Coachella prides itself on helping build acts from the tiny print on their posters into headliners and sub-headliners — going from the Gobi and Mojave tents to their main Coachella stage and Outdoor Theatre.
Father John Misty played the Gobi Tent in his first appearance in 2013 and graced the Coachella stage this year. GROUPLOVE’s first Coachella set in 2012 was in the Mojave before main staging this year’s festival. The Black Keys went from playing the Mojave in 2004 to eventual headliners.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 7 acts that played Coachella 2017 that we think could make it to the main stage sooner rather than later.
No act that appeared before 4 PM drew a crowd as thick as Iceland rockers Kaleo. Lead singer Jokull Juliusson has unique vocals that put his band in Black Keys territory. I caught their set in the Gobi Tent both weekends and people were grooving along to their jams — even the slower-tempo ones. The band sold out two shows at the Fonda Theatre last November and are probably going to sell out larger venues next time they come around, undoubtedly in part due to their Coachella sets. They already get a fair amount of mainstream radio play — so they’re on the way.
This Dutch/Norwegian band played an early set Friday but those who caught it were treated to one of the best rock and roll sets of the weekend. They carry some Radiohead vibes and lead singer Koen van de Wardt showed incredible charisma. They are the first Dutch band to ever play Coachella and their one studio album Close Eyes to Exit provided a few bangers for people to rock out to. A highlight of the set was when van de Wardt had his band continue a melody at the end of a song so he could drop a nasty solo over the top, which had everyone screaming in support. Their ceiling is mighty high. You can catch them opening for The Flaming Lips next month at the Theatre at the Ace.
These days, loads of electronic acts are graduating out of the tents to the Outdoor Theatre and Coachella stages. One act with that kind of potential is DJ and multi-instrumentalist Mura Masa, who I caught at the El Rey Theatre in between Coachella performances. He doesn’t just press buttons — he plays guitar, keys, and drums while also featuring a number of high-level collaborations. At Coachella, he brought out Charli XCX and A$AP Rocky. He just announced his debut album and he’s climbing pretty fast, which means more room for top-tier collabs, which always play well on the main stage. The other crazy news — he just turned 21.
I honestly had little idea what SOFI TUKKER was about when I went into their set at the Gobi Tent during weekend one. Was it a DJ duo? Their song “Drinkee” was one of the biggest earworms of 2016 but this duo is much more than that. They play a variety of instruments and their jungle-pop jams had everybody dancing despite the heat. While I’ve seen some electronic groups falter on the main stage (Years & Years for instance didn’t have a big enough sound), SOFI TUKKER more than has the tools necessary to succeed in that spot.
Grime rap is a real thing, and by the time Skepta comes back around, it might be ready for the main stage. While fellow grime emcee Stormzy didn’t quite connect with his crowd on the Outdoor Theatre, Skepta had the Sahara Tent pretty packed and I was shocked at how many people knew the words, considering I had heard very little about the genre from word-of-mouth. Skepta was magnetic in his performance, riling up the crowd asking who his “energy crew” was. He’s already won numerous major awards in the UK, by the time he releases a follow-up to Konnichiwa, stateside followers will come in droves.
Alt-pop artist Bishop Briggs has risen pretty meteorically despite just releasing her debut EP. She popped up during Banks & Steelz’ set weekend one to sing Florence Welch’s part in “Wild Season”, she’s collaborated with Cold War Kids on their new record, and she’s a darling of radio already, thanks to her hit “River”. She’s an incredible live performer and will only continue to climb as time goes on.
British singer-songwriter Sampha wowed me last year during his sold-out #30DaysInLA headlining performance at the Palace Theatre. The Los Angeles Times praised his Coachella set as a “simple yet powerful performance.” He’s got James Blake potential. He took an early-day Mojave Tent set and made the most of it, with just a thin crew of two keyboardists and a drummer, playing key jams from his highly-acclaimed record Process. He closed his sets with “Blood On Me”, a song that best suggests his potential high ceiling, someone who can keep a large crowd quiet and mesmerized.
Photo of Sampha courtesy of Red Bull Sound Select