OEA’s: Winners and sinners…

Category: Blog — @ 6:45 pm January 9, 2009

Ah, the OEA’s…

A few weeks ago, maybe it was months ago, someone involved in the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEA’s) asked me what they could do to attract the younger indie bands to the organization’s events — specifically their showcases, etc. This guy was referring to the Hotel Frank/Slumber Party Records bands as well as the usual Creek/Team Love bands. I told him I didn’t know. That there may be a perception that the OEA’s are an “establishment” organization focused on conservative, establishment entertainment. In other words, those bands may think the OEA’s aren’t “cool,” or for that matter, that awards and competition among bands is kind of stupid.

But after last night’s show, I think they may be staying away because they think the OEA’s are for old people. The average age of the folks on stage last night was probably around 50. Emcee Dave Webber, with his “case of crab” jokes and running updates on the Florida/Oklahoma game, certainly gave the show a “sitting at home with grandpa” charm. Then there was this seemingly endless parade of honorees in their 60s (or older), carefully being led on stage to accept their awards, telling stories of days long gone by. Afterward, Webber would come back to the podium and say something like, “Isn’t she wonderful? We worked together in the late early ’60s.” Even the crowd seemed older. Most of the people seated near us in the balcony were late-middle-aged or older, except for two young girls seated to my left who screamed every time Emphatic’s name was mentioned. They left looking rather dejected after the last category inwhich they were nominated.

The whole evening was a contrast to the first two years, where everyone seemed to be having a good time and you never knew what was going to happen on stage. Clearly there was an effort to throttle back on unscripted revelry. The most noticeable and distracting format change was how half of the award winners were announced but were hustled back stage to receive their awards. On the other hand, some winners were allowed to come on stage. It was confusing for everyone involved, including the audience. The unfortunate outcome — whether it was planned or by circumstance — was that the majority of those accepting awards on stage were old people.

My primary gripe about the OEA’s, however, was that Indie music — which Omaha and Nebraska is known for NATIONALLY — wasn’t represented throughout the evening — except of course for winning awards. How does that happen? How do you put together an awards show that’s supposed to honor the area’s best and brightest musicians and not have a single indie artist perform?

In fact, show organizers somehow managed to have only two of the music category winners perform during the show — Kris Lager playing music completely out of his genre, and a gospel choir. I’m told that two of the winning bands had been asked to perform — but that they were told that they could only bring half of their members. To their credit, the bands refused.

Indie wasn’t the only music genre left in the dust. There was no hip-hop, metal, punk, i.e., music that appeals to a younger audience.

Why was an entire portion of the music community ignored by this event? Any music critic from outside this state will take one look at the show’s coverage and wonder what happened to all the cool indie bands that Omaha is known for. It is, frankly, kind of strange. The most important bands from this scene — the Saddle Creek acts, Slumber Party/Hotel Frank bands, the Goldberg/garage band scene, the punk scene — the bands that record and tour nationally — continue to be conspicuously absent. If the OEAs do not — or can not — get these musicians involved, then it’s time to reconsider the value of the event. It simply doesn’t represent Omaha.

Or maybe I’m just taking this way too seriously. Fact is, any recognition is better than no recognition, right? Here’s the run-down of winners:

Best Country/Bluegrass/Folk/Roots/Americana: Black Squirrels

Best Adult Alternative/Singer Songwriter: Brad Hoshaw and Seven Deadlies

Best Blues: Kris Lager Band

Best DJ/Electronic: Brent Crampton

Best Cover Band: The Song Remains the Same

Best Jazz/Standards: Luigi, Inc.

Best Ethnic: Rhythm Collective

Best Gospel: Salem Baptist Church Voices of Victory

Best R&B/Funk/Soul: Son of 76 & The Watchmen

Best Rock: Little Brazil

Best Hard Rock/Punk/Metal: Bloodcow

Best Indie: The Faint

Best Hip-Hop: Jamazz

Album of the Year: Midwest Dilemma, Timelines & Tragedies

Best New Artist: Civicminded

Artist of the Year: The Faint

Surprises? Considering who was nominated, not really. Maybe that Oberst didn’t win anything, but then again, the Academy voters may be suffering from Conor fatigue, especially since he didn’t show up for the OEA’s last year and it was assumed that he wouldn’t be there last night. Little Brazil was surprised that they won, considering they didn’t release an album last year. Civicminded was a bit surprised, too, since they’ve been around for five years. I knew that Midwest Dilemma would win either Album of the Year or Artist of the Year. I figured Oberst would take Album of the Year because, like I said yesterday, his solo debut is on a lot of national critics’ top-10 lists (including mine).

Oh well. Onto Year Four…

* * *

Briefly, what’s going on this weekend:

Tonight at Slowdown it’s the long-soldout Girl Talk concert with Hollywood Holt and Grand Buffet. The Waiting Room has Sarah Benck and the Robbers, Skypiper and Tim Wildsmith, $7, 9 p.m.

Almost forgot the show I’ll probably be at tonight: Kyle Harvey at The Barley St. Tavern with Andrew Ancono of Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, and Headphones. 9 p.m., $? (It’ll be cheap, don’t worry).

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