meta-script7 Incredible Sets From Coachella 2024 Weekend 1: Doja Cat, No Doubt, Raye & More | GRAMMY.com
Doja Cat headlines at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, April 14, 2024
Doja Cat headlines at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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7 Incredible Sets From Coachella 2024 Weekend 1: Doja Cat, No Doubt, Raye & More

With a weekend full of surprise guests, exciting reunions and breakout performances from first-time performers, this weekend in Indio was one for the books. Read on for seven of the top performances at the first weekend of Coachella 2024.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 02:37 am

While every headliner at last year’s Coachella held some sort of historical cultural significance, Coachella 2024’s roster instead represented a series of graduations from opening slots and side stages to top-tier main stage titan status.

Friday featured Lana Del Rey, whose sole previous Coachella performance was at the Outdoor Theatre in 2014. Saturday was capped by Tyler, The Creator appearing for the third time in Indio (his last appearance as runner up to Haim and Beyoncé on the main stage in 2018). And on Sunday, Doja Cat occupied the uppermost spot after her penultimate main stage appearance in 2022.

Yet Coachella Weekend 1 this year’s attendees got astronomically more bang for their buck than they counted on, due to a surprise-guest-heavy lineup. The bulk of those special moments came from  A-list talent, from Billie Eilish with Lana Del Rey to Olivia Rodrigo with No Doubt, Justin Bieber joining Tems, Kesha with Reneé Rapp, most of the Fugees performing alongside YG Marley, Will Smith performing "Men in Black" with J Balvin … the list goes on. 

When all was said and done, the diversity, quality and impact of the weekend’s performances were tremendous. Even without elite bonus appearances, there were plenty of performances — quite a few of them newcomers, recent buzzbands and imminent breakthroughs — that made this year’s Coachella more than worthy of an early accolade for one of the first-rate fests of 2024. Read on for seven of the best sets from Coachella 2024.

Faye Webster Thrills Loyal Fans With Supreme Confidence

Underneath the shaded canopy of the Mojave Tent, Faye Webster held her sprawling audience in the palm of her hand during her Coachella debut on Friday. Deafening cheers rang out at the start of every song, which seemed to infuse the 26-year-old singer/songwriter with a level of energy unparalleled up to this point in her career.

Webster deftly worked her way through 11 tracks, each one received with wild cheers from fans, who sang with such gusto that they often nearly overpowered her own vocals. The crossroads of her confidence and creativity fully manifested during closing tune "Kingston," which saw her pausing to let the audience belt out the remainder of the line, a beckoning gesture that exuded self-assuredness. 

Notably, three of six new songs ("Wanna Quit All the Time," "He Loves Me Yeah!" and "Lego Ring") from her recently released fifth album Underdressed at the Symphony were live debuts. The fact that Webster saved them for Coachella showed a clear intention to ensure the set was extra special. Beyond any shadow of doubt, she succeeded. 

Lana Del Rey Taps Billie Eilish, Jon Batiste & Others For Standout Friday Set

With her notoriously downtempo demeanor, Lana Del Rey wasn’t the obvious choice for a Friday headlining spot on the main stage, but when all was said and done, her 20-song set delivered plenty to position her as a standout performer. 

Dressed in an elegant baby blue gown, her entrance — a slow ride on the back of a motorbike through the lanes of the crowd all the way to the stage — worked wonders to build excitement. And her first three song choices, a shortened version of "Without You" (not performed since 2014) and two more gems from the vault — "West Coast" (debuted 10 years ago to the day at her first Coachella appearance) and her superb cover of Sublime’s "Doin’ Time" — signaled her intention to make this show a truly special occasion (neither of the latter two tunes have appeared on a setlist since 2019).

From there it was a parade of hits culled from her robust catalog, as the GRAMMY-nominated singer waltzed her way across the expanse of a fairytale palace stage production, at several points venturing up flights of stairs to a towering terrace. Four of her 10 albums feature production from Jack Antonoff (who played with Bleachers on Saturday), so it was unsurprising when he took the helm of the white grand piano toward the end for a strikingly serene duet with a hologram Lana on "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have — But I Have It."

Jon Batiste (who performed his own set on Saturday) also assisted on piano for an alluring take on "Candy Necklace," but the pinnacle moment arrived during performances of "ocean eyes" and "Video Games" alongside surprise guest Billie Eilish. Sitting side by side atop a balcony, the two harmonized through much of those tracks, and the occasions when Lana sat back to let Billie sing several sections solo were absolutely arresting. The two superstars stared adoringly at each other throughout, clearly just as awe-inspired by the unprecedented collaboration as the audience, which erupted with rapturous applause that rivaled the decibels of the set’s glittering fireworks finale.

Raye Races Toward Superstardom During Emotional Debut

After just one song of Raye’s Saturday afternoon performance, there was no question that her Coachella debut would be remembered as one of the most striking in recent years. The British songwriter and chanteuse, who shattered the record for most wins and nominations in a single year at this year’s BRIT Awards, poured every ounce of her soul into her 45-minute set. The crowd inside the Mojave tent hung on every note and went absolutely berserk all the way from the sultry intro of "The Thrill is Gone" to gloriously anthemic closer "Escapism."

Backed by a powerhouse band of eight backup singers, three string players, four brass aces and the standard guitar, drums and bass, each song was a showstopper. Without question, the most impactful moment came on "Ice Cream Man," which deals with her own experience with sexual assault and rape.

"I want you to know it’s not an easy song to sing," she started. And before she could continue, the audience released a loud roar of support, to the point that the singer shed tears. When she composed herself, she continued, "But it’s important to be loud .. and to be brave. This allows me to be loud about something I’ve been quiet about my entire life. I am very f—ing strong."

That moment — which culminated into a big band-style belter that evoked the power of Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday — likewise drew tears from many in the audience. Further, it defined Raye as an artist destined for superstardom on the merits of genuine talent, an infinitely infectious spirit, and incomparably hard work ethic. To that end, it should be no surprise she’s the songwriter behind tunes from GRAMMY-winning artists including Beyoncé, no big deal. 

Sublime Revives Their Definitive Sound Alongside Jakob Nowell

Though many were referring to Sublime’s Saturday afternoon appearance on the Coachella main stage as a "reunion" in the days leading up to the festival, new frontman Jakob Nowell — son of the band’s deceased original singer Bradley Nowell — made it abundantly clear that wasn’t precisely the case.

"My name is Jakob Nowell and this is Sublime," he said following the conclusion of opening song "April 29, 1992," gesturing toward the beloved Southern California ska-punk band’s surviving members bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh.

Read more: Sublime's Jakob Nowell On Leading His Father's Legendary Band & What To Expect At Coachella

His resistance to co-opt his dad’s legacy was admirable, which was an issue for some when Rome Ramirez joined Wilson and Gaugh in 2009 to form Sublime with Rome, a chapter that ended for those original members when Gaugh left the band in 2011 and Wilson subsequently exited in February. With all the pieces in place, the next hour played out as a fantastically fun alliance of old and new.

