The Coachella 2018 lineup dropped at the start of this month, and by now many people have delved deep into the lineup, from the biggest font to the smallest.
I’ve gone to Coachella only since 2014 (Bothchella since 2015), but I’ve recognized how good the festival is at predicting future success or setting the bar on who made the biggest breakthrough on the festival circuit.
In 2016, I was singing the praises to anyone who would listen that Anderson. Paak & The Free Nationals were the No. 1 can’t miss set of the weekend. His magnificent sophomore album Malibu had dropped in January, and I had gotten a first-hand look at just how talented of a performer he is at SXSW in March. His name was third from the bottom line on Sunday’s bill, but by the time Coachella 2016 rolled around, the hype was so great that he had landed a prime 8:25 PM slot in the Mojave Tent.
Despite being against The Chainsmokers in the Sahara and Beach House on the Outdoor Theatre stage, Paak pulled in a full tent for his weekend one performance. He had in my opinion the best guest appearances of ANY undercard act, as Gary Clark Jr. joined him for a handful of songs before T.I. arrived. The high point of all of Coachella 2016 to me was Paak and T.I. doing Paak’s mega catchy “Come Down”, with T.I. contributing a guest verse.
The word-of-mouth enthusiasm from that set was so great that his weekend two show was noticeably even more packed. Paak didn’t waste that momentum and came even harder for the second go-around, bringing out Kendrick Lamar for “Backseat Freestyle” and none other than Dr. Dre for a medley of his hits, “The Next Episode”, “Still D.R.E.”, and “California Love”. It was a transcendent moment for the young burgeoning rapper who had worked at making it for so long and was finally seeing his star rise. It was also a moment that had me predicting Anderson Paak will be headlining festivals on his next album cycle. It was also eerily similar to Dr. Dre passing the torch to Kendrick by bringing him out during his 2012 Coachella headline set with Snoop Dogg.
The Coachella 2018 lineup is mighty deep and I see a number of acts in the smaller font with the capability of pulling off their own Anderson Paak at Coachella 2016 moment. Some of these acts if billed today would already be much higher than they are, some will need a full run through the American festival circuit this year. But Coachella 2016 is as good a starting point as any — it draws people and outlets from all over the world. Put on a memorable show there and the sky is the limit.
Without further ado, these are sets you’re going to want to say you were at for Coachella 2018.
If you want to talk transcendent, Aussie multi-instrumentalist Tash Sultana was one of the few acts I saw in 2017 that I didn’t previously know who cracked my 25 Favorite Shows of 2017. When I caught her at The Echo in February, I had only heard her Triple J cover of “Electric Feel” and one of her originals and was sold enough to go cover the show. It was super sold out and packed and though she only has an EP to her name she filled her set with jam after jam, playing at least a half-dozen instruments in the process (pan flute, anyone?). Her voice is enough to melt your soul. She sold out most of her upcoming North American tour between festivals. I recommend getting tickets to her Fox Pomona show between Coachella weekends. I’m just going to let her performance of the song “Harvest Love” — an unreleased jam I hope is on her upcoming debut record — do the rest of the talking for me:
I actually caught Sir Sly opening for K. Flay at the Fonda Theatre on Friday night, and had seen them once before at Firefly 2017. I think their 2017 album Don’t You Worry, Honey was one of the year’s most underrated and shows they possess the skills and sound necessary to conquer alt-rock radio — whatever’s left of it. Seeing them at the Fonda, their hooks are as easy to digest as I’ve ever heard and the drops in their songs hit you right in the heart. You can feel the depth to lead singer Landon Jacobs in the songwriting and in the live performance and for being an opening act at the Fonda, they had as big of a crowd as many headliners I’ve seen in LA. The moment that really got me was when he played the tribute to his late mom “Oh Mama” for the first time at Firefly 2017, and he broke down at the end of the song. Check it out.
Too often in electronic music, women have been leaned on just to sing and sometimes write the words that accompany the production. Now that women are finally starting to get their due as producers (and there’s still more that could be done of course), it was only a matter of time until one of those capable of doing both at a high level get their due. Elohim is a producer who also possesses an excellent voice, and almost just as importantly, is easier to relate to than the bros that occupy much of the upper echelon of the electronic music space. Elohim is somehow both mysterious and an open book, not open disclosing her real identity but yet talking openly about serious things like anxiety. It’s no surprise that these things find their way into her music and it has resulted in some seriously deep and mature songwriting. She can still be utilized to sing the hooks on other big-name producers’ tracks, but when you find your way to her Spotify as a result of that, you’re pleasantly rewarded with a slew of awesome original tracks. Her debut album is one of my most anticipated of 2018.
