Tame Impala And Billie Eilish Showcase Two Distinct Visions Of Rock’s Future At Coachella 2019

Managing Editor, Music

Philip Cosores for Uproxx

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

If Coachella had its way, Saturday night would have featured a much different lineup. First, its headliner would have been Justin Timberlake, the pop star who was forced out of performing when vocal trouble caused him to cancel dates and his rescheduled tour interfered with Coachella’s timeframe. And then there is Solange, the pop singer who just endured a disappointing surprise drop (at least by commercial standards) and backed out of her subheadlining gig after some bandmates reportedly became ill and delayed her production. Even Kid Cudi’s night-closing set in the Sahara on Saturday night oozed what-ifs, as his appearance seemingly hinged on the fact that Kanye West was originally supposed to headline the festival, too (and we’re not talking about his church service).

Instead, a couple of unlikely heroes saved Coachella’s second night from being a total wash: Tame Impala and Billie Eilish. On paper, the two wouldn’t appear to have much in common. But if you tune in at just the right time on rock radio these days, there is the very real possibility that you might be able to hear both artists back-to-back, a weird proposition when you consider how little each has to do with what most consider traditional rock.

Sure, Tame’s biggest hit, “Elephant,” is vintage psych-rock, but their newest material released in the last several weeks, “Patience” and “Borderline,” find the guitar god Kevin Parker largely ditching the instrument he made his name on. It’s a move that was hinted at on his last record Currents, but these new songs feel very different. Soft rock and chillwave are both touchstones, and Parker is impressing as much as a vocalist as he has previously through his instrumental chops and production wizardry. The band wasn’t expected to debut more new songs in their headlining set — Parker has said before that he prefers people’s first experience with his music be the recorded version — but even without many surefire hits, fans turned out in mass to groove along to the impressive laser light show and tight performance.

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