Feature photo via Kelsey, CC
If you’ve ever attended the Coachella Music & Arts Festival, or have plans to in the future, you’re sure to enjoy a fun weekend that’s packed with guitar-heavy rock bands and electronic music. But, what if you want a little saxophone with your rock? Or some violin with your indie? Whether you prefer band or orchestra instruments featured in your rock or indie music, there’s bound to be a band or two for you to enjoy at the annual three-day festival. From Arcade Fire to Bright Eyes, here are a few bands who have played Coachella in the past who are sure to delight fans of band and orchestra instruments.
Established in 2001, this award-winning Canadian indie rock group is one of the most instrumentally versatile bands in the music industry. With Coachella performances in 2005, 2007, 2011, and 2014, and headlining slots in 2011 and 2014, the group’s name is almost synonymous with one of the largest outdoor music festivals in the country. For those interested in instruments beyond drums, guitar, and bass, Arcade Fire is the perfect band for them. Their recorded music and live performances are well-known for featuring the viola, violin, cello, double bass, accordion, and mandolin, among other instruments, and it’s not uncommon for their multi-instrumentalist band members to switch from instrument to instrument throughout their concerts.
Essential listening: Wake Up
Founded by singer-songwriter Conor Oberst in 1995, Bright Eyes consists of Oberst, producer Mike Mogis, trumpet player and pianist Nate Walcott, and a rotating lineup of collaborators that include violinists, cellists, and members of other popular bands. With Coachella performances in 2004, 2005, and 2011, the group is well-versed in everything Coachella. Known for his introspective lyrics, personal interviews, and ability to write music for entire symphonies, Conor Oberst was often referred to as the wunderkind of his generation. (Speaking of symphonies, one of Bright Eyes’ most famous performances was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl in 2007.) Although the band hasn’t released music since 2011, Conor Oberst continues to release music under his own name.
Essential listening: Four Winds
Known for their eclectic live shows where audience participation is an integral part of each performance, the band loves to stage live reenactments of sea battles and other centuries-old events and were one of the most unique bands to surface in the 2000s. With a stellar 2007 Coachella performance, which one blogger claimed was the best performance of that year’s festival, it’s only a matter of time until this group is invited back to Indio. In 2014 The Decemberists surprised even themselves when they unexpectedly topped the charts with The King is Dead, a collection of country-pop songs that featured guest appearances by Peter Buck and Gillian Welch, and instruments ranging from the organ and viola to the accordion and the violin.
Essential listening: Don’t Carry It All
Established in 1997, this seven-piece, post-grunge group got their start playing Irish-themed dive bars throughout Los Angeles. Their music is often described as an interesting mix of traditional Irish music and spunky punk rock, and it’s sure to be truly unique from anything you’ve heard before. In staying true to both their Irish and punk rock roots, Flogging Molly’s music features instruments that range from the fiddle and the accordion to the trumpet and horns. The band performed at the Coachella festival in both 2008 and 2011, and has performed at countless other festivals around the world. Their 2008 album, Float, is their most successful to this day, and hit the top spot on the American indie charts upon release.
Essential listening: Drunken Lullabies
Known as much for his affection for vinyl and analog recording technology as he is for his music, Jack White took the Coachella stage in 2003, 2010, and 2015 performing as a part of The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, and solo under his own name, respectively. His recorded music and live performances include instruments that range from the fiddle and the harp to the upright bass and the mandolin. He’s enjoyed consistent critical and popular success, and is widely credited as being one of the best guitarists in rock music. As a fan of blues music, White has an extensive collection of guitars and vintage items from the era. His record label and studio, Third Man Records, in Nashville is open to the public and releases vinyl recordings of his own work, other artists, and local school children.
Essential listening: Lazaretto
Fitz and the Tantrums
Inspired by the funky sounds of Motown and Stax Records, Fitz and the Tantrums began as the retro, neo-soul solo project of Michael Fitzpatrick. From there, he recruited an old college friend, James King, to add horn arrangements to the music and, eventually, the lineup grew into a co-ed septet. With songs that feature the saxophone, flute, and keyboards, among other instruments, the band was heralded by Rolling Stone as a “band to watch” in 2011. Known for energetic live performances that include a variety of band and orchestral instruments, the band took the Coachella stage in 2012 and 2015.
Essential listening: The Walker
Do you prefer the flute? Check out 5 Awesome Contemporary Bands that Feature Flute Players.