SweetWater 420 Fest Features the South’s Best Festival Lineup: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Sturgill Simpson, The String Cheese Incident and Many More
By Max Stewart
As we approach this weekend’s SweetWater 420 Fest in Atlanta, let’s all take a step back and truly appreciate the musical magnitude of this year’s lineup. SweetWater 420 Fest will feature a well-rounded batch of musicians from varying genres and likely the strongest lineup the event has had to date. I mean, where else are you going to see Tedeschi Trucks Band, Vulfpeck, Sturgill Simpson, and Umphrey’s McGee all on the same bill?
If it isn’t obvious, we cannot wait for the breadth of top quality musicianship that will be on display in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park this weekend. We put together a list of a few things we are most excited for, as well as a playlist of some of our favorite tunes to get you pumped for this weekend. Please be sure to get your tickets if you have not already!
What We Are Most Excited to See at SweetWater 420 Fest 2018:
1. Unique Twist on Friday Night Pickin’, Courtesy of Sturgill Simpson and The String Cheese Incident:
Being able to see Sturgill Simpson on the same night as the String Cheese Incident certainly puts a smile on my face. Sturgill Simpson has been lauded as Country music’s savior for years due to his alternative spin on traditional country music, a badge of honor we tend to agree with at Live Music Daily. Simpson got his start playing bluegrass tunes in his home state of Kentucky and in his band Sunday Valley, and you can hear that influence in many of his songs (“Poor Rambler”, “Railroad of Sin”). Simpson has recently taken on lead guitar duties in his band, where his bluegrass roots shine bright and are incorporated into his alt-country sound in a live setting.
Colorado’s The String Cheese Incident will play after Simpson on Friday night, where we expect a blend of their bluegrass and psychedelic-jam influences for a well-balanced performance. With tunes like “Restless Wind” and “Colorado Blue Sky,” be prepared for SCI to round out a boot-stompin’ time down south, just like we are on the porch somewhere in rural Georgia. The pick-a-thon will continue on Saturday with The Infamous Stringdusters and Sunday with Greensky Bluegrass.
2. The Sweet and Soulful Sound of the Tedeschi Trucks Band:
Seeing the Tedeschi Trucks Band is about as close to a musical spiritual revival as you will get. If you have not had the pleasure of seeing the real power couple of music – Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks – lead their large ensemble through a catalog of joyful blues and soul, do not miss them on Saturday evening. If it was anything like their last visit to Atlanta last July at the Fox Theatre after Col. Bruce Hampton’s passing, this performance will be uplifting and packed full of spine-tingling emotion.
3. Checking Out Some Musicians on the Rise:
- Spafford: This band has been making waves in the ‘Jam band’ scene over the past few years, drawing comparisons to Phish and selling out theaters across the country. If the fact that their 4/20 after-party show at the Variety Playhouse sold out pretty much instantly is any indication, Spafford is not to be missed.
- The Record Company: This Los Angeles blues trio’s high energy live show is a sight to see, thanks to singer Chris Vos’ passionate and hard-hitting sincerity in which he plays guitar, harmonica, and pedal steel. These guys opened for John Mayer last year, and they have been recording a new album so we expect them to come to the stage armed with some great new material.
- The Trongone Band: The Richmond, VA quartet, formed by brothers Johnny and Andrew Trongone, have all the fiery Southern twang and fury a la Atlanta’s own Blackberry Smoke and the Black Crowes. In fact, the band will be performing in Macon with Blackberry Smoke and Marcus King Band in June at the Big House Summer Jam.
- Southern Avenue: With a sound reminiscent of the Stax Records era of music, this Memphis soul and blues five-piece soars on the wings of singer Tierinii Jackson’s high-flying vocals.
- Los Colognes: These guys have all the good feels of Classic FM radio, with a guitar sound that is equal parts Mark Knopfler and David Gilmour. Their songs also have Tom Petty-esque hooks with a touch of Eighties production, primarily on their latest release, The Wave.
