A People’s Choice Award doesn’t necessarily signify quality. Just look at the routinely terrible, nationally televised awards show that this year proclaimed The Secret Life of Bees to be America’s Favorite Movie Drama.
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Still, when Huntington Beach rock band Duress won just such an award earlier this month at the OC Music Awards, beating Champagne Blvd., Dolphin City, Starving for Gravity and Sugah Daddy, it did seem like a noteworthy accomplishment. How exactly did this group, above their fellow nominees or any other, gain the votes to become the “people’s choice”? Was it their appearance a couple of years ago on the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” segment of the endearingly insipid, now-defunct, LA radio show Frosty, Heidi & Frank? (They didn’t get a single “go,” pleasing the people even back then.) Was it related to the day job of guitarist Cody Requejo, whose prowess as a sushi chef at Retreat in Costa Mesa merited a write-up in these pages? (See Edwin Goei’s “In Full Retreat,” Oct. 2, 2008.) Or did they just have the most friends who were willing to vote for them?
While the answer might be “all of the above,” people have certainly chosen worse things than Duress. Their uninhibited embrace of straight-ahead rock (rawk, even) contrasts with the many folksy, poppy bands populating the local scene. Songs such as “Look Away” (off their second album, Stand Tall, out this summer) zip with a slick drive, showcasing their knack for crafting potential future arena anthems. Others, such as “Blue,” take things down a notch, but for the most part, Duress sound pretty similar to the active rock currently on FM stations. And why shouldn’t they? It seems to be what the people want.