Last Night at the OC Music Awards Best Live Band Finals

Categories: OC Music Awards
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
The Steelwells
OC Music Awards Best Live Band
Feb. 25, 2011
Galaxy Concert Theater

The best live band of the 10th-annual OC Music Awards was announced last Friday night at a showcase at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana. And the winner is . . . drumroll, please . . . The Steelwells!
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Railroad to Alaska
The Fullerton band were one of five acts competing for the honor, alongside pop-punk band We Are the Arsenal, metal band Railroad to Alaska, indie band Kiev and the rap spectacle that is BLOK. Comments, complements and criticisms I made regarding these bands in reviews of earlier showcases stand. The only exception would be the Steelwells, whose performance I missed at night one of the semi-finals held at Detroit Bar on Jan. 1. 

The indie quintet with the soaring vocals and thunderous percussion was one of the bands I most eagerly awaited, seeing as their debut album, Shallow on the Draft, has been in heavy rotation on my car stereo. Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, the band's set was plagued with some annoying technical issues, specifically a high-pitched squealing sound blaring through the PA system.

This glitch was present throuought the first half of the set and led to some visible tension, most notably when keyboard player Billy Kim made several emphatic gestures toward his gear in an attempt to signal the onstage sound guy. Luckily, these blokes are pros and kept their cool, finishing big and encouraging audience participation on the final song of their set, "El Capitan." Their winning wasn't a shock and was well-deserved. Having recently gained the attention of Rolling Stone magazine, big things are (hopefully) in their future.

Two other bands stood out at last night's show. (Aside from BLOK, that is, as their primary function is to stand out.) Railroad to Alaska put on a kick-ass, high-energy performance that rocked immediately accessible grooves while never giving up their hard edge. If you haven't had the chance, check out the song "Heavens to Betsy"; it's dynamic, über-catchy and neck-snappingly intense. They opened with this number and were rewarded when a seething pit opened up in front of the stage.

Toning things down, indie band Kiev demonstrated an uncanny ability to make intricately orchestrated spacey songs sound fluid and improvised. Their groovy, ethereal rock catches listeners off-guard with sudden bursts of intensity punctuated with curious saxophone breaks. It's odd to see a band with this much talent competing at a local level. 

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Overheard: "I think she has rabies," said one girl in the audience of BLOK MC Gianna Gianna, whose wide-eyed sneer can be rather unsettling.

The Crowd: See all previous blog posts pertaining to OCMAs.

Personal Bias: Though I really like the Steelwells, I was rooting for either Railroad or Kiev. With that said, this proved to be a highly exhilarating final show. Orange County is lucky to have such talented bands.

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