Friday, April 15, 2011

Secondary Thoughts from the Third Row

My most recent date landed me in the third row of the Portsmouth Music Hall in the semi-center of the seacoast arts scene where seats were filled with foodies, Chuck-Taylored nominees and pockets of vocally rabid fans (made up of mostly of our local theater & music punks) who were out celebrating at the Spotlight on the Arts awards show last night. I had a couple of very smallish, sweet dates who were excited to stay up late on a school night with friends and family front and center to watch their dad and many others in our extended family perform.

Although I'm not a big "awards" fan per se, I do love the notion of celebrating the hard work of the diverse and deep talent pool we swim in. That's nice, right? And after taking a few mental notes last night, I'm thinking why not jot down some post-show "awards" based on the offbeat and amazing stuff that organically happened upon cramming hundreds of talented, interesting, creative and intoxicated artists under one roof for a night. After all, I haven't finished a complete piece of writing since November and I can burn an hour on my lunch break and pound this out.

So here they are. A few of my favorite highlights from The Spotties, in no particular order and with apologies for shitty grammar and errors I'm just too lazy to get nit-picky about on such short notice:

1.Best Vocals (non-performance) - Three way tie between the amazing casts of The Gay Bride of Frankenstein, Rent, and local punk and music icon Tom Colletta. There is no arguing with the infectious enthusiasm of the GBoF and Rent cast members who flanked me last night and were out of their seats with fanatical screams (in harmony, of course) and hands in the air for most of the show. And this was long prior to them winning their well-deserved awards. And for the GBoF crew, after spending what I imagine was half the day driving up from NYC to attend the show. Bottle that enthusiasm and forward to me, please.

And while I'm not quite sure what Tom was evangelizing to both the performers and the audience during the Dio tribute, in his patented bespectacled style he grabbed just as much attention as anyone on and off stage for his stiff-armed, animated vocals. Can I just state that I love "Aunt Edna" and the history both he and his hair bring to any musical event? He really is our Billy Ruane, isn't he? Just without the financial backing.

2.Best Vocals (performance) - This is tough. I truly loved Ashley Kelley's soaring solo performance (see it below. AMAZING!)and the fabulous ensemble medley that kicked off the show, but I think it's got to go to Sam Vlasich from Red Sky Mary who had the chore of tackling the vocals for the Dio tribute. I'm guessing he might be 17 years old. I'm too lazy to go and find out. Let's just say I now completely understand why everyone is raving about Red Sky Mary. That vocal performance in Rainbow in The Dark was truly impressive. This guy needs to be a on a bus straight to the Strip in LA. Once he graduates from high school, that is. Bravo, Sam. Well done.

3.Best Visuals & Vids - Another tie. So how about that fun video by Eric Ott featuring the music and millions of mugs that sprinkle our seacoast stages and clubs? Very nice work, Eric. Next shout goes to the creepy, hallucinatory Skeleton Bones video done by the very talented Harry McCoy. Yeah, yeah. Cry nepotism all you want, but the video is fantastic. Keep in mind the guy co-wrote and directed a movie that is still being touted by the Sundance Film Festival. He is one of the most visually creative people in our area and he proved it on a great and larger-than-life backdrop last night. Believe it.

4.Best Hair (& share) - Another tough one, but I'm going with Jon Nolan. Not sure if J-No woke from a pre-show nap with his wife and beautiful kids, but his hair stood up (literally) well during the entire show. And I really appreciate him sharing a delicious sour lemon candy ball with me. Because they are one of my few favorites. Thanks, Jon.

5.Best Use of Explicit Language (in front of my kids) - Another tie! (Sorry. If you don't like ties, make up your own list). First award goes to Scottie McLaughlin (who won Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Tom Collins in Rent) for quickly catching himself post *BEEP* and pausing during his acceptance speech to apologize to my unsuspecting daughter, who was likely admiring his shoes during the tongue slip. The second goes to Eric Ottfor dropping a genuinely unintentional but very enthusiastic f-bomb into the compliment he gave directly to my son for his performance in the Skeleton Bones video. Side note: These are the known and oddly-endearing inherent perils one faces when escorting children through The Founders Lounge to the bathroom.

And you know what Eric? He was effing good. :)

6. The "I Would Believe You if You Said That Randy Rhoades, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, or that Yngwie Guy is Your Dad" Award goes to Tim *Texas* Theriault and Jon *MC* McCormack for that crazy amp-crushing dueling Dio tribute. I mean seriously. What in the hell was happening up there last night?!?! Thanks for the total time warp back to '83. My ears are still ringing angry.

7. The Sweet Surprise of the Night Award - What a great sight to see Christopher Tierney walk himself out on stage. That was rather beautiful and heart-tugging. Christopher's horrifying Broadway Spiderman mishap has made big news, especially in our little sandbox where he once used to play. It was fantastic to see him on the mend and to hear him sincerely pat his peers (our beloved and insanely talented Billy Butler and host/head honcho at The Rep Craig Faulkner) and our arts community on the back. I love that this scary and sad story has a happier ending and that Christopher was able to be part of the celebration.

So congrats to all of you who were nominated and to those who won. There's too many of you to name. Thanks to those who make delicious art (OK, I have to shout at Kevin Hahn...I love your amazing brunch and Bloody menu at Pepperland Cafe and I am happy you got yourself a Spottie again this year)and special thanks to all of you who volunteer, who own or book our favorite haunts, and who put in personal time and energy to make a night like last night so accessible and free to our community. I look forward to seeing the photographs of the MMOS belly promotion (Scott Yates and Denise Wheeler, I'm talking to you) and to hearing more stories from the post-party show because hey, someone had to get the very-excited-for-their-dad (but slightly exhausted) Mini MCs into bed at a semi-decent time.

Simply put, it really was a really great night. It seems fitting to just echo what was said several times last night from the Music Hall stage, in the Herald, and on many of your FB updates today:

This really, truly is a brilliant place to live, isn't it?

Here's a few links featuring some of last night's performances and winners. I am still waiting for them to post a Dio clip, and will add when they do. But until then, enjoy. :

Ashley Kelly KILLING it:

Miss M gets an "I'm sorry, baby" from Scottie:

Dan (I own as much of his amazing artwork as I do his amazing music) Blakeslee:

Martin (I call him 'Tini) England:

Tim (Who would rather I call him "former" vs "ex" and so I call him "ex" to poke fun) McCoy and The Papercuts: