While Baton Rouge tends to preoccupy itself with football and food, the city's music scene remains underrated.
Over the past few years, bigger acts such as Mary J. Blige, Spoon, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell have performed here. A few more venues have opened, including Dyson House Listening Room and Mid City Ballroom. The city has even introduced new festivals, like Ebb & Flow and Flambeau Fest, both featuring a mix of local and national talents.
All of that is in addition to events like the Third Street Songwriter Festival and Baton Rouge Blues Festival, which also bring in loads of recognizable bands and artists while spotlighting local and regional acts.
Those who don't keep their ears to local musical attractions are wont to complain. My advice? Tune out the naysayers and their noise.
Quickly going through my mind's Rolodex, I start thinking about the abundance of talent in Baton Rouge: fuzz-rockers Loudness War, alt-country ramblers Elsah, rappers Mouse On Tha Track and Adam Dollar$, singer-songwriter duo Clay Parker and Jodi James, orchestral pop group Minos the Saint and reliably cool bluesmen like Henry Gray and Kenny Neal.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on, and even then, I'm sure I'd miss somebody. If you want to hear some great music, seek out those bands, then keep digging, then go to some concerts.
What follows is 10 Baton Rouge bands you should check out, a primer that highlights current acts that are working hard to bring original music to local audiences.
Chase Tyler Band. Bayou Country Superfest may have moved to New Orleans, but country bands from the capital city keep hustling. Case in point: the Chase Tyler Band. You can hear Tyler's down-home, country-fried tunes at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, July 20, at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux's, 214 Third St. facebook.com/chasetylerband.
Palomino Darling. A blues-rock duo with Katie Swetman on vocals/guitars and Sam Anselmo, who plays drums, guitars and keyboards — at the same time. Watching the group perform is like seeing Animal from the Muppets playing along with theme song from season one of "True Detective." In short, it's equally mysterious, beautiful and awe-inspiring. The group is working on its debut release. facebook.com/palominodarling.
Michael Armstead. One name that always pops up when talking about Baton Rouge hip-hop is Michael Armstead. Live, it feels like he'll never run out of energy. However, his music eschews the routine rap topics and features a heavy dose of his gospel upbringing. Justin Ivey of XXL Mag said it best: "It's a matter of when, not if, he blows up." soundcloud.com/lxrdarmstead.
Wumbo. Space-y indie rock from LSU School of Music students who know a thing or two about crafting catchy melodies and how to properly use reverb. Catch Wumbo on Friday at Varsity Theatre, where the band will share the stage with Shrugs, Mayhaps and The Apartment Club. The show starts at 8 p.m. facebook.com/wumbowumbowumbo.
Alabaster Stag. Led by vocalist Chloe M. Johnson, this band mixes neo-soul, R&B and jazz with copious amounts of cool. Once you see the band, you won't be surprised to learn that its members have shared the stage with groups like Big Freedia, Preservation Jazz All-Stars, and Tank and the Bangas. See Alabaster Stag on Aug. 9 at Varsity Theatre and Aug. 20 at 524 Studios. facebook.com/alabasterstag.
The Mojo Hand. Formerly Secret Black Society, and before that 99,000 A.D., this funky band features veteran musicians Mike Terito on drums, Jason Choctaw Hall on guitar and vocals, Sam Terito on bass and Adam King on guitar. The guys aim to keep funk alive in Baton Rouge — they did create the ever-successful Funk Fest, after all. facebook.com/secretblacksociety.
Sunrise People. A rock band that fills song spaces with blaring feedback and guitar solos that'll make you grin like a long-haired punk who just heard Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" for the first time. Expect an album from the group soon. facebook.com/sunrisepe0ple.
_thesmoothcat & the 9th Life. Former LSU student Josh Henderson has quickly made a name for himself with his original hip-hop. It's all due in large part to his wordplay and willingness to collaborate with performers from all types of genres. soundcloud.com/thesmoothcat.
JST David. Singer-songwriter David Jones II is a name to remember. Jones, aka JST David, writes songs full of soul, blues, jazz, R&B and hip-hop influences. After selling out shows in Hollywood, California, he surprised by releasing a thought-provoking, showstopping debut, "SNACKS." Catch him on tour this summer. jstdavid.com.
Mayhaps. A psychedelic rock band known to weave webs of hooks, reverb and catchy melodies, Mayhaps is hot off the release of its stellar new EP, "Golden Mold." Check them out on Friday at Varsity Theatre. The show starts at 8 p.m. facebook.com/mayhapsmusic.