5 Must-See Bands On The Coachella Undercard


So you’re going to Coachella! If you’re anything like me, you’re probably stoked as a surfer staring at the perfect swell about seeing Radiohead live, but you’re praying they don’t imitate their latest release, The King of Limbs and leave the entire audience aurally blue-balled.

You’re searching through your Gmail contacts for that one chick who worked at the Fader or Puma or Skullcandy to try to get a +1 for that party at La Quinta where you get free flip flops, tequila shots and there’s a bounce-house-dolphin-water-slide. Seriously, those things rule.

You’re also probably scouring the fine print of the sunset-colored digital flyer looking for diamonds in the undercard rough. Well, allow me to help you there my friend.

This year’s lineup packs some serious firepower.  I’m not talking about the second or even third biggest typeface bands that everybody knows. I’m not telling you to see the incomparable Jimmy Cliff. I mean you absolutely should, seriously he’s a living legend! I’m talking about the names so small even habitual carrot eaters struggle to make them out. I’m talking about the bands; even some of your hippest hipster pals aren’t hip to.

I won’t tell you to check out Band of Skulls or Fitz & the Tantrums because you should already know that they are absolutely must-sees. Band of Skulls was there in 2010 and absolutely KILLED it. And Fitz will always make an audience thank their lucky stars they’re not deaf. Sorry Marlee Matlin and Cole from Mr. Holland’s Opus.

These five bands that are lower on the lineup card will have you thoroughly entertained by their shows and you’ll look like an absolute festival guru when you navigate your tribe to their smaller and far less hectic stages.



See this band even if it means you have to break off from your posse because they want to sleep in, or listen to drum & bass while looking at passed out Wookies. GIVERS will absolutely delight you. They rocked The Troubadour last year and their shiny, polished, zydeco electronic-y vibes will cure your hangover, heatstroke, headache, or whatever may be ailing you when you stumble to their stage. This quintet has so much fun in every song and their energy is contagious. Some bands are record bands and some bands are live bands, Givers are certainly the latter. You will probably sweat though, so maybe just for this weekend forego the Tom’s of Maine and use some actual aluminum-y deodorant, because unless you’re lame you’ll be dancing your freckles off. Stream Up Up Up. I double dare you to not smile. Oooooh, you’re totally smirking! I win…Again.



This band is great and will soothe even the most downtrodden and exhausted Coachella-ite. If you’re with a high maintenance gal (or guy) bring them to Destroyer and get them some wine. Their kvetching should subside faster than they can say, “I need central air.” I saw these guys at last summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival and their show had me mesmerized. Dan Bejar’s strong stage presence in the absence of charisma is simultaneously befuddling and entertaining. His vocals understandably draw Bowie comparisons and, like so many bands these days, he has no qualms with overtly flaunting his synthy, 80s influences. Their dreamy, ultra-mellow sounds will have a savvy mini throng of hipsters unknowingly undulating to the saxophone solos until they forget they can’t afford their ticket and can’t remember where they parked.


The Growlers

Take off your shoes and look for the smelliest guy around, because he probably has drugs. You may want some. Because there’s nothing quite like losing your mind while clapping your hands and muddying your bare feet to the psychedelic sounds of this SoCal band that sounds like they drunk drove their XKE straight out of the 60s. With so many bands borrowing sounds from the 80s it’s nice to change up the decade and the pace a bit. Ever wonder what would happen if Brian Wilson and Jim Morrison had a baby? Well, then you’re dumb. They’re both boys and you need a lady for a baby. Anyway, check this band out. Their songs don’t do much in the way of progressing, but they’re all about 2 minutes long, so cut them some slack. They growl. That’s why they’re called The Growlers, or maybe they like the fat craft beer jugs, either way, Growl with ‘em. You’ll be glad you did and you may just confuse the Polo Fields of Indio for Max Yasgur’s 600 acre Catskill Dairy Farm. (That’s where Woodstock took place) If only for a song or two, definitely stream “Something Someone Jr,” and feel free to air surf and then do that one dance move where you plug your nose and wave your other hand. That dance move is seriously terrible. It’s like “The Stanky Leg” of yesteryear.


We Were Promised Jetpacks

Despite their name you really ought to give these guys a chance. Maybe just call them WWJP, but then someone may think they’re like a “What Would Jesus Do” band. Hmmph. This is quite the Vlasic dill. Oh, I got it, just call them Jetpacks. Jetpacks are fly and so are these guys. Boom, there you go. Jetpacks are label mates of fellow Scotts Frightened Rabbit, and the second you hear the vocals you’ll understand why they’re mates. Their music however is more modern sounding and certainly riskier. Where Frightened Rabbit consistently relies on classic sounding guitar chords and noisy rock riffs, Jetpacks often use a more varied, and sometimes muted, cinematic sound. This juxtaposition of the traditional with the new creates incredibly unique songs. They sometimes fall back on the very sounds you’d expect from a Scottish rock band, but they mix it up enough to keep the listener engaged and excited for what’s next. Download or stream the epic Keeping Warm and while “The chances of being born are so slim” you’ll be glad you were.


And the final band you should check out at Coachella…



To no surprise, it’s our best new band of 2011 that rounds out the coverage. As you know these guys formed a few years ago the way most bands form, “while on an artists residency on the Island of Crete.” Seriously Wikipedia? Weird. Anyway, you’ve heard their pandemically contagious Tongue Tied in the new iPod Touch commercial with the floppy-headed skinny kids dancing and disappearing behind white blocks. Unlike some bands that have been featured in iAds, these guys are not one trick pony. Their sound varies wildly on their ironically titled first LP, Never Trust a Happy Song. They bounce, they wail, they croon and they keep the listener on their tapping toes. Also bands like this are notorious for attracting beautiful women. So if you’re a single guy looking for the type of beautiful festival girl with face lots of paint and very few inhibitions, this may be your spot. Stream Slow.

Crowd Photo by Monica Christoffels