SunFest 2019: Who to See, Who to Skip


SunFest is just a week away, and with nearly 50 acts taking any of three stages, attendees would need the gift of bi-location (scratch that, tri-location) to see them all. Since Tesla hasn’t developed that yet, you’re going to need to choose, which isn’t always easy, as in the 3’clock hour May 4, with Ludacris up against the B-52s.

To help you navigate these Sophie’s Choices, we did our listening research and compared all the headliners and their lead-in acts, whittling them down to the ones most worth your precious time.

Think our choices are, well, ludicrous? The comment section is below.


Nightly vs. Hawthorne Heights vs. Manic Focus

Winner: Manic Focus.This onetime solo project of Chicago-based electronic producer John “JmaC” McCarten, now a duo with drummer Jacob Barinholtz, is a readymade party—a groove-laden, genre-bending exploration of ‘70s soul and modern EDM with flourishes of hip-hop, classical, rock, blues and whatever else makes it into the creator’s digital cauldron. Bring your dancing shoes.

Onerepublic vs. Flogging Molly vs. Big Gigantic

Winner: Flogging Molly.This is probably a controversial choice, given that Onerepublic is one of the biggest “names” of the entire 2019 lineup. But Flogging Molly, the enduring Celtic-punk hybrid fronted by Dublin-born ringmaster Dave King, brings me back to high school, when every concert I attended involved pogoing at the rim of the pit, belting off-key sing-alongs and getting occasionally sloshed by older kids’ beers. Erin go bragh!


Duonia vs. Josie Dunne vs. Magic City Hippies

Winner: Magic City Hippies.As a self-described indie-funk band, these imaginative Miamians have me at hello. Graduating from Robby Hunter’s one-man street band to an eclectic trio integrating classic funk, spaced-out guitar pop and velvety hip-hop, the Magic City Hippies are only getting better with experience. Scheduled against two acts that are more similar than different—emerging female pop singer-songwriters whose best days are likely still ahead of them—these local barroom favorites stand out even more.

G-Eazy vs. Earth, Wind & Fire vs. Rebelution

Winner: Earth, Wind & Fire. A tough choice—all three acts have earned their spots at the top of the ticket, and none will disappoint. Rapper G-Eazy probably tours here the least, and Rebelution’s positive reggae vibes will please fans of the genre. But respect the legends: Earth, Wind & Fire has all the elements (sorry) of a terrific dance party, with disco hits that even tunnel-eared millennials have known since they were in the womb. EW&F celebrates its 60th year in 2019, and still brings it every night.


Aerotek vs. Des Rocs vs. Max

Winner: Des Rocs, in a no-brainer. Sure, Aerotek will draw an audience for his Ultra Festival-ready stuff, but for live organic instrumentation, Des Rocs brings the thunder. Like the White Stripes before it, this project from charismatic vocalist Danny Rocco—formerly one-half of Secret Weapons—is rooted in scorching blues-rock head-bangers, but with stylish shards of electronic filigree, cross-pollinating both the sound and Rocco’s audience. Discover one of your new favorite bands. (As for Max, I have no idea who this guy is, and couldn’t find any evidence on the web—maybe pick an easier-to-Google name?)

Diplo vs. Papa Roach vs. Don Omar

Winner: Diplo.More than any other headlining trifecta this year, Saturday night’s lineup simply comes down to personal taste: The quality and energy and atmosphere will be electrifying no matter where you go, whether it’s Don Omar’s hip-shaking reggaeton or Papa Roach’s polished rap-rock anthems. For me, Diplo wins by a nose; though he is most known for his collaborations with pop’s brightest luminaries, the 40-year-old DJ’s solo sets are Technicolor, communal experiences that feed off the audience’s enthusiasm, offering undulating waves of ear candy.


Larkin Poe vs. Yeek vs. Gia Woods

Winner: Larkin Poe.SunFest saved the best for last. Megan and Rebecca Lovell, the siblings behind Larkin Poe, have often been dubbed the “little sisters of the Allman Brothers,” and their music splits the difference between alt-country and southern rock with four albums of rootsy, foot-stomping melody that’s as notable for the purism of the slide guitar as for the ladies’ reverent but outlaw lyricism. The Lovell Sisters are still in their late ‘20s/early ‘30s, but they’ve already earned T-Bone Burnett’s stamp of approval, and they’ve performed with everyone from Elvis Costello to Keith Urban—for whom they’re opening on Sunday!

Keith Urban vs. Lil Dicky vs. Tears for Fears

The winner: Tears for Fears. Another easy choice, frankly. From the ballads to the anthems, Tears for Fears captured a generation of listeners in the synth-driven ‘80s, and has only garnered new ones since, as ubiquitous singles like “Shout,” “Mad World” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” have been re-interpreted by artists spanning the genre spectrum. Aside from a few evocative covers, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith haven’t released any new music in 18 years, but with an archive so rich and rewarding, that’s perfectly fine with us—making for a spirited segue into the fireworks display.