Eleven Bands to See at the Inaugural LaureLive Music Festival

click to enlarge Singer-songwriter Grace Potter - Scott Sandberg
Scott Sandberg
Singer-songwriter Grace Potter
Branded as Northeast Ohio’s first and only multi-day, multi-stage and multi-act contemporary music festival, LaureLive kicks off its inaugural year with two days full of music, art, food and fun at Laurel School, an all-girls (K-12) independent school in Shaker Heights, on June 11 to 12. The festival will take place on Laurel’s 140-acre Butler Campus located at 7420 Fairmount Road. 

The two-day festival will feature 30 performances, including national acts such as O.A.R., Grace Potter, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Andy Grammer, X Ambassadors, Elle King, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Red Wanting Blue, Civil Twilight, ZZ Ward, Ra Ra Riot and others. Local acts such as Carlos Jones and Welshly Arms, who’ll perform with Cleveland’s Contemporary Youth Orchestra, will also perform.

For the festival’s culinary aspect, LaureLive has partnered with Red Frog Events. Based in Chicago, Red Frog operates and curates all culinary aspects for Firefly Music Festival and the Big Barrel Country Music Festival. There will also be daytime activities for kids, and music education, songwriting classes and performance workshops. Here’s a guide to some of the acts worth seeing.


Ra Ra Riot
3-3:45 p.m.
Music Elevates Stage

Ra Ra Riot permeated Syracuse with their indie-rock sound in 2006, but within six months of their formation the band was already popping up nationally due to their distinct chamber pop/indie-rock sound and catchy songs. Fast forward ten years and the band has four albums out with their latest, Need Your Light, released this past February. With hits like “Can You Tell,” “Beta Love” and “The Orchard,” the band is especially known for pairing string instruments like the violin and cello with its upbeat “let me dance around until I can’t feel my feet” classic jams. (Danielle Immerman)

Brent Kirby’s songwriter/band showcase
4-7 p.m.
Cleveland Coffee Co. Pavilion

A Wisconsin native, local singer-songwriter Brent Kirby moved around the Midwest before landing in Cleveland 14 years ago. In addition to having a successful solo career, Kirby also plays with roots rockers Jack Fords record and has recorded with Hey Mavis, another local roots rock act. He plays Gram Parsons’ covers with New Soft Shoe, and he hosts 10x3, a local singer-songwriter session that showcases the work of up-and-coming acts. He brings some of the city’s best local singer-songwriters and indie rock acts to the festival for a special session. (Jeff Niesel)

Andrew McMahon
5-6 p.m.
Laurel Stage

Singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon is no stranger to Cleveland: His former bands Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate have always made the city a staple of their tours. Now a solo artist playing under the moniker Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, McMahon continues to play Cleveland on a regular basis. His fans certainly reciprocate the love: In 2014 at House of Blues, a boisterous audience shouted along with both beloved old favorites (Jack's Mannequin's "Dark Blue," "The Resolution," Something Corporate's "Cavanaugh Park," "Watch The Sky") and the expansive, pop-singed songs from 2014’s Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Expect a similar performance when McMahon performs today at LaureLive. (Annie Zaleski)

X Ambassadors
6-7 p.m.
Laurel Stage

This New York alt-rock outfit has taken the pop world by storm as of late with the smash hit “Renegades,” but further exploration of its catalog reveals a bit more personality than one might expect. For example: The band's 2015 debut VHS is a sprawling, 20 track epic with just as many narrative interludes as potential radio earworms. They’ll bring the crowd energy to a boil with their infectious energy and an instrumentally diverse range of tunes, specifically the saxophone-led “Naked” and the slow but powerful “Unsteady.” (Eli Shively)

7:45-9:15 p.m.
Music Elevates Stage

Rock-radio devotees will instantly recognize certain hits by this Maryland-born, Columbus-based five piece — “Shattered (Turn The Car Around)” and “Love and Memories,” to name a few. However, some of the devoted fans the group has earned throughout two decades as a band will certainly be in attendance as well, and that’ll call for some deeper cuts. Check out “That Was A Crazy Game of Poker” if you’re interested in exploring its college jam band roots. (Shively)

