On the Rise at Firefly

With the state’s foremost annual musical event set for June 15-18, we’ve spotted some under-the-radar acts you need to know about

Spanning four days, nine stages and more than 150 artists, Firefly Music Festival returns to Dover International Speedway for its seventh year.

While many might be familiar with headliners like Bob Dylan, The Weeknd, Muse, Twenty One Pilots and Chance the Rapper, this year’s lineup also features a list of virtually unknown, up-and-coming artists poised to become top-billed acts.

Here are our top to picks among the emerging artists who will be performing in the Woodlands.

Maggie Rogers (Photo by Katia Tamkin)

Maggie Rogers: A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, she gained popularity last year after a video of Pharrell Williams hearing her song “Alaska” went viral. During Williams’ Masterclass at New York University, Rogers played the song, eliciting praise and a look of awe from the Grammy-award-winning producer. From there, her career was launched.

Her performance at Firefly will be somewhat of a homecoming—she studied at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown.

She sounds like: Joni Mitchell’s sober folk instrumentation and breathy vocals over subtle, hip-hop-influenced production.

Souvenirs: The California-based group will return to the East Coast with their brand of melodic punk and emo—a loud, unyielding sound driven by multipart guitars and minimalist melodies that serves as a heavy acknowledgement to post-hardcore and shoegaze.

They sound like: The dry and deliberate songwriting style of Pavement mixed with the meticulous guitarwork and stalwart emotion of bands like American Football and Mineral.

munaMUNA: Coming off the strength of their inaugural album About U, this Los Angeles trio will make their First State debut on Saturday, backed with an arsenal of hits centering on love, loss and gender identity—all tightly compacted into infectious pop jams.

They sound like: An extension of the avant-garde pop sound and aesthetic founded by Kate Bush and reiterated by contemporary acts like Haim and Jessie Ware—complete with shimmering guitars, glossy synths and anthemic singalongs.

Sunflower Bean (Photo by Ruby Maxwell)

Sunflower Bean: Blending themes of psychedelic rock, dream pop and grunge, they balance call-and-response male and female vocals with moody instrumentation ranging from blistering to calming. The result is an assiduous sound from a group deemed 2014’s “Hardest-Working Band” by indie music blog Oh My Rockness.

They sound like: The unhinged fuzz and unconventional arrangements of Sonic Youth and Dungen, with the light touch of synth and chorus unique to acts like The Wake.

Hamilton Leithauser: Best known as the former frontman of famed indie trailblazers The Walkmen, Leithauser has been touring and releasing music since the band’s hiatus in 2014. His most recent endeavor is a collaboration with ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij titled “I Had a Dream That You Were Mine.” The record garnered critical acclaim with a sound that sits at the intersection of traditional folk songwriting and early-aughts indie, with elements of doo-wop and rock and roll.

He sounds like: An intentional nod to the driving rock and catchy indie pop trademarked by The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend, combined with the loose sway and swagger present in early Frank Valli & The Four Seasons singles.

Warm Brew
Warm Brew

Warm Brew: Hailing from Santa Monica and Venice, Calif., Ray Wright, M.C.s Serk Spliff and Manu Li are the three vital and talented elements making up this young hip-hop collective that pushes G-funk-era rhymes and beats into modern rap. Their rhyme schemes and deliveries are dynamic, juggling storytelling, hooks and boasts with bravado.

They sound like: Early Warren G and DJ Quik production merged with the cool, collected timbre of verses from L.A.-based artists Snoop Dogg and YG.

New Madrid: The Southern rock band will stop by while in the midst of a national tour, carrying with them the no-holds-barred and high-energy live show that makes them a must-see this year. Their latest album, magnetkingmagnetqueen, is an amiable and ambitious take on indie rock.

They sound like: All the freewheeling energy found on Johnny Cash’s “Orange Blossom Special,” with a slight lean toward the psych and Southern rock sound of the 13th Floor Elevators—masterfully translated into accessible indie rock.

Louie Louie: Just off a national tour in support of Beach House, this Philadelphia four-piece have become known for delivering loud, tight and animated sets, all while sporting handmade costumes stitched by drummer Jenna Robb.

They sound like: The style of lo-fi, garage-rock forged by the Sonics and the Kinks, merged with the punk mentality of Chastity Belt and surf-rock slant of La Luz.


HDBeenDope: With a flow demonstrating methodical skill, conveyed with fineness and unaffectedness, this Brooklyn M.C. has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in hip-hop. HDBeenDope’s lyrics feel like a manifesto, highlighting the nuanced highs and lows of life in a city where, if you don’t shift the narrative, one will be forced on you.

He sounds like: Nas and Mos Def at their most measured and raw, delivered with the foul playfulness of Foxy Brown and early Chance the Rapper.

Joie Kathos: At a time where the neo-soul and R&B field is crowded with new acts that appear to be indistinguishable from the last, Joie Kathos stands cool, composed, and backed with a SoundCloud catalog full of sleeper hits. The Philadelphia native’s bass-heavy grooves and resolute instrumentation provide her with room to also assert herself as a lyricist and trained dancer.

She sounds like: The inventive aptitude of Erykah Badu and Frank Ocean, mixed with the fit-for-dance production of FKA Twigs and Syd Tha Kyd.