Dirty Water Records

Taking Music Backwards Into Tomorrow

Cleveland Scene: 14 bands to watch in 2016

Cleveland is a rock 'n' roll town. It's a hip-hop town, a blues town, a folk town. To be clear, it's a music town, and that's why we love it here.

Considering our annual criticisms of the Rock Hall and our regular grumbling over tour schedules that skip our fair city, we're very much the spoiled, angsty teens of the national music circuit. We want our music, and we want it now.


Thankfully, Cleveland is fertile ground for locals interested in picking up an instrument and making music on a stage somewhere. Across all genres, young kids and longtime vets alike are churning out incredible sets at venues all over town. We write about this stuff constantly, and yet we're always encountering local bands and artists that are new to our ears and awesome in every sense of the word.

With that, we turn your attention toward 14 local bands that we think are going to do fantastic things in the year ahead. We tried to capture the essence of several different scenes in Cleveland with this list, bringing together bands that you may have heard already and bands that you've never heard of. There are many more that we aren't highlighting here — and, hopefully, as you peruse this list and do your headphone homework, you'll greet them all in the bars and clubs that make Cleveland spin. It's a wonderful city out there. Go listen to it.

Archie and the Bunkers

A group that consists of teenage brothers Emmett and Cullen O'Connor on drums and keyboards respectively, Archie and the Bunkers has quickly picked up a buzz since forming in 2013. Initially, the duo didn't think it could generate enough sound. But after taking inspiration from the Screamers, an old L.A. punk band that had no guitars or bass guitars, the guys thought they could do it and began recording music in their basement where they cut their first two self-produced EPs. "We bought some mics and an interface and went with it," says Cullen when asked about the basement sessions. "Our computer was so old that it cut out midway through recording a song so we often had to record things over and over." Influences range from jazz organ greats like Jimmy Smith and Richard "Groove" Holmes to punk icons Dead Boys and the Stooges.

Before releasing their full-length debut, which came out this year, the brothers sent demos to several labels, but the folks at the U.K.-based Dirty Water Records were the most excited about releasing the album. And so the duo recorded 12 songs at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit. Famed producer/engineer Jim Diamond (the White Stripes) captures their "Hi-Fi Organ Punk" sound that Emmett describes as "rock 'n' roll that's been peeled back to its raw foundation." In February, the band will headline two nights at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, and in May it's headed to Europe for a three-week tour that includes a few festival dates. The guys also were just in the studio recording tracks for several projects, including a 7-inch single expected out in late April. While the band played about 20 shows in town in 2015, it plans to play only a handful of local shows in 2016 and will instead focus on developing regionally, nationally and even internationally. (Jeff Niesel)

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