5 Bands Dominating Today’s Local Scene

Including Abbot Kinney, Jeff Michaels, the Front Bottoms, Friends W/O Benefits, and Katie Garibaldi.

By Angela Mastrogiacomo - Feb 12, 2016
Photo by Ted Maider
These five bands are working hard to give fans great experiences in the live space. Including Abbot Kinney, Jeff Michaels, the Front Bottoms, Friends W/O Benefits, and Katie Garibaldi.

Every now and again I stumble across a band that is just absolutely killing it in the live scene. I’m talking light production, heavy audience interaction, free merch, you name it. When I walk into a venue, I can tell almost instantly if I’m going to be blown away. In a world where live concerts have become so commonplace, it’s inspiring to be part of a show where the band reminds us all that it’s still meant to be an experience.

It’s a new year with new shows, but it’s good to remember some favorites from the past to see who’s going to kill it in 2016. Check out these five bands that are dominating their local scenes, and what they’re doing to make for a night you’ll never forget.

Abbot Kinney - San Francisco, CA

 
 

Abbot Kinney’s Halloween show at the Rickshaw Stop on 10/28/2015 was by and far one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was the best show I’ve ever seen, not just in the local circuit, but nationally. With openers Vanwave and Travis Hayes and the Young Daze, the show was a Halloween spectacular like I’ve never seen. The first thing they did right was make it a costume party, and offer a discount for anyone who showed up in character. Once you were in the doors, you were among a sea of ghouls. There was a fog machine emitting the appropriate amount of creepiness, actors hidden in the shadows to scare unsuspecting guests, and my favorite—a video that played before each band’s set, painting the story of the haunted venue and the spirits of each band that frequented it. Not only was the talent phenomenal that night, but the creativity that went into making it a full blown experience created something that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Jeff Michaels - Boston, MA

 
 

There’s something so timeless about good old rock‘n’roll, and that’s exactly what Jeff Michaels brings to the stage. Luckily for his fans, that’s not all he brings. When I attended the album release show for 2014’s Townie Paradise the first thing that impressed me was the packed Hard Rock Café in Boston. As usual, I found myself wandering over to the merch table. It was honestly the most impressive table I’ve ever seen. Not only did he have custom M&Ms for the taking (which featured his album/track names, genre, etc), but he also offered fans a huge incentive to sign up for his mailing list—several chances at a prize, including a fifty-dollar gift card to The Cheesecake Factory, twenty-five dollars to iTunes, personalized merch, and more.

Once his set started, it was a solid hour of non-stop entertainment—including a five-star choreographed performance by The Greater Boston School of Dance. It was captivating, engaging, and all around brilliant. I’d never seen anything like that before, and I haven’t since. Jeff Michaels went all out, and his effort and excitement were contagious.

The Front Bottoms - New Jersey

 
 

Back before The Front Bottoms were the success they are today, I remember seeing them play Boston’s TT The Bears promoting their debut album. It was an album I had listened to on repeat for months, so when I finally got the chance to meet and interview them, I was thrilled to learn they were just as quirky as I’d imagined. When it came time for the show, they were perfect. And by perfect, I don’t mean their sound was on point, or they were flawless. There were moments of the best kind of weirdness; at times a beautiful mess that wouldn’t suit any other band. It had an element of strangeness from beginning to end, and that was everything that The Front Bottoms embodied. Sometimes putting on a perfect show means entertaining in a way that makes sense for you and your fans—not what other people think perfect is supposed to be.

Friends W/O Benefits - San Francisco, CA

 
 

This is a band that is just beyond compare. With a true punk-rock ethos to follow their punk-rock roots, Friends W/O Benefits is an in-your-face, take-no-prisoners, all-or-nothing kind of group that you just can’t help but fall in love with. The first time I ever saw them play was on a weeknight. It was late, and I was exhausted. But before their set even began I knew it was going to be incredible. As the band prepared, I saw them rolling through the venue on barrels (you can’t make this stuff up) and handing out glow sticks to everyone in the room. They were immediately interacting with their audience before they ever set foot onstage, and it made for an incredibly interactive show the whole way through. Bands that know how to have fun, who aren’t afraid of their audience, and aren’t afraid to be a little out there, are the bands that will always resonate with people the most.

Katie Garibaldi - San Francisco, CA

 
 

Never in my life have I seen an artist as genuinely happy to be on stage as Katie Garibaldi. When I attended her CD release show back in July of 2014, I couldn’t have been more excited. Beyond the fantastic merch setup, which included a contest for a guitar giveaway (yes, really!), she was just a joy to watch. From the moment she stepped onstage, she lit up—and that smile never faded. With care and concentration, she spoke to her audience between songs, humbly recalling to them behind-the-scenes stories of love and newlywed life. Katie was grateful for every moment onstage, and that is something that definitely resonated with me. Even after her set, as she wove her way through the crowd giving hugs and shaking hands, she was beaming. That’s the kind of bliss I wish on every artist, everywhere.

Angela Mastrogiacomo

Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw PR and Infectious Magazine. She has also founded several chapters of the music industry meet up Balanced Breakfast. She finds inspiration in the works of Frank Turner, Anberlin, Zappa, and Andrew McMahon, and spent 2014 traveling the US and Canada in an effort to better understand each city’s unique music community. This winter she returned home to Boston with a renewed sense of wonder and excitement and looks forward to 2016’s Together Boston and Boston Calling Music Festival.

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