But to its credit the OCMAs managed to fill the seats with some actual, physical industry giants nominated for awards -- most notably drummer Adrian Young from No Doubt -- who accepted accolades on the band's behalf for Best Song, Best Video and Best Album. Also in attendance were Irvine locals Young the Giant (presented the award for Best Indie band by Weekly Music Editor Nate Jackson), and 90's alternative band Lit. Perhaps best known for the 1999 song "My Own Worst Enemy," they accepted this year's Impact Award, which honors bands for their impact on music industry.
At last year's awards ceremony the stars didn't shine as bright--No Doubt, Young the Giant and Social Distortion all won trophies but for various reasons weren't in attendance. Throughout the evening pre-recorded acceptance speeches beamed over the stage on large flat screens.
This year Adrian Young regaled the audience with a tale about taking a shit on Katella Avenue one night after a late practice. But though he stood before the packed house and told the story in the flesh, even the presence of a bonefied legend wasn't enough to raise the legitimacy of the event to a level worthy of the land of citrus.
For every scatological anecdote, the evening featured several less impressive shout outs. There was the moment when the Vice President of Straub Distributing (Budweiser) who presented Parker Macy with the award for Best Blues used his time (despite being told by organizers not to self promote) to casually announce that the Slidebar, owned by Lit guitarist Jeremy Popoff, was one of his best accounts. Then there was the way Pacific Symphony Conductor Carl St. Clair who accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award, who gave a long-winded speech about his one-time love affair with rock music in the third person.
Some of these moments proved oddly entertaining, such as when KROQ DJ Beer Mug (possibly impaired), gave a rambling introduction before bluegrass band Moonsville Collective performed. After explaining that moonshine, washboards and bayous weren't the sort of thing you'd expect to find in Orange County, Beer Mug stammered "That's where we bring you their musical influences."
But no moment provided more fodder for head scratching than the announcement of the Impact Award, which went to Lit. Yes, the band's 1999 album A Place in the Sun was certified platinum after selling more than a million records, but their insipid post-grunge music became the soundtrack for a generation's worth of parties. The ceremony program featured a short summary of the band heavy that came off like a glowing press release.
"Lit is largely responsible for the mainstream popularity of American alternative rock in the 90's and have remained true to their artistic expression ever since," the program read.
Though the band shot a video starring a very giant Pamela Anderson, they in fact rode the crashing wave of alternative music which was set in motion years earlier by bands such as Sonic Youth and Nirvana. Their most recent musical effort, 2012's View From the Bottom was panned by critics including Rolling Stone who wrote, "Their ballads now get choked up over bygone glory days, while their Gary Glitter and Bryan Adams riffs sound repurposed for sports and strip clubs."
But corporate circle jerking aside, the whole evening wasn't all about product placement.
In addition to a raucous glitter bombing by Best New Band winners the Field Trip (former Dusty Rhodes and the River Band), who rambled maniacally like caped carnival barkers, there were also moments when the music stood out. Songstress Nilu and her band turned in what was their finest performance of the season with a stirring and somber rendition of their song "Sing for You," which saw the low-key chamber rock arrangement soaring under Nilu's smoky, listing vocals. Members of the Pacific Symphony orchestra also rendered a wonky- sounding tango with zipping violins.
Yet despite some truly riveting surprises, such as when Devious Means beat out No Doubt for People's Choice Award, this show has a ways to go if it wants to engage a larger audience and become a beacon to the world of what Orange County has to offer. Such an effort will require more than the sponsorship of Farmer John, Fiat and Budweiser, it's going to require vision.
Though rock and roll won't survive without the greenback stacks that make the world go around, money too closely associated with rock inevitably cheapens the art, which is supposed to be (some might argue), about sticking it to the man.
The Crowd: Lots of well dressed beautiful people. Girls with low cut dresses and high heels, dudes looking snazzy with bow ties. Are bow ties a thing now? During one of his acceptance speeches, Adrian Young gave a shout out to former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo who was in the audience.
Random Notebook Dump: Adrian Young telling about his random Katella dump. Apparently he was overcome with rectal distress and was unable to find an open fast food restaurant. So he squatted on the side of the road, did his business, dispensed with the undies and hopped back in his ride with "naked shit butt." Cheeky!
See the full list of winners after the jump!
2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, CA