By Zachary Kaczmarek
Choices, choices, and more choices. Summer Ends Music Festival may not rip your heart out with simultaneous performances or dreaded conflicts, but there certainly is the issue of resting, grabbing a beer, and trying to make it to the final set each night. Unless you’re inhuman or some kind of masochist, alternating between the main and local stages to catch every single performance in 90 degree heat is not the best strategy. But luckily for you we’ve combed through the diverse 3 day lineup and this is the list of can’t miss sets that you should consider.
The Replacements (Saturday, 10:40 pm)
For fans of: The Clash, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Titus Andronicus
Based on your musical preference, this set by the recently united Minneapolis rock group could alter the fabric of your life as you currently know it or could be better spent on Mill or maybe even at home recouping for Sunday. History however, says being anywhere else but the main stage during The Replacements set would be a tragic mistake. Since reuniting last year to play their first performances since 1991, remaining members Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg have fulfilled the dreams of lifelong fans and taught the fresh faces of Millenials a thing or two about immortal rock songs along the way. Many who saw the writing on the wall decades ago considered The Replacements to be one of the best groups who never reached the top, and their recent festival performances at Coachella and a triumphant homecoming solo performance in Minneapolis support such claims. Few bands have had the audacity to get banned from SNL and possessed the chops to write an iconic record, and the ones who did don’t tour anymore.
Descendents (Saturday, 8:55 pm)
For fans of: Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains
As if watching The Replacements close out Saturday night wasn’t enough punk bliss, the Descendents, one of the great hardcore acts in history, will thrash around to breakneck rhythms as the sub headliner and will surely incite the kind of joyous chaos that legendary performances are built upon. Not only has the group maintained the same lineup since 1987, but the enraged fury of their riffs and the riotous vocals of Milo Aukerman are powerful as ever. The style and philosophy of the Descendents isn’t complex or pretentious and the same can be said about enjoying their set; prepare to be swept away in a sea of animated head banging and moshing or stand back and admire from afar. Their sparse tour dates (one off festival shows) would indicate that if you miss them this time around, you may not get another chance within state lines.
Bogan Via (Sunday, 8:00 pm)
For fans of: Beach House, Cults, Toro y Moi
The dream-pop genre is incredibly crowded these days, with every copycat aiming to sound mysterious and cloudy. But as Bogan Via knows, sometimes you have to get a little ominous and soulful to break the mold. Using pop as a vehicle the duo construct heavy layered melodies and choruses through an orchestra of electronics that can be beautiful and warming, but also a tad spooky and mesmerizing when necessary. Their low key harmonized vocals – perhaps the best and most unique aspect of their sound – clash in the best way possible and pave a road for the infectious rhythms to take hold. When it comes to finding that moment during the festival which is uplifting and ethereal, Bogan Via has you covered.
Lucious Jackson (Saturday, 3:55 pm)
For fans of: The Breeders, Veruca Salt, Dum Dum Girls
Continuing the trend of rare performances, Saturday marks the first performance by Luscious Jackson in the desert since 1998 (back when Ak-Chun Pavilion was Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion!). Their style of boundless rock, pop, understated R&B and everything in between makes for the ultimate afternoon performance. If there’s a set this coming weekend that has the potential to captivate people of all creeds, musical tastes, and ages, this would be it. The endless barrage of hooks and riffs that blend together on any given track defy most genres and yet, Luscious Jackson manages to pull it off with ease, transitioning strange bass lines into pop choruses and funk verses into lo-fi hip hop drum beats. And as their 2013 comeback album Magic Hour showed us, they’re still very ambitious and not content to simply make the rounds playing a set list of greatest hits. The even mixture of a veteran presence and innovation is sure to translate into one of the more dance-inducing and enjoyable sets of the weekend for even the most casual fan or first-time listener.
Dry River Yacht Club (Friday, 8:55 pm)
For fans of: Music (Too many influences to count, read description)
It’s easy to look at the all the elements of Dry River Yacht Club and pinpoint their potential influences, but an exercise in futility to box them in or label them as another clone of “[insert semi-famous band]”. They masterfully combine bits and pieces of jazz, Spanish rock, folk, and orchestral undertones to create an intricate weaving of intrigue. What they do, they do well, but even as diverse and eclectic as are, the core of DRYC is expert musicianship and haunting siren-like vocals, something for which there truly is no substitute. You’d be hard pressed to find another act on the lineup – or anywhere else for that matter – who can match DRYC in terms of versatility, and you’d also be foolish to blow off their performance. Trust me, beer breaks can wait.
Playboy Manbaby (Saturday, 6:50 pm)
For fans of: Cloud Nothings, The Hives, Against Me
Riding a wave of hellish yells spread over rowdy distortion and smooth hints of brass, Playboy Manbaby aren’t your typical punk band. In a live setting they have ability to not only overwhelm and impress with an abundance of energy, but get the masses grooving. They’re not solely ska and playing aggressive riffs isn’t exactly their specialty either. Although they bring the ruckus in a similar fashion to band like Cloud Nothings or The Hives, they possess another dimension that places them in a unique category that goes beyond punk. Overpowering listeners with pure adrenaline alone is a skill in itself, but to do it in style? Well, that’s Playboy Manbaby for you.
Kongos (Sunday, 5:05 pm)
For fans of: Cage the Elephant, Awolnation,
Until recently the idea of Arizona-based, larger than life arena rock was nothing more than a pipe dream, a fantasy that has been long laid to rest. But if “Come With Me Now” is any indication Kongos have as good of a shot as any band to reach those heights – at least in terms of sounding so irresistiblly colossal. And yet, their debut Lunatic featured its share of softer melodies and delicate orchestration that suggests they’re far more than just one hit song. They may be slated to take the stage a little before sundown, but it’s certain to be a headliner-worthy spectacle.
Luna Aura (Sunday, 4:45 pm)
For fans of: MØ, Banks
Staying afloat in the constantly evolving world of pop is no easy task and as a quick glance at the current fickleness of the Billboard charts shows, staying ahead of the curve and finding the trend before it happens is everything. Melding R&B, trap high hats and bass, and a penchant for great hooks, Luna Aura is standing at the crossroads of charting pop music and the influences that subtly impact the mainstream from below. Her self-titled EP showcases ballads, moments where she boldly lays down slick rhymes, and transcendent celestial pop that will have you wondering how she isn’t a household name yet.
Violent Femmes (Sunday, 3:30)
For fans of: Pixies, Meat Puppets, Vampire Weekend
Whenever there’s a conversation regarding the most influential acts of weird awe inspiring rock , the Violent Femmes are shoe-in. The number of bands that would cease to exist or be relevant if it were not for the Femmes umbrella of influence is impossible to quantify, but easy to spot in the work of contemporary acts. Reforming back in 2013 was not vain as they recaptured the zany spirit of their golden years and reeled through hit after hit. This is the sort of no-brainer performance that will either draw you in or it won’t. Expect nothing less than their best and prepare to enter a realm of nostalgic delight.
Kitten (Sunday, 1:00 pm)
For fans of: Haim, Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX
At the risk of being flamed for pointing out the obvious, the 80’s pop renaissance is still on the upswing; the funktastic slappin’ of bass, retro synth, and overly romantic lyrics are possibly stronger than ever. It’s nice to look back to a decade which without a doubt what was a mixed bag of music, but it’s even better to hear a group like Kitten resurrect and update classic sounds without all the cheese and embarrassments. Not to be lumped in with similar 80s inspired groups or singers, Kitten reaches past the sounds of the 80s deep into funk, disco, glam pop, and even face melting shoegaze-inspired power ballads. What’s not to love about Kitten?