Keeping with our year-end tradition of laying kudos on some deserving bands, I present to you a list of the best groups who called the Midwest home in 2011. It wouldn’t be fair to rank these bands considering I love them all, so this list is in no order at all. These bands all made a huge impact on me in 2011 and I expect them to have huge 2012s.
These guys were on the list last year and I suspect that this will be the last time they’ll be eligible– they will bit hitting the national circuit very soon. These guys have matured tremendously in 2011, cultivating a complex & well-developed jam-rock sound that gets dancey as well as it rocks. With no genre holding them down and an uncanny ability to cover just about anything, Strange Arrangement isn’t long for the Midwest.
Funktion really found their sound in 2011. This unique blend of R&B, hip hop, funk, and soul seemed to lack a certain sense of focus in the past, but that is no longer the case. These guys get down every single night, lighting up a dance party that sounds fresh, but has so many elements that throwback to an older time of funk. With some new mainstream-accessible material, Funktion could spread like wildfire in 2012.
Speaking of a throwback sound… Lubriphonic‘s got that idea perfected. Funk doesn’t get much dirtier than this, with a raw blues core that makes this band sound as aggressive as they are groovy. They have a ton of awesome, old school funk & blues covers in their catalogue along with a stable of awesome original material to boot. They’ve been on a bit of a hiatus to close 2011 but I fully expect them to come charging out in 2012 to continue their mission to blues up the funk.
Now this is a band that really came together in 2011. They toured seemingly non-stop, polishing their material to a degree I never expected when I first saw them. These guys have turned into a beast of a band, with a unique space-funk-jam-reggae that is unlike anything you will find anywhere else. With their dual-guitar attack, endlessly funky rhythms, and some of the best vocals in the jam scene, Roster McCabe is primed to make a huge leap to the national festival circuit.
The family-like local Chicago jam scene has been incredibly lucky to watch IndigoSun blossom over the last couple of years. And no year showed more growth or glimpses of amazing potential than 2011. Now that Lucas Ellman is back with the band full-time, they’ve started busting out a bunch of new material, as well as expanding & evolving the old stuff. It’s damn near impossible to not feel good & dance while listening to this band play live; they’re prototypical late night festival tent band. They are releasing a new album early in 2012 and should be ready to play just about every festival in the Midwest. The future is bright for IndigoSun.
The Twin Cats
The Twin Cats have been clawing their way into the heart of the Midwest festival circuit and their fiendishly aggressive brand of rage-funk has gotten them firmly planted there. They still play a ton of shows in Indiana, but their journeys have started to take them farther and farther away from home, accumulating loads of new fans along the way. But their biggest accomplishment yet might be being named as the Sportsnation house band for the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. I’m certain their engaging funk sounds will catch a ton of new ears in this incredible opportunity. These guys deserve a lot more exposure, I’m really glad to see them finally get it.
I just did a whole bunch of gushing in my most recent review, so I’ll spare repeating myself. Just know this: Van Ghost will NOT be on this list next year. Their new material has such a wide reach of appeal, there is just no way they won’t be recognized on the national level in 2012. With songs like “Cage” and “Modern Day Love Affair,” having massive radio appeal, as well as jam sections that engage & excite music geeks like me, these guys possess a cross-over ability similar to a band like Dave Matthews Band. 2012 is going to be a monster year for Van Ghost.
What? You think I’d leave these guys out?? No way. UV Hippo continued their dominance in 2011, sharpening & focusing their sound after the loss of guitar slayer Sam Guidry. But they’re refined their 5-piece approach, complete with a very jazzy bent in their songwriting over the last year with new songs like “Tugboat” and “Hey Tommy.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the dual guitar attack and would love to see them add another badass guitarist to pair with Russell “The Love Muscle” Olmstead. But Russ is carrying the load very well and they’ve carried a massive amount of momentum through the year; I expect them to continue to crack new markets and be all over the festival circuit in 2012.h3