EO’s look at the best bands you might not know about at the summer festivals.
A candidate for Colorado’s next big breakout band, this seven-piece indie folk outfit soars with an energetic sound that incorporates a range of musical styles. Since forming in 2007, the Denver-based group has developed a rhythm-based brand of joyous Americana that’s elevated with angelic vocal harmonies and edgy acoustic grooves. Nuanced finger-picking, soulful voices and stomping world beats highlight standouts like “As I Am” from the band’s latest album Rooms. The dynamic sound has garnered the band acceptance on a range of stages, including opening slots for The Lumineers and The Infamous Stringdusters. Catch ‘em: Four Corners Folk Festival
Willie Watson made his name as a member of hugely popular string band revivalists Old Crow Medicine Show. He’s now flying solo, letting sparse arrangements and his soul-piercing tenor do all the work. Watson just released a debut solo album, Folk Singer Vol. 1, which was produced by David Rawlings with help from associate producer Gillian Welch. The 10-song set unearths a range of gems from the American folk songbook (“Midnight Special,” “Mexican Cowboy”) and offers a prime example of the power that can come from one man and his acoustic guitar. Catch ‘em: Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival
Lettuce is a seven-piece funk machine that’s been delivering tight relentless grooves for the past two decades. Originally formed as an emerging group of skilled players from the venerable Berklee College of Music, the Brooklyn-based crew features a range of instrumental all-stars with deep resumes, including drummer/band leader Adam Deitch (Pretty Lights, John Scofield), Eric Krasno and Neal Evans of Soulive and trumpeter Rashawn Ross (Dave Matthews Band). Expect to get sweaty, since you won’t be able to stand still during this band’s explosive jams that incorporate bits and pieces of retro soul, jazz and hip-hop. Catch ‘em: Telluride Jazz Festival
London Souls is a hard-hitting rock duo that delivers plenty of distorted power from a stripped two-man lineup. Fans of old-school Black Keys should take notice as this rising group delivers plenty of primitive bluesy fuzz with an authentic throwback vibe. Straight from the bashing and riffing of drummer Chris St. Hilaire and guitarist Tash Neal, standout songs like “The Sound” from the band’s self-titled debut album display gritty homage to the old school British psychedelia of Cream and Zeppelin. It’s loud retro greatness that’s just right for big stages. Catch ‘em: Snowmass Mammoth Fest
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
There’s no need to be bummed that the Black Crowes aren’t hitting the road this year. Chris Robinson gets deep into the groove with this psychedelic solo project. Backed by a seasoned band of ace players, lead by guitarist Neal Casal (Ryan Adams, Phil Lesh) and Crowes keyboardist Adam MacDougal, Robinson adds rhythm guitar and intertwines his husky, soulful vocals with patient vintage rock jams. The group has a growing catalog of original material, including new songs from the recently released Phosphorescent Harvest, but during live shows you can also expect choices covers: Dead, Dylan and some lesser known Crowes tunes. Catch ‘em: Snowmass Mammoth Fest
It’s no secret that Colorado-style bluegrass tends to fly off the rails. Sure, it’s cool to see banjo and mandolin spiral into a 20-minute jam, but sometimes the high lonesome sound is best enjoyed in straightforward, old-school form. If you have a hankering for purism, check out Town Mountain, a quick-picking quintet from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. The group, which recently won an International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Award for Band of the Year, delivers razor-sharp solos that surround the hearty lead vocals of front man Robert Greer. They have become a fixture on the national bluegrass circuit and gained the respect of genre predecessors. Their latest album, “Leave the Bottle,” was produced by Grammy-winning bassist Mike Bub (Del McCoury Band), who described Town Mountain’s approach as “not reinventing the wheel, but taking the wheel in their hands and driving the music down both familiar roads and out to new territory.” Catch ‘em: Rockygrass