As 2019 comes to a close, the team at Live For Live Music has been looking back on all of the memorable musical moments fans were lucky enough to experience this year. For the first installment in our 2019 year-end Staff Picks series, we’re taking a look at the “Breakout Artists of 2019″—those talented acts who took huge leaps forward this year.
While gauging musicians’ popularity will always remain a subjective endeavor, there are times when some artists are simply too good at what they do to ignore the buzz of excitement that surrounds them. With that said, here are the artists who cemented their status as stars in 2019—and promise to continue their momentum into the new decade.
Goose was, without a doubt, the fastest-growing band in the jam scene in 2019—and rightfully so. The hard-working, CT-based quartet spent nearly the entire year on tour sharing bills with a mix of their contemporaries ranging from Cycles to TAUK to Pigeons Playing Ping Pong to SunSquabi and wowing audiences at festivals like The Peach.
By the time fall arrived, the hype was off and running—Goose tour has been the hottest ticket in the game ever since. Take their track record in the notoriously tricky New York City market, for instance. Just days before their sold-out Halloween show at the 250-capacity Mercury Lounge, the band announced their debut performance at the 575-cap Bowery Ballroom set for January 24th. Tickets to Goose at the Bowery sold out in less than 10 minutes, prompting the band to schedule an additional NYC date at the 650-capacity Music Hall of Williamsburg for the following night, January 25th. Tickets to that show similarly sold out in short order. The explosion in demand got so large, in fact, that the band made the move (one could say, out of necessity) to officially partner with face value ticket resale platform Cash or Trade to keep tickets in the hands of fans rather than scalpers hoping to cash in on the Goose boom.
The rest of the year has played out like a downpour of upgraded venues, sold-out shows, and ever-louder buzz surrounding Goose. The band will head out on an extensive tour next year, with numerous shows on their 2020 schedule already sold out. They’ve also been tapped for high-profile appearances like their TV debut on the forthcoming tenth season of Bluegrass Underground and a gig on Dead & Company‘s Playing In The Sand destination event in Mexico, and they’re already confirmed on the lineups for some of the biggest festivals of next summer. It seems there’s no limit to how high Goose might fly. For a full list of upcoming Goose tour dates, head here.
Goose – Richmond, VA [Full-Show Video] – 11/10/19
2019 was a true coming-out year for Karina Rykman. Known by many as the always-smiling bassist in Marco Benevento‘s live band, Rykman launched her solo efforts in earnest in 2019 with her debut singles, “Plants” and “Elevator“, and embarked on a run of her own headlining tour performances throughout the spring months and made her headlining debut at Brooklyn Bowl in September. She’s also gotten into the podcasting game, hosting a weekly live music news show, 3 From The 7, alongside Relix associate editor Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta.
This time last year, fans were given a small teaser of the impressive growth that Rykman would see throughout 2019 when she was invited to play around on Mike Gordon‘s bass rig prior to one of Phish‘s New Year’s performances at Madison Square Garden, only to be joined on-stage by the band for an unplanned jam session that quickly went viral. Keep your eyes (and ears) open, folks. Ms. Rykman is headed nowhere but up in that “Elevator” of hers. For a list of her upcoming shows, head here.
Karina Rykman – “Elevator”
[Video: Karina Rykman]
Another solo artist whose stock grew exponentially in 2019, Billy Strings is giving the bluegrass genre a much-needed rock and roll makeover. Born William Apostol, the long-haired, tattooed picker/singer and his equally-talented, eponymous quartet—featuring Apostol, Billy Failing, Royal Masat, and Jarrod Walker—continue to earn new fans and admirers with each genre-bending, sold-out show. Strings released a new album this year with the critically-adored Home and gained some well-deserved within the jam band community thanks to sit-ins alongside The String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, and more.
In a recent interview with modern bluegrass pioneers Leftover Salmon, Live For Live Music asked Vince Herman his thoughts on the continued health and longevity of the bluegrass scene. With a laugh, he responded, “It’s all up to Billy Strings at this point. You know, he is uniquely qualified to move this music forward. It’s great to have a kid who grew up skateboarding and listening to metal who is also deeply rooted in the traditional side of the music. It’s a rare combination that comes along. I think the response speaks for itself.”
Widespread Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring had similarly glowing things to say about Billy. Following his sit-in during Panic’s acoustic run at the Ryman Auditorium, Herring told Live For Live Music, “We had this young guy sit in with us, he’s gotta be one of the best guitar players that I’ve seen in my life. His name is Billy Strings. … Billy is a wonderful kid. He is brilliant, he’s got great musical sensibilities. And, of course, he has technique for days. He can pretty much clobber anybody; he’s got flatpicking chops galore and he’s a true acoustic man. … To get to play with someone as good as him, I was knocked out.”
