Thursday, 20 June 2013 12:04

10 to Watch: Top West Michigan bands to see live

Written by  Carly Plank
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Local Bands to See Live

Genre: Pop/rock
Key tracks: "Your Vulture Heart," "Snake"
Sounds like: Yo La Tengo, The Zombies

Bands often spurn genre categorization like the plague, but this group holds true to the claim. Nautical guitars, electronica, lo fi and even Latin-rock influences are present on the band's 2012 EP, Witchcraft, which is truly an otherworldly concoction. With a sound that is polished and powerful enough to fill arenas, Pistolbrides is a band on the brink of becoming a hit in a handful of genres.

Chain of Lakes
Genre: Alternative folk
Key tracks: "Heart of It," "Cards"
Sounds like: The Head and the Heart, Fleet Foxes

With intimate melodies built around the moan of violins, guitars and voices, songwriter Kyle Rasche and company draw listeners into a world that feels like a warm log cabin in Northern Michigan. Edgier and more varied than most modern folk tunes, the songs on the eclectic Softer Sticks album offer a glimpse into the many personalities of the band. Listen closely, because many of the seemingly simple lyrics hold deeper sentiments of hope, love and coming of age.

Lo Mobb
Genre: Hip hop
Key track: "Hand to Hand," "Too Cool"
Sounds like: Eminem

Look out for some lush hip hop "from the land where Grand hand to hands happen Rapid," in the words of Lo Mobb, whose clever lyrics reveal a darker side of Grand Rapids that is more dramatic than advertising campaigns touting the riverfront as user friendly. Refreshingly, guitars and drums are distinguishable in the stripped-down production, allowing each rim shot and wailing guitar chord to come through.

Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys
Genre: Country
Key tracks: "Country My Whole Life," "Could Be Me"
Sounds like: Eric Church, Jamey Johnson

An apple farmer and his colleagues from the Michigan State agricultural program shot straight through the heart of country and have quickly worked their way to recognition at the state and national levels. Gunnar Nybald's deep country drawl and the band's chemistry onstage inject much-needed weight into a genre that has recently been mixing dangerously with lighter pop and rock. Country doesn't get more authentic than a band fronted by an apple farmer who reportedly writes songs while riding a tractor through his fields.

Blue Molly
Genre: Blues/soul
Key tracks: "2000 Miles," "Crossing Over"
Sounds like: Tedeschi Trucks Band

This four-time Jammie award-winning band merges soul, blues, jazz, gospel and rock influences into an indulgent aural cocktail. Blues woman Molly Bouwsma-Schultz's phrasing recalls that of Bonnie Raitt, while her smooth vocal power draws comparisons to Aretha Franklin. Although currently undergoing lineup changes, all previous musicians have showcased copious amounts of jazzy craftsmanship and professionalism, so the pressure is on to keep the recipe for authentic Grand Rapids soul intact.

Genre: Indie rock
Key tracks: "Oh, To Know!" "What Makes the Heart"
Sounds like: Bright Eyes, Benjamin Gibbard

Over the course of a single song, Valentiger can skirt the edges of the indie folk revival and deliver hooks worthy of any pop or rock critic. The group's production is low on frills and high on harmonies and danceable backbeats, recently providing the soundtrack for the Michigan independent film Finding Home. The band has the ability to move in many possible directions, but perhaps they are better off undecided. After all, "to know is knowing nothing at all."

Red Tail Ring
Genre: Folk
Key Tracks: "The Heart's Swift Foot" "Ohio Turnpike"
Sounds like: David Mayfield, The Civil Wars

The Kalamazoo duo Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo is poised to take the indie folk world by storm with heartfelt, revivalist soundscapes. The two musicians represent a union between Michigan's peninsulas, as well as a joining of past and present influences. Premo, hailing from the Upper Peninsula, and Beauchamp, of Kalamazoo, first began playing together in Ann Arbor. Haunting harmonies and inventive instrumentation make a run through the woods sound inviting.

Haunted Leather
Genre: Psychedelic rock
Key tracks: "You Shouldn't Ask," "Indian Road"
Sounds like: Monster Magnet

Eerie, pulsating tracks drenched in buzzing guitars and chanting vocals make for a heck of a trip. This band perpetuates the tradition of stoner rock we all know and love.

Fauxgrass Quartet
Genre: Progressive bluegrass
Key tracks: "Jericho"
Sounds like: Greensky Bluegrass, Old Crow Medicine Show

When this ensemble jams, the absence of electric guitar goes unnoticed. Fauxgrass, often performing in themed costumes, packs all of the space 'round it with funky strumming that surpasses the confines of traditional bluegrass. In just two years, the band has established itself as one of the nation's premier bluegrass bands.

Ralston Bowles
Genre: Acoustic, folk
Key tracks: "Velvet Elvis" with Charlie Sexton
Sounds like: Bob Dylan

After five years of being out of the spotlight due to a cancer diagnosis, Ralston Bowles is back. He recently performed at Festival of the Arts and is planning more appearances this summer, which is good news for us. Known for his commitment to the community, Bowles is just as raw and real in his lyrics as he is in person, making his acoustic act more than just an act.

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