11 Hidden Gems at Mile of Music in 2014 [Videos]

Mile of Music hidden gems

No matter how much you think you know about independent music – there’s just no way you’ve heard of every single band coming to Mile of Music in Appleton.

With more than 200 different acts scheduled to perform at Mile 2 – you can’t see every one. So how do you choose?

Thankfully, Bill Grasley of the Oshkosh-based rock trio The Traveling Suitcase (on the left in the photo above) offered to help us shine the spotlight on eleven amazing bands that might be flying under your radar.

1. Pop Goes The Evil – Cincinnati, OH

Mile of Music is the kind of festival that you can’t really put in a box. The same goes for Cincinnati’s Pop Goes the Evil.

The band seems to have a slightly twisted sense of humor and follows the mantra “Be Yourself” – even proudly displaying those words on the kick drum.

They tend to mix a lot of genres into their music (a common theme of bands on this list). But Grasley says even he has a hard time putting Pop Goes the Evil into words.

“The first time I saw them play I was floored and was left trying to describe their sound and came up with ’50’s doom country,” he says. “Fans of Queens Of The Stone Age or Black Sabbath should consider seeing them.”

2. North by North – Chicago, IL

A somewhat sinister style also shapes this Chicago band that has been getting considerable buzz for its recent album Something Wicked.  You can preview the album on North by North’s bandcamp site.

Their sound has been described has “hard-hitting rock for the intellectual.” The trio lists non-musical inspirations like author Ray Bradbury and filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock – which you may have picked up on from their name and the title of their album.

Grasley says they deserve the positive press that’s come with their new album. He compares North by North’s music to Jack White and Band of Skulls, others have compared them to Wolfmother and Queens of the Stone Age.

3. Mutts – Chicago, IL

Returning to Mile of Music this year is another Chicago based group that makes it up to the Fox Valley frequently. Grasley says they’ve developed a reputation for “consistently putting on a good show.”

Mutts music is keyboard/piano driven rather than guitar, and like many Mile of Music bands, it’s hard to put a label on what they do.

Many have compared the trio’s sound to Tom Waits, and Grasley agrees. Although he explains it as “Tom Waits fronting an awesome garage band.”

4. Bonesetters – Indianapolis, IN

Grasley says he’s never seen Bonesetters play live – but he has high praise for their album Figure it Out – and they’re on his personal list of must-see acts.

This Indiana band plays surf rock music and western swing. Arts and culture website Midwest Action says you’ll like these guys if you’re a fan of bands like The Shins and Fleet Foxes.

5. The Heart Pills – Eau Claire

Wisconsin will be well-represented at Mile of Music with bands coming to Appleton from all over the state. Grasley says The Heart Pills are one of his favorite Wisconsin bands – although he may be a bit biased since he’s played with them a few times.

“Their most recent release, Gunfighter, is phenomenal mix of rock, country, punk, and Americana and they put on a great live show,” Grasley says.

Others call this genre breaking band “junkyard folk” and “scuzz rock and roll.”  The Heart Pills themselves describe their style as campfire-tincan-folkpunk. But that should have been obvious…right?

6. Softly, Dear – Eau Claire

Also coming over from the western half of Wisconsin is the band Softly, Dear. Or as they describe themselves – “the best band from Eau Claire with a comma in their name.”

But in all seriousness – Grasley brings up this rising band because they’ve been generating a lot of positive buzz in the indie music scene. Daytrotter chose Softly, Dear as one of its bands to watch in 2014. You can watch them yourself at Mile of Music.

7. Ruben – Stillwater, MN

Crossing the Mississippi River from Minnesota is a band playing soulful rock and roll with a vintage feel.

You can probably already tell by the music video above – but Grasley compares Ruben to Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band adding that they have a “great live show laced with four-part harmonies and a really authentic rock sound.”

The three guys in the band have been playing together since high school. Catie Larson joined Ruben in 2010 adding a feminine touch and completing those four-part harmonies.

8. Little Legend – Madison

Madtown’s Little Legend brings yet another mix of musical styles to Appleton. Dan Walkner wrote an article for Madison-based website Dane101.com describing the band this way…

“It’s as though a gang of 50’s greasers crashed into a 90’s grunge band on the side of a lonely road.”

Grasley says he picked Little Legend for this list because of their high energy performances.

9. Thriftones – Milwaukee

Led by frontman Matt Davies – the Thriftones describe their unique sound as “folkadelic” music.

If you’re confused about what Americana music is…Grasley suggests you check out the Thriftones.

“These guys are a perfect example of Americana music,” he says. “They are the best of rock, folk, blues, and surf all wrapped into one awesome band that delivers every time.”

Davies also plays solo. So you might catch him playing in the streets at Mile of Music with his guitar and harmonica.

10. Animals In Human Attire – Milwaukee

If the name of this Milwaukee band doesn’t pique your interest – Bill Grasley’s way of describing their act will.

“It’s a crazy sporadic roller coaster ride that keeps you guessing. They get some very cool sounds with the use of creative auxiliary percussion and synthesizers.”

Oh, and there’s plenty of banjo too.

The guys from Animals in Human Attire have been part of the Milwaukee music scene for some time – with members playing in 10 other bands – according to a MilwaukeeMag.com article. All that creative collaboration comes to a head with what you could call a Milwaukee supergroup.

11. Mike Munson – Winona, MN

Mile of Music is the perfect stage for original singer-songwriters, and to wrap up this list, Bill Grasley chose Mike Munson.

But what Grasley is really impressed with is Munson’s skills on the guitar – especially when it comes to playing the blues.

“Mike might be one of the best guitars players I’ve ever seen. Go see him. Amazing blues music. So good in fact Howlin’ Wolf would be like, ‘This guy is great I’ll go see him at Mile Of Music,'” he jokes.

But There is So Much More!

Grasley was quick to tell us that his picks for this post are just a small sample of the talent and musical diversity coming to Appleton’s Mile of Music in 2014. There will be a lot more for you to discover, and there are sure to be surprises around corners and behind doors.

When you get this many musicians together in one place – fun things are bound to happen.

Look for Bill Grasley to join fellow Traveling Suitcase bandmates Nicole Rae and Brandon Domer at Jones Park on Saturday afternoon. But there’s no doubt they’ll be popping up with other bands too.

What About You?

Is there someone coming to Mile 2 that you think everyone should know about. Looking forward to a particular band or performer?

Tell us about them in the comments and share some links!

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