The awards before the awards



Most valuable season I’m too depressed about the Sacramento Kings’ probable relocation to Seattle to care about the NBA’s upcoming awards announcements. Instead, in advance of the award-giving-out that will go down at this coming weekend’s CAMMIES Finale/Awards Show (Saturday, April 20, 2-7 p.m.) at the Chico Women’s Club, I’m going to hand out a few personal, unofficial, entirely biased individual awards to the performers of the recently completed three-day season of music known as the CAMMIES Music Festival:

• Most valuable player: Doug Stein, vocalist for nominees Swamp Zen and Low Flying Birds. Like a Jim Morrison who actually smiles at the audience, the raspy roadhouse rambler was born to be on a stage.

• Rookies of the year: Frankie Doppler’s Nuclear Sunrise. It’s no small feat to stand out during the 17-band punk showcase, but the ska-friendly teens of FDNS are the most energetic (and possibly most creatively dynamic) band in Chico.

• Most improved player: TyBox. The dread-headed MC has always had a smooth flow, but over the four years he’s been nominated in the Best Rap category, he’s cultivated an impressive repertoire of dynamics, breaking up his raps with well-timed stops and shifts in delivery that make him even more of a force at the mic.

• Citizenship award: Bow-tie Jesse. The Café Coda bartender/barista/ waiter is the consummate host, making every band member, patron and promoter feel like a guest in his own home. He truly cares that the venue present the best possible show every night (and the three CAMMIES shows there were the best).

• Sixth man of the year: The soundpeople. This town is lucky to have these friendly pros: Tyler at Café Coda; Ron at LaSalles; Justin, Daniel, Matt, Isaac and Shayne at Lost on Main/DownLo; Pyrate Punx at Monstros; that nice young guy at The Maltese; and BassMint at Peeking.

• Defensive players of the year: Chico Area Pyrate Punx. After band 14 of 17 at the punk showcase at Monstros, the police showed up after a noise complaint and the Pyrates had to shut the show down or else face getting a fine. The officers were nice about things, which says a lot about the respect the Pyrate Punx garner for being so reasonable and smart when dealing with situations that might look chaotic to outsiders. Here’s hoping the authorities continue to recognize that these consistent, well-managed Monstros punk shows that always end by 11 p.m. are run by community-minded people. They deserve the benefit of the opportunity to just turn things down rather than live under the cloud of the Chico noise ordinance, wondering if every show they have will be treated like a college party and fined without future warnings. That would likely spell the end of the vital local venue.

Best band that I can’t talk about too much I love the Michelin Embers. But since the band’s ukulelist Ken Smith and CN&R staff writer is also a co-worker I can’t write a proper review because of my pesky journalistic ethics. But while you might not be able to completely trust my objectivity if I were to describe their unique blend of uke, slide guitar, gut bucket, and vocalist Johnny Shanker’s twangy voice and dark, poetic lyrics as being reminiscent of an old-time hillbilly hoedown next to a raging tire fire by the side of a dusty country road, there is one completely unbiased fact you can trust: I have listened to the band’s debut CD, Talapachie, a half-dozen times over the last 24 hours. And even though I’ll be working on the CAMMIES for 12 hours straight this coming Saturday, I am definitely going to save enough energy for Michelin Embers’ CD-release party at The Maltese later that same night. Believe that.