Jakob sounded strikingly like his dad during most moments, though he asserted his own spin on the classic sound by adding a hardcore-esque growl at various points in the set. Among the 14 songs, they revived early-era material that hadn’t been played live since the mid '90s, including "Date Rape," "Badfish" and "Doin’ Time." One cut, "Romeo," had not been performed live since 1988. The band likewise included tunes that Bradley never got to perform from the band’s final self-titled album, including some of their biggest commercial successes. Tracks such as "What I Got" and "Santeria" were sung by thousands, a chorus oozing with celebratory mass catharsis. 

By the end, there could be only one conclusion: the most definitive version of a revived Sublime has arrived and, should they choose to continue on, they’ll be received by fans with open arms. 

No Doubt Snatches Headliner Status During Jubilant Reunion

Though the reunion of No Doubt was billed as the runner-up to Tyler, the Creator’s Saturday night finisher, it’s absolutely valid to argue that the beloved Southern California outfit — playing their first show since 2015 — was the evening’s true headliner. The eye-popping expanse and unerring enthusiasm of the audience (the largest of the weekend), combined with the group’s sheer joy and explosive energy, drove the feeling home.

Every member of the core group — bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont, drummer Adrian Young and frontwoman Gwen Stefani — emanated pure exultation, wide grins plastered permanently on their faces. Stefani was especially fired up; after the band powered through five treasured tracks — including opener "Hella Good" (performed at the end of long catwalk), "Ex-Girlfriend," and "Different People" (featured for the first time since 2009) — the singer stopped to address the sea of screaming fans.

"Wow … you showed up to Coachella Saturday night 2024 to see No Doubt play together on this stage for the first time in nine years. Are you crazy?!" Stefani said. "If I could just somehow explain the amount of love [we feel] and how much I wanna slap the s— out of you guys tonight!"

The sentiment was meant endearingly, but every song did hit intensely. In particular, a rendition of "Bathwater" featuring special guest Olivia Rodrigo — as hyped as Stefani with her never-ending spinning and bouncing antics — left a lasting mark. For old school fans, the Return to Saturn single was a special treat, and with Rodrigo in the mix, it elicited equal exuberance from younger audience members.

For the finale of the 16-song setlist, the band fulfilled the promise of euphoric nostalgia with a hard-hitting trio of tracks off 1995 breakthrough third album Tragic Kingdom: "Just a Girl," "Don’t Speak" and "Spiderwebs." The timeless tunes incited a sudden surge of fans toward the stage, and one would’ve been hard pressed to spot anyone not participating in the jubilant singalongs. It was a moment of multi-generational unity and unbridled joy — unquestionably unforgettable, and hopefully just the precursor to a triumphant new era of No Doubt.

Olivia Dean Enters the Stateside Festival Scene With Humbling Authenticity

Watching the first few moments of British neo-soul singer Olivia Dean’s Sunday afternoon performance in the Gobi tent, you’d never know this was her first American festival appearance. And what an incredible debut, at one of the States’ most prestigious festivals with only one album under belt (2023’s Messy) to boot. The 25-year-old stunned with utmost finesse and confidence, working the stage like a long-established diva and immediately eliciting rapturous applause after each of the first two songs, "OK Love You Bye" and "Echo."

While it can sometimes be off-putting when an artist introduces every song with a tidbit explaining what it’s about, this method had the opposite effect for Dean. Her context made each moment feel intensely personal, and the audience reaction was overwhelming. One of many tunes with a distinctly Motown bop, "The Hardest Part," was prefaced with the remark that it "recently changed [her] life," and spoke to the process of overcoming grief. After the final note was sung, she received a deafening standing ovation, prompting her to endearingly cover her face in response. And there was so much power in her anecdote before "Carmen," a tribute to how her grandmother made everything possible for her. 

"My granny came to London when she was 18 … had never been on a plane … left her life behind and had my mom, and my mom had me," she said, already being drowned out by cheers before the final remark: "This song is for my granny and anyone brave enough to move and any immigrant in the crowd right now."

As she wrapped up her short set with the bewitching single "Dive," the sun broke through the clouds, illuminating her with the loveliest natural spotlight to complement a performer who already naturally, effortlessly shines on her own.

Doja Cat Exudes Total Command & Flawless Flow For Sunday Finale 

It cannot be overstated: Doja Cat’s fest-closing performance on the main stage was a visionary masterpiece, and the strongest headlining set of the first weekend. That wasn’t certain from the stripped-down beginning moments when the GRAMMY-winning singer/rapper appeared on a circular b-stage mid-audience, dressed in a hazmat suit and encircled by a black and yellow biohazard pattern.

But excitement built steadily as she bombastically delivered opening song "ACKNOWLEDGE ME," which, even in an abbreviated format, lived up to its title and created a palpable air of anticipation. From there, she strutted back toward the main stage via a connected catwalk, meeting briefly in the middle with South African quintet the Joy (set to release their self-titled debut album on June 21) offering up fiery raps amidst the group’s arresting a cappella.

Shortly after, Doja appeared on the main stage dressed in a knee-length platinum blonde weave, flanked by an army of dancers who all wore matching getups covered in the same synthetic hair. The effect when they all converged, their movements completely in sync, created an optical illusion of one enormous hairy creature moving across the stage to punctuate the ferocity of "Demons." 

That was just the first taste of a breathtaking series of visual sequences over the course of the 70-minute show, each profoundly enhanced by cinematography that created the effect of watching a top-quality music video on the main stage’s massive screens. If you witnessed the camera work during Beyoncé’s Homecoming show back in 2018 or Rosalía’s production in 2023, you’ll understand the aesthetic. 

Other key moments when the video work was utterly astonishing arrived during the live debut of "OKLOSER" (one of five first-time song features) where the previously smooth camera went rogue, shakily weaving through the gang of dancers to create the effect of maneuvering through a chaotic house party; again during "Attention" as the lens wove through dancers in fur coats wielding Cruella de Vil-inspired cabrioles until it settled on Doja at the end of the line; and finally during closing track, "Wet Vagina," where Doja and her dancers rolled and writhed (in perfect choreographed unison) on the b-stage filled with brown mud, the sequel ending in a stunning birds-eye shot. 

Backtracking a few moments earlier, maybe the most jaw-dropping production element came on "WYM Freestyle" in the form of a giant T-Rex skeleton following Doja down the catwalk while flames erupted from the stage behind her. The precise reason for that wasn’t evident, but it certainly boosted the ferocity of her raw rap delivery.

The unending visual feast only served to amplify Doja’s already flawless flow. She never missed a vocal mark, whether singing or rapping. She didn’t even once pause to banter with the audience, creating the effect of total focus and command. Big bonuses: 21 Savage materializing mid-set to serve up "n.h.i.e.," Teezo Touchdown’s cameo on "MASC" and A$AP Rocky (who likewise performed with Tyler, the Creator on Saturday) swooping in for "URRRGE!!!!!!!!!!" before Doja dazzled with super-hit "Paint the Town Red."

When all was said and done, Doja Cat more-than-earned her graduation to festival headliner, and while she’s already set for an arena tour this year, she’s clearly destined to stun at stadiums not far in the future. 

