As you can tell from the multiple postings below, my family and I are huge fans of the new television show The Next Great American Band. It’s a natural fit for our interests. We all love music, and Peter and I love live music, as well as discovering new worthwhile bands. Neil’s taken up guitar, and admires great musicianship, and the show has all of that, plus a chance for us to participate by calling in votes for our favorites. It’s the only show we set aside time in our schedule to see when it airs, and we let Neil stay up way past his bedtime (thankfully it’s on a Friday night) to see.
While we love American Idol, The Next Great American Band strikes us as even more difficult and impressive. As American Idol has proven, there are a lot of talented singers out there, and it’s a pleasure to see and hear them. A band however, needs not only a talented singer, but also talented musicians, stage presence, coherence, and song-writing ability. In the auditions, we saw several bands with one or two gifted musicians heading them, but they can’t make the whole band work on their will and talent alone. Gimmicks and novelty might also get you an audience, even a cult following, but it won’t hold up over the long run.
I would have thought the ultimate selection would have been of pop-oriented bands, but the final result was rather eclectic. There are two bands I’d put into the country category (Sixwire and The Clark Brothers) and one in the closely related (IMHO) bluegrass category, which I’m not sure even exists on radio. There are two modern alt-rock bands, Dot Dot Dot, and the 60s throwbacks, Tres Bien (a style that’s actually enjoying success.) There are some madly talented almost unclassifiable gospel-funk musicians, Franklin Bridge; and a big band, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. I didn’t understand the appeal of The Muggs, until Peter smartly pointed out that they were like Led Zeppelin without Robert Plant–and while they probably won’t last to win, all they need is a charismatic singer with the vocal chops to match the musicians’ playing ability. There are two novelty acts, which feel like they were put in to fill a prerequistive category: Light of Doom, a kiddie heavy metal band; and Rocket, a phenomenally untalented all-girl mall punk band. The two singer/songwriter style bands, Hatch and Likes of You, were voted out last week.
I like it because I get to see bands I would never, ever see or listen to in real life. Who knew a bluegrass band could be so much fun, or that I’d actually be appreciating a band that consists exclusively of three weird string guitar-like instruments. We all have our favorites, which the others appreciate as well. Peter likes Dot Dot Dot: they’re modern, they’re funny, they have great style, and they’re refreshingly original. I love Denver and the Mile High Orchestra: their arrangements are fabulous and innovative, and they’re great fun to watch. Neil votes for The Clark Brothers, because as a guitarist, he’s impressed by their chops.
I don’t know how well the show is doing, because Fox seems determined to move it through and off their schedule as fast as possible, eliminating two bands at a time. But obviously I like it, so much that it’s the first (and probably only) TV show I like to much to blog repeatedly about it and give it its own category on my site.