This year’s Sloss Music and Arts Festival is on track to be just as heavy-hitting as last year’s debut lineup. Sure, Primus won’t be there this year, and that’s a total bummer–but there are plenty of unbeatable bands you may be unfamiliar with, bands whose talent will make this hot July weekend definitely worth the sweat. With two days and four stages (including the exciting addition of the Seasick Records Stage), Sloss Fest 2016 will be a rager. Read through our top picks as you begin to plan your weekend at the Furnaces!
Sunday / Blast Stage / 5:45 – 6:45pm
Here’s a bold statement: expect this to be the best performance of the weekend. Dr. Dog offers premium songwriting loosely mirroring The Beatles, with unexpected time changes, psychedelic-inspired weirdness, ingenious melodies and refreshing vocal harmonies that turn bad days into good days. Dr. Dog brings all this to the stage, with a powerful, heartfelt, and insanely talented performance. Their newest album, The Psychedelic Swamp pays homage to their early experimental years, except with better recording equipment. Every piece of the Dr. Dog puzzle is a work of art, and with each album release, we get to play in their world for forty-five minutes or so. We get sixty at Sloss Fest–we advise you to indulge in every one of them.
Shovels & Rope
Saturday / Steam Stage / 4:45 – 5:45pm
After successful solo careers, singer/songwriters Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst married, joined forces, and formed Shovels & Rope. The South Carolina-based indie folk duo utilizes soulful, expressive vocals that cut straight to your core. Their chemistry as musicians is evident in their masterful ability to blend their voices in beautiful, expressive harmonies that are sure to give you chills on a hot Alabama summer day.
Saturday / Shed Stage / 4:45- 5:45pm
If we could bottle lead singer James Petralli’s voice and carry it with us until the end of time, we would. Luckily, we can. With seven albums under their belt since 2008, White Denim is a technical band first, blending psych-rock, prog-rock, jazz, blues, punk and experimental rock together with all of their Austin sensibilities. These incredible musicians oscillate between full-throttle, summertime energy with most songs, to softer, straight-to-the-feels melodies in others. The best songs incorporate both. With critical acclaim throughout their career, White Denim was last seen in Birmingham at Bottletree (may she rest in peace) in 2014. They played B-Tree’s third anniversary party in 2009, a stop that wasn’t on their touring schedule; they fit it in because the venue was a favorite of theirs. Let’s reciprocate the love–White Denim certainly deserves it.
Saturday / Blast Stage / 5:45 – 6:45pm
When all you wanna do is dance, let Oxford, England’s Glass Animals provide the soundtrack. Their approach to songwriting is “music first, lyrics second,” enabling them to make hit songs about “peanut butter vibes” with aplomb. Drawing much of their inspiration from hip-hop, Glass Animals provides the textural tones of an eerie jungle dance party. Recent work includes a collaboration with producer Joey Bada$$ in 2015, and a newly released 2016 single, “Life Itself.” Bring your friends and their gooey vibrational auras to Glass Animals’ daylight performance–it’s gonna be a good one.
Saturday / Steam Stage / 6:45 – 7:45pm
Colorful LA-based quintet known as Grouplove was founded at the Ikarus artist commune in Greece. This indie rock group has been hard at work on their worldwide tour promoting their latest album, Big Mess that will be released September 9th. Fortunately for us, they are releasing their first single, “Welcome to Your Life” July 15th! This comes just in time for their Birmingham debut at Sloss Fest. Expect to see the old and the new from Grouplove. Their funky, upbeat sound and versatile vocal range will make for a really fun show. Grouplove is definitely worth watching!
Saturday / Shed Stage / 9:45 – 11:00pm
Logic, born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, is a true lyrical knight, a hip-hop warrior who used his words to fight his way out of impoverished and drug-stricken surroundings to pursue his love of music. He has traveled the world with Kid Cudi and G-Eazy, and will be bringing his honest and refreshing lyrics to Sloss on Saturday night. Look out for Logic to shake things up with a likely performance of his hit single, “Alright.”