Coachella 2024 Weekend 1 Recap: 20 Surprises And Special Moments, From Billie Eilish & Lana Del Rey To Olivia Rodrigo With No Doubt

Graham "Suggs" McPherson of Madness performs in 2023
Graham "Suggs" McPherson of Madness performs in 2023

Photo: Gus Stewart/Redferns

interview

Madness Frontman Suggs Talks New Album, First U.S. Tour & Getting Kicked Off "Top Of The Pops" — Four Times

Ahead of their appearance at Las Vegas' Punk Rock Bowling fest and first American shows in 10 years, Madness' lead singer Suggs details the band's hit-filled history, 2023 album and coming up Two Tone.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:32 pm

American audiences may only know "Our House," but there’s much more to Madness than their lone Stateside mega-hit.

Prior to their 1982 smash, the English band enjoyed immense commercial success in their home country. Between 1979 and 1981, Madness sent nine consecutive singles into the Top 10 of the UK Official Singles Chart. 

"It was a few years of hard work and all of a sudden, we were the most successful band in England," says Madness frontman Suggs (born Graham McPherson), chatting from London. "That happened because people f—ikn’ dug the tunes we made."

Madness also helped bring ska to the masses. Alongside comrades like the Specials, the London septet were leaders of the late ‘70s British ska boom, which combined Jamaican rhythms with punk swagger, and united Black and white working-class kids. Among their hits from this era were "One Step Beyond" (1979),  "Baggy Trousers" (1980) and "House of Fun" (1982). 

With their street-savvy fashions and Monty Python-style music videos (which caught the eye of Honda and led to a series of advertisements in the early '80s), Madness have been  fixtures in UK culture and beyond for over 40 years. They endured so strongly that their 13th LP, 2023’s Theatre of the Absurd Presents C’est la Vie, hit No. 1 on the UK Official Albums Chart — their first studio album to reach the summit.

Beginning May 22, Madness will tour the U.S. for the first time in 10 years, including a headline slot at Las Vegas’ Punk Rock Bowling festival, alongside Devo and Descendents.

On the phone, Suggs is chatty and jovial, quick to break into song or pull a good story from his band’s topsy-turvy history. Madness once turned down a chance to play Madison Square Garden as "Our House" surged in 1983. (They’d already performed on "SNL" and "Our House" was an MTV staple.) Madness could have been a much bigger band in America. But after years of non-stop touring and promotion in the UK, Madness was nearing its breaking point. "We had f—in’ 20 hits and we were all getting a bit tired," Suggs remembers. "I see the Pretenders, 18 months touring America! So, we never really continued." In 1986, Madness went their separate ways. 

A decade later, ska was enjoying a moment in the sun in America as groups like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt and Reel Big Fish dominated airwaves during the genre's "third wave." Over in the UK, a rejuvenated Madness was enjoying its elder statesman status, drawing massive festival crowds since reuniting in 1992. No Doubt frequently cited Madness as an inspiration and even tapped keyboardist Mike Barson to play on one of their songs. And the fire still burns. At Coachella 2024, No Doubt covered Madness’ rendition of "One Step Beyond," itself a cover of a ‘60s classic by Jamaican ska legend Prince Buster. 

Madness — whose current lineup also includes guitarist Chrissy Boy, saxophonist Lee Thompson, bassist Mark Bedford, and drummer Woody — has earned its place in rock history. Their classics still bring crowds to a frenzy and, as their latest album proves, fans are still enthralled by what Suggs and company have to say.

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with the Madness singer for a career-spanning swath of topics: crafting tunes in the modern day, some sage advice he got from Clash frontman Joe Strummer, why Madness kept getting banned from "Top of the Pops," and much more. 

Was there a moment you realized "Our House" was going to be a much bigger song than your previous hits?

When it was a hit in America, that was definitely an indication. And that’s the alchemy of music — you just don’t know when you’re doing it at the time. I remember we were rehearsing, when the song started… our bass player Mark [Bedford] goes [hums "Our House" intro], dum-dum, dum-dum-de-dum-dum… There wasn’t a chorus at the time, so our producer Clive [Langer], just sang, "Our house, in the middle of the street," just joking. 

But without that, it wouldn’t have been the hit that it is. [Songs] are like babies. You have them, you bring them up, and then they go out into the world, and you don’t know where they’re gonna go. It’s not up to you. It’s up to other people to decide if they like them or not. 

We’d been in America for a month and suddenly "Our House" was a massive hit. We’d been offered to play Madison Square Garden but we were just tired and wanted to go home. We all had kids. We didn’t do a few gigs [that] we were offered in America that might have changed the situation. 

We [weren't] arrogant — but we were a bit. And we were so popular in England. We were making a very good living; we didn’t really have to go anywhere anymore. We just decided that it was kind of too late to try and break — whatever that word means — America. It was a great hit, it was fantastic, but that was kind of it.

What do you remember from the first time Madness toured the States?

It was 1979 or so… It was a really big, eye-opening experience. There were seven [of us] in the band, so probably 10 of our friends [including crew]. We were like a party on the road, we didn’t really need anyone else’s company. Coming over the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing New York, you know what I mean? When you come from London — I mean, London isn’t small — but you don’t compare it to New York. 

And then L.A. and all the palm trees. I remember we played at Whisky a Go Go. We did two shows a night: one at 11 and one at 2 in the morning — my suit was still wet. 

It was kind of off because [L.A.] was still catching up with punk. You had the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, X. People were doing all this mad punk dancing and the worm or whatever, writhing about on the floor. We’d sort of done that in London; we’d had the Sex Pistols and the Clash. We were into something else, which was dancing, and playing music by Black origin. We weren’t just thrashing about and spitting at each other. But that kind of thing was still going on, which made it a bit difficult for us because a lot of the places we were playing were really punk. And we weren’t punk. We were over that.

By the time "Our House" came around in '82, I’d think America was starting to catch up.

By then you had Blondie, the CBGB scene, Talking Heads, and it started to make more sense to us. With post-punk, there were grooves suddenly. It was offbeat, but it wasn’t anger. 

When Madness first started playing, what were the crowds like?

It was just our friends. We started off in a pub in Camden Town, where we were living. We got a residency, every Wednesday night. First week, there’d be 10 people. Second week, 30, 40, 60, 80, 90, 100, and then two months later, we had a queue around the block. The music we were playing, which was ska, and the clothes we were wearing was kinda different than everybody else around. 

Then we got a gig supporting the Specials in a pub in West London. They sort of appeared out of nowhere — Coventry — which is quite a long way from London. And they were wearing the same clothes as us, playing the same kind of music. I remember [Specials singer] Neville [Staple] was shooting holes in the ceiling with a starting pistol and I just thought, Crikey, these are kooks. We might be onto something. I remember Johnny Rotten getting out of a cab and going, "Are you for real?" And these kids went, "Yeah, you f—ing arse." It was the transition of power. It wasn't that long: ‘77, punk. ‘78, us. And suddenly you got the Specials, the Beat, the Selecter. Two-tone became this massive phenomenon in London. So we went on tour with them: the Specials, Selecter, Beat. 

