Gainesville, FL cannot boast the hulking volume of musical acts and breadth of genres found in rival Athens, GA, but its quality of output is nothing to sneer at: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Hot Water Music, and most recently Against Me! trace their roots back to Gainesville's swamps, palms and wet, sticky heat. Indeed, these groups more or less plot out the thin arc of Gainesville's music scene, which has markedly shifted in the last ten years. This is the story of that shift.
Some listeners have described Against Me! as "folk punk," which offers us a good point of entry for a survey of Gainesville's bluegrass culture. After Hot Water Music's success—notably picked up for touring with Alkaline Trio—Gainesville's milieu donned a laser focus on power chords and growling vocals. Then Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gaebel) came along and pulled back from the post-punk noise and opted for a smaller sound, if just as fast-moving.
Against Me!, "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong"
With Against Me! as banner men, the late 1990s and early 2000s saw heavy saturation of the punk and hardcore genres in Petty's Dreamville. As a result, younger musicians decided to unplug. Fiddle, banjo, stand-up bass, and dobro—instruments previously consigned to meth-country front porches—gained new life in the hands of talented players. The Stanley brothers' percussive, low picking replaced the Replacements' drunken screech as artistic inspiration. Southern gothic novels were bought.
Bluegrass and rockabilly certainly can't claim the success they once enjoyed, and I won't argue here for their aesthetic merits, which I believe unassailable with every part of my soul. Musical taste resides in the ear of the listener, and at least one other contributor to this esteemed blog shares my choice of favorite genre. What I'd like to make known is that many who emulated Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden vel sim. twenty years ago are today reinventing the Foggy Mountain Boys with impressive results. (NB: This is not to say all punk, post-punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, sass-core, rock, acid rock, prog-rock, metal, and stoner metal composition has come to a halt in the city. To be sure, Holopaw—perhaps described as prog-rock—has been featured in Burke's super-slow motion series).