Sunday / Steam Stage / 1:30 – 2:15pm
Tyler James and Jessica Maros formed Escondido in 2012, releasing their first album within the year, and have since become the hippest 70’s inspired duo to ever come out of Nashville! Jessica was a jewelry and clothing designer for her startup company, Sleeveless, and Tyler was playing with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s. From their first album The Ghost of Escondido to their newest release Walking With a Stranger, you can hear their songs on multiple films and TV shows including ABC’s Nashville, CONAN, and HBO’s Girls, just to name a few. With style, charisma, and one hell of a stage presence, this is an absolute must-see at Sloss!
Saturday / Seasick Records Stage / 7:30 – 8:00pm
This Birmingham-based shoegaze/grunge/psych trio builds a sound so powerful, it’s one of the reasons people call our city “The Seattle of the South.” With heavy-driving bass, droning vocals, and hard-hitting percussion, \\GT// (aka Get Tryin’) still manages to be chill, thanks to dreamy guitar work and an air that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Usually disrobed from the waist up (on a conservative night), “shirts are for work” is the accompanying theme on stage–and in the crowd. Their exciting new album, Beats Misplaced released by Communicating Vessels, will lead them through an eleven-stop tour this July. Playing for only half an hour at Sloss Fest, don’t miss your chance to bask in the unhinged, gravitational glory of \\GT //.
Sunday / Blast Stage / 2:15 – 3:00pm
The son of a professional country music songwriter, Dylan LeBlanc moved from Shreveport, LA to immerse himself in the familiar musical waters of Muscle Shoals. On his third studio album, A Cautionary Tale, Dylan LeBlanc proves that he’s not just a product of his environment, but someone who can conjure some magic rooted from a deeper soil than his musical upbringing. Produced by Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) and John Paul White (The Civil Wars), A Cautionary Tale is an emanation, not of the son of a songwriter, but a young musician growing to discover his own light and flower as some aberration, oddity, or outlier in music. Critics have deemed him the “new Neil Young,” a flattering comparison, though unjust. You will be as incensed by his voice as you will his guitar playing ability during his live performance on Sunday and leave knowing him simply as Dylan LeBlanc, free from other associations.
The Burning Peppermints
Sunday / Shed Stage / 3:15 – 4:00pm
Local badasses The Burning Peppermints bring you everything you want out of a rock show: explosive riffs, high-energy stage presence, playful lyrics, and magical prop surprises for the audience. They’ve accomplished a lot since their genesis just a few years ago. They’ve opened for St. Paul and The Broken Bones. Trim Tab Brewing crafted a specially flavored beer just for them–before their frontman was even old enough to drink. If that isn’t rock n’ roll, we don’t know what is. With their psychedelic/surf/garage/punk sound, The Burning Peppermints gave us the stellar debut album, Dirty Rainbow in 2015. Sharing a stage with other high-profile acts at Sloss Fest, it’s imperative we show up and help catapult this turtleneck-wearing band of brothers to the top.
Sunday / Steam Stage / 4:45 – 5:45pm
Sylvan Esso is the result of what you get when you combine the North Carolina roots of singer-songwriter Amelia Meath of the Appalachian indie folk trio Mountain Man with electronic producer and bassist Made of Oak, aka Nick Sanborn (Megafaun). Somehow they manage to weld their individual music styles into stirring and complete electro folk-pop songs. Sylvan Esso may intrigue you into bobbing your head or even attempt to sing along.
Sunday / Shed Stage / 6:30 – 7:30pm
Bring your energy and get ready to rage–this English rock band will no doubt steal the show this weekend. This four-man band of Brits own the stage in a way that only rock legends can. Look out for performances of “Kiss This” and “Could’ve Been Me,” and you’ll understand why these guys are the real deal. Led by vocalist Luke Spiller who channels the stage presence of Freddy Mercury or Mick Jagger, this band demands your attention. Stick around long enough on Sunday for the chance to revel in the memory of, “I saw The Struts in person!”