Qwestioned Ballots

Grrls and boyz, we have a winner. Well, 13 winners. One each for the 12 genre-specific categories in the second annual New Times Music Awards Showcase, plus Yoko Love, write-in victor for "Most Likely to Make It Big." I compliment our readers on their taste, but I think they might have mixed up "Most Likely" with "Most Deserving." May I be wrong.

Anyway, in case you missed the full-page, full-color ad, replete with company and corporate sponsor logos, on page 97, here's who grabbed top props in the 12 categories:

Blues/R&B: Sistah Blue
Club DJ: Z-Trip
Country & Western/Americana: Suicide Kings
Funked-Up: Fred Green
Hip-Hop: Shinndiggs
Industrial: N17
Jazz: Odd Man Out
Latin: Barrio Latino
Metal: Oil
Modern Rock: Jesus Chrysler Supercar
Punk: Mad At 'Em
Ska/Reggae: Kongo Shock

Now, let's debrief. What do we have here? Well, no major upsets, certainly. Fred Green, N17, and Barrio Latino were clear favorites in their respective categories, and for Ska/Reggae, it really came down to a question of either/or--either Kongo Shock or Walt Richardson, ska or reggae--and Kongo/ska won the day. Not that veteran status ensured victory. Hans Olson, Big Pete Pearson, Patti Williams, and the Hoodoo Kings all came in behind white-hot Valley blues-scene newcomers Sistah Blue, the all-women, modern (read: "shiny and danceable") blues band that's still riding high after a second-place finish at the International Blues Talent Competition in Memphis last fall.

I was a bit surprised that Mad At 'Em edged out Slugger in the Punk category, just because Slugger has more name recognition and Yolanda the wonder voice, but both bands do that grrl thing well, and it was a photo finish. Jesus Chrysler Supercar's repeat--winner and still champion, two years running--shows the Valley rock crowd still favors a more straightahead, grungy, riff-rider guitar rock sound. And a solid win by the Suicide Kings demonstrates growing support for Alt.Country in the Valley, which is a great relief here in the land of "Country Thunder."

Really, the only hint of anomaly among the voting results is Shinndiggs taking the Hip-Hop category. I saw the first half of Shinndiggs' set at Balboa Cafe, and the duo was definitely tight and charismatic. However, that was also Shinndiggs' first real show, so one has to wonder: What gives? New Times originally nominated the Brothers Grimm to the Hip-Hop category, then accepted Shinndiggs as a substitute when BG broke up after the nomination. One of the Brothers Grimm, DLB, had immediately hooked up with free-agent Valley MC Killtone to form Shinndiggs. Obviously, DLB's popularity in the Valley hip-hop scene was a driving force in the voting, and should ensure his new group a solid fan base to build from.

Unfortunately, the results in the Hip-Hop category were irreversibly tainted by Gibson's owner Matt Engstrom's decision to have bouncers start charging a $5 cover 10 minutes into hip-hop nominee Know Qwestion's hourlong set at his Tempe club. It didn't matter that you had already paid five bucks for a wristband that was supposed to allow all-access to any of the 12 showcase venues in downtown Tempe. Hell, Gibson's even charged people with laminated VIP badges.

I want to dispel a prevalent misperception, in no uncertain terms: New Times saw none of that money, and had nothing to do with Gibson's starting to charge a cover, midevent.

Engstrom told us he started charging because the Boogie Knights were scheduled to go on directly after Know Qwestion, and he wanted to make sure no one stayed inside after KQ's set to see the Boogie Knights for free.

Now, let me get this straight: Engstrom was afraid a hip-hop crowd would try to sneak around paying five bucks to see a bunch of white guys in Afro wigs sing "Disco Inferno." That's so stupid I don't even know what to write next, so I'll just offer a public apology to Know Qwestion. I'm not saying Shinndiggs doesn't deserve the blue ribbon. Not at all. For a debut, its set was outstanding. The point is, the Music Awards was a competition, and anything that calls the results into question is a major problem as far as I'm concerned. Ballots were available for several weeks, but most people voted the day of the event, presumably a lot of them at the venue where their favorite act performed. True, there probably weren't enough KQ fans who got jacked at the door to make a difference in the final results, but there could have been, and there's no way to know for sure, which sucks on all sides.

Federation Fracas
In other uncomfortable news, Trunk Federation bassist Mark Fronstin abruptly quit the band last month, derailing the second leg of a tour in support of the Phoenix band's debut album, The Infamous Hamburger Transfer. Trunk front man Jim Andreas says Fronstin announced his imminent departure in the van on the way to a show in Portland, Oregon, the morning of April 4. "We didn't really think he was serious," says Andreas. "But then we arrived in Portland, and Mark immediately began making plane reservations."

Fronstin played his last show with the band that night, and flew home to Arizona the next day, forcing the cancellation of 25 shows in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Andreas says most of those dates have since been rescheduled for this summer, and Trunk recently hired San Diego bassist Bob Smith--who played piano on several Hamburger Transfer tracks--to replace Fronstin.

"We're really sad to see Mark go," Andreas says. "But he didn't like being on the road, and if you're not into touring, this is the wrong band to be in."

--David Holthouse

David Holthouse is now wired.
The Web site is Mothership. The address is www.phoenixnewtimes.com/extra/holt/index.html. The options are myriad (multigenre criticism, archives, rave data, freak links).

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