OC Music Awards
Segerstrom Center, Founders Hall
Feb. 12, 2013
Night six of the 2013 Orange County Music Awards featured performances both raw (Jeramiah Red) and electrically charged (Devious Means). Though not all of the five bands hit the high mark set by the aforementioned groups (we'll talk about Standing Hawthorn momentarily), last night's gig was a fine event.
Topping the evening was Midnight Hour, whose driving, danceable rhythms were interrupted briefly midset thanks to a busted snare drum. Despite the setback, the band remained unfazed and powered through what turned out to be a commanding set. Their swirling guitars were set over humming keyboards and accompanied by singer Brad Lodge's high-pitched, reedy voice, which was reminiscent of Muse singer Matt Bellamy.
They were preceded by Standing Hawthorn, who expertly cleared the room with their hookless, overwrought vocals and mediocre grunge sound, winning the Feral Ferguson Showcase Stinker Award. It seemed as if singer Paul Schulte, who vaguely resembled Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future movies, was wearing a scarf, despite the room's temperate climate, to make some sort of bizarre fashion statement. He kept the damn thing around his neck even after mentioning the heat and removing his heavy pea coat.
But wait, there's more.
After thanking KROQ for writing a positive review of the band's song "When It's Time," Schulte brandished a mandolin, giving the audience the impression they were in for some virtuosity. As the song began, he balanced the instrument on his hand and strolled around with it as though it were a sonic weapon whose dulcet tones were soon to be unleashed. Inexplicably, Schulte put the instrument down to play a nearby synthesizer before picking the mandolin up again and strumming along with his band's loud, distorted guitar and drums. Whatever notes he was piddling were rendered inaudible. When the song was over, he announced to the audience, "We wrote this song two years ago. Before mandolins were the big thing."
In their defense, Standing Hawthorn followed one of the evening's toughest acts, Jeramiah Red. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be mentioned singer/guitarist Wes Dickson has had a long relationship with Weekly Web Editor Taylor Hamby and is a friend of mine. With that out of the way, I will say that watching Dickson perform blues-tinged rock jams felt as if he were singing for the last time. With raw intensity, he absolutely shredded his vocals, drawing energy from the audience in front of the stage, which moved to the strains being played from the speakers with a shimmying hive mind.
After Jeramiah Red was another winner — the Devious Means, whose swampy, stomping Americana-flavored sound and charged performance topped anything I've seen in the three seasons I've been covering this event. Their layered sound featured echoing guitars and haunting keys led by singer/guitarist Christopher Faris, whose gravelly yelp was reminiscent of Jack White's. He occasionally yielded the mic to keyboardist Rachel Anderson and her dynamic, melismatic vocals, which dropped at times to below a whisper before raising to a soulful wail. Adding to the excitement, she also busted out a trumpet on at least one tune. At one point, a large chain was brought into the mix and used as a percussion instrument. Definitely hoping to see this band at the final showcase.
Kicking the night off was Breach the Summit, a group of young guys just out of high school. Clad in what appeared to be their fathers' JC Penney-bought dress shirts, these youngsters didn't have a commanding presence, but they played competently. Their hard-rock sound, reminiscent of Walk the Moon's summertime hit "Anna Sun," was melodic and hummable. Give these guys a year, and then see where they're at. In the meantime, we'll be back next week for night seven. See you at the Yost.
The Crowd: I don't know if we've ever mentioned the older gentleman who is at every one of these shows and goes absolutely nuts in front of the stage to every band. His enthusiasm needs to be mentioned–and applauded.
Random Notebook Dump: If bands such as Jeramiah Red and Devious Means don't get major-label recognition, one has to wonder how any bands make it.