The 2011 OC Music Awards, Night 1

I’ve never seen Detroit Bar as jam-packed as it was last night, the kickoff for the 2011 OC Music Awards series. Hipsters stormed the place, and everyone seemed to have (or know personally) a favorite band. The local acts were competing for the title of Best Live Band, and each desperately wanted to top those who went before and move on to the finals. The roster for the Jan. 4 event included Preacher’s Sons, Semi Sweet, The Colourist, The Steelwells and The New Limb. (Since I am a judge this year, I’m afraid I can’t dish too much.)

Fullerton-based indie/folk group Preacher’s Sons delivered a fluid, six-song set highlighted by singer/guitarist Brandon Pfaff’s warm vocals and Jared Garcia’s twangy guitar. The highlight of their set was “Poison Oak,” a sweet, loping pop gem. Midway through their time onstage, Pfaff encouraged all the attendees to move closer: “We aren’t that weird. I know we are all wearing matching outfits, but come join the music.”

Semi Sweet performed next, and they took a vastly different approach. Tricked out with red lights and bubbles, the band unfortunately got totally lost in their own sound. You could barely hear Cassie Walter’s voice as she tried to enunciate the lyrics. The highlight of their set was when Kim Conlan joined them on the accordion. It added a nice element to their music, but the song “Sleazy” was as bad as its name.

The booze-loving lunatics in attendance didn’t mind, though, and they kept on rocking to Costa Mesa’s the Colourist. Since they had been nominated for Best New Artist and Best Song at the 2010 OC Music Awards and had snagged the title Best Live Band in the Weekly’s Best Of issue, I was excited to hear what the band had in store. Singer/guitarist Adam Castilla and drummer Maya Tuttle really played off each other well. Their chemistry onstage was infectious, and Tuttle’s voice was heavenly.

By the end of the Colourist’s set, Detroit was packed to the brim. Folk-rockers the Steelwells put on an amazing performance; the fans went crazy for their haunting lyrics and melodic guitar strums.

The New Limb were the last to perform, and their piano-infused pop/rock was a nice closer to the evening. The last song in their set was one of the coolest renditions of the New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” you’ll ever hear. Singer Joey Chavez and pianist/singer Lauren Salamone jumped offstage and played the beginning of the song without the rest of the band. It was somewhat hard to hear Salamone playing the melodica, but it was nice to experience something different. The crowd seemed a bit confused, but after the introduction, the band hopped back onstage to finish the classic. From a Jan. 5 Heard Mentality blog post.


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