Top Ten Local Bands That Should Have Made It Big
If you are a loyal County Grind reader, you've witnessed the meteoric rise of indie-rock starlets Surfer Blood. Starting out as most local bands do, begging promoters for a shot and hustling for gigs, the sonic quartet rode a lightning bolt of success that ultimately landed them on Universal Records.
Surfer Blood isn't the only area success story. Broward and Palm Beach counties can lay claim to the shock rock of Marilyn Manson (Fort Lauderdale), the emo-punk splendor of New Found Glory (Coral Springs), and the even more emotive rock of Dashboard Confessional (Boca Raton). Also count Fort Lauderdale nu-metal act Nonpoint and the tender melodies of Lake Worth's John Ralston.
What are all these acts' recipes for success? Fuck if we know. A bit of luck and hard work are a good start. What we can attest to is that this is a veritable breeding ground for talent. Behind every Surfer Blood and Dashboard Confessional success story lie three or four local acts just as worthy of major-label glory.
Contentious as this subject may be, we scratched our collective heads and thought of other local acts that deserve, in our humble opinion, nationwide fame. Granted, we are human and not omnipotent, so we can't be everywhere and anywhere at the same time -- we bet we missed a few acts that performed exclusively in Davie warehouses or Pompano skate parks and had the wits about them to have been as big as Green Day. There's also a ton of active local bands, such as Lavola, Black Seal, and the Resolvers, that deserve a huge shoutout, but hey, would you take the time to read a list of the top 100 bands? We didn't think so.
With that said, here is our list of locals that -- past or present -- have (or had) what it takes to strike it big time.
10. Secret French Kissing Society
Palm Beach County's Secret French Kissing Society created moody postpunk in the vein of the Smiths and Interpol, if only a bit more narcotics-addicted. Led by Stavros Polentas' jumbling-yet-tender vocals (think Britt Daniel in the midst of a weeklong bender), the group rode the mid-2000's revivalist wave with heart-on-sleeve lyrics and jangly guitar hooks. Couple that with Polentas' lovable, enigmatic persona -- imagine a more endearing and Greek-American version of Pete Doherty -- and you have what should have been another CMJ buzz band.
In the early 1990s, Load was a scuzzy, overdriven, rollicking punk escapade that had a bigger reputation in South Florida than Marilyn Manson. Led by one of our area's most infamous frontman, Bobby Load, the band's highly inebriated shows are stuff of local folklore. Load, who passed away last October, had a thunderous howl that could equally clear or thrill a room.
8. Sweet Bronco
Sweet Bronco is the brainchild of Fort Lauderdale's Chris Horgan, an endlessly talented frontman who looks the Everyman part but whose swirling, enchanting vocals and mesmerizing guitar strokes are anything but. Under the moniker Sweet Bronco, Horgan produces white-noise-laden beauties with honeyed harmonies that evoke the better moments of Doves (the band, but Sweet Bronco tunes are really that serene) and Boo Radley albums. Sweet Bronco offered the world a taste of tropical dream pop. After a three-year hiatus, Sweet Bronco has returned with a few recently scheduled gigs.
7. Noble Rocket/Nick Eberhardt
West Palm Beach resident Nick Eberharbt's stunningly pristine cadence easily incites hair-on-the-back-raising incidents. With his four-piece Noble Rocket, Eberhardt scuffed up his lush vocals and ventured into scuzzy, blues-infected Southern-rock territory, rivaling only the Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for sheer boozy brashness.
His solo projects cull Pete Yorn and Ryan Adams' intimacy, yielding topnotch, life-affirming yet understated folk fusion. He adds an enigmatic flair by performing only a handful of times a year.
6. Stonefox/Blond Fuzz
While on the subject of grimy and bluesy rock 'n' roll slush, we'd be remiss if we didn't include Broward County's Stonefox, which ultimately became Blond Fuzz (among other incarnations) on this list. Despite frontman Jordy Asher's fiery reputation, dude can wail. The group produced full-throttle bombast that, in the tradition of the Who, challenged every venue's sound system and left many audience members' ears ringing for days after a gig. Lately, Asher has dabbled with indie triumph with his boy-girl project Blonds, a duo that became a modest blogger darling success.
5. The Holy Terrors
One of the most legendary bands to span out of Fort Lauderdale's hit-or-miss music scene circa 1990 is the Holy Terrors. If you frequented the Poorhouse or drove down to Churchill's back in the day, you would have probably bet a week's paycheck that the Holy Terrors would hit the big-time eventually.
Alas, despite lead singer Rob Elba's howls and the group's prime-time take on harder-edged alt rock, major-label fame eluded the revolving cast of characters that made up the band. The Holy Terrors tribe would spawn other acts that made their mark, including -- naming just a few -- Harry Pussy, Cell 63, and Radio Baghdad. Also of note, the band's Sam Fogarino struck it rich by pounding the skins with New York postpunk revivalists Interpol.
Dense and drone in the divinest sense, Whirlaway was South Florida's entry into the sonic textures set forth by foot-pedal-loving groups such as Ride and Catherine Wheel. The band experienced a wee bit of success with its first single, "Sunelectric," which received modest college radio spins, but never won its way onto any majors. The group's album Pompano would have made a worthy addition to any Verve and Ambulance LTD fan's record collection.
3. The Freakin' Hott
Earth-shattering, minimalist garage rock that easily drew White Stripe comparisons, especially since the Freakin' Hott was a duo consisting of kick-ass female drummer Maggie Dove and male ace guitar whiz Aaron Gentry. Pigeonholing them as merely White Stripes emulators would be a supreme injustice, considering that the voluminous two-piece from Boca Raton sprinkled tons of '70s glam sass and gigantic '60s riffs into the mix. Front and center was Gentry's rock-star swagger and virtuosic guitar skills. He could whip out an enormous T-Rex ax lick with ease. The fact that this duo never got inked still leaves us baffled.
2. The Psycho Daisies
With ties to local notable Charlie Pickett and opening up for such fabled acts like Hüsker Dü and the Meat Puppets, Broward's the Psycho Daisies have all the trimmings of a should-have-been/could-have-been famous act. A true South Florida staple that has gone through numerous incarnations, with only ingenious guitarist Johnny Salton standing the test of time, the group channeled the Modern Lovers' brand of controlled chaos with a decent pop hook hidden somewhere underneath all the fuzz.
1. The Jameses
A County Grind favorite, this West Palm Beach band's whirring kaleidoscopic wonderment flirted with sexy success by gracing the pages of many blogs back in its heyday (including taste-making indie-fame-maker Pitchfork). Taking into account the sizable talent of this trio -- consisting of Dan McHugh on keyboards, bassist Jesse Bryan, and drummer Danny Hitchcock -- they really should have made it to an Animal Collective level of notoriety.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.