As exciting as it is when the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival schedule is unveiled each year, as it was on Tuesday night (Apr. 8), there’s also a sense of anxiety that comes with the scanning of the set times. For every great set that festival-goers will witness at the Indio, Calif. gathering, there will be two or three other great sets that they will be forced to pass up, barring any cloning experimentation. Sure, most people will pass up a lesser-known artist to see the reunion of Outkast of Friday night, but what about the more difficult clashes?
Check out our round-up of the 10 toughest scheduling showdowns at this year’s Coachella festival — ranked on how frustrating the conflict is — in which we explain each conflict and offer a “right choice” to make. None of these artists should feel insulted if they end up on the wrong side of the coin, since none of these decisions are easy.
10. Grouplove (Friday, 4:00-4:50, Coachella Stage) vs. Aloe Blacc (Friday, 4:15-5:00, Mojave Tent)
The Conflict: Aloe Blacc is a solid performer with a handful of hits, while Grouplove will have hundreds near the main stage warbling along to “Tongue Tied” as the midday heat starts to dissipate.
The Right Choice: Aloe Blacc. Even if “The Man” is starting to get on your nerves, you can tell everybody (go ahead and tell everybody!) that you caught Mr. Blacc for his thoroughly entertaining solo version of his Avicii collaboration “Wake Me Up!” With a spot opening for Bruno Mars on tour coming up, Blacc might be returning to Coachella in a few years on a bigger stage.
9. Banks (Saturday, 3:45-4:20, Gobi Tent) vs. Bombay Bicycle Club (Saturday, 3:50-4:40, Mojave Tent)
The Conflict: Banks is an L.A.-based singer-songwriter whose dimly lit R&B tunes earned her a spot opening for the Weeknd last year. A few minutes after her set kicks off on Saturday, British indie rockers Bombay Bicycle Club will take the adjacent stage and play songs from its recently released LP “So Long, See You Tomorrow.”
The Right Choice: Banks — she’s got a powerful stage presence and a collection of hypnotically icy songs that will cool off the crowd on Saturday afternoon. Banks ends 20 minutes before BBC, so head over to Mojave when she steps off the stage to catch the band’s encore.
8. Calvin Harris (Sunday, 7:30-8:25, Coachella Stage) vs. Little Dragon (Sunday, 7:15-8:05, Mojave Tent)
The Conflict: Little Dragon has spent the beginning of 2014 dropping fantastic tracks from its upcoming fourth album, “Nabuma Rubberband,” while Calvin Harris has set his post-“18 Months” project with new solo single “Summer.” Both acts offer must-see live shows, and are positioned are prime times on Sunday.
The Right Choice: Calvin Harris, who brought out Rihanna the last time he was at Coachella and could bring out any number of guest stars this time on the main stage. Don’t be shocked to see Friday performer Ellie Goulding pop onstage for a live rendition of “I Need Your Love.”
7. The Replacements (Friday, 8:45-9:55, Outdoor Theatre) vs. Martin Garrix (Friday, 8:45-9:45, Sahara Tent)
The Conflict: The reunited Minnesota rockers were titans of the mid-80’s, and Coachella will mark one of their first gigs back after ending their 22-year hiatus last year. Across the desert will be Martin Garrix, the EDM whiz who is a half-decade younger than 22. Can you really pass up hearing the “Animals” drop at Coachella? Do you dare?
The Right Choice: The Replacements, in a romp. Even if you’re unfamiliar with their impressive discography, Paul Westerberg and co. are worth seeing live before they inevitably stop playing shows together again. Garrix will have plenty of other occasions to dazzle before he’s old enough to legally drink.
6. Krewella (Sunday, 5:00-6:00, Sahara Tent) vs. Superchunk (Sunday, 5:10-6:00, Gobi Tent) vs. Blood Orange (Sunday, 5:15-6:05, Outdoor Theatre)
The Conflict: Three very different artists at basically the same time on the final day, with house music upstarts Krewella in the Sahara Tent, indie legends Superchunk playing the Gobi and Dev Hynes’ entrancing R&B project Blood Orange sneaking onto the Outdoor Theatre.
