21 obscure must-see acts of Coachella 2013

Every April, the biggest names in music descend on the small town of Indio for the Coachella Music Festival. International superstars are no strangers to the 3-day event. Past headliners include Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Madonna and Prince.

But the headliners only account for 1% of the total music at Coachella. It’s the smaller, lesser-known bands and artists that make Coachella special. Besides, there’s nothing better than discovering new music at Coachella.

Coachella is known for booking “future stars”, that is to say, Coachella has an eye for potential talent. It’s as if the festival organizers are able to peer into the future to see which musical acts are going to explode in popularity in the months following the festival.

Frank Ocean singing at Coachella 2012 with headband
Frank Ocean | Coachella 2012

In 2012, the relatively unknown Frank Ocean sang to a small crowd in the Gobi Tent. Mr. Ocean won the Grammy for best Urban Album later that year.

Adele, a then-unknown singer, sang in the Mojave Tent during a 5:00pm set in 2008. She now has ten Grammys.

Although not all of the obscure acts go on to win Grammys, most of them put on shows worth seeing. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get to the Polo Fields early in the afternoon (which coincides with the hottest part of the day and the smallest crowds) to see these up-and-coming artists.

The following are the must-see acts of Coachella 2013, broken down by day. I’m only going to list bands that are billed in small text (the last 4 lines of each day) on the poster. I hope you make it out to see them, if you don’t, you may regret it in a few months from now when they are a household names!

(editor’s note: I got the idea for “The Gist” from my friend Ben of the Croaking Frog.  Go ahead and check out his blog for some colorful movie reviews)


Must-see Coachella 2013 Acts – Friday


The Neighbourhood
The Gist: A new band on the scene, out of the Thousand Oaks area of Los Angeles. Their pop/hip-hop rock sound first caught my ear on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic.
Sounds Like: A mixture of Shwayze and Givers (is that even possible?)


Palma Violets
The Gist: A garage/psychedelic rock band from London that sounds like a garage/psychedelic rock band from California.
Sounds Like: The Arctic Monkeys playing a show for friends in your garage.


The Gist: This group holds the record for most World Team DJ Championships. I don’t know what the World Team DJ Championships are, but I do know they put on a good dance party. Go see them.
Sounds Like: Ed Banger’s Club 75 (French Electro).


Youth Lagoon
The Gist: Lo-fi pop out of Idaho. Not a fan of his latest album, but I will go to his set in hopes of hearing songs from his first Album, The Year of Hibernation.
Sounds Like: A child prodigy whose parents are Washed Out and the Flaming Lips.


Jamie XX
Remix master and part of the London-based band The xx. ‘Nuff said.
Sounds Like: SBTRKT & Caribou.


Purity Ring
The Gist: The shrieking, instrumental-heavy electro-pop band I was expecting to see at Coachella a few years ago when they released their first single, Ungirthed, in 2011.
Sounds Like: The singer of Cults playing with a more upbeat version of Beach House, or perhaps Niki & The Dove.


Earl Sweatshirt
The Gist: I’m surprised to see this LA-based rapper billed so low, considering how sizable the following is for his group, Odd Future.
Sounds Like: The poems and prose of an LA hood rat, or a crude version of Wu-Tang Clan.


Must-see Coachella Acts – Saturday


Vintage Trouble
The Gist: A James Brown sounding singer with a soul-sounding band, who would of guessed they hail from Venice Beach, California? I only discovered this band on the Coachella poster, but I like what I hear. You’ll have to arrive early on Saturday to catch them, as they’re billed at the very bottom of the lineup.
Sounds Like: Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Gary Clark Jr.


The 2 Bears
The GistJoe Goddard’s (of Hot Chip fame) DJing duo from London, but which sounds like classic Chicago and Detroit Techno House.
Sounds Like: Aeroplane and Hot Chip.


The Gist: Catchy alt/indie rock with a Nashville-infused style.
Sounds Like: An American version of Wu Lyf.


The Gist: New York’s Guards delivers billowing melodies over echoing drum. Really catchy and I cannot wait to see them. Their first album, In Guards we Trust, is nothing short of awesome.
Sounds Like: A less-gothic, more catchy version of Arcade Fire. Phoenix.


Jason Bentley
The Gist: Probably the best disc jockey in the country and host of KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, a daily 3-hour radio program that I listen to faithfully. Mr. Bentley has introduced me to many of my favorite bands and I’m excited to hear what he brings to the mix at Coachella. Rumor has it Bentley will be introducing a new discotheque stage at Coachella this year.
Sounds Like: Everything new and funky.


