by Eric Barton
Another Pitch Music Awards ritual has come and gone, and to me, it's like the death of a romance, a time to look at that empty seat across the breakfast table, sigh, and look hopefully at the days ahead. But you probably just want to know who won. So here you go.
Best Avant/Experimental: Onemilliontinytinyjesuses. Best Blues/Soul: Ida McBeth. Best Country/Bluegrass: Split Lip Rayfield. Best DJ/Dance: DJ Sku. Best Female Vocalist: Kim Anderson (of Flee the Seen). Best Folk/Roots: In the Pines. Best Hardcore/Metal: the Esoteric. Best Hip-Hop: Mac Lethal. Best Jazz: the Grand Marquis. Best Latin: Sons of Brasil. Best Live Act: the Esoteric. Best Male Vocalist: Brandon Phillips (of the Architects). Best New Act: Anvil Chorus. Best Rock/Pop: the Architects. Best Punk: Flee the Seen.
Let me remind everyone that these winners represent the will of the people. I cast one ballot and did in no way manipulate the final results. I'm saying that because you probably noticed a certain cover story a couple of weeks ago wherein yours truly performed roadie services with big winners the Architects on a trip to California. That story may have helped them win; I don't know. I went on that trip to have fun and get out of town for a while. I didn't even know until we were driving home that my editors would want me to turn it into a story. I'm innocent, I swear.
I may also take flack because the Grand Marquis won Best Jazz. A lot of so-called discerning jazz fans and musicians don't consider that band "real jazz." I want to tell such people now that I don't give two honks off a dry saxophone reed. Go tell it on the mountain, and drop a coin in Wynton Marsalis' tip cup on the way up. The Marquis is cool.
In fact, I don't care that much who wins these awards. Many of my favorite bands didn't even get nominated, much less pick up a trophy. It's my job as a critic to disagree with the tastes of the masses, though, so I guess I'm doing OK. I am glad Split Lip won because that band may not be around much longer (read this week's music feature), but many of the winners were elected on the basis of fan mobility more than anything else. Also, a few (rather unfairly) are the type that will win no matter what category they end up in.
As in any race for votes, a huge factor is good pimping or having an already large and enthusiastic fan base. That's not to say successful self-promotion and high quality are mutually exclusive. But you know how it is -- Clay Aiken sold a bazillion records because of a TV show, whereas Joe Strummer handed out fliers on the street for his shows until he died.
In fact, I conducted a little experiment and counted up how many friends are listed on each of the winners' MySpace pages. In the Pines counts a meager 600 friends; The Architects, 2,131; Mac Lethal, 7,680; Anvil Chorus, 8,713; the Esoteric, 11,910; and Flee the Seen, 18,513.
MySpace pimping is gonna get old as soon as people realize that spam is spam, even when it comes from a starving artist. I've received practically eight bulletins a week from Anvil Chorus since signing up as one of their "friends" a month ago.
But what does all of this mean about the local scene? It means that it's healthy. And our music awards don't even fully represent that, because there were a few nominees that haven't put out an album since, like, 2004. This yearly competition cannot possibly be perfect, but it's worthwhile to conduct simply because it raises awareness of local music. Our marketing people work their asses off to make sure that we end up looking good, but I know them, and I know that they really do care about local music. I also believe that enough people vote and come to the showcase and awards to validate them — in other words, to prove that those who do win really do deserve their awards.
And now we look ahead together at another year of rockin'. I know there are enough new acts out there to ensure — if there's any justice — a massive spill of fresh blood all over next year's ballot. There's so much good new music that I hope maybe next time -- in more than a few categories -- sheer quality will trump longstanding popularity.
So sign off MySpace and go see a show.