Back in the day, these guys would play every weekend, every festival, and they kicked such ass. Then they, like, got lives or something. Come back! Make more things for me!

5. Anchor Arms – from the outside they may not have seemed so distinguished from any Gainesville late-aughts beardpunk band, but their reign of terror coincided with the years I left campus for downtown and started going to shows. I got to see them as a 3-piece, a 4-piece, and a 5-piece, I think, and it was like getting to sit in on a band-dynamics class. I learned a lot about how to watch live music from Anchor Arms. I saw their last show and it was the first time that I realized that there was such a thing as last shows—that bands were real things with beginnings and ends. But surprise! They just released a new free album this January! I just found out about that right now.

Poison Arrows

4. Liza Kate – she recently had an acting role in the movie The Comedy staring Tim Heidecker, but before that she was part of Josh Small and Tim Barry’s Richmond scene. She released her album Don’t Let the Dogs in 2009 and has a mini-live-album from 2010 up on her bandcamp, but was (as far as I know) last heard guesting on Josh Small’s 2010 album Juke. Her strumming was mellow and her voice not overly dramatic, but she could make a room shut up and listen, she made devastation very appealing.

O Sally!

3. Mike Hale – how many people have you seen Austin Lucas harmonize with? Probably enough to start their own township. But nobody paired quite like Austin Lucas and Mike Hale. Hale’s deep gravelly voice, guitar submerged in minor chords, and his confessional lyrics made him one of the saddest songwriters I’ve ever seen. I used to think he was way too sad-sack, but looking back I think he had a really brave and interesting project going. I would love the chance to see him and Austin sing together again. A download of Hale’s solo album is still available for free from Suburban Home.

Lives Like Mine (live w/ Austin Lucas)

2. Sarah Dougher – I never saw Sarah Dougher play live, but her albums Day One (1999), The Walls Ablaze (2000), and The Bluff (2001) are among my favorites. Working from Portland, she made literate, punk-inspired, jangly-but-severe, pop songs. Since those albums, she’s gone on to be a full-on academic–teaching at Portland State, working with girls rock camps, publishing about feminist issues in music, even traveling to Bahrain as a guest of the US Embassy to teach music to Bahraini girls. Her latest musical projects have been a song-suite based around the poems of the late Leslie Scalapino, a soundtrack to a local production of The Orestes by Euripides, and a concept album about The Odyssey called Harpers Arrow. She’s a hero. Whenever I think of her, it inspires me to not give up on making an academic and artistic life out of the subjects that I care about. It can be done. But I like pop songs a lot and would love another batch.

The Ground Below

1. Christina Wagner – the only words I’ve probably ever said to Christina Wagner were “do you have an album yet?” and that makes me feel like a jerk. I said them often. But her songs are great and I thought the way the world works is that there has to be an album. Chris Wollard was going to produce it at one point. Her shows are always winners–amazing murder ballads, gorgeous Johnny Cash covers, and some badass spanish-guitar-like finger-picking. She still plays shows, so it’s not like she disappeared, but she’s on this list because I really want that album. Last I’ve heard, she opened her own cafe in Jacksonville, so I bet that place is the best. If anybody has any Christina Wagner demos or recordings, please send them my way. She had a tour EP with Austin Lucas, right?

a full set of Christina Wagner

Who do you wish was still working on the reg?

Author: Mike Ostrov

Mike Ostrov relays the history of popular song on message boards and under rocks.


  1. Gill Landry/The Kitchen Syncopotars – Gill is still active with Old Crow Medicine Show, but his solo work and the work with his former band, the Kitchen Syncopators, was so bone chilling good.

    The Reeltime Travelers – a folky string band that put out two great albums in the early 2000s.

    Truckstop Darlin – apparently from their Twitter feed they have disbanded and formed a new band, Komanche. I hope the new band is anywhere close as good.

    The Only Sons – Kent’s solo work doesn’t pack the same bunch as the full band.

    Bill Withers – I just would like for Bill to do some last album that blows everyone’s minds. Rick Ruben, I’m looking at you.

  2. I caught the Murder City Devils show in February in DC. It really just made me wish that I had gotten to see them in their heyday. The show just wasn’t what I was hoping it would be.

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