The lineup to the 2011 version of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is out, and even though nobody knows what the schedule will look like, fans are already trying to decide who they want to see over the festival’s three days of non-stop music. Of all the major festivals, Coachella’s setting is nearly as important as the music itself, as the desert in Indio both inspires spontaneous fits of joy and painful dehydration. The headliners — including this year’s top-billed acts Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire and Kanye West — always have the benefit of playing in the cool of the evening, but the daytime acts are always fighting against the natural climate. As a result, the afternoon sets tend to be even emptier than they normally are at festivals.
That’s a shame, because this year, there are a handful of top-shelf about-to-pop performers who are well worth braving the hangovers and afternoon heat to check out. Here are the five acts who should force you to pack extra sunscreen and wear a CamelBak.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
The Austin-based blues collective has been picking up steam since the release of their 2009 debut album Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!, and their sweaty live workouts are going to mesh perfectly with the Indio heat.
The esoteric rapper, who has earned a reputation as one of the most delightful personalities on the Internet, also happens to deliver quality — if not entirely bizarre — live performances. At a recent show in New York, he paused to rap about how excited he was to eat his bag of Chinese food he had stashed backstage.
The indie-centric supergroup (containing members of Bon Iver and Solid Gold — among others — and masterminded by producer Ryan Olsen) put together one of 2010′s most underrated albums in Relayted. They play ’80s-inspired soft rock, which should make them a forgettable novelty. However, their songs have an underlying energy that should twitch nicely in the desert. It’d be worth it just to hear them play the epic “The Last Prom on Earth.”
The electronic rock duo put out one of the most criminally overlooked albums of 2010 in Eyelid Movies, a fuzzy dance through rock tropes that doesn’t sacrifice melody for mood. Their set is guaranteed to be everything to everyone, so if you want to dance, you can go nuts, but if you want to bliss out on a sea of peaks and hooks, then you can pull that off too.
The 19-year-old rapper from Baltimore is set to light the underground on fire with her about-to-drop debut album Go! Pop! Bang!, and her blend of street-savvy rhymes and international flavor (inspired in part by label boss M.I.A.) should make for an early party on Sunday afternoon.
What under the radar artists are you most looking forward to at Coachella? Let us know in the comments!