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I went to my first concert when I was still in middle school. My dad got tickets to a Barenaked Ladies show through work, and it was totally life changing. The band was clearly having fun up on stage (it makes a big difference) and they were really talented. We left at the end of the night on a total high, with songs in our heads and smiles on our faces.

It was such a good experience, in fact, that I went to see them 10+ more times over the next few years. And through all those shows, I thought seeing a band at an arena was the way to go. Until, of course, I got to college.

My friend Sylvia was waaaaay hipper that me when it came to music. And she's the one who introduced me to small bands at small venues starting with an Architecture in Helsinki show in Buffalo, NY. Consider my life changed once more. Because there's really nothing like being right there, dancing your face off, with the band just a couple feet away.

But how to find these ever elusive good, small, touring bands? I've picked up a few tricks over the years...

There are a few local radio stations that regularly feature great artists. KEXP in Seattle is my #1 go-to. They have excellent in-studio performances and are always unearthing great new bands. WERS here in Boston is also very reliable, and one of the favorite presets on my car radio. Finally npr music, while a little more main-steam, always has 'first listen' features of excellent new CDs.

One of my top recent finds: The Uncluded

PS- Once you find a couple bands to check out, there are lots of good sites/tools to help you listen a bit more. Pandora, Grooveshark,, and Hype Machine are some of my favorites.