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This is a much harder question to answer than you might initially think.
Were AND are...
oh sorry, wrong thread.
Probably go with nirvana, don't listen to them anymore but they are the only band I can think of that made it huge, were actually good, and considered important
If I was in Pixies I would be royally annoyed at continually being given credit for spawning Nirvana.
i think it's the replacements.
it is most definitely The Replacements
can't believe i forgot radiohead
But the answer is impossible to answer, how do you judge it? So many bands so important to music as we know it now, Stooges, VU, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Bikini Kill etc
The Grateful Dead
stop being indies
or the velvet underground
Hard to answer. Could be VU, Pixies (although Indie Cindy rules them out), Sonic Youth, Dinosaur jr, but I think the best American band for me personally is The Walkmen.
Yo La Tengo
I mean, given black music's illustrious history in the US. Just sayin'
But Grateful Dead are better
except maybe 2 & 3 tied, so we can add MC5
A band America created and destroyed. Read about it and LISTEN.