The headliners get all the hype, but show up to the Austin City Limits Music Festival early and you might catch an intimate set with one of tomorrow's stars. Here are five lesser known artists with big potential.
Natalie Prass (Noon Friday, American Express). Buoyed by the success of her self-titled 2015 debut, Prass had a second collection of songs ready to go the following year. Then the 2016 election happened and suddenly her work felt irrelevant. Prass scrapped her intended sophomore album and created “The Future and the Past,” a deceptively upbeat collection that layers polished pop melodies over deep pocket grooves. Politics isn’t an overt theme on the album, but there are a few bad girl rallying cries.
Cuco (12:45 p.m. Friday, Homeaway). Barely out of high school, the Chicano singer and multi-instrumentalist has a gift for evocative songwriting that belies his age. With a mop of unkempt curls, glasses and a low-key demeanor that says band nerd more than playa, he’s an unlikely candidate for this season’s heartthrob, but his sunny, Spanglish love songs, dreamy psychedelic meanderings with catchy choruses, have captured the hearts of thousands of young music fans around the country.
Rayvn Lenae (1:15 p.m. Friday, Tito’s). Part of the same Chicago musical family as Noname and Chance the Rapper, the 19-year-old singer simmers on “Crush,” the five-song EP produced by Steve Lacy from the Internet that dropped earlier this year. She toured with Sza in 2017 and later this year she hits the road with British sensation Jorja Smith on a tour that’s already sold out a December date at the Mohawk.
Smino (3:30 p.m. Saturday, Miller Lite). The St. Louis native grew up in the church, and on his soulfully orchestrated 2017 album, “Blkswn,” dreamy bedroom R&B laced with harmonic hooks tumbles into feverish rhymes. These days, he splits his time between his hometown, “the Lou,” and Chicago, but a defining moment for him as an artist was playing a show in Ferguson, Missouri, the night before Michael Brown was shot. In a 2017 interview with Billboard, he said the incident inspired him to use his voice for good.
Sailor Poon (11:30 a.m. Sunday, Barton Springs). We don’t know what the Austin art punk crew has up their sleeves for ACL Fest, but their past stage antics have included a weed whacker, a pork chop bikini and drunken male cohorts pretending to be babies and dogs. They will almost certainly sing about various bodily functions, shout hilarious (unprintable) lyrics and tell you they’re better than the Beatles in the hopes you’ll fight them.