You've got to have a plan for things like this. Most humans won't see 96 musical acts in their lifetime, let alone in two days. Using advanced physiological concepts, quadratic formulas and a few chicken bones, CityBeat has determined that the average human will be able to see between seven and 10 bands a day at Coachella. (Note: We ruled out the use of illegal substances that allow persons to exist in two physical spaces simultaneously.)
It wasn't easy. Whoever runs Coachella either has really hip interns or remarkable taste-which is why concert industry mag Pollstar rated it the best outdoor music festival in the world the year it debuted. Nearly every band is good.
To determine the best performers, however, we read at least 10 concert reviews of each band-in newspapers, websites, blogs and on one bathroom wall. Then we tempered it with our own personal experience. From what we can tell, these are the most raved about live bands at Coachella 2006. At least according to the low- or un-paid people who care to write about such things.
SATURDAY'S TOP 10
Depeche Mode-Coachella may be famous for curating the new, but they also have a healthy respect for the productively old. The British mope-rockers released Playing the Angel last October, their first album in four years, and critics and fans dropped jaw. Lead single "Precious," a song Martin Gore wrote about his children being caught in the middle of his recent divorce, lit up KROQ's request lines. This headlining gig should cap their mini-renaissance. Live buzz: Might overdo it with new tunes but will play "Personal Jesus" and other depression anthems.
Eagles of Death Metal-Jessie "The Devil" Hughes was born, or mutated by the desert heat, to be a rock 'n' roll frontman. His tools: a buzz cut, aviator sunglasses, rippling built-at-home muscles, a 1970s cop-show mustache and Castro District swagger. If Josh Homme were smart, he'd shelve Queens of the Stone Age for a few years and help Hughes make EODM gods. Live buzz: Possibly the best live rock band that doesn't speak Swedish (see Page 25 for more).
My Morning Jacket-This Kentucky foursome lives but doesn't die by the haunting, high-pitched wallow of vocalist Jim James. His vocals are transcendent-like Neil Young or Isaac Brock howling into the Grand Canyon to trip out on the echo. That said, the band's epic space-country doesn't just stand idle. Live buzz: Terms like "religious experience" and "holyshitgoddamn!" have been used.
Franz Ferdinand-Two albums now and Franz Ferdinand has shown no chinks in the armor. Like Interpol and The White Stripes, few bands manage to be so technically sound without coming off like they're going through the motions. Live buzz: Rarely, if ever, a complaint.
Common-If Kanye's playing the Christ-like role for modern hip-hop, Common is at least part of the holy trinity. West and Dilla both upped the ante of the Chicago MC's latest, Be, and Common's not falling short of the long-overdue hype. Live buzz: Absolutely commands the stage with faves like "The Light" and woos the ladies like Marvin Gaye. And maybe a Kanye cameo?
Daft Punk-The first U.S. appearance for the French techno duo in nine years. On stage, you can expect to see two robots at their respective machines, some hair-rock pyrotechnics and stop-start electro-improv that ranges from '80s camp to minimalist funk. Live buzz: In a genre usually only as interesting as its crowd, Daft Punk are reportedly fantastic.
Animal Collective-New York's tribal counterpoint to Iceland's Sigur Rós. Though they have the talent for wobbly pop like Neutral Milk Hotel, they don't like "songs." Instead, they create "environments" of unpredictable ups and downs. Live buzz: They go on emotion, as if someone roofied some band campers and instructed them to jam.
Wolfmother-The Australian stoner-rock trio don't do anything Zeppelin and Sabbath didn't do 30 years ago, but they do it phenomenally well. Scored six Top-100 singles from their debut album, breaking an Aussie record held by Queens of the Stone Age, Silverchair, The White Stripes and Powderfinger. Live buzz: It's how they made their name-probably the most raved about bombast playing the festival.
The Zutons-This is essentially classic rock 'n' roll from Liverpool, replete with "whoo whoo whoos" and big-stomp choruses. Their debut album, Who Killed... The Zutons? was nominated for the coveted Mercury Prize in 2004. Live buzz: Instantaneously singable songs and a deadly sexy saxophonist in Abi Harding.
