The bros. They are your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers, and even your family. You knew them in college as the alpha-obnoxious, keg-guzzling, frosted-tipped idiots who played girls like a fiddle. But they were simply in start-up phase, just figuring things out, wearing different hats, being flexible. They have more depth now and enjoy other activities besides saying things like “epic fail” and using “boss” as an adjective. Today, especially in San Francisco, they are a bit more difficult to spot, but I’ve come up with a sure-fire way of telling a bro from your run-of-the-mill lame person: just check out their music collection. It’s most likely full of bro-core, a new era of pensive dudes who are yearning to find meaning in a musical world. Here are a few bands that are leading the bro-core pack. I’d say if you have five or more of these on your iPod, you’re headed into some chancy territory and you might have to start doing the whole jeans and flip-flops thing.
KINGS OF LEON
At their start, they were a relatively modest rock band from Nashville tied together by blood, just like fraternity brothers, only real. Brought up Pentecostal, they dreamed of a bigger life and boy did they get one. It’s safe to say Kings of Leon are an arena rock band not too dissimilar from Bono and his crew. And bros not only love taking the bro bus to the Oracle, they love U2. Their older bros listened to U2 and they grew up on it and so any band to achieve similar status is okay in their bro book. Maybe it’s the Followill bloodline, or maybe it’s the religious upbringing, but bros can’t get enough of these royalties of rock.
MUMFORD & SONS
Wait, so which one is Mumford, the main dude who sings? And the rest of the dudes are his sons? This band is for the bro who wonders why this band is not headlining the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Mumford & Sons -- from England by the way -- have taken Americana, folk, and bluegrass, and brought it to the masses, which in turn has made the band a pop band. And just listen to them! If the end of the world were nigh, every bro on God’s green Earth would be burning up listening to “The Cave”. They’d sing that chorus about hope, pump their fists in the air, and wonder why they're not having sex right now.
When “Electric Feel” first made its rounds in the ether, it was new and psychedelic and bros thought it sounded the way their tapestry looked. I’ve seen this band live and after two hours of keeping the crowd waiting, they finally showed up after midnight, completely inebriated, and unable to perform. Just like a bro on a date! I think bros embrace fresh sounds on the radio, and props to them for seeking out difference in the world. We are talking about a new era of bro, the contemplative counter-culturalist who just wants to trade in those rugby jerseys for some crystals.
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
I can’t believe this band is still putting out records. I thought, after dumping their tour bus' waste off a bridge and onto a boat of actual people (the image!), they would have laid low for a while. I can respect loyal fans, those who followed DMB forward from their “Satellite” and “Stay” years. I’ll even admit I had a poster of Dave in my room in high school next to all my Friends pin-ups. But that’s just it, something about DMB seems very stuck in the past. When I return home, every sixth car on the road has their updated DMB bumper sticker and it’s almost charming. Bros must love nostalgia or returning to the time in their heads when they were the big men on campus. And I agree, nostalgia is a great thing, and if we could roll back to the years of Jimi Things and Dancing Nancies, I might be down.
The ultimate bro fantasy: be one of the most famous rappers of our time and marry the most powerful woman in music. What is better than having it all? Jay-Z has proved time and time again that he is the powerhouse of rap music. While Kanye’s off doing a little too much experimenting for a bro’s taste, Jay-Z is a consistent reminder of what the male American Dream has become: get rich or die trying. And from what I can tell, Jay-Z seems like a stand-up dude, working his way up the ladder from the Marcy Housing Project to Madison Square Garden. Every bro wants to make the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.
It always surprises me that house music is the common link for gay men and bros. But when you think about it, bros often have a reputation of being secretly homoerotic. I mean, I’ve seen a few films under the LGBT Netflix category. But I would argue that it is the bro way of subconsciously extending a proverbial arm to the gay community and vice versa. Both parties are just looking to understand each other through music. And what better way to do it than on the dance floor? Like Daft Punk, Deadmau5 masks himself beneath this cartoonish headpiece, and drops huge and wildly popular beats. It matters not what he looks like or what he believes in, just as long as the music doesn’t stop.
The bros love bubble toes! If they can’t be Jay-Z owning the concrete jungle, they can take it to the water. This hammock-swinging, Mai-Tai dude has every girl in a bikini blushing. Bros take note: just throw on an oversized Polo sweater, hop in your Wrangler, and head to the beach. If you bring your guitar (which you will!), be sure you’re not too high to remember those chord changes. And if you get her alone on the walk down that sandy shoreline, give her your thumb ring as a token of your loyalty and affection. Tell her you love her so much, it scares you.
Author’s postscript: I think I’m a bro.