Festy number four is almost here. One of the most fun parts of the planning is putting together the lineup–a cross section of our extended musical family. It always starts with a list that’s way too big. Here are some of my highlights for the coming year:


John Scofield Uberjam: I’ve been a Scofield fan from before I took up banjo. He is my favorite improviser of all time, always on the absolute ragged edge of musical feeling. Sco’s recent work with the Uberjam band really showcases his sound of the last 15 years. It’s driving funk that’s ultra-creative and unpredictable, equal parts skill and purity. Sco has played with everyone and his tone is one of the most distinctive sounds ever known to man. He is a God.


Thile/Daves: I remember when I first heard Chris Thile in college. It was an old album called Stealing Second that was really a game-changer for all young progressive players–great writing and really driving/creative playing. And that was just the very beginning. Since then he has done a million cool projects that range all over the musical map, from Yo-Yo Ma to Brad Meldhau. But this duo with Daves takes him back in time to the roots of Bluegrass, complete with fiddle tunes and legit retro brother-style singing. Michael Daves is equally nasty, laying into the acoustic guitar with the kind of power that makes the music. This is the best new Bluegrass in years.


Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad: Do you like Reggae? So do 99% of all people who like to have a good time. We’ve been around these guys for years, and always loved their sound. But recent shows have taken it to a whole new level. They are unique and different, but everything that’s great about a great genre that we don’t get to interface with enough.


Aoife O’donovan: Aoife and I used to hang out every Tuesday at the Cantab Lounge, 12 years ago! Crooked Still was just starting and the ‘Dusters were years away, but the scene that brought together those and other bands was bustling in Boston. Aoife was a badass then, and now she’s a badass with a plan. Her recent solo venture is getting all kinds of well-deserved acclaim in the world of integrity music. Her sound and her songs are among the best.


Joy Kills Sorrow: JKS is the best new acoustic band to show up on the progressive acoustic scene in the last few years. I met Wes and Jake when they were mere children, sneaking them into bars and whatnot to see live music. Jake was practically in a stroller when he started to turn heads at IBMA showcases back in Louisville–I played a short set with him, he blew everyone away, got back in the stroller and left. They have some of the most skilled young players, but a real focus on songs and arrangements. Best of all, they are a real band, and when great musicians join forces, over time great things always happen.


New Country Rehab: These guys were the big story of IBMA last year. I was there checking out the scene and all informed roads led to the New Country Rehab showcases. They rock a crowd with their highly unique acoustic rock–it’s tight but it’s dirty, and the people like it. I haven’t seen them since, but I have seen their name everywhere. They are about to make a lot of new friends.


The Fire Tapes: From my time in Charlottesville, this was definitely my favorite local band. They have a cool, deep electric sound that’s modern and moving. I can’t wait to hear what these guys do in the coming years.

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