The 10 Artists You Need to Know About for the 2019 Festival Season

Tank & The Bangas
Josh Brasted/Getty Images

Tank & The Bangas performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on May 6, 2017 in New Orleans.

You made it. You survived all the transportation nightmares, fashion crises and weather scares that accompany just about every major music festival, and now you’re scoping out the grounds with your friends, ready to absorb hour after hour of epic live performances.

The hard part is over, right? Wrong. You paid a boatload of cash to attend Coachella or Bonnaroo or Woodstock 50, but hours of your day can be wasted wandering from stage to stage if you don’t know which undercard bands and artists are actually worth your time.

That’s where we come in. Here are the sleeper acts to see if you’re attending any of these 10 colossal U.S. festivals taking place between now and Labor Day. Check out these killer pop, rock, folk and soul acts -- and don’t be the person left wondering “well, The Killers goes on at 8 and it’s only 2:15, so …”

Let’s Eat Grandma

From: Norwich, U.K.

Formed in: 2013

Signed to: Transgressive Records

Listen if you love: Tegan and Sara, Soccer Mommy, Dirty Projectors

See them at: Coachella (April 12-21, Indio, Calif.)

Experimental synth-pop didn’t get much better in 2018 than I’m All Ears, the widely acclaimed sophomore album put forth by the ascendant U.K. duo Let’s Eat Grandma. Members Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton are hurtling toward pop darling status as they adapt Robyn and St. Vincent’s expansive soundscapes and accessible melodies into a style they lovingly describe as “sludge pop,” and “bubblegum-psych rock.” It’s an addictive sound unleashed by two young Brits who can’t even legally drink yet in the U.S., and their set should be a must-see — especially since the band canceled its American spring tour following the death of Hollingworth’s boyfriend, Billy. Coachella may be Let’s Eat Grandma’s only stateside show this year.

Ruston Kelly

From: Nashville, Tenn.  

Formed in: 2017

Signed to: Rounder Records

Listen if you love: Josh Ritter, Neil Young, Jason Isbell

See him at: Bonnaroo (June 13-16, Manchester, Tenn.)

Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside the home of Kacey Musgraves -- not only to hear the country-pop superstar work on her own songs, but to hear her share ideas with her husband, the alt-country troubadour Ruston Kelly, who is an easy sleeper pick among this year’s sprawling Bonnaroo lineup. If you’re one for forlorn, impassioned lyrics spread across lush, subtly twangy instrumentals with a touch of outlaw bravado, Kelly is your guy: His debut LP, 2018’s arresting Dying Star, was a titanic step forward for a newly sober musician who deserves your attention if you’re camping out in Tennessee this June.

Tessa Violet

From: Los Angeles

Formed in: 2013

Signed to: Unsigned

Listen if you love: Carly Rae Jepsen, King Princess, Hayley Kiyoko

See her at: Lollapalooza (Aug. 1-4, Grant Park, Chicago)

Tessa Violet Williams has already conquered the Internet -- she’s been a wildly popular video-blogger for the better part of a decade -- and for the last few years, she’s attempted to make the jump to real-world pop stardom, with an assist from manager (and former Cobra Starship pop star) Gabe Saporta. Her pair of 2018 singles, “Crush” and “Bad Ideas,” are both confident and breezy additions to the indie-pop fold, and as this multifaceted artist continues to build her offline fanbase, she and her buoyant aesthetic are definitely worth a listen if you’re heading for Grant Park this summer.

Suzi Wu

From: London

Formed in: 2017

Signed to: Def Jam Records

Listen if you love: Halsey, Lorde, Charli XCX

See her at: Governor’s Ball (May 31-June 2, Randall’s Island Park, New York)

"I'm too scared to live, too stoned to die,” sings Suzi Wu, a daring U.K. newcomer who merges classic British punk attitudes with gloomy modern soundscapes -- imagine if Joe Strummer was a 20-year-old woman writing about how the world sucks as she blasts skittering hip-hop beats from her basement. Wu’s new EP, Error 404, was just released last month, and it’s a striking follow-up to her brash introduction, 2017’s Teenage Witch EP, which scored the stone-faced singer a deal with Def Jam Records and earned her a heap of buzz in pop circles. Find her on Randall’s Island this year.

Bad Cop, Bad Cop

From: San Pedro, Calif.

Formed in: 2014

Signed to: Fat Wreck Chords

Listen if you love: Joan Jett, Rancid, I Am The Avalanche

See them at: Vans Warped Tour 25th Anniversary (July 20-21, Mountainview, Calif.)

