Local music primer: How 3 local bands stack up to national acts

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Getting into the world of Phoenix’s local music scene can be a daunting task. You have to circumnavigate the hipsters, pick out the poseurs and get to the heart of why people make and listen to music—because they actually freaking love it.

You don’t need to be part of the too-cool-for-school crowd to love local music, and there are dozens of local acts that are just waiting for their moment in the national spotlight. Don’t let casino cover bands fool you—these original artists are the real deal.

Black Carl

Genre: Blues rock, soul rock
Who they are: Emma Pew, John Krause, Chad Leonard, Matthew Noakes, Ian Woodward
Sounds like: Janis Joplin, Alabama Shakes
Your first listen: “Hussy”
Why they rule: It’s hard to believe that Emma Pew’s soulful, powerful voice comes out of a little white girl. She commands the stage like she’s been doing it for 20 years. The rest of the black complements her and is happy to play second fiddle, knowing what a talent they have on their hands in Pew. Still, it’s not like the rest of Black Carl is small beans. They’re the internal groove of the band, rife with funky ass bass and sexy guitar.

Party Gardens

Genre: Psychedelic surf, indie rock
Who they are: Jake Brennan, Sean Brennan, David Moroney, Greg Muller, Paul Waxman
Sounds like: Best Coast, The Strokes
Your first listen: “Eat Sunlight”
Why they rule: These guys are a supergroup of local bands of the past and present. Members of Dear and the Headlights, What Laura Says and Wooden Indian all make a home in PartyGardens. Plus, they have a sound totally unique to them. Part beach rock, part psychedelic, part lo-fi, it harkens back to ‘60s Venice Beach without going full Morrison. They have obscenely catchy hooks that don’t venture into the realm of pop.

Mergence

Genre: Blues rock
Who they are: Adam Bruce, Yod Paul, Brandon Shupe, Jason Roedl
Sounds like: Cold War Kids, The Black Keys
Your first listen: “Me And My Family vs. The Robots”
Why they rule: Mergence is a local band with staying power. Since their 2010 debut, they’ve been winning over fans both young and old with their classic rock-inspired blues rock tunes and playful stage presence. Taking influences from Led Zeppelin and The Beatles doesn’t mean they’ve totally adopted their sound. Mergence twists classic rock with jumpy, bright guitar hooks and a keyboard lead at the hands of frontman Adam Bruce. Good luck getting a ticket to any of their shows locally. They’re a hot commodity around these parts.

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