I remember being with Joe Strummer from the Clash and I was walking through a playground with him. I can’t remember where we were going, but all the kids were singing "Baggy Trousers" on the swings. And I’m going, "I want to be cool, I don’t want school kids." And he went, "No, you’ve got it wrong, mate. You want to have young kids, that’s the best thing that can happen. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the young people you want to connect with." 

When you’ve got pretty naive school kids singing your songs, you’ve definitely done something you should be proud of. 

What was Camden Town like when you were growing up there?

It was rough, man. You know, people now in London are getting more and more scared, lot of knives flyin’ and gangs, but it was the same. You lived in a certain area and you would be very wary of another area across the road because you could be stabbed, shot. The greatest thing was the music. 

Every pub had a stage and there’d be music on every night. In that period, punk was still there, then you got goth, you got psychobilly, rockabilly, then you got new romantic. Every pub you went to was something going on. Different scenes, all these kids. 

The pride I have [as one of] these working class kids. There’s no money, you just tried: this is what you’re gonna wear, and this is what you’re into. And suddenly a whole scene started. It was totally organic and individual. It wasn’t trend sections, fashion magazines; it was just kids doing what they want.

Where you grew up, what were race relations like?

They were difficult. And we got caught up in that, unfortunately, because we were all white… Although our original drummer was Black, but he left because we were too s—. Like I said, there was all these different scenes and the scene we were into was ska and reggae. And you had this whole culture — from the mods to the skinheads to the suedeheads in the late ‘60s and ‘70s — which was all about fashion and listening to that music, but it got usurped by these [racist] skinheads who started to take it the other way.

We’d be playing concerts and there’d be all sorts of racism going on and we’d have to deal with it in our own way. I remember jumping into the audience a few times and getting beaten up. It went away, fortunately. Only a couple years: probably ‘78, ‘79 maybe. Even the Specials were getting it, and they had Black people in their own group. They’d get people f—ing sieg heiling. It’s a fucking long story. 

What we had here was football hooliganism, which has now become very popular in Italy, France, and Germany. It’s one of our greatest exports. [Laughs.] It was easier for them to come to rock concerts than football matches, where there were loads of police. 

How did the commercial success first come?

By being really good. People saw what we’d done. It was a few years of hard work and all of a sudden, we were the most successful band in England. That happened because people f—in’ dug the tunes we made. Then we split up in 1985 and I think we were still the most successful band of the ‘80s… in England. Ha ha! 

"The Prince" on 2 Tone [Records] got to No. 16, then we had [our debut album] One Step Beyond get to No. 2, then we had "House of Fun" [reach No. 1]. We just had hit after hit, you tell me. 

Music videos played a big role in Madness' success, right?

That had just started. This was before MTV. We went to Stiff Records [in 1979]. We’d been on 2 Tone [Records], but we decided we wanted to spread our wings and Stiff had Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Kirsty MacColl, the Damned. Dave Robinson, who ran that label, also saw the potential that we were all quite theatrical, so we started making videos. 

[Television program] "Top of the Pops" had 20 million viewers; it only was allowed one promo pop video, and we were always the one that they showed. When we did "Baggy Trousers," there was a feeling in the air. People would talk about our videos, and it definitely added to the potency of what we were doing. 

The intellectual types and the tastemakers, the people who make and break you, just thought we were a flash in the pan joke, and the music got slightly sidelined. Only recently we’ve had much better reviews of our history. We put a lot of effort into the music [and] those videos. 

There’s so much going on in those songs, musically, if you really listen.

We’d have friends, musicians, play covers and they’d go, "We can’t play your songs, it’s too complicated." We had seven of us, all wrote songs, so we were in constant competition with each other. You couldn’t just go, "Mine’s the best." You had to actually write the best song. 

So many bands with two or three songwriters are fighting all the time, or just break up. How did Madness do it with so many?

Tolerance is the main thing. The underlying reason is we were friends from when we were at school. We were famous around our way. It was a gang called the Aldenham Glamour Boys, and to be in or amongst them, you were famous. So by the time we got the band going, we weren’t really bothered by other people’s impressions of us. 

On "Top of the Pops," we got banned four times. The girl who used to do our promotions said, "Do you realize people would give their right arm to be on this?" And I said, "The thing is, we’re just not right arm-giving people."

What were the four things you got banned from "Top of the Pops" for?

The first time was when one of our friend’s brothers was in prison and he held up a sign saying, "This is for prisoner number 44224022." That wasn’t allowed. The second time, we got on a lift with this dance troupe and the lift plummeted into the basement because there were too many of us. The third time, Lee [Thompson], our saxophone player, had a t-shirt that said, "I need the BBC" and then he had another t-shirt underneath that said, "Like a hole in the head." And I can’t remember what the fourth one was.  

When America had its brief ska moment in the ‘90s, did Madness get any new attention?

I don’t think so, no, because we had accepted that it was too late. It was great to see, all the Americans, Mighty Mighty Bosstones or whoever checking us. But we weren’t going to go back. If it had been 20 years earlier, it would have helped. But it was too late, like, "Who are these old farts?" [Laughs.]

When Madness got back together in the ‘90s, what was that like?

Vince Power, who just passed away, a great promoter, used to do this Irish festival, Fleadh, in North London. We all used to go. And he says, "When’s the last time you played?" And I said, "Well, probably about six years ago." And he said, "Why don’t you do a one-off comeback?" 

So we did Madstock! in 1992. We didn’t know if anyone was going to turn up. 35,000 people turned up. So we put on another one. And 70,000 people turned up. There was an earthquake, 4.5 on the Richter scale, people were jumping up and down. And they had to evacuate people out of their houses, flats, and apartments because of the earthquake that we’d created. We put out a greatest hits album, it goes to No. 1, sold 2 million copies, blah, blah, blah… And we’ve been going longer now on this bit than we did on that first bit. 

It’s really interesting to hear how you’ve been part of rock music through so many eras.

I’ve just done a couple songs with Paul Weller, he’s a friend of mine from the old days. We were working on a tune and I went, "Look Paul, it’s only music." And he said, "No, it f—ing isn’t." [Laughs.] And it’s true innit? We made a lot of f—ing good pop music. It’s something I’m very proud of. It’s the soundtrack of our lives. When you hear a tune, you remember exactly where you were. 

When you wrote the lyrics for the new album, Theatre of the Absurd, what was on your mind?

We all write. We had 40 songs. During the lockdown, for that two years, the worst way to communicate is email. People were losing their minds. So I thought we were going to fall out and never speak to each other… And we made a record I think is good. I mean, [it went] No. 1 in England; that’s the first number one [studio] album we ever had. 

I wrote the first song on the album, "Theatre of the Absurd." I was just sitting on my own, stuck, and I was imagining being in some old theater with all the doors locked, not being able to get out. Theatre of the Absurd was a French artistic [concept]  where things became so absurd, it was all gobbledygook. They just made up words. 

I’m really fortunate. This band of mine, they're a dysfunctional family, it’s very difficult to be in. But it’s like the philosophers the Eagles once said, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never f—in’ leave." 

But I’m looking forward to playing America. The fella from "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Larry David wants to introduce us. 

Are you gonna do that?

