Unless you live under a rock that’s located underneath an even larger rock, you’ve probably already heard about the stellar lineup that was announced last week for this summer’s Squamish Valley Music Festival.
Bringing multi-platinum headliners Bruno Mars, Arcade Fire and Eminem is no small feat, and with organizers expecting more than double the number of attendees than last year’s fest, it’s clear the star-studded lineup is already creating tons of hype across the country.
And while it’s the big names that draw the crowds, it’s often the lesser-known acts rounding out the schedule that make these kinds of multi-day musical extravaganzas so memorable. We come for the Eminems and Arcade Fires of the world, but if we’re lucky, a handful of performances by artists we’d never heard of will move us to broaden our musical horizons.
With that in mind, here’s my list of four (relatively) lesser-known acts that you should go out of your way to check out at this year’s Squamish Valley Music Festival.
Dismiss his drug-fueled party raps if you will, but Danny Brown is as unique a figure in music today as you’re likely to find anywhere.
The skinny-jeans sporting Detroit native was something of a late bloomer to the rap scene, first getting noticed by the mainstream music press with his second studio album, 2011’s XXX at the age of 30.
Ever the individualist, Brown blends the existential angst that comes from surviving in one of the most embattled cities in the Western World with a penchant for drug-addled, stream of consciousness raps spit over electro-tinged production that harkens back to Detroit’s house scene of the late ‘80s.
A good primer for Brown’s unapologetically distinct style is also one of his most personal songs, 30, the closing track off of XXX.
It may seem pointless to highlight a band that’s almost universally lauded by critics and earned the album of the year nod from both the Toronto Star and New York magazine in 2011, but I feel like Toronto synthpop trio Austra is still woefully slept on by Canadian music fans. And what a shame that is.
Austra is fronted by classically trained Latvian-Canadian siren Katie Stelmanis, whose soaring operatic vocals lend a powerful and haunting effect to the band’s often dark production style.
Check out The Beat and the Pulse from Austra’s debut Feel It Break for a sense of the band’s maximalist approach that will leave you humming the sinewy chorus for days.
With Whistlerites’ love of EDM, odds are pretty high the club rats in town are already well acquainted with the bass-bumping frenzy of German electro-house producer, Alexander Ridha, who goes by the stage name Boys Noize.
Ridha’s confident production style is well regarded on dance floors across Europe and North America, and he’s widely recognized as one of the most marketable producers working in EDM today, having won Best Electronic Artist on Beatport three years running.
Boys Noize caters to the short attention spans of today’s iPod-wielding youth, merging a laundry list of influences — including hip hop, disco and house — into his sound.
Listen to Frau off of 2007’s Oi Oi Oi for a taste of Riddha’s teeth-rattling production.
Black Joe Lewis
I was only vaguely cognizant of Austin, TX blues, soul and funk impresarios Black Joe Lewis before writing this column. They’re one of those bands that are regularly buzzed about on critics’ year-end lists, and after a brief trip down the YouTube music video vortex, I’m kicking myself for coming so late to the party.
Frontman Joe Lewis (Yes, that’s his real name) immersed himself in Austin’s garage scene in the mid-‘00s while working at a pawn shop, which seems appropriate for a band that is so indebted to the titans of soul and the Mississippi delta blues of decades past.
If you’re at all a fan of these genres (and I would say, even if you’re not), Black Joe Lewis needs to be on your radar.
Sugarfoot is one of many songs that’s indicative of Black Joe Lewis’ high-energy sound, and should be a staple of kitchen dance parties for generations to come.