If the Meters were still around, it would be a close contest. But, as it stands now, if you consider talent, expression of the New Orleans sound, and longevity, only one band can claim to be at the top of the heap in the New Orleans music scene: the Radiators.
When a group has been together for a quarter century with hardly any lineup changes, you expect it to have its act together. And no one can question that these boys know what they're doing. At the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the premiere happening in the Crescent City (take that, Mardi Gras!), the Radiators have had an annual headlining gig for years. That's hardly a surprise -- not only is the group one of the most beloved in its hometown but it also puts on a famously marathon-length show. The concerts often clock in at three hours or more.
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The Radiators are sometimes derivative -- any Little Feat fan will recognize a lot in their tunes -- but the Radiators' sloppy mix of bar-band, roots, and other traditional rock styles makes for a good time. Although it comes as a surprise to Louisianans that the rest of the world hasn't caught on to the Radiators, you could argue that it's a shock the band has gotten this far. Formed in 1978 and including a few musicians who have played together since the 1960s, the Radiators languished in obscurity for nearly a decade, releasing the occasional poor-quality independent disc before finally signing with Epic for the 1987 album Law of the Fish. But Epic was expecting the group to be the next Allman Brothers, and after a few disappointing sales, the Radiators returned to minor labels and doing what they do best -- entertaining the masses with one helluva live show.