NPR Music posed a great question last week when they asked: What Bands Should be Bigger Than They Are and we immediately wanted to add more input to the discussion. The great thing about this concept is that everyone’s list of choices is going to be almost entirely different. The loose criteria is to include artists who’ve been around long enough to create a big impact, but for whatever reason, haven’t ever bubbled over to catch the attention they very much deserve. Those who read this blog have likely heard and/or seen many of these artists but ask Joe-Blow-on-the-street and chances are he can’t tell the Melvins from The Meters and therefore it is our hope to spread the word about a wide array of artists deserving of a a larger following.
We’ll be running this feature in chunks over the course of this week and featuring responses from more more LMB contributors, LMB CO, LMB NOLA and outside bloggers (including Funk It later this week) so make sure to loop back for more viewpoints!
WESLEY HODGES || EDITOR, LIVE MUSIC BLOG (LOS ANGELES)
How it took the Melvins 26 years and 18 albums to garner enough attention to crack the Billboard Top 200 is a mystery but these guys continue to press on, make new music, tour like mad men, turn heads of the uninitiated (which I admittedly was until 2010) and gain the adoration of music lovers worldwide. This year, the Melvins played 51 shows in 51 days in 51 states. In short, they are still out there doing their thing. Also, Melvins super fan Kurt Cobain once auditioned for the Melvins but didn’t make the cut. By the time I finally got to see the Melvins in 2010, I had attended the Bonnaroo Music Festival several times, but not until this set had I ever seen anything this heavy:
For live music fanatics like those who contribute to and frequent this site, it is a rare and pleasantly unexpected thing when another stellar artist comes across your radar and reminds you of why you devote so much time, effort and hard-earned dollars to being a part of the live music experience. I moved to New Orleans in 2009 for a three-year stint and although he was already a veteran of the scene by the time I settled in, I had never heard of Anders Osborne beyond mere name recognition. Countless electrifying nights later (including one Carnival night in 2011 in particular with Papa “John” Gros and George Porter Jr. at Tipitina’s), I’m as big an Osborne fan as ever and the release of this spring’s Black Eye Galaxy LP is a strong indicator that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Moreover, his most recent touring power trio (with bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Eric Bolivar) is as locked in as I’ve heard an Osborne-led outfit and the shows somehow continue to evolve and improve almost every time out. Living legend status in my book.
This band’s first record Wrecking Ball was raw, visceral, magnetically powerful and downright primordial at a time when rock and roll had really gone soft in 2008. This is the mini-era that birthed the still-breathing dance-pop revival and it was a refreshing kick in the teeth to hear “Get Out” and “The Rat” at a time when the proverbial shit was hitting the fan on a global scale and the music soundtracking our lives, in large part, wasn’t syncing up to the world surrounding. Honest, emotional and as real as anyone out there, Dead Confederate perhaps just came about at the wrong time to be aptly embraced. Either way, if they play a town near you, this is not a band to be missed.
This enigmatic producer (Ted Feighan aka Monster Rally) continues to make magic that goes almost entirely undiscovered. Beyond the Sea (MR’s 3rd LP in 18 months) came out this Spring and once again set the bar higher for the next one to top. This is mood music at its finest and its only a matter of time before some big shot music supervisor, or better yet, a director with a penchant towards music discovery like Wes Anderson discovers the mesmerizing sounds of Monster Rally and shares it with a broader audience. Monster Rally’s sound is as unique and trademarkable as Ratatat’s, lending itself to a loyal, expansive following. Luckily, with the recent support and collaboration with Aquarium Drunkard, it seems that some highly influential tastemakers are starting to take take note and help spread the word.
Threk Michaels has been around the music business for three-and-a-half-decades with seven full-length LPs to show for it, and from the stories he’s shared, has lived the equivalent of four rock-and-roll lifetimes. Chances are, you’ve never heard of him unless you’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Threk at a chance meeting. Those who encounter Michaels are almost guaranteed to never forget the exchange and his music, whether it is ever broadly “discovered” or “celebrated,” will stand the test of time for those who hear it. Allmusic Guide, a reputable music source, remarked on his 2007 tribute album to Ricky Nelson Lonely Always, saying “this guy has it all.” Indeed. Threk is without question one of the most interesting and unforgettable people you’ll ever encounter. Moreover, his songs are the very definition of somber-lyrics-meets-happy-melodies, an interesting cross-section and delicate balance few artists have been able to master. Darkness, meet the light.
LISTEN: LONELY ALWAYS on Rdio
Justin Ward || EDITOR, LIVE MUSIC BLOG (SAN FRANCISCO)
For a band that takes some of the great elements of punk and turns it into a more danceable and instrumental version of music that you hear out of other bands that have gotten tons of attention like !!!, LCD Soundsystem, and The Rapture, you’d have thought they’ve gotten more attention than they have over the past few years. Sure, they got themselves in a car commercial and they played a few big festivals, but for the most part I think people have shied away from this band all on account on their slightly jarring name. Their music is great, though — someone get these guys some money to clean themselves up and get back out there on the road.
Tons of people in Chicago know who Tortoise is, and tons of people that love really good jazz-infused instrumental groove rock know who Tortoise is, but on the whole — this band is by no means “big.” They’ve stayed close to their drummer’s studio in Chicago where their magic has always happened, but outside of that few people know the amazing music that this band has made and they’ve always deserved to be bigger than they are.
For readers of this blog this band might be a surprise, but I think the talent on the Garage A Trois team still goes vastly underrated. They were underrated when Charlie Hunter was still around playing, and ever since Marco Benevento came into the band they’ve written better tunes and continue to be that “random” side project that happens at your favorite hippie jamband festival and/or Jazz Fest — and that’s it… Staying obscure on purpose is probably the idea, but once people catch on fully they’ll likely have started three new side projects and moved onto something smaller just because.
I have a vision of the day that I’m at a music festival where the song “Atlas” comes on, and this is what the crowd looks like…
That may have been at Fuji Rock 2007, and the band may be all around playing indie festivals and getting attention from their last release Gloss Drop, but this band should be selling out arenas and playing with huge bands like Primus and The Mars Volta and blowing people’s minds with their math rock arena style.
Once this whole dubstep thing dies down we’re putting our money on the fact that scream-o will come back hard. New technology will be invented that will allow Skrillex to reverse dubstep himself and go back to his skateboard-kid punk roots (and grow back part of his hair). This band is gonna be huge…