Theophilus London
The Gist: This Brooklyn MC spans several genres from electro to soul to new wave. You may have heard similar hip/hop artists, but, I’m a fan.
Sounds Like: Kid Cudi


The Gist: One of the bands I’m most excited to see at Coachella this year. They sound like the perfect band to play on the Outdoor Theatre at sunset.
Sounds Like: A less poppy Bloc Party.


Richie Hawtin
Richie, AKA Plastikman, is classic Detroit Techno to the core and has played Coachella several times in the past. TheSavoia.com says, “If you want a classic, danceable house party, then do NOT miss Richie Hawtin, who is surely the most underrated name on the entire bill.”
Sounds Like: Plastikman (is Plastikman)


Must-see Coachella 2013 acts – Sunday


Wild Belle
No, Wild Belle is not from Jamaica, their groovy, dub-esque tunes come via Chicago. Think Wild Belle and you’ll think summer. Their songs are sure to cater to the Coachella crowd and the palm tree-laden Polo Fields are the perfect stage for their show. The only shame is that Wild Belle is playing so early in the day.
Sounds Like: It’s not quite reggae, I’d call it mellow psychedelic rock reggae, if that makes sense? Think Best Coast.


Deap Vally
The Gist: A female duo from Los Angeles that sounds anything but womanly. If you like hard, drum-beating blues/rock, then you’re in for a treat. I certainly cannot wait.
Sounds Like: The Dead Weather, Jack White and The Black Keys


White Arrows
The Gist: Things you need to know about White Arrows: the lead singer was born blind, was cured at age 11, majored in “shamanistic ritualism” at NYU, playing Coachella 2013. Therefore, you should see them this year.
Sounds Like: A better Reptar.


The Gist: Really, another indie rock band from Brooklyn, who would of guessed. But DIIV have more than just their Williamsburg-backing going for them. Their cool, beach-pop songs are sure to be crowd pleasers at Coachella this year.
Sounds Like: Beach Fossils and Real Estate.


Cloud Nothings
The Gist: Lo-fi rock that sounds like it was born and bred in Southern California, but which is in fact from Ohio. If you’re coming to Coachella 2013 to see Descendants and Social Distortion then you’d better add Cloud Nothings to your list.
Sounds Like: Wavves + Black Lips.


The Gist:  Really. Good. Folk.   I first learned about Detroit-born Sixto Rodriguez while watching the recent Academy Award-winning documentary Searching for Sugarman.  I instantly took a liking to his music, which I was surprised to discover has been around since the 60s.  How did I not know about this guy?
Sounds LikeBob Dylan


Other acts worth seeing at Coachella 2013

Other low-billed acts that are definitely worth seeing include: Alt-J, Four Tet, Shovels & Rope, Kurt Vile, Wild Nothing, Booka Shade, The Wombats, Smith Westerns and JEFF the Brotherhood.  Is there anyone else I left out, leave your suggestions in the comments sections.


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Join the Conversation


  1. says: Ben

    Love the “sounds like” description. Very helpful! Evan: would you recommend Coachella to a non-music buff? I don’t naturally gravitate toward concerts, but I do like discovering new artists. I find Coachella a bit intimidating. Is it possible to do a Coachella-lite?

    1. says: TravelGrom


      First off, I should give credit where credit is due. “The Gist” section of each of the artists blurbs was an idiolect I lifted from your “Best Super Bowl” commercials. I’ve added a link to The Croaking Frog in the post above.

      Now to your question. Would I recommend Coachella to a non-music buff you ask?


      While Coachella is certainly an event built around music, there are other aspects of the festival that you may find enjoyable. Being reunited with old friends from high school, spending the weekend in the desert, camping, the culture, the new friends you’ll make, the people you’ll meet from all over the world etc. If anything, Coachella is an experience, an escape (ok that just sounded cheesy, but it’s true).

      I think you’ll be surprised to learn that the majority of people in attendance are NOT 20-somethings attempting to look like a model from an Urban Outfitters look book. The majority of the festival-goers are average people looking to spend a weekend trying something new.

      An episode of “California’s Gold” with the late and great Huell Howser proves this. I would advise you to spend 30 minutes watching this episode of California’s Gold, which I think will give you some further insite to what the festival is all about.


      Also, I suggest you watch the following video, in it’s entirety. Notice how everyone in the crowd is having the time of their life. I regularly cite this performance as the single best moment of my life.

      Full Screen. Volume Up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGKL4YLynaU

  2. says: Raul

    i wish i had found this earlier! great job! thanks a bunch!
    fri- #been #trill
    sat- birdy-nam-nam & Huoratron

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