I was stuck in an airport for a few hours last weekend, so I found myself in a newstand, which is pretty typical for me.
Surprisingly, they were pretty low on music magazines, but one cover in particular caught my eye. Q Magazine (a British publication) was advertising their “100 greatest frontmen” list along with a photo of Bono. I made a purchase.
In the end, their list was pretty good, even if I think it was a bit Brit-heavy (Liam Gallagher of Oasis, Damon Albarn of Blur and Matt Bellamy of Muse made the top 10 undeservedly, in my opinion).
But the one thing they missed almost completely was indie rock. Everybody else was on the list (from Kurt Cobain to Perry Ferrell to Little Richard) but I didn’t see anyone like Craig Finn from the Hold Steady or Ben Gibbard from Death Cab/The Postal Service. The absence of those names and others bugged me.
So, here it is, my list of my 10 favorite indie rock frontmen…
10. Ezra Koenig
>> He is: The leader of the poppy, preppy fellas in Vampire Weekend, Koenig exudes that cardigan-and-plaid-shorts-wearing aura that makes us all love that band. Oh, and his bright guitar style lends perfectly to the groups sound. And style.
>> Did you know: The band is named after a short film Koenig and his friends made during summer vacation.
9. Brian Fallon
>> He is: The tatted-up frontman of The Gaslight Anthem looks like he came right out of the blue-collar Jersey-life songs he sings every night. He once did one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen a frontman do: broke up a fight from the stage by telling them they were both morons and threatening to kick both their asses if he had to. Completely badass.
>> Did you know: Often likened to Bruce Springsteen, the band has performed with him several times. The Boss jumped onstage and helped Fallon sing “The 59 Sound” at 2009′s Glastonbury festival.
8. Jim James
>> He is: The bearded one seems like a kooky guy with his high voice and weird, trippy songs. I mean, have you heard “Highly Suspicious?” Weird tune. But it’s also freaking awesome, as are the rest of My Morning Jacket’s weird-ass music. He was even better when rounded out by the three other guys in Monsters of Folk.
>> Did you know: As one of his biggest influences, James claims “The Muppet Show.” No joke.
7. Ben Gibbard
>> He is: He made us all warm and fuzzy with Death Cab For Cutie and then he made one of the best records in the last 10 years with The Postal Service. This is one man that knows how to write a song, even if, as a frontman, he’s not the most outgoing guy in the world.
>> Did you know: Gibbard and collaborator Jimmy Tamborello named their project The Postal Service because they made the record by mailing tapes back and forth through the mail.
6. Samuel Beam
>> He is: Beam writes quiet songs. He’s a quiet guy. But under the name Iron & Wine, Beam is the almighty purveyor of the heartfelt tune. I mean, even the stuff on his b-sides and rarities album, “Around the Well,” is freaking incredible. And that’s supposed to be the not-as-good stuff. Sheesh.
>> Did you know: Beam graduated with an MFA and was a painter, then was a professor of film at a university before he released his debut on Sub Pop.
5. Brian King
>> He is: It doesn’t take five or six guys with a bunch of guitars and bass and double kickdrums to be loud. Nope, Brian King and buddy David Prowse (not the guy who played Darth Vader in Star Wars… different David Prowse) do it all as just a duo. King very literally throws himself around stage, all while keeping the songs together with his guitar playing. There’s no one to fill in if he screws up. But he never does. Not to mention those lyrics that make you cringe a little, but then nod in understanding.
>> Did you know: The band name came from a portmanteau (look it up) of two other names: Japanese Scream and Pleasure Droids.
4. Tim Kasher
>> He is: Anyone who has seen Cursive knows Kasher’s penchant for going on extensive monologues in between sets. All the while, he keeps Cursive playing tightly. And emotive. And intensely. Kasher’s presence onstage is what makes a Cursive show a Cursive show.
>> Did you know: Kasher was part of Slowdown Virginia, an early influence of a lot of the early Saddle Creek bands and namesake of SC’s venue, Slowdown.
3. Henry Rollins
>> He is: Is there anyone more intense than the once-frontman of hardcore band Black Flag? Later forming Rollins Band, which wasn’t quite as good, this guy performs in nothing more than his tattoos and a pair of athletic shorts. No shoes. No shirt. Just full-blown rock ‘n’ roll.
>> Did you know: He’s coming to Omaha on one of his spoken word tours on June 26 at Sokol Auditorium.
2. Craig Finn
>> He is: The characters that populate Hold Steady songs may not live lives exactly like ours, but man we can relate to them, whether it’s about drugs or sex or hanging out at a rock show. Finn writes these mini epics and speak-sings his way through them, leading the band on in their effort at being the best bar band around.
>> Did you know: The Hold Steady is headed to Omaha on July 6 at Slowdown.
1. Jeff Tweedy
>> He is: Wilco is a band, but we all know that it’s Tweedy’s band. By the end of nearly every song he’s done, you’re sitting there nodding your head and thinking, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” It’s a talent that few have. Also, his solo shows are a treat. They include a mix of tour stories and music and cover everything he’s done from Uncle Tupelo to Wilco to Golden Smog to Loose Fur.
>> Did you know: The original name for Uncle Tupelo was The Primitives, but they had to change it because someone else was already using the name.