’ll notice a phrase: Viagra Boys. It’s a real band, a Swedish post-punk outfit that formed in 2015 with a sound that at times is a strange blend of Lou Reed and “desert rock,” i.e. any project involving Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age.
Viagra Boys’ 2018 debut album Street Worms is a unique listen, vocalist Sebastian Murphy playing the ringleader of this offbeat musical circus. Plus, they dig sports and ruining strangers’ tennis matches, and aren’t afraid to admit it.
Leningrad, or Ленинград as it’s stylized on the Coachella poster, is a Russian ska/punk/folk band that allegedly disbanded at the end of 2019 after a farewell tour … so with that in mind, the group’s two performances at Coachella (one each Sunday) may very well be their final shows ever?
If so, it seems a strong way to bow out. If you haven’t yet heard of Leningrad, that’s OK — though you might have come across this incredible music video that went around social media in 2017:
These fifteen acts from all over the musical spectrum barely scratch the surface of the entire Coachella 2020 roster.
Feel free — nay, encouraged — to dive into the small font and discover some more surprises to catch out at the festival or on the YouTube live stream, if you’re watching at home.