23. Louisville, Kentucky, USA
One of the hippest cities in the American South, Louisville, Kentucky slowly blossomed into a welcoming metropolis for independent minded bands, artists and music.
Nicknamed the ‘Derby City’ by some (it hosts the annual Kentucky Derby), Louisville is home to a thriving alternative music scene which came to underground prominence in the 1980s, spawning the likes of No Fun and Squirrel Bait.
After the influential Squirrel Bait split, two of their members, Britt Walford and Brian McMahan, would go on to form a band named Slint. Though they went largely unnoticed during their brief lifespan, Slint are now widely acclaimed as one of America’s most innovative and outright brilliant bands, and clear progenitors of the post-rock movement that emerged in the 1990s.
Slint released just two studio albums, 1988’s Tweez and the record widely seen as their magnum opus, 1991’s claustrophobic masterpiece Spiderland. After releasing a self-titled EP in 1994 they quietly split up, but the band’s members have been active in the music scene ever since, Walford going on to play drums in The Breeders, McMahan forming The For Carnation and David Pajo playing with a range of different bands including Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Slint reformed in 2005 to play a series of dates, and have toured several times since, but no new music has been forthcoming.
The guys from Slint found a kindred spirit in Will Oldham, a charismatic songwriter and actor from the state. Oldham, who has resided in Louisville for long periods of his life, released some mighty fine music under a variety of different monikers in the early 1990s, including Palace Music, Palace Brothers and his own name.
Oldham has largely settled on using the name Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy since 1998 for the majority of his recorded output, and his widely respected songwriting ability saw the title track from his first full-length album as Bonnie, I See A Darkness, was covered by the late Johnny Cash on American III: Solitary Man. Oldham’s music spans from spare folk in the Appalachian tradition, country, Americana and noisy alternative rock. He has acted in films including John Sayle’s Matewan and shot the iconic cover shot of Slint’s Spiderland album, a black and white photograph of the band treading water in a local quarry.
In recent years the likes of My Morning Jacket have ensured that Louisville keeps its hard-earned place at the cutting edge of the alternative rock scene, and the city also hosts several music and arts festivals, including the popular Forecastle Festival (a three-day music, art and environmental activism festival taking place at Louisville Waterfront Park) and Abbey Road on the River, a earnest celebration of The Beatles’ greatness.
Associated acts: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Slint, Squirrel Bait, Gastr del Sol, The For Carnation, My Morning Jacket, Flaw