ROCHESTER, N.Y. — There's no shortage of things to do at the Lilac Festival. This year's event features craft beer expos, wine tasting events, a parade, a 5K and so much more. However, when it comes to prime attractions, the concerts might just top the list.
The Lilac Fest is known for bringing national touring acts and rising stars to entertain festivalgoers. Visitors come from all over the country to see their favorite acts perform for free on the Sahlen’s Center Stage set among the beautiful Highland Park gardens. This year's Lilac Fest features more than 80 musical acts from a wide range of genres who will perform free shows during the 10-day run. While there's a little something for everyone on the musical spectrum, these are the top 10 can't miss shows:
10) MoChester — A four-piece rock-reggae band from Rochester, NY. While the grooves of Motown provided early inspiration from the group, their current sound has a mainstream flair that has been compared to the likes of O.A.R. and Incubus with a west coast swagger reminiscent of the Dirty Heads and Sublime. They take the stage at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15.
9) Zac Brown Tribute Band — ZBTB was founded in Rochester, NY and is the nation's premiere Zac Brown cover experience. Not only do they capture the sound and creativity of the Zac Brown Band, but they bring a similar atmosphere of family-friendliness to their shows while engaging the audience in a way that is all their own. They take the stage at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 13.
8) Third World — Celebrating the musical traditions of Jamaica for more than 45 years, Third World is one of the longest-lived reggae bands of all time. Mixing in elements of R&B, funk, pop, rock, dancehall and rap, this group has earned 10 Grammy nominations and entertained thousands of fans throughout six of the world's seven continents. They take the stage at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15.
7) Uprooted Ft. Rusted Root's Michael Glabicki — While Rusted Root's annual tradition at the Lilac Fest is seemingly over, fans will be delighted that their former frontman will still grace the stage in Rochester. His new project celebrates the catalog of Rusted Root with new percussion and more female vocals and features several players from Rusted Root's most recent touring band as well. They take the stage at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 17.
6) Big Eyed Phish — Big Eyed Phish is the only full seven-piece Dave Matthews Band tribute in the country, and they were founded in Rochester, NY. Since they began performing five years ago, they have become a highly sought-after headlining act in the northeast for festivals, resorts, casinos and live music venues. Perfect DMB grooves for a lovely summer evening. They take the stage at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 20.
5) Driftwood — Founded in Binghamton, NY this folk/rock/Americana band puts the sights and sounds of Upstate New York into their music. The Driftwood members say they hail from a working town, but play music rooted in the land, leaning alternatively into folk, old-time, country, punk, or rock, depending on their moods and the audience's needs. They will be final performance of the Lilac Festival, taking the stage at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 20.
4) The Dirty Pennies — Hearing the Dirty Pennies' bluesy rock tracks will bring the sounds of the White Stripes and the Black Keys to mind. The three-piece band was founded in Rochester, NY and has been a mainstay in the local community for years, but they've also branched out, touring through music venues and festivals across the east coast. They alternate between fast and slow jams and their energetic stage presence makes this homegrown band a can't miss at Lilac Fest. They take the stage at 4 p.m. on Monday, May 14.
3) The Record Company — The Record Company's raw and righteous rock 'n' roll has earned them a Grammy nomination in the past. The band, founded in Los Angeles in 2016, has toured and recorded throughout the country, including opening for John Mayer. They're popular success has been matched with critical acclaim. They've been featured by Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly, among others. They take the stage at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 14.
2) Danielle Ponder & The Tomorrow People — One of Rochester's own is also one of the festival's very best concert opportunities. Danielle Ponder & The Tomorrow People play soul music that will make you think, make you feel and make you dance! Catch 'em while you can, this band is ready to take off as they have booked a European tour this summer following their Lilac Festival performance. They take the stage at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 17.
1) The Wood Brothers — Anyone who's seen The Wood Brothers perform in the past would not be surprised to find them at No. 1 on our list. Founded in Nashville, TN, this Americana folk rock band brings an evocative sound to a traditional genre. They're live performance approach, master musicianship and incredible songwriting make the Wood Brothers a can't-miss show. They take the stage at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 18.
Even though these are the 10 we recommend for music lovers, anyone and everyone will be able to find the sounds that they enjoy. See the full lineup for the 2018 Lilac Festival below.
Full Concert Schedule:
Friday May 11 — John Lewis Band (4 p.m.), The Sisters of Murphy (5:30 p.m.) & The Devil Makes Three (7 p.m)
Saturday May 12 — JUMBOshrimp (11:30 a.m.), The Cool Club and the Lipker Sisters (1 p.m.), Mosaic Foundation (2:30 p.m.), The Coupe De' Villes (4 p.m.), Al Copley Band (5:30 p.m.) & Quinn Sullivan (7 p.m.)
Sunday May 13 — The Travis Prinzo Band (10:30 a.m.), The Ruddy Well Band (11:30 a.m.), Sean Patrick McGraw (1 p.m.), Parsonsfield (2:30 p.m.), Lyin' Eyes (4 p.m) & Zac Brown Tribute Band (5:30 p.m.)
Monday May 14 — Webster Montessori Elementary Chorus (10:30 a.m.), Gates-Chili Middle School Band and Choir (11 a.m.), Holley Elementary School Band and Chorus (12 p.m.), Brighton Central School District Band (1 p.m.) The Dirty Pennies (4 p.m.), Steve Grills and the Roadmasters (5:30 p.m.) & The Record Company (7 p.m.)
Tuesday May 15 — Penfield Indian Landing Singers (10:30 a.m.), Brockport Central School District Top Singers and Top Brass (11 a.m.), Bishop Kearney High School Murder of Crows Folk Group (12 p.m.), World of Inquiry School No. 58 Band (1 p.m.), Personal Blend (4 p.m.), MoChester (5:30 p.m.), & Third World (7 p.m.)
Wednesday May 16 — Palmyra-Macedon Middle School Band (10:30 a.m.), Siena Catholic Academy Band (11 a.m.), St. Joseph's Elementary School Band (11:30 a.m.), School 22 Band and Show Choir (12 p.m.), Spencerport High School Jazz Band (1 p.m.), River Lynch and the Spiritmakers (4 p.m.), The Blind Spots (5:30 p.m.) & Starship featuring Mickey Thomas (7 p.m.)
Thursday May 17 — Gananda 5th Grade Band & Chorus (10:30 a.m.), Creekside Steel Drum Band (11 a.m.), Leroy High School Jazz Ensemble (12 p.m.), Main Street Players (1 p.m.), Dwayne Gretsky (4 p.m.) Danielle Ponder & the Tomorrow People (5:30 p.m.) & Uprooted featuring Rusted Root's Michael Glabicki (7 p.m.)
Friday May 18 — Rochester City School District “Bloomin Arts” (10:30 a.m.), The Flood (4 p.m.), Smooth Hound Smith (5:30 p.m.) & The Wood Brothers (7 p.m.)
Saturday May 19 — Sam Nitsch (10:30 a.m.), Will Be (11:30 a.m.), Significant Other (1 p.m.), The Klick (2:30 p.m.), Amanda lee Peers (4 p.m.), The Medicinals (5:30 p.m.) & Mingo Fishtrap (7 p.m.)
Sunday May 20 — Roc City Singers (10:30 a.m.), Nobody's Marigold (1 p.m.) Jenny Leigh (2:30 p.m.), Miller and the Other Sinners (4 p.m.), Big Eyed Phish (5:30 p.m.) & Driftwood (7 p.m.)