Photo courtesy of 88.9
Local awards can be polarizing. While some see them as a way to recognize the work of those around them while encouraging people to take note of homegrown talent, an equally impassioned camp cites the incestuous, self-congratulatory and exclusive aspects of such a practice. Wednesday’s 6th annual Radio Milwaukee Music Awards at Turner Hall straddled that line. While its heart was in the right place, and the execution of the event itself – from musical entertainment choices down to the stage décor – was done with great care, the listener-funded station that touts its passion for “Milwaukee Music” (when it’s not playing crazy world beat music) trotted out another questionable ballot that usually featured the same five or six bands overlapping into multiple categories, while, at times, better-suited or more deserving bands were excluded altogether.
Still, even the most pessimistic Milwaukee music fan couldn’t help but feel a touch of civic pride in seeing some neighbors honored with hardware and given a platform in which to perform for a surprisingly sizable mid-week crowd.
The evening began with relative newcomers, sisters Vic and Gab, introducing themselves to the particulate faction of Milwaukee not yet enamored by their smiles and fuzzy harmonies. They did not disappoint. Four songs later, it was time to name the first two award winners. The first plaque (for Best Live Show) went to Juniper Tar, whose performance later in the show – its last of the year, mind you – was a highlight of the night, and included a folked-up Bruce Springsteen cover. Wolfgang Schaefer took home Best Disc We Missed honors, but not before he jogged enthusiastically down the aisle and belly-flopped onto the stage.
Milwaukee rapper Klassik, who used a full band to replicate his beats, fought to win over the crowd that proved unwilling to “throw up [its] hip-hop hands” and eventually settled for thumbs up to signal our collective existence. Despite the lackluster reaction he received, Klassik was still awarded Best Solo Artist, to which he passionately assured his city “I promise I’m going to make you proud.”
As eventual Album Of The Year winners Field Report (whose wildly successful first year has already made Milwaukee proud) took the stage, much of the crowd encroached the band. While great as ever, the fourth four-song set, in addition to the longwinded award introductions and brutal tear down/set-up breaks, diminished the enjoyment of one of the city’s best acts. Fortunately, closing song “Fergus Falls” won our attention back as it swelled to a crescendo.
Between bands, Jaill earned a nod for Song Of The Year, with its catchy-as-hell “Waste A Lot Of Things,” before coming out to breeze through the winning song and four others. Before the set, singer (and only full-time member present) Vinnie Kircher warned the now-dwindling ballroom, “We did the sound check like 12 hours and 15 beers ago, so we’ll see how this goes.” It didn’t show, save for when Kircher issued a between-song invite to everyone to “come over to play Tecmo Super Bowl and throw the pigskin around.”
All in all, the 88Nine Radio Milwaukee Music Awards accomplished what it sought out to; it celebrated some of the city’s best, while putting many on display in an entertaining and well-executed manner. Sure, it bordered on too much hand shaking with too few hands, but it served its intended and well-deserved purpose – celebrating Milwaukee music.
Here is a complete list of categories and winners.
Album of the Year
Field Report - Field Report
Song of the Year
Jaill - "Waste A Lot of Things"
Band of the Year
Hugh Bob and the Hustle
Catchiest Song of 2012
Surgeons In Heat - "Flying Away"
Best Album Artwork
Into Arcadia - Escaper
Best Music Video
Altos - "Sing (For Trouble)"
Bandcamp Release of the Year
Great Lake Drifters - For Your Consideration
Best Disc We Missed
Wolfgang Schaefer - Typewriter
Best Live Show