Matt Costa-One of the most overlooked talents, maybe because he's on Jack Johnson's record label and people have tired of the Brushfire hush. But the Huntington Beach ex-pro skater crafts love-folk songs that win over the snobbiest cynics. Live buzz: A mellow acoustic kid with a casual grace and lack of pretension.
Deerhoof-The San Francisco art-rock band has enough unintentional kitsch-in the form of sub-5-foot Japanese vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki, whose squeaky vocal chirp is cute as hell-and head-bobbing pop moments to appeal to people who never quite got Sonic Youth.
Sigur Rós-A very good band, but their alt-culture opera-in-gibberish may be too staid for concert attendees with a lot of other options.
Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley-Eclipsing Ziggy as the Marley heir apparent, Damian's debut, Welcome to Jamrock, surprised few by being as thrilling as the breakout single of the same name.
TV on the Radio-The rich soul harmonies of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone must've been the inspiration for the phrase, "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter."
Ladytron-Military beats like Interpol, electronics like Kraftwerk and two alternately pretty and abrasive vocalists in Mira Aroyo and Helen Marnie. Plus a cool light show and matching military fatigues.
Lyrics Born-The Bay Area's Asian hip-hop MC seems perpetually baked-a smooth, good-natured flow in front of backup singer Joyo Velarde.
The Walkmen-Simply a good, moody rock band that teeters on the edge of white-boy soul. San Diego fans would do better to see them at House of Blues in June.
Imogen Heap-The former Frou Frou singer is a charming pixie with a banshee, opera-worthy voice. Great place for GLBT members to meet up.
BIGGEST BUSTSShe Wants Revenge-If you've downloaded their hit single, you've downloaded the band.
Lady Sovereign-Actually, extraordinarily cute for about two songs. But the fact that this 20-year-old rap chick looks like she's 12 loses its charm quickly.
Cat Power-She's phenomenal, but her Southern soul-folk requires an intimate setting that Coachella just can't provide.
SUNDAY'S TOP 10
Tool-Maynard Ferguson's depression-metal band hasn't played in the U.S. since 2002 and hasn't released an album since 2001's Lateralus, as Ferguson worked on A Perfect Circle. Their return to Coachella (they headlined the inaugural 1999 festival with Rage Against the Machine) starts the hype parade for their new album, reportedly due in May. Live buzz: Expect a massive ritual with all the heavy-hearted bells and whistles.
Amadou & Mariam-The blind, married duo from Africa's Ivory Coast were heroes on their home continent for almost four decades. Then last year they teamed with Manu Chao for a blues-soul Malian record called Dimanche a Bamako-just awesome. Live buzz: Uplifting, beat-centric African grooves and phenomenal guitar work from Amadou.
Coheed & Cambria-One of the rare bands that underground snobs and casual music fans rally around. The New Yorkers take sci-fi metal to the extreme and sucker-punch it with Rage-like punk. Frontman Claudio Sanchez is a banshee. Live buzz: Stadium-worthy, campy metal that causes involuntary fist pumping.
Dungen-Lead by a Swedish farm boy named Gustav Ejstes, this is Scandinavia's version of Led Zeppelin, if Zep had a serious psychedelic and folk pedigree. Ejstes bangs his long locks while ripping acoustic guitar, annihilating a tambourine and pounding the piano. Live buzz: Classic-rock bombast with Ejstes even doing a few (gasp!) flute solos.
The Go! Team-You've got to be in the mood for childish revelry, but this bunch of campy Brits bring the jump-rope jams. Their debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, crafted by producer-songwriter Ian Parton in his bedroom, was another Mercury Prize nominee. Live buzz: Like Neneh Cherry fronting The Avalanches on a sugar-high.
