The Winnetka Music Festival is almost upon us, and while we’re all excited for the various and sundry activities (beachfront yoga and food trucks, anyone?) we know that the main event is obviously the music. ValsList and the Winnetka Music Festival have done a great job of introducing us to stars on the rise over the past three years, and this summer’s event is no exception. Here are 10 acts to watch on their road to stardom — and you’ll be able to say, “I knew them when…”
These 17-year-old twins from Glencoe have an undeniably poppy and excitable vibe. Their latest single, “Counterfeit,” is a long way from their training in classical and jazz piano. The twins have performed at House of Blues in Chicago and several of their songs have been #1 on Radio Disney’s Total Request Now. Don’t miss their high-energy tunes — you’ll probably be hearing them on 103.5 someday soon.
17-year-old Casey Kennett and Julian Paez are the duo behind Kolla, bringing EDM (electronic dance music) to the younger crowd at the fest. The duo have played at the Aragon Ballroom as well as at Summer Camp Music Festival, and their original “I Can’t Sleep” has earned over 100,000 streams on the music platform Soundcloud. For you Gen-Xers, that’s a big deal.
If you’re looking for a more soulful vibe, Pat McKillen’s hazy blend of folk-rock-acoustic could be right up your alley. The native Chicagoan released “Blood & Bones,” his third full-length album, in 2016. If you can’t get enough of his soulful sound at the Winnetka Music Festival, McKillen will also be playing at the Ravinia Brewing Company in Highland Park on Aug. 15.
Alyssa Bonagura and Ruby Stewart make up this country-ish duo out of Nashville, and these ladies are no strangers to the music life. Ruby is the daughter of none other than Rob Stewart and Alyssa is the daughter of Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura of Baillie & the Boys. Their music straddles the line of traditional country with a lovely rough edge. We highly recommend listening to their song “Half Way,” an undeniable jam, so that you can belt it when you see them live at the Fest.
The insanely fashionable Spencer Ludwig isn’t your average trumpet player. He initially made a name for himself as part of Capital Cities (a multiplatinum band that opened for Katy Perry’s Prismatic World tour and played at Bonnaroo and Coachella — NBD) but split off to become a solo artist in 2015. His unique blend of jazzy trumpet music and vocal pop stylings is unlike anything on the radio today, so don’t miss out.
If you’re looking to rock out at the fest, then look no further than Dorothy, the LA rock band that will shake you to your core. The band, consisting of powerhouse vocalist Dorothy Martin, drummer Jason Ganberg, guitarists Nick Perri and Eli Wulfmeier, and bassist Eliot Lorango, has an unshakable bluesy-hard rock vibe. Dorothy recently toured with mega-stars Greta Van Fleet (who have been compared to Led Zeppelin, but are fantastic all on their own) and are unmistakably on the rise. Go see them now, before they’re selling out Madison Square Garden.
Formerly part of the acclaimed band Kentucky Thunder, Scott Mulvahill is now his very own frontman, packing a serious musical wallop with his upright bass. His latest album, “Himalayas,” not only features his talent as a bassist but also as a singer-songwriter. He has previously played at The Grand Ole Opry, making his debut this past March, and was featured on an NPR Tiny Desk Concert in January. Don’t miss his soulful stylings — they’re sure to surprise you.
British siblings Henry and Rupert Stansall went from playing pub shows in their tiny steel mill town to recording at Rick Rubin’s Shangri La studios in Malibu. That’s kind of a big deal, if you weren’t aware. Their ultra-smooth and smoky vintage-style songs make you want to have an existential crisis in an empty mid-century modern mansion on the California coast with a very cold martini in your hand. That’s the only way I can describe their ‘50s vibe. It has to be heard to be believed.
The Way Down Wanderers come by way of Peoria with their rock-y, bluegrass-y style. Don’t think you’re going to hear some Mumford and Sons ripoff — The Way Down Wanderers are wholly their own style, with lyrics that draw on the beauty of nature and complex emotional relationships. The band has toured extensively across the states, including an official showcase at the Americana Fest in Nashville. If you just can’t get enough of them live at the Festival, they’ll be touring all over Illinois and the Midwest this summer, so you can get your fix.
Chicagoan Emily Blue is not your average popstar. With hard rock riffs and vinegary lyrics, Emily Blue is proving herself to be more than just another blonde singer. She has studied classical flute which has given her a sense of how to layer a song together, and her previous work with the band Terra Terra before splitting off as a solo artist gave her insight into drawing energy from a collective. The singer’s love of edgy pop (think FKA Twigs and Maggie Smith) combined with her own artistic stylings has made her into one of the most creative pop acts to come onto the scene in some time.
Jessica Suss is a native Chicagoan residing in Washington, D.C. She is currently getting her master’s degree in secondary English education at the University of Maryland. She enjoys petting other people’s dogs and is faithful to Lou Malnati’s alone. Jessica is also a supporter of MAZON and No Kid Hungry.