If there's an answer to that eternal local-music question -- who's the next Phoenix band to break? -- it might well be KONGOS. The familial four-piece announced Tuesday that they'll be appearing at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, along with headliners OutKast, Foo Fighters, and Jack Johnson.
"When we got the news that we got the offer and the confirmation that we got on it . . . it was just like one of the coolest things," says accordion and keyboardist Johnny Kongos. "To start the year off like that, just to be included in a lineup with such huge acts, it's just an amazing feeling."
KONGOS has not played many shows on the East Coast, and this will be their first trip to Delaware. But their little bit of experience with New York City has left the brothers eager to get back East.
"We've played a whole bunch of times in New York, and every time, the crowds have gotten bigger and better, and it's a really active listening crowd. They come out and respect the music and respect the music scene. It's one of my favorite places to play," says Kongos.
KONGOS has already experienced success in their native South Africa. The brothers have been able to tour the country extensively, co-headline some of South Africa's biggest festivals, and score three number one singles. But they admit that's not quite the same as making it in the United States.
"You go to South Africa and you play three major cities, and if you want to, play some of the in-between cities, and you've covered the entire country. In the states, you've got 50 states with two major cities in each state; it takes a whole lot more touring time to cover it all. Each state is kind of like its own country, really, and even when you get onto the radio it's small little adds here and there around the country that eventually, hopefully, lead to Rolling Stone. We are in the very beginnings of breaking in the states, with opening slots and festivals and radio campaigns."
KONGOS spent much of 2013 touring the Southwest, Midwest, and West Coast, which culminated with an appearance at Denver's Riot Fest. They also headlined some of Phoenix's biggest shows, like Feast for the Famished and the Apache Lake Music Festival. Kongos also linked up with The Paradigm Agency, who also books for Imagine Dragons and AWOLNATION, among others.
Their busy 2013 already has led to a prosperous 2014, with their Firefly appearance as well as a slot opening for Imagine Dragons in Los Angeles on Friday, January 23, at a benefit for the Grammy Foundation.
"There will be quite a lot happening in 2014," Kongos says. "There will be a few more summertime festivals that we can't announce yet, but Firefly is definitely a highlight. You just gotta put the word out there, and if you can get a foot in the door, do it. No one really gets into the band without at least the dreams or aspirations of headlining festivals and packing stadiums.
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"Our first official show was 10 years ago. It's always been a dream, and now some of it -- little pieces of it are coming true, and we'll see where it goes from here."