Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Musical Beards

A few years ago I noticed a trend that seemed to be growing steadily in the indie-rock music business. No, it wasn't overproduced pop garbage and it wasn't boy bands or skinny jeans or trucker hats. It was beards. Beards everywhere. Everyone seemed to have one. It was almost as if you couldn't be taken seriously as a musician if you didn't have a Rock-Beard. For awhile, everyone was just unshaven with two or three days growth and that was the style, but something changed in each musician and suddenly, or actually slowly, thick beards began to emerge like Rumplestiltskin from his slumber.

That was about two and a half years ago and the trend hasn't gone away and two and half years is long time for a trend to stick around in the music business. The beards continue to flourish and seem to have become their own entities in marketing the musician on whose face they grow. At one point, I even had one, just to see what it was like. After it grew in it took me about 3 months to realize that it was too hot and uncomfortable to have on my face.

I compiled a short list of current bands and musicians who sport rock beards, or who rock sporty beards and other facial hair styles and have followed the list with another list of musicians who were bearding it long before them. You can mix and match them, if you like, to see which contemporary band goes with it's classic Rock counterpart. Have fun.

Because I just moved from San Diego, CA I'll start with my personal favorite, Dirty Sweet. I first encountered this band at the San Diego Music Awards and to be honest when I saw them I thought they were cast members for the remake of “Almost Famous”, but when I heard them I liked there tunes ok. They played Rock ‘n’ Roll. Not indie rock, not blues rock, but just good ‘ol rough-edged Rock. You’ll also notice in the picture of Dirty Sweet, a hair sub-trend, the “straight-long-hair-parted-down-the-middle” look:


Next we’ll move onto a band called Band of Horses. I just listened to some of their songs on their website. Not bad, but what is important here is that Band of Horses refuses to be tied down to any trend band wagon. They’re seen in the photo below representing each stage of Rock facial hair. Clean shaven, a few days growth, and the full beard:


Next is a band I discovered on a random Charlotte music website that I can’t remember, but I will remember the band. This band has done things right. They've got a catchy name, 2013 Wolves; their Myspace website features a pack of rabid wolves in the background, the "four wolves of the apocalypse", I assume, and they’ve got some cool beards. I just listened to their stuff. Pretty exciting:


Ok, let's get away from the Rock category for a second and get into the Roots-Rock category. Roots-Rock is a place where, in my opinion you can find the most backwoods facial hair growth.

First up in this category is another Charlotte, North Carolina based band called the New Familiars, a band whose music mixes acoustic folk styles with a little electricity. I like their stuff and they also feature a strong variety of hair growths. In this group you’ll find: long beards with long hair, short beards with short hair and everything in between. Bravo:


Next up we have, ME. This is a photo of me during a very long layover in New York on my way to play festivals in Italy. The beard was fun to grow, but it was July in Italy and close to 90 degrees and I came to hate it. I got stopped by Italian Police on my way back from the festival late one night. And the trooper kept glancing back and forth from me to my license as my driver was nervously explaining to him that I was a musician. Not a great time to have a Rock-Beard:


Here’s a photo of a friend of mine, Ben Prestage, from Florida. We competed together at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. This guy is a serious musician. He plays a cigar box guitar plugged into two amps and sets up almost an entire drum set and plays it with his feet, one foot for the kick drum the other foot’s heel and toe playing high hat and a snare balanced up on it’s side, struck with a kick drum mallet. He’s the real deal and so is his beard:


Below is Black Keys front man Dan Aurbach who has just released his new solo album. He started out playing in the Black Keys clean-shaven, but found that he couldn’t quite achieve the sound he wanted, so he opted for more facial hair. Aurbach keeps his hair cut short and also crosses trends with the stingy-brim fedora. Good move Dan!:


I have to pay respects to the home state favorites and so, last but not least, comes The Avett Brothers. Their sound is raw, their shows are entertaining and their Roots Rock beards are great. The Avett brothers keep you on your toes. Seth and Scott feature the “long-straight-hair-parted-down-the-middle” look with shorter beards, but also sport the thick “Gentleman-Lumberjack" look. Excellent:


Now comes the “Legends of Rock-Beards” match up:

First we’ll start with the late, great Sam Chatmon, who I’m sure most of you have never heard of. He was a member of one of the greatest string bands of all time, called the Mississippi Sheiks, whose songs were covered by numerous rock bands in the 60’s.


Next is Canned Heat who probably covered a few of Sam Chatmon's tunes. They have huge "beardal" variety.


Credence Clearwater Revival from California. Mop top, mustaches, long hair and of course Rock-Beard. Ahh, CCR.


Next is The Band. Also a good mix of hair and facial hair styles.


We can't forget Lynrd Skynrd. One of Southern Rock's finest and with a splendid hair variety:


The great Allman Brothers Band. Another Southern Rock giant. Good Rock-Beards and nice display of the "long-straight-hair-parted-down-the-middle" look:


And of course, no Rock-Beard list would be complete without the reigning Rock-Beard champs, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top: