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Coachella 2011: The Rock Bands You Need to See

A Look at Coachella's Biggest Rock Acts


black keys

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for AG Adriano Goldschmied.
The 2011 Coachella Music and Arts Festival kicks off Friday, April 15. As usual, this Southern California desert festival is a feast of alternative, indie, hip-hop and dance acts. But that doesn't mean Coachella can't rock as well -- here's my daily guide for what rock bands you should catch at the festival. (Note: Some set times might overlap, which means you may have to decide which act you want to see more.)


Interpol, 7:25pm, Coachella Stage

Interpol released their fourth album, Interpol, last year, but that arguably wasn't the biggest news of 2010 for this New York City group. Instead, it was the departure of longtime bassist Carlos Dengler, better known as Carlos D. Interpol didn't receive particularly strong reviews, but its single "Lights" is another wonderfully taut, jet-black piece of modern rock from an outfit that features several such songs over their nine-year career.

Brandon Flowers, 8:15pm, Outdoor Theatre

In the wake of releasing his first solo album Flamingo, one of 2010's best rock records, Brandon Flowers comes to Coachella for the first time by himself after appearing with the Killers twice before. Sporting a more nuanced and mature sound than his Killers work, Flamingo still feels very much in keeping with his regular band's New Wave spirit.

The Black Keys, 8:40pm, Coachella Stage

2010 was a breakthrough year for the Black Keys. With their sixth album, Brothers, the celebrated blues-rock duo finally had a gold record, helped greatly by the chart success of the single "Tighten Up." This will be the fourth time the Black Keys have played Coachella, but it's likely that after long being an under-the-radar band, this year's show will feature their biggest audience.

Kings of Leon, 9:55pm, Coachella Stage

Kings of Leon's most recent record, Come Around Sundown hasn't proved to be the smash that 2007's Only by the Night was, but it continues to demonstrate the quartet's melodic evolution from Southern-fried rockers to an ace mainstream pop-rock band. Their Coachella appearance will be the last time to see them in the States before they head off for a European tour starting in late May.


Cage the Elephant, 5:20pm, Outdoor Theatre

The Kentucky quintet came on the scene with 2008's Cage the Elephant and its junkyard, garage-rock hit "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked." This year, they returned with Thank You Happy Birthday, which produced the No. 1 rock smash "Shake Me Down." Their ragged musicianship is a huge component to their charm.

The Kills, 7:50pm, Outdoor Theatre

Kills singer Alison Mosshart has raised her profile of late thanks to her involvement in the Dead Weather with Jack White, but her main band have returned with their fourth disc, Blood Pressures. A combustive blues-rock duo, the Kills recall the dangerous sexual edge of PJ Harvey and the Velvet Underground.

One Day as a Lion, 8:15pm, Mojave

A side project for Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha, One Day as a Lion haven't released a record since their 2008 self-titled EP. However, the word is that their full-length debut may be coming our way soon. Let's hope the disc is just as corrosive as One Day as a Lion, which illustrated that de la Rocha hasn't lost any of his vocal sting.

Mumford & Sons, 8:30pm, Coachella Stage

Mumford & Sons haven't been out that long -- their debut, Sigh No More, dropped in late 2009 -- but they've quickly become popular in the modern rock world. The British folk-rock band have been a huge success in their homeland and elsewhere, and thanks to "Little Lion Man" and "The Cave" they've established a growing fan base in the States as well.

Arcade Fire, 11:20pm, Coachella Stage

A band that pushes the boundaries of rock, Arcade Fire were the surprise (but richly deserving) winners of the Album of the Year Grammy for their latest effort, The Suburbs. This will be the third time the Canadian band have played the Southern California festival.


The Strokes, 8:55pm, Coachella Stage

A year ago, Strokes main man Julian Casablancas was performing as a solo act at Coachella. This year, he and his reunited band will take the stage together. In March, the band put out Angles, their first studio record in five years. Expect their set to be a mixture of their retro-rock past and their new material.

PJ Harvey, 9:45pm, Outdoor Theatre

In February, PJ Harvey released Let England Shake, a politically-driven record about life during wartime. It's the latest volley from one of rock's preeminent songwriters and easily one of its greatest female artists. For this Coachella performance, hopefully she'll pull out some chestnuts from older classics like Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea and To Bring You My Love.

Neon Trees, 10:00pm, Gobi

Neon Trees put out their first record, Habits, in March 2010, garnering rave reviews for their slickly polished rock sound. A modern rock group that draw comparisons to the guyliner melodrama of the Killers and the Cure, this Utah collective will be appearing at Coachella for the first time.

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