The Coastline Music Festival, as it was known last year in its successful inaugural event in West Palm Beach, is no more, at least as far as co-producers Live Nation is concerned. The venerable event promoters have shed their affiliation with Coastline but have returned, this year, with a festival that feels like a sequel, only with a name that will sound familiar to local concertgoers:The Coral Skies Music Festival.
This Sunday, from noon until 11 p.m., the Coral Skies fest will spotlight 12 indie rock bands on two stages at the Cruzan Amphitheatre (the Coral Skies Amphitheatre in another life). And, like Coastline before it, the event will feature plenty to do in the unlikely event that you’re not into one of the bands: Sixteen artists and crafters will showcase and sell their wares in the Garden of Art, 16 food trucks will offer their mobile specialties (including such legendary trucks as Ms. Cheezious and The Rolling Stove), and 13 craft brews will keep you libated all day long.
As for the music, it’s a stronger lineup than Coastline, with highlights including Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas + the Voids, Georgian alt-rockers Manchester Orchestra and the atmospheric British quartet Bombay Bicycle Club. But for my money, here are the five acts not to miss at Sunday’s festival.
5. Wild Cub (1:55 to 2:25 p.m.)
Emerging from the honkey-tonks and rock bars of Nashville like a dream you never want to end, Wild Cub makes music that would sound out of place in both, preferring David Byrne-style tropicalia, the electro-percussive harmonics of New Order, and Yo La Tengo’s spacier, more cinematic excursions. The songs envelop you like warm blankets—sonic protection against an unfeeling world—each one a masterful merger of the synthetic and the organic. The five-piece group self-released its debut album, “Youth,” in 2013, and the record has continued to accumulate praise and listeners, which led to a deluxe reissue from a more significant label this past January. You should own it.
4. Cage the Elephant (9:40 to 10:55 p.m.)
This sextet from Bowling Green, Kentucky is headlining the Coral Skies fest, and for good reason: Cage the Elephant boasts arguably the most nuclear sound of the festival, one that has exploded the Billboard charts and threatened to top even the superstars for which the band has opened, from Stone Temple Pilots to Muse. The group’s first two albums, “Cage the Elephant” and “Thank You, Happy Birthday” marry the raw, scraping intensity of Sonic Youth with the loud-quiet-loud harmonics of the Pixies, but it’s the group’s latest release, “Melophobia,” that has most defined them as artists. It’s a more groove-laden, soulful and radio-friendly LP whose 10 songs were written in almost hermetic isolation, free from touring and even from listening to other music. The result is one of the best rock albums of last year.
3. Bleachers (3:55 p.m. to 4:40 p.m.)
Jack Antonoff’s day job, at least in the past few years, has been playing guitar for fun., the Top 40 powerhouse behind “Some Nights” and “We Are Young.” But it turns out that while touring the world and playing second fiddle, Antonoff, formerly of the cult band Steel Train, had his own vision for pop glory, which he called Bleachers, and whose debut album, “Strange Desire,” hit retailers this past summer. The songs suggest both the youthful abandon and effortless infectiousness of fun. and, perhaps more endearingly, the synthesized nostalgia of ‘80s pop (Antonoff has said that he wanted to evoke the soundtracks of those great John Hughes movies of the period). Bleachers is responsible for the catchiest music in this festival, and it’s poised for bigger things.
2. The Hold Steady (4:50 p.m. to 5:35 p.m.)
This five-piece band makes catchy Rock music with a capital R, but it’s always been too cheeky and self-conscious to make it on commercial radio. Think of a ‘70s bar band swathed in postmodern irony—early Springsteen crushed in an indie-rock blender (“tramps like us, and we like tramps,” goes one witty lyric in 2005’s “Charlemagne in Sweatpants”). Much of frontman Craig Finn’s lyrics follow the adventures of a panoply of recurring characters and revel in music-scene culture, arcana and inside jokes, making him something of an observant critic as well as one of the scene’s major participants, belting out sing-speak anthems with a charismatic ungainliness. After a string of five terrific albums starting with 2004’s “Almost Killed Me,” the Hold Steady went on an overlong hiatus in 2010, re-emerging this year with the vibrant, touching, three-guitar pop-rock of “Teeth Dreams,” a record that is well worth the wait.
1. City and Colour (5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.)
There’s good reason that when the organizers of the Coral Skies Festival polled their Facebook followers a couple months back on the band they were most excited to see, City and Colour overwhelmingly took the top choice. Primarily the solo project of Dallas Green, a Canadian singer-songwriter from a musically divergent background (he used to sing and play guitar in the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire), City and Colour’s music is more in tune with fellow Canuck Neil Young, or with American indie-folk troubadours like Mark Kozelek and Mark Eitzel. Sensitive without being sentimental, catchy without being obvious, City and Colour’s music represents the fragile, intimate outpouring of Green’s soul, and it connects with audiences on a visceral level. Expect much of his material to be drawn from his most recent two albums, “Little Hell” and “The Hurry and the Harm,” which boast a more dynamic instrumental palette than his first two releases.
Tickets cost $40.50 to $70. For more on the festival, and to purchase tickets, visit coralskiesfest.com.