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Tom Tom Founders Festival's Top Tunes

This week’s festival is packed with excellent music

<p>Boy Named Banjo is one of the standout bands of the festival, as are the others listed.</p>

Boy Named Banjo is one of the standout bands of the festival, as are the others listed.

Charlottesville’s sixth annual Tom Tom Founders Festival promises free performances from over 60 musical acts. Below is a playlist featuring some of the best songs from the best bands on display at the festival.

“Blue Hole Bridge” by Boy Named Banjo

"Blue Hole Bridge" is a perfectly earnest celebration of the idylls of adolescence. Its simple lyricism is irresistibly charming, bringing all the scenic flair of mainstream country music without being overwrought in the slightest. The lyrics promise "smiles big as the river's wide," and that's exactly what this little tune brings. Innocent and unpretentious, "Blue Hole Bridge" is Boy Named Banjo's finest work to date. It oozes good cheer and overflows with summer.

— Ben Hitchcock

“Kinderspel (child’s game)” by Birds of Chicago

Birds of Chicago took a hard left turn somewhere between their first and second albums, transforming from a sweet-if-uninspiring indie Americana act into a brooding, rhythmic soul duo. It's a good thing, too, because this new version of Birds of Chicago puts singer Allison Russell front and center. Russell can flat out sing, and she is at her best on "Kinderspel (child's game)" — an eerie and twinkling ode bursting with emotion.

— Ben Hitchcock

“Hold On” by Bencoolen

In turns smooth, fraught, contemplative and fiery, Bencoolen's "Hold On" shows the group's full and impressive range. The Washington, D.C. outfit hits with powerful guitar licks when the time is right, but the backbone of their sound is a heavy dose of saxophone — on exquisite display in this number. "Hold On" also shows the group's weaknesses, as the vocals of frontman Paul Gregg sometimes struggle to blend with the thrill of the rest of the music. Minor flaws aside, Bencoolen is certainly a name worth remembering, as evidenced by their upcoming gig at Firefly.

— Ben Hitchcock

“With Time” by The Dawn Drapes

This year's Tom Tom Founders Festival is, predictably, chock full of singer-songwriter indie acts looking to break from the pack. Although there's nothing particularly revolutionary about The Dawn Drapes, the Harrisonburg group has a certain charm and cohesion many groups can't lay claim to. In "With Time," the group is at their best, delivering a groove full of momentum and a lyrical melody reminiscent of Moon Taxi.

— Ben Hitchcock

“Cars” by Kendall Street Company

The University’s own Kendall Street Company have been making big strides in the last few years. The folky goodness of their track "Cars" is a real treat. Its spinning melody and homey guitar swirls are bound to cause some knee-slapping, but be prepared for some punches of energy around the chorus.

— Ian McConaughy Williams

“Off On the Weekend” by Sleepwalkers

One of the most unique acts playing at the festival may be Sleepwalkers, and their song "Off On the Weekend" perfectly displays their style. The song reflects the influence of everyone from the Arctic Monkeys to Passion Pit, but the result is perhaps more remarkable than either of those groups. Simple, sweet lyrics about love complement this track perfectly.

— Dan Goff

“Hellyeahlujah” by The Fritz

Taking cues from such groovy legends as Parliament-Funkadelic, "Hellyeahlujah" is a funk rock epic for the modern masses. Clocking in at just over seven minutes, the track is short on lyrics but long on style. Lengthy interludes of high-power guitar solos and riffs are only briefly broken by vocals, culminating in a repeated chant of "hell yeah." It's a song that demands dancing, and is sure to be an unforgettable live performance.

— Dan Goff

“Dirty Sea” by Chamomile and Whiskey

Chamomile and Whiskey make some of the most energetic folk available, and "Dirty Sea" is no exception. Imagine Charlie Daniels with an extra fierce kick. The song's complex arrangement, which includes banjo, fiddles and other standard folk instruments, is made all the more powerful by scratchy, howling vocals. This band, and this song in particular, is not to be missed.

— Dan Goff

Listen to the full playlist below or on the Arts & Entertainment section’s Spotify page at CavalierDailyAE.

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