If there was ever any confusion about how the winners of the Orlando Music Awards are chosen, there certainly shouldn't be any after the Oct. 12 event. Despite all the awards-show trappings -- a garrulous host, a professionally produced stage presentation, inside jokes and lots of drunk nominees -- the party was clearly driven by the fans, who, in case you didn't know, are also the ones who choose the winners.
It was pretty hard to tell which group -- Andromeda, Supervillians or Indorphine -- packed the largest batch of loud, excited fans into Hard Rock Live, but the energy emanating from all these camps was infectious. Whether their favorite band was performing or an award nominee (or, God help us, an award winner), the excitement level in the room increased exponentially. (The opposite side of this coin, I guess, would be the jeers received by Blue Meridian from, well, everywhere. Which, although they won in their category, might be a truer indication of their reputation in town.)
Looking around Hard Rock, it was pretty easy to get excited. After all, here was a fan-driven, local-centric affair that wasn't six kegs, a flatbed truck and a guy looking out for the cops. It was truly a showcase for some of Orlando's most popular bands, and they were treated to an extraordinarily well-done production job. Between the nightclub motif -- complete with bar (and bartender Will Walker of Will's Pub), DJ (nominee BMF), security and "backstage" area -- and host Mandaddy's Anton-LaVey-as-a-used-car-salesman presentations, everything on stage seemed very professional.
Until the winners decided to not show up.
After the polyethnic trance of Red Shift Mantra introduced the whole affair, Mandaddy got around to announcing nominees and winners. And, embarrassingly enough, the winners of the first two categories (Club DJ and Electronic) weren't even there. I don't know what was keeping DJ Sandy and Prophecy away that night, but I sure hope it was important.
Of course, with the evening off to a rocky start (despite an impressively rootsy performance from Terry Binion and friends), the train-wreck potential increased when Tony Cook made it onstage to announce both the Funk/Soul/R&B and Jazz categories. Billed as "drummer for James Brown, Etta James," you mustn't confuse Cook with the original funky drummer, Clyde Stubblefield. Cook took over the skins for Brown in 1976 and apparently, the constant comparisons to the best funk drummer in the world have seriously impaired his ability to read. No, ladies and gentlemen, Junkie Rush is not now known as "Funky Rush," as Cook said, oh, a half-dozen times when they won the award. But, hey, at least he got Jazz winner Sam Rivers' name right.
From there, things got a lot smoother. A wildly hyperactive performance from Hip-Hop/Rap winners Andromeda (who, upon receiving their award later, were probably the most excited of all the trophy takers) was somewhat hampered by slightly muddled sound, but that didn't bother the group's fans one bit, as they were on their feet the entire set.
Combine that with crowd-moving sets by Indorphine and Supervillians, and you've got one successful show. Sure, the performances by David Schweizer, Amy Steinberg and Marc with a "c" were excellent, and UmÅ¡ja's high-flying global funkateering forced many a jaw to drop. But if you thought for a moment that heavy metal had been killed by the Limp Bizkits of the world, think again. Winner of the Metal and New Act of the Year awards, Indorphine's tightly focused chaos delivered highly skilled musicianship masked with undeniable showmanship. It was truly a sight to behold, with all of the band members pushing at full steam while vocalist Jimmy Grant altered between band geek and school-yard bully.
Conversely, the slow-burn ska of Supervillians ignited a fire under the asses of not only their large (and loud) fan contingent but most of the rest of the venue as well. Equal parts punk goofiness and punk belligerence ("Fuck war, dude!") with a touch of ganja groove, the band's good-natured attitude and loose-limbed approach is surely what helped them snag CD of the Year for "Horseshoes and Hand Grenades" (presented by none other than promoter Jim Faherty in a spoof "simulcast" from prison; this was one of those local inside jokes that may have seemed funny in genesis, but in execution, it was actually a little stupid).
Yet, despite a few technical mishaps and poorly resolved punchlines, the 2002 OMA's proved that the local music scene is vibrant, diverse and overstocked with top-notch acts. The thing is, nobody seems to know it. Unable to shake its national image as the home of boy bands (Backstreet Boys, Creed) and what seems to be a local inferiority complex, Orlando is plagued by an overabundance of talent that is easily more interesting than other cities its size. And I should know. After all, I'm the out-of-town guy who doesn't know (or care) about the politics of the local music scene. All I see is a clutch of great bands that is utterly deserving of every accolade that can be bestowed upon it.
So, with that in mind, I'll make a deal with you scenesters: If the bands keep making excellent music, Orlando Weekly will treat you like the professionals you deserve to be. That means praise when you rock, damnation when you suck and attention when it matters. We're not here to be blind cheerleaders, but we -- as music fans -- appreciate what you do. I'm operating under the assumption that the crowds who support the scene feel the same way, and they certainly expect to know whether a band is worth their beer money. So, it falls to us to let 'em know whether you rock or suck. Do us all a favor: Don't suck.
Jason Ferguson is the new music editor at Orlando Weekly. He's been a free-lance writer for more than a decade, writing for MTV, Magnet, Entertainment Weekly, Salon, Playboy, Alternative Press and many other outlets. Additionally, he was music editor at Creative Loafing -- Atlanta for two years. He's got a wife, two kids and unhealthy obsessions with David Lee Roth, Sun Ra and Prince. He also spends a lot of quality time watching Bollywood films, eating at restaurants he can't afford and laughing at Ann Coulter's stupidity. Music of choice includes Talvin Singh, Whitfield-era Temptations, S.O.D., Love Psychedelico, Queens of the Stone Age, Lee Perry, Fairuz, High on Fire, Funkadelic, A.R. Rahman, Aceyalone, Ramones, Art Bears, Queen, Le Shok and any band that, in 2002, will use the words "metal" or "youth" in a song title, views themselves as a "squatters collective" or considers themselves redneck in a nonironic sense. (If there's a band out there that's all three, please get in touch. You've got yourself a cover story.)