In case you haven't already purchased your tickets for the 2016 MeadowGrass Music Festival, Rocky Mountain Highway has announced the first wave of performers to pique the interest of local music fans, with further additions to be announced. The music festival takes place May 27-29 at La Foret Retreat Center in Black Forest, with early-bird tickets available until Feb. 29 (or until the allotted number of each ticket type is sold out). An overview of the confirmed performers:
Friday, May 27, will bring the Jeff Austin Band and Fruit Bats to the main stage. Jeff Austin first rose to prominence as the mandolinist and frequent lead vocalist for Colorado-based progressive bluegrass outfit Yonder Mountain String Band, who have gained a sizable national following since their inception in 1998. Since parting ways with the group in 2014, Austin has focused on his harder-rocking but still firmly Americana-tinged solo career, releasing his debut solo album in February 2015 and collaborating with the North Mississippi Allstars' Cody Dickinson, the Royal Horns, jazz vocalist/trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick and many others.
Fruit Bats, a Chicago-based indie-folk quintet, are led by erstwhile Shins and Califone guitarist Eric D. Johnson, and boast a sound influenced by '70s AM country rock and Laurel Canyon-inspired folk. The band accompanied My Morning Jacket on West Coast tour dates in the autumn of 2015, and has teased a new album to be released later this year.
Saturday, May 28, features The Barr Brothers and Jackie Greene. The Barr Brothers are an ethereal four-piece folk act led by the titular American brothers Brad and Andrew Barr, though the group is based in Montreal and rounded out by harpist/vocalist Sarah Pagé and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial. The band headlined the Grand Évènement of the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2015, the same year they released their latest EP, Alta Falls.
Bluesy singer-songwriter Jackie Greene is perhaps best known as a sideman, acting as guitarist in the most recent incarnation of the Black Crowes and sharing stages with the likes of Gov't Mule, Los Lobos, Mark Knopfler, B.B. King, Susan Tedeschi and more. However, the multi-instrumentalist also has eight solo albums to his name, most recently 2015's Back to Birth.
Finally, bringing a local connection to the national headlining acts is Judah & the Lion, who take the stage Sunday, May 29. The Nashville-based "folk-hop" trio blends Americana instrumentation and pop-inspired production to create a sound that's garnered notice on several Billboard charts, with their latest album, Kids These Days, reaching No. 4 on the folk albums chart and No. 2 on the Heatseekers chart. Banjoist Nate Zuercher is, in fact, a Colorado Springs native, and will be making the most of his Colorado homecoming, with Judah & the Lion hitting Denver's Gothic Theatre on April 16.
Meanwhile, if you're more into punk, and you want to see a Colorado Springs act hitting the national stage before MeadowGrass rolls around, it will require a slightly longer drive than Black Forest.
99 Bottles, a band who draw from the populist punk sounds of streetpunk and skinhead Oi! (but devoid of the troubling politics the genre has been known to attract), have played with Slapshot, The Real McKenzies, MDC, Razorblade, The Hub City Stompers, Roger Miret & The Disasters and Flatfoot 56, just to name a few. The band can now add to that resumé a coveted slot opening for Ipswich-based punk act Condemned 84's only U.S. appearance of 2016, set to take place April 1 at San Antonio venue 210 Kapone's. Until 99 Bottles announces a more easily accessible show for locals, you can check out their recently unveiled, self-titled album.
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