(Clockwise from top left) Lake Street Dive, Big Sam and The California Honeydrops.
The "warm-up" for the Orton Park Festival, an Aug. 10 concert at Overture Center by Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto, left a lot of music fans cold, and not in that exhilarating, shivers-down-the-spine kind of way. The singer is famous for her jazzy, sensuous take on bossa nova, but this show was filled with snafus, from out-of-tune vocals to peculiar rambling and stumbling over cords.
Luckily, the musicians at the fest itself should yield a much warmer response. Local performers such as the Black Marigold woodwind quintet will complement out-of-town talent such as Austin's Jon Dee Graham, a guitarist and songwriter who's worked with multifaceted rocker Alejandro Escovedo and John Doe, cofounder of seminal L.A. punk band X.
Here are seven more red-hot acts visiting the park this weekend.
Friday, 5:30 p.m.
This Bay Area band came together in 2007, when some subway buskers decided to invigorate clubs and festivals with the verve of street performances. In addition to crafting original tunes rooted in New Orleans jazz and early R&B, they make some of their instruments, like a gutbucket bass that adds jug-band flair to their arsenal of drums, trumpets and saxophones.
Featuring the delicious cello playing of Jacqueline Kursel, Pioneer's tunes are anything but cookie cutter. This local project also has a sweet origin story: It grew out of a budding relationship between Kursel and guitarist Kenny Monroe. Multi-instrumentalist Julian Lynch, whose latest solo album Pitchfork compared to "the feeling you get from a small act of kindness from a stranger," even lends a hand.
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Though they're named after a Sesame Street song, this local "Appalachian pop" group are as polished as they are playful. Their first EP shot up the iTunes singer-songwriter chart after they played on A Prairie Home Companion, and their latest album, Pitchman, features harmonies that made critics' jaws drop in Wisconsin, Tennessee and even Italy.
Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Along with Uncle Tupelo, this St. Louis crew spearheaded the roots-rock renaissance of the 1990s with impeccable storytelling, sharp social commentary and jams that fuse rock's grit with the yearning of many a good country song.
John Primer & Friends
Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Though he was raised in Mississippi, Primer is steeped in the Chicago blues tradition. A talented guitarist and vocalist, he's backed up stars like Junior Wells, Bonnie Raitt and Muddy Waters in addition to leading his own band. At this show, he'll perform with local notables Hanah Jon Taylor, A.J. Love and Queenie McCarter Wade, plus Milwaukee drumming sensation Jimi Schutte, Chicago harmonica phenom Martin Lang and Rockford bassist Dave Wood.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Built on a foundation of free jazz, this New York City group's tunes explore numerous roots-music traditions with vocals, bass, trumpet and more. PopMatters has detected traces of cabaret, bubblegum pop and even Steely Dan, while NPR simply calls the sound "dangerously charming."
Sunday, 5:45 p.m.
If this New Orleans band doesn't get you moving, you've got a serious case of stick-in-the-mud syndrome. Helmed by trombone titan Big Sam Williams, formerly of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Funky Nation combine the sonic wallop of a big band with the improvisational chops of a jazz ensemble. Relix praises the group's "floor-shaking bassline" and "wailing, Slash-like guitar solos."