Sure, you ponied up the cash for the big headliners, but festivals are also about discovering new music. Check out the schedules on the smaller stages and catch these emerging acts.
Where to Catch ‘Em: Roosterwalk, Red Wing Roots Music Festival
Jarekus Singleton grew up in Mississippi, raised on the fertile ground that yielded pioneering blues legends like Muddy Waters and B.B. King. In his youth, he was drawn to hip-hop and playing basketball, eventually becoming a college star and briefly playing pro ball in Europe. He even had an NBA tryout, but an injury eventually ended his hoops career. While recovering, he started practicing some signature blues licks on the guitar and developed his own take on the style.
By 2009 Singleton put together a band, and it didn’t take long for him to become a favorite on the Southern blues circuit. His latest album, Refuse to Lose, was released two years ago on the venerable Alligator Records. The effort showcases Singleton’s big muscular guitar riffs combined with his deep soulful voice and original free-flowing lyrics that recall his love of hip-hop rhymes. He’s cultivating a sound similar to that of Gary Clark, Jr., but with a little more Delta grit. It has deep roots with plenty of crossover appeal.
Where to Catch ‘Em:Shaky Knees, Forecastle, Lockn’ Music festival
Line-up shuffles led to a brief break for these indie rock expansionists from Austin, Texas. But this spring the band re-emerged with a new roster and a scorching new record, Stiff. Guitarist Austin Jenkins and drummer Joshua Block left the group, in favor of their recent work with soul crooner Leon Bridges. But lead singer and guitarist James Petralli is still leading the psychedelic charge of this outfit’s frenetic boogie rock. On the new album’s standout single, “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah),” the quartet cruises through a freewheeling 70s rock groove that peaks with the chorus, “Just be yourself, try to have a good time.” It should be a killer anthem for the band’s many upcoming festival appearances.
Where to Catch ‘Em: DelFest, FloydFest
Colorado is known for string bands that like to reshape the traditional mold. Elephant Revival is definitely one of the most unique, a dynamic quintet that blends a broad range of influences—old-time, country, Gypsy jazz and progressive songwriting—to create an original style of transcendental folk. The band’s songs are filled with impressive acoustic instrumental passages and thought-provoking lyrics, often with a socially conscious message. “When I Fall” from the band’s new studio effort, Petals, is an inspirational anthem with a message of unity that blends delicate strings with a hair-raising harmonized chorus, a powerful example of the collective energy that keeps the band moving forward.
Where to Catch ‘Em: LAVA Festival, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Emerging singer-songwriter Natalie Prass has a soulful voice with striking range, at some points intensely sweet and others seductively soothing. The Richmond-based songstress turned many heads last year with her eponymous debut album, which was produced by her friend Matthew E. White and released on his independent label Spacebomb Records. The album features tight vintage pop arrangements occasionally augmented with swells of strings and horns that intensify Prass’s deeply personal lyrics, especially on key tracks like “Birds of Prey.”
During live shows, Prass is known for including some choice covers, like the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Last year she did a heavy road stint supporting Ryan Adams, and the tour mates regularly went deep with a reading of “She’s Like the Wind” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. No joke.The Dustbowl Revival
Where to Catch ‘Em: DelFest, FloydFest
Put a big hodgepodge of American roots music in a high-energy blender. That’s the formula of this eight-piece California outfit known for throwing rowdy, dance-friendly hoedowns. The band’s latest album With A Lampshade On is a mostly live set that offers a sample of the band’s brand of joyful noise, a collision of strings and brass that incorporates old-time foot-stompers, hot jazz dance numbers, and vintage-style swing tunes. It’s all delivered with orchestral force that always keeps crowds moving.