If you awoke Friday with blurred visions of glow sticks and dancing bananas in your head… don't worry. It wasn't the drink or the drugs; it was just the Flagpole Athens Music Awards.
On Thursday, June 21 the Morton Theatre was filled with wild costumes, music and love as Athens came together to honor the best and brightest local talent. Like Totally! kicked things off with their quirky brand of kid-friendly pop, and their adorable dancers stuck around all night to give out awards. We got a serious case of the warm fuzzies several times during the night. DJ Mahogany went all teary eyed with his sweet and sincere acceptance speech, and we loved hearing Page Campbell's voice, even if faint, coming in through sister Claire's phone as she took home yet another Flagpole Award for best folk act.
2012 Flagpole Athens Music Award Winners
Jazz: Kenosha Kid
Jam: Dank Sinatra
Folk/Singer-songwriter: Hope for Agoldensummer
Electronic: Velveteen Pink
Session Player: Adam Poulin
Cover Band: The B-53s
Country: Lera Lynn
Southern Rock: Futurebirds
Best Cover Art: The District Attorneys: Slowburner
Metal: Music Hates You
Live Band: Reptar
Rock: Don Chambers + GOAT
Album of the Year: The District Attorneys: Slowburner
Upstart: Grass Giraffes
Artist of the Year: The District Attorneys
Host Caleb Synan kept pit band Kenosha Kid on their toes all night, and he got the crowd on their feet for a little pre-show dance party. We were witness to a few hidden talents as well: who knew Akeeme Martin, host of WUOG's "Halftime Hip-Hop Show," could sing and bust a move like that? Maybe he'll be up for an award himself next year!
After just a few months living in Brooklyn, Flagpole writer Jeff Tobias decided he is almost too cool for us, choosing to speak mostly through his "personal assistant" as he took the stage to present a handful of awards. (We could see through you like you could see through those shades, Tobias. Nobody who foregoes a Central Park gig in favor of attending AthFest could ever be seen as a traitor in this town.)
Although off stage the bandmembers scoffed at their placement in the "punk" category, winners Manray proved their punk 'tude by climbing over the balcony to accept their award, only to give their thanks from behind the curtain before diving head-first into the pit. So, they're probably banned from the Morton now… There's always one.
But it was actually a non-Athens resident who completely stole the show. Kishi Bashi's gut-wrenchingly beautiful set of layered vocals, electronics and violin stunned the crowd into awed silence… a silence only broken by an eager and apt "Holy shit!" exclamation from a fan at the end of the set. In between songs, Kishi Bashi showered our town with praise and said he hoped to move his family down here from Virginia in the near future. Yes, please.
Cicada Rhythm was another breathtaking moment; the couple's smoky harmonies were a perfect fit for the warm acoustics of the Theatre. We were also honored to have legendary keyboard player Ike Stubblefield onstage, laying down some funky, free-form jams while decked out in his finest tie-dye tee. Bow-tied bandleader Patrick Morales offered two lovely Viking Progress songs enhanced by a full band set-up. And Upstart of the Year winners Grass Giraffes closed out the night with their addictive, propulsive rock. Dang, that 16-year-old drummer tore it up! Hope he drives less recklessly than he plays…
This year marked the introduction of a brand-new award—best session player—which was deservedly taken home by fiddler Adam Poulin.
The big winners of the night, with three total awards, were The District Attorneys. I swear that it has nothing to do with my law school plans, but it does prove the young group has a strong and dedicated following.
Reptar, our 2010 Upstart Band of the Year, added Best Pop Band and Best Live Band to its Flagpole Award collection. And if such a thing existed, Reptar keyboardist William Kennedy would have easily scored an award for Best Top Knot, as well.
Overall, it was a delightful night and a fine kickoff to a hot and lively AthFest. You can watch video of the entire show online now on Homedrone!.