You try to keep up with the buzz. The hype. The hotness. You constantly stream 30-second song clips and scour online music reviews in an effort to avoid the indignity of publicly mistaking The Arcade Fire for a tragic conflagration at Dave & Buster's.
But it can be hard work distinguishing Black Kids from The Cool Kids or She & Him from Him & Her. Thankfully, the 94/9 Independence Jam offers multiple buzz bands in one sitting. In addition to stellar local acts (like The Muslims and Transfer), the lineup is brimming with talent—and hype. But, lest you confuse MGMT with MSTRKRFT, here's a guide to the Jam bands that'll either be tomorrow's stars or yesterday's news.
Cold War Kids
Under the Influence: Tom Waits, Velvet Underground, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead
You Know Them From: Coachella, SXSW, tour with Tapes 'n Tapes, glowing (Rolling Stone) and dismissive (Pitchfork) reviews and being a band from Fullerton that sounds (thematically, at least) like a band from Biloxi.
Buzz Meter: Ranges from weak-kneed adoration to haughty disdain, depending on which music rags you read and whether or not you think “derivative” is a dirty word.
Staying Power: It's been two years since the band's debut (Robbers & Cowards), and anticipation is high (among fans and detractors alike) for their next effort. The Kids catch flak and fancy on every shit-talking music forum in the blogosphere, but their sound is distinct enough to keep the Cold War heated.
Under the Influence: The Pogues, Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash
You Know Them From: Warped Tour; their fiery songs about drinking, politics and Catholicism (Irish, much?); and the Carlsbad pub (Hensley's Flying Elephant) owned by the accordionist. Yes, I said the accordionist.
Buzz Meter: High, for them. Their new album, Float, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 en route to garnering several rave reviews.
Staying Power: Molly has come a long way since I saw them play a party at the University of Portland in 2001. They'll never be U2, but they've broken into the outer banks of the mainstream while building a loyal following akin to a more house-broken version of Dropkick Murphys.
The Hold Steady
Under the Influence: Hüsker Dü, Bruce Springsteen, Mountain Goats
You Know Them From: Lifter Puller, fawning praise (Blender, SPIN, Village Voice) and song placement (from Tony Hawk's Project 8 to Aqua Teen Hunger Force).
Buzz Meter: Holding steady. The band's last three albums all received warm critical receptions but the upcoming Stay Positive might make or break any mainstream aspirations.
Staying Power: You can't live on critical praise and celebrity fans (like Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe) forever. Or maybe you can.
Under the Influence: Air, The Flaming Lips, The Rolling StonesYou Know Them From: Coachella, SXSW, The Late Show With David Letterman, being a 2008 Rolling Stone “artist to watch” and opening 21 with “Time to Pretend.”
Buzz Meter: The hype has tempered after sizzling for months, but MGMT is still milking plenty of kudos (and tour dates) out of their debut, Oracular Spectacular.
Staying Power: There's still MTV tread on the Oracular Spectacular tires, and inking a four-album deal with Columbia/Sony will likely solidify their continued presence.
Under the Influence: Techno and norteño (hence the “Nortec”)
You Know Them From: Tijuana. Latin Grammys (nominated twice), remixes (Beck, Lenny Kravitz), commercials (Volvo, Dell, Nissan), video games (2006 FIFA World Cup) and a film (Tijuana Makes Me Happy) named after their song.
Buzz Meter: Locally, huge. But they're not exactly slouches on the world stage, either, with high-profile appearances in New York, London and Paris on their résumé. Plus, the new album (Tijuana Sound Machine) is getting the critical dry-hump treatment.
Staying Power: There isn't a huge mainstream market for Mexican electronica in the U.S., but Nortec has enough global (and commercial) appeal to still make a killing on the dance floor.
Under the Influence: Pixies, '80s pop, M.I.A., the kitchen sink
You Know Her From: Internet buzz, being named a 2008 “artist to watch” by everyone (Rolling Stone, SPIN) and their mom (BBC). Tours with M.I.A. and Bjork, collabos with Lily Allen and Julian Casablancas, MTV airplay and having the only good thing (“L.E.S. Artistes”) to come out of those Bud Light Lime commercials.
Buzz Meter: High. In addition to oodles of positive press, “Creator” and “L.E.S. Artistes” have magnetized people who've always wanted Nelly Furtado, Cyndi Lauper, M.I.A. and Gwen Stefani to be thrown in a blender (in a good way).
Staying Power: Santo's genre-hopping makes her a tougher sell, but her originality also gives her a better chance than, say, Lady Sovereign of surviving the straightjacket of estrogen-based electro/hip-hop.
The Ting Tings
Under the Influence: Talking Heads, Blondie, Dresden Dolls
You Know Them From: The hype mill, Later with Jools Holland, SXSW, NME and an iPod commercial (“Shut Up and Let Me Go”).
Buzz Meter: Ridiculously high for a band that just released its debut. Critics on both sides of the pond have done some heavy petting on the British duo's almost oppressively peppy We Started Nothing. It doesn't hurt that both Jules De Martino (drums/vocals) and Katie White (guitar/vocals) are easy on the eyes.
Staying Power: It doesn't help that the two have been in at least four bands (TKO, Babakoto, Mojo Pin and Dear Eskiimo) that broke up before releasing a full album. But, as the hype suggests, they're still striking enough chords to carry them to a second album.
Under the Influence: Pavement, The Replacements, Superchunk
You Know Them From: Their hometown (Athens, Ga.) and its status for incubating R.E.M., The B-52s and Elephant 6. Being named an “artist to watch” (way back in 2006) by Rolling Stone, making regular late-night (Letterman, Conan, etc.) appearances and signing to Dave Matthews' ATO label.
Buzz Meter: Lower than most. They have new material (Mission Control) to pimp, but thus far the album hasn't reached stratospheric heights of hype.
Staying Power: While the band's output has been met favorably to date, you can only be an “artist to watch” for so long before people turn their eyes (and ears) elsewhere. The FM 94/9 Independence Jam begins at 1 pm on Sunday, June 8, at the Devore Stadium Field at Southwestern College in Chula Vista. 619-232-HELL. www.independencejam.com.