Top Bands to Check out at: LouFest
St. Louis’s biggest music festival, LouFest, is just around the corner. This year is the first time LouFest has taken place during Wash. U.’s school year, and the headliners are bigger and better than ever. Cadenza previewed some its favorite acts performing on Saturday, the first day of the festival.
It may not pack the visual histrionics of most festival headliners, but when modern indie legend Wilco is on, it’s one of the best live bands on the planet. Its current lineup features some seriously accomplished musicians (particularly guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Glenn Kotche) who have developed an airtight chemistry in the nine years they’ve been together. When it loosens up and locks into a groove, it can jam with the best of them, creating the kind of airy vibes perfectly suited for a warm summer night.
For those who have seen it before, Wilco’s deep catalog ensures an ever-changing setlist that draws from every era of its storied career. Additionally, its mastery of covers (see its playful rendition of “Get Lucky” from this year’s Solid Sound Festival) provides the potential for a surprise or two. – Mark Matousek
Despite a pedigree that would indicate otherwise (e.g., four consecutive universally acclaimed albums), The National has yet to ascend the festival ranks to surefire headliner status. This is due primarily to its relative lack of commercial success—it’s never scored a No. 1 album or crossover single—but don’t mistake this for a reason to skip out on its set Saturday night.
Though its songs often deal in introspection, The National has a number of rockers who can crank up the energy in a live setting. Even those unfamiliar with the band can’t help but get caught up in the manic energy of traditional closers “Mr. November” and “Terrible Love.” The National may not be flashy, but its consummate professionalism could result in one of LouFest’s best sets. – Mark Matousek
The leader of one of the best live bands on the planet (My Morning Jacket), Jim James knows a thing or two about working a crowd. Boasting a booming voice that rings to the furthest reaches of any field, James seems to have been specifically calibrated for music festivals, as anyone who has seen the majesty of a My Morning Jacket concert can attest.
While his set may not be as revelatory as a My Morning Jacket show, it will give fans an opportunity to hear material from his excellent new solo album, “Regions of Light and Sound of God.” As cloying and pretentious as its title may be, the record itself is a pleasant surprise. My Morning Jacket’s fatal flaw as a studio band is its stubborn insistence on downsizing its enormous sound in an apparent effort at mainstream success. James rectifies that mistake on “Regions of Light” by giving his songs an expanded sonic space that will perfectly complement Wilco’s similarly breezy jams.– Mark Matousek
Ra Ra Riot
Syracuse-based indie rockers Ra Ra Riot will be a perfect fit for an afternoon slot on the Forest Park stage. Although its music style has gone through a bit of a transformation over time, its live shows have remained categorically upbeat and exciting. Known for songs like “Boy” and “Too Dramatic,” Ra Ra Riot distinguishes itself from the oversaturated field of indie pop with distinctive use of string-fuelled refrains and hooks that are impossible to forget. Although its most recent album, “Beta Love,” turned away from the orchestra toward a more synth-based ’80s inspiration, its songs remained danceable and infectious, a vibe that will certainly translate well to the live setting. The variety in the band’s repertoire will ensure a show that stays exciting and surprises audiences. If you don’t know Ra Ra Riot and want an idea of its vibe before LouFest, the best song to start with is “Boy,” a lighthearted anthem led by a thumping bass line, violins and distinctive vocals from lead singer Wes Miles.
– Kayla Hollenbaugh
LouFest takes place in Forest Park on Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8 from 12 a.m.-10 p.m. each day. Tickets are available for purchase online and at Kayak’s Cafe.