This year’s festival boasted some huge names on the main stage and Bigfoot stage – Father John Misty, Ryan Adams, Schoolboy Q, Spoon, and of course, the great Robert Plant brought their A-game and provided the shiny entertainment that people paid to come see at this year’s Memorial Day festival at the Gorge. But there were a lot of CRAZY-good bands that, although they didn’t receive top bill, provided some truly awesome entertainment. Here are four of my favourites.
Black Pistol Fire
Garnering attention from being featured on the latest Nicolas Sparks movie soundtrack, Black Pistol Fire brought the HEAT at the Yeti stage, providing an energetic two-man shred-and-drum-roll slaughter with sick beats that had everyone on their feet. Who knew two dudes could command so much balls-out attention?
Comparable bands: The White Stripes, The Black Keys, JET
Key track(s): Hipster Shakes, Run Rabbit Run
Shovels and Rope
Playing on the main stage this year, this alt-country husband and wife duet from South Carolina (so many great bands come from the Carolinas… there’s just something in the water there) mustered up a ton of energy on what would have been an ordinarily lazy sweltering afternoon at the Gorge. Their southern charm shone through on each of their bouncy rock-infused country/folk tunes. The band themselves cited all kinds of influences from traditional folk to 80s synth, to rock n’ roll, and they let all their colours show, leaving everything on that stage and playing every song like it was their last.
Comparable bands: Old 97s, The White Stripes, Buddy & Julie Miller
Key track(s): Stono River Blues, Tickin’ Bomb
Ayron Jones & the Way
The main stage at the festival boasts some truly great acts on the main stage not just after 7 p.m. but all day long. Seattle native Ayron Jones brought his traditional rock n’ roll sound this year and demonstrated his mad performance skills too. A talented live performer and gifted vocalist, Jones and The Way melds blues, modern rock and a grunge flavour that he brought from two hours away and ripped it sick.
Comparable bands: Reignwolf, Alabama Shakes, Royal Blood
Key track(s): Can’t Stop the Rain, My Love Remains
When you first see Phox, your first reaction will undoubtedly be, ‘wow, [lead singer] Monica Martin is stunningly beautiful’ and then she opens her mouth and proves this beyond all doubt. Not only is she gorgeous but she has this unique, deep tone and can navigate her way effortlessly through streams of songbird notes in the midst of the band’s ethereal alt-folk tunes. Equally lovely to look at and listen to (the latter of course, being of primary importance!) Phox oozes charisma, twee adorable-ness and a peculiar but wonderful edgy pop sensibility.
Comparable bands: Norah Jones, First Aid Kit, The Head & the Heart
Key track(s): Slow Motion, Shrinking Violets