February 27, 2013 | 7:30am
OC Music Awards Best Live Band Finals House of Blues Anaheim February 26, 2013 Last night, the final round of the Orange County Music Awards battle for best live band gave us one big-bad ass rock show that tested our attention to detail. Rolling out a well-crafted line-up (not a filler band in sight), five finalists vied for a chance to win a ton of prizes, including a slot of the Vans Warped Tour, recording time at Red Bull Studios, Guitar Center gift certificates, a performance slot at the OCMAs and the Warped Tour and a year's supply of Wahoo's Fish Tacos (hopefully not delivered all at once without the proper refrigeration). In the end, it was southern rock band Robert Jon & The Wreck who pulled it out after a receiving some seriously stiff competition.
A well deserved honor, RJATW's performance managed to make an impression on this Feral blogger above and beyond their performances at last year's competition. This may have been due in part to the addition of guitarist Kris Butcher. Known for his work with Nicole Vaughn, Butcher skillfully wrought a mix of smoldering and fast-fingered solos, deftly proving himself a shredder with a subtle hand. The band was joined onstage mid set by Vaughn herself, who lent backing vocals along with members of former OCMA contenders Moonsville Collective and the Devious Means.
As for the band that gave Robert Jon the toughest run for his money, one would be hard pressed to nominate anyone other than Jeramiah Red. The band stomped, sang, thundered, and inspired the large crowd to join the hooting and hollering on such songs as "My Baby." Despite reportedly soldiering through a case of food poisoning, singer Wes Dickson displayed high energy as he zipped between the front of the stage and the drum riser. He led the charge with his screechy, soulful howl.
Mary Bell / OC Weekly
Fiction Reform offered the evening's biggest sound departure with a loud, fast punk aesthetic. The set highlight included a version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," re-imagined with new intensity.
Earlier in the evening Nilu Madadi pounded out ambitious passages on synth, then switched to guitar, and demonstrated a high level of ability. Served well by her backing band which included cello, she sang with a soaring, crystalline coo. But several times during her set, which was filled with haunting melodies, she broke character to suddenly crack jokes with people in the audience. At one point during a ballady tune, she abruptly called out the name of show MC Kat Corbett. The experience was jarring and led one to wonder if the emotional tenor in her music is coming from a real place, or part of a well-honed act.
Reggae band Solution kicked the evening off with their Slightly Stoopid meets Sublime style. Their set flowed nicely, switching gears frequently between clean, up-strummed reggae grooves and crunchy punk guitar. Rewriting a page from the Pennywise handbook, the band performed a version of "Stand By Me," with a reggae twist. This may have been the most surreal moment of the evening.
While it would have been nice to see the Devious Means, who turned in a very impressive set at their showcase two weeks ago, the OC Music Awards still managed to wrangle a solid lineup of bands who brought a surprising intensity and competence (beyond previous years) to the event. As the season draws to an end there's still the final awards banquet to look forward to. We'll see you March 9 at the Grove.
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