After two years to get our feet wet, Urban Tulsa Weekly decided it was time to mix things up a little bit and move the ABoT Music Awards to a new venue. We've lived, we've learned and we've grown. And as part of that, we've also stepped up the production this year, calling for something special.
Of course, it's hard to beat the history that comes with Cain's Ballroom, but 2011 called for growth, so we moved the party to the only venue in the region that is arguably cooler than "The House that Bob Built" and landed at The Joint -- the state of the art concert venue at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Once inside, the party sprawled everywhere, from the bars to the slot machines and gaming tables, only adding to the buzz of the night.
"Red Carpet" entries began at 7pm and saw everyone from repeat winners Chuk Cooley and the Demon Hammers, Halo Jordan and Crossland to newcomers Angie Cockrell, Rude Amps and Del Toros engage in the glitz and fun before the third annual awards kicked off at 8pm.
This year's show kicked off with The ABoT Music Awards Orchestra lighting up the stage musically and playing a vital part of the proceedings throughout the evening. The orchestra consists of the Tulsa Rock Ensemble (formerly Tulsa Rock Quartet) players Kathy Rad (cello), Michael Nicholson (violin), Laura Talbot (violin) and Paulo Eskitch (viola), performing with guitarist Tom Hanford, bassist Kevin Flint and drummer/percussionist Judge Porter.
Not only did the ABoT Music Awards Orchestra open the evening and provided transition music between awards, the ensemble also provided the evening's highlights by accompanying "artist of the year" nominees Angie Cockrell, Chase Stites, Olivia Duhon and Brandon Clark. The ABoT Music Awards always deliver something special, but it's hard to not be impressed when you get to see some of Tulsa's best artists perform with full string arrangements. The strings added a new dimension to Stites' rendition of "Love Again" and Clark's as of yet unreleased "Change Your Mind." The orchestra was only icing on the cake, however, for smoldering performances by Olivia Duhon and Angie Cockrell, both of which were also nominated in the Best Female Vocal category.
Once our returning host, Jeff Scheel (of industrial rockers Gravity Kills), hit the stage, we were well underway with no turning back. After a long round of nominations and almost two weeks of voting on the final candidates, the wait was almost over. As a veteran front man and host, Scheel knew what the audience had come for and after a brief introduction cut right to the chase. In the end, we had some repeat winners, the expected champions and a few shocking upsets to keep the evening lively, crowning a few obvious local favorites and shining a light on some newcomers that we will be sure to hear more from in the future. As they say, "Let the games begin..."
Best Female Vocalist
This category opened the evening with a showdown between big personalities and even bigger voices. Fiawna Forte has to be considered a frontrunner as the sole rock vocalist in the mix and one of the most magnetic band leaders in town. Even so, Wanda Watson represents Tulsa's blues history while Olivia Duhon and newcomer to the awards, Angie Cockrell, both melt hearts and minds with their smoldering jazz voices. Tulsa's new country diva in the making, Kristin Nicole; who surprised everyone in this category last year, rounded out the list.
Winner: A repeat victory by Kristin Nicole proved that last year was no fluke, as the rest of the evening would continue to confirm.
Best Male Vocal
Last year's winner returns to lead the category as one of four nominations in this year's music awards. Nothing is a given, however, as newcomer Lisandro Bouxrude (of Rude Amps, with 7 nominations in total) joins the mix as Dan Crossland and Jacob Dement prove their versatility of style in Tulsa's favorite cover bands, Crossland and The Sellouts, respectively. Dustin Pittsley rounds it out to represent both The New Tulsa Sound and the blues rock contingent.
Winner: Chase Stites wins the category for a second year as his solo career just begins to take off...
Last year's winner, Apagee, threatened another repeat win as the sole R&B acts in a nominee pool that included Dustin Pittsley, Steve Pryor and Wanda Watson as well as gritty newcomer Joshua Yarbrough.
Winner: Although each deserves recognition, Tulsa's "Queen of the Blues" reclaims her crown as Wanda Watson wins in a minor upset.
This where intrigue begins to set in for the evening. Perpetual nominee and last year's winner Joesf Glaude Group has to me considered a favorite, but the talent pool runs deep here. Ron Adams is new to the awards, but a well-respected veteran of the local jazz scene. His vote might be split however, with the amazing talent of Olivia Duhon, whom he frequently accompanies. Angie Cockrell appears here again, in another friendly faceoff between Duhon and Cockrell and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey rounds out the list as a nod to a career that just keeps evolving.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.
Winner: Seventeen years into a career that keeps evolving with twists and turns, it's impossible to deny that Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is at a new creative peak, following last summer's Ludwig with the equally impressive debut of The Race Riot Suite this past May.
This year's nominees provided a great mix, bring youth and a taste of country rock with 2 Steps Back, a more traditional approach with Dixie Train, and two new comers to the party with Jimmy Blythe and Kinsey and Company, along with Kristin Nicole Band back for a second year.
Winner: In a sign of what's to come, Kristin Nicole Band takes the award and proves that a busy schedule and taking time to connect with the fans every night builds a loyal following and earns your fans' respect.
