Rock and roll will never die, as long as we all keep going to concerts! Live music is the heart and soul of this industry. The experience of being enveloped in music, feeling the bass beneath your feet, connecting with the band and sharing it all with a crowd of fans is something no one should miss. That being said, there are a lot of concert options out there and most rock fans can’t afford to go to every single show that comes their way. So, aside from the big established acts, here are nine bands that may be flying under your radar that deserve your attention in 2011, not just because of the quality of their music, but also because of their extraordinary live performance.
1. The Gracious Few
The first of two “super groups” on this list, The Gracious Few is the phenomenal combination of Chad Taylor, Chad Gracey and Pat Dahlheimer from Live and Kevin Martin and Sean Hennessy from Candlebox. Their self-titled debut sounds like they went into the studio and just released all the demons. Their live show is incredibly tight and full of rockin’ blues from head to toe, complete with Chad Taylor’s signature “stomp.” Kevin’s voice is even better live than on the record.
Sounds like: Led Zeppelin modernized and with extra angst.
2. Hail the Villain
Probably one of the heaviest bands to ever come out of Canada, Hail the Villain holds no punches. Their record is a mash up of singer Bryan Crouch’s punk background and Joe Stamp’s metal guitar tone into a full-bodied hard rock album. Their live performance is not only clean, but Bryan is a wicked fiend on stage and you can’t take your eyes off of him. Sidelined early this year with a vocal chord injury, Bryan is now well on his way to recovery. The band will be back on the road mid-April.
Sounds like: Punk rock had a car crash with melodic metal.
3. My Darkest Days
Another Canadian rock band working its way up the scene is My Darkest Days. Produced by Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, their debut album is a smooth combo of traditionally-themed rock party anthems and honest emotional story-telling. Their incredibly catchy first single, Porn Star Dancing, and its accompanying video went straight to number one last year, but they are a much deeper band than the sentiments of that one song. They lay melodic vocal harmonies over a strong backbone of modern popular rock.
Sounds like: Def Leppard ate Duran Duran and then got smacked in the face with 2010
4. Asking Alexandria
Britain’s Asking Alexandria are treading off the beaten path of traditional melodic metalcore. Their songs bear the typical sounds of fast tempo diminished chords combined with layers of singer Danny Worsnop’s amazing chops. Not only do their songs often break into almost a pop context, but sometimes they also visit euro-techno, and still manage to pull it all together into a cohesive sound.
Sounds like: Killswitch Engage beating up All-American Rejects behind a European discotheque.
5. Forever the Sickest Kids
The only band on this list that approaches pop, Forever the Sickest Kids does revisit some familiar sounds from the past, but with a super energetic and fresh take. They are one of those bands that perform so well live, you’ll love the show whether it’s your style of music or not.
Sounds like: Fall Out Boy had an illegitimate child with Taking Back Sunday.
6. Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant is a great American band right on the front lines of new rock music. Some of their sound has a 90’s alternative feel, but in terms of mood, it’s more on the Paul Westerberg side of the scale than the Kurt Cobain side. Lead singer Matt Schultz gets completely into the live performance and sells it to the crowd.
Sounds like: Blur turned up to 11 with rougher edges.
7. The Damned Things
The second “super group” on the list is The Damned Things, composed of Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano of Anthrax, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy and Keith Buckley and Josh Newton of Everytime I Die. On paper, that sounds like a nightmare of a band, but the reality is that they all met in the middle for a very well-rounded rock album. In concert, three guitarists blast out a wall of sound so intense, that for a moment you may believe that they can really shoot lasers out of their guitars. (See their video for We’ve Got a Situation Here for the reference.)
Sounds like: Mature Anthrax with Fall Out Boy’s upbeat outlook and rhythmic bounce
8. Adelitas Way
Adelitas Way is a well-crafted modern rock machine lead by charismatic frontman Rick DeJesus. They are probably best known now for their power anthem Invincible, which was used at what seemed like every sporting event in 2010. They have a much more diverse catalogue than you would expect and their live performance is sharp and energetic.
Sounds like: Default with an injection of old school Bon Jovi
9. Red Line Chemistry
Red Line Chemistry is a solid American hard rock band with a sound that sometimes harkens back to mid-90’s bands like Seven Mary Three. How this band hasn’t gotten more airplay is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps 2011 will be their chance to be at the right place at the right time.
Sounds like: Three of your neighbors are having a constant Shinedown vs. Breaking Benjamin vs. Hinder battle.
Short list: Art of Dying
Art of Dying might have made this list, as their new album Vices and Virtues shows a lot of promise, but judgment is being withheld pending actually seeing them perform live in person.
So get out there and enjoy the amazing live concert experience. Many of these bands will be appearing at festivals across the country. When you go, bring a little extra cash and buy a t-shirt. It’s one of the few things a smaller band actually makes money on. Then you can be a walking advertisement for the awesome power of rock music.
* The writer makes no guarantees as to the accuracy of “sounds like” claims.
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