2002 Riverfront Times Music Award Winners

Your verdict is in: Check out St. Louisí favorite local musicians.

Dead Celebrities
Best Punk

The diversity among this year's nominees in the Best Punk category serves as a reminder of how broad a notion this thing called "punk" has become. The angular poetics of the Star Death seemingly have little in common with the Ramonesy Ded Bugs, and the mod politics of the Red Squares would seem to be the antithesis of the hedonistic garage-slop of the Spiders. The five nominees might easily have been winners of five different punk-subgenre categories had the RFT chosen to tax voters' patience even more.

From the confusing mess, however, St. Louis punk-rockers were able to choose a favorite, and they chose the Dead Celebrities. If asked to categorize the Dead Celebrities in the vast range of punk, we'd have to put them in the "Southern California-style surfer-skater-party-punk" subgenre. Although the band members look a bit old to still be doing much skating, and they're a thousand-or-so miles from decent surf, they can still kick out the kind of straight-ahead hip-shaking punk rock that's tailor-made to be playing from some kid's boombox while he's on his way to vandalize the high school. Like the Descendents if Milo had never gone to college or Black Flag if Greg Ginn had quit instead of Keith Morris, the Dead Celebrities make it sound as if everything's gonna be OK as long as they don't run out of beer and there are some girls around. No mock angst or bothersome forced political consciousness for them -- and, let's face it: Isn't there way too much of that already? Live, the band is a lesson in Punk Rock 101, with the almost choreographed leaping abilities of guitarist Elvis Kennedy (Punk-rock pseudonyms? Check!) and the nonstop between-song banter of motormouth lead singer Sid Sinatra. Never giving the audience, much less themselves, a chance to rest, the Dead Celebritites can tear through a set with the energy and conviction that proves that, yes, they really mean this and no, punk's not dead, but thanks for asking. (MH)

Charlie Chan
Best Hip-Hop DJ

What a difference a year makes. Yes, Charlie Chan won this prize last year. And yes, he deserved to be sitting on top of the perch. In the past year, though, he's secured his standing by conquering another peak; in 2002, Chan's not only king of the clubs, he's one of hip-hop radio's hottest commodities.

Tomorrow's Caveman & Sullen
Tomorrow's Caveman & Sullen
Fantasy Four & Murder City Players
Fantasy Four & Murder City Players

Last year, after more than a decade of slamming the dance floor, Chan (who's added a second surname, Soprano, to his moniker) began the second phase of his career: as on-air DJ at the upstart hip-hop station Q95.5. A wise move on Q's part, but little did station management know how prescient this choice would be. In 2002, the Q has overtaken powerhouse The Beat (103.3 FM) in the ratings, and, in the most hotly contested, vibrantly competitive mano a mano on the dial, the two are wrestling for the ratings points.

And one of the main reasons Q's got a nose on The Beat is Mr. Chan Soprano. He brings a vibrancy to the airwaves, a flat-out improv style so tight and clean that those unschooled in the ways of the Chan will swear that the scratching and cutting and wickwickwacks coming out of their subwoofers are Memorex. You know, cheating -- computer cuts, computer edits -- commercial chickenshit DJ-ing.

But Chan Soprano does his Fat Mix at Five stunts without a net, and he never drops a goddamn beat.

Given enough time and practice, any wannabe can learn the skills to juggle and levitate a beat. Chan Soprano's got that certain something -- call it knowledge, call it magic, call it freaky intuition. Whatever it is, the result is a mix show filled with surprises, an inherent hip-hop logic and enough juice to sustain a mix that runs every weekday from 4-7 p.m. Yeah, he maybe kicks too much bling-bling and the glossed-up thuggy shit (you're not gonna hear him drop Cannibal Ox or the Anti-Pop Consortium anytime soon), but when you're working for the ratings, you gotta give the people what they think they want.

And his banter's not bad, either. One of the joys of the Q is the way the afternoon hosts -- Craig Blac, Mic Fox and the others -- trade jabs, dis, poke, prod, argue, entertain, all of it seemingly unscripted and absolutely genuine. They sound like a bunch of chums shooting the shit in a living room. Chan's always in the middle of the ruckus, taking it as he dishes it out, never shying away and never backing down. And he's like that on the ones and twos as well: Never shying away. Never backing down. (RR)

Just Add Water
Best Modern Rock

The little girls understand. And the bigger girls. And the women. And the men that want to meet the women. They all understand the importance of catchy sing-along choruses, of just the right mix of ironic distance and come-hither sincerity, of powerhouse energy tempered with sweetly sung interludes. They understand Just Add Water.

The Modern Rock category is a nebulous field, with a sound that nobody can pinpoint but everyone seems to know. If a band could get played on The Point, they can be considered Modern Rock. Just Add Water not only could get played on The Point, they've won the hotly contested Cage Match nine times. For two-and-a-half years, singer Steve Waller, lead guitarist Brian Nicoloff, rhythm guitarist Mike Steimel, bassist Dan Martin and drummer Peter Lang have been fixtures on the local rock scene, trudging their way through the clubs, winning over fans. At the Riverfront Times Music Award Showcase last Sunday, girls not yet old enough to catch them in bars swooned to the pop melodies. Sex appeal is clearly a portion of the Just Add Water game.

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