I have a bunch I could mention, but I will stick to two. I am an Xer, so I would love to hear from the Boomers and the Millennials. Let's try to refrain from insulting each other or starting a political fight, okay?
First: Death Cab for Cutie - I remember when some of their demos came out, and then Something About Airplanes was released. They had a strong live show and felt very Indie. It is funny to think that the same band ended up playing "Grapevine Fires" and rendering their entire back catalog kind of emo-ish and soft. It didn't feel that way when it came out.
Second: You will laugh at me, but Dave Matthews Band - When I was a freshman in High School, I used to ride to school with an older girl who was a punk. She gave me a cassette with a live DMB bootleg on one side and Archers of Loaf's Icky Mettle on the other. In my head, they just kind of went together. In his early live stuff, there were a lot of crazy distorted violin solos and the low end was so rock solid. He looked very punk in his early days, too. Doc Martins, plaid pants, super skinny. Then, Remember Two Things came out and had the cute, little autostereogram on the front. It seemed kind of cheesy to me, and the songs were softer than on the bootleg I had been listening to for months. To look back now, it is crazy that I thought of him as punk, but you can still get early takes of songs like Halloween and he will launch into curse-laden scats and stuff.
So what bands can you think of that had some serious edge when they came out and ended up turning into pop or soft rock?