Years ago, when landing in Jacksonville International Airport, the first thing you would notice were all of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival pictures and posters of every year, covering the terminal walls with their vibrant colors and illustrated musicians. Now, when you land in the airport, the walls have advertisements for new homes or universities.

The jazz posters seemed to have faded away. Jacksonville does still have the Jazz Festival every year and it is still incredibly popular, bringing in people from all over the nation. The lack of pictures in the airport, though, is one way of showing Jacksonville is no longer known for just the jazz: The city’s music taste is changing.

As with any big city, Jacksonville has undergone many transformations in its music scene in the past decade or so and it is continuing to evolve and broaden. There are more artists from different genres being brought in to all kinds of venues around the city, giving residents more of a chance to explore and get into different types of music that they would never have previously considered. It is shocking, however, to look at the enormous music-trend changes that have happened in merely the past two years alone.

Going back a bit and looking at the late nineties, we had our nu-metal phase after Limp Bizkit exploded all over the world. Then, we entered an alternative rock and pop-punk phase, after Jacksonville bands such as Yellowcard, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Shinedown hit the scene. We stayed in that scene for a while, as well as still keeping true to our southern roots by listening to country and southern rock. Everyone was pretty stuck within their genres. If you had a guy who was all about his screamo-music, he would never think of coming near someone who listened to country.

Two years ago, if you wanted to find any electronic music, you really had to actively hunt for hours on end, scouring foreign websites to find music that was big in other countries, as most of it was virtually unheard of here. If you were to play any electro, the general response was “What on earth is this shiz?” and it would be turned off.

God forbid you were to mention dubstep, or you’d hear “Who the heck are ‘Dubstep’? I’ve never heard that band,” or the most common joke, “Bro, it sounds like transformers killing each other!” – cue incessant laughter. In just a year, all of that has changed. Electronic music is blowing up in Jacksonville. Freebird, one of Jacksonville’s main music venues, has brought in huge-name DJ/producers in the past few months, such as Skrillex and Diplo (neither of whom were known by most Jax residents a year ago) who are now heard of by virtually everyone, and this scene is going as far as to even hearing all kinds of electronic songs in commercials.

All sorts of pop artists that are all over the radio stations are now trying to incorporate more techno/house/dubstep elements into their music and many are collaborating with producers within these aforementioned genres because the electronic scene has blown up so large and quickly. Even with the more indie side of things that was kept quite underground seems to have grown much larger. The xx was a band that is now on the tip of everyone’s tongues, with the majority of people knowing who they are, but when previously mentioned, barely anyone would have a clue who this English band was.

The barriers of genre-cliques seem to have been broken, too. Jacksonvillians seem to be more open to listening to a wider variety of music. We are even seeing our musicians switching up their music entirely. The aforementioned screamo guy will now give some pop a chance, or even some electro.

Brett Barley, bassist from Son of a Bad Man, is a prime example of someone who underwent the genre transformation. For all of our loyal readers out there, you will know Son of a Bad Manwas featured back in issue 16 and you all went and bought their album and gave them some fellow Jacksonvillian support, right?

This means you all know their style of music and therefore we needn’t describe them to you. Just in case you somehow managed to miss it, though (for which you had better have a brilliant excuse), Son of a Bad Man is a southern-pop band from here in Jacksonville. They are pretty much the polar opposite to anything remotely hardcore like, say, Harloe, where Barley first started.

Harloe was a screamoband, in which Barley was the vocalist. Note that we do not call him the singer, because his vocals involved an incredible amount of screaming, bellowing and roaring. Barley joined the band in 2006 and they toured all over the country until breaking up in 2009. Later the next year, Barley joined Son of a Bad Man as the bassist.

“The switch was a lot more fluent than one might think,” expressed Barley. “There were certainly differences, though. In Harloe, I was strictly a vocalist. We were a heavier band and none of the members had any previous experience in a touring band. With SOABM, I was behind an instrument. We were playing much “poppier” music and the band was comprised entirely of members from past Jacksonville acts. In retrospect, it definitely seems weird having changed genres so drastically. To this day, people checking out SOABM for the first time will come up after the set and go, ‘Man, that’s definitely different,’ and it is.”

As for Jacksonville’s growing diversity in music taste, Barley believes it is due to the Internet. “It used to be you’d go to a record store and find what you could,” Barley recalled.“I remember going into what was ‘CD Connection’ at the time, buying a couple records and hoping that one of them was at least decent. You’d try to find a name you recognized, because you only had a few options. In 2012, you already have access to tens of thousands of bands [through the internet]. The challenge now is to find what you really like, because it’s all there. It’s up to the listener to decide what bands are going to get support.”

Apollo Worldwide recently put on a huge, one-of-a-kind music festival in Jacksonville that incorporated every genre you can think of, determined to bring the city closer and intertwine all kinds of people through their one common passion: music. Never before would the merging of styles, fans and genres have been accepted. But, in Jacksonville’s new, broader mindset, it was.

This is all proof that there is no better time to be a music fan right now because you have control. You control what shows come to Jacksonville, what music gets popular and who becomes successful. We will always have the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Springing the Blues, the country music at the Jacksonville Fair, and all of our other signature traditions. But, now, we’re accepting different types of music, broadening this city as a whole and breaking down the divides.

Finally, Jacksonville can unite as one, through its adoration of music.


This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Void and was written by Emmie Michalakis