Rockabilly Landslides and Electronic Close Calls: The Music Awards

In band polls, as in politics, it's all about getting out the vote.

Like many music critics, I am a sucker for lists. Call it an obsession with hierarchy, or call it residual boys-club behavior, a way of channeling the part of me that never got into sports as a kid. Of course, it’s in the nature of polls to produce obvious winners: We all know who’s popular. But the inaugural Seattle Weekly Music Awards produced some surprises, too.

Surprise No. 1: Apparently, more Weekly readers care about Country/Rockabilly than any other style of pop music happening in townthat was the category most often filled out on the more than 4,000 ballots we received. Or maybe readers just really like the Dusty 45s: Second to poll champion Maktub (see accompanying story), the 45s got the highest number of points of any band anywhere in the poll (681), more than doubling the point total of runners-up the Donettes.

Clearly, the 45s got the vote outand indeed, urging fans to hand in ballots with their names checked off was undoubtedly key to at least a couple of other victories. Take the Hard Rock/Metal category. The Blood Brothers have a die-hard local fan base, as well as a higher degree of national recognition than any other band in their category, thanks to the critically acclaimed (by Spin and Alternative Press) <Burn, Piano Island, Burn, released this year on BMG. But the Brothers were nosed out by eight-year veterans Cookie, who took the title by just 14 votes. No doubt Cookie’s loyal following and the popularity of frontwoman Sabrina RockArena had plenty to do with it, but as the recipient of at least three e-mailed reminders to cast my ballot for them, I’d say they worked plenty hard to ensure they were represented.

The same seemed to be true of the Memphis Radio Kings and Nu SolTribe. The former mailed out plenty of notices, too, which may have made the difference in the end, since the Kings’ margin of victory in the Americana/Roots category was even slimmer than Cookie’sthey beat Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter by only six points. Here’s an interesting blip: Had we limited our count to online ballots, Sykes would have edged the Kings by a single vote; the Kings nudged ahead only when we added the snail-mail ballots. Not exactly the Kentucky Derby (not least because I didn’t win $55 on the Music Awards, whichno lieI did at the Derby this year), but for an amateur statistician like myself, pretty exciting nevertheless.

More dramatic was the R&B/Soul vote. While Maktub thoroughly dominated the online tally, Nu SolTribe damn near took the category on the strength of their performance at the SW Music Awards Showcase on Sunday, Aug. 13: The print ballots that came in after that show went heavily in favor of the Tribe. In the print total, Nu SolTribe not only outdid every other band, they outearned every nominee in both the Hip-Hop/Rap and MVP categories. The Tribe’s second-place finish was almost as impressive as Maktub’s win.

The most surprising placement, though, came in the Indie Rock category. Not the first-place finish of Pretty Girls Make Graves: With precisely 100 points more than runner-up Visqueen, they made good on my early prediction of victory. No, I’m talking about Vendetta RedSony-signed, MTV-played, Warped-Touring Vendetta Redwho came in not second, not third, but seventh in an eight-band contest. Not even Andrew Bonazelli’s glowing feature on the band in the July 2 Weeklysurely the pinnacle of the group’s career to datecould push them any higher. Vendetta Red may be for the kids, but you know what they saykids don’t vote. Sad.

Some unofficial prizes, then. Nu SolTribe, of course, gets the Last-Minute Push Award. We’ll give ourselves the Gross Redundancy Award for including on the jazz ballot both Mark Taylor and Matt Jorgensen + 451the same quartet with different leaders. (Had their ballots been counted together, they’d have finished second to Pearl Django rather than sixth and fifth, respectively.) And Close but No Cigar Awards go to the aforementioned Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, the Turn-Ons (just 13 votes behind the Makers in Rock/Garage), and Black Cat Orchestra (22 votes behind United States of Electronica in Experimental/ Avant-Garde/Electronic). And finally, the Best Ballot Award goes to the disgruntled gentleman who crossed out most of the candidates, wrote his own name with a box next to it at the bottom of most of the categories, then checked the boxes. He also scribbled “Next time I’ll burn my $7” across the bottom of the ballot (an apparent reference to the cover charge for our Pioneer Square showcase) and, across the top, “Seattle Weekly is Nazi.” Hey, we try.

Special thanks to Andrew McCarty and Darrin Ganyard.

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