It’s the ultimate hipster coup - being into something on the ground floor, knowing about it before everyone else. Everyone loves to claim that they were into things before anyone else, but what were you really into, or at least aware of, before anyone else knew about it?
Sufjan Stevens - I’m not a fan of the guy, but I’ve been aware of him since before his very first record came out, around 1999 or so. He was touring with the Danielson Famile as their replacement keyboardist, and opening up with a solo set of his stuff before he even had a record available. It’s still weird to me how popular he’s become, having long since eclipsed Danielson’s fame, because I still think of him as “Danielson’s backup keyboard player” playing to 20 people in a church.
the Animal Collective - way back in 2000, I was working at a college radio station and was in charge of managing our music collection. I had a small fund (created by selling crappy CD’s we got for free to the local used CD store) that I could use to buy records that we weren’t able to get for free through our usual channels. While surfing the Other Music Website for cool new stuff, I saw a CD by “Avey Tare and Panda Bear” called “Spirit they’ve vanished, spirit they’re gone.” It was described as “Mercury Rev as produced by Merzbow,” and frankly, that description was enough to sell me on it. It turned out to be majorly loved at our station, and we played it to death. Seven years later, they’re one of the biggest bands in indie rock.