Best Indie Rock
Conventional thinking says Fiawna Forte should be a shoo-in here, as an undeniable force on the local indie scene. Motive For Movement and Scales of Motion also represent the staple so the local scene while Del Toros and Rude Amps face off for the first round of the evening as the two top newcomers on the indie scene. But can the topple established favorites/
Winner: Del Toros take home their first award as the first big upset winner of the evening.
2010 winner Stars Go Dim leads this year's class, along with perennial Tulsa favorites RadioRadio and newcomers Moai Broadcast, Apollo and Chase Stites for a talent pool that represents Tulsa's new power-pop movement, balanced by Moai Broadcast's jam-rock aesthetic
Winner: Chase Stites takes home his second trophy as a platform for his new career as a Tulsa's latest pop star.
Best Lounge Cover Band
When Tulsa sets out to hit the clubs and relax with their favorite songs, they've got some big choices: Charlie Redd & the Full Flava Kings, Dixie Train, Groove Pilots, Hi-Fidelics and The Jetset Kings represent Tulsa's cover acts.
Winner: Matt Brantley and Randy Patton add a new trophy to their already long music careers as Hi-Fidelics take home their first win in this category.
Best Metal Hard Rock
Can anyone stop the juggernaut that has become Chuk Cooley & the Demon Hammers over the past two years? Firstryke, Searching For Sanity, Tiranico and With Smoke They Gave Their Offering all throw their hats in the ring in a bid to knock off Tulsa's hard rock giant.
Winner: Nearly 30 years of metal and hard rock finally gain recognition as metal veterans Firstryke (formed in 1983) take home this year's trophy in what just may be the biggest shock of the night...
Algebra's two-year reign in this category is threatened by the fact that he's also a part of Snorlaxx, which also garnered a nomination this year. The category is rounded out by Hiphopotamus, Apagee and newcomer Meech.
Winner: In perhaps the only win more shocking that Firstryke's upset of Chuk Cooley, Meech scores a huge win for Tulsa's urban Hip Hop artists, taking the trophy from a contingent that's as closely tied to the indie rock scene as rap. Meech's win promises to kick open doors of opportunity to a whole new group of artists for next year's awards.
Best Party Cover Band
Who brings the best party? Crossland reappears as a reigning champion here, along with Dead Metal Society, Imzadi, The Sellouts, and Under the Gun for the band that Tulsa prefers to party with.
Winner: Crossland continues to dominate this category, winning the award for a third year in a row and an acceptance speech that saw frontman Dan Crossland thank Tulsa's original musicians for creating the songs that he gets to sing on a nightly basis.
Best Dance Party Band
This is the category that causes the most confusion on nominations, but this year, Tulsa got it right, tabbing Digital Graffiti, Guardant, Kite Flying Robot, Moai Broadcast and Recorder as the original bands that provide the best dance party soundtracks in clubs around town.
Winner: Digital Graffiti takes a trophy home for its creative mix of instruments and sampling that turns rooms like Soundpony and Crystal Pistol into free-from dance clubs.
Stars Go Dim.
Halo Jordan returns to the ABoTs for a shot at a three-peat in this category, competing against Apagee, Consumed by Fire, crossover artist Angie Cockrell and last year's Best Pop/Rock band, Stars Go Dim.
Winner: Stars Go Dim takes home a trophy for Best Christian, building off of national CCM airplay for the band's latest single, "Love Like I Mean It."
Best Club DJ
The competition runs tight here as DJ Rook, DJ Sway and DJ Oreo join forces with DJ Kylie to battle DJ Deathstar and prove just who creates Tulsa's best club mixes.
Winner: DJ Oreo capitalizes on his ability to play a variety of clubs outside of his day gig at KHTT-FM 106.9 K-Hits 106.9 to mix things up and reach a broad audience.
Best Live Performance
Chuck Cooley & the Demon Hammers come back, shooting for a repeat win as best live band, but fellow hard rockers Searching For Sanity are challenging for the win. Kristin Nicole Band represents the country contingent with a high-energy show that crosses genres while Del Toros and Rude Amps face off again in a battle between two of Tulsa's hottest indie bands.
Winner: Kristin Nicole Band returns to the big stage for a third trophy of the night, proving that a country band can bring just was much energy to the stage as the rock contingent.
Best Radio Station
Cut and dried, we asked who provides the best music on Tulsa radio: KWEN-FM 95.5, KMOD-FM 97.5, KTGX-FM Gen-X Radio 106.1, KHTT-FM K-Hits 106.9 or KMYZ-FM Z104.5 The Edge -- and you told us...
Winner: Tulsa's only alternative rock station, KMYZ-FM Z104.5 The Edge remains a staple for all modern and alt-rock stations, as well as a consistent supporter of local original music.
Best Radio Personality
Lynn Hernandez (KMOD) returns to the ballot, looking for a repeat win in 2011, but faces off against his compatriots and local radio legends Phil & Brent (KMOD), Chuck Stevens (Mix 96), Greg & Chuck (Z104.5/The Edge) and The Billy Madison Show on KHITS.
