Boise's Finest (No That's Not a Punch Line)

Five bands from Idaho's capital you need to hear right now.

Boise, Idaho, is not usually thought of nationally as a musical hotbed. But if you have heard talk of Boise's music scene, it was probably in reference to trailblazing indie-rockers Built to Spill. But in a series of sparks here in the past couple of years, more and more local bands have emerged from their bedrooms/garages with albums in hand and inspired live sets to share. Our biggest bands aren't all Pitchfork darlings (yet), but Internet-mining beat-seekers would do well to push their cursors toward southern Idaho for some surprises. One of the most significant changes in the dynamic was the introduction, in April, of new community radio station Radio Boise (KRBX 89.9 FM) to the FM airwaves. For the first time in a long while, local bands and up-and-coming indie touring acts are getting regular airtime all over the Treasure Valley. This has helped to further energize a reawakening scene. The venue circuit is strong and growing stronger, and more and more bands are coming out of the woodwork. I've come up with five to focus on (other than Built to Spill and my band, Finn Riggins, of course) and a list of others to research on your own. In alphabetical order: ATOMIC MAMA ( Daniel Kerr, half of this Black Keys–meets–Yeasayer–meets–sweaty house-party experimental duo, released a stellar solo album, The Orb, as Brother Dan late in 2010 that found its way around town pretty quickly. Atomic Mama's looped shamanic beats and powerfully fun live show has been firing up local live-music-goers. They're embarking on their first tour this week (a four-week affair on the West Coast), which includes a stop in Seattle this Saturday, Sept. 24, at Vera Project with my band, Finn Riggins, and locals Neighbors and Chung Antique. They're traveling in a converted half-size school bus and preaching the good gospel of tank tops. HILLFOLK NOIR ( The self-proclaimed founders of "junkerdash," Hillfolk Noir have fine-tuned their dark, Depression-era jangly blues to become one of the most incredible bands in town. Whether they're plugged-in on a big stage, acoustic on the street, or by a bonfire, I cannot get enough of this band and the original tunes spilling out of the bow tie of veteran leader Travis Ward. They are as honest as they come. With a couple of U.S. tours and lots of regional jaunts under their belts, numerous recordings, and endless community spirit, this band is an Idaho treasure, and will be for years to come. OWLRIGHT ( Experimental electronic blip-step duo Owlright have been about town for a few years now, and in November 2010 they released their debut full-length, Cool Shoos Dood, with little fanfare but lots of happy listeners. They play regularly in town, often with wild digital imagery of their own design, amid deep-vibe dance parties. Earlier this summer they embarked on their first tour—a couple of weeks up the West Coast—and are now preparing material for another record, with more touring on the horizon. WOLVSERPENT ( This drone/doom-metal duo, formerly known as Pussygutt, have been cranking out albums and tours for several years. They have a growing following in the black/doom-metal scene, both nationally and internationally, for their dramatic sets and live versions of their orchestral-doom soundtracks. They'll be touring Europe this fall with Olympia-based black-metal band Wolves in the Throne Room. YOUTH LAGOON ( Lately, 22-year-old Trevor Powers has been carrying the brightest torch in Boise's music scene. I first met him a couple of years ago when he was busking downtown one night, performing solo on a battery-powered keyboard. I took to him immediately. When I heard last winter that he was working on a new project and album, I was very excited to see what would come of it. He emerged from his bedroom with Youth Lagoon in February to play a couple of local shows. By late spring he was all over the blogosphere, signed to Fat Possum, and being raved about by the likes of Pitchfork and NPR. In early September, Youth Lagoon left on their first tour, with Logan Hyde playing electric guitar to accompany Powers' keyboard melodies, bass lines, foot-triggered beats, and reverbed-out, emo-crushing vocals. He sold out his first show in NYC (at the Mercury Lounge on Sept. 12), and is jumping on tour with Gardens & Villa this week. His debut album, The Year of Hibernation, will be released Sept. 27. Other currently active Boise bands you should know about (in no particular order, and this is most definitely not comprehensive): Shades, Art Fad, TEENS, Uzala, Le Fleur, A Seasonal Disguise, Mozam Beaks, Dark Swallows, Junior Rocket Scientist, Microbabies, Storie Grubb & the Holy Wars, Brett Netson Band, Red Hands Black Feet, Mickey the Jump, Fauxbois, Grandma Kelsey, Hypno Safari, the Dirty Moogs, How's Your Family?, With Child, Range Life, Neo Tundra Cowboy, the Maladroids, Matt Hopper & the Roman Candles, Jumping Sharks, Low-Fi, Thomas Paul, Oso Negro, Dedicated Servers, and Curtis Plum.

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