Seattle grunge, 1991. Chicago alt-rock, 1995. Manchester coke-pop, 1982. New York punk, 1977. The histories of pop and rock music alike have been defined by what happened almost as often as where it happened.
The internet may have largely killed the exclusiveness of local music and (thankfully) destroyed the notions of having to move to New York/L.A./some other talent-crammed city to succeed, but certain styles and municipalities have always gone ahead and built some very lasting and fruitful scenes in the past, and for sure in the future as well.
Metal has more famously been the work of bands from either the Deep South or Scandinavia, but over the past few years New England has very quietly churned out some of the finest heavy bands to hit the big time in recent memory: Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, Shadows Fall and The Acacia Strain, to name a few. Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza may get more of the headlines, but the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival is in its tenth year, making it one of the longest-running festivals in the country (and at 2,100 seats, possibly one of the largest non-Ozzfest metal masses). Perhaps the constant existence of a nearby sport dynasty brings out Northeasterners' angry side; the more likely explanation is the uniformly awful weather simply forces them to go back inside and rock the gray away.
Most people like to equate Miami with fake tans, gaudy colors and tacky 1980s-style excess. Those people are mostly accurate, but also missing out on a network of talent that is slowly but surely raising Magic City's stock in the world of jazz. Looking to do for the genre what Buddy Guy for blues in Chicago, the legendary Arturo Sandoval opened his club in 2006 and hosts world-class and top-flight local acts almost nightly. The city's large Cuban and Hispanic populations have also created a massive community of ethnic-jazz fusion groups, most notably the geographically transcendental Pan Con Bistec.
Chalk it up to stereotypes about just who lives in the Pacific Northwest, but Portland's hip-hop scene has kept a surprisingly low profile considering the sheer number of respected acts the city has produced: Reparations, Cool Nutz, Lifesavas, Spearhead and Octavia Harris, among others. But in a city still defined by its "Pacific Atlanta" racial lines and the Jim Crow approach to how clubs are allowed to operate, it's hard to see anything emerging from the City of Roses' hip-hop community while it's still relegated to the back of the city's cultural bus.
Meanwhile across the globe, the ultimate historical effect of the end of the Cold War remains unknown, but one clear winner has already emerged: Russian prog-rockers. Gorky Park
notwithstanding, rock music from Mother Russia never really made it out of Soviet borders due to the fact that Melodya, the only major label in the country, was also run by the government. As Soviet Supreme power faded, bands like Catharsis, Butterfly Temple and Disen Gage have been steadily making headway worldwide, playing festivals across Europe and the United States. Even Aria, the band once referred to as "the Russian Iron Maiden," were reborn (both figuratively and literally) twice as both Master and Kipelov; not only do they share Aria's style, but also employ most of its former members.
Finally, the sound may be remarkably dated but the polka scene is surprisingly alive and well in – try to act surprised here – Wisconsin. Keeping alive such hallowed events as the tourist-fave Wisconsin Dells Polish Fest and the four-day State Polka Festival, over 135 polka bands are (or are at least believed to be) active in the Badger State, a number which by most accounts would be more than anyone would possibly think were active in the entire world. Would you believe Carol and the Keynotes are booked three months in advance? Would you believe Jeff Heinz' weekly five-hour Polka Jamboree on WDEZ (Wassau's great country!) has been on the air for 23 years? Would you believe over a million people visit the Wisconsin Polka Music website annually? Of course not, which is why it's so unfathomable yet totally logical that deep in the heart of cheese and Point Special country, a community could exist able to turn irony on its head not by embracing a style of music it shouldn't like, but instead by embracing a style of music it truly enjoys.
So what of it? Does a style need a scene to survive? In some respects yes, as most bands still earn their following the old-fashioned way, i.e. one stage at a time. Given the preponderance of online music outlets and promotional tools, sharing the bill with Joey Local Hero just can't possibly go as far as it used to. By the same token, very few acts ever made it without an ally or two – unless you're in a hardcore polka band, in which case you're on your own until the rest of San Francisco catches up with you.