Winner: Greg Koszak and Chuck Stickl finally win in this category, with Stickl giving local bands and music fans a pep talk on how to keep the local music scene alive and thriving.
Best Local Producer
Costa Stasinopoulos heads up this category for his work with JFJO and Panda Resistance, representing the indie scene with Joy Boccacci of Kimi Studios. Representing our established studios, John Schroeder at The Church and Brian Osborn at Brady Street Records join Hank Charles at Valcour Sound to produce Tulsa's best albums.
Winner: Hank Charles wins a third trophy for overseeing, well, more bands and albums than we can keep track of each year at Valcour Sound -- including steering Rude Amps toward indie rock greatness.
Best Small Music Venue
Tulsa's clubs cover it all, but where's the best place to catch a local band? The Colony, Shenanigans, Soundpony, The Marquee and Mercury Lounge face off as Tulsa's best small music venue.
Winner: You can't get more up close and personal that Soundpony -- this year's best small music venue and place to catch local bands.
Best Large Music Venue
Clubs are great, but when the major tours roll through town, it takes a bigger room. This year's nominees include the historic Cain's Ballroom and Brady Theater, BOK Center, Osage Event Center and this year's home of the ABoT Music Awards, The Joint.
Winner: Year in and year out, Tulsa can't deny that a great stage and sound system paired with a sense of history make Cain's Ballroom the best Large Music venue in Tulsa.
Song of the Year
Kristin Nicole Band.
Halo Jordan garners a second nomination this year for "The Flag & The Cross," putting the band in impressive company with RadioRadio's "Esprit De Corp," Rude Amps' "Sing Like This," Kristin Nicole Band's "Jesus & Hank" and Joesf Glaude Group's "Wandering, Not Lost"
Winner: Kristin Nicole Band takes home 4th trophy for "Jesus & Hank" in a fitting tribute to former manager Dale Simpson, who secured the song and convinced the band to record it before passing away nearly two months ago.
Album of the Year
Rude Amps' Vicious Wave and Del Toros' Come Down lead the pack of nominees which includes Halo Jordans' Not Many Cowboys, The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton and The Colony Presents: The New Tulsa Sound.
Winner: Another surprise win as Del Toros unseat the highly successful New Tulsa Sound compilation with a win for Come Down, produced by Chris McCleod.
(NewVo)Newcomer of the Year
Rude Amps, Del Toros and Chase Stites are set for a showdown between Tulsa's rising stars. But could and upset be in order from Jimmy Blythe or Tulsa's stealth rock band, RL Jones?
Winner: Del Toros' night continues to roll as the band secures a third trophy as the Best Newcomer in 2011...
Band of the Year
Can Del Toros do it one more time or will Chuk Cooley take away his trophy for the night? Kristin Nicole Band and Rude Amps continue to play apparent favorites though, and Moai Broadcast is overdue for and upset win as the night winds down.
Winner: Del Toros closes out its night with one more win and three trips in a row to the podium, causing a sense of déjà vu for the band and audience, alike.
Artist of the Year
Jesse Aycock wasn't able to attend this year's awards due to a previous performance commitment, but that doesn't take him out of the running here. If anything, he might be a prohibitive favorite as the sole representative of the New Tulsa Sound Contingent. Performances by Olivia Duhon, Angie Cockrell, Chase Stites and Brandon Clark have peppered the evening with entertainment between awards and built the audience up to this final climax to finish out the evening and finally hear Jeff Scheel utter the words...
Winner: Brandon Clark
Yes, it's true. Brandon Clark wins artist of the year for a second year in a row, and takes it in typically understated stride. If you don't believe that hard work, great songs and more than 300 shows a year pay off, take a look at Brandon Clark's career. There's even more going on in the background right now which has the potential to make Clark a true breakout artist with his band in 2012.
We also took the time to honor Jordan Hiteshew for his dedication to the local music scene with the Wayman Tisdale "Lifetime of Tulsa Music" Award. As both an inspiration and enabler of musicians within the local music scene, he gave of his time and talents to lift our artists to the next level. That's why, nearly a year after his passing, we felt it appropriate to honor him as the first non-musician to be honored with the award as he impacted countless lives by his willingness and desire to both built the local music community and help others. Jordan's mother, Renee Hiteshew, and brother Jesse accepted in his honor.
Overall, it was a great night that saw many of Tulsa's best artists come together for a night to celebrate the local music scene.
Amongst other things, a new king of the indie rock scene was crowned as Del Toros emerged with four awards, only matched by Kristin Nicole with four trophies as Tulsa's hottest country artist.
It's hard to say what ranked as the biggest surprise of the evening: Rude Amps' complete shut out after a field leading 8 nominations, Firstryke's upset win over Chuk Cooley & the Demon Hammers in the best metal/hard rock category, or Meech coming out of left field with a win for Tulsa's urban hip-hop artists.
Regardless, it will go down as a night to remember as the ABoT Music Awards stepped up to a new level in all new digs at The Joint, making us already look forward to what will come next year.
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