I never get excited about music festival headliners. I think at this point we, as music fans, can all agree we recognize the headliner formula: take one super hot buzz band, add a musician with a ton of indie kid cred and mix with some hot electronic band; blend with one legendary rock star and voila! Insta-festival.
Okay, maybe that’s a snarky oversimplification, but that other statement is true – I rarely get excited about a festival headliner. Instead, the first thing I do when line-ups are released is to scroll aaaall the way to the bottom of the line-up to find the names of the bands I know and the bands I’m friends with. And that’s where I start when I make my festival schedules.
With that in mind, here are my top 5 bands you might not know yet – or maybe haven’t checked out yet – that you should totally make it a point to see this summer on the festival circuit:
1. Wild Child – Bonnaroo, Firefly Music Festival, Wakarusa
This Austin-based band charmed me the first time I saw them nearly three years ago. A touch of folk and a touch of pop mixed with beautiful melodies, harmonies and strings makes for a magical show. Show up in time to see Wild Child and start your festival day off right.
2. Vance Joy – Bonnaroo, Lollapoloza, Firefly Music Festival
This Australian singer-songwriter was one of my Secondhand SXSW picks this year. Plain and simple music you can clap and stomp along to. If you love James Mercer’s voice, you’ll love Vance Joy.
3. St. Paul & the Broken Bones – Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, Nelsonville Music Festival
This soul band was one of my very first 3 Bands picks. A month later I stupidly tried to go see them and buy a ticket at the door. I should have known better. They are totally up the mini-Motown revival happening in music, which means I’m instantly in love. Plus judging by the Instagram photos I went home and sulked over that night, they’re killer live.
4. Saints of Valory – Summerfest, Firefly Music Festival, Austin City Limits, Chive Fest
Once upon a time, I went to an after party or two with these guys in Austin. Every member of the band is from a different country, and lead singer Gavin has that magical way of holding an audience in the palm of his hand the entire performance. Plus, they’re a fantastic pop/rock band full of anthematic tunes that will be perfect for your summer playlist. (And they have a brand new EP coming out next Tuesday!)
5. The Wild Feathers – Bonnaroo, Summerfest, Firefly Music Festival
If you have’t heard me sing these guys praises yet, well…either you’re new around here or you’re not paying close attention. Though multiple attempts to see them live have been thwarted, one of these days I’ll make an honest groupie of myself, see them live and then will be able to fully attest to their awesomeness. For now, I’ll have to rely on you this summer.
When I made my list of bands to recommend, I whittled my list down to seven. These last two I just couldn’t cut because I love them so:
The Lone Bellow – Bonnaroo, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Buckle Up Festival, Gettysburg Fest
Another band whose praises I sang all last year. I finally saw them last October, and I’m happy to say they lived up to every bit of the hype I had created for myself. Watching videos of them at Shaky Knees Festivals this past weekend gave me chills – just videos. So imagine what they’re like live.
Fitz & the Tantrums – Summerfest, Governor’s Ball, Bunbury Music Festival, Center of the Universe Festival
Another favorite band of mine. No doubt you’ve heard their song “The Walker” (that whistling one) in at least 10 different commercials since the start of this year. I went to see them blindly, only having heard a song or two. Absolutely killer live band and that experience blew my mind and has stuck with me as one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past 10 years. Fitz will keep you entertained and dancing – don’t miss ’em.
What bands do you recommend checking out at festivals this summer?