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Festival Bands to Watch

The Futurebirds, um, rock.

Sure, seeing your favorite band on the main stage is a blast, but one of the best things about festivals is discovering new music. Look for these four Festival Bands to Watch at regional festivals.

The Apache Relay

Initially cast as successors in the spreading movement led by the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons, this Nashville outfit has moved beyond acoustic parameters to deliver high-energy indie roots music with a refreshing rock edge. Anchored by the heartfelt songbook of front man Michael Ford, Jr., the band’s tunes accelerate with infectious melodies while swathed in a balance of gritty electric guitar from Mike Harris and grounding comfort from Kellen Wenrich’s fiddle. For a primer, check out the great cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” from the band’s latest album, American Nomad, an apt title from a group of dedicated road warriors. Appearing at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion.

The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three is a California acoustic trio that brings a rowdy punk edge to the primitive traditions of early blues and ragtime. With odes to Jack Daniels and the pure energy of wood and steel, the band chugs through rowdy foot-stomping live shows of jug band music, folk, and rockabilly. The group delivers three-part harmonies through the spirit of the front porch played with the intensity of a rock show—not an easy feat sans drummer. Catch them on the last day of FloydFest.

Gary Clark Jr.

This fast-rising guitar ace likes to combine the explosive atmospherics of Jimi Hendrix with the soulful touch of Stevie Ray Vaughn. His talent was fostered from a young age amid the widespread musical opportunities of his hometown in Austin, Texas, mainly at the famed nightclub Antone’s. Now he’s traded licks with many of his heroes, including outspoken fan Eric Clapton. Clark Jr., though, isn’t just about guitar dexterity. His major label debut, last year’s Blak and Blu, showcases his soulful vocals and steady R&B grooves just as much as his ax chops. Appearing at the SweetLife Festival.

Futurebirds – Featured in this month’s Trail Mix!

The next great band to emerge from the storied music scene in Athens, Ga., which, in case you needed a reminder, birthed the likes of R.E.M., Widespread Panic, B-52s, and the Drive-By Truckers. Members of Futurebirds started jamming together as students at the University of Georgia, and in just a few years, they’ve developed a tight blend of country-hued garage rock that offers some of the same hair-raising satisfaction as Crazyhorse and early My Morning Jacket. The sound can be rowdy and charging with electric guitar outbursts but also mellow and ethereal with dripping pedal steel licks that accent the soulful lyrics from a band full of songwriters. The group is currently touring behind a new release, Baba Yaga, opening dates for Band of Horses in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia this month. You can also catch them at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

Check out the rest of our Outdoor Festival Guide!


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