ENTERTAINMENT MUSIC

The bassists of Coachella: Celebrating the oft-unsung heroes who propel the booties

On various stages at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, which commenced its second weekend on Friday, the singers, synth players and guitarists stood front and center as cameras projected billboard-sized images of them.

And to their side, or in the second line behind them, stood the lowly bassists.

While the musical peacocks conveyed oh-so-deep imagery with their co-conspirators hogging the limelight on the front line, the roughneck bassists and their compatriots on the drums ran the rhythmic engines below, their calloused fingers guiding the direction.

That was true across genres, whether it was bassist Luis Amescua, whose work alongside the magnetic Brooklyn-based Argentine singer and guitarist Tall Juan offered depth to rockabilly-tinged punk; Radiohead's Colin Greenwood and his lubricated bass lines swirling through "15 Steps" and a set filled with surprises; or Justin Bivona of the Los Angeles ska-punk band the Impersonators.

Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood onstage at Coachella.
Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood onstage at Coachella. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Below, a few highlights from Friday's bassists:

—The Israeli-Iraqi-Yemini singer Dudu Tassa and his band the Kuwaitis opened Friday's roster, so they were also responsible for the inaugural bass lines.

As if by design, they arrived via expert bassist Nir Maimon, who played a classic Hofner hollow-body model made famous by a young Paul McCartney with the Beatles.

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—The classic look: The ensemble of Vans, blue jeans and Fender bass employed by Tall Juan's player and low-end theorist Amescua. Across a set in the Sonora tent that served as a kind of premiere for the magnetic Tall Juan, who used to be roommates with Mac DeMarco, Amescua offered unwavering support for his boss.

—Guided by Voices bassist Mark Shue had his work cut out for him. A band known for its onstage rock posturing, the veteran rock band took over the Sonora stage for a set of hook-filled songs from across its career.

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While founder Robert Pollard sang, slammed cheap beers and swigged from a bottle of tequila and dueling guitarists Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr. tangled in the midrange, bassist Shue kept them in check -- and pulled off an impressive vertical bass-neck maneuver.

—The xx: Those in the know understand how hard it is to simultaneously play the bass and sing. The former requires offering counterpoint harmony in the lower register -- while vocalizing midrange melodies at varying rhythmic intervals.

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Take singing bassist Oliver Sim of the xx. As his singing, guitar-playing partner Romy Madley Croft, he presented minimalist structure that served as glue bonding her work with producer Jamie xx's beats.

—Armed with a glittered bass and charisma, Shannon Shaw, namesake of the Northern California rockabilly-punk band Shannon and the Clams, assumed control of the Sonora tent from the moment she arrived.

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Standing side-by-side with the equally striking singer-guitarist Cody Blanchard, Shaw growled across songs while delivering low-end sass on her instrument.

—Lemon Twigs are two brothers from New Jersey who have been playing together for years: guitarist Brian D'Addario and drummer Michael Addario.

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As a result, any bassist entering the fray does so as an outsider. But holding a glorious Rickenbacker bass, Megan Zeankowski was an understated foil across the Twigs' glam-inspired rock songs.

—A Mohawk and an Epiphone bass. What else is there to add?

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Nice one, Juan Galean, screamer-bassist for Colombian cumbia-punk band Diamante Electrico.

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.

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