Staff Picks: Favorite Festival Artists of 2014

posted by Cultivora on December 04, 2014

  • Odesza at CHBP 2014 by Kelsey Stoulil

    This was a hell of a season for music festivals. The biggest names in the business like Coachella and Bonnaroo delivered premium quality as per usual, while several newcomers of the last few years like Gov Ball and Firefly established themselves as dominant forces in the festival market. Furthermore, we saw dozens of infant events make their debut as evidence the music festival boom of the last decade has yet to subside. The real stars of this festival season, however, aren't the events but the artists that play them - some a lot more than others (lookin' at you, Outkast).

    This year, we traveled all over the United States and across the Atlantic to cover over 20 festivals and the countless artists that played them. We got our Editorial Team to relive their collective festival memories from the year to get to the top 7 acts that went above and beyond the rest on the circuit in 2014. Scroll through to see what they picked.

  • Deafheaven at FYF Fest 2014 by Laura Baker-Finch

    Deafheaven - Laura Baker-Finch, Editorial Director/Photographer

    I wouldn't usually label myself a fan of Black Metal, the genre attached to San Francisco-based Deafheaven, but I haven't been able to stop listening to Sunbather since its release last year nor have I been able to let myself miss one of their sets on the festival circuit. The fact that I, a non-Black Metal fan, feel this way, however, is exactly why they've received as much backlash from their musical niche as praise. Lyrics of frustration and anger remain beautiful thanks to the shoegaze element inherent in the music itself, creating a dream-like sound that's enhanced even further by vocalist and founding member George Clarke's conductor-like movements as they perform live.

    Seen at:Governors Ball, FYF Fest, Pygmalion Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest.

  • Chance the Rapper at Gov Ball 2014 by Oliver Correa

    Chance the Rapper - Dan Murphy, Editorial Assistant

    Few artists hit the festival circuit in 2014 harder than Chance the Rapper and his backing band The Social Experiment. After catching him at four different festivals, it was clear to us the young Chicago-native has solidified himself as a dominant force in the rap scene with an interesting combination of childish whimsy, nostalgia, and a fascination with heavy issues like urban violence and drug dependency. With each performance, Chance made a point to leave all energy and emotion he possessed on stage, and whether he was wearing a Superman t-shirt or dubbing himself "Captain Save-the-Hood," it became clear he's not stopping until he saves the world. Damn it, we're rooting for him.

    Seen at: BUKU, Governors Ball, Firefly, Coachella

  • Odesza at CHBP 2014 by Kelsey Stoulil

    Odesza - Kelsey Stoulil, Writer/Photographer

    I am not an electronic music fan. Not as a rule, but generally I prefer something a little more "rock" oriented. That is until Odesza came along and smashed all of my preconceived notions of the genre this past summer at Seatlle's Capitol Hill Block Party. Savoring every note and rhythmic turn, the crowd (myself included) was mesmerized by the innovation and originality that these two dudes brought to their music. Don't be surprised to see them occupying some headlining slots come next festival season.

    Seen at: Capitol Hill Block Party

  • TWIABP via the artist

    The World Is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die - Alyssa Buffenstein, Editorial Intern

    Before Fest 13, I joked that I would be happy to die in the Descendents mosh pit. (Un?)fortunately, I made it through the festival long enough to catch TWIABP for my last set of the weekend. I’m tempted to make the joke that afterwards I was no longer afraid to die, but more than anything I was terrified I’d die before having such a cerebral experience again. They are a beautiful band and I am no longer capable of writing sentences that aren’t bad wordplay on their name.

    Seen at: Fest 13, Riot Fest Chicago, CMJ

  • James Black via the artist

    James Blake - Ilana Dadras, Editorial Assistant

    I’m always stoked to see James Blake on a festival lineup and have been known to skip a set or two in order to secure a good spot for his performance, Gov Ball this year was no exception. Blake manages to take the dark, heavy beats that are perfect for your headphones and somehow recreate them live, melding the beats with his signature falsetto melodies in a way that sounds entirely organic and satisfying. His haunting cover of Bill Withers’ “Hope She’ll Be Happier” was the highlight of his Gov Ball set for me, though my heart also broke umpteen times during the closing song, a soft a cappella version of “Measurements,” the last track on his self-titled debut album.

    Seen at: Governors Ball

  • Jenny Lewis via the artis

    Jenny Lewis - Josh Johnson, Writer

    Here's what you got from a Jenny Lewis festival set: a few new songs from her new solo album, a few songs from her past solo albums, and even a few Rilo Kiley songs, one of which inspired 2000 words from me on how Governors Ball made me feel feelings. Plus she wore that kick-ass rainbow suit for every show (pictured above). So to recap: awesome music, awesome attire, and awesome feelings. Sounds like a pretty awesome festival act to me.

    Seen at: Governors Ball

  • Jamie xx via the artist

    Jamie xx - Ingrid Pan, Writer

    At this year's Electric Zoo, Jamie xx effortlessly blended the sounds of disco, neo soul, house, and xx remixes into a set that was memorable for both its eclecticism and energy. While the Young Turks sound isn't normally associated with the American style of "EDM," even neon-clad bros in the crowd roared, "He's killing it! KILLING IT!"

    Seen at: Electric Zoo, Flow Festival.

    See Also:

    Cultivora's Holiday Gift Guide 2014
    Best Winter Festivals for the 2014-2015 Season
    Music Monday Playlist: Best of the Fests 2014