10 Small-Print Bands To Catch at Bonnaroo 2017

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10 Small-Print Bands To Catch at Bonnaroo 2017

Bonnaroo—the summer music fest to which all other summer music fests are compared—starts today. And the four-day event is truly stacked this year, with headliners including U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd and Chance the Rapper. Those acts only comprise the topmost line of festival billing, but work your way down the roster and a number of great bands are hiding in plain sight right there on the lineup. We did the hard work for you, though, and picked out 10 small-print bands to check out at Bonnaroo 2017.

1. Margo Price
Off-stage Margo Price is demure. Last year, we saw her hanging around the kids’ stage at Pilgrimage Festival in a white t-shirt shepherding around her son. But on stage, Price is more like her Twitter; handle, Miss Margo Price. She rocks rompers and shows skin. She stomps her cowboy boots and shakes her tambourine. And she belts it. She sings perfect covers by country’s matriarchs like Loretta Lynn and rips through her own brilliant originals from 2016’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter like she’s still trying to make her damn point after all these years. For Price, that kind of ferocity and tenacity is priceless. —Hilary Saunders

2. Car Seat Headrest
Nowadays, Car Seat Headrest shows—like Car Seat Headrest—begin and end with Will Toledo. Their Teens of Denial-centric sets are bookended by indie rock’s dapper young standard-bearer standing alone on stage, his subdued singing voice betraying the heavy heart underneath his band’s meteoric rise. As drummer Andrew Katz pointed out between songs at the band’s sold-out Atlanta show last September, it wasn’t long ago that Car Seat were playing for six people at a time, and it was telling that Toledo responded that night by noting exactly how long. The uber-talented frontman and creative core of Car Seat emanates kindly anxiety, coming across like the kind of guy who would rather hang out with your pet at a party, embodying his music. But rock star swagger or no, sandwiched between each Car Seat show’s somber Toledo interludes are an hour-and-a-half long reminder that this is one kickass rock ‘n’ roll band. Car Seat are at their best ripping through their cathartic indie anthems as a unit, from the heartbroken bounce of “Maud Gone,” to the shout-along-inspiring “Fill in the Blank,” to the yearning crash of “Something Soon.” But there is room left for experimentation, like their sprawling renditions of “Vincent” and Toledo’s stripped-down solo take on Frank Ocean’s “Ivy.” All told, their live shows are a potent distillation of the singular mix of introversion and aggression, vulnerability and empowerment, insouciance and precision that makes Car Seat Headrest one of the best rising acts in rock. —Scott Russell

3. Lucy Dacus
We called Lucy Dacus the best new band at Treefort Music Festival back in March 2016. Flanked by her Richmond-based band, the 21-year-old Dacus sings sweetly and often quietly, not letting the hurt, confusion, and self-depreciation in her lyrics translate into emotions she wore while singing them. The cool and respect that her band exuded during the more intimate parts of songs belied the ferocity of their ruckus when those same songs picked up in intensity. Dacus’ debut No Burden dropped in February 2016. —Hilary Saunders

4. Jay Som
We caught Jay Som at SXSW this year and Melina Duterte was in the zone. With an Austin skyline building as the backdrop for her afternoon set at Lustre Pearl, the pint-sized Duterte seemed larger than life. One of SXSW’s buzziest acts (and the most recent feature in Paste’s Best of What’s Next series) is truly multi-faceted, and carries a delightfully humble presence on stage. At one point, Duterte shredded on “Take It,” only to chide the crowd about Taco Bell, the party’s sponsor, as soon as the song ended. But when the jokes ended, it was all business for Duterte and Jay Som as a band. —Adrian Spinelli

5. Joseph
As soon as Joseph walked out on stage during SXSW 2016, we knew it was going to be good. The Portland-based trio, made up of sisters Natalie, Allison and Meegan Closner, stepped out to the front of the stage together, full backing band in tow. The girls had us all in the palms of their hands with their beautifully eerie harmonies, while the band rounded out their sound and punched the set up from soothing to dynamic. — Emily McBride

6. The Lemon Twigs
Psych-rock prodigies Michael and Brian D’Addario are Long Island brothers with the vintage style and musical influences (The Who, Beatles, Kinks, Yes, Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Foxygen) of a rock obsessive born 40 years before their time. Considering their songwriting chops and ridiculous skills—the brothers switch off on several instruments—their 2016 debut, Do Hollywood, should be the first of many stellar records. —Matthew Oshinsky

7. White Reaper
The White Reaper boys just released album called The World’s Best American Band—quite the claim—and they went about trying to back it up with 45 minutes of headbanging, ear-melting punk at SXSW this year. I don’t know if I’d say “best,” but “damn good” will suffice. They sound like a Southern-tinged version of Twin Peaks, with frontman Tony Esposito howling out his snarky lyrics to the moshing crowd and the brothers Wilkerson (Nick on drums, Sam on bass) providing a steady backdrop of rhythm. Perhaps the most endearing thing about White Reaper was that each of the five members had something to say to the crowd at some point during the set, mostly big ol’ thanks to everyone in attendance…although Sam Wilkerson had a slightly strange request, asking the smelly folks in the audience to identify themselves. Doubtless all of us smelled a little worse after a run of songs that reliably kept the bodies bumping into each other. —Zach Blumenfeld

8. July Talk
This Canadian chart-topping rock band July Talk shimmied onto the main stage and impressed us quickly at at last summer’s Festival d’été de Québec. Dual vocalists Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay teased each other and the audience with flirty interplay and heavy power chords, delivering an engaging and wildly entertaining set. —Hilary Saunders

9. Aaron Lee Tasjan
Aaron Lee Tasjan’s Paste Studio Session wowed us in the New York City office in November and at the fifth annual Luck Reunion held on Willie Nelson’s ranch in Spicewood, Texas around SXSW this year. The young singer-guitarist donned a black suit with silver stars and revved up his melodic power-pop to anthemic proportions at the fest. This was rock ‘n roll reawakened by hooks and risks. And when he sang, “I’m ready to die for a worthy cause, ‘cause I’m tired of living bad,” there was a blend of desperation and optimism that echoed Nelson’s own confrontation with death. —Geoffrey Himes

10. Noname
Noname is a rapper. Don’t let the playful keys and jazzy beats of her band fool you into calling her an R&B singer. And she flows. There was a welcome familiarity to the well-executed instrumentals from her stellar debut Telefone, and she worked the diverse crowd. On “Freedom,” everyone joined Noname in chanting “Dance with me, dance with me, dance with me…” and we swayed and smiled happily into the wee hours of the Austin night this past SXSW. —Adrian Spinelli

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