Music News

Top Five Local Bands That Should Have Made It Big

We've all witnessed the meteoric rise of indie-rock starlets and West Palm natives Surfer Blood. Starting out like most local bands do, they spent time begging promoters for a shot and hustling for gigs, but this quartet rode a lightning bolt of success that ultimately landed them on Universal Records.

Surfer Blood isn't the only local success story. Broward and Palm Beach counties can lay claim to the shock rock of Marilyn Manson, the emo-punk splendor of New Found Glory, and the even more emotive rock of Dashboard Confessional.

What are all these acts' recipes for success? Heck if we know. A bit of luck and hard work are a good start. What we can attest to is that South Florida is a veritable breeding ground for talent. Behind every Surfer Blood and Dashboard Confessional success story lie three or four acts equally worthy of major-label glory.

Here is our list of locals that — past or present — have (or had) what it takes to strike it big.

1. The Jameses. A New Times favorite, this West Palm Beach band's whirring, kaleidoscopic wonderment flirted with sexy success by gracing the pages of many blogs in its heyday (including tastemaking indie-fame-maker Pitchfork). The sizable talent of this trio — consisting of keyboardist Dan McHugh, bassist Jesse Bryan, and drummer Danny Hitchcock — really should have resulted in an Animal Collective level of notoriety.

2. The Psycho Daisies. With ties to local notable Charlie Pickett and opening for fabled acts such as Hüsker Dü and the Meat Puppets, Broward's the Psycho Daisies have all the trimmings of a shoulda-been-/coulda-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 channels the Modern Lovers' brand of controlled chaos with a decent pop hook hidden somewhere underneath all the fuzz.

3. The Holy Terrors. One of the most legendary bands from 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. 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 band, which featured a revolving cast of characters. The Holy Terrors tribe would spawn other acts that made their mark, including Harry Pussy, Cell 63, and Radio Baghdad, to name just a few. Also of note, the band's Sam Fogarino struck it rich by pounding the skins with New York postpunk revivalists Interpol.

4. 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 ordinary. 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 offers the world a taste of tropical dream pop. After a three-year hiatus, the band has returned with a few recently scheduled gigs, including one this week at Propaganda in Lake Worth.

5. Load. 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 the area's most infamous frontmen, Bobby Load, the band put on highly inebriated shows that are stuff of local folklore. Load, who passed away in October 2012, had a thunderous howl that could equally clear or thrill a room.

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Alex Rendon