The Scissor Sisters-New York's biggest gay attraction since Barbara Streisand. Despite attempts at writing off their disco-rock as novelty danceteria fodder, witty covers and real musicianship keeps 'em strong. Live buzz: Vegas-style showmanship that makes all but the tube-fed get up and dance. Madonna will be watching.
Gnarls Barkley-Though technically making their live debut at Coachella, the breakout hip-hop duo's members-Goodie Mob's Cee Lo and DJ Dangermouse-are household names. Their single "Crazy" just made history by topping the U.K. chart on digital downloads alone. Live buzz: Uh, none. It's their 3-D debut, and a must-see.
Bloc Party-This band was the buzz of the annual "South by Southwest" music festival-cum-industry tastemaking event in 2005. Their debut, Silent Alarm, isn't anything Gang of Four and Joy Division hadn't done in the past, but it was an inspired rehashing of a good idea. Live buzz: A sense of urgency you can feel, with some Sonic Youth noisemaking.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs-The New York punk trio has mellowed with their newest, Show Your Bones, but they still make an awful amount of jagged, pretty noise. Folk Implosion's former guitarist, Imaad Wasif, joins as fourth member. Live buzz: Karen O is every bit the psychosexual attraction she's made out to be. Pretty, pretty train wreck.
Be Your Own Pet-Deservedly called one of the "Top 10 Artists To Watch" by Rolling Stone last year, when the oldest member was 17. Garage rockers from Nashville with a spitfire female vocalist, now an old and wizened 18 years of age. Live buzz: They rock like teenagers should-as if they might change the world.
Sleater-Kinney-Olympia, Wash.'s shrill female punk trio just keep on getting better. Now new and improved with a big-bottom stadium sound.
Mogwai-Glasgow's premiere orchestra of guitar noise will rival The Scissor Sisters' on-stage costumes as the loudest thing at the festival.
Wolf Parade-The Canadian rock explosion is represented by this Montreal band; they split the difference between Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire.
Matisyahu-The music is adequate white-boy dub and the novelty has already worn thin, but the huge crowd participation should make for some fun (or synchronized eye-rolling, depending on your outlook).
Digable Planets-After all the chaos-the long water lines and the pill-poppers waving glo-sticks in your face-hearing Butterfly be all "cool like dat" will do wonders for your soul.
Seu Jorge-This soulful Brazilian guitarist, singer and actor (City of God, Aquatic Life) is a stunning smoothsayer, although he might get lost on a huge stage.
Editors-The world may not need another Joy Division and Smiths descendent right now, but these Brits are one of those preternaturally tight live bands.
Art Brut-Looking like a rock-dive Salvador Dali, frontman Eddie Argos sings stupid art-punk that will have you chanting "Top of the Pops" all day long. You'll scratch your head and chuckle.
Jamie Lidell-A white English dude with a voice like Otis Redding and full knowledge of how to program, loop, beat-box and pop-lock-all of which he does onstage.
Magic Numbers-Two pairs of siblings in this London band, and all live reviews talk about how comforting and happy and good their Beach Boy-inflected harmony-rock is.
Stellastarr*-The hype started a few years back when they weren't that great (thus opening band The Killers stole their headlining tour), but they've evolved into one of the better and more powerful live bands from NYC.
Murs feat. 9th Wonder-One of L.A.'s top independent hip-hop MCs, Murs tells entire stories in songs. A mainly serious, mellow vibe with the occasional funny about not being able to pick up chicks.
Minus the Bear-They're trying to get away from their funnymen reputation, but this Pinback-with-testosterone band from Seattle still has great songs about monkeys engaging in knife fights.
Madonna-It will be phenomenal, but only seen by those who line up at 7 a.m, run to the Sahara tent, camp there all day and miss the festival experience. Which thousands will do.
The Subways-Their debut album is chock-full of great, bone-headed rock anthems, but on a big stage at this year's South by Southwest music festival, the trio just couldn't command the space.
James Blunt-Unless you're newly in love with the proud owner of a minivan, yawwwn.
Mates of State-Some of the world's best indie-pop on record, but on an outdoor sound system they sound as if they're strangling adorable kittens.