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7 Must-See Artists at Wonderfront 2022

Big Boi, Thundercat, & Noah Cyrus make our list of must-watch artists over the three-day music fest
Courtesy of Wonderfront
wonderfront, hero, 2022

wonderfront, hero, 2022

Courtesy of Wonderfront

When Wonderfront debuted in San Diego 2019, it highlighted something crucial that most festivals overlook: the venue. You can stack a festival lineup full of ringers, but even the best bands can feel underwhelming in an uninspiring backdrop.San Diego’s uniquely fortunate in having a stunning, panoramic waterfront, which is front and center again at this year’s edition of the fest. With eight stages hosting acts over three days (including water taxi service between stages), Wonderfront is presenting three days of great music that just happens to also double as a great weekend outside, with a splendid view of the bay.Ahead of the festival this weekend, here are seven bands to put on your must-catch list:

The Alive!

TUStreams stage | Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Alive! are young. Young enough not to be allowed into the beer garden, one of them young enough to not even legally drive to the gig. But you’re never too green to rock, and the California band most definitely knows how to lay down the riffs. The group’s sound leans toward the more thunderous side of grungy—think early Queens of the Stone Age—and they do a pretty mean cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Even if there’s a tiny part of me that wants them off my lawn, I can’t help but get a warm fuzzy feeling from seeing teenagers shred this hard.

Big Boi

Port of San Diego stage | Sunday at 7 p.m.

As one half of influential Atlanta hip-hop group Outkast, Big Boi’s made some of the most iconic rap records of the 20th and 21st centuries (and as much as this still seems like a hot take for some reason, he had the better half of Speakerboxx/The Love Below). While his output hasn’t been quite as prolific since that hall-of-fame-worthy group’s split, he’s had more than his share of highlights, whether with 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot or collaborating with Phantogram on Big Grams. The man’s imprint is nearly everywhere you look in rap and hip-hop, a legend well before his own 50th birthday (which is still three years away, for the record). Marvel at how many bangers he drops in a single set.

Noah Cyrus Stage | Sunday at 3:40 p.m.

The other Cyrus daughter. And one who more closely follows her father’s footsteps, which is to say still not that close. Noah Cyrus probably won’t release her own “Achy Breaky Heart” anytime soon, but the rootsy acoustic country-folk of her debut album The Hardest Part is rooted in Americana. That being said, it’s a far cry from most of the stuff that tops the charts, her aching, emotional tunes more nuanced and subtly arranged. Her songwriting is frequently gorgeous and big on melody, and even occasionally features a guest appearance by her hitmaker pops. Not that I’d expect him to show up, but her mesmerizing balladry is more than enough reason to show up.

The Brook & The Bluff

TUStreams stage | Friday at 6:50 p.m.

Today’s indie rock listeners seem to have a higher tolerance for all things smooth—perhaps all those years internalizing the dad-rock jams playing in the background finally caught up to Gen Z and young millennials. Either way, I’m all for it. I love a good ruckus as much as the next guy, but a band like The Brook & The Bluff is a reminder of just how great honest-to-goodness soft rock can be. Velvety smooth pop songs with big hooks and keyboard and guitar licks that sound like melted rich creamery butter.

Joey Purp

Coors Light Stage | Friday at 3:15 p.m.

There must be something in that Great Lakes water—Chicago rapper Joey Purp arrived around the same time that fellow Windy City emcees Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa did. Purp might not have the level of fame that Chance does, perhaps, but he’s a formidable rapper in his own right, having delivered a couple of excellent records in iiiDrops and Quarterthing, each of which showcases his ability to balance good-humored pranksterism with socially conscious messaging and more deeply affecting narratives. He doesn’t fit into just one specific corner of hip-hop, and that’s what makes him such a delight to listen to.

Soul Flow

Spirit of San Diego Stage | Saturday at 6 p.m.

Soul Flow got their start in St. Louis, but have since relocated to San Diego—and we’re all the luckier for having them. The group is a live hip-hop and soul group that lives on the borderline between The Roots and D’angelo, and they’ve got oodles of chops to spare. Regardless of what city they might call their home, they live in the pocket, and they’re more than accommodating enough to invite us into their funky backyard. You might not realize it yet, but you’re very likely about to see your new favorite band.


Coors Light Stage | Sunday at 6:40 p.m.

Stephen Bruner has had the most fascinating career of any musician in recent memory. A jazz fusion bassist who also for a time was a member of thrash/hardcore vets Suicidal Tendencies, Thundercat has since made his name on shape-shifting soul that incorporates elements of psychedelia, electronic music and even yacht rock—his 2017 album Drunk included guest appearances from Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. All of which is to say you can expect just about anything from a Thundercat performance, but one thing is guaranteed: You’ve never seen a bass player cook like this.

Wonderfront 2022 Lineup

Wonderfront 2022, lineup

Wonderfront 2022, lineup

Courtesy of Wonderfront

Festival Map

Wonderfront 2022 map

Wonderfront 2022 map

Courtesy of Wonderfront

By Jeff Terich

Jeff Terich is the music critic behind the blog The Setlist. His writing has been published in Stereogum, Bandcamp Daily, American Songwriter, Fodor's and Vinyl Me Please.

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