The Bottomliners: Checking In With Festival Season’s Unsung Heroes

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Coachella

Today the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicks off the 2012 music festival season. Over the past decade, the success of Coachella (and before that, Lollapalooza) has led to a proliferation of multi-day, multi-stage events across the country, where dozens of bands perform over increasingly longer spans of time. (Wear comfortable shoes! But probably not Tevas! It’s a bad look! Or so people tell me!) Most of the media attention goes to who’s headlining, who’s reuniting, and who are the handful of bands that might deliver breakout performances.

But there are hundreds of other acts appearing whose involvement is basically passed over. So in the spirit of spreading the spotlight, here is a guide to some of the artists who are listed literally at the end of these festivals’ lineups. Call them the bottomliners. We talked to some to let them know they’re not forgotten, even if they’re relegated to the small print on the bottom of the poster.


Who’s that? A Los Angeles–based dance music DJ who’s been spinning for 15 years, last year Méa became a singer for long-running industrial/electro shockers Lords of Acid. She’s also developing her own dark, beat-based solo project.

Festival she’s bottomlining: Fridays at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, April 13 and 20. Held in Indio, California, in the Coachella Valley, about 130 miles from Los Angeles and 25 miles from Palm Springs. Friday performers include the Black Keys, Pulp, and M83.

Méa, are there any other acts at Coachella that you’re excited to see play? “Swedish House Mafia I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. I love dubstep, so I’m dying to see Nero and all the other dubstep artists. I really want to see Radiohead on Saturday, I’m stoked for that. They’ve been one of my favorites for 20 years.”

If given the choice, would you play the first slot on the main stage or the last slot on the smallest stage?
“The first slot on the biggest stage. My band can get in there and get a full song rehearsal before anyone else to make sure the sound is correct. That way everything is flawless when we go on and we don’t need to worry about other bands coming on and taking away from our effects, our outputs, our inputs, our setting … We can just get in whenever we want to and make sure everything is set up, play perfectly, and then enjoy the rest of the day. It’s just way, way easier.”

Pure Filth Sound

Who’s that? Pure Filth promoted some of the first dubstep parties in Los Angeles. They programmed a dance music dome in Coachella’s camping area in 2010 and 2011 (because why pretend that anyone’s going to sleep if they’re not passed out?). This year, they’ve put together a new live act that they’ll debut at the festival.

Festival they’re bottomlining: Saturdays at Coachella, April 14 & 21. Saturday performers include Radiohead, David Guetta, and Jeff Mangum.

Sam XL of Pure Filth Sound, what’s your favorite experience at a music festival as either a performer or a fan?
“My favorite experience was doing the after-parties at the Coachella campgrounds. After the festival closed down, we would be rocking until 3 or 4 in the morning. We had Mary Anne Hobbs play there and a lot of the L.A. producers. I always try to search for the more intimate kinds of vibes, rather than the bigger stage vibes, but one of the best sets I’ve seen was Carl Cox in the [Coachella] dance tent.”

If given the choice, would you play the first slot on the main stage or the last slot on the smallest stage?
“The politically correct answer is that you take what you get. But if you are giving the option, I’d like to play the smaller stage. I’ve played at Electric Daisy Carnival, Together As One, Nocturnal Wonderland, and Monster Massive over the years, and those are pretty big crowds of 5,000 or 8,000 people. We’re going to open up the Sahara on Saturday, and it’s a big tent. Obviously, as an artist, you’d like to play for as many people as possible, but at the same time, we haven’t actually released any material.”

Old Man Markley

Who’s that?: A rowdy, seven-person bluegrass band from California’s San Fernando Valley. Members have played in punk groups including Youth Brigade, Blue Collar Special, and Angel City Outcasts. Their debut, Guts N’ Teeth, was released in 2011 by pop-punk mainstay Fat Wreck Chords.

Festival they’re bottomlining: Stagecoach, April 27-29. It’s the country music festival from the promoters of Coachella that’s held at the same location in Indio, California.

Autoharpist and vocalist Annie DeTemple, with all the choices a festivalgoer has, what would you say to convince someone to come see you play?
“At Stagecoach we’re probably playing very early in the day and we’re not going up against anybody, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t come see us. At any other time, people should come to see us because we’re not like all the other bluegrass bands. We have a drum set. We have an electric washboard. I play autoharp. We’ve got a homemade upright bass, made by us in our guitar shop in the Valley. We’re so in love with our band that you can see it when we play.”

