Otherness and togetherness
Notes from the Ventura County Music Awards
By David Cotner 05/16/2013
You’d be forgiven if you thought a red carpet gala involved a long red walkway, but the 2013 Ventura County Music Awards’ red carpet affair is a modest red square — a mat, really, on which the people in attendance stand to have their photographs taken. The devil’s in the details, it’s often said. Then again, God is apparently also in the details; so as with much of the content and contentiousness of the Ventura music scene, life’s what you make it.
And “making it” is the whole point of this thing. Isn’t it?
Suspiciously auspicious fog swirls outside the breathtaking view from the half-full Top of the Harbor ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. It’s the point at which one can look out and, for miles and miles, see what Ventura truly is.
So what is this city, truly? That depends on your perspective.
“There’s so much great talent in Ventura County,” host Tim Amoroso (VCBuzz radio) proclaims, calling out, among others, Ska Daddyz, which gets an inordinate amount of love throughout the evening. Launched last year by VC Buzz magazine, the VC Music Awards winners were determined over the course of a year via online voting by fans and bands in 23 categories. Artists were also allowed to nominate themselves.
Many from the Ventura County music scene are present at the awards ceremony, although not as many as some of the enthusiastic presenters might expect and, in a few cases, winners are not present to pick up their awards. A phalanx of friends and family members, who make up the bulk of the attendees, are on hand; and as far as surprises go for the winners — well, there aren’t any, except perhaps that there is not yet a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Best New Artist Alexandra Starlight, who thanks the band and her fans and her man and her fam.
Best Rock Band winner Rubberneck Lions follows this up with a performance sounding sludgy and boomy in almost precisely the same way as bands that play the Palladium in Hollywood do. It is a morass and a mire out of which rises the beacon of drummer Jaison Henderson’s snare, operating like a discerning eye finding commonality in chaos.
Best Alternative Band — because Best Modern Rock Band would be so passé — is presented by Brian Parra, who observes, “If a terrorist decided to fly into the building, the entire Ventura music scene is toast,” before awarding it to Mikasa.
Best Blues Band goes to Tommy Marsh and Bad Dog; Marsh, a four-year resident of Ventura, promises, “You have no idea how good you have it here in Ventura for musicians.”
Best Hardcore Band Retaliate is presented by Preachers & Pornstars singer Shannon Parsons, who makes one of the most salient observations of the evening: “Because all the musicians here never get to hang out together!”
Best Video goes to Whiskey Glass Eye (although, strangely, the video was not projected).
Hip-hop band Small Town Zeros performs as many of the small children who are here to support the musical efforts of their nominated family members are promptly hustled out of the room lest they be caught in the crossfire of F-bombs. The band melts the walls with the bass levels and comes correct with as much bluster as the wind whirling outside — cold chilling in effect.
Jeff Hershey presents the Best Punk Band to Strand Quentin, before which he says, “I guess the most punk thing I could do is not swear.”
We strive to win awards not for recognition or glory necessarily, but instead because we fear and loathe obscurity.
We fear becoming the Other.
That we do our best in our respective fields is not at issue; many artisans and craftsmen strive to do their level best without expecting even the faintest hint of praise. Oblivion is a deeper motivator than any of us will admit. Obscurity represents the fear of lack and of not belonging. It implies being displaced from society itself — becoming the Other. The fundamental human need to belong affects everything in pop music from choruses to oldies package cruises to the communal lifting of the glass when beer is near.
So what about all those musicians who weren’t part of the 2013 Ventura County Music Awards? Chances are, they were somewhere creating art and otherwise oblivious to the winning of awards, making their own way in the world — one way or another.