The night began promisingly enough, as Baker and I miraculously found the proper exit off I-95 on our first attempt. With all the construction that marvel of modern roadway engineering and enduring testimonial to the accuracy of urban planning has undergone since our last visit to the Button South, this was a feat on par with Stanley's discovery of Livingstone near Lake Tanganyika. Of course the fact that Baker and I combined do not have the sense of direction of a drunken wombat (which is not to imply that wombats drink more or less heavily than any other ethnic group, lest we incur the wrath of the Anti-Wombat Defamation League) made this accomplishment all the more noteworthy.
Arriving at the South Florida Rock Awards so directly was a mixed blessing, however. Baker and I are old married farts, and therefore are ineligible for the primary activity of males at rock clubs -- the active, slobbering pursuit of scantily clad females. We would have to content ourselves with the traditional secondary and tertiary activities, i.e. drinking and ogling. Arriving early ("early" being a relative concept; we were actually about fifteen minutes late, so we were there an hour "earlier" than anybody really expected us to show up) meant the ogle factor would not redline for another two hours or so, and we would therefore be forced, almost against our will, to get seriously liquored up prior to the actual commencement of the festivities. This might not seem like a big deal to the casual local-music showcase patron, but to seasoned pros like Baker and me, it was a potentially disastrous scenario -- lots of time to kill and no one around to mooch free drinks off of. Luckily, we ran into one of the event's oily promoters straight-away, and he set us up with a pair of longnecks even before our pupils had recalibrated to the club's lighting.
We staked out a place at the bar slightly to the side of the stage where we could comfortably scan the surroundings without being obtrusive, no matter how loud or obnoxious we would inevitably become. We had barely launched into our first snide remarks of the evening when John Tovar, the "T" of TCA Management, informed us of an ugly controversy roiling just below the event's slick veneer. Seems somebody was distributing a batch of flyers subtly headlined "YOU'RE BEING FUCKED!" with the primary alleged fuckers being TCA and DJ Glenn Richards of WSHE-FM, the fuckees being non-TCA bands and their supporters.
The flyer exhorted the fuckees to launch a letter-writing campaign to inform the public of this miscarriage of justice. Or something to that effect. Now, I have taken my shots at TCA in the past, but it seems to me TCA bands get a lot of attention because they are generally damn good bands, and the principals at TCA are good at promoting them. A promoter's job is to promote, and the fact that the TCA boys have done their job should not be held against them. There are plenty of great non-TCA bands out there, and I hope they all get signed and appear on the cover of Rolling Stone real soon. But it ain't necessarily TCA's fault if they don't. As for Richards, he's the one major-station DJ who actually knows a Young Turk from a Holy Terror and does his level damnedest to support the local scene. Yeah, he probably plays favorites to an extent, but remember this: Any time a major-station DJ takes a stand in favor of local, original rock, he is bucking the status quo, and he deserves support. Besides, Glenn has great hair.
Okay, off the soapbox and back into the gutter. So Baker and I quaff our brewskies, the ogle factor begins to accelerate, and I find it necessary to utilize the little boys' room. This turns out to be one of the highlights of the evening, as I discover the best deal the Button South has to offer. The men's room attendant has stocked a veritable convenience store's worth of inventory in the john, and has it all meticulously arranged and elaborately displayed across the top of the sinks and under the mirrors. Hand towels, deodorant, cologne, hair spray, Tic Tac's, combs, 10 W 40 motor oil -- you name it, he had it all, and you could use as much of it as you needed for a buck tip. If you're a guy living in Hallandale, you don't ever need to buy toiletries again. Just pop into the rest room at the Button, flip the guy eight bits, and splash on the scent du jour.
As for the awards themselves, no huge surprises. There was a brief flurry of excitement when Frank Falestra, a/k/a Rat Bastard, a guy who was born wearing black-leather diapers and Elvis Costello glasses and has not taken them off since, a guy you always figure will do something off-the-wall and who rarely disappoints, presented the Best Alternative Band award to Quit, who graciously accepted the prize and walked off-stage clutching it proudly. What neither they nor anyone else in the house realized at the time was that Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids were the category's true winners. With all due respect to Marilyn, for one brief, shining moment, Quit received some of the attention and applause they so richly deserve. Maybe next year they'll get the real thing, assuming they haven't already broken nationally and put South Florida behind them.
To say the rest of the awards generated little drama would be a criminal understatement, with the possible exception of the male and female vocalists, Raul Malo and Diane Ward respectively. Both were eminently deserving, and both accepted their awards with a measure of style and gratitude that threatened to lend some class to the proceedings. Malo's band, the Mavericks, took the award for Best Country Band for the second year in a row. Maybe now the category can be retired.
Failing that, a provision should at least be added prohibiting signed bands from competing in a category they've already won in a previous year. After all, how many lipstick prints can we fit on Saigon Kick's butt?
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The silliest, most gratuitous award of the night went to the 2 Live Crew as Best Rap Act. While the Crew have their merits, they're rap's equivalent of the Big Mac. A lot of folks like 'em, and they sell a lot of units, but they're not exactly designed for the quality-conscious consumer. Two years ago Crew members actually attended the show and accepted the trophy. This time they knew better. Didn't even send a lackey to pick it up.
In fact, there was an exceedingly high no-show rate among the award winners, as Leonard Pitts, Jr., renowned "pop music" critic who is to rock what Gene Shalit is to serious cinema, pointed out in his review for the Miami Herald. Pitts brutally panned the awards show, and while some of his observations were on the mark, I take exception to his comparison of Lyrics for Lunch's stage presence to that of asparagus. Pitts has a thing about food metaphors, my favorite example being his description of Oleta Adams's "dark-chocolate voice." Somebody buy this guy lunch!
And while I concur with his assessment of the audience's overall mood as funereal initially, I thought it came to life about midway through the evening, but maybe that was attributable to the rush of adrenaline I felt after fending off a group mugging by the Mavericks with a plastic maraschino-cherry sword. (Where was my back-up, Baker?) As for Pitts's characterization of "amateur-hour bands" grinding out power chords on-stage, I did not hear Raul Malo or Debbie Spring play a single power chord during their entire set, nor do I think the major record labels who signed them, and who are currently circling the likes of Vandal, Marilyn Manson, the Holy Terrors, and Amboog-a-lard would agree with his amateur evaluation. Of course, Pitts's criticism of metal bands is an obvious mismatch of man and material, comparable to having WKRP in Cincinnati's Les Nessman review the Geto Boys. The outcome is predictable. But I haven't given up on the big guy altogether; he has, after all, reamed Michael Bolton, and compared the soulless butcher's facial expressions to those of "a man with a very bad stomach ailment." It's just that Pitts's reviews tend to play best to the Big Chill/thirtysomething crowd, which was not who showed up at the Button that night. Notice I did not use the dreaded Y-word.
All in all it was a pleasant, albeit relatively uneventful, evening. Not really a stellar showing for the original rock community, but not a total washout either. Once again, Baker managed to present an award without falling off the stage, although he did have co-presenter Glenn Richards there for ballast. We made it all the way to the bitter end without suffering bodily injury, although we each had our near-misses. We may be old married farts, but we're still pros.