Festing is all about finding your next favorite band. Look beyond the headliners and check out our favorite up-and-coming acts on the Colorado scene this summer.
Jeff Austin Band
Last year it was big news when Austin left his longtime gig in Colorado’s own Yonder Mountain String Band. He’s now focusing on a solo band with the same instrument configuration, featuring string aces Danny Barnes on banjo, Ross Martin on guitar and Eric Thorin on bass, but Austin’s new solo album branches beyond his usual expansive bluegrass. On The Simple Truth Austin showcases his talents as a songwriter, delivering a set of concise roots rock that incorporates an electric edge with help from an expanded cast that includes drummer Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.
APPEARING AT: Clear Creek Rapidgrass
Nashville isn’t all twang. For proof beyond high-profile transplants like Jack White and the Black Keys check out this dynamic crew that’s become one of Music City’s most popular independent rock acts. Moon Taxi finds the sweet spot between the worlds of jam and indie rock, touring with Umphrey’s McGee and playing solos that spiral into anthemic peaks but also writing pop-driven tunes with catchy hooks. The band shredded the psychedelic-tinged fist-pumper “Running Wild” from its latest album, 2013’s Mountain Cities Beaches, on the Late Show with David Letterman, and the potential for greater things is on the horizon. The group is working on a new album with Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King, whose resume includes helping Norah Jones and Kings of Leon.
APPEARING AT: Ride Festival
Fresh off her work on Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes—a T. Bone Burnett-curated collaboration that found Giddens, Elvis Costello, Jim James, Marcus Mumford, and Taylor Goldsmith putting new music to leftover Bob Dylan lyrics—the songstress and founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops is branching out with her first solo project. On the recently released album Tomorrow is My Turn Giddens once again teams up with Burnett and, much like her traditional torch-bearing work with the Chocolate Drops, puts her own spin on songs and styles from the past. With strong acoustic players behind her, including members of the Punch Brothers, Giddens uses the album to unearth a range of old rootsy gems, including Nina Simone’s “Black is the Color” and the Odetta-arrange work song “Water Boy.” There’s also a poignant original, the folk ballad “Angel City” that Giddens wrote for her New Basement Tapes collaborators. She’s touring the new material with members of the Chocolate Drops behind her.
APPEARING AT: Telluride Bluegrass
Roadkill Ghost Choir
If you’re into alt-folk or indie rock, Roadkill Ghost Choir can sound like five of your favorite bands. The band’s debut EP, 2012’s Quiet Light captured the haunting mood of Fleet Foxes, but on last year’s full-length In Tongues the Florida quintet branched into the expansive realms of My Morning Jacket and The War on Drugs. Main singer/songwriter Andrew Shepard delivers with a weary drawl that provides a comforting anchor in a sound that slides on the spectrum between compelling folk meditations and full-on atmospheric rock blitzes.
APPEARING AT: Snowmass Mammoth Fest
Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers
Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers plays melodic folk-rock that’s full of vintage charm. Front and center are Bluhm’s vocals, full of honeyed soul and the ability to soar when the jam calls for it. Based in San Francisco, Bluhm first emerged around the Bay Area music scene performing with her husband Tim of regionally beloved psychedelic rockers the Mother Hips. Over the past three years, the Gramblers have toured rigorously across the country. The cohesive payoff of hard gigging can be heard on the group’s new album Loved Wild Lost, which was produced by Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse, Josh Ritter) and features some colorful of arrangements from San Fran’s Magik*Magik Orchestra. APPEARING AT: Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
Trout Steak Revival
Trout Steak is doing all the right things to potentially earn its place as Colorado’s next big bluegrass band. The group won last year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival band contest, an honor that followed a 2012 third-place finish at RockyGrass. The quintet’s sound is rooted in tradition, but features plenty of high country edge to create a loose, dance-friendly vibe. The group’s recently released debut studio album Brighter Every Day was produced by The Infamous Stringdusters’ Chris Pandolfi.