"Are You Alive Out There?": The Current Condition Of Rock & Roll Music

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

Since it's birth in the 1950's, Rock and Roll has been one of the most powerful forces in the American culture.  Its influence was rapid, widespread and long-term.  But what about now?  Over 60 years later, what is the current condition of rock and roll ?  Who are the young new rock and rollers and where can you hear their music? 

River Lynch and his Rickenbacker 360 6 string Electric Guitar
Photo By: Krista Marra

It's Gotta Be Rock and Roll Music

Rock and roll music, by definition, is a combination of rhythm & blues and country music involving the instrumentation of guitar, bass, and drums. Even though that definition has been stretched, molded and warped a million different ways since it's birth in the 1950's, it still stands as the backbone of what rock and roll is all about. Dangerous, wild and rebellious. This music can help free your soul and empower your independent ways of thinking. As Jim Morrison once said, obedience is suicide. There is NO room for obedience in rock and roll music.

I'm in my late 20's and grew up on music primarily from the 50's, 60's and 70's. I always get a kick out of impressing baby boomers with my passion for "their" music. The more people my age I meet, the more young people I discover that have the same musical influences as myself (and our parents). From our clothing choices to the way we cut (or don't cut) our hair and everything in between has, in some way, been directly impacted by the music we listen to. The lasting impact of those generations is obvious. However, we don't live in the past, a past we were not even a part of, but rather take the parts we like from then and apply it to now. But what about today's rock and roll music scene? Is there a scene? Who is trying to keep the rock and roll flame burning?

Well for band is, River Lynch and The Spiritmakers. But we are definitely not alone. There are some really talented bands today that are creating exciting and fresh new rock and roll, with their own unique fingerprint. Some major acts and a lot of independent bands.

Soul Survivors

There is without a doubt, a growing rock and roll scene in this futuristic world. The main stream hasn't caught on yet. But from the surface below, rock and roll may soon punch it's fist up through the coffin (not dead, just napping). There are far too many talented and passionate young rock and roll bands for it not to be heard. A good thing will always find a way.

Here are some new rock and roll bands/artists I have discovered over the past 10 years or so that I really dig and are helping keep this style of music burning into the future. A few are household names, most are not. You can hear influences from 50's, 60's & 70's rock and roll in most of these bands. However, it is authentic, fresh, diverse, and unique to their own artistry.

Gary Clark Jr., The Alabama Shakes, Kevin Morby, The Shelters, Grace Potter, Jake Bugg,

Ryan Adams, Cage The Elephant, Valerie June, Houndmouth, Jack White, JD McPherson, The Black Keys, The Mystery Lights, Greta Van Fleet, Wild Belle, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Michael Kiwanuka, Kaleo

I put together a Spotify playlist featuring songs by most of these artists (may have snuck a few of our own on there. Have a listen!)

** I know for a fact there are a lot more bands out there I forgot, overlooked, or just haven't discovered yet. That's not a very big list. So help me spread the word and comment below this article with the names of your favorite new rock and roll bands.

Photo By: Dmitry Bayer

Digital, Physical, Live (and sometimes radio)

We live in a world now where all of our entertainment can be streamed.  From Netflix for movies to Spotify for music.  This makes the opportunity to discover new rock and roll bands greater than ever.  It also means you have to dig through a lot of bullshit to find the real gems.  The modern version of filing through LP's at your local record store.  I have discovered most of the new rock and roll bands that I listen to through the likes of YouTube, Pandora, and Instagram. Believe it or not, Instagram is a good source for discovering new bands.  I strongly encourage you to search around on these sites and give the music a chance. I then go to my favorite record store to show support and buy their albums on a physical copy.  Not to mention, I like to own the physical copy. Almost nobody pays to download music anymore. Streaming is the most popular was to listen to music currently. But consider this...

As of July, Vinyl Record sales are at 7.6 Million in 2018!   Figures from Nielsen Music show that sales of LPs are up 19.2% this year.  Far from the early 2000's when the LP format was nearly extinct.  So what does this mean for new rock and roll bands?  Well, vinyl and rock and roll go together like bread and butter.  Vinyl is certainly not limited to only rock and roll.  You can have one without the other.  But rock and roll translates so perfectly to the vinyl format.  Listening to Jimi Hendrix is great.  Now, listening to Jimi Hendrix on vinyl is an experience.  The continuing growth of vinyl sales can only be a good thing for the future of new rock and roll.

Another good thing for the future of rock and roll...Live shows!  Festivals are bigger than ever these days.  Thanks to the Monterey Pop Festival (1967), Woodstock (1969) and Isle Of Wight Festival (1970) paving the way, artists in 2018 have a massive stage to expose their music to hundreds of thousands of people at once.  Many of whom, have never heard of them before that day.  Rock and roll is best experienced live.  The raw energy that can sometimes be lost during a recording session, is in full force when played to a loud screaming audience.  Festivals are essential to the continuing growth of new rock and roll music.

FM Radio was once the largest and most accessible platforms to break a new rock and roll band.  For better or for worse, that is no longer the case.  Big corporate got its greedy hands around the DJ's neck and forced them down into a generic computerized playlist.  Independent radio, however, still has its mojo.  Where I live, we are very lucky to have a hand full of great independent stations that play a wide variety of music you might not normally hear played on the FM airwaves.  Independent and college stations are still great for discovering new rock and roll bands.  Power to the people! 

Would It Kill You To Put On Some Rock And Roll?

Rock and roll music is alive and well. It may take a little searching to find, but it is out there and burning bright. As long as I'm alive, it's alive. There's probably a lot of people that feel that way. Good! I hope so. It's obvious that rock and roll is not on the top of the charts right now (notice I said "right now" instead of "anymore"). It would be great to see new rock and roll music celebrated as much as some of the other current genres. There's a big hole in America's Popular Culture where rock and roll use to be. Don't you think it's time for it be there again? Indie and Alternative bands are still readily heard. And that's great. But what about straight-to-the-soul rock and roll? The world is big enough for a million different styles of music to co-exists and intermingle with each other. It's a customized world these days, and that's a cool thing. It's not an attack on other genres. Labeling a style of music isn't that important anyways. As an artist, being open minded is essential to my survival. It's not that I don't like other genres of music, but...would it kill you to put on some rock and roll?

*Please comment below with your suggestions of any new rock and roll band/artist that you dig from the past 10 years*

**An example of new rock and roll...Gary Clark Jr.

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