Too packed at the main stage to enjoy the headliner? Look for these acts on the undercard at upcoming regional festivals.
Fresh-faced South Carolina native Marcus King has the voice of an old-school soul man and the chops of a Southern rock guitar hero. He’s only 21, but King’s talent has already been discovered by some of the best in the music business. The eponymous album—released last fall—by his six-piece band was produced by Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes and one of the record’s fiery highlights, “Self Hatred,” features King trading guitar licks with Derek Trucks. King and his band can definitely jam, moving deftly between funk, rock, and swampy grooves, but they also know when to tone it down and hit the sweet spot with soulful tunes like “Ain’t Nothing Wrong” and “Rita is Gone.”
Lucy Dacus has a dreamy voice that haunts and persists. The Richmond-based indie rock songstress turned many heads last year with her breakout debut album No Burden, a strikingly honest first effort from a young artist still developing her sound. Set against hypnotic, distorted guitar chords, Dacus delivers smart slices of self-reflection, like the standout single “I Don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore.” As an artist who is just getting started, she’s crafting songs at a level well beyond her 21 years. Dacus has recently been in Nashville recording a sophomore follow-up, and after some dates in the South opening for Sylvan Esso, she’ll be hitting the summer festival circuit.
Seven-piece string band Cabinet blends an affinity for roots-rock exploration with elements of bluegrass and hillbilly stomp. The group indulges in extended picking tangents like jamgrass predecessors Greensky Bluegrass and Railroad Earth, but front man Pappy Biondo also has an earnest pen, writing shaggy folk songs and true country tunes. The hard-touring crew will make the rounds at many regional festivals, but they also host their own bash, the Susquehanna Breakdown in their home state of Pennsylvania.
Before moving to Nashville and making a name as a left-of-center cosmic country troubadour, Aaron Lee Tasjan played guitar with glam rock legends the New York Dolls and his own band of the same ilk, Semi Precious Weapons. He brings that vibe to his free-spirited Americana tunes and the rhinestone cowboy outfits he often wears on stage. On last year’s Silver Tears, Tasjan covers different trails blazed by his roots predecessors, including the dusty 70s rock of the Flying Burrito Brothers in “Memphis Rain,” while the following “Dime” gallops like a lost cut by the Traveling Wilburys. The standout “Little Movies,” though, is a hazy indie folk gem that shows Tasjan is also very much tuned in to the present.
Susto is poised to be the next band to break out of Charleston, S.C., which has an underappreciated local music scene that’s fostered the likes of Band of Horses and Shovels and Rope. The group is the main vehicle for the songs of Justin Osborne, a South Carolina native who, like many before him, has rebelled against a religious upbringing with a guitar. After a lengthy run in his old band, Sequoyah Prep School, Osborne tried to quit playing music and briefly moved to Cuba, where the inspiration for new songs led him to form Susto. The band plays spacey, country-tinged garage rock with Osborne’s husky grunge voice at the forefront. He often uses it to share thoughts from his own existential head trips. In “Waves,” the pulsing alt-rock standout from the band’s January-released latest album & I’m Fine Today, he tries to put strife in perspective: “Why’s there so much trouble?/ We live in such a remarkable place.”