One of the many unique things about the State College bar scene is that there are a bevy of musical acts that will light up the stage on any given night, and for the most part, they’re all unique. Some bands are your stereotypical top-40 cover bands, while other will play blues and soul music. Really, if you’re into a certain genre of music, it’s almost definitely covered at some bar around town.
With that in mind, we decided to rank the seven best bar bands in State College. This list isn’t gospel, it’s just one asshole’s rankings of the various bands in this town. You’re probably going to disagree. I respect that.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Carter
Let’s face it, at this point in his career, AC is essentially a State College bar band. He’s played two shows here in the last calendar year, and nobody would be surprised if he tweeted “AYE PENN ST!!!!! Ur boy AC is coming 2 INDIGO! C U May 3!!!!!” sometime tomorrow. As Onward State’s resident Aaron Carter expert, I would love this, and I think he should move to Happy Valley to perform full-time.
The inherent issue with Lowjack is while their music is awesome, it doesn’t really translate to the whole bar scene thing. Songs like “Under the Bridge” and “Johnny B. Goode” are fantastic songs, and Lowjack does an excellent job covering them, but they aren’t as appealing to the average college aged bargoer as, say, a Katy Perry or Lady Gaga song. Despite all this, there are few bands that are better for those who want to sit back and listen to some live music while they hang out with their friends than Lowjack.
6) Shake Shake Shake
As long as there are 21-24 year olds who like to drink and party, bands like Shake Shake Shake will exist. The generic college top-40 cover band that belts out whatever is on the top of the iTunes charts that week. And “Wagon Wheel.” Bands that play in State College will belt out “Wagon Wheel” until the end of eternity.
The only reason that Shake Shake Shake is lower than some of their other top-40 cover band contemporaries like My Hero Zero and Go Go Gadjet is that Shake Shake Shake isn’t really a State College cover band, but rather a band that plays covers in State College, among other places. Plus they don’t really have the name power of the other two, which is unfortunate, because they’re a solid band.
It’s incredibly unfortunate that this band isn’t more well-known, because they’re easily my favorite band on this list and it’s not even close. Sure, you’ll hear a stereotypical cover like “Seven Nation Army,” but they’re the only band who will belt out an old Rolling Stone’s song right after they play “Ball and Biscuit” by The White Stripes.
Also, the lead guitarist — Ted McCloskey — is one of the 10 or 15 best guitarists I’ve ever heard. The dude can shred, as can his bandmates. They’re the premier rock/blues band in town, and if I had to recommend one band for everyone reading this list to check out, it’d be them.
This band is still pretty new to the State College music scene, but they’ve blown up recently, especially after their fantastic performance last weekend at THON. The group kind of has the indie-rock scene at Penn State cornered, belting out songs by bands like The Killers, Weezer, and Third Eye Blind, along with plenty of original material. Everyone in the band is a talented musician or vocalist, and there’s a chance that the next time an OSer compiles this list, they’re viewed as the best band in town.
Public Domain is awesome. Their set list from THON may be my favorite set list that any of these bands have ever performed, and like Lenina Crowne, they’re all really good musicians. They’re perfect for people who love 90’s alt-rock one hit wonders like Deep Blue Something and Spin Doctors, and let’s face it, who doesn’t love belting out the chorus of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” when you’re hanging out with your group of friends, especially after you’ve had a Tonto or five at Darkhorse?
2) Go Go Gadjet
1) My Hero Zero
One and two are, in some order, My Hero Zero and Go Go Gadjet. They epitomize the college bar band. Are they the most talented musicians? I think they’d be the first to say they’re not. Do they play eclectic set lists filled with deep, introspective music? Nope. Their sets aren’t meant to do that.
Instead, both of these bands understand that their primary goal is to make sure people have an awesome time. Sure, other bands may play songs that appeal to more people, but after a few drinks, who doesn’t rock out to My Hero Zero’s cover of “Scotty Doesn’t Know” or “Ignition (Remix),” or go wild during a Go Go Gadjet power hour? These bands are fun, which I would argue for a college bar band is the most important thing.
You can rank them however you want, but it’s hard to deny that when you think of bar bands in State College, these bands are the first two to pop up.
Are there any bands we missed? Let us know in the comments.