Red Wanting Blue
9:15-10:15 p.m.
Laurel Stage

Red Wanting Blue is a touring band’s band. They’ve essentially been on the road for nearly 20 years, deepening their personal map and writing what singer Scott Terry calls “road records” along the way. The band released Little America in July 2014, etching a moment in time for a band that’s relished countless others. The songwriting seems more clear-eyed and more laid-back on this one. Terry may have become a more comfortable songwriter over the years, as he’s maintained his commitment to honesty in music and to transposing the stories of his life into song. It’s less heavy, dynamically, while still being complex, “Dumb Love” being analogous in some ways to 2012’s “Audition.” (Eric Sandy)

Lee Fields & The Expressions
10:15-11 p.m.
Scene Stage

Part of the same soul/R&B revival that includes acts such as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Lee Fields & the Expressions hearken back to another era when groups toured with big horn sections and dressed in matching outfits. Their latest album, Emma Jean, includes somber soul ballads such as “Magnolia” and “Eye to Eye.” Fields, who physically resembles the late, great James Brown, possesses a powerful voice well-suited to belting out has toured with major acts such as Kool and the Garg and O.V. Wright over the course of a 43-year career. The Expressions provide him with a potent horn section that should go over well with a festival audience. (Niesel)


Welshly Arms
2:45-3:30 p.m.
Music Elevates Stage

One of Cleveland’s biggest players in the local music scene, Welshly Arms is an amalgam of dirty rock and soulful blues; band recalls the Black Keys, the White Stripes and the Strokes but hasn't yet had the kind of mainstream exposure that will dilute its sound. The four-piece band started producing music in 2013 with the release of the EP Welcome. The music video for “Two Seconds Too Late” has received over 60,000 views on YouTube, and “The Touch” was featured on the CW’s The Vampire Diaries. Most recently, when the band isn't busy playing sold-out shows at the Beachland Tavern, Welshly Arms is busy making new music to follow up to its 2015 self-titled debut album. (Immerman)

Elle King
3:30-4:30 p.m.
Laurel Stage

A Los Angeles native, singer-songwriter Elle King dominated charts in 2015 with her hit rock-pop fusion single, “Ex’s & Oh’s.” In the rock genre, “Ex’s & Oh’s” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart while it reached the top of the Alternative Songs chart in September 2015, making King only the second female soloist to reach the top since 1996. Her success with “Ex’s & Oh’s” garnered King two nominations for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song at the 58th Grammy Awards; King has also found tremendous success with the 2015 release of her debut album, Love Stuff, which features 12 songs including intoxicatingly catchy ones like “Under the Influence” and “Where The Devil Don’t Go.” (Immerman)

Michael Franti & Spearhead
5:30-7 p.m.
Laurel Stage

Decades ago, singer Michael Franti played with the art-noise collective the Beatnigs before making the transition to the hip-hop world with the politically minded Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. With Spearhead, Franti goes for a reggae vibe and the tunes have found a fanbase with the jam band crowd. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. His new single, the upbeat, horn-driven “Crazy For You,” should go over well with the LaureLive crowd. At this point in his storied career, Franti certainly knows how to tap into the feel good energy of the fans at an outdoor festival. (Niesel)

Grace Potter
7:45-9:15 p.m.
Music Elevates Stage

When singer Grace Potter met with Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, Nickel Creek) to talk about producing her solo debut, Midnight, she just couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. She knew she had found the guy who could bring out her rock impulses. Potter leaves her country and roots rock tendencies behind on Midnight as the album commences with the poppy “Hot to the Touch” and embraces soulful pop (“Alive Tonight”) and futuristic funk (“Your Girl”). Singer-songwriters Rayland Baxter and Audra Mae, Noelle Skaggs of Fitz & the Tantrums, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age all have cameos on the album as well. (Niesel) 
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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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