The Triangle: America’s Most Underrated Music Scene

First off, what the hell is The Triangle? Technically speaking, it’s shorthand for Research Triangle Park, a massive slab of subtly rolling hills in the center of North Carolina that’s home to a whole mess of tech companies. Informally, however, it refers to the cities and college towns surrounding the RTP, namely Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Most fans of indie music are well aware of the area’s bona fides: It is (or at one time was) the home of Superchunk and the Merge Records empire, a young Ben Folds Five, cult faves Archers of Loaf, and John Darnielle, the super-learned tunesmith behind The Mountain Goats, who just dropped their latest album, the wonderfully idiosyncratic Goths.

So yeah, The Triangle is highly respected as a place where important music is created. At the same time, the region is underrated because it doesn’t quite strike the same level of reverence and cool as the similarly sized Seattle, Austin, or Portland. Perhaps its greatest quality is the sheer breadth of music it has churned out: In addition to all that legendary indie music, it has been a home for genre-defining thrash (Corrosion of Conformity), punk blues (Flat Duo Jets), swing revivalism (Squirrel Nut Zippers), hip-hop (Lords of the Underground), electro-pop (Sylvan Esso), and experimental noise (Secret Boyfriend).

Now, a good deal of this music exists because The Triangle overflows with creative kids and arty weirdos attending one of its gazillion universities. But that’s only half the story, amazingly enough: It’s also served as a major hub for Southern vernacular music, like blues, country, and folk, since the early 20th century. Indeed, these artists may actually outnumber the many indie and alternative bands in the area. In addition to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of the most lauded old-time revival outfits in the United States, there’s campfire folk troubadour Hiss Golden Messenger, absurdly soulful singer/songwriter Tift Merritt, and American Primitive banjoist Nathan Bowles.

Outside of Austin, or perhaps Memphis, what other scene in the U.S. boasts such an amazing balance between the modern and cutting edge and the folksy and down-home? The Dowsers guarantee that this will be the only playlist you’ll hear all week with synths, atonal guitars, and banjos.

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