Beat the Heat

You won’t want to miss these five essential acts who will be performing at this month’s Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, Colorado.

It may be considered the mellow cousin of Planet Bluegrass’s other big shows, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Rockygrass, but the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival (bluegrass.com/folks) always delivers an impressive array of acts. Taking place Friday through Sunday, August 17-19, at Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons, the 28th running of the annual songwriter-driven event features a range of artists from folk heroes to indie upstarts, all playing for relaxed crowds along the St. Vrain. Here are five sets you won’t want to miss.

Jeff Tweedy

Wilco fans were bummed when the seminal band announced a touring hiatus for the entirety of 2018, but fortunately for the diehards, front man Jeff Tweedy is making the rounds as a solo act. Performing as an acoustic troubadour, Tweedy offers intimate versions of some of his band’s most beloved tunes, including “Jesus, Etc.” and “Handshake Drugs,” but he also delivers deep cuts, including tracks from his days in Uncle Tupelo and lesser-known punk group Loose Fur. For a taste of what Tweedy sounds like in this stripped-down format, check out last year’s tongue-in-cheek titled “Together at Last,” his first solo album. Also during his set, expect to be entertained by a steady stream of wry banter between songs.

Las Cafeteras

In late spring U.S. congressperson Keith Ellison shined a spotlight on Chicano folk-pop outfit Las Cafeteras by wearing one of the band’s t-shirts to a parade that said, “Yo no creo en fronteras,” translation “I do not believe in borders.” He then encouraged his Twitter followers to check out the band’s song “Tiempos De Amor,” a dance-friendly tune from the six-piece group’s 2017 album “Tastes Like LA,” about the love-driven determination of migrant families. In light of the recent uprising over President Trump’s family separation policies, the band’s message, which it has championed since it formed over a decade ago in East Los Angeles, seems more relevant than ever. The group’s politically charged songs are rooted in Son Jarocho, a regionally specific form of traditional Mexican folk, and infused with the urban edges of hip-hop and pop. Folks-Festival-ready is the band’s cross-cultural reworking of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” an example of protest music becoming joyful noise.

Milk Carton Kids

Five years ago this folk duo consisting of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan earned breakout success with the album “The Ash & Clay,” an effort that garnered the band a Grammy nomination and some undeniable comparisons to close-harmony predecessors like Simon and Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers. On this summer’s “All The Things I Did and All the Things that I Didn’t Do,” the musical partners have expanded their vision by enlisting a full backing band to assist with their latest record. While set among bigger, roots-based arrangements, thanks to help from producer Joe Henry and Wilco’s Pat Sansone, the duo’s pristine joint singing and intensely personal lyrics still drive the music.

Pattengale recently overcame a cancer scare and endured the end of a seven-year relationship, while Ryan’s family expanded with the addition of a new child. The heft of those life experiences comes through in cuts like “Big Time,” which will please fans of Gillian Welch, and “One More for the Road,” a gentle, 10-minute acoustic journey with a jazzy guitar interlude. Pattengale and Ryan are bringing a full band on the road for their summer tour dates, which include a Sunday appearance at Folks Festival.

Wild Child

One of the funnest sets at the festival on Saturday should come from Wild Child, the indie pop outfit that hails from the vibrant music scene in Austin, Texas. Founders and songwriting partners Kelsey Wilson (violin) and Alexander Beggins (ukulele), craft rootsy, honest earworms in the vein of the Lumineers and the Head and the Heart. The pair now front a seven-piece crew that delivers collective swells of strings, horns and keys in stomp-and-holler live shows that should get folks out of their lawn chairs. This summer, the band is touring behind its fourth studio album, “Expectations,” an effort created with help from multiple producers, including Delta Spirit’s Matthew Logan Vasquez, ex-Death Cab for Cutie member Chris Walla and Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog.

Regina Spektor

Another chance to catch a dynamic artist bring songs back to the basics of a solo performance comes on the festival’s final day with a headlining set from Regina Spektor. Last fall the revered songstress embarked on a lengthy solo tour—just her cascading piano work, dramatic voice and lengthy catalog of poetic, soul-felt tunes—and she’s reviving the format for brief summer run. Although Spektor has favored intimate theaters when playing alone, a foothills sunset in the open air should give new beauty to familiar songs like “Better” and “Samson.” Her most recent setlists have also included a tribute to Tom Petty, with a reading of the late great’s “Yer So Bad.”

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