The best local bands in 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Reflection tends to be popular this time of year. And for good reason, too. Looking back at what went down in the past year is often helpful when evaluating improvement (or lack thereof), and the local music scene is no different. Hence, here are some "Local Grammy" nominations from a few music fans in the know after a conversation led by James Samons with music panel posters on To see their comments in full and to make your own nominations, go online to We'll compile the best ones and run the "Local Grammys" closer to the "real Grammy" show.

James Samons, SE Live

Artist of the Year: Mike Renick Band. Despite what his detractors might say, Renick has done a great deal in '08. His newest album, "Lucky One," has been a hit and no matter where these guys play — from the rooftops of a building or a Sarah Palin rally or Buckner Brewing Co. on a Friday night — they pack 'em in.

Best New Artist: Thorlock. Although Shiv (Jesse Schiwitz) and his dark brothers launched Thorlock in late 2007, most of their work has come this year. And, although they have been deemed too loud for most Cape venues, this is a band that will shake you to your core ... in a good way.

Album of the Year: "Stratum," Warchalking. We all know Barney (Kris Baranovic). We all know of his vast musical talents. Now, we all know he can successfully pull off a (basically) one man band.

Mike Renick

Single of the year: "Hellwater," Drivin' Rain. Although many can argue for their band's songs, "Hellwater" typifies the monestrous Drivin' Rain sound ... and had some mass appeal in its re-release, as well.

Venue of the year: Broussard's. Buckner's may be bigger, Rude Dog may be packed constantly, but Broussard's brought out the blues/rock/party time acts with consistency (and they have great bartending, too).

Jared Smith, local musician and Mix 96.5 on-air talent

Artist of the Year: Drivin' Rain. To say that they bounced back after an unfortunate and crushing loss would be an understatement. The Rain Gang came back on fire. With the addition of a new guitarist after the loss of the great Tommy DeWolf, Drivin' Rain has set the road on fire. And now they've got the record deal and from what I'm hearing, a lot of great tour options coming up.

Best New Artist: Improv of 7 Dying Men. They're still fairly new for the most part, but you can't deny the talent in the band. Daniel Seabaugh's got an interesting style and way of hearing things, but he relays them great and it shows in his music. Adding the talent of Sam Carmack, JJ Seabaugh and Scooter Mize to the mix and you get some really good music.

Album of the Year: "Juggernaut" by Lost Possum. You can't help but enjoy the raw rock sound coming from these guys. It's the type of music that will kick you in the face but then bring you a beer right afterwards, and it was a great step forward from the last CD. Less production, more music from this solid five-piece. Some great cover tunes on there as well. After a bit of a layoff due to other projects in the works, I hope to see them out and rockin' more in the coming year.

Single of the Year: "Better Than Well" by Oh For Audio. Another band that could go in the best new artist category. As of late, they've really been coming alive, and with the addition of Ian Bolton to the fold, they're going to be writing some amazing music. This song, to me at least, really stands out as their "defining" song I guess. It showcases their abilities the best and how can you not like hearing Ashley belting it out?

Venue of the Year: Enchanted Forrest. Granted I only took in a handful of shows there, but as far as venues go they pulled it of well. They had a great staff booking shows there and were constantly having the touring bands coming through. Now, a lot of people may say it's a kids place and all that, but if you look at it, they knew their target and catered to it. Many can argue that its no fun not being able to drink and watch a band. To an extent, I will agree, but who is to tell someone how to run their business? I'm excited for the Mud House because if it's the same group of people booking and everything, great things will come from there.

Kris "Barney" Baranovic, local musician and the mind behind Warchalking

Best New Artist: tie, Oh For Audio and Thorlock. Oh For Audio really surprised me. Ian's a good addition. He adds a mathematical texture that gives the band a mature stature. I absolutely adore the rhythm section. I'm always a fan of drummers that are less finesse and more brutality. I have high expectations of this band. If you haven't seen Thorlock yet, you must immediately. Their record is finally finished, they've been playing a lot, and they're utterly amazing. You less hear this band and more feel this band. Think power and multiply it by 9,000.

Album of the Year: "Untitled LP," Fists of Phoenix. While this album was never released with any fanfare, its one of the best things I've heard come out of this band, and Brandon Drury (of Echo Echo Studios) did a tidy job on it. I was vastly impressed.

Best Live Band: tie, Fill and Thorlock. I love going to see Fill play. I was discussing this with Shiv (Schiwitz of Thorlock) the other night, and they remind me that we're not all meatheads around here, and that arty things can sprout from this soil. They're a band that is unafraid to simply vibrate the air geometrically. I've watched and opened for many of Jesse's projects, and Thorlock is my favorite to date. Its old school, uncomplicated, uncompromised, butt-handing sludge rock, and I love every minute of it. That they get kicked out of most places they play only adds to their mythos. And they are loud! Love it!

A few of his write-in categories:

Laziest Band on the Planet: Moodminder. How many bands in town can manage to get kicked out of a club BEFORE THEY EVEN PLAY?! I love to see this band, and they never play shows. It kills me. They put out a record two years ago that was brilliant, and still haven't done anything else. Bravo, fellas.

Band to Watch This Year: Improv of 7 Dying Men. Can't wait to see what happens within this camp. They're a bunch of old scene-sters, they know the territory, they're working on a record now. Lots is happening within this band, lot of potential.

Most Fun Band that Played the Least Amount of Shows: Tone Def All-Stars. Yeah they're old, and they drink a lot, and they are what some people consider "politically insensitive," but you can't go wrong with a Tone Def show. Every time they play it's a social event. People who never come out any more come out for this band.

J Sohn, host of internet radio show "Radio Mainline" and podcast "The Audio Nut"

Artist of the Year: Thorlock

Best New Artist: Improv of 7 Dying Men. I have to see them play.

Album of the Year: "Stratum," Warchalking. Barn is a genius.

Best live band: Fist of Phoenix. The last Yacht Club show was great.

A few of his write-in categories:

Band I miss: Fists of Phoenix

Best band to come to town in 2008: The Backsliders (from Dallas). They won best rock band of the year in Dallas. Everyone who missed that show should punch themselves in the mouth.

Best band I haven't seen play yet: tie, Fill, Improv and Rockface Barband

Best Hype: Drivin Rain. Like it or not these guys try to do something and do many things that people only wish they could do around here. Loses as band of the year to Thorlock by a nose (actually, getting shut down at Rude Dog gave Thorlock the edge).

Person this "scene" will miss the most: Randy Mallet (local musician and creator of Banned Promotions). He tries and pretty much gets squat in return.

Most underrated band of 2008: The Futz. Garage rock is HUGE everywhere but Southeast Missouri and the Futz played some gems live.

Band that will be missed: Horizontal Orange. Great band both on CD and live, too bad they had to part ways.

Person to keep an eye on for helping the "scene": Cody Wicker. This guy is trying to get things done around here. I hope he gets some respect and help in doing so.

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