Every year, it’s always the same. A major music festival announces its expansive, multi-day, multi-stage lineup, and crams dozens of band names onto a single flyer. The bottom few rows you can barely read without a microscope.
Months later, you arrive at the festival, see the set times and realize the afternoon hours are packed with artists you’ve never heard of and didn’t bother to look up. You’re stuck playing catch-up while you wait to see Eminem or Beyonce, all the while missing some epic groups you definitely needed to see.
Let’s solve this problem together: as Coachella rolls into the SoCal desert next week and all the mega fests — Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, the final Vans Warped Tour and more — are soon to follow, here are 10 sleeper bands, one each from 10 huge festivals, that you may not have listened to yet, but absolutely need to check out, be it in person or online.
Terrific rock, punk, pop and hip-hop lies below; give these acts a try and enjoy the 2018 festival season.
Four words: Brill building riot grrrl. Meet The Regrettes, a mostly teenage four-piece that melds Ronettes-reminiscent ’60s pop nostalgia with blistering riffs to comprise one of the hottest new rock outfits on the Los Angeles scene — and a can’t miss set at Coachella next week. Seventeen-year-old frontwoman Lydia Night is a force, unafraid to take on society’s preconceived notions of femininity and youth. The Regrettes’ 2017 debut LP Feel Your Feelings Fool! was razor-sharp, and the band’s return EP Attention Seeker, released in February, is even more powerful. But don’t head-bang too hard out there in the desert — your flower crown might fly off!
The War and Treaty
From: Albion, Michigan
Formed in: 2016
Signed to: Strong World Entertainment (own label)
Listen if you love: Nina Simone, Justin Townes Earle, Alabama Shakes
See them at: Bonnaroo (June 7-10, Manchester, Tenn.)
Hey Bonnaroonians, don’t you dare oversleep in your tents — The War and Treaty, a masterful roots band from Michigan, will be on stage early in Manchester this June, and are not to be missed. The group is fueled by husband-and-wife team Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount, two talents whose chemistry in the live setting is raw, joyous and spectacular. Both Trotter and Blount are propulsive singers, and their band seamlessly blends bluegrass, folk, gospel and soul into a performance you’ll remember long after Eminem and The Killers take the stage.
Joe Mulherin’s ascendant project nothing,nowhere. is a brilliant boundary destroyer, a meld of emo and hip-hop for a generation of kids who worship Drake and vibe with Soundcloud rappers, but never stopped loving Taking Back Sunday. Mulherin’s 2017 label debut, Reaper, was laden with old-school internalized agony and quick wit, and we have a hunch that with growing fan bases from both the alternative and hip-hop sides, nothing,nowhere. could become hugely popular very soon. Give Mulherin a try in Chicago this summer.
Do not sleep on one of the very first bands to play at Governor’s Ball this year: a good and angry, fun and frenetic punk duo from the U.K. called Slaves (not to be confused with the U.S. band fronted by Jonny Craig). The pair’s most recent album, 2016’s Take Control, was lauded here and overseas for its intense and classic calls to the world’s disenfranchised youth — and those who can’t pull away from their damn phones. The record was produced by the Beastie Boys’ Mike D and the influence is certainly felt — these blokes will pump you up for the massive weekend ahead in New York.
As the punk institution Vans Warped Tour takes its final roadshow after 21 years this summer, and gaggles of scene kids scamper around searing hot parking lots one last time, they’d be remiss to skip Doll Skin, a devilishly good punk quartet from Phoenix. Most of the four-piece, lead by howling vocalist Sydney Dolezal, are still technically teenagers, but their metal-, punk- and pop-influenced sound is already polished, heavy with hooks and worthy of obsession. Be sure to check out Doll Skin’s 2017 debut LP, Manic Pixie Girl Dream.
Thomas Wynn and The Believers
Thomas Wynn and The Believers just go down easy; the Florida band’s dynamic sibling vocal duo — Thomas and Olivia Wynn — does well in its Floridian take on southern rock, blues and country. Fast or slow, loud or soft, the Wynns’ voices are crystaline on the band’s latest record Wade Waist Deep, a deftly polished and sometimes spiritual outing with just enough grit left behind. Firefly is always good for a few down-home sort of bands, and these folks shouldn’t be missed.
The Glorious Sons
On the off chance you’re not keeping up with the Canadian rock charts, just know that Ontario’s The Glorious Sons are tearing up the scene up north: the five-piece alt-rock outfit has scored six top two singles in the last few years, including the folksy and anthemic 2017 chart-topper “Everything Is Alright,” which will almost certainly be the centerpiece of the blooming group’s Hangout set next month. The band’s Young Beauties and Fools album from the same year is a sharp showcase for versatile frontman Brett Emmons.
You may already know a little about Charly Bliss, the self-proclaimed “bubble-grunge” group who were probably the hottest rock act to emerge from the Brooklyn scene last year. We’ve sung their praises before as a power-pop band you absolutely need to hear, especially after the fierce foursome’s universally lauded debut LP Guppy last year. Heaps of ‘90s indie, garage and pop influences bleed in here and singer Eva Hendricks’ piercing vocal performance and endless array of addictive hooks is a must-see if you’re out northwest for Memorial Day Weekend (Charly Bliss also plays Boston Calling that same weekend).
From: Milwaukee, Wisc.
Formed in: 2011
Signed to: Verve Records
Listen if you love: The War On Drugs, Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen
See them at: Boston Calling (May 25-27, Harvard Athletic Complex, Boston)
If you embrace the whole pensive rock singer-songwriter vibe — you love Springsteen and have many opinions on Ryan Adams’ 16 studio albums already released this century — then we urge you to check in with Chris Porterfield’s terrific, deftly narrative project Field Report, its brand new album Summertime Songs, released March 23, and the group’s set in Boston next month. Super-strong mix of rock, folk, country and pop going on here.
From: Bloomington, Minn.
Formed in: 2013
Signed to: Epitaph Records
Listen if you love: Jeff Rosenstock, Sorority Noise, The Hotelier
See them at: Bunbury Music Festival (June 1-3, Sawyer Point Park, Cincinnati, Ohio)
If your social circle is the type that treats good alternative music as a basic lifestyle necessity, then you have at least one friend who won’t shut the hell up about Remo Drive, a bright indie band from Minnesota whose quick-footed and undeniably fun debut Greatest Hits had all the punk blogs buzzing with adoration last year. If you find yourself in Cincinnati in June, make sure to find Remo Drive early in the day, or see them on tour where you can properly stage-dive and thrash along.