by Elke Mermis
Ad Astra Arkestra was missing something.
Blinking under the bright lights of the Uptown, the band accepted its award for Best Experimental Act at the Pitch Music Awards Ceremony last night; but they couldn't find somebody they wanted to thank. Where was she?
"She's drunk!" a crowd member volunteered.
"That's the right answer!" roared Mike Tuley into the mic. "We're all drunk!"
If there's an annual theme to the Pitch Music Awards Ceremony -- besides celebrating Kansas City's local music, that is -- there is only one other contending option: alcohol.
For twenty bucks, Kansas City scored the following: a free Pitch lighter (yes!), lots of drunken band kids, and an open bar. It's like a wedding, without a bride to offend: you can smoke, cuss, show your tattoos and repeatedly scream the names of Lawrence punk bands without consequences. (Weird Wounds, anyone?)
In addition to the dozens of tables of pure, undiluted (and shit-faced) local talent, mayhem was also wrangled by the host of the party, David Wayne Reed, who awarded local artists in 22 categories -- and did so with increasing difficulty. (At one point, Reed insisted that he needed some "goddamned KY jelly to get these envelopes open.") The Uptown's red velvet curtains lifted to reveal four different performing acts at points throughout the night, too: Bleach Bloodz, Mark Lowrey with Diverse and Reach, the Grisly Hand, and the Dead Girls.
Let's start with the music. In a shuddering, shambling shakedown of rock and roll, Howard Iceberg and his guitar player, Gary Paredes (who pulled off an excellent scissor-kick on stage) cut loose next to Les Izmore on tambourine, and the sunglass-clad, bandanna-bearing boys of Bleach Bloodz. (Who knew that Howard Iceberg's tunes could sound like the Stones got stoned and threw down with the Ramones?)
Before Mark Lowrey and Diverse eased into the ensemble's first number, trumpet player Hermon Mahari started the performance on a somber note. The leader of Diverse quietly spoke about the death of local legend Ahmad Alaadeen yesterday, who was "one of our last ties to Charlie Parker." (The jazz saxophonist took lessons from Leo H. Davis, who also taught Parker.) It was an eloquent, graceful gesture to honor Kansas City's musical history, and the jazz legend's memory.
The music lives on: Mahari blasted trumpet over Lowrey's piano grooves and crashing beats from Diverse's drummer, Ryan Lee. When Reach emerged from backstage to rap over the band's grooves, a throng of fans flocked to the front of the stage, bobbing silhouetted palms to the beat.
The Grisly Hand struck a more introspective note with covers of the Rainmakers and Drakkar Sauna. To close out the night, a face-melting fusion of local power-pop emitted from the Dead Girls, who crammed the songs of Vitreous Humor, Ultimate Fakebook, Kill Creek, their own tunes and more into a mammoth medley of scene history.
That's just the music. Here are some highlights from the winners.
Son Venezuela thanked the Pitch for our coverage of immigration issues, and staged an impromptu sing-a-long: I won't play no shows in Arizona, sang the band's leader, inciting the crowd to clap along. (They've won nine awards, and wanted one more - one for each of their ten-piece band.)
Samantha Fish wore her shiny pink prom dress on stage to accept her award for Best Blues Act. "I might be a little overdressed," she admitted shyly.
Dutch Newman accepted an award for local hip-hop hero Stik Figa in his absence, giving shout-outs to all of the nominees, including "that cocksucker, Dutch Newman."
Indie pop champions Cowboy Indian Bear told us that, if we wanted to find them after the awards show, "we'll be partying at the Econolodge."
The rasta hat-clad men of SeedLove accepted their Pitch award by thanking us for the new rolling tray. (Man, you are more than welcome.)
The Noise FM toppled established Kansas City acts The Life and Times and the Appleseed Cast to win the Indie Rock category. They called it a perfect capstone to their Kansas City career: the band is moving to Chicago soon.
After Federation of Horsepower won the Rock category, Gregg Todt told us: "I've been playing music in this town for 32 years, and this is the first time that I've ever received an award."
In a fitting non-sequitur, Margo May let us know that she's not a band, and thanked Led Zeppelin.
The Architects wiped the All-Star category in the final stretches of the night. Afterwards, people stepped outside for a smoke; rockers mussed their hair; winners' palms sweated as they clutched their new plastic plaque, commemorating both promise and success. Booze is booze; but local solidarity? That's something worth celebrating.
Here's the winner's circle. Congratulations, Kansas City. As always: you rock.
Punk: Bent Left; Indie Rock: The Noise FM; Metal: Hammerlord; Blues: Samantha Fish; Jazz Solo Artist: Mark Lowrey; Jazz Ensemble: Snuff Jazz; Garage Rock: Bleach Bloodz; Country/Bluegrass: The Last Call Girls; DJ Hip-Hop: Miles Bonny; DJ Dance: Nomathmatics; Rap: Rich the Factor; Singer Songwriter: Noah Earle; World: Son Venezuela; Folk/Americana: The Grisly Hand; Reggae: SeedLove; Experimental: Ad Astra Arkestra; Indie Pop: Cowboy Indian Bear; Emerging Act: Margo May; Rock: Federation of Horsepower; Pop: Audiovox; All Star: The Architects.