- Durand Jones & the Indications: An Indiana soul band that has been getting some major praise on the heels of their self-titled debut album. For those that appreciate the new soul revival that is taking place thanks to artists such as Leon Bridges, this performance should be on your list.
- The Fritz: Jamar Woods’ baritone vocals combined with this Asheville, NC band’s fresh twist on funk and electronic soundscapes should guarantee a one-of-a-kind performance by The Fritz on Sunday.
4. Brandon ‘Taz’ Niederaurer:
Listed as Sweetwater 420 Fest’s ‘Artist At Large,’ this 14-year-old virtuoso guitarist has already performed with some of the greats in his short career: Gregg Allman, Buddy Guy, Derek Trucks, and Warren Haynes, to name a few. We would expect him to sit in and shred with his textbook guitar solo face throughout the weekend. Niederaurer was actually on stage when the esteemed Atlanta musical guru Col. Bruce Hampton passed away on stage during his 70th Birthday Celebration performance at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta last year, so the city will surely always be sacred musical ground when he returns.
5. The Local Georgia Musicians Featured:
We are really looking forward to the crop of local Georgian bands in this year’s lineup too:
- The jam-heavy rock and jazz fusion act Universal Sigh, who in March released a stellar live album Live From the Georgia Theatre 2017 from their hometown of Athens, GA perform will on Friday.
- Alt-country Atlanta outfit Quaildogs will be at the the Lyrics and Laughter Stage on Sunday.
- The aesthetic and ambient alt-rock band The Orange Constant from Athens, GA perform at 2:30 PM on Saturday.
- Augusta’s Funk You will be kicking off the festivities on the main stage on Saturday at noon.
- Also on Saturday, Atlanta’s high-energy fusion act Hedonistas will be playing at Lyrics & Laughter Stage. The band is releasing a new album featuring Cory Wong, who has worked extensively with Sunday performer, Vulfpeck.
6. Marco Benevento’s Double Performance on Saturday, Solo and with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead:
Pianist Marco Benevento will be performing double duty on Saturday, one as a solo artist and the other along with his old pal Joe Russo in Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, a superb group that interprets the music of the Grateful Dead.
Benevento is a jazz fusion extraordinaire who’s 2008 Invisible Baby won Independent Music Awards’ Jazz Album of the year. For those who dig all things experimental, his performance will be a highlight. Diehard Deadheads and even folks who just like “Casey Jones” and “Scarlet Begonias” will no doubt be captivated the musicianship and chemistry during Joe Russo’s Almost Dead two sets on Saturday.
7. Vulfpeck’s Good-Timin’ Funk on Sunday:
Don’t let their fun-loving and light-hearted vibe on stage fool you, each member of this Michigan funk outfit is extremely talented and Vulfpeck is about as tight of a band as you can imagine. This will surely be one of the most fun performances of the weekend, thanks in part to the bass chops of Joe Dart and tenor vocal precision and general upbeat charisma of Theo Katzman.
8. Umphrey’s McGee Closing Out the Festival:
If you have ever seen Umphrey’s McGee live, you know that their constant time signature adjustments, key changes, and heavy improvisation are not for the musical faint of heart. Even with the whirlwind of sonic adventures going on during the show, Umphrey’s McGee manages to package it all up in a way that provides a fun concert experience for everyone from classically-trained King Crimson fans to the Top 40-listening friend that has never heard the band before.
It ain’t all music and partying, this festival is out to do some real good for the community too. Starting today, SweetWater 420 Fest has begun a silent auction, benefiting SweetWater 420 Fest performing artists’ charity of choice: https://420fest.auction-bid.org/microsite/items
Some of the auction items include concert tickets, signed memorabilia, photos, meet & greet with artists and more. Mobile bidding began today and lasts through 420 Fest weekend April 20-22 available to 420 Fest patrons and anyone with access to mobile platform.
See you at SweetWater 420 Fest in Atlanta this weekend!