Strike Out Kid playing a trailer show
Having lived a largely nomadic lifestyle during my time on earth, I’ve had the chance to live in a variety of different types of places. From major metros to rural backwoods and everything in between, I’ve inhabited them all at one time or another. From this experience, I have garnered a love/hate relationship with Small Town, America. While there’s something to be said for the safety and familiarity that comes with living in a smaller community, it’s also usually accompanied by a tremendous amount of boredom and a constant feeling that you need to escape the mundane. One thing that can’t be argued is that these small towns aren’t known for contributing a plethora of bands to the scene. An overwhelming majority of punk bands are from large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Boston, NYC or the outlying suburbs surrounding these hubs. So when a great small town band comes along it’s worthy of note. For this list, we’ve defined small town as city/town that has roughly 300,000 or fewer residents and is far enough away from major metros so as not to be affected by their “sphere of influence”. I even included a place where I used to live. See if you can figure out which! Check out our nod to just a few of these superb small town acts, sorted by hometown population, below!
1. Noise Brigade – Anchorage, AK (Pop: 300,950)
Now living in Portland, this six piece pop punk troupe originally hails from The City of Lights and Flowers, which at just over 300,000 citizens scrapes the upper threshold of our self imposed rules but given that this is the largest city within literally thousands of miles, it definitely fits the bill. Although their sound has the distinct ring of pop, it does hit a little harder and has an edge that you typically don’t find in the genre. It’s very well composed music with exceptionally tight guitar riffs that sound like they could be featured on a Monster Ballads compilation. This group has gotten progressively better through the years and they’ve upheld this tradition with their debut full length album, Get Rich or Die Crying, which was released a little earlier this year.
Recommended Track: “Firsthand”
2. Seven Thirty Seven – Buffalo, NY (Pop: 258,959)
This ska-core trio recently released their second EP A little Bit of Patience. While it’s not easy to get the ska sound with a three piece, these Buffalonians have figured it out, diligently blending in those familiar terse, reverberating, three chord riffs with the more traditional, blistering punk tones and violent drum beats. They also just recently released a kick ass cover of Rancid’s “Roots Radicals” with backing vocals provided by Mike Smith from The Accidentals. These Eerie county boys have massive skill and a tremendously high ceiling. If they keep up the hard work, they will continue to raise their profile. The only downside I can find here is that horrible Sabres bass drum head.
Recommended Track: “The Nest”
3. Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves – Winston Salem, NC (Pop:236,441)
Formed in 2008, this melodic gravelcore quartet is one of the more tenured bands to grace our list so it’s no surprise that they’re also one of the most accomplished. These denizens of “The Dash” made their studio debut with a four song EP, Scorched Earth, in June of 2014 and followed it up later that same year with their first LP, Subtle Serpents. Wolvesx4 has been gaining in popularity outside of The Old North State lately having just wrapped up an extensive Euro tour. They have also been getting recognition within the community sharing the stage with well-known acts like The Misfits, The Ataris, Guttermouth, The Swellers and Government Issue. Keep an ear to the ground for their new EP, Scars, set to hit shelves on August 14th.
Recommended Track: “Bad Name”
4. The Fourth Estate – Birmingham, AL (Pop: 214,237)
These Rocket City rockers have been pretty quiet of late, only playing a few random shows in the 205 since releasing their most recent album, Costs of Living, in January of 2013. In addition to that full length they also have an EP and a two song B-Side album to their credit and all are melodic hardcore, political punk perfection. Nothing I could find hinted at these Alabamians being disbanded, so let’s hope they are just on hiatus and come up for air again soon because they have shown that they have what it takes to produce high caliber music in a genre that is sorely lacking depth right now.
Recommended Track: “Hate Speech”
5. Clever Girl – Richmond, VA (Pop: 214,114)
It was in the bowels of St John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia that founding father; Patrick Henry famously declared “Give me liberty or give me death” while arguing for the mobilization against the British Empire. Since that date in 1775, it seems that the region has continued to harbor that anti-establishment sentiment, pumping out a great string of irreverent punk acts over the last few decades. The Capital of the South’s latest contribution is skate punk quartet, Clever Girl. Their debut six song EP, Shelf Life, was just released this month and it carries on the legacy that is the often overlooked Richmond Punk Scene. With lightning quick drums and witty, laconic lyrics, these old guys hearken back to Golden years of skate punk.
