WASHINGTON -- AER. Vance Joy. Ghost Beach. Boy&Bear. New Politics.
At first glance, many would say, "Who are these bands?"
But if you were at the Firefly Music Festival over the weekend, chances are you already know. That's because music festivals are a great place to discover new bands. They draw you in with acts like Foo Fighters, Outkast and Imagine Dragons, but a lot of the bands that keep the music and vibe going all day and into the night are the up-and-comers.
Consider Vance Joy. The Australian singer-songwriter had the unenviable position of kicking things off on the last day of the festival. For those not in the know, the last day of a festival is usually the day people are tired from all the partying that they show up late.
But at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, a good size crowd turned out to see him play songs from his EP, "God Loves You When You're Dancing," plus a few new ones thrown in from his upcoming major label debut.
"Riptide" is the song that most of the crowd knew and when he finally got to that one, a large dust cloud arose from a group of happy festival-goers dancing like they didn't have a care in the world.
Don't ask AER what kind of music they play because even they aren't too sure. They have been described as everything from hip hop to reggae to rock.
When asked about their sound, Boston natives David Von Mering and Carter Schultz said, "We have trouble answering this question. We … pull from all kinds of walks of life … put it all together in one melting pot. We try not to really think about … what the aim is."
AER landed an early spot on the opening afternoon of the festival, but fans on the official Firefly message boards all had them on their schedules, comparing them to reggae rock band Sublime, which may be why they'll fit right in on their upcoming summer U.S. tour with Dirtyheads and Pepper.
Boy & Bear is just starting to make a name for itself in the U.S., but in their home country of Australia, they're pretty big already. Described as indie rock- folk, the mellow music really comes alive in person and they most certainly added more fans to that base after their 7 p.m. set day three on the Forest stage, a tough spot as they were opposite the aforementioned Imagine Dragons.
As they tour in support of their sophomore release "Harlequin Dream," they are starting to sell out small venues in the U.S., and say they appreciate their increasing fan base here.
"It really blew us away, the people that came along to shows. It's still building obviously and that's amazing for us because it feels fresh," says drummer and vocalist Tim Hart.
"It's really challenging. We love to work and love to tour. Playing in the states is such a good opportunity."
A band that seemed to be having as much fun as the audience during their early afternoon was Ghost Beach. Self-described as tropical grit pop, the Brooklyn duo draw heavily on '80s influences mainly because that's the era of music they grew up on.
Asked to describe exactly what tropical grit pop is, both Josh Ocean and Eric "Doc" Mendelsohn reply in unison, "Ghost Beach."
Their debut album, "Blonde," dropped earlier this year and they have a fall tour lined up with another up-and-coming Firefly band Cherub. Ghost Beach sets out to have fun and make great music, something they succeeded at this weekend if Facebook posts are any indication with "AWESOME!!" being the underlying theme.
More established, at least in the U.S., than all of the above is New Politics, a Danish band that now calls New York City their home. The band has been touring non- stop since the 2013 release of "A Bad Girl in Harlem," which features the infectious song "Harlem."
The trio (singer David Boyd, guitarist Soren Hansen and drummer Louis Vecchio )is one of the first bands signed to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz's new DCD2 record label. While they may be more known to the mainstream than the above acts, New Politics remains a band on the rise, winning over new fans through their unique stage show.
Their second-day set drew one of the largest crowds for a non-headliner act, and Boyd's mix of singing and impressive dance moves left everyone wanting more.
New fans are "now a part of something and they'll journey with us," Boyd says.
"Every show we're at, there's at least someone there who doesn't know us. We're gonna show them why people do know us."
You can go along on this journey with New Politics when they make a stop at Merriweather Post Pavillion next month as part of Fall Out Boy and Paramore's Monumentour.
Advanced early bird tickets for next year's Firefly Festival will go on sale Wednesday for $199. Click here for info.
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