You know, Helen Mirren did a bit on our new album, [so did] Martin Freeman, actors from England. Getting someone from America who likes us, I can’t see the problem with that. We shall see. 

Watch: "A History Of L.A. Ska" Panel At The GRAMMY Museum With Reel Big Fish, NOFX & More

Rome Ramirez
Rome Ramirez

Photo: Trey Bonner

interview

Rome Ramirez On The End Of Sublime With Rome & Why It’s A "Natural Evolution" Of The Beloved Band

As Sublime sees a new rebirth with Jakob Nowell — son of original frontman, Bradley — as their singer, Rome Ramirez is sending off Sublime with Rome solo. Amid the release of a final album and tour, he details why it’s "perfect timing" for the transition.

GRAMMYs/May 14, 2024 - 01:46 pm

It's an odd time for a new Sublime with Rome album to come out — and Rome Ramirez would almost certainly agree. The joyous, complicated, and tragic story of Sublime took a happy turn earlier this year, when Sublime’s original bassist, Eric Wilson, and drummer, Bud Gaugh, reactivated the band with late frontman Bradley Nowell’s son, Jakob, in the driver’s seat.

This overlaps, however, with Ramirez wrapping up his duties as the frontman of Sublime with Rome. He’s been doing this since 2009, and made four albums with them: 2011’s Yours Truly, 2015’s Sirens, 2019’s Blessings, and 2024’s Sublime with Rome, out now. As the reconstituted Sublime soldier on, Sublime with Rome are performing their final dates through the summer — despite having no original members of Sublime in the band anymore, as Gaugh departed in 2011 and Wilson left in February.

Why would there be a Sublimeless Sublime with Rome? In short, because they had booked these dates before Wilson left, and before news of the new Sublime broke. And, perhaps more importantly to Ramirez, because he aims to end on a high note for his heroes and their fans.

"I feel like we're in this coexistence together," Ramirez tells GRAMMY.com. "And just as long as everything remains respectful to the fans, I'm in and I want to do right by them — because they're the ones that have kept this whole thing afloat."

As Sublime roars back with Jakob, don’t let Sublime with Rome’s last album fall between the cracks. It’s a more-than-worthy sendoff for a band that bridged the gap and upheld the band’s legacy, while exploring some interesting creative offshoots via Ramirez’s songwriting.

Indeed, bittersweet highlights of Sublime with Rome, like "Holiday" and "Love is Dangerous," don’t feel like a setting sun, but a rising one. And with Jakob now at the helm, Sublime’s afterlife will continue to carry on the band's legacy in a beautiful way.

Just before Sublime with Rome’s release, Ramirez chatted with GRAMMY.com about the band’s final chapter, and addressed some potential misconceptions about the next iteration of Sublime.

This interview was drawn from three conversations, and has been edited for clarity.

How does a Sublime with Rome song come to be, and how did that apply here?

It usually starts with an idea for a guitar or a really cool sample. I would just start writing an idea for an acoustic and bring it into the studio. Once in the studio with the band, we are able to run it a couple of times and see what direction we want to take the production.

When recording, we tend to run the song a few passes hopefully locking down the rhythm tracks and a rough vocal. After that, we begin overdubs. Lastly I do the final vocals at home in the comfort of my own studio. It allows me to really dial in the lyrics and harmonies.

We really worked on a lot of this music on the tour while on the road for the last two summer tours. Studios in random towns, make-shift studios in dressing rooms, and on the tour bus. We did the thing. It was definitely a community effort, and I'm so grateful for everyone to have lent their hand in the making of this album.

This album marks the end of an era — an emotional conclusion to my journey with Sublime. But I'm hopeful that through the music, you'll find moments of peace and connection, as I did while creating it.

How does Sublime with Rome compare to previous Sublime with Rome albums, or represent an evolution in the band’s sound?

This album feels like a great blend of new and old. To me, It feels very natural and not forced as well. Lyrically, on some of the songs, I really reflect on this whole journey and what our future could be like.

I knew this was the last record when making it. There is something very special about knowing the end is near. In life we don’t always have that luxury of knowing something is coming to end, so when you do you can be much more intentional.

Which tracks on Sublime with Rome are especially meaningful to you, and why?

"Holiday." It’s a bit coded. But the truth is in there. Also, there was a sample from Manu Chao, but they wanted too much publishing and cash, so I pulled it out and made my own loop instead. I will always think of that.

**How does it feel to be winding this journey down after 15 years?**

It's definitely a really beautiful thing, because for me, it's the natural evolution of what is supposed to happen with this band. We've been doing this for so long now, and we've been blessed to travel all over the world and play the greatest venues. I've got to meet so many fans that are just like-minded — like myself, as Sublime fans — and we've accomplished so much.

I think it's the perfect timing to be winding this down. I've been working on this [solo] music that I put together in the pandemic, and I wanted to focus on this now and really give it that energy and that time that I've pretty much just given to Sublime with Rome in the last 15 years, aside from producing for other artists.

I felt like now it would be a good time for me to focus my energies on that. And right around the time, Jakob wanted to step up and take over for his dad's band, which is absolutely his birthright. So, I think it's well-timed now for everyone.

What’s your interpretation of how Sublime with Rome’s end dovetailed with Sublime’s rebirth?

The truth of the matter is, we were going to wind this down so I could focus on my solo efforts. We assumed that the outfit would continue because Sublime is still very relevant in today's world. People love Sublime; they're still discovering Sublime.

The only part that came just a little out of nowhere: me and my crew found out when the world found out — via the Internet, via social media posts — that they were going to be putting the band together with Jakob singing and playing guitar. And it really caught us off guard because we had a lot of shows that we had already pre-scheduled for 2024. [GRAMMY.com reached out to the Sublime camp for comment, but they could not be reached.]

Was this before or after Eric left Sublime with Rome?

This was before. Eric suffered some really serious medical things last year, and then on the summer tour, he went into another issue. Everything really came to the forefront, where it was like, OK, maybe now is the perfect time to start winding this down — so Eric can focus on his health, and I can use the time to focus on this music that I've been making.

We had, I'd say, a good majority of the shows that we have now already pre-scheduled, along with the tour and an album. When he left, that's the part that hurt me — the fact that we had all of these things that we had set up for our fans and we were promoting and telling them about.

I understand they got the Coachella offer, so that was a really enticing move. But I would've really loved to have set it up in a much more graceful type of way that made sense and paid respect to the lineage — me bringing the guys up on stage, then walking off, and then Eric jamming with Bud and Jakob. Something like that would've been really rad.

But instead, I found out with the world. That was the only disheartening part about the situation. But everything happens for a reason, and I do believe that they will find their success. And it's a beautiful thing that Jakob's doing, taking over for his dad's band. I think it's awesome.

Was there any bad blood?

No, no. We had just got off tour. We were in the studio making a record. There was no big, like, "F— you. No, f— you."

We all sat down in the dressing room. I think it was the second or the third night before the tour ended, and Eric was in pretty rough shape. And it was a moment of reflection for all of us.

We talked about the future and about laying low, and we were going to go back in and finishing up some of the last minute touch-ups on the record that we needed to do. And we just pushed aside all that so Eric [could] get home and get some rest and some help.

