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Coachella 2013: Five artists who earned their spots

April 18, 2013|By Randall Roberts | Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • Grimes performs at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio on April 14, 2013. Catch her this weekend too.
Grimes performs at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio… (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles…)

This weekend at Coachella, about 190 acts will return for the second, and final, weekend of the annual festival. And the simple truth is, whether you’re headed to Indio, recovering from last weekend’s festival and looking for some couch viewing on the Web or merely curious to witness new sounds of today, it will be impossible to catch everything.

A shame, but not the end of the world; unsurprisingly, not everything was great. As someone who went last week intent on catching as many new and/or unsung acts as possible, I returned with opinions on what to see and not. Below are a few tips. Granted, most will be attuned to Phoenix’s surprise guest, or Dog Blood’s chaotic dubstep, but while the masses were chasing big names, a number of acts didn’t get the amount of attention equal to their performances. Below are a few that deserve more eyes and ears.

La Roux. Fans of the British soul-dance chanteuse's 2010 hit “Bullet Proof” were out in full force for her Sunday set -- and for good reason. The artist born Elly Jackson performed a number of tracks from her highly anticipated new album, and the tease was wonderfully effective. The fresh music sounded great, especially a soon-to-be dance floor hit called “Sexoteque.” 8:05 p.m. April 21, Mojave tent.

FULL COVERAGE: Coachella 2013

The Evens. One sad truth of Coachella 2013 is how politically neutered most artists were. There was no Morrissey to curse the burning animal flesh over at the food trucks, no Rage Against the Machine to bring the defiance. Instead, a host of artists offered a combination of folkie chants, indie blushes of emotion, dance-club odes to the body or introspective love songs. The outlier? Ian MacKaye, of course, the Washington, D.C., punk veteran best known for his work with Minor Threat and Fugazi. Appearing as one-half of the Evens, MacKaye was typically pointed both during and between songs. He introduced one track, by explaining its origins in his frustration of a government lowering unemployment by creating more law enforcement jobs, and the vicious cycle that this portends. 2:35 p.m. April 20, Gobi tent.

Grimes. Few artists will benefit more from the arrival of Google Glass than singer-producer-keyboardists such as Claire Boucher, also known as Grimes, who was so preoccupied during her sets juggling buttons, lyrics, keyboards and a microphone that she had a tough time focusing on the crowd and her emotions. (Imagine her punching those buttons with her eyes via Google Glass while dancing.) That was too bad, because she sounded great, and her dueling dancers added pop to the performance. Grimes is a charismatic artist with a way with rhythm, melody and bass. 4:15 p.m. April 21, Gobi tent

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Violent Femmes. Thirty years ago this month, the self-titled debut from Violent Femmes was released on the tiny Slash Records imprint, and in the decades since the record has only grown in stature -- even as its subject matter remains strikingly, wonderfully adolescent. Of all the reunions this year, this, along with the Postal Service’s, was the best, filled with folk-based, punk-informed rock both simple and effective. Singer Gordan Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor DeLorenzo playing together for the first time in six years, performed “Violent Femmes” in its entirety, hitting on “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Add It Up,” “Blister in the Sun” and others. The best: the gentle moan of the album’s closer, “Good Feelings,” as heavenly an ode to happiness as there is. 6:05 p.m. April 20. Main Stage.

TNGHT. The production team of Lunice and Hudson Mohawke released one of last year’s most curiously infectious dance stompers in “Higher Ground,” the tripped-out trap track that crawled across the dance floor with a sinister menace. The team’s set was both energetic and powerful, and given that Mohawke is now affiliated with Kanye West and his G.O.O.D. Music crew, he stands a good chance of gracing a much bigger stage the next time around. 8:35 p.m. April 19, Gobi tent.

Two to avoid: The two most disappointing gigs I saw were by Passion Pit and Janelle Monáe. The former, due to its lowest-common-denominator dance rock being as bland as it was unexciting to watch. And Monáe failed to impress because she didn’t advance any new music. Rather, she performed nearly the exact same show she and her band have been doing for the last few years. Supremely talented, Monáe nonetheless seemed as if she were on autopilot. Hopefully, that’ll change this weekend.

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Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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