Viva Pomona is that event you go to and look back on, realizing most of the bands you saw there are now huge and headlining the best festivals in the world. It’s deliberate. Rene Contreras is a taste maker. He makes find bands he likes, brings them out into the open, publications like us, taste makers, bloggers, industry folk and other bands have their feelers out, and them bam, the bands are on the right path. Need proof? Check out past Viva Pomona events. Who do you see? Bane’s World (playing a sold out Camp Flog Gnaw), Cuco (playing every good fest this year), Oh Sees (critical garage rock darlings playing the hippest sets at the hippest fests). We could go on and on, but just know, at this point, if you’re playing Viva, you’re doing something right.

So who were the big breakout stars this year? Well, there were a ton, but we’re gonna highlight some of our favorites for 2018. The full lineup this year was impeccably and painstakingly selected, so be sure, if bands played this year, you’ll be seeing them pop up all 2019 and beyond.

Cuco & J-Kwe$t

Cuco is already pretty huge, and he’s been playing Torrance, Pomona, and East Los Angeles for a few years now honing his hype. J-Kwe$t has been doing a lot of features, playing with Cuco and appearing at huge events like Lollapalooza and Outside Lands this year and is making a name for himself while simultaneously hyping his features and duo appearances. Keep an eye on them both the next few years cuz they’re up there.

Jasper Bones

Jasper Bones is so in demand, and so popular. He’s barely on the radar and he’s all over it at the same time. This year, he’s playing Tropicalia, which is another Goldenvoice event that we’re sure Rene had a hand in. Last year, he played the mini fest at Observatory with Tyler, The Creator, Brockhampton, Steve Lacy, Clairo, Bane’s World, Katzu Oso, Inner Wave, and Michael Seyer. He’s in the right circles and will be blowing up 2019 and the years to come.

Surf Curse

Surf Curse are one of those bands who have been tearing up the local scene for years, and are more on the SXSW vibe than the Coachella vibe, but 2019 and beyond will probably surprise us. They’re so incredible, we almost don’t want them to start touring the gnarly festival circuit all over the world, but that would make us selfish little indie kids and we aren’t that. The played Tropicalia last year and were a huge hit. They’re just gonna keep getting bigger and bigger, while retaining their DIY cred the whole time.

Paul Cherry

Paul Cherry has one of those names that just pops. You know you’ve heard of him, or you’ve heard the name at least, or you’ve heard some buzz. They played Pitchfork Chicago this year during the summer so you can’t really get hotter than that. They’ve also played with great bands like Post Animal and the singer has played in The Lemon Twigs and Mild High Club. The band is one of those groups that’s been everywhere you’re in love with without even realizing it. Keep an eye on em the next few years.


Palm are an indie rock band you might not have heard before, but they’re making waves. This September, they play with Father John Misty, Local Natives, Real Estate, Chicano Batman, Diet Cig, Post Animal, The Regrettes, and tons more. They’re in all the right circles, but they’re so out of the box, we don’t know what shape they really are anymore.  They’re also playing Pitchfork Avant Garde, which is a two day block party in France, thrown in conjunction with Pitchfork Paris festival. You should probably start listening to them.

Girl Ultra

How cool is it that Girl Ultra is a band name? We’re down with that. Mariana de Miguel is from Mexico, as many artists on Rene’s radar have been the last few years. She’s touring with Triathalon and the Marias in the fall, which is really the perfect combo for international artists and hype train performers and fans a like. The fashionable Mariana blew us away with her set at Viva, and you’ll most likely be seeing more of her in 2019 and beyond.

There was a tremendous amount of talent at Viva this year, and this was but a glimpse and highlight of our experience. Other notable acts included Still Woozy, Hype Sage, Illumanati Hotties, and more. Did you have some stand out sets from that weekend? Let us know on social media and we’ll be sure to check them out!

Photos by Johann Ramos of The Work of JAR, Words by Phillip Gutgesell