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Friday, Dec. 6, 2013

Recap: Volcano Choir Takes Home Top Honors at the Radio Milwaukee Music Awards

88Nine kept the awards party moving at its new studio

volcano choir
Volcano Choir
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A short time ago 88Nine Radio Milwaukee could barely accommodate bands in its cramped studio, let alone host an audience. More so, the small space, distant from the city center and housed inside a Milwaukee Public Schools building, failed to fit the radio station’s chic, urban style. Now in its fresh, swanky Fifth Ward digs, the station has adequate room to organize a casual party that celebrates a handful of Milwaukee’s many quality musicians. Say what you will about garish awards shows and the lack of diversity in the listener-polled variety—online voting determined the nominees and then Radio Milwaukee staff picked the winners—but it’s hard to argue that the event didn’t accomplish the vibe for which it seemingly set out: a lighthearted, fun gathering of young professionals throwing back some craft beers and catching a varied lineup of local music. It was all very 88Nine.

While the new location offered an aesthetically pleasing backdrop, the spotlight remained firmly on the music. The Greg Koch Band revved the night’s proverbial engines with a rousing take on the blues. The frontman does wonders with the guitar, but it certainly helped that he was backed by an impressively skillful core that included his son on drums. Ironically, he would later be recognized as “Solo Artist of the Year.” Rappers Dana Coppa and SPEAK Easy would follow. The duo managed to engage with a crowd that just watched a bar band, blues act, and truly ramped things up when Klassik joined them on stage for “Song of the Year” nominee “Wait.” The most heartwarming moment of the night occurred when the affable SPEAK Easy rapped his adoring verse (“I was supposed to be the lady-killer/ But you’re killing me softly/ And like I really dig you with a side of morning coffee”) down to his significant other watching in the first row.

After earning “Live Show of the Year” honors, Kane Place Record Club certainly lived up to its billing. A heady mix of jocular enthusiasm and versatile musical chops, the six-piece delivered a rambunctious performance with such energy and playfulness that it would have took a very hard man to not smile during the band’s set. And finally, closing the night, Fever Marlene drew from material off its latest release Medicated Friends, and provided a relaxed, sentimental coda to the night’s proceedings.

Unlike most award ceremonies, the evening moved swiftly. A different DJ from the station would announce a couple awards between each of the four band’s sets, which couldn’t have lasted more than 25 minutes a piece. In the remaining downtime, Kiings played a few remixes off its locally-sourced Warehouses Possessed by the City: A Wisconsin Remix EP. Everything wrapped-up nicely before 10:30 p.m. The attendance dwindled as the night wore on—noticeable shifts occurred after every round of awards—but the party rarely dragged.

Volcano Choir would go on to win both band and album of the year—deservedly, give that they were the city’s biggest musical export—and as much as one can complain about the small sample size represented of the city’s constantly evolving musical community, the 88Nine Radio Milwaukee Music Awards should be heralded for being one of the few places recognizing local acts for making outstanding music. As the local scene continues to grow and 88Nine establishes itself in a more convenient and spacious area, let’s hope the relationship between the two expands, as well.

Here’s a full list of winners:

Album of the Year: Volcano Choir - Repave
Song of the Year: Vic & Gab - “Let You Down”
Band of the Year: Volcano Choir
Solo Artist of the Year: Greg Koch Band
Catchiest Song of the Year: Boy Blue - “Downtown”
Bandcamp Release of the Year: Kiings - Warehouses Possessed by the City
Album Artwork of the Year: Paper Holland - Happy Belated
Music Video of the Year: The Fatty Acids - “Airsick”
Best Disc We Missed: Jayk - Everything Ever
Best Live Show: Kane Place Record Club
Music Ambassador Award (staff selection): Made In Milwaukee
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