This is a band that should be much bigger than they are. Their 2017 record Communicating was one of the year’s best, and one of the very best breakup albums in recent times. The electronic art pop trio is at a point in their career where they can write the slow introspective jams (“Prison Guard)” they first became known for, as well as ready-to-be-remixed and played in the club bangers (like “Wave to Anchor”). The entire album could score a dramatic film and as evidenced by their El Rey show to close out 2017, their live set has reached new levels. They put thought into every aspect of their show and could flourish in a late-night tent slot at Coachella 2018.
Jorja Smith is blowing up despite not having a debut album to her name yet. The 20-year-old UK singer has collaborated with Drake, Kali Uchis, and most recently Stormzy on the awesome “Let Me Down” that just dropped. She’s an R&B singer with crossover appeal and has Lauryn Hill range in that she can cross genres easily. Her name could be much bigger than her placement on the poster in three months’ time, especially if there’s a release date for a debut album by then.
Cherry Glazerr is a band that has matured a great deal since first appearing on the scene as a teenage garage rock group many years ago. The band graduated from that “Burger Records sound” that many groups get trapped in when they released their record last year Apocalipstick. The production was elevated and the songwriting much more pointed. As a live act, they’re playing venues where you can hear Creevy’s falsetto much clearer over the roaring guitar and keyboards. They have a cult following among teenagers, when I saw them at FYF Fest it felt like I was in high school. At Coachella 2018, they could pull in a solid tent crowd as the first gritty rock band of the day.
Chicago rap act Noname has flexed Erykah Badu potential, a future star in the stoner R&B genre that Badu is basically a founding mother of. Like Chance the Rapper, she’s a product of the Chi-town suburbs and comes with a sound that’s part slam-poetry. Her FYF Fest 2017 set was chill but moving. Her voice is soothing even though many of the topics she sings about are not. “I used to have a name that look like butterflies and Hennessy / I’ll trade it up for happiness but joyful don’t remember me,” she sings on “Sunny Duet”. Her songs are almost always accompanied by delicate and beautiful keyed instruments and her voice floats above them in a mesmerizing way. She has the potential to be that set you see at Coachella 2018 that works your brain the most.
GRETA VAN FLEET
This band secured a Rolling Stone profile before they even dropped their debut album. They sold out multiple shows in Los Angeles in small venues that all took place within a week’s time. There are some that are on the fence — do they sound too much like Led Zeppelin that they’re a rip off? Where do you draw the line when Led Zeppelin themselves ripped off other lesser known musicians on a lot of songs? Sure, Josh Kiszka sounds eerily similar to Robert Plant at his best, but for those of us who will never get to see Led Zeppelin in concert, what’s wrong with getting to see a youthful band be the closest thing we have?
Like Tash Sultana, Tom Misch is a Jack-of-all-trades. He can produce, he can play a variety of instruments, and he’s got a pretty compelling voice. His Beat Tape 2 mixtape from 2015 showcases all these skills as well as his ability to find fantastic fits as collaborators. The songs “Wander With Me” featuring Carmody and “Wake Up This Day” featuring Jordan Rakel are perfect fits for a daytime tent set that will get the party started. I expect some of these collaborators to join him on stage. The dude draws inspiration from J. Dilla and James Blake and sounds like it. His album Geography will drop April 6, just a week before his Coachella debut, and he seems as likely to catch fire in 2018 as anyone.
If there’s one neo soul artist with a chance to break through to the mainstream, Moses Sumney has the potential. His 2017 debut album Aromanticism garnered critical praise and he’s wowed people with sets at festivals like Pitchfork, Boston Calling, and others. He has the capacity to pull people in who may not even consider themselves fans of neo soul because his fragile and existential songwriting is so easy to relate to.
There’s a lot of talent on this year’s Coachella 2018 lineup from top to bottom. Some names not on this list are sure to break out and it’s a lineup worth doing a deep dive on. Hopefully in this variety of 10 artists you find something up your alley and check them out on the Polo Fields.