Are you going to rent a house to accommodate all of you?
“We have a tour vehicle that puts us a little more on the camping side of things. A year and a half ago we bought a metro bus that was in circulation up in Seattle. It was a 21-passenger bus. We’ve converted the whole inside by ourselves. It’s got nine bunk beds and a table/living area. We’ve got a big generator on the back of it that we can run for electricity during the night so we don’t have to keep the bus running. We bring a Wi-Fi card so we have Internet. It’s kind of like a home away from home. It’s really efficient for us. Traveling with seven members and a merch person, it can get pricey with hotel rooms. And we’re low on the totem pole. We’re not making a lot of money playing the shows, so anytime we can save money, we do it.”

Katie Kate

Who’s that? A Seattle MC/singer who produces her own minimal rap tracks. She self-released her debut, Flatland, at the end of 2011.

Festival she’s bottomlining: Sasquatch!, May 25-28 (Memorial Day weekend). Held at the Gorge Amphitheatre near the Columbia River, about 150 miles outside of Seattle. Other acts include Jack White, Bon Iver, and Portlandia.

Katie Kate, with all the choices a festivalgoer has, what would you say to convince someone to come see you play?
“I would basically just say, ‘Hey, I’m a rapper.’ Then they’d say, ‘No, you’re not.’ Then I’d say, ‘If you don’t believe me, then come check it out.’ I don’t quite fit the profile. I’m this little blonde white girl who loves The X-Files and is classically trained. A good way to get people in the door is the novelty of that, and then hopefully they’ll end up enjoying my music.”

Are there any other acts at Sasquatch! that you’re excited to see play?
“I honestly don’t really like music festivals that much. There are too many people. It’s not my thing; I’m a homebody. I’d like to stick around, but knowing me, I’ll probably get overwhelmed. I want to support people, but the allure of being home in bed, watching X-Files, is pretty strong.”

Moon Taxi

Who’s that? A five-piece from Nashville that makes spacey roots-rock or rootsy space-rock, depending on if you’re a “the glass is half space-rock” or a “the glass is half roots-rock” kind of person.

Festival they’re bottomlining: Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, June 7-10. Located on a former farm in Manchester, Tennessee. Other acts include Radiohead, Phish, and the Beach Boys with Brian Wilson. Moon Taxi will also be appearing at Lollapalooza (they’re on the second line from the bottom).

Lead singer and guitarist Trevor Terndrup, have you ever gone to Bonnaroo before?
“This is our first time going as performers. We’ve gone in the past as fans. I haven’t been in seven years. I went to the first two. We’ve always had a great time down there. It’s extra special for us because we live right down the road in Nashville.”

What’s your favorite experience at a music festival as either a performer or a fan?
“The Hangout [Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama] was really a wonderful time last year. We played the first night and got to stick around the whole weekend. We had a nice house on the beach that was like four miles away, but we brought our bikes, so me and my girlfriend were biking four miles there and four miles back. It’s nice to be out and exercising and seeing good music. Each festival has its own charm to it. Wakarusa [on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas] was beautiful since it’s in a national park. And Bonnaroo was the first festival I ever went to, so I popped my festival cherry there.”

Turf War

Who’s that? Lovable-loser garage rock band out of Atlanta, Georgia. Last year they released the album Years of Living Dangerously, produced by Ian St. Pe of Black Lips.

Festival they’re bottomlining: The Governors Ball Music Festival, June 23-24. This is the second edition of the event at Randall’s Island in Manhattan, historic site of 1997’s Tibetan Freedom Concert.

Lead singer and guitarist John Robinson, what’s your favorite experience at a music festival as either a performer or a fan?
“I went to the Pitchfork Music Festival [in 2008], the second year they did it. Jay Reatard played there, Titus Andronicus played there before anybody really knew who they were. I saw Raekwon and Ghostface, that was pretty neat.”

With all the choices a festivalgoer has, what would you say to convince someone to come see you play?
“We have a hell of a good live set. We get rowdy and have fun. Hopefully they would like the songs. I guess that would be my convincing.”

