Love it or hate it, Coachella hits every year with a bang. Tremendous, well-placed criticism of the founder and money behind Coachella makes it hard for the socially-minded to get behind the festival. Still, there were some incredibly talented breakthrough acts in the lineup this year that don’t get the shine they deserve.
Drenched in California sun yet shadowed by larger acts, some of these bands are well-known among music enthusiasts but may not be familiar to everyone. From deeply influential international acts like Toots and The Maytals and King Sunny Ade to up and coming artists like Nao, Stormzy and Mitski to rockers like Shannon and The Clams, Chicano Batman and Las Ligas Menores, there are tons of bands worthy of our attention.
Didn’t make it, chose to skip it or attended but didn’t see everything that you wanted? Here are 12 Coachella artists to check out.
1. Las Ligas Menores
Argentinian band Las Ligas Menores make sun-soaked indie rock that is perfect for sunny SoCal or anywhere you need a little emotional sunshine. Channeling a late ’80s/early ’90s throwback vibe without it being gimmicky, Las Ligas Menores may just end up being your new favorite band.
2. Shannon and The Clams
Bay Area darlings Shannon and The Clams continue to bring a fun, retro-rock vibe to the festival and everywhere they go. Fronted by Shannon Shaw (who is possibly the nicest woman in music), Shannon and The Clams makes slightly surfy rock ‘n’ roll influenced by ’80s punk and ’60s girl groups — perfect for a lost prom scene in a John Waters film.
3. Lee Fields & The Expressions
Lee Fields is one of the few longtime artists who is still actively making soul today. Drawing comparisons to James Brown for his whole life, Fields was actually brought on to provide additional vocals in the James Brown biopic Get On Up. After losing Sharon Jones last year, the importance of these long-term, hard-working soul artists becomes abundantly clear. Support the people who have dedicated their lives to their art.
4. King Sunny Adé
“King” Sunny Adé is largely credited as being the pioneer of the World music movement and sound. Hailing from Nigeria, Adé was born to a royal family, making him an Omoba of the Yoruba people. Adé left grammar school under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos, where his life-long music career began in a West African highlife band in the mid-’60s. He has been cranking out music since then and still sounds amazing.
5. Toots and The Maytals
Toots and The Maytals have been around since the ’60s and were one of the primary founding bands behind the reggae and rocksteady sounds. In fact, their 1968 song “Do The Reggay” was the first to name the sound.
Toots sounds a bit like Otis Redding with a Jamaican accent, influenced by his gospel-singer upbringing, and still puts on an amazing performance as an energetic, charismatic frontman who has dedicated his entire life to making great music.
6. Chicano Batman
Formed in Los Angeles in 2008, Chicano Batman makes funky Latin soul with a retro vibe. They describe one of their main influences as “low-rider oldies,” which includes artists like The Midnighters and Barbara Lewis.
The Chicano Batman logo is a combination of the United Farm Workers logo and Batman symbol, two powerful images “creating a voice for the voiceless,” as Bardo Martinez explained to NPR. Between their danceable sound and fantastic politics, Chicano Batman is a force of positivity and support in a world that needs it.
Raury isn’t even 21 and he’s already making music with deeper roots and soul than folks twice his age. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Raury has been at ground zero for some of the best music released in the last decade and a half, if not more.
Before he was even 18, Raury was asked to contribute to the Hunger Games soundtrack on the Lorde song, “Lost Souls.” With influences as diverse as Marvin Gaye, Queen, Andre 3000 and Fleet Foxes, Raury makes beautifully eclectic music that falls somewhere between hip-hop and folk.
Mitski Miyawaki is an incredibly multi-cultural woman. She was born in Japan and raised with her mom’s 1970s Japanese pop collection. She and her family moved around, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Malaysia to China to Turkey, as well as other places, before ending up in New York City. She describes herself as being “half-Japanese, half-American, but not fully either,” and her music reflects that space of existing between identities.
British producer and singer-songwriter Nao describes her sound as “wonky funk,” a combination of soul with funk, R&B and electronic music. A classically trained jazz singer, Nao performed as former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker’s backup singer, as well as being part of an all-woman a cappella band called The Boxettes. Her debut album For All We Know was nominated for a Brit award, allowing for a strong head start for the artist. If you haven’t heard her music or name before, you will.
Buy now: For All We Know
King of UK’s grime scene, Stormzy is starting to infiltrate US airwaves. Stormzy began rapping at the age of 11, competing with older kids at his local youth club. His music has been received with critical acclaim in the UK, which led to the artist taking a year long hiatus. This February, Stormzy broke his silence with the album Gang Signs and Prayer, which debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart in early March.
PNL is a French rap duo founded in 2014 by two brothers Tarik and Nabil Andrieu. While they are far from household names in the U.S., their music is incredibly popular in France. In fact, Le Monde Ou Rien (which means “The World Or Nothing”) became a rallying cry for anti-austerity protests, one which was derived from the duo’s song of the same title.
Unfortunately, the brothers had to cancel their Coachella appearance due to an issue with their visas, which they suspect was due to their North African heritage and names.
12. Sofi Tukker
Grammy-nominated duo Sofi Tukker creates carefully curated lush dance music amidst equatorial beats. The lyrics to the song “Drinkee” were adapted from the poems of Brazilian writer Chacal, a poet Sofi Tukker’s Sophie Hawley-Weld met while studying Portuguese poetry at Brown University. This is also where she met the other half of the duo, Tucker Halpern. The two have been making music since playing a gig together at an art gallery during senior year. Check our their hot dance tracks and make them part of your playlist as we transition to pool parties and late-night dancing under the stars.