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Turnstile and JPEGMAFIA prove Coachella hasn’t gone soft

INDIO, CALIF. - APRIL 12, 2019. Vocalist Brendan Yates fronts Turnstile, an American hardcore punk
Brendan Yates fronts Turnstile, an American hardcore punk band from Baltimore, at Coachella on April 12
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

While the headliners of Coachella have gone pop, and the emphasis is on Gen Z and global sounds, some of the best opening acts on Friday came out of the gate frothing and eager to antagonize.

Goldenvoice is a long way from throwing rec-center punk shows, but on this balmy and easygoing afternoon, a couple of early sets harked back to that era. The Baltimore band Turnstile put out one of the best and most creative hardcore records of the year, making room for heady jazz and hard-turn breakdowns. Fans of the groundbreaking SoCal group Suicidal Tendencies would have a lot to like here, and Brendan Yates is a compellingly physical frontman, especially so early in the weekend.

They were a perfect fit for the new-ish Sonora Tent, which mostly showcases the best from the current wave of young, often Latin punk and indie scenes. Bands like Rat Boy and Kero Kero Bonito have made it a destination all its own today — and a reminder that this is a really big festival that can resist easy narratives about going soft.

The L.A. MC JPEGMAFIA did even more with even less. The incendiary, hilarious and visionary rapper/producer got perhaps his biggest platform yet on the Outdoor Theater. Dressed in a shredded military vest (a nod to his own, complicated time in the armed forces), he careened across the stage and shrieked until he could barely stand as he played cuts from his breakthrough LP “Veteran.”

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Sweaty, gasping for breath, he gave his body over to crowd, surfing over their hands as he freestyled about the party he’ll throw whenever the current president meets his maker. He had a friendly audience for that kind of provocation. He’s been touring with Vince Staples, another ferocious wit and deft performer from SoCal. But JPEG’s music, grounded in arty noise scenes but just as quick to tweak them, felt even more visceral. On a day when the president is making threats at a black congresswoman, it was invigorating to hear such a forceful pushback onstage.

For anyone complaining that Coachella has lost its edge, acts like Turnstile, JPEGMAFIA and their ilk put it back and made it cut.

For breaking music news, follow @augustbrown on Twitter.

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