During that time, that's when we found out everything along with the world. But there was no huge falling out. There was no storming off, no walking off stage, "I'm never talking to you again," nothing like that.

You and Jakob are certainly coming at the project from two different angles.

They asked me to sing for the band coming from the place of being a giant fan. But for Jakob, that's his dad that he lost.

I don't want to put words in his mouth, but from what I assume, these stories — they're still connected to the music, and it's probably a really painful type of thing to be dealing with. And then seeing an iteration of the band that his dad's former band members put together and me singing, I'm sure it may have just been really confusing and painful for him.

The part that I can feel really good about is that over the course of these years, they have made so much money, and so many resources have come to the brand, and eyes, that I just feel so grateful to be a part of that.

Because I like to think, in some weird way, that — I hope — Bradley's stoked on all this. That his music was able to still live on and be able to provide a living for his wife and his son while Jakob was growing up and getting ready to take over his dad's band.

Obviously, the Sublime catalog is successful in and of itself, but us touring — one of the big things was when we started the band, Eric and Bud made sure that they wanted to pay Brad's wife and his son. And obviously that's the whole MO. When we first put the project together, that was a big thing. And we continued to do that over 15 years.

Heck, tonight I have a show, and he's going to get a paycheck for this one too, as he will be moving forward until the tour's done. Because this is Sublime; this is his dad's band. I'm just an employee of the band, but very grateful for it.

Jakob has expressed some criticism of Sublime with Rome’s history of recording new material with a new frontman. But it wasn’t only your decision; it was Eric and Bud’s, too.

Well, yeah. They came to me [about starting Sublime with Rome]. I was living homeless in my van, just playing shows on the beach, wherever I could. And they came to me with this wonderful opportunity — my favorite band. When they wanted to write music, I said, "Heck yeah," because that just sounded fun. It sounded rad.

I still kind of live by that same energy. And I know it can be easy to paint me as the villain in the situation, I guess.

But going back to what I said, we come from different places where I'm just a giant Sublime fan, and that's why I think they picked me to want to get back together. And you'll never be able to take that away from me — because I love this band and I love the music, and no matter what happens, I'll always love Brad, Bud, and Eric.

Sublime will always be a part of my life, and I'm proud of that. And I'm proud of whatever they wanted to do, whether it was to use the name or put new music out, or not use the name or go and play with someone else. That's awesome. Continue along with Sublime. Jakob can pull the license tomorrow if he wants, but there's no need. We were winding down anyway.

How would you summarize what's special about them? Not Sublime with Rome, not Sublime with Jakob — Brad, Bud and Eric.

Dude, to me, the magic of them was always just taking the best parts of music and putting them all together in an album and sometimes in one song. And that just always blew my mind.

And then, the icing on top of that was Brad's voice; there was just f—king nothing in this world like it. Like butter — sweet but dirty.

Tonight, I want to listen to a Sublime song before I go on, just so I can try and sound a little closer and pay a little more homage to Brad. Because that's why I got into this whole thing. I love those guys. I just want to be able to jam it and bring it to the fans.

Sublime's Jakob Nowell On Leading His Father's Legendary Band & What To Expect At Coachella

Blur in Tokyo in November 1994
Blur in Tokyo in November 1994.

Photo: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

list

7 Ways Blur's 'Parklife' Served As The Genesis Of Britpop

On the heels of their Coachella return, Blur celebrates the 30th anniversary of their opus, 'Parklife,' on April 25. Take a look at how the album helped bring Britpop to the mainstream.

GRAMMYs/Apr 25, 2024 - 02:33 pm

In April 1993, journalist Stuart Maconie coined the term Britpop for a Select magazine article celebrating the UK's fight back against the dominance of American rock. Remarkably, London four-piece Blur weren't even mentioned in the story. And yet, frontman Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James, and drummer Dave Rowntree would provide the catalyst for the scene's mainstream breakthrough.

Just a year later, Blur released what many consider to be Britpop's defining statement. Parklife served as a colorful, vibrant, and incredibly infectious love letter to all things Anglocentric, drawing upon the nation's great cultural heritage while also foreshadowing what was to come. And it instantly struck a chord with homegrown audiences desperate for guitar music that wasn't drowning in abject misery, and better reflected their day-to-day lives.

Remarkably, Albarn had predicted Parklife's success four years earlier. As he declared to music writer David Cavanagh in 1990, "When our third album comes out, our place as the quintessential English band of the '90s will be assured. That is a simple statement of fact."

Three decades after its game-changing release, here's a look at how Parklife forever changed both Blur's career trajectory and the history of British rock.

It Kickstarted Britpop's Greatest Rivalry

In one of those great rock coincidences, Blur's third LP hit the shelves just 24 hours after "Supersonic" gave a then-relative unknown Manchester outfit named Oasis their first ever UK Top 40 single. And the two bands would remain intertwined (perhaps begrudgingly so) from then on, culminating in the most high-profile chart battle in British music history.

You could argue that Oasis' Noel Gallagher threw the first stone, describing Parklife as "Southern England personified" in a manner that suggested it wasn't exactly complimentary. And according to his manager Alan McGee, Definitely Maybe cut "Digsy's Dinner" was written as a deliberate "piss-take of Blur."

An increasingly bitter war of words then broke out in the summer of 1995 as the "Country House" versus "Roll With It" war swept the nation. Blur emerged victorious, although Oasis had the last laugh when (What's The Story) Morning Glory spent 10 weeks atop the UK album chart.

It Brought Storytelling Back To Indie Pop

Heavily inspired by Martin Amis novel London Fields, Parklife was inhabited by a cast of intriguing fictional characters, essentially doubling up as a series of short stories. "Tracy Jacks," for example, is about a golf-obsessed civil servant who ends up getting arrested for public indecency before bulldozing his own house.

"Magic America" is the tale of Bill Barret, a Brit who commits to a life of excess during a Stateside holiday ("Took a cab to the shopping malls/ Bought and ate until he could do neither anymore"), while "Clover Over Dover" explores the mindset of a manipulative boyfriend threatening to jumping off the titular white cliffs.

Over the following 18 months, everything from Pulp's "Common People" and Space's "Neighbourhood" to Supergrass' "Caught by the Fuzz" and The Boo Radleys' "It's Lulu" were combining classic British guitar pop with witty Mike Leigh-esque vignettes of modern life.

It Originated The Big Indie Ballad

Dramatic ballads aren't necessarily the first thing that come to mind with Parklife, a record famed for its jaunty, "knees-up Mother Brown" ditties. But it boasts two examples: "To The End," an alternate Bond theme featuring a burst of Gallic flair from Stereolab's Laetitia Sadler, and the swoonsome "This Is A Low." Turns out the "mystical lager-eater" the record was designed to embody could also get a little vulnerable from time to time.

This appeared to give all of their laddish peers some pause for thought. Oasis, the most fervent advocates of the "cigarettes and alcohol" lifestyle, later scored their biggest hit with acoustic ballad "Wonderwall." And bands including Cast ("Walkaway"), Shed Seven ("Chasing Rainbows") and Menswear ("Being Brave") all enjoyed UK hits revealing their softer sides. No doubt Coldplay, Travis, and every other sensitive post-Britpop outfit that emerged in the late 1990s were taking notes, too.