While Warped’s 25th anniversary shows (only in California, Ohio and New Jersey) are largely steeped in nostalgia -- and veteran lineups that reflect two and a half decades of sweaty moshing in parking lots -- some newer acts made the bill, too. Most notably, there's the pop-punk howitzer Bad Cop, Bad Cop, who launched their debut LP, Not Sorry, in 2015 and deliver some seriously serrated vocals courtesy of frontwoman Stacey Dee. While the crunchy riffs may feel familiar, the clean harmonies feel fresh out of the box from this group of self-proclaimed “modern anarchists, punk-rock existentialists” (as sung by Dee on the speedy banger “Womanarchist”). Catch them in the Bay Area come July.

Tank and the Bangas

From: New Orleans

Formed in: 2011

Signed to: Verve

Listen if you love: Janelle Monae, Esperanza Spalding, Vulfpeck

See them at: Firefly Music Festival (June 21-23, Dover, Del.)

Tank and the Bangas are a big ol’ pot of musical gumbo -- and not just because the nine-piece group is from New Orleans. Led by chameleonic singer/poet Tarriona Ball, the band shifts between a laundry list of genres, most prominently neo-soul, gospel, hip-hop, funk and folk. No two songs sound the same, and the group puts on a thrilling live performance -- good enough to win them NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2017. Now’s your chance to see this electrifying unpredictable Big Easy outfit: get to Firefly early this June.

Jade Bird

From: London

Formed in: 2017

Signed to: Glassnote Records

Listen if you love: Elle King, Alice Merton, Phoebe Bridgers

See her at: Hangout Music Festival (May 16-19, Gulf Shores, Ala.)

By the time London songstress Jade Bird hits the Alabama stage next month, her self-titled debut album will have already dropped (April 19) -- and a star that has long been ascending, largely on the back of her No. 1 Adult Alternative hit “Lottery,” will have climbed even higher. Bird (yes, it’s her real name) feels like the next gritty, pop-rock singer to commandeer alt radio, a la Elle King or Alice Merton. But there’s a softer side to the 21-year-old artist as well: “What Am I Here For?” -- her most-played song on Spotify -- is a delicate ballad that showcases a brilliant dynamic range. Save some time for her at Hangout this year.  

Pale Waves

From: Manchester, U.K.

Formed in: 2014

Signed to: Dirty Hit Records

Listen if you love: CHVRCHES, Wolf Alice, The 1975

See them at: Boston Calling (May 24-26, Harvard Athletic Complex, Boston)

Pale Waves danced their way into the indie-pop scene last year with an endearing, ‘80s retro-tinged debut called My Mind Makes Noises, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and cracked the overall top 10 in the band’s native U.K. Pale Waves is another group seemingly obsessed with the big, synth-laden new wave hooks, following the '80s-indebted path laid by groups like Bleachers and The 1975. But the deft and urgent vocals turned in by frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie set this group apart, and should make for a banner early-day performance at Boston Calling this Memorial Day weekend.

You vs Yesterday  

From: Dayton, Ohio

Formed in: 2013

Signed to: Unsigned

Listen if you love: All Time Low, State Champs, Mayday Parade

See him at: Bunbury Music Festival (May 31-June 2, Sawyer Point Park, Cincinnati, Ohio)

Even as Vans Warped Tour and festivals specifically catering to pop-punk and emo fade away, the best of those bands will continue to fuel the undercards of monster regional fests like Bunbury and new groups honing their riffs will hopefully continue to fill the posters’ bottom rows. Enter a band called You vs Yesterday, an Ohio group whose third-wave pop-punk sound leaps from the speakers and reminds us just how much we loved those early All Time Low and Mayday Parade records of the mid-‘00s. Led by soaring vocalist Kramer Welker, the outfit's sound is hyper-polished. As we await the four-piece’s debut LP coming later this year, check the guys out if you’re wandering the Bunbury grounds.

Flora Cash

From: Stockholm, Sweden

Formed in: 2012

Signed to: RCA Records  

Listen if you love: The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Local Natives

See them at: Woodstock 50 (Aug. 15-18, Watkins Glen, N.Y.)

While Woodstock’s 50th anniversary show is loaded with multi-generational stars — Miley Cyrus and John Sebastian are playing the same freaking day! — there will still be opportunities to see some nascent acts take on the gargantuan festival and try to make a name for themselves. Flora Cash is a blooming transatlantic husband-and-wife pop duo — Shpresa Lleshaj (Sweden) and Cole Randall (Minnesota) connected over SoundCloud in 2012, and have since released a list of EPs and a bright debut LP, Nothing Lasts Forever (And It’s Fine) in 2017. The versatile pair scored a sizeable hit last year with “You’re Somebody Else” (No. 2 on the Alternative Songs chart) and is poised to make greater waves with its latest EP, March’s Press. Lend them your ears at Watkins Glen this August.