Sunday, March 04, 2012
Young the Giant, Jeramiah Red, Railroad to Alaska nab multiple wins at 11th annual Orange County Music Awards
Orange County has long been a hotbed for original music. Early heroes like the Chantays, Dick Dale and singer-songwriter Jackson Browne paved the way for a substantial ’80s wave bolstered by synth-pop band Berlin and punk rock legends Social Distortion and the Adolescents, as well as a flood of ’90s acts — Lit, No Doubt, Korn and the Offspring among the best-known.
Fast forward to the 21st century and O.C.’s ever-burgeoning musical tent now includes groundbreaking talent from a variety of genres.
Much of it was celebrated Saturday night (March 3, 2012) at the 11th annual OC Music Awards at City National Grove of Anaheim, where breakout band Young the Giant came away the big winner with three trophies, including nods for best song and best music video (both for hit single “Cough Syrup”), although the Irvine group wasn’t on hand to accept. Newcomers Railroad to Alaska and Jeramiah Red nabbed two apiece, while mainstays Social D, the Adolescents and Thrice also got their due.
Indeed, in addition to YTG, it seems emerging acts Railroad, Jeramiah (pictured) and two-time best indie champ Kiev are poised to join their celebrated O.C. forebears in building a national reputation, considering both their wins and winning performances here.
Of the nine live turns, staged amid awards in 26 categories, Kiev was in a class by itself thanks to the use of 3D technology that enhanced its Radiohead-meets-Steely Dan sonic sphere, something the sextet first successfully tried while opening for Menomena last year at Samueli Theater. Everyone in the audience was given appropriate glasses to wear during Kiev’s performance of “Small Kid / Big Tree,” allowing them to see a multi-layered effect that had animation dancing in front and behind the band during its experimental rock.
Other memorable performances came from many of the evening’s winners: singer-songwriter Nicole Vaughn and Her Lovely Band, which won for best country/Americana, capably kick-started the ceremony; best new artist honoree Jeramiah Red rocked with more zest than you’d expect from a best blues winner; best Latin victor Boogaloo Assassins delivered a tight jam while folk-soul trio Allensworth (previously announced best live acoustic winner) docked its usual groove armada to instead appear in effective scaled-down fashion.
As the OC Music Awards have grown, so has the show itself advanced light years ahead of early incarnations, when it was a struggle to get sponsors or attract the region’s most famous names to participate.
Saturday’s ceremony once again featured KROQ‘s Psycho Mike as host, and in addition to reps from a horde of sponsors (Farmer John, Bud Light, Wahoo’s and Ernie Ball, just to name the biggest), the roll call of presenters included X vocalist (and current O.C. resident) Exene Cervenka, Dramarama frontman John Easdale and Vandals bassist Joe Escalante, who shared candid thoughts on the significance of being named best punk before giving that prize to the Adolescents.
Escalante, currently campaigning for an L.A. County judge’s seat in the June 5 election, remembered how bands back then “were bored. We were sick of (’70s/’80s rock station) KMET, we didn’t like hippies … we didn’t even know why we didn’t like hippies.” They just desperately wanted to carve out a different identity.
Those seminal groups, he said, gave rise to a distinctly O.C. punk flavor that over time has translated to heftier paydays, as the geographical tag now fetches a premium from booking agents internationally: “Oh, this is an Orange County band? Then we’re gonna pay ‘em a little more.”
Steve Soto of the Adolescents, meanwhile, gave props to O.C.’s earliest and oft-forgotten punk outfits, the Crowd and Middle Class, while reminding the audience in his acceptance speech that “in our neighborhood, we grew up with Social Distortion and Agent Orange.”
Thrice, the Dustin Kensrue-fronted quartet that recently announced it will go on indefinite hiatus after its next tour, was on hand to receive its previously announced Orange County Impact Award as well as the competitive trophy for best rock. Rodney Bingenheimer, aka Rodney on the ROQ, was this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and was treated to a video tribute featuring fellow KROQ personalities Jed the Fish and Richard Blade, as well as Blondie singer Debbie Harry, all four members members of No Doubt and other musicians whose ascensions were assisted via crucial airplay on the Mayor of Sunset Strip’s radio show.
Ever the champion of rising indie artists, Bingenheimer closed out brief but heartfelt remarks by urging the talent on hand at the sold-out Grove to “send me more CDs. I’m there (on the air) at midnight, so stick around.”
Throughout the event, award winners were gracious, thanking family and friends and praising fellow nominees. Not everyone could make it to the show — best world champ the Dirty Heads were busy playing Cypress Hill’s Smokeout in San Bernardino — but those who couldn’t attend acknowledged the honor via video.
“Who knew 30 years into this I would get an award like this,” Mike Ness said in a prerecorded thank-you after Social Distortion’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes was named best album. “It was a big risk producing this myself.”
But it was Cervenka, iconic poet and one-of-a-kind vocalist from the L.A. punk scene of the ’80s, who best summed up why more musicians hold O.C. in esteem now, rather than automatically seek out fame and fortune via Hollywood, Austin or New York.
“I moved to Orange County 2½ years ago,” she said before presenting the best song award. “I never thought I’d move behind the Orange Curtain. I’m very happy I did.”
Complete list of 2012 OC Music Award winners
Best album: Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, Social Distortion
Best song: “Cough Syrup,” Young the Giant
Best new artist: Jeramiah Red
Best pop: the Aquabats
Best rock: Thrice
Best alternative: Young the Giant
Best indie: Kiev
Best blues: Jeramiah Red
Best country/Americana: Nicole Vaughn
Best folk: Micah Brown
Best club DJ: DJ Thrifty Lips
Best electronic: Free the Robots
Best hip-hop: Blok
Best jazz: Nancy Sanchez
Best Latin: Boogaloo Assassins
Best metal: Railroad to Alaska
Best punk: the Adolescents
Best surf: the Growlers
Best world: the Dirty Heads
Best live acoustic: Allensworth
Best live band: Railroad to Alaska
Best music video: “Cough Syrup,” Young the Giant
Best youth: Ugly Paint
People’s choice: Fusion Beat
Orange County Impact Award: Thrice
Lifetime Achievement Award: Rodney Bingenheimer, aka Rodney on the ROQ
Photo by Armando Brown