Coachella 2016: Guns vs. Lazers

Festival best bets include headliners and some acts that may not be so obvious

It’s that time again. Right now, a hundred thousand people are planning, packing and getting ready for the 17th installment of what has become the world’s most famous and successful music festival.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival is an institution -- and rightfully so. Losing nearly a million dollars its first year, Coachella sold 198,000 tickets and grossed $84.3 million in 2015. Not only are those figures both world records, as in previous years, all six days of the event sold out long before a single fan set foot on the Empire Polo grounds, and before a single band was announced.

With the recent news that the Indio City Council has voted to allow the festival's promoters, Goldenvoice, to expand attendance from 99,000 to 125,000 in future years of the two-weekend event, it seems that Coachella will break its own world records very soon.

As the perennial festival marches confidently toward hitting the 20-year mark, it becomes more and more entrenched in pop culture. Whether fans routinely attend, watch the live YouTube stream or just read some of the endless amount of press on the event each year, it's become a very familiar event in general, let alone in Southern California. And that is why, for the second year in a row, I can distill my Coachella Survival Guide to less than 20 words:

Drink a lot of water. Wear comfortable shoes. Use sunscreen. Be smart about drugs and alcohol. See many bands.

And now to the most important element of the upcoming six days in the desert: the music.

Below are the best three bands to see each day, along with a stockpile of backups.


LCD Soundsystem: Is James Murphy the new Gene Simmons? Five years ago, the band pulled a move from the Kiss playbook and performed their "last show ever" at Madison Square Garden. Hmm. Now, LCD Soundsystem are back, and a new album is in the works. Despite the shell game, this will undoubtedly be a Coachella highlight.

Mavis Staples: The 76-year-old gospel singer and civil rights activist is a living legend. Her new album, February’s "Livin’ on a High Note," features collaborations with everyone from Benjamin Booker and Aloe Blacc to Nick Cave and Neko Case.

The Kills: Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince’s lo-fi garage-duo return after five years off due to multiple surgeries that repaired tendons in Hince’s hand. The pair’s long-awaited fifth album, "Ash & Ice," is scheduled for release on June 3. Their Coachella performances should preview the new album and include plenty of fan favorites as well.

The rest: Savages, St. Germain, the Last Shadow Puppets, Parov Stelar, Christine & the Queens, M83, Underworld, Joey Bada$$, Foals, Sheer Mag and the Front Bottoms.


Ice Cube: N.W.A founding member Ice Cube (aka O’Shea Jackson) has long hinted that a reunion of his incendiary rap crew was in the works for the back-to-back weekends in Indio. And since Snoop busted out the 2Pac hologram last year, I’m guessing that Eazy-E (Eric Wright) just might take the same form this year. Regardless, this is a "can't miss" set.

Grimes: Sure, Claire Boucher just played Coachella, but that was before she released her pop masterpiece, "Art Angles," at the end of last year. The new songs should propel her already wild performances into the next level.

Vince Staples: Kendrick Lamar may be the new king of hip-hop, but Staples is the crown prince. His 2015 double album, "Summertime ’06," was one of last year’s best and proved that the 22-year-old Long Beach rapper is a whole lot more than just an Odd Future collaborator.

The rest: Lush, Disclosure, Courtney Barnett, the Damned, Ex Hex, Run the Jewels, ZHU, DJ Koze, Matthew Dear, Rhye, Gary Clark Jr., Deerhunter, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Guns n’ Roses.


Major Lazer: After last playing the Mojave Tent in 2013, Major Lazer return to Coachella for a headlining slot. And thanks to "Lean On" -- their 2015 international smash hit -- these two weekend-closing sets should be absolutely bonkers.

Prayers: San Diego’s lone representatives get a chance to shine on the biggest stage they've played to date. Leafar Seyer (Rafa Reyes) and Dave Parley look to push their pioneering "cholo-goth" even further into the mainstream with their two weekends in the desert.

Rancid: Born from influential ska punks Operation Ivy, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman lead their punk quartet in a 25-year anniversary victory lap at Coachella this year. Their new, Brett Gurewitz-produced EP will be released in the coming months.

The rest: Beach House, Flume, Kamasi Washington, Death Grips, TOKiMONSTA, Sia, Wolf Alice, John Digweed, Nosaj Thing, the Vandals, Mint Field, Chris Stapleton, Young Fathers, Girlpool and Deafheaven.

Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of
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