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The 2020 MeadowGrass lineup is revealed! 

click to enlarge Dustbowl Revival are the Saturday, May 23, headliners at the 12th annual MeadowGrass festival. - SHERVIN LAINEZ
  • Shervin Lainez
  • Dustbowl Revival are the Saturday, May 23, headliners at the 12th annual MeadowGrass festival.

If you weren’t able to make it to Rocky Mountain Highway’s live unveiling of the 12th-annual MeadowGrass Music Festival lineup over the weekend, fear not! We’ve got a handy rundown of all the performers who will be taking the stage under that lovely big yellow tent this coming Memorial Day weekend, May 22 to 24.

First off, this year’s headliners are a diverse lot. Friday, May 22, will see the Utah-based Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand leading the proceedings, a fiddle-and-mandolin-led quintet whose sound melds jam-rock virtuosity with an anthemic, acoustic rock sensibility. These attributes are on full display on their latest LP, 2017’s We Rode On. Saturday will feature the rootsy soul-funk of California’s Dustbowl Revival, who released their colorful fifth LP Is It You, Is It Me at the beginning of the year. (I’d also heartily recommend their self-titled 2017 effort for newcomers, which is as good a fusion of horn-led retro soul and string band Americana as you’re ever likely to hear.) On Sunday, May 24, Boston quartet Darlingside will do the honors, a group that sounds at least twice its size thanks to its immaculate vocal harmonies and expansive, futuristic sonic take on folk-pop. The group was named the 2016 Artist of the Year by Folk Alliance International.

The soulful side of Americana is present throughout this year’s lineup, represented in Michigan’s Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, Pittsburgh nine-piece The Commonheart, Austin’s Ley Line and Nashville singer-songwriter Kyshona Armstrong. Soul and blues, being among America’s primary homegrown musical exports, are significant currents running through Americana, but are sometimes overlooked when viewing the genre through the folkier side. So it’s always nice to see a pronounced soul influence coming through contemporary folk and country music; keeping alive what Gram Parsons dubbed the “Cosmic American Music.” Attendees can also look forward to sets from Boston’s Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards, Arizona’s Ryanhood, the eclectic, progressive string band The Arcadian Wild, and O’Connor Lee, the Grammy-winning duo of Kate Lee and Forrest O’Connor (son of fiddle and mandolin demigod Mark O’Connor).

Of course, the MeadowGrass festival experience wouldn’t be complete without an equally diverse showing from Colorado-based artists, and this year’s festivities will include sets from King Cardinal, The Antonio Lopez Band, Grant Farm, Whitacre, The River Arkansas, Stray Suns, Jon E. Boothe & The NightWatch, Jangle Horse, John Spengler, Crystal & The Curious, and the Jeremy Facknitz Band.
In the meantime, local music lovers should be pleased to know that new local music is here for the taking. Emcee Stoney Bertz (disclosure: occasional Indy columnist) dropped an atmospheric new single, “Deep Down,” which features production work from That Kid Courageous and portends a much-anticipated upcoming release, I AM THEM. Welcome news, to be sure.

Elsewhere, Girl, It’s Girl, the trio of Alpha Fisher (aka Alpha the Musical), Andrea Stone and William Lauth, are set to celebrate the release of their debut album with a variety show at the Zodiac on Friday, March 13. Sloan Mozley and Stale//Mate will perform alongside Girl, It’s Girl and a slew of dance performances, courtesy of Heather Hurricane, Mr. Valdez, Mam’zelle Hepzibah and Nikita Bonita.

Girl, It’s Girl’s debut effort was born of classic garage-rock enthusiasm, as guitarist Andrea Stone explains.

“We were really impatient to get something out there, so the album was recorded live in my brother’s basement,” she laughs. “Bill Douglass of Royal Recording mixed and mastered it. Alpha and I have been working on these songs for a few years now — I wrote the music and we wrote the lyrics together,” adding that the band wouldn’t know how to neatly sum up their genre.

Of course, I always find it suspicious when a band is too eager to settle on a single genre, and Girl, It’s Girl are, indeed, gleefully eclectic. Alpha’s virtuosic soprano vocals lend the songs a soulful elegance, while Stone and Lauth’s intense guitar and drum work always provide a punk rock energy, whether they’re simmering through moody, slow-burning rockers like “Distance” and “Everything to Give,” supplying revved-up funk on “Gimme Some More,” or flirting with poppy bossa nova rhythms, as on the bilingual “Desconocidos.”

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