It Paid Respect To The Greats

The Britpop scene was renowned for its slavish devotion to the first time British guitar bands ruled the airwaves, the Swinging Sixties. Oasis freely admitted they modeled themselves on the Beatles, while the likes of Ocean Colour Scene, Kula Shaker and The Paul Weller all released albums that sounded like they'd been discovered in a vintage record shop.

And while Blur would later distance themselves from the past with a sense of invention (which Albarn would also parlay into his various side projects, including the virtual band Gorillaz), they were more than happy to get all nostalgic on Parklife. See "Far Out," their only track to feature James on lead vocal, which resembled the trippy psychedelia of Pink Floyd in their Syd Barrett era, and the Sgt. Pepper-esque brassy instrumental "The Debt Collector," while there are also echoes of the Walker Brothers, The Kinks, and Small Faces. Suddenly, retro was the new cool.

It Turned Blur Into Britain's Biggest Guitar Band

The UK Top 10 success of 1991's "There's No Other Way" proved to be something of a false start for Blur, with the band soon falling by the wayside like every other baggy pop outfit that emerged at the turn of the decade. "Popscene," the 1992 single intended to revolutionize both their career and British guitar music in general, stalled at No. 32, while 1993 sophomore Modern Life is Rubbish sold just 40,000 copies.

But Parklife single-handedly turned Blur into Britain's biggest guitar band, reaching No. 1 in their homeland, spending 82 weeks in the Top 40, and eventually becoming a million-seller. It went on to pick up four BRITs, a Mercury Prize nomination, and has been recognized as an all-time great by Spin, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone. Further proof of its glowing reputation came in 2009 when Royal Mail selected it as one of 10 albums worthy of commemorating on a postage stamp.

It Spawned A String Of Classic Singles

Parklife's campaign was kicked off in March 1994 with "Girls and Boys," a glorious dissection of British vacationers — which, surprisingly in the days when genre-hopping was frowned upon — evoked the '80s synth-pop of Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys. Rowntree was even replaced by a drum machine, not that he particularly minded, luckily.

This indie floorfiller was followed up by the hugely underrated "To The End" and then the much-quoted title track. Everything about "Parklife" the song is larger than life: the Cockney geezer narration from Quadrophenia's Phil Daniels, the festival-friendly sing-along chorus, and the brightly colored video in which James — perhaps tipping his hat to Queen's "I Want to Break Free" -– donned soap opera drag. But fourth release "End of a Century," a melancholic tale of domestic drudgery complete with mournful trombone solo, once again proved there was a depth beyond their cheeky chappy personas.

It Made Brits Proud To Be British Again

Unable to connect with the oppressive angst and flannel shirts of the grunge movement that had plagued their first major North American tour in 1992, Blur first started to embrace their inherent Englishness on the following year's Modern Life is Rubbish. Unfortunately, this throwback to the original British Invasion was met with a resounding shrug of the shoulders on both sides of the Atlantic.

Undeterred, however, the band doubled down on all things Anglocentric on its follow-up, from its original title of London, to its greyhound racing cover art, to its celebrations of bank holidays, Club 18-30 holidays, and shipping forecasts. This time around, they managed to capture the zeitgeist (at home, at least), as the rise of New Labour and the forthcoming hosting of Euro '96 made everyone proud to be British again. Within 12 months, the UK charts were littered with homegrown guitar bands selling the idea of the English dream — and it all started with Parklife.

Coachella 2024 Weekend 1 Recap: 20 Surprises And Special Moments, From Billie Eilish & Lana Del Rey To Olivia Rodrigo With No Doubt

Photo of Skepta performing at Wireless Festival on September 11, 2021, in London, England. Skepta is wearing dark black sunglasses, a black shirt, and a vest made of bullets.
Skepta performs a headline set at Wireless Festival on September 11, 2021, in London, England

Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage

list

10 Must-See Artists At Coachella 2024: Skepta, The Last Dinner Party, Mdou Moctar, Cimafunk & More

Peso Pluma, Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat, Tyler, The Creator, J Balvin and a reunited No Doubt may be some of the biggest draws at Coachella 2024, but the beloved festival will host a multitude of must-see artists whose names appear in smaller text.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 03:00 pm

Ah, springtime. For the average person, that means sunshine, flora in bloom, perhaps a figurative fresh start in the new year. But for music festival fans, it signals another season starter: Coachella.

An estimated 125,000 people will flock to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California for the first weekend (April 12-14) of the 23rd Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. While the first weekend is already sold out, tickets are still available for the second weekend (April 19-21).

Coachella's headliners have been busy: Both Lana Del Rey (headlining Friday) and Doja Cat (slated to close out Sunday) just wrapped extensive tours at the end of 2023 and, while Saturday closer Tyler, the Creator's only other 2024 festival date is at Lollapalooza, he did stage a large-scale appearance in 2023 at the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival in Los Angeles. Still, it stands to reason that there are scores of fans who missed out on those tour stops, and Coachella would be an ideal chance to catch them in a particularly special setting. 

There's also the potential to see a slew of surprise guests (a long-standing Chella tradition) and much-hyped reunions. Coachella 2024 attendees will likely flock to see a reunited No Doubt and Sublime, the latter with a Nowell back at the helm (Bradley’s son, Jakob).

Then there’s the economic logic behind opting to see those bigger acts at a festival: for a price not much more than what you’d pay for an arena ticket, you get the bonus of catching dozens of other incredible artists while you’re at it. The diversity and quality of music throughout even the lower tiers of the Coachella lineup is staggering, so overall the price for a pass is quite the steal. Read on for the inside scoop on 10 of this year’s most exciting undercard performances.

Read More: Music Festivals 2024 Guide: Lineups & Dates For Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo & Much More

Cimafunk

Cuban artist Cimafunk has been relatively quiet since releasing a third studio album, El Alimento, in 2021. But the success of that record — which garnered his first GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Rock or Alternative album at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards — appears to have propelled him to new career heights. He will be the first Cuban-born artist to perform at the festival, kicking off a string of worldwide shows that begin with his appearance at Coachella on April 12 and 19. 

Read more: At Getting Funky In Havana, Young Musicians Feel The Power Of Cross-Cultural Connection

Cimafunk’s sole release since his last album was the December 2023 single “Te tango en salsa,” which expands upon his self-designated brand of Afro Cuban Funk with accents of disco and grooves filled with New Orleans-style horns. Though the track hasn’t been publicly connected to any upcoming EP or album, one might presume that his impending run of concerts is a precursor to a complete body of new music. Perhaps Coachella will function as a testing ground, and considering the inclusion on El Ailmento of prominent artists George Clinton, CeeLo Green and Lupe Fiasco, who knows what other surprises might be in store at the desert festival known for delighting audiences with plenty of guest features.

L’Imperatrice

Through the years following their inception in 2012, French pop band L’Imperatrice have played primarily in Europe and surrounding regions, so it’s no small feat that they’re poised to make their second appearance at Coachella in two years. They first played the fest in 2022, a makeup show for Coachella's 2020 COVID-19 cancellation. 

