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Five Bands You Need to Know About

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“Professional concert attendee.” Why can’t that be a real thing? Not as someone who is there as part of the press or the merch girl, just pay me to go to gigs.

I find myself most at home at a concert, buried under a sea of others like me, lost in a couple brief hours where nothing exists but the collective whole of the audience and the music people have come together to enjoy. Something I have noticed in recent years, however, is that people have stopped showing up for the opening acts, especially if there are three or four on the bill. But I have found some of the most innovative and incredible acts at some shows, just by showing up. Here are just a few of the standouts.

Awaken the Empire

Who they are: Frontman Damien Lawson, Shivan Somaratne and Vince Fox on guitars, and Daryl Falconer on drums. Awaken the Empire offers a solid hard rock sound, equally heavy with electronics and real live guitars. While they have spent the majority of their time to this point in bars and small clubs, Lawson could easily fill an arena, moving seamlessly from guttural screams to engaging melodies.
Where they’re from: Los Angeles.
Where to begin: Awaken the Empire has been getting a lot of media attention in their short career so far. A visit to their official YouTube page presents potential fans with full production videos for four of their seven officially released songs—three of which were directed by Chad Michael Ward. Really, there is no bad place to start acquainting yourself with this band, but my recommendation would be their most recent endeavor, Rise and Fall which garnered the attention of MTV and was featured on their Buzzworthy site.
For fans of: The Used, 30 Seconds to Mars, Breaking Benjamin.

Polar Moon

Who they are: Polar Moon is essentially the solo project of guitarist Jonny Radtke (former Kill Hannah guitarist) backed by other musicians he has connected with throughout his career. A powerhouse guitarist, Radtke (who is currently touring with Filter), has been exercising his writing chops, proving he is just as skilled as a lyricist and lead vocalist, having provided a large majority of background vocals during his time with Kill Hannah. Radtke is definitely a frontman to watch out for.
Where they’re from: Los Angeles.
Where to begin: Polar Moon tracks “Enemy” and “This Side of Nowhere” have been featured in various television shows; the latter as the final song heard by fans of the MTV reality “game” show, The Challenge. The two tracks are, in terms of style, the most widely separated from everything Radtke has released to the public so far—“This Side of Nowhere” is an intensely harmonic ballad and “Enemy” is a NSFW revenge anthem—and a vivid representation of what is to come from him.
For fans of: Kill Hannah, Shiny Toy Guns, ASHES dIVIDE.

Double or Nothing

Who they are: Singer Nick Whitesides, violinist Matt Wheelwright, guitarist David Batt, bassist and pianist Derek Crowell, and drummer Nate Smeding. Double or Nothing alternates smoothly between “emo” style melodies and pop punk anthems, using acoustic and electric guitars. Whitesides is an easy balladeer, fitting in well with those who have come before in this genre.
Where they’re from: South Ogden, Utah.
Where to begin: Double or Nothing self-released their debut album, the 12-track Silhouettes Fade in 2010 and have been working on material for a new album in the interim. Check out the title track from the debut and then head over to Reverb Nation to find “For a Little While” for a taste of what’s in store for their next release.
For fans of: Yellowcard, Plain White T’s.

Bleeding Horse Express

Who they are: Multi-instrumentalist and singer, Bradley Damsgaard, singer Tissa Rahim, bassist Adam Riddle, drummer Ben Frith, trombone player Jim Hopson, and trumpet player Dan Hersog. Discovered by former 100 Monkeys frontman, Jackson Rathbone, and signed to his Happy Jack Records, Bleeding Horse Express bears a clear resemblance to the Monkeys’ sound. They offer an eclectic mix of rockabilly, Old Time Southern Gospel (without taking on the classification of “Christian rock”) and Memphis blues.
Where they’re from: Vancouver, British Columbia.
Where to begin: While the majority of the vocals for Going South, the first album from The Bleeding Horse Express, are delivered by singer Bradley Damsgaard, the real treat is when the group’s lone female, Tissa Rahim, takes the reigns. Start with her sultry lounge ballad “Take Me Down” and then check out “One Too Many Times” to get to the heart of BHE.
For fans of: 100 Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

Lady Danville

Who they are: Multi-percussionist Matthew Frankel, keyboardist Michael Garner, and guitarist Dan Chang. Michael Garner and Dan Chang met as part of the Awaken A Cappella group at UCLA and later recruited Matthew Frankel to add the percussion to their trio. They offer a singer/songwriter vibe decorated with whimsical melodies and bowties, and vocals often in three-part harmony.
Where they’re from: Los Angeles.
Where to begin: In February, 2012, Lady Danville released their second EP, Operating, following a self-titled release in 2007. From that EP they released their first video, “Better Side.” Find it on YouTube and then check out the title track from the EP.
For fans of: Death Cab for Cutie, Jack’s Mannequin, Dashboard Confessional.

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About D. Gabrielle Jensen

D. Gabrielle Jensen is a writer, cosmetologist and amateur photographer - not always in that order - who wants to live in several major cities, feels most at home in general admission at a small concert venue, and dreams of touring with a band as their private stylist and tour blogger and of honing her photography skills. She has tattoos handwritten by three of her music idols and hopes to continue the collection.