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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

88Nine’s Milwaukee Music Awards Showcase @ Whiskey Bar

Feb. 25, 2010

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Branded as "diverse music for a diverse city," 88Nine Radio Milwaukee lived up to the billing during its third annual Milwaukee Music Awards showcase Thursday evening at Whiskey Bar, dishing out a healthy portion of jazz, blues, soul, crossover hip-hop, power pop and Southern rock. Although critics will forever deride the station for neglecting certain genres, at this event no two groups sounded the same, and the assortment graciously reflected the station's multifarious playlist. All five performing bands won an award and subsequently were on their best behavior throughout the night—acting like "Employee of the Month" winners, gracious for their accolades while sucking up for the next prize.

The Jeanna Salzer Trio (“Vocalist of the Year”) kicked things off with a heartfelt blend of Norah Jones jazz and Fiona Apple pop. Some over-the-top hula-hoop dancing distracted from their set and pushed listeners to the room's fringes, but an inspired cover of Bon Iver's "Lump Sum" chilled out the dancers' vibes, allowing everybody to filter in to get a good listen. The Subcontinentals (“Earwig Award” for catchiest song) went on next and grooved straight through their set, playing their best with the soulful Kelli Gonzalez on the mic. And North Side-meets-East Side rapper Prophetic (“Urban Artist of the Year”) slammed out a short but slick set and overcame an early glitch—a good minute of dead air due to a DJ blunder—to prove that he deserves all the buzz the Pharrell endorsement brought his way.

The place shook when The Reckless Hearts (“Power Pop Tarts”) rocked out during their rambunctious songs, serving as an excellent precursor to the night's best act. Bringing home two awards, The Championship (“Song of the Year” and “Most Memorable Live Show”) took their sweet time setting up, delaying the otherwise fast-paced event, but these hard-rockin' Americana boys proved they were well worth the wait and chugged heartily through their country shoegaze. No other band sounded as tight as The Championship, who offered the perfect coda to the yearly celebration.

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