The set times for the 2016 edition of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival have been released. As expected, there are plenty of decisions to be made as to which bands to check out on each of the three days. For fans at home, the recently announced YouTube stream with on-demand playback might make things a little easier, but in the desert, you only have one shot. We’ve broken down the 10 biggest conflicts and made our suggestions for who to see.
10. Sheer Mag vs. Mbongwana Star
If there is any day you are likely to make it for the very first band, it is Friday, before the fatigue of the weekend has really set in. (Friday is also expected to be the least hot day, with temps in the mid-80s.) So, it’s appropriate that you’ll have a tough choice to make right out of the gate, with Philly DIY buzz band Sheer Mag playing the Mojave at noon, going directly against Congolese sensations Mbongwana Star playing one of their first American performances in the Gobi at the same time. There isn’t a wrong choice here, and it certainly depends on taste.
Our Pick: Sheer Mag, hopefully bringing it in their highest-stakes performance to date.
09. LCD Soundsystem vs. Rae Sremmurd vs. Purity Ring
Unexpectedly, LCD Soundsystem’s biggest reunion show yet isn’t facing any huge competition, making fans that don’t want to see them really work to check out something else on Friday night. However, this might make Rae Sremmurd in the Sahara a sleeper set to watch out for, as the rap duo is energetic and hugely popular among the younger Coachella demographic. Also of note is Purity Ring’s moody beats playing at midnight in the Mojave. If anything, this conflict sets up the polo fields to be divided among the younger and older factions of the audience, and it will be interesting to see which one wins out.
Our Pick: LCD, obvs. One of the best bands ever playing one of the biggest stage of their career.
08. Calvin Harris vs. Deafheaven
While some groaned when Calvin Harris was announced as the first EDM headliner in Coachella’s history, the reality is that a Sunday night dance party might send the festival off on a positive note like never before. And then there are the banshee screams of black metal/post-rock hybrid Deafheaven, playing directly against Harris in the Gobi. Interestingly, Deafheaven may be one of the only bands loud enough to drown out the electro beats blasting from the main stage. This is a nice alternative for folks that can’t get down with the rave music and certainly sets up Sunday night as one of polar extremes.
Our Pick: You have to drop by Harris’ set to at least check out what he brings as a headliner, but we’d suggest posting up at Deafheaven, one of the most interesting young bands in the game.
07. Vince Staples vs. Halsey vs. Unknown Mortal Orchestra vs. The Damned vs. Disclosure
Now things get complicated. How to spend a Saturday just after dark. With punk legends The Damned in the Gobi? With local hip-hop rising star Vince Staples in the Sahara? With psych-pop experts Unknown Mortal Orchestra in the Mojave? Or outside, with one of pop music’s rapid ascenders in Halsey at the Outdoor Theatre. Not to mention, there’s the end of Disclosure’s set, which would be when you’d expect any possible guests. What’s an omnivorous music fan to do?
Our Pick: We’d suggest catching all of Disclosure’s set in case anything special happens and then running over to see a little UMO, as Ruban Nielson’s project keeps getting better as a live act.
06. Chris Stapleton vs. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes vs. Melody’s Echo Chamber vs. Major Lazer
When Sunday hits sunset, there will be plenty of choices to be made. It’s a shame that both Melody’s Echo Chamber and Chris Stapleton will be relegated inside tents (the Mojave and Gobi, respectively), as their tunes seem best suited for the fresh air and cooling temperatures. Instead, fans will have the opportunity to see Edward Sharpe performing new tunes or Major Lazer getting the party started for what should be a wild night on the Coachella Stage.
Our Pick: It pains us to suggest spending the last day at Coachella inside at sunset, but yeah, bounce between Stapleton’s country and MEC’s French psych. It’s putting the music quality over the experience, but you’ll probably be happy you did.
05. Beach House vs. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals vs. Alessia Cara
Two of the artists hitting the peak of their hype right now are Anderson .Paak and Alessia Cara. So, it’s unfortunate that they are playing opposite each other at the exact same time on Sunday night. To make matters even worse, Beach House will also be occupying the same slot, only on the Outdoor Theatre stage. This is almost exactly the same time and place Beach House played in 2013, so for Coachella veterans, this is an easy excuse to skip them this time around.
Our Pick: Having just advised you to stay inside for sunset on Sunday, something tells us that this Beach House set is going to feel really special and relaxing as the festival nears its close. We’ll probably opt for this, though anyone with significant energy still roaring would be wise to check out .Paak if just for a little while.
04. CHVRCHES vs. Bat for Lashes vs. Deerhunter
One of the bigger scheduling surprises is that CHVRCHES will be performing in the daylight, but their placement on the Coachella Stage at least still assures them a significant crowd. They’ll be going against two of the best indie artists on the bill this year, in Bat for Lashes and Deerhunter. Both are going to be in tents, but they’re the kind of acts that can create their own world in a space, and that might be worth skipping CHVRCHES for.
Our Pick: Bat for Lashes. CHVRCHES has been playing a ton of festivals, and it is hard to imagine this one will be much different, while Deerhunter is unpredictable as to what kind of mood they will be in. Bat for Lashes will be playing new songs, and that’s worth piling into the Gobi for.
03. Sufjan Stevens vs. The Last Shadow Puppets
Are we bummed that Coachella didn’t put Sufjan Stevens on at sunset? Yes, yes we are. But maybe this speaks to the kind of performance that Stevens is planning, as it is no guarantee that he’ll simply be rehashing the quiet, dramatic performances he delivered in theaters last year supporting Carrie & Lowell. Are we also bummed that Alex Turner’s Arctic Monkeys side project The Last Shadow Puppets is playing at the same time? Yes, yes we are. This is one of our first chances to see Turner’s other band on the back of their strong recent release, Everything You’ve Come to Expect, and we’ll have to choose between them and one of the best live acts around in Stevens.
Our Pick: Sufjy. He’s one of the best, and pretty much nothing should stand in your way of checking him out.
02. Guns N’ Roses vs. Grimes
Broken foot and all, Guns N’ Roses will be under the bright lights on Saturday night, and everyone at Coachella will have at least a bit of curiosity as to what that looks like. Unfortunately, one of music’s most exciting young artists, Grimes, will be playing right in the middle of Guns’ set. It’s a cruel choice to have to make, as there will be plenty of chances to see Grimes in coming years, while the Guns reunion could combust at any moment. But still, this is the epitome of conflict.
Our Pick: Fuck it, we’ll try to catch some of both. In the time it takes GNR to play “Estranged”, you can walk over, watch a couple songs of Grimes, and still have time to snag a soft pretzel. GNR is likely going to play for a couple hours, and that’s more than enough time to fit a little Grimes in.
01. M83 vs. A$AP Rocky vs. Underworld
Wow. Three second line artists all playing directly against each other. Chances are the A$AP Rocky set is going to be the most widely attended of these three, performing at sunset on the Outdoor Theatre on Friday night. But M83 will be playing their biggest show yet behind their new album, Junk. And to complicate things even further, you have Underworld taking the Sahara tent back behind their strong, new offering, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future. And yeah, Børns is also playing at this time, but if you are seriously considering him over these other acts, then more power to you.
Our Pick: Check out Rocky for the start of sunset, and then make your way over to Underworld. It’s a rare moment when the Sahara tent won’t be a shit storm and will be worth experiencing. Sorry, M83, but the new music just isn’t great, and that makes you expendable against these other great artists.