Column 109 — The final word on the OEAs…

Category: Blog — @ 1:36 pm January 11, 2007

This is the final word on the Omaha Entertainment Awards, at least for the first-annual event. It’s only been a week and already people are beginning to forget all about it. The Reader will try to rectify that with today’s special issue that provides coverage of the event and behind-the-scenes details. Incidentally, The Omaha World-Herald did cover the show, sort of. Mike Kelly wrote a hundred words in his column Saturday (here) that was more of an acknowledgment than anything else. Still, that’s something, and a lot more than most people expected out of the great gray Herald. Can you imagine their editorial meeting to discuss the coverage? I can.

Those who read the next-day Lazy-i coverage of the event may find the following column somewhat redundant.

Column 109: Odd Bedfellows
The OEAs bring them together.
And so, a week after the occasion of the first-ever Omaha Entertainment Awards, we reflect on its necessity and ask ourselves, “Was it all worth it?”

The night after the OEAs at O’Leaver’s where unlikely-to-be-nominated-though-worthy bands Cloven Path, Kite Pilot and Latitude, Longitude were playing, the topic of conversation was whether there should be music awards at all. The consensus from members of the local punk and indie scenes was that the OEAs were nothing but hype, that the best award any band could possibly receive was to sell their CDs and get people to come to their gigs. In the end, the crystal phallic symbol doesn’t mean jack if your band is playing to crickets in O’Leaver’s or Sokol or Mick’s or any other venue in — or out of — town.

They’re right, of course. It’s impossible to argue against that logic. Award shows are, for the most part, a marketing ploy designed to sell advertising and promote bands that generally already have more than enough press. And you could quickly discard the whole thing as a giant ego-stroke except for one thing: Never in Omaha have I seen such a diverse group of creative people together in one place at one time.

In the lobby of the Holland Center prior to the show, while a Mariachi band played on the steps leading to the auditorium, Mayor Mike Fahey nattered with an elegantly dressed member of the local theater guild, while a few feet away two guys wearing Mexican-style wrestling masks sipped drinks through straws just a few feet from a stately older gentleman in a tux and his wife who faced a guy in jeans wearing a satin bar jacket who was a few feet from two young ladies in gorgeous ball gowns who whispered in the direction of a gaggle of slam poets looking too cool to be there who were a stone’s throw from a 40-ish guy and his pre-teen son who leaned against a wall a few feet from one of the city’s best punk bands who moments earlier stood next to a blues guy from Lincoln who stood in line at the bar next to folks from Tilly and the Wall who were standing next to Mayor Mike Fahey.

Where else would — or could — such a diverse crowd ever be brought together?

One of the flaws of the Omaha music scene is how it segregates itself from itself. Go to a blues show at Shag and you’ll see a completely different crowd than you’d see at an indie show at O’Leaver’s or a play at The Blue Barn or a metal show at Shea Riley’s or a hip-hop show at Sokol or a Dixie Chicks concert at The Qwest Center. We don’t hate each other, we just don’t understand each other very well, nor do we want to. People in this city know what they like — and what they don’t like — and are more than happy to leave it at that. Any effort to at least try to expose people to something alien to their every-day existence is an achievement in my book, even if, afterward, everyone goes back to their private little corners. At least for one night they shared the same auditorium and maybe even heard something that they wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

So, was it worth it? Yeah, even with all the flaws that comes with any first-annual event. It was too long (What awards show isn’t?), the sound wasn’t quite right, some of the theater people left after their awards had been handed out. There was the problem with the music categorization, specifically jazz and R&B/funk, where the winner was one of the evening’s few performers to take home more than one crystal trophy, The Jazzwholes.

The problem, of course, was that The Jazzwholes aren’t exactly known for their jazz, R&B or funk chops. They’re an alt-pop rock band with a horn section that also happens to have one of the largest followings in the city, thanks to regular Sunday night gigs at Shag (and before Shag, The Goofy Foot Lodge). No one’s arguing that The Jazzwholes aren’t a talented bunch of guys, but the best jazz band in Omaha?

The error undermined the entire reason for the evening — to honor the best and brightest of Omaha’s music scene in their respective categories. For the OEAs to grow into a respected platform for recognition, the organizers must find a way to guarantee that it doesn’t happen again. Someone with some music knowledge has to draw a line and throw out bands that don’t belong, or else the whole thing becomes embarrassing both for the misnominated bands and for the Academy who votes for them (of which, I am a member).

Next year, I’m told, this will be fixed, along with the other glitches. In their place will be new ones. But hey, it’s all in good fun, right? Now if we can only get those guys at O’Leaver’s to lighten up, put on a dinner jacket and join the rest of us, at least for one night.

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