When I sprang forth from my mother’s new york city vagina a quarter of a century ago, i wanted one thing: to be President of my High School class. Well, that dream never came to fruition since I dropped out after 10th grade, living instead off my great trust fund wealth that affords me my lonely and dusty but grandious mansion atop Portland’s West End.
Veering from this opening digression brings us to the Portland Phoenix Best Music Poll Awards, otherwise known as Portland’s annual musical popularity contest. And you know what, it’d be easy to dismiss the whole thing as nothing more, but that’s not worthwhile. In fact, the event itself, held Wednesday night at the Asylum, was conceptually pretty cool. The who’s who showed and were in merry spirits, drinking merry spirits. Schmoozing abounded, the nominees and the non-nominated mingled alike with the local Mp3-J’s (formerly known as radio DJ’s) and behind the scenes doers and booers.
Some particular highlights of the show: the much-appreciated strip tease that seemed to be, well, just a blatant strip tease. We couldn’t figure out why or what place it had at an awards show like that, but if you think anyone in the house was complaining, you best get back to Amish Country and churn some butter. Another was when Spencer (whose School Spirit Mafia was impressively packed with harmonies, eye candy, and even an umpire) accepted the award for Rustic Overtones, even though the founding member no longer keys for the band. Also highlighting was Hatchetface (hadn’t heard of them) winning Best New Act as a write-in even though they are no longer a band! Only in a small town!
Let’s take a quick look at the winners/losers (oftentimes the same!)
Dark kinghts (Best Album). Indie rockers talk the talk, but Ocean walked the rock, grabbing the best album, but not bothering to show up for the acceptance. We agree it’s pretty cool that an album as un-radio friendly as is Pantheon of the Lesser took top album honors.
Double trouble (Best category-defying/indie outsider act + best female vocalist). When was the last time a write-in won 1, much less 2, categories. It’s an impressive feat, but you have to wonder if ballot stuffing played a part. One vote each from their fans? Could that possibly have beat other more mainstream (or at least nominated) names like Confusatron, Anna Lombard, Dilly Dilly…? No knock on these guys, but certainly raised parity eyebrows.
Lord of the dance (Best DJ/dance act). Uh, no opinion?
Triple entente (Best Heavy Music/ Metal act). Love the forced scowl in the picture in the Phoenix. Don’t recognize the name Ogre, but they’ve apparently been around for 10 years. Ocean, the runner up, won best album. Doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
A brilliant flame (Best folk act). Doesn’t Jason Spooner just play covers? This is precisely the kind of award winner that makes us say, oh, oh perhaps we were wrong, we should go to his website and listen. So we will. Later today. Or tomorrow.
Wired for sounds (Best electronic act). Admit again we didn’t know what Computer At Sea was/is/who? but we highly recommend reading Galen Richmond’s self-description of his set up in the Phoenix. If that isn’t funny and awesome, then we’re friends with Honey Clouds’ fanbase.
Mixing it all up (best hip-hop act). Ah, the White Heart guy! We’re not a fan of the beard, but will check out the referenced “mix-tape.”
Stormy sailors (best indie act). If Fire on Fire is the band we saw a while ago then we are impressed and think they are a worthy best indie act, but we now are struggling to define “indie act”. Though we haven’t seen their name around on the performance schedules, we’ll keep an eye out. Honey Clouds finished 4th! And that’s fine, they’re a popular “indie rock” band for Christ sake, according to their fans, we just wish our indie bands in town upped their game. What IS “indie” anyway? Doesn’t it just mean “independent?”
Near… and far (Best Jazz act). Easily our favorite jazz act in town. His smooth instrumentation and soulful bebopping is just unmatched. Ok, we admit, we didn’t know there was a jazz scene in Portland.
By the horns (Best live act). Here we go! Rustic Overtones! Here’s one where we do not suspect ballot stuffing, just name familiarity. This victory also screams: we need more new bands! As Jeff Inglis writes in the intro, Rustic won awards in the very first Best Music Poll. They are good, whether you like their type of music or not, but wouldn’t it be more exciting to crown a group or band that had fresh basil sprinkled in their dish? Let’s try not to embrace sterility, Portland!
Been + gone (best new act). Already mentioned them, but we adore that the best new act is a write-in. Ouch, Spencer and School Spirit Mafia, who were asked to perform, finished a distant 4th. We were impressed with their set, so maybe next time they’ll get some more ballot-stuffing friends.
Nearing liftoff (Best Local Act + Best Male Vocalist). Oh come on. Come on. Everybody scream it together: come on. Really? The best? Still? With that saxomophone? Huh? What are we missing? Most uninspired. Blandest. Most familiar. Those, but not Best Local Act. Our favorite part though is the tag line: “With good reason, Pete Kilpatrick is going places.” When? He’s been “going places” for 8 years. Going where? To JavaNet? Which places? SuperCuts down by the Mall?
Flower children (Best pop-rock act). As cheesy as we find the band’s mantra to apparently be “to make peace, love, and harmony,” Dominic and the Lucid are a pretty good local band. Whoever wrote the description of them in the Phoenix clearly doesn’t know them, as they just quoted Sam Pfeifle’s internal review and ends with a Portland Point favorite: meaningless cliched words (“sonic aesthetic that sounds perfect for these sunny summer days”). We’ve happened upon them over the years and were never blown away but never offended. That’s about highest level of praise we allow ourselves here…
Sweet nectar (best punk act). Covered in Bees is an awesome band name. We love the 4th place finish of the RattleSnakes.
King of the hill (best R&B/soul/blues act). Cover bands rule!
Coming for you (Best Rock Act). “Our readers are nothing if not loyal.” Say no more!
Honesty (best roots act). “Who is Travis Kline?” Actually, based on the review, we’ll go check ‘em out after Jason Spooner.
A fitting tribute (Best World Music act). We’ve heard the Kino Proby hype and will be at the next show, which is…? Funny that the best band plays once a year and the runner up, and usual winner, plays at least once a month. Just goes to show, “best” doesn’t mean “most often.” This was another over-looked point in the Honey Clouds review, that there’s something to be said for not playing a show every week. Funny acceptable speech too, calling themselves the Best in the World and rambling until getting the hook. We appreciated that.
Cry me a river (Biggest Babish Act). Mike C from the RattleSnakes gets the honors after his scowling comments to our last 3 posts, mostly spending a lot of time ranting about how this blog is a waste of time, and then justifying his band’s sloppiness by saying they were performing with a new member (not a good idea) but then also saying it was tight and then saying they used to not be tight and it was only sloppy because we’re not familiar with the songs. Tightness is not about song structure, it’s about the musicians performing well together. So, the take away is that negative feedback can either be shouted down and pouted about, or learned from. Even if the negative feedback is written in an abusive, over-the-top manner, might as well learn from it, or cry about it and demand for vengence! Reveal yourself, Batman, so I can throw acid in your beautiful, beautiful face! I shall not listen to your criticism unless i know who you are! And that benefits……… nobody!