Their slots on April 12 and 19, stops on their just-launched Double Trouble Tour, follow the 2018 release of debut full-length Matahari and performances at prominent festivals like Austin City Limits and Outside Lands. Self-produced sophomore album Pulsar arrives on June 7, and its infectiously groovy and sensual debut single “Me Da Iqual” promises a Coachella set sure to incite emotional release among the masses — ideally during one of the fest’s famed golden hours to match the music’s euphoric vibes. 

Skepta

Regarded as one of the most influential rappers in the UK grime scene, Skepta is set to commence his latest return to stateside stages with appearances at Coachella on both Fridays, which marks his second time at the festival after lauded dual appearances in 2017. 

Following a semi-secret DJ set at Austin’s South by Southwest festival in March, these shows will preview a run of summer dates in the UK and Europe and the release of upcoming sixth solo album Knife and Fork

With that record’s release date still in question but imminent, it’s a good bet that he’ll introduce new material to build upon the January drop of lead single "Gas Me Up (Diligent)," which adopts a flow and melodic structure more akin to popular American rap. To that end, Skepta’s previous collaborations with U.S. rappers like Drake, Ye and members of ASAP Mob could lead to a loaded lineup of guests during his Coachella set. It has the potential to be a huge moment, though his reputation for high-energy and rowdy gigs are reasons enough to prioritize his performance. 

Read More: UK Drill Is An International Sensation. Will It Be Censored To Death?

Mandy, Indiana

English-French noise rock upstarts Mandy, Indiana make music that isn’t necessarily easy to digest. Minimalist and chaotic compositions, primarily from their widely celebrated 2023 debut album I’ve Seen a Way, resonate as tunes tailor-made for technically minded music nerds. Still, danceable moments emerge among the sonic helter-skelter, which combines experimental elements of industrial, classic house music and samples aplenty (think Death Grips with more palatable melodies and exclusively French lyrics). 

So far, the dynamic four-piece hasn’t played much on this side of the pond — their debut shows at Coachella arrive on the heels of a handful of U.S. appearances in 2023 that included the SXSW Music Festival. Which means Mandy, Indiana’s sets on April 13 and 20 will mark relatively rare (and therefore must-see) chances to embrace their overtly wonderful weirdness in the desert among the more prominent pop-leaning artists on the roster.

The Last Dinner Party

If you’re not yet keen on British indie rock band the Last Dinner Party, it’s time to get with the program. With only one album under their belt, Prelude to Ecstasy (released Feb. 2) — which echoes various influences ranging from Siouxsie and the Banshees to Kate Bush and ABBA —the quintet has already earned multiple awards and accolades, including topping the UK Album Chart. To boot, they opened for the Rolling Stones in London’s Hyde Park two years prior to putting out their record.

The band’s performances are reportedly jaw-dropping, further evidenced by the complete sell-out of their current U.S. tour. That jaunt wraps with their April 20 appearance at Coachella (they also play during the first weekend on April 13), so, unless you want to pay ridiculous resale prices for one of their club shows, this is a prime chance to see them live with the added benefit of catching many more amazing acts while you’re there.

Young Fathers

Young Fathers are often categorized under the umbrella of hip-hop, but it would be wrong to pigeonhole them that way. True, one can pinpoint elements of a spitting, old-school style — especially on debut album Dead (winner of the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2014.. However, their sound spans the landscape of many genres, often weaving in threads of electronic, industrial, and trip-hop. It should be telling that they’ve collaborated multiple times with Massive Attack.

The music clearly resonates with a substantial audience. They’ve reached prime positions on the UK Album charts, their fourth and latest album Heavy Heavy (released Feb. 3, 2023) won them their third Scottish Album of the Year Award, and this year marks their second invitation to Coachella (catch them on Sundays: April 13 and 20). With a full year gone since putting out new songs, there’s no telling if they’ll serve up anything fresh. Regardless, fans of heavy-hitting experimental music, assuredly energizing at any time of day or night, should prioritize seeing their set.

Oneohtrix Point Never

It’s a wonder that Oneohtrix Point Never has never played Coachellal until now given his string of consistent releases since emerging in the early 2000s (with never more than three years between albums) and Coachella’s penchant for historically championing experimental electronic artists. Following the Feb. 29 release of his latest EP “Oneohtrix Point Never - Ambients,” he debuts in the desert on April 13, with his second weekend encore on April 20. 

The Massachusetts-bred beatmaker’s music swings from sparse to compositionally complex. It's not geared toward a typical EDM dance party, but always cinematic and hypnotizing, creating a space where listeners can truly lose themselves in the sonics. Given his style, it’s safe to assume he’ll occupy an evening time slot, so if you’re the type who prefers something a little more raw to the mainstream big-timers topping the bill, Oneohtrix Point Never might be just the ticket.

Mdou Moctar

If there’s one artist on this year’s Coachella lineup that will truly thrive in a desert setting, it’s Mdou Moctar. The Niger-based musician plays rock music steeped in the style of Tuareg, guitar-based blues-rock fusion that originates in the Sahara region. However, Moctar’s music decidedly transcends the traditional sound, often reverberating as sublimely psychedelic.

His performances in Indio on April 14 and 21 precede the release of his sixth album Funeral For Justice (arriving May 3). Based on the two singles made available from that record so far (title track “Funeral for Justice” and “Imouhar”), the people of Coachella are in for a true desert trip.

Atarashii Gakko!

When Japanese “girl group” Atarashii Gakko! make their Coachella debut on April 14 and 21, anticipate the unexpected. The four singers’ have a stated goal of “redefining what it means to be a girl group.” They’re technically categorized as J-Pop, but among the many catchy choruses, their music also incorporates shades of speed metal, trap beats and alt-rap à la Rage Against the Machine, all of which you can hear on their latest album ICHIJIKIKOKU.

What you can certainly expect is an outrageously high-energy show chock-full of nonstop, self-designed choreography performed in colorful sailor-fuku uniforms (essentially sailor suits worn by Japanese students in the ‘70s and ‘80s … think Sailor Moon but intentionally less provocative). If you need an adrenaline boost on the final day of the fest, look no further than Atarashii Gakko!.

Olivia Dean

Dear America, it’s time to give a proper welcome to an artist destined for stardom:  Olivia Dean. With only a handful of U.S. shows in the bank, the 25-year-old British neo-soul singer’s debut at Coachella on April 14 — arguably her biggest U.S. gig yet — will serve as the most well-deserved of receptions. 

Sure, her nominations for the 2023 Mercury Prize (for debut album Messy) and 2024 Brit Awards (Best Pop Act, British Artist of the Year and Best New Artist) should merit attention enough for those who don’t know her. But even a few moments of listening to key album tracks “Dive” and “The Hardest Part” (don’t sleep on the alternate version featuring Leon Bridges) are the real deal-sealers. The richness of Dean’s recorded vocals are absolutely arresting, evocative of and equal to top-tier divas who preceded her. It’s thrilling just thinking about the impact she’ll make at Coachella — do yourself a favor if you have the chance and go witness it firsthand. 

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