Recommended Track: “Dried Up”
6. Steve Buscemi – Wilmington, NC (Pop: 112,067)
The Tarheel State has made the list again! This side project of Jesse Andrus, who also fronts Long Island veteran punk act The Shanks, is nothing if not industrious. With no scene to speak of in this small beach community, this transplant took it upon himself to start one. The skate/pop act’s debut EP, Dads, was released earlier this month. Sure, it’s rough around the edges and yes it needs some fine tuning but consider this before passing final judgement: This is a one man band. Everything that you hear was performed and mixed by Jesse himself and more importantly it was done just for the hell of it. Go back and listen and I guarantee you will have a new found respect for Steve Buscemi. If you’re curious about that name, Steve Buscemi was stabbed in the neck in the notoriously perilous downtown area of “Hollywood East” while in town filming Domestic Disturbance. Oh, the irony!
Recommended Track: “Buscemi-core”
7. Atrocity Solution – Wausau, WI (Pop: 39,106)
Translated from native Chippewa, Wausau means “a faraway place” and with Minneapolis being the largest city within a 250 mile radius, it’s an apt description for this locale. You certainly wouldn’t expect to find a contentious, crusty ska-thrash band like this or probably anywhere else in the Badger State for that matter. What’s even more impressive though is the quality of it. All of it. The lyrics, the vocals, the winding, extended instrumentals, it all comes together perfectly. It sounds a lot like No Ca$h but a little more cohesive. This quintet could legitimately hold their own alongside acts like Leftover Crack, INDK or Morning Glory and this lot is only about four years old. They seriously are as good as you’ll find in this category right now. Their most recent full length, Lost Remedies, released back in December of 2013 is a masterful crack rock steady anthology that only helps to propel this ever expanding genre forward.
Recommended Track: “Panic State”
8. Plastic Jesus – Ashland, OR (Pop: 20,078)
The picture tells you all you need to know, folks! These roustabouts from the Rogue Valley showed up at a local Days N’ Daze concert and played in the parking lot until someone relented and allowed them on stage to perform. If that doesn’t exhibit the DIY ethic that has come to define the folk crust genre, I don’t know what does. In the two years following that serendipitous jam session, they have maintained that work ethic and have continued to refine their gritty, thrash-grass sound, the end product is their debut EP, Mo God, Mo Problems, released just this month. This quartet has come from essentially busking in a parking lot to putting together an incredibly well polished EP in a matter of a few years. Now just imagine how good they’ll be with a few more years under their belt.
Recommended Track: “Mo God, Mo Problems”
9. Strike Out Kid – Martinsburg, WV (Pop. 17,668)
The seat of Berkeley County, Martinsburg doesn’t have a lot to hang their hat on. Nestled neatly between Baltimore and Pittsburgh about the only thing of any note to ever happen in the county was the Raid on Harpers Ferry (thanks Google!), but this easycore/pop act may change this tiny town’s fortunes. Comprised of brothers Ryan and Riley Sprenkle, Levi Miller and Wesley Manor, Strike Out Kid is on the verge of a breakout. They are extraordinarily well groomed, musically speaking and they show a focus not found in most younger bands. This is evidenced by the fact that since 2012 they have released four studio albums. That’s one a year, kids. Just goes to show, if you put in the work, it does pay off.
Recommended Track: “Cut My Teeth”
10. Totally Deece – Houghton, MI (Pop: 7650)
The Gateway to the Keweenaw is by far the smallest city on the list. But since 2011, these Yoopers have been producing music that far exceeds the constricting confines of their diminutive domicile. The vocals are emotional as you’d expect with a post hardcore troupe, but in this case they’re a bit more raw than you would find with some of their contemporaries. It’s most noticeable in their new full length, Living in the Shadows of Giants. The album is extremely ambitious and displays rare sense a maturity for a relatively young band. It’s a story of two lifelong friends, following them from their childhood during The Depression and ultimately on through to their deaths. The vocals are far from perfect, but carry with them so much unbridled passion, that the story wouldn’t be conveyed quite as well without that slight imperfection.
Recommended Track: “Wolves, and How I Became One”
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