So Zac and I were discussing doing something a little different to bring in 2011. He had the idea of writing lists of our top 10 albums of 2010. This sounded good… until I realized that I don’t think I’ve even listened to 10 new albums in 2010, let alone have a top 10 list. You might think this is strange, the fact is that I’ve been so engrossed in live music over the past year that I have become completely out of touch with studio music. I have amassed many GBs over the past year but they are about 98% SBDs and other live recordings.
So in lieu of my shamefully low knowledge about 2010’s studio albums I have decided to throw together a list of the Midwest’s best live bands. This list is intended to not only highlight those acts I thought made huge leaps in 2010 but also who I think will continue to be a force into 2011. The present and the future. The Midwest is brimming with amazing music right now!
5. The Twin Cats
Seth Catron, Nick Gerlach, Cam Reel, Adam Catron, Phil Geyer (not pictured)
I have heard rumblings of this band ruling Northern Indiana by packing bars and melting faces with a ferocious brand of jam-funk. I only saw them 3 times in 2010 but each time they kicked my ass. They have begun to branch out to Midwestern festivals and I’d be shocked if these guys aren’t a staple of the region’s festival circuit very soon.
4. Strange Arrangement
Joe Hettinga, Jimmy Conry, Steve Sinde, Kevin Barry
I only discovered this band in June but I have managed to see them about 6 or 7 times since then. And each and every time has been better than the last. They recently made a switch at drummer who brings a new found jam engine to an already snarling musical beast. The Strangers have inimitable chemistry and a cache of fantastic original material. These guys were at damn near every Midwestern festival in 2010 and I don’t see that changing any time soon. They are primed for a massive 2011.
Peter Briarwood, Bradley Longwood, Chuck Oakton, Clutch Johnson
Did you know that the best bluegrass band in America calls Chicago home? Well, now you do, because Sexfist is the real deal. They burst out of the Midwest with tremendous force in 2010 and the bluesky is the limit for this bluegrass behemoth. They also won numerous awards over the past few years, with 2010 being the most successful to date. These guys throw down some of the purest bluegrass you will find anywhere. But if you catch them in the right wind, they will bust out some songs Bill Monroe could have never imagined as bluegrass. Early afternoon or late night, it makes no difference. Sexfist traded a fiddle for a banjo due to new parenting duties, but the possibility remains of a 5 piece Fist. In that case… HIDE YO WIFE, HIDE YO KIDS!
2. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus
Dave Sanders, Russ Olmsted, Brian Sanders, Sam Guidry (we will miss you man), Joe Phillion & Casey Jones (not pictured)
By now if you have read this website at all, you know that I absolutely love this band. In fact, I saw them more than any other band in 2010. They move me in the same way that Umphrey’s or Phish does, but in front of far less people. Based simply on emotion alone they would have been number one on this list in a landslide. However, there is a little bit of uncertainty in the guitar department and they have only reached out to other regional markets a limited number of times. But the fact remains that the Midwest simply cannot contain this band. They will be all over this country and leaving craters at every festival they touch.
Billy Brouse, Rob McConnell, Mike Healy, Anthony Thogmartin, Sam Brouse (new member, not pictured)
You might be thinking, wait a minute… Papadosio isn’t a Midwestern band anymore. And that’s exactly the point. They began 2010 in Ohio and made the move to the East Coast midway through the year to capitalize on a market they wildly impressed. They have been to some heavy hitting festivals, most notably All Good and the upcoming Jam Cruise, and headlined
most of the Midwest’s smaller festivals. This band is a songwriting machine and is quickly becoming the benchmark for the blossoming genre of jamtronica. They recently added a 5th member and acquired some new software that will enable them in seamlessly segue through their entire catalogue. This band has officially burst out of the Midwest and they are on the national jam circuit in earnest. Papadosio is serious business.
The Waldemere Revival
I only saw these guys twice in 2010 but I was mightily impressed by their unique sound. Psychedelic jam craziness to the next level with tremendous energy & passion. Look out for these guys.
The Ragbirds flew into my life a number of times this year and they seemed to improve steadily. Their sound is incredibly eclectic and know how to get loose with some jams. I’m looking for this band to continue to spread their wings in the coming year.
This is another recent discovery but I can’t seem to get enough right now. This is some of the best instrumental jamtronica I have heard and gets a room of people dancing like fools in a hurry. Ethereal creativity is the name of their game and they are honing it finely. They hit a few festivals in 2010 and I think a bunch more are ready for a dose of SunLove.