Best of the Tiny Fonts is a recurring feature in which our staff handpick the must-see smaller acts at all the major festivals.
Another edition of Coachella is about to kick off, and with that comes the mad rush to organize a schedule. The festival is notorious for releasing the breakdown of each day’s schedule last minute, which leaves attendees scrambling to choose which artists to see during major conflicts. Hell, at the time of writing this, the festival still hasn’t shared it publicly. (Editor’s Note: Here is the festival’s schedule — better late than never.) To some extent, it’s not really a big deal. Most everyone already knows the bands they want to see, the artists they can’t miss, and the hyped-up names worth swinging by after grabbing a bite to eat. With headliners like Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, and Lady Gaga (replacing Beyoncé, who had to back out due to the expected birth of twins), fans are more likely trying to quell excitement than getting irritated about time slots.
We’re going to help you out with a breakdown of the names you don’t know already. Coachella once again booked a lineup that’s stacked throughout, but there are several names on the poster that may not resonate with readers. How will you choose to spend your early Saturday afternoon? What band will you watch while reclining in the grass to try to nurse a hangover? Tiny Fonts returns to show you which acts in the festival poster’s small print are worth catching.
Now, let’s clarify this early on: Not every “Tiny Font” is an unknown band. People like Mitski, Thundercat, and Sampha see their names in a subscript because of how their billing works. Other artists, like Hinds, Whitney, and Twin Peaks, are already on your radar because we CoSigned them long ago. So instead of telling you about Tacocat or Preoccupations (FKA Viet Cong), we’re rolling out a list of 12 artists who impress us live or are on our must-see list based on recommendation. Now take some notes, and when you’re done, actually show up early enough for their sets.
Friday, 1 p.m., Sonora
Describing the charm of Tall Juan can be hard. The Argentinian native performs a combo of folk jams, lo-fi rock, and loose vocals that come across like someone playing in their garage without ever expecting an audience. But Tall Juan has garnered quite a crew of fans, ranging from Mac DeMarco (who recorded one of his EPs) to Juan Wauters of The Beets. Live, he uses his low-key vibe to win people over. In other words, he’s perfect for brewing up that spirited but chill feeling you’ll need to kick off Coachella.
Dudu Tassa & The Kuwaitis
Friday, 12 p.m., Mojave
They may not be a household name in the US, but give it a year and Dudu Tassa & The Kuwaitis may be. The Israel-based act “revives” the music of the Al-Kuwaiti Brothers, Tassa’s grandfather and great-uncle, with a blend of rock and orchestral-based music. Radiohead picked the band to open the first leg of their 2017 tour. Given they’re playing music by “composers of the most popular Iraqi songs from the early 20th century,” the band is full of innovative, catchy, memorable material that may feel even more so given today’s political tensions.
Friday, 12:10 a.m., Gobi
It’s not uncommon to find young producers, but it is rare to find a young producer who makes chill music that’s actually memorable. Sam Gellaitry is a barely 20-year-old Scottish musician signed to XL Recordings. He ropes a percussive backbone into otherwise down-tempo beats, luring listeners along with serene, smooth production that will still get electronic fans dancing. Gellaitry is an electronic act to follow, and if you need more proof, click here. His Boiler Room set will have you seeing stars.
Saturday, 3:10 p.m., Sonora
It’s surprising to see Downtown Boys in the Tiny Fonts section, but then again, the revolution will not be televised. The Rhode Island punks gut their own songs and stuff them with every last drop of sweat spent protesting politics. What makes the group so special isn’t how inclusivity is prioritized at their shows or their incredible use of saxophone, but rather how deep they examine — and challenge — all ends of politics, from calling out our congress to holding friends accountable to various social responsibilities within your group.
Saturday, 2:00 p.m., Mojave
Coachella’s lineup is ripe with electronic acts and DJs this year, but it’s pretty light on the synth pop. That’s where Shura comes in. The English singer-songwriter and producer could single-handedly lead a crowd though a headlining-style set a la Robyn. She knows how to croon, but spends half of her time getting the crowd dancing and putting smiles on their faces effortlessly instead, making a dance party that you didn’t expect to join something you wish lasted an extra hour. Her debut album is less than a year old, so the songs still sound fresh live, especially when they revive ’80s fun the way “What’s It Gonna Be?” does.
Las Ligas Menores
Saturday, 2:05 p.m., Sonora
This Argentinean group is a breath of fresh air on a lineup of banger-stocked bros. Las Ligas Menores create the kind of innocent, full-hearted indie rock that pops with joy and anticipation. Singer and guitarist Anabella Cartolano single-handedly recalls the youthful fun of early ’00s acts like Bishop Allen or The New Pornographers. Think of them as your pre-party playlist, the type of music you listen to while getting ready or mixing drinks: airy, uplifting, and just fast enough to make you antsy for all the wonderful things to follow suit shortly after.
Swet Shop Boys
Saturday, 1 p.m., Mojave
You know that hole that’s been in your heart ever since Das Racist broke up? Swet Shop Boys are here to fill it. The alt-hip-hop duo sees Heems and Riz MC team up to create rap on par with their individual catalogs. In that, Swet Shop Boys are both a small name and a large name at once. Songs like “T5”, “Zayn Malik”, and “Aaja” see them mocking racial tensions while also laying out witty pop culture references the way both rappers do well as solo artists, but here, when their words race back and forth alongside one another, it becomes a dizzy mix of head-nodding beats.
The Belleville Three
Sunday, 3:20 p.m., Yuma
Okay, so we’re going to break from our own rules for a second to highlight a Tiny Font name that’s not really a Tiny Font, at least not on the fame scale. Fans of Detroit techno have The Belleville Three to thank for the evolution of the musical style. Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson invented the genre when they combined funk-based elements with electronic repetition, or, as May best describes it, “like George Clinton and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator.” Though all three members remain active in the music scene, they don’t perform on the regular, making their appearance at Coachella one that shouldn’t be missed. They’re an act known for their sound more so than their name, so by putting them on here, you better make sure you do yourself a favor and catch their set. Just wear comfy shoes. It’s not our fault if you dance harder than you expected to.