Given the state of the economy, it didn't make sense to put on an extravagant Music Awards this year. So for this, Scene's 10th annual Music Awards, we took over Sunday night's Inner Sanctum - 92.3 FM's local music show - to announce the Music Awards winners. Inner Sanctum host Pat the Producer, Live Nation's Matt Korona and Elise Rossman, the Agora's Andrea Sweazy and Justin Simpson, and 92.3 intern Shawn Perry all pitched in to announce the winners and play a song by each of them. Here's a rundown of who won what.
Singer-songwriter Robin Stone is like Cleveland's answer to Ani DiFranco: She plays a mix of rock and folk and has been fiercely independent throughout her career, now almost a decade long. A righteous babe who regularly plays benefit concerts, the Cleveland native has her heart in the right place too. Look for a new studio release this spring.
First with the Whiskeyhounds and now with the Magpies, raspy-voiced singer-songwriter Roger Hoover writes about "living every night like it's New Year's Eve" with such sincerity, it's apparent he's speaking from personal experience. Think Townes van Zandt mixed with a bit of Nebraska-era Springsteen.
Austin Walkin' Cane
A veritable institution on the local blues scene, Austin Walkin' Cane Charanghat regularly plays local watering holes like Flannery's and the Old Angle. His sandpaper vocals are well-suited to his original material (which includes last year's conceptual Murder of a Blues Singer album) and covers like "Mr. Heatmiser," the seasonal tune he performs so capably with the Ohio City Singers. He won in two categories this year: Best Blues Act and Best Guitarist.
First with the Lords of the Highway and now with the Horror of 59, bassist Sugar has been a fixture on the local rockabilly scene for the better part of a decade. While she hasn't played on any of Horror of 59's studio releases yet, her presence at the live shows, where she plays upright bass like a pro, has already given the guys a good kick in the butt.
For the better part of seven years now, Akron's Houseguest has been a singular entity on the indie-rock scene, sounding more like mid-'80s Brit acts the Smiths and the Housemartins than anything from Northeast Ohio. Steve Clements' distinctive keyboard playing is as intrinsic to the band's music as Theodore Mallison's caterwauling vocals.
With his quintet, alto-sax man Dave Sterner creates some of the best old- school jazz you'll hear around here. His debut, What's What, has some serious swing to it, especially on the aptly named "The Jive Song." He's currently a part-time faculty member at both Cuyahoga Community College and Lakeland Community College.
As one half of Akron's garage-blues duo the Black Keys, lanky Patrick Carney creates a racket and a half on the drums while backing up singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach. The guy also deserves kudos for being such a big advocate of all things Akron, - especially local bands, many of whom he promotes through his Audio Eagle imprint.
Now that Mick Boogie has moved off to Brooklyn, it's time another local DJ took over the role as the city's party starter. DJ E-V (Eric Vajda), whose MySpace site is one of the flashiest you'll ever see, has stepped up, issuing an endless stream of mix tapes (check out his Bitch, I'm From Cleveland and the aptly titled I Run Ohio series) and remixing local guys like Kid Cudi and Chip Tha Ripper.
Best singer-songwriter winner Roger Hoover fronts this terrific bar band that plays regularly in and out of town. Its debut, last year's Eastern Standard Time, is a great collection of rootsy rockers and alt-country ballads that occasionally feature flourishes of organ, piano and accordion.
The Jack Fords
Led by powerhouse singer Brent Kirby, the Jack Fords are a rowdy rock band that hearkens back to the days when twang demons like the Georgia Satellites and the Bottle Rockets were considered alternative rock. The guys just finished an album with producer (and former Del Lord) Eric "Roscoe" Ambel that's due out this spring.
Led by seductive singer Mandy Lashua, this Akron quartet recalls the best of the female singer-led, late-'90s alt-rock acts (think Garbage, for a good example). Released last year, the band's self-titled, six-track debut EP has a gritty, dynamic dimension to it, helped in part by the fine production work, courtesy of guitarist (and Mandy's husband) Derek Lashua.
Salt the Wound
A couple of years back, these metalcore vets caught the attention of L.A.-based Rotten Records, which last year issued Carnal Repercussions. A cross-country tour ensued, and even though the band's been through a few line-up changes, it still remains a force on the local (and national) metal scene.
The guys in this Akron band make no excuses for their straight-ahead punk rock, admitting that they have little in common with all the emo and screamo stuff you hear. Instead, they count old-school heroes like the Dead Boys as an inspiration. The band is currently working on a new disc expected out sometime before the year is over.
Above this Fire
Having recently issued Last Ones on their own newly formed Forest City Records, the guys in this hardcore band take local pride seriously. They recorded the album - a nice balance of heavy hardcore and more accessible punk melodies - here at Ante Up Audio and Conquistador studios, and had the graphics locally printed and designed too.
Bears started almost by accident in the summer of 2005 when singer-guitarist Charlie McArthur and drummer Craig Ramsey tried to form a punk trio. When the band's third member didn't show up for practice, McArthur and Ramsey figured they'd start writing pop songs together. The sunny, smart songs on the band's self-titled debut became an underground sensation, and glowing reviews appeared in mags like Skyscraper, Alternative Press and Amplifier.
Lords of the Highway
These honky-tonkers have been around long enough that they can say their first release was a cassette. A couple of the Lords' early albums came out on the Cowslingers' Drink N Drive Records, and the band has roots in rockabilly, '50s rock and honky-tonk country. In addition to playing classics by Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, the band has a wealth of original material too.
This band - which features local industrial rock veteran DJ Cable, programmer Pat Berdysz and former 20goto10 singer Sara Eugene - falls on the more ambient and trance-influenced side of the goth/industrial scene. Released last year, its self-titled debut owes more to Xymox than Bauhaus.
One of the artists signed with locally based Dreamlife Productions, rapper Al Fatz (a.k.a. Fat Al) sings as well as he raps. He had a regional hit a couple years back with the sparse, infectious "Came Down," a tune he recorded on a limited budget. The guy's smooth delivery on Double Trouble, a 2007 collaboration with Chip Tha Ripper, caught the attention of local media outlets, which proclaimed him heir apparent to Bone Thugs' crown.
This modern jazz ensemble is one of the hardest working groups on the local scene. With two studio albums under its belt, the group performs regularly at Fat Fish Blue and Nighttown. Describing themselves as "post-bop style jazz," the guys are also festival favorites. Look for a new studio release sometime this year.
It's not easy to define this percussion-heavy ensemble that released its second CD, Dark Eye, in 2007, an album that got the band gigs as far away as France and New York. Featuring three Cleveland Institute of Music and one Berklee College of Music grad, the band's got great chops, which is evident in the way it crosses classical and jazz influences.