California Sounds: The must-hear locals performing at Coachella

Screen shot from Billie Eilish’s video for “bad guy.”
(Darkroom/Interscope Records)

When Coachella fest-goers glide through the post-pat-down metal detectors on their way into the 20th anniversary edition of the annual Southern California desert gala, awaiting them will be a roster of artists jetting in from global music centers including Madrid, Paris, London, Seoul, Toronto and Mineola, Texas.

Also awaiting their ears and merch-money will be musicians forced to endure the harrowing trek down Interstate 10 — some via the 405, no less — from their Los Angeles-area bases.

Will Oxnard peers Anderson .Paak and Cola Boyy carpool? Will YG zip down past midnight in his red Lamborghini? Will somebody be available to give Mac DeMarco a lift?

Below, five L.A.-based acts to see.


Billie Eilish. If the Highland Park-raised teen auteur’s rise seems meteoric or somehow suspect, locals will find comfort in knowing that the singer, songwriter and striking screen performer came up via the relatively humble Los Angeles Children’s Choir. One of the most discussed artists of the year so far, Eilish will arrive in Indio minus any choir except her expanding fan base.

To call her a pop superstar in the making would be to diminish her aesthetic, her approach, her moves, the way she owns whichever platform on which she appears. Since it was released on March 29, her video for “Bad Guy” has clocked more than 30 million views, and those eyes and ears have absorbed Eilish popping in yellow as a 136 beats-per-minute jam thumps minimally before blossoming into a genuine anthem.

“White shirt now red,” she whisper-sings, staring at the camera as blood flows from her nose and a finger-snapped rhythm hits on beats two and four. The clip jumps locations often. At one point Eilish sits on the stoop of a suburban home as three big-bellied dads do some synchronized tummy pumps. If Eilish can bring a similar sense of glee to the Coachella stage (hopefully the choreographed dads, too!), she’ll be occupying billions of eyeballs by the end of April.


Khruangbin. A dance band in the broadest sense of the phrase, the Texas-born, Los Angeles-based instrumental trio could likely fill dance floors in Lone Star State bars or hip Highland Park clubs. With an immediately identifiable sound — beguiling rhythms, twang-and-echo guitar and bottom end funkiness — the band had a fantastic 2018, and in concert it’s a blast.

Mac DeMarco. The Canada-born, Los Feliz-based singer-songwriter has charmed his way into the psyches of his many admirers one song at a time. Although he did help to normalize dad-caps among 20-something dudes, the songwriter nonetheless brings a lovely, playful spirit onto whichever festival stage he appears.

In the video for his new song “Nobody,” a cowboy-hatted DeMarco sits and looks at the camera as if for a documentary — except his face is made up to look like some lizard-alien hybrid and he’s smoking a stogie.

The song is taken from his wonderful forthcoming album, “Here Comes the Cowboy,” a kinda-sorta themed project he self-recorded in his cigarette-stained home studio. “I’m a preacher / A done decision,” DeMarco sings to a clompy beat and muted horn accompaniment, “Another creature that’s lost its vision.” As he sings, the cowboy creeper gesticulates with his cigar as if relaying a yarn about his backyard lagoon.

Those who have never seen DeMarco perform can expect a similarly joyful experience. His songs are all sing-alongs, and his people love to bellow in unison.

JPEGMAFIA. With an unflinching approach no doubt informed by his four tours in Iraq as a member of the Air Force, the politically-informed artist born Barrington Hendricks doesn’t seem to have much interest in the more commercial regions of hip-hop. The artist, who named his first studio album “Black Ben Carson,” incites with every couplet. His most recent track, called “Puff Daddy,” is a collaboration with rising L.A. producer Kenny Beats. “I got no life,” he raps, later adding that he’s “on your couch like Rick Rubin.”


Soulection. The Highland Park-based beat collective was founded by DJ Joe Kay, who has ferried his twin passions for taste-making and community into a multi-pronged brand anchored by a Beats One radio show on Apple Music. One of the rare DJs to graduate from Coachella’s long-running DoLab dance area and onto a proper performance stage, the Soulection team’s love of J Dilla-informed instrumental hip-hop will likely test Coachella’s policy against public weed consumption.


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