The 1st Annual Connecticut Music Awards
Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m., $7, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, (888) 824-2874, bushnell.org.
Back in July, Advocate/Weekly readers voted for their favorite Connecticut bands across 16 categories: overall, DJ, new, hip-hop, reggae, blues, jazz, rock, indie rock, cover, punk, metal, singer-songwriter, country, folk/traditional and "other" (say that whole thing three times, fast). We tallied up the votes and called up everyone in the top five to invite them to play our three-day, three-city Grand Band Slam concert event, held between Sept. 20-22 at various locations around Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.
This is not really anything new. Grand Band Slam has been around for awhile. But this year we added a twist: the winners will be announced at the 1st Annual Connecticut Music Awards show, a gala-style (but casual) event at the Bushnell in Hartford on Sept. 12. Tickets are $10.
The organizer, the Advocate's own minister of propaganda, longtime scene booster, sometime grindcore screamer and all around metal mother-effer, Chip McCabe, has wanted to do an awards show like this one for a while.
"I have big dreams and little dreams," McCabe told me. "It's always been one of those little dreams on the back burner, like, 'Wouldn't it be cool if Connecticut had its own award show, kinda celebrating the Connecticut music scene?' And this goes back to when I was handling the marketing for [the now-defunct] Metromix.com. We had kicked around doing something, but it never came to fruition. We didn't really have the wherewithal to do it."
When McCabe took over the marketing for the Advocates last year, he was informed that the 2011 Grand Band Slam would be occurring in less than a month, leaving him with few options for pulling together some sort of signature event. Back in January of 2012, he pulled a bunch of managers into a room to share his vision for an award-show component to complement the expected GBS performances. "It went over like a fart in church," McCabe said. "I said, 'Forget it, I'll just do it, and everybody can just stay out of my way.'" (Cue maniacal laugh.)
There have been oodles of logistics to work out, and probably still a few left to tackle: the timing, the voting, the write-ups of the winners (which we'll present in next week's issue), the venues, bands, performances, schedules, food, after-parties, headaches. But going back even as far as his college days, McCabe's long maintained that Connecticut is full of really great little scenes — New London, New Haven, Fairfield County, Hartford, Danbury — and has waited for an opportunity to help pull them all together.
"Connecticut is such a small state," McCabe said. "You can go from one end to the other in an hour, hour-and-a-half. I really felt that if we are going to compete with bigger markets like Boston and New York, not only in terms of recognition for our artists but bringing in touring artists, which will help local artists get more shows and have more venues do more live, original music, we really needed to come together as a scene. I really wanted to help generate a large, self-sufficient, productive scene, to be a facilitator for that."
So, like, what's to be gained exactly by connecting local scenes? "It benefits all the kids who go to the shows to not continually see the same 10 bands over and over and over again," McCabe said. "But you're still seeing 'local music.' It benefits everybody to get out and play as much as possible in as many venues as possible, and this is one way to do that and to open doors to all these little scenes."
Award shows can easily devolve into corporate insider wank fests. Ask yourself how many times you've tuned in to the Grammys, Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, VMAs, what-have-you, only to feel like you're watching an overgrown child play with his or her favorite toys, lining up the lucky ones for special treatment.
McCabe's an award-show apologist. "I grew up watching a lot of award shows, believe it or not," he said. "I've watched the Oscars every single year since I was 10. I used to watch the Grammys all the time, the VMAs [MTV's Video Music Awards] when they first came out, and now I can't tolerate the auto-tuned shit the Grammys are presenting everybody. But the award show itself, that whole process of an award show, I would always be entertained by the performers, or whoever the presenter was. A good presenter makes or breaks an award show, right?"
Like those other shows, the CMAs will have musical performances (Little Ugly from Hartford and Ceschi Ramos and Hannah Fair, both from New Haven), interstitial music and video montages of the nominees and scores of notable presenters. Whatever ends up going down, it's all good for the state of Connecticut music, and that's good for all of us.
Or, as McCabe put it, "If you don't have a local music scene, what's the point of living in that part of the world?"