Last night’s Boston Music Awards at House Of Blues offered several good performances from local bands and hip hop artists. Hosted by Dorchester comedian Lamont Price, the show had a non stop feeling of energy emanating from the music makers and the laugh maker.
Shun Ng And The Shunettes were show openers. Mr Ng’s acoustic guitar interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin Somethin” showed he could make any song his own. Ng’s guitar was like a magic wand, an instrument that allows him to take his music in any direction and to create whatever he feels. His backing vocalists, two young ladies known as The Shunettes, sang mind blowingly good harmonies on “Worn Out Shoes.”
Hip Hop artist and rapper Kyle Bent offered his homies a lot of charisma and fantastic rhyme schemes which rolled off his mellifluous tongue. To illustrate that it’s not all about rhymes, Bent was even good singing when he, at one point, sang with no music playing in the backdrop.
The hard rocking trio Lady Pills played some incisive hard rock. Tight and hell and tough as nails, their dissonant, bracing sound was really cool. These ladies now how to rock out and last night’s sample of their wares likely brought in some new fans.
Bearstronaut blasted their way into every audience’s party psyche with a bulbous horn section, a funky, heavy hitting rhythm section, and a lead vocalist, Dave Martineau, with old school class and an engagingly smooth vocal. Their percussionist may as well be a second drummer as he played with big pieces and made a big sound. He augmented the keyboards, low end, and horns like nobody’s business. While the keys and horns kept a wide arc of expression, the rhythm section motivated the feet and spine to move.
Anybody who was unfamiliar with Walter Sickert & The Army Of Broken Toys before last night’s show is probably running a search engine on them. They are like nothing the imagination can conjure until you happen onto them. A flute player, a percussionist tapping a pot, a viola, and a melodica player combined their unusually sweet notes with rocking guitar, bass, and drums. “Black Magic” was particularly stunning, marked by an eerie viola line from long time member Rachel Jayson.
Air Traffic Controller played their intriguing brand of pop rock. One could feel a special emphasis in their vocals, keyboard driven soundscapes. Hard to define, they can sound wildly haunting one moment then rely on a catchy pop-rock chorus the next. Yet, everything they played last night boiled into a smooth flowing sound with numerous moving parts.
The Ballroom Thieves made an indelible impression with their three part harmonies and an overall larger than life sound. Calin Peters’ cello work rivaled the guitar with aggression and energy with forceful roots enthusiasm. What jumped out most about this trio was the way they made roots idioms jump out at the audience with three dimensional quality, a wide, all encompassing quality that will make their music accessible to many.
On loan from Speedy Ortiz, Sadie Dupuis displayed a steely resolve in her guitar playing and a contrasting easefulness in her vocal, strategically highlighting the strength of each. Her flinty chord work shone out in her stripped down set, with only a bass player to accompany her at the end of it. One could hear many colors and tones emanating from Dupuis electric guitar as she created sonic textures seemingly out of thin air.
Nothing could have prepared the uninitiated for the howling powerhouse vocals of Julie Rhodes. Many may have felt they were witnessing the next big thing in the music scene as Rhode, with her stunningly strong pipes, rivaled Janis Joplin as someone who might make a microphone start to melt. Soulful, raspy, belty, her vocal matched the fire of her stomping good band who nailed many bluesy idioms in their feisty delivery. Look for Julie Rhodes in a larger article on BillCopelandMusicNews.com in the coming days.
Contact played a power pop set filled with exciting sweeps of keyboard work within their wide, arcing sound. Strangely enough, The Hotelier, who were nominated for and won in the Punk/Hardcore category, played more of a melodic rock style, and they did it well. Those guys play songs that feel like they’re taking you somewhere, though probably not to a Punk/Hardcore concert.
Hip Hop artist/Rapper Michael Christmas offered some very sweet rhyme work when he sang and rapped about everything from cell phones to people getting on his case. His “Bubba Land” was a soulful treat for the ears before he got the crowd hopping to his leave me alone anthem titled “Get Up Off My Dick.” It helped to have a support DJ playing some wild tunes behind him.
There was a nonstop energy to the musical performances because the nominees and winners of this year’s Boston Music Awards were flashed on a screen rather than presented by hand by official presenters. Handled more like a concert with a video screen occasionally announcing who won kept audiences focused on the music. It was a wise choice, as audiences usually have a difficult time switching from the energy of suspense over who will win to the energy of getting into a band.
Although, there was a diverse amount of styles from within the rock and pop community, the downside was there was no representation from blues bands or jazz artists at last night’s show. That was unfortunate, as blues and jazz combos usually stay together longer than pop rock acts and they could’ve provided a historical aspect to all that Boston’s music scene has to offer.
Let’s hope the Boston Music Awards continues to produce award shows/concerts of this quality while continuing to make their shows, as well as their nominating committee, as diverse as possible.
Here is the list of winners from last night’s show:
Artist of the Year
Album/EP of the Year
Cousin Stizz – “Monda”
Song of the Year
PVRIS – “You And I”
New Artist of the Year
Live Artist of the Year
The Ballroom Thieves
Video of the Year
Air Traffic Controller – “The House”
Female Vocalist of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year
Americana Artist of the Year
The Ballroom Thieves
Blues Artist of the Year
DJ/Producer of the Year
Electronic Artist of the Year
Folk Artist of the Year
The Ballroom Thieves
Hip Hop Artist of the Year
International Artist o the Year
Jazz Artist of the Year
Metal Artist of the Year
Pop Artist of the Year
Punk/Hardcore Artist of the Year
R&B Artist of the Year
Rock/Indie Artist of the Year
The Devil’s Twins
Singer-Songwriter of the Year
Ruby Rose Fox
Studio Producer of the Year
The Arcitype (Janos Fulop)
Live Production Engineer of the Year (New for 2016)
Best Live Music Photographer
Best Music Photo of the Year (New for 2016)
Jonathan Beckley – The Dresden Dolls / Amanda Palmer
Randi Millman – Atwood’s Tavern
Best Music Night
Emo Night at The Sinclair
Best Live Music Venue
*Capacity: above 300
Best Live Intimate Music Venue (New for 2016)
*Capacity: 300 and below
Best Live Ongoing Residency
OldJack’s Last Saturdays at the Lizard Lounge
Session Musician of the Year (New for 2016)
Best Music Blog