By: Anand Harsh
I grew up a jam band kid in the midwest. My introduction to dance music came early on through Massive Attack, The Chemical Brothers, The Orb, and more, but by my teens and early 20's, my listening palette was skewed heavily towards The Dead, Phish, and Umphrey's. Which would explain why a good guitar solo will still give me the chills.
My reintroduction to EDM came courtesy of jam-heavy acts blurring the lines between electronica and rock. A particularly choice "Triple Wide" from Umphrey's led me to The New Deal. From there, The Disco Biscuits, Lotus, STS9, and a wide world of genre-bending jams was suddenly opened up.
While production is at its peak as far as the ultimate in music technology not only becoming affordable, but democratized to the point where 12-year-olds are asking for Ableton for Christmas, instead of a shitty Epiphone to thrash around with in the basement; it still impresses the hell out of me to see talented, technical musicians absolutely shredding on stage. Which is the crux behind this list.
We informally polled our fans to find out which guitarists are performing at the highest levels when it comes to not only producing dance music tracks in the studio, but playing the shit out of their axes in a live setting. It's not an exhaustive list, nor is it necessarily a demarcation of whose chops are up-to-snuff. More than that, it's about which guitarist is making chills run up and down our spines every time they set foot on stage.
10. Kevin Donohue - SunSquabi
We've been on board with the Boulder trio since they burst onto the scene. In a remarkably short amount of time, the livetronica act featuring Mr. Donohue on the six-string has not only built a rabid fan base, they've managed to carve out huge cross-country tours--the most recent culminating in a jam-packed Terminal West in Atlanta (far from home) in the middle of last month. Hungry and talented, the improv skills of Kevin Donohue are impressive, to say the least.
9. Anthony Thogmartin - Papadosio
Fronting one of the fastest-growing acts in the scene is Papadosio's Anthony Thogmartin. Between producing as EarthCry, and working with the Brouse brothers to delicately layer intricate melodies and harmonies (not to mention handling lead vocal duties), Thogmartin's solos soar high above climactic jams from the five-piece at festivals, clubs, and theaters all over the country. After years of steady touring, the interplay between the guitarist and his band is seamless. It's a damn machine.
8. Eric Mendelson - Gramatik / Exmag
As a rotating member of Denis Jasarevic's Gramatik outfit, Eric Mendelson has now taken his blues-based riffage to new heights as a member of the sexy, synth-pop, indie, dance-your-ass-off-'cause-we-don't-know-what-to-call-it act Exmag. An integral part of Denis' "bluestep" movement, the multi-talented Mendelson is breaking new ground with the boys from Brooklyn.
7. Marcus Rezak - Digital Tape Machine
I first became aware of Marcus Rezak through his lead guitar work with the Chicago-based prog-metal-jazz quartet The Hue (the song "Don Johnson" from their Unscene EP will, to borrow a phrase from Joe Rogan, "knock your dick in the dirt, son"). He was recruited into the supergroup Digital Tape Machine featuring a laundry list of the Second City's most technically proficient players (including Kris Meyers and Joel Cummins from Umphrey's McGee), and now spearheads the wildly imaginative act's all out video game music assault. They just set the Red Barn at Summer Camp on fire last weekend, and have added some more festival dates in the coming months.
6. Derek VanScoten - D.V.S*
Derek VanScoten has really found his sound over the past few years. An unbelievably good session player and a masterful mandolinist, to boot, his journey has taken him through bass-intensive, proto-prog bangers to these remarkably airy, and crisply beautiful remixes of classics that float and flutter with marvel and mystery. I'm telling you, this guy is a wizard.
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