Surprising bands that have never played in the U.S.

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(NOTE: This post has been updated with information from some of the artists below. Please let me know if you see anything wrong. I spent several hours researching tours online, but it’s possible I missed something.)

It seems like every day I fall in love with a new band from Sweden. For reasons I have yet to understand, the Scandinavian country produces exquisite synthpop.

Because I live in the United States, that often means I will never get to see many of my favorite European bands perform live. Not every artist can rise to the popularity of VNV Nation and tour with every album cycle.

To be clear, it’s not the bands’ fault. I understand from many promoters that booking artists from overseas is a fragile and expensive process. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve had tickets to a show, only to see it cancelled last minute due to visa issues.

Numerous challenges impact a band’s ability to perform here: the complex visa process, the current administration’s hardline stance on border patrol, support from the local scene. If coronavirus becomes a pandemic, it will likely impact this summer’s festival season.

With that in mind, I don’t look at this list as a series of disappointments. But as a list of dreams. I’d love to see all of these bands overcome these hurdles and perform live in the U.S., whether on tour or at one of our music festivals. But if it doesn’t happen, that’s ok. Maybe one day I’ll make it to one of the big European festivals and cross a whole bunch of bands off my list.

X-Marks the Pedwalk

Germany’s X-Marks the Pedwalk has a nearly 30-year career, but they aren’t a prolific live act. In the early ’90s, they did a string of shows in Europe. When the band returned in 2010 after a long hiatus, they performed a legendary set at Wave-Gotik-Treffen. I am fairly certain they’ve never performed in America. That would certainly be a show.

mind.in.a.box

In 2011, Austria’s mind.in.a.box played the Kinetik Festival in Montreal, their sole North American show. It didn’t go well. The airline lost their equipment, and they nearly canceled. They moved to the final set of the night and their equipment just arrived, but they didn’t get a chance to do a soundcheck and their visuals wouldn’t play. It was still a magical experience seeing Stefan Poiss perform his vocal manipulations live, and I hope the Kinetik show hasn’t put him off from returning to America someday.

Ashbury Heights

Sweden’s Ashbury Heights is a band that seems optimized for the stage, and they’ve performed all over Europe. The male and female vocalists and their energetic songs make for perfect entertainment. I was pretty certain they’ve never played the States, and bandleader Anders Hagström confirmed it for me in a DM: “You are right, we have never had the pleasure.”

Camouflage

Camouflage may not be as well-known stateside as some of their contemporaries like Depeche Mode and Erasure, but they have a solid discography that runs back to the mid-’80s and a mainstream hit song: “The Great Commandment.” It’s almost hard to believe the German band has never played the U.S. in all those years. I checked their website. They did tour South America and Mexico.

Diorama

Diorama, another beloved German band, has been around since the late ’90s. They’ve released 9 studio albums and performed hundreds of shows. The band used to maintain an extensive concert history on earlier versions of their website. There’s not a single U.S. show listed, although they have played Toronto and Mexico City.

Frozen Plasma

Frozen Plasma’s singer Felix Marc (who is also in Diorama and is a solo artist) has one of my favorite voices in the world. As far as I know, none of his projects has played in the U.S. His bandmate Vasi Vallis is also in a number of bands, including NamNamBulu, Reaper, and Future Lied to Us. I don’t believe any of his projects have performed here either, though Vasi was once a touring keyboardist for VNV Nation so it’s likely he’s performed here himself.

Peter Heppner

German singer Peter Heppner actually played in the U.S. when he was part of Wolfsheim. The legendary band toured the U.S. in 2004, just before they broke up. He’s yet to perform here as a solo artist, and during his solo shows, he plays famous Wolfsheim songs like “Once in a Lifetime” and “The Sparrows and the Nightingales.” That puts him near the top of my bucket list.

Agent Side Grinder

Compared to these other artists, Agent Side Grinder is a relatively young act. So perhaps they just haven’t had a chance to play the U.S. yet, although they have played Canada’s Terminus Festival. The Swedish band is quickly rising to the upper echelon of artists in the dark electronic scene, and they’re one of my favorites. I hope they have America in their sights.

T.O.Y.

German synthpop artist T.O.Y. has been around for decades and experienced numerous changes, including a new name. Previously known as Evils Toy, they created electro-industrial music. That complex history makes it harder to confirm information online. A couple of people have told me that Evils Toy played in the U.S., but there’s no mention anywhere of a T.O.Y. show.

And a few more who haven’t played here in a long time…

Solitary Experiments
The popular German futurepop band Solitary Experiments played a mini-tour of the West Coast in 2001, but as far as I know they haven’t made it back to the U.S. since. (This has been updated per information from someone in the band.)

Neuroticfish
When Neuroticfish played Canada’s Terminus Festival last year, I thought it was their North American debut. But apparently, the band played a few dates on the East Coast in 2001.

In Strict Confidence
Germany’s In Strict Confidence last played in the U.S. way back in 1999 when they toured with Das Ich.

And One
We were this close to seeing them last year. Unfortunately, And One had to cancel their 2019 U.S. tour due to Visa issues, which would have been their first visit to the U.S. since 2008.

Rotersand
You can’t go to a U.S. club without hearing “Exterminate. Annihilate. Destroy.” or another Rotersand hit. So it’s hard to believe they don’t play here more often. I think the last time they played the U.S. was with Covenant in 2006.

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