With their unprecedented success, locally-bred retro-rockers the Killers should have projected Las Vegas' music scene into the spotlight as Nirvana did with Seattle's scene almost 15 years ago. However, that foursome had to leave the environs of our dust bowl—hell, of the entire country—to achieve that success.
So who best to represent our struggling-but-ripe music scene without cutting its ties to home? Here in fabulous Las Vegas, we sifted through the glut of screamo acts, nu-metal leftovers, gangsta rappers and run-of-the-mill punk bands to find the next breakout musical phenom from Sin City. What we found is the same band that we have always thought desperately needs to grow beyond the confines of our insular Valley: Slow to Surface.
The persistence of this bombastic quintet for almost five years is no accident. Lead singer Benwood carefully handpicked four musicians—Adam Handley (bass), Mac Purdy (drums), Stephen Penhall (guitar) and Zach Saucier (guitar)—to ensure that the vision of Slow to Surface (formerly known as Product) would not be blurred: vibrant, guitar-driven rock that can be intelligent, heavy and beautiful all at once.
Slow to Surface is our pick for the Vegas band best equipped to prove to the world that rock 'n' roll, Vegas style, need not be as shimmering and dancy as the Killers nor as minivan-friendly as Franky Perez. Though they have taken steps to achieve greater success—distribution, airplay, even an appearance on an MTV sound track—the members of Slow to Surface have always put their musicianship and songwriting first.
Put in simplistic terms of reference, if System of a Down and Incubus mated and produced a musical offspring, and hired an emo band as a nanny ... well, you still would have no idea what Slow to Surface sounds like. Gentle, harmonic double guitar lines snap unexpectedly into walls of distorted sound, locked down by machine-sharp drumming and steady, melodic bass lines. Benwood's singing—a distinctive and versatile croon—serves as the vehicle for his lyrical poetry. Once voted "Best Poet in Las Vegas" in an online poll, he provides the intellectual heart of Slow to Surface with lyrics like, "Occupy unfocused minds / set up by the need to identify / we just stare and emulate / soaking in the excess to give us shape."
In an age where music is judged on its style and not its substance, Slow to Surface's dynamic emotional rock may slip beneath the radar. But in a better place, where honesty, originality and passion are rewarded, these Las Vegas dynamos would be kings.