For the past several years, the names of the biggest stars in Texas music have been familiar. There’s Beyoncé, of course, plus Miranda Lambert, Post Malone, Kacey Musgraves, and Travis Scott. Willie Nelson and George Strait, if you’re looking at legacy acts. All of them are still at the top of any list, but take a look through the lineups of this year’s spring and summer music festivals, and something else becomes clear: There’s a new guard coming in. An updated crop of Texas musicians are being set up for stardom, emerging from the bottom of the bill to the names in big fonts right near the top.
A good number of the ever-expanding circuit of American music festivals have now released their lineups. The pools from which promoters pull their acts tend to be similar, and if you look at the artists whose names keep coming up, there’s a consistent trend of musicians leveling up, in terms of their profile and stature. It’s not exactly a changing of the guard—the top tier is still the top tier—but more of an indication that the A-list is about to get a few more members.
There are close to a dozen festivals with lineups already announced: Bonnaroo, Boston Calling, BottleRock, Coachella, Governors Ball, Hangout Music Festival, Lovin’ Life, Rolling Loud California, Stagecoach, and Under the Big Sky among them. And the trends are clear—acts such as BigXthaPlug, Charley Crockett, Don Toliver, Khruangbin, and Paul Cauthen are making big jumps toward the top of the bill. The existing superstars—Miranda Lambert and Post Malone among them—are maintaining their grip. The artists who’ve been pushing toward headliner status, such as Leon Bridges and Megan Thee Stallion, are making the jump. Legacy acts such as the Mars Volta, Norah Jones, and St. Vincent continue to be relevant.
Not every Texas star is on the festival circuit in 2024, but the ones who are are doing very well for themselves. Let’s take a deeper dive into what the festival scene tells us about Texas music.
Miranda Lambert is spending much of 2024 headlining her ongoing Vegas residency, but she’s also an able festival headliner on the country circuit—she’s at the top of the bill for the embarrassment of riches that is the Saturday night lineup of Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, California. (Also on the bill: Willie Nelson and Family, Leon Bridges, Charley Crockett, and Asleep at the Wheel, plus a special set of country covers from Post Malone, because sure, why not?) Later in the summer, she’s also headlining the Under the Big Sky Festival in Whitefish, Montana, where she’ll be joined by—among others—Paul Cauthen and Tanya Tucker. Lambert claimed her crown as one of the biggest stars in country music years ago, and she’s clearly not relinquishing it anytime soon.
Post Malone—in addition to the one-off lark that is his appearance at Stagecoach (which we’re sure carry the same surprising sincerity he brought to his tributes to Hootie & the Blowfish and Nirvana)—is also a top act at a number of festivals so far this year. He’s headlining Rolling Loud California, Lovin’ Life Music Fest in Charlotte, North Carolina, and two of the marquee fests in the country: Governors Ball in New York City and Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee. Post spent most of 2022 and 2023 headlining arenas, but he’s clearly hitting the festival circuit hard as a follow-up.
Khruangbin is an unlikely success story. The band emerged during the pandemic as one of the best-selling acts in the world on vinyl, and the Houston instrumental psych-rock trio has translated that success to the live stage, too. They’ll be spending the spring and early summer promoting their forthcoming fourth album, A La Sala, in prime slots at American festivals—Coachella in April, Boston Calling in May, Bonnaroo in June—before heading overseas for the hotter months, where they’ll be doing the same thing in Europe. Instrumental guitar-based music that defies description isn’t generally what you think of when you think of massive pop stars, but promoters seem to believe in Khruangbin.
Dallas rapper BigXthaPlug released his debut album, Amar (named after his young son), in 2023 and followed it up last month with an EP, The Biggest, as a victory lap. The newcomer is rising quickly, and his positioning on the festival circuit befits an artist who boasts nearly nine million monthly listeners on Spotify. This summer, he’ll follow up a slot at Rolling Loud California with a sub-headlining set on Thursday night at Bonnaroo.
Charley Crockett’s step up to the big leagues continues, too, with his prime spot at Stagecoach and a slew of sub-headlining performances at smaller festivals (including Two Step Inn in Georgetown, where he’ll perform before Turnpike Troubadours and Hank Williams Jr.). East Texas troubadour Paul Cauthen is in a similar boat, with a handful of big festival appearances—including Stagecoach and Under the Big Sky—punctuating smaller fests around the country. Houston rapper Don Toliver’s calendar is still being booked, but it includes above-the-fold spots at both Rolling Loud California and Governors Ball so far. El Paso dream-pop sensation Cigarettes After Sex, after a huge 2023, has a spot on the Bonnaroo lineup as well.
The New A-listers
Leon Bridges and Megan Thee Stallion are entering 2024 in similar positions: they’re both in the gray area between being headliners themselves and playing early-evening slots before a megastar comes in. Bridges is a headliner at Boston Calling (sharing the Friday night duties with Ed Sheeran) and a sub-headliner at Stagecoach; Megan, meanwhile, is still filling out her summer calendar, but it includes sub-headlining dates at Bonnaroo and Boston Calling, as well as coheadlining the first night of Napa’s BottleRock Festival alongside Stevie Nicks. Both Megan and Bridges are outside of their album cycle—Bridges’s most recent solo release was in 2021 (with a collaborative EP with Khruangbin the following year), while Megan’s challenging second album, Traumazine, was released in 2022. Neither has announced a new album yet, but their festival positioning is setting them both up nicely to take the leap to full-on headliner status in the near future.
The Legacy Acts
If you want to make a forty-year-old feel their age, describe Norah Jones, St. Vincent, or the Mars Volta as “legacy acts.” But all of them have been recording for twenty years, with hit records on their resumes (in Jones’s case, quite a number of them), and they remain relevant with fans. Jones has a headlining spot at the Saratoga Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York, while she—as with St. Vincent—will be in a sub-headlining role at Bottlerock. The Mars Volta, meanwhile, spent 2023 as a sub-headliner at festivals including Chicago’s Riot Fest, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees, and Austin City Limits, and they’re continuing that trajectory with an undercard spot at Bonnaroo.
There are still a number of big fests with as-yet-unannounced lineups—ACL chief among them. But if the trend continues, we’ll expect to see a lot of Texas acts in big letters.