2013 Coachella Guide: The 10 best indie bands to watch at the California music festival (VIDEOS)

Don’t miss these 10 up-and-coming bands at Cochella!

This month, Coachella, one of America’s top music festivals, will feature highly anticipated performances by The Postal Service, Blur, Modest Mouse, New Order and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Of course these bands are not to be missed. But with over 175 bands playing over 3 days, beyond these top acts, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by which bands to see.

To help you plan your Coachella experience, Downtown Traveler has put together a list of the top 10 emerging bands to catch when you attend the festival, which takes place in California on April 12 – 14 and then again April 19 – 21, 2013.

Be sure to check out our Best of Coachella Spotify playlist (below). Even you can’t make it to Coachella, at least you’ll feel as if you were there!

Our Top Coachella Picks

#10. Alt-J


Alt-J in concert (photo: Abby Gillardi/flickr)

Playing: Friday April 12 & 19

It’s no surprise this UK band is on the Coachella roster. Named after the mathematical symbol for change, Alt-J blew onto the scene last summer with their debut album, An Awesome Wave. I’ll admit I saw them perform three times last year. Their sound is a perfect combination of brooding lyrics and folk-pop with a dash of synths. In 2012, they won the British Mercury Prize. Past winners of this prestigious prize include PJ Harvey, The XX and Pulp. Most recently, their song Tessellate was covered by Mumford and Sons.

#9. Earl Sweatshirt

When: Friday April 12 & 19

This rapper and member of the LA based hip-hop collective Odd Future may only be 19 years old, but he already has a dramatic life story. Discovered by Tyler the Creator on MySpace, his music quickly made him a viral hit. When Earl Sweatshirt disappeared from the music scene soon after, everyone was baffled. It was later revealed that his mom had sent him away to school in Samoa (for more details read the great New Yorker article about him). Well, he’s back and his major label debut, Doris, is releasing this year.

#8. Lord Huron

When: Friday April 12 & 19

The songs of this LA band’s debut album, Lonesome Dreams, have a ghostly-folk sound, securing its place on my top 10 albums of 2012. Singer-songwriter Ben Schneider is the creative force behind Lord Huron, which now features Mark Barry, Miguel Briseno, Brett Farks and Tom Renaud. The songs have an almost freeing quality about them; the album is best enjoyed in your car with the windows rolled down, as your drive through the desert on your way to Coachella.

#7. Youth Lagoon

When: Friday April 12 & 19

Youth Lagoon is the stage name of Boise, Idaho’s Trevor Powers and seeing him perform will signal the start of your psychedelic Coachella experience. His first album, The Year of Hibernation, addressed themes of heartbreak and his battles with anxiety. Powers’ lo-fi experimental sound will take some getting used to at first, but once you let the music take over, it will be a transcendental desert trip.

#6. Portugal. The Man

When: Saturday April 13 & 20

Contrary to what you may think, Portland-based Portugal. The Man is not a one-man band; its 5 members are dedicated to playing epic rock and roll songs. At times, their sound is similar to Led Zeppelin and some have even compared them to Jane’s Addiction. Their latest album, In the Mountain In the Cloud, features the hit All American, a modern day rock anthem for the 2013 crowd.

#5. Ben Howard

When: Saturday April 13 & 20

After English singer-songwriter Ben Howard won the British version of the Grammy in February, the trending topic on Twitter was “Who the F*** is Ben Howard?” You may not recognize him now but you soon will; he’s the one to watch. Old Pine, the first song on his debut album, Every Kingdom, is one of my favorites.

#4. Father John Misty

When: Sunday April 14 & 21

Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty, is one sexy man. I had to say it. He will draw you in with his deep voice, and haunting and moody lyrics like in the song Hollywood Cemetery Sings. Even the music video is surreal. It features Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Rec fame. You’ll want to watch it over and over again, then listen to his album on repeat and finally see him live. He puts on a great show.

#3. Tanlines

When: Sunday April 14 & 21

Once you’ve had enough of Coachella’s brooding lyrics and dreamy music, it’s time to get your dance on. Tanlines is part New-Wave, part early-2000s electronica and full time dance party-a-thon. Since this Brooklyn-based duo, Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen, released their album Mixed Emotions last year, they went from opening for bands like Vampire Weekend to headlining sold out shows.

#2. Jessie Ware

When: Sunday April 14 & 21

This list seems to be heavy on the UK talent. What can I say? England is known for exporting some seriously good musical acts. The latest chanteuse out of London is Jessie Ware. Her R&B electro sound is best described like this…if Taylor Dayne, Sade and Lisa Stansfield had a baby it would be Jessie Ware. Her cover of Bobby Caldwell’s What You Wont Do For Love is almost as good as the original. Now if only she would consider covering Lisa Stansfield’s All Around the World.

#1. Thee Oh Sees

When: April 14 & 21

San Francisco based Thee Oh Sees know how to put on a good show. They are one of the few bands that can translate their prolific pop-folk psychedelic sound into a super fun and energetic show. One reviewer said they sound like the Mamas and the Papas run through a blender. That might not sound appealing but once you listen for yourself, you’ll realize that description is very fitting and the sound is actually really cool.


What: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Where: Indio, California USA
When: April 12 – 14 and April 19 – 21.
Tickets/Schedule Info: www.coachella.com

For suggestions on hotels and other attractions in the area, check out Downtown Traveler’s ‘Best of Palm Springs’ post.

About Martha Rivera

Secret technophile in love with food, coffee, music, film, culture, biking, random acts of spontaneity and not getting lost in LA.