The Soul Rebels

Who’s that? Eight-man brass, horns, and drums band out of New Orleans with a tuba-sized capacity for showmanship.

Festival they’re bottomlining: Orion Music + More, June 23-24. It’s the first edition of Metallica’s festival, to be held at Bader Field in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Other acts include Metallica performing the entirety of their self-titled “Black Album” and Ride the Lightning, Suicidal Tendencies, and Arctic Monkeys. The “more” refers to a surf show, rock and roll memorabilia, and the chance to ogle James Hetfield’s custom cars.

Co-founder and bass drummer Derrick “Oops” Moss, how did you get booked on this festival?
“We were in London and made an appearance on Later with Jools Holland, which is a really big deal there. It features like five bands a night and one of the other bands was Metallica. We did our rendition of the Eurythmics song ‘Sweet Dreams,’ and we had a little choreography with it. Everybody loved it, including Metallica — they were watching from the side. After the show, we were outside, waiting on our pickup and they were coming out one at a time and we were talking with them. When Lars [Ulrich] came out, I was talking with him and he said, ‘Man, you guys were great, we should do something.’ And I was like, ‘My manager is standing right there. Let’s hook it up.’ So a month later we were opening up their 30th-anniversary concert every night for four nights in San Francisco. We would start the show doing 30 minutes of Metallica songs, then they’d have other special guests play with them, then at the end of the night on the last song, we would all come onstage and do ‘Enter Sandman’ together. It was weird at first, but it worked out. That went so well, they wanted us to do Orion. Now we actually get to play our music, but we’re probably going to do some of their stuff, too, to give it to their fans.”

If given the choice, would you play the first slot on the main stage or the last slot on the smallest stage?
“Always the bigger stage. Over the years we’ve done a lot of those last slots on the smaller stage. They’re good, but if you can get any spot on the main stage, you take it. There’s just an aura about it.”


Who’s that? Maximum impact dance music DJ/producer out of Las Vegas.

Festival he’s bottomlining: Camp Bisco, July 12-14. This long-running festival put together by headliners the Disco Biscuits’ — the dance act championed by the jam band community — has basically become a multi-day rave in upstate New York. Other acts include Skrillex, Bassnectar, and Big Boi.

Revolvr, what’s your favorite experience at a music festival as either a performer or a fan?
“As a concertgoer, I would have to say Electric Daisy Carnival. All in all, it’s a great production. Even aside from its massive size, it offers a great experience to everyone. I’m glad it moved to Vegas, because now there’s so much more space, too.”

If given the choice, would you play the first slot on the main stage or the last slot on the smallest stage?
“I guess it depends on how early that slot is. I would choose the last slot on the smaller stage because the energy of the music that I play just wouldn’t fit for the people coming in.”

Kid Color

The Rapture – How Deep Is Your Love (Kid Color’s Saxtended Remix) by Kid Color
Who’s that? A disco enthusiast who incorporates and updates this sound in his remixes for contemporary bands. Kid Color was a resident DJ at the Smart Bar in Chicago for two years.

Festival he’s bottomlining: Lollapalooza, August 3-5. The single-city, non-traveling version of Lollapalooza has been held in Chicago’s Grant Park since 2006. Headlining bands include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath, and The Black Keys. Kid Color is one of five local acts performing.

Kid Color, how did you get booked to play Lollapalooza?
“Ever since I moved out to Chicago, I’ve tried my hardest to build my name up as an artist. I was approached by the promoters of Lollapalooza, I guess they put feelers out for local talent and some people recommended me. When you’ve been working so hard for your art, it feels really good to know that somebody saw what I was doing and found it interesting enough to put it on the festival. Being on this lineup means so much.”

Are there any other acts at Lollapalooza that you’re excited to see play?
“I’m super excited to see The Weeknd. Also, I’m pretty sure my brother’s going to be coming out from California. We learned music on guitar together and we were always playing Black Sabbath songs, so I’m pretty psyched for them. I never got to see the White Stripes, so seeing Jack White should be pretty amazing. And in high school I was raised on At the Drive-In, so that’s the band I’m most excited about.”

Eric Ducker is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @mrducker.

Filed Under: Coachella