This week, the Sunshine Music Festival, arguably the largest annual concert in Mizner Park, announced the lineup for its 2017 festival. Headlined as always by Tedeschi Trucks Band, the fest boasts its most eminent undercard yet, with legends in genres from classic and psychedelic rock to R&B, Americana and bluegrass slated to take the Mizner Park Amphitheater stage Jan. 15.
While the festival is still four months away, it’s never too early to discover these artists’ oeuvres. Here’s a look at a five things you might not know about each of Sunshine’s most prominent opening acts.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
- The band’s name derives from the fact that it’s one of countless on the planet dedicated to playing the music of the Grateful Dead. But the project is likely to capture the Dead’s music better than most imitators, given the pedigree of drummer/bandleader Joe Russo, who performed with the Dead’s Phil Lesh and Bob Weir in the band Further.
- The group occasionally sprinkles in iconic covers of other artists as well, including Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and The Crickets.
- Russo’s mastery of his drum kit is enviable in jam-band circles. His ability to simulate the complex sounds of two to three drummers at once has earned him the sobriquets “Octo-Russo” and “The Madness.”
- Almost Dead is a super-group of sorts, with Russo’s bandmates bringing a diverse palette of influences from their other acts, including Ween, Shakey Graves, Garage a Trois, American Babies and Particle.
- You can’t say the band started small: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead played its very first gig at the esteemed 600-capacity venue Brooklyn Bowl, named one ofRolling Stone’s top 20 venues in the country, in 2013.
Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers
- Hornsby, whose primary instrument is keyboard, had been playing music for 13 years before winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for the 1986 album “The Way It Is,” with backing band The Range.
- Hornsby is even closer than Russo to Grateful Dead royalty. He spent three years touring with the Dead in the early ‘90s, playing piano, accordion and synthesizer, and joined the remaining original Dead members on their 2015 farewell and reunion shows.
- By the time he released his first solo album, in 1993, Hornsby had become one of the most respected musicians in the business, and his chameleonic grasp of all styles is reflected in that album’s guest stars—Pat Metheny, Jerry Garcia, Phil Collins and Bonnie Raitt among them.
- Inductees in the cult of Hornsby have a steep road ahead of them: He has released 15 Range and solo albums, plus 42 live releases.
- Hornsby’s latest album is 2016’s “Rehab Reunion,” recorded with his band The Noisemakers; its rustic lead single, “Over the Rise,” features vocals from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
- If her last name is familiar, it’s because Staples was bred in an accomplished musical family that included R&B patriarch Pops Staples, who formed the Staple Singers with his offspring Mavis, Pervis, Yvonne and Cleotha.
- Staples’ political and civil rights activism extends to her personal life as well: She ended her short-lived marriage in the mid-‘60s because her husband wanted to her to end her music career and stay home.
- Speaking of husbands, Staples famously rejected a marriage proposal from Bob Dylan. The two have remained friends, with Staples serving as Dylan’s opening act earlier this summer.
- Mavis is one of the few soul/gospel artists to cross over into the mainstream and even the hip corners of indie rock: M. Ward and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy have produced her albums, and Nick Cave, Justin Vernon and Neko Case, among others, penned songs on her latest album “Livin’ on a High Note.”
- “Mavis!,” a documentary about Staples’ legacy and influence, debuted on HBO earlier this year.
- Singer-guitarist Mason found worldwide fame in the 1960s with psychedelic rockers and future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Traffic.
- A sporadic and mercurial performer with Traffic—Steve Winwood has said Mason never quite fit in with the band—Mason’s instrumental dexterity has led to recording sessions with countless industry greats, including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson.
- As a solo artist, Mason achieved his greatest hit with 1977’s “We Just Disagree,” one of the decade’s most poignant breakup songs.
- Defying conventions of most music consumption, Mason doesn’t allow streaming or record-store sales of his latest release—a rerecorded version of his 1970 classic “Alone Together”—choosing to offer it only at his merch table and website.
- Mason’s philanthropic contributions include Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit that provides music lessons to public schools, and Rock Our Vets, which affords food and shelter to military veterans.
The Sunshine Music Festival also features Railroad Earth, North Mississippi Allstars and Greyhounds. Tickets cost $59.95, and presale begins today. Visit sunshinemusicfestival.com.