If you’re going to be down on the farm in Manchester, Tennessee this weekend, you’re probably excited to see headliners including Elton John, Jack White, Kanye West, and Vampire Weekend among the many other established artists from a variety of genres playing Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. But one of the best things about Bonnaroo is mixed in with the biggest acts of any given year are a huge variety of up-and-coming new bands on the verge of making their break.
Even if you’re not up for spending four days covered in mud and sweat, the festival’s lineup is a great place to browse for new music. If you are attending the festival, don’t spend all afternoon sleeping in and make some time to catch the earlier acts that may not get headline status. Either way, check back with Wall St. Cheat Sheet and follow me on Twitter to keep up with our special coverage of the festival.
Here’s a list of five of the hottest new bands to come out in the past five years playing Bonnaroo 2014.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops
The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a banjo and fiddle based old timey folk band out of the Piedmont region of South Carolina, focused on playing the traditional folk music of that area with an emphasis on how the folk tradition was shaped by African American musicians. The Drops won the Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy for 2010′s Genuine Negro Jig released on Nonesuch Records and gained ecstatic reviews from a variety of important publications but haven’t gotten as much attention as some of their peers in the folk music revival.
Alternative R&B singer Janelle Monae defies any label that journalists try to pin on her. She’s an African American singer with a powerful voice, a penchant for wearing tuxedos, and an obsession with science fiction that spawned an android alter ego named Cindi Mayweather. Her sophomore album The Electric Lady was released last spring and includes guest appearances from Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, Miguel, and Prince. Just a week before Bonnaroo, Monae played the Governors Ball festival in New York City. Rolling Stone said of her set: “Singles like ‘Electric Lady’ and ‘Tightrope’ turned the Gov Ball into the kind of party that makes you wonder why she isn’t selling out stadiums like Bruno Mars, particularly because her music is wholly her own.”
Broken Bells are a band often described by the dreaded word “supergroup,” given that the duo is composed of producer Brian Burton, also known as Danger Mouse, and the Shins’ front man James Mercer. Earlier this year the band released their second album, After the Disco, which received positive reviews for its psychedelic pop sound. Rolling Stone said that, “After the Disco is at once sleek and world-weary, often homing in on that sexy moment of malaise when the Seventies wanted to turn into the Eighties so badly but didn’t quite know how to do it yet.” While Broken Bells writes and records primarily as a duo, they perform with a full band to flesh out their orchestrated dance sound.
Fitz and the Tantrums
The heavy touring soul-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums has been heavy on the summer festival circuit for the past few years, honing their live Motown-influenced and guitar-free show that tries to replicate the feel of a house party. “I wanted to see if we could create something that felt like it was full and rich and felt like it could be heard on the radio, without those guitars. What it does for your ears is it makes a different sound. All of a sudden, it becomes more about the rhythm section, the bass and the drums and what the organ’s doing. And it creates this really cool pocket for the vocals to sing in,” front man Michael Fitzpatrick has said of the band’s sound, in an interview with The Waster.
Scottish electronic band CHVRCHES (pronounced “churches”) was named one of the most promising new talents of 2013 by a variety of media outlets. Their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, was released last fall. The record was named best new music by indie taste-maker Pitchfork, which said of the group, “Chvrches embody what a generation raised on electronic music is looking for in a rock band.” Singer Lauren Mayberry and multi-instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty all have played in various bands in Glasglow’s booming electronic pop and indie music scenes.
More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:
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- Bonnaroo 2014: Kanye, Jack White, Elton John Among Headliners
- 10 Things You Might Not Know About Iggy Azalea
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