The Fallen Stars were nominated in several live music categories this year.
Although the 7th annual Orange County Music Awards ceremony won't be held until March 29 at the Grove of Anaheim, there are a number of live music performances leading up to the event where the public can help participate in the selection of winners in each of the live music categories.
Artists vying for best live acoustic female, best live acoustic male and best live acoustic band will be playing at the Gypsy Den in Santa Ana from noon to 7 p.m. on March 9, while 18 acts will perform at DiPiazza's in Long Beach over the course of three nights, March 7, 15 and 16 in hopes of earning best live electric band/artist honors.
"Corvette" Sandy Struckhoff, who oversees the OCMA live music competition categories, said there are several nominees who have competed in their respective categories before, but many new names are on the bill this year.
"It will be difficult and intense for the judges to make their determinations and interesting for the public, who will no doubt, be sitting on the edge of their seats at the Gypsy Den this Sunday," she said. "Part of the judging criteria is based upon the audience reaction and response, so we will no doubt be observing and vigilant regarding their performance. The 'grace under fire' factor comes into play, as each participant only has 15 minutes to bring us their message through music."
Martin Brown, founder and producer of the OCMAs, said the forces that inspired him to launch the event still ring true today.
"This give exposure and recognition for local, unsigned artists who slave away week after week and get no recognition," Brown said.
Artists interviewed agreed with Brown's overview of the OCMAs.
"The OCMAs give artists a chance to play in front of people and that's all you can ask for," said singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini, a finalist performing in the acoustic field on Sunday afternoon. "It has brought me followers from different audiences and broadened my fan base."
The Fallen Stars recently opened for Ubaldini at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano and will be sharing the bill with him again this Sunday at the Gypsy Den.
"It's definitely an honor for the Fallen Stars to be nominated for best live band and best live acoustic band as well," said Gregg Braught, lead guitarist of the Huntington Beach-based Americana rock troupe.
"The OCMAs are a fine opportunity for us and our fellow musicians to be seen, heard and recognized as forces to be reckoned with in the music business. This is especially true now with artists seeing that a successful career isn't necessarily dependent on being signed to a major label anymore. You can record and distribute your music to fans old and new, locally and around the globe, and have more control over your musical future than ever before," Braught said.
Singer-songwriter Sarah Green noted the OCMAs are an event that actually builds a bridge between talented artists and discerning music listeners.
"There are a handful of us in Orange County trying to get good music to you the fan, and the people who make the OCMAs happen understand the battle it can be to be an artist in a place where there's not many places to play. Being nominated for an OCMA bridges another gap between the artist and the fan; it makes a lot of noise in a place where people hardly listen."
Brown said while he received submissions from about 300 artists representing a wide range of styles including punk, hip-hop, country-western, modern rock and world music this year. There is a core of about 50 artists who have submitted every year since the launch of the OCMAs.
"It's interesting to see the progression of some of the artists. It's rewarding to see even though they were not nominated (in the early years), they stuck with it and they have improved so much, their nomination is pretty much assured now," Brown explained.
Added Ubaldini: "It started from a grass roots level and provides a chance for artists to be heard."