Savages (9:35-10:25) vs. Ellie Goulding (9:20-10:10)
The first day of the first weekend forces a difficult decision: the effervescent electro-pop of singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding or the blistering, carefully constructed rock assault of Savages.
Verdict: It doesn't make sense to see some of Ellie and then skip out to Savages -- Goulding will save the crowd-pleasers for later in her set. For this one, you have to decide if you want to be blasted out of your skin (Savages) or wave your dusty hands in the air (Ellie) at the end of Day 1.
Gallant (6:05-6:50) vs. The Kills (6:15-7:05)
Alison Mosshart of The Kills is one of the best rock frontpeople around these days, but Gallant is one of the most promising, exciting new voices on the scene.
Verdict: The Kills never disappoint, so if you're a rock purest, go with them. But otherwise, Gallant -- whose Ology is one of the year's best debuts -- is the act you need to see.
Rae Sremmurd (11:05-11:55) vs. LCD Soundsystem (11:10-??)
Rae Sremmurd is one of the liveliest hip-hop acts on the road these days. But LCD Soundsystem's live show is basically legendary, and their reunion might not last forever.
Verdict: Start with Rae but duck out after 20-25 minutes to finish with LCD. They're sure to have a massive, memorable finale planned for the fest's first night.
Ice Cube (9:05-10) vs. Zedd (9:30-TBD)
Ice Cube is a legend, and his set will undoubtedly include N.W.A favorites thanks to the group's recent biopic and Rock Hall induction. But while Cube is a must-see performer, Zedd will host the bigger, wilder party.
Verdict: Zedd will be playing festivals for years to come. Ice Cube doing N.W.A classics (possibly with some of his former cohorts?) doesn't happen at every fest. Go with Cube.
Guns N' Roses (10:30-TBD) vs. Grimes (10:45-11:35)
Grimes is one of the artists we were most excited to see at Coachella. Unfortunately, she's going opposite Guns N' Roses' much touted classic lineup reunion.
Verdict: Guns N' Roses' reunion is THE reunion to see at Coachella (no offense, LCD). It's a once-ish in a lifetime opportunity. Start with GnR and if it's not everything you hoped for, head over to Grimes
Bat for Lashes (5:50-6:40) vs. Deerhunter (5:40-6:30)
Bat for Lashes' new LP The Bride is a gripping concept album about a woman who loses her fiancé prior to her wedding but goes on her honeymoon anyway. But Deerhunter's last album, Fading Frontier, was a strong set, and frontman Bradford Cox is a marvel to watch on stage.
Verdict: It's a win-win either way. Start with Deerhunter and meander over to Bat for Lashes after 20-15 minutes.
Courtney Barnett (6:45-7:35) vs. The Arcs (6:55-7:45)
The Arcs are Dan Auerbach's wonderful side project, and it probably won't be too long before he's returning to fests with his main gig, the Black Keys. But the last year has been a major breakout for Courtney Barnett. Her razor-sharp lyrics and guitars prove that there's still a future in rock that isn't just reuniting old bands and playing classic albums live start-to-finish.
Verdict: Unless you're a Black Keys devotee, this is the point in Barnett's career you need to see her.
Run the Jewels (4:55-5:45) vs. Rhye (5:25-6:15)
Run the Jewels are one of the best live acts, of any genre, of the last few years. But a performance from enigmatic duo Rhye is a rarity -- and given that it's been a long time since its excellent 2013 debut Woman, new music might be on the table.
Verdict: If you like intimate R&B, go with Rhye. But if you're looking to get turnt, do RTJ and head to Rhye when Killer Mike and El-P wrap.
Major Lazer (7:30-8:25) vs. Chris Stapleton (7:10-8:00)
Major Lazer will assuredly bring special guests and a massive dance party to the Coachella grounds. But Chris Stapleton is an artist whose national rep is built on live performances -- the man became the first artist to re-eneter the Billboard 200 at No. 1 thanks to performing just two songs on TV.
Verdict: This depends on taste. If you can't deal with country, go for Major Lazer. But if you even have a passing interest in guys with guitars, you should probably go with Stapleton. He's on fire these days.
Beach House (8:15-(9:05) vs. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals (8:25-9:15)
Beach House is a reliably astounding, compelling live act. Unfortunately, they're up against Anderson. Paak, who made a big splash with several features on Dr. Dre's Compton last year and is earning quite a reputation on the live stage.
Verdict: Beach House don't disappoint, but you should see .Paak before he's playing much larger stages.