Atlanta, Ga., currently has one of the most prominent music scenes in the United States. Any type of music you're looking for—from gospel, folk, christian contemporary and country to hip-hop, R&B, electronica, modern rock and indie rock—you'll find it thriving here. The latter category, indie rock, has been getting an increasing amount of national attention lately, with countless Atlanta indie bands being written about in national press outlets, touring the U.S. and abroad, appearing on late-night television shows, having their songs featured in films, and breaking through on college, independent and AAA radio stations across the country.
Some of the breakout Atlanta indie bands over the last few years include Mastodon, Deerhunter, the Black Lips, Manchester Orchestra, the Coathangers, Gringo Star, Mermaids and Gentlemen Jesse.
Mastodon, the most successful of the bunch, has opened for rock royalty like Metallica, tours large theaters and appears at some of the biggest outdoor festivals, playing a heady variety of progressive metal, complete with blistering guitar solos, sci-fi/fantasy-themed videos and plenty of references in its songs to terrifying mythical beasts.
Deerhunter, led by eccentric sonic explorer Bradford Cox, has found a unique niche for itself blending ambient and shoegaze sounds with mindbending psychedelia. The band, along with its more danceable spinoff Atlas Sound, is a critically acclaimed darling of the indie press.
"Flower-punk" band The Black Lips first gained notoriety for their over-the-top onstage antics and throwback lo-fi sound, but have grown up quite a bit over the last few years, maturing into a top-notch rock & roll band. Though they still cling to their garage-rock roots and DIY ethos, they've polished their sound just enough to reach the masses, working with Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson on their latest album, Arabia Mountain. The record has been the band's most successful to date—an hourlong rock & roll history lesson, channeling everyone from the Sonics, the Stones and The Ramones, to the The Byrds, The Strokes and even Bo Didley.
Emo-tinged Atlanta indie band Manchester Orchestra has rocked its way straight into a memorable spot on Letterman as well as an opening stints for stadium rockers Kings of Leon. Signed to their own imprint of Columbia Records, Favorite Gentlemen, they've made creatively ambitious records with an underlying flair for pop songcraft that has managed to reach beyond typical indie audiences.
Other Atlanta indie bands on the way up, include psychedelic garage rockers Gringo Star, who recently were captured in a buzzed-about feature-length European tour documentary; Mermaids, whose surfy "tropsicle" sound was recently praised by Rolling Stone; bratty yet endearing all-girl punk rockers The Coathangers; and power-pop powerhouse Gentleman Jesse.
While some of these Atlanta indie bands, like Mastodon and the Black Lips, have graduated to larger venues, you can still find their members making the occasional appearance with side projects and as special guests at tiny Atlanta rock clubs like The Earl and The Star Bar. Over the holidays last year, Mastodon frontman Brent Hinds performed at the latter with West End Motel, and Cole Alexander of the Black Lips at the former, as Old King Cole Younger. These two venues, along with East Atlanta's 529, the Drunken Unicorn and new venue The Basement form the backbone of Atlanta's increasingly sought-out indie-rock scene. If you're looking for the hottest Atlanta indie bands, you can see them here.