Billy Strings is looking to start 2020 with a bang with a two-night headlining run in January at Port Chester, NY’s The Capitol Theatre—just a few months after selling out two nights in the NYC market at the much-smaller Brooklyn Bowl. Those two shows quickly sold out, prompting the group to add a third date at the Cap in April during their spring tour. As you might expect, that show quickly sold out, too. Same goes for virtually all of his early-2020 shows, including his two-night run of co-headlining shows with fellow rising star Marcus King at the Civic Theatre in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. He’s already a high-level name on several large-scale 2020 festival lineups, and it’s only December. It already seems this young firebrand is destined for greatness, and he’s just getting started. For a list of upcoming Billy Strings tour dates, head here.
The String Cheese Incident ft. Billy Strings – “Black Clouds” [Pro-Shot]
[Video: The String Cheese Incident]
The hard-rocking soul/blues quintet from Memphis has plenty to smile about heading into 2020 thanks to a number of notable and fun moments throughout the year. Southern Avenue released a new album, Keep On, which includes the song “Jive” that we premiered back in April. The album has since been nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Contemporary Blues Album” category.
They performed at major events like Electric Forest, Telluride Blues & Brews, and The Peach Music Festival, toured (and shared the stage) with Tedeschi Trucks Band, and will close the year with Galactic at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, LA on New Year’s Eve. Any music fan who gets the chance to catch a Southern Avenue show in 2020 should do so immediately. For a list of upcoming Southern Avenue tour dates, head here.
Southern Avenue – The Peach Music Festival [Full Set] – 7/26/19
[Video: mk devo]
If pop music fans had to pick one artist who made the biggest impact this year, it has to be Maggie Rogers. The former NYU Music student-turned-indie-pop sensation (thanks to her Pharrell-approved viral hit, “Alaska”) spent practically the entire year on a headlining tour in support of her full-length studio debut, Heard It In A Past Life. Roger’s whirlwind of a year included her live debuts on Saturday Night Live, Austin City Limits, and Live From Here, as well as a “Best New Artist” Grammy nomination. She sang with Dead & Company at Madison Square Garden, and even helped raise money for Planned Parenthood. While she doesn’t have any shows planned in the early months of 2020 at the moment, fans should take note that Maggie’s journey is just beginning.
Maggie Rogers – “Fallingwater”
[Video: Maggie Rogers]
Twin brothers Jonathan and Jared Mattson, better known by their stage name Mattson 2, have steadily earned a place at the table in the discussion of up-and-coming bands within the jam scene. The duo combines their talents on guitar and drums for a fresh take on dreamy, instrumental-based jazz, and certainly has the talent to stretch their music into wonderful, improv-based listening experiences. After touring with Khruangbin in 2018, the duo spent much of this past fall supporting Marco Benevento in promotion of their new full-length studio effort, Paradise. They’ll look to take their momentum into 2020 with a lengthy national headlining tour beginning in early February and continuing until late April. For a list of upcoming Mattson 2 tour dates, head here.
Mattson 2 – Hear Here Presents
[Video: Hear Here Presents]
Andy Frasco & The U.N.
Over the last few years, Andy Frasco has grown from that serendipitous party you stumble upon on a festival side stage to arguably the most magnetic performer on the live music circuit. From his notorious onstage shenanigans to his devil-may-care charisma to his consistently show-stealing, guest-filled performances, Andy—along with his ragtag band of play-hard, party-harder showmen—has become a virtual must-book fixture for any fest. The proof is on the posters—seemingly every major festival is getting a dose of Frasco next summer. And that’s just the festivals—he also has a full, co-headlining tour with BIG Something lined up for early 2020, dubbed BIG Something vs. Andy Frasco & The U.N.: Royal Rumble 2020. The 18-date trek promises to be much more than your average tour; you can expect ample antics, inter-band riff-offs, and more to break out on a nightly basis. Any time Frasco is in the mix, you can count on a uniquely wild live music experience.
However, the animal you see jumping barefoot on his organ with a bottle of Jameson in hand is only one side of the Frasco coin. A self-described “workaholic,” Frasco somehow finds the time to host his World Saving Podcast featuring some of the most notable names in the music scene amidst his endless touring schedule. Andy also released his jarringly sincere new album, Change of Pace, earlier this year. The record, which featured production by Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) and Ben Ellman (Galactic), showed off Frasco’s immense growth as a songwriter.
As Frasco explained to Live For Live Music earlier this year, “You know, I always say, ‘This is the record, man. This is the record.’ But, you know, I’m surprised myself that I made some of this. Granted, I had help with Dave and Ben and everyone … But I helped produce these songs too, and I pulled my weight this time and not just like, auto-tuned my f*cking vocals [laughs] and … I did the work this time and it made me a better musician, and now I bring that to my year of touring and, hopefully, people will think that I’m not just a one-trick pony. I can do more than that.”
New fans will have even more opportunities to enjoy the fruits of Andy’s continuous work in 2020. Word on the street is he already has yet another new album recorded and ready to be released next year. 2019 was a big one for Andy Frasco, and the next decade is looking bright. For a full list of upcoming Andy Frasco & The U.N. tour dates, head here.
Andy Frasco & The U.N. – “Change of Pace” [Official Video]
[Video: Andy Frasco]
Once you’re done with this list, you can also check out L4LM Staff Picks: Our Favorite Festivals Of 2019.