The Right Choice: Blood Orange, whose “Cupid Deluxe” album was one of last year’s best and who never disappoints when playing live. The adventurous should wander the stages and check out all three artists a little, however.
5. Queens of the Stone Age (Saturday, 9:40-10:35, Coachella Stage) vs. Empire of the Sun (Saturday, 9:50-10:50, Sahara Tent) vs. Galantis (Saturday, 9:35-10:25, Gobi Tent)
The Conflict: QOTSA has been tearing it up on the road supporting last year’s “…Like Clockwork,” while Empire of the Sun has had no problem proving that they’re much more than just their immaculate single “Walking on a Dream.” The dark horse: Galantis, the new dance duo of Miike Snow’s Christian Karlsson and Linus Eklow, which will be making its live debut at Coachella.
The Right Choice: Empire of the Sun, bringing their majestic costumes and dreamy electronica to the EDM-centric Sahara Tent. Their 2013 album “Ice On The Dune” served as a triumphant return, and you’ll want to catch the entire spectacle on Saturday night.
4. MGMT (Saturday, 7:05-7:55, Coachella Stage) vs. Future Islands (Saturday, 7:05-7:55, Gobi Tent)
The Conflict: In one corner: a pair of electro-pop outcasts that have been trying to distance themselves from the catchiness of their debut album. In the other corner: a hard-working collective trying to figure out how they became a meme on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Future Islands has the buzz thanks to new album “Singles,” MGMT have better (and better-known) singles.
The Right Choice: Future Islands. The crazy-eyed, chest-pounding ways of frontman Samuel T. Herring are always worth witnessing, and “Singles” lives up to the hype. Check out the new 4AD signee, and if you can’t take all the intensity, veer off halfway through to try and catch “Kids.”
3. The Knife (Friday, 10:30, Outdoor Theatre) vs. Getting To Outkast Early (Friday, 11:30, Coachella Stage)
The Conflict: The Knife is one of the most intriguing acts to play at Coachella this year, and they’ll be playing the Outdoor Theatre while the Mighty O sets up for their headlining set. Outkast promises to bring one of the biggest audiences to the festival this year — and to see more than a glimmer of Andre 3000’s brightly colored outfit, you might have to get there a full hour early.
The Right Choice: The Knife… at least for half an hour or so. Hopefully the inscrutable Swedish duo will play “Silent Shout” (or, maybe, if you’re extremely lucky, “Heartbeats”!) before you dart over and find a reasonable spot for Outkast, so you won’t feel too guilty.
2. Disclosure (Sunday, 9:35, Outdoor Theatre) vs. Motörhead (Sunday, 9:50-10:50, Mojave Tent)
The Conflict: In a battle of the new school and the old school, those plucky lads of brilliant electronic duo Disclosure return to Coachella for the second year in a row, this time to face long-running metal group Motörhead, back playing shows after Lemmy Kilmister suffered health problems last year. There’s probably not a ton of overlap between fans of these two groups, but for those who love both, this one is tough.
The Right Choice: Disclosure, if only because the probability of guest vocalists (AlunaGeorge? Sam Smith?? Mary J. Blige???) is very, very high. Don’t be afraid to drift away from the dance party if you hear the sounds of “Ace of Spades” in the distance, though.
1. Muse (Saturday, 11:30, Coachella Stage) vs. Skrillex (Saturday, 11:25, Sahara Tent) vs. Pet Shop Boys (Saturday, 11:35, Mojave Tent)
The Conflict: An absolutely brutal pile-up of talent. How does one responsibly choose between one of Muse’s only U.S. festival dates of 2014, Skrillex’s sure-to-be-dominant Sahara Tent set, or Pet Shop Boys’ long-overdue Coachella debut? With all three sets beginning within 10 minutes of each other, the schedule designers have made Saturday night a time for painful decisions.
The Right Choice: There’s no wrong choice here, but Pet Shop Boys will probably offer the most satisfying performance, thanks to their hard-to-top catalogue of synth-pop. Skrillex might have gotten the call on one of the two main stages, but the smaller Sahara Tent means a lack of breathing room during the bass drops. And Muse always puts on a spectacular show… but headlined the same night just four years ago. If you have no allegiance to any of the three, go with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, and dance your scheduling troubles away.