2003 Music Awards

The readers spoke, and the RFT music staff listened. Find out who's large and in charge on the St. Louis music scene.

The Trip Daddys' success, at least on the local scene, also owes to their ability to avoid alienating what are most often rather alien groups of fans. On any given weekend, you'll see mohawks, greasers, garage rockers and blue-collar blues fans at their rowdy gigs. "People label us rockabilly or punkabilly," Straubinger says. "But we've always jumped back and forth between all the American forms: hillbilly, rock, blues, punk. The last couple of years we've gotten back to the harder-rocking stuff. We've never played a traditional '50s style rockabilly, and sometimes we're twangier than other times, but we haven't really changed our sound radically over the years. I grew up on the original rockabilly stuff; I love that stuff, but we've never wanted to duplicate that sound. I'm sure there are some traditional greasers who don't like what we do; we don't care about that. If you're just wanting to hear some good rock & roll, that's all we care about." -- Roy Kasten

Best Alternative/Underground Hip-Hop
Midwest Avengers
The Midwest Avengers have been around this town for quite a while, always seeming to be just on the cusp of major success. They've taken awards in previous RFT music polls three times, and they've looked good doing it. Supposedly named after some also-ran Marvel Comics superheroes unlikely to ever get a movie of their own, the Avengers have fully infiltrated our town. Members of their ranks have been watching the door at your favorite clubs, handing you cigarettes, driving you home and crashing on your couch for years. They've been hiding a secret, though. They're not just pretending to be superheroes but are superheroic in their own right.

How are they superheroes? Well, they possess no healing factor, nor can they control magnetism and shoot optic beams from ruby quartz visors. What they do have, though, is the amazing mutant ability to get the party started wherever they go. Whether it's a house party, a dance party or a club show, the Avengers always light the crowd up. Avengers mainstays Brown Clown and Psychedelic Lumberjack, along with the other members, have been bringing the good times and party vibe to whoever wants it since 1992, with a minimum of posturing, posing or attitude. Through the years the Avengers' roster has undergone a few shifts, but the mission has remained the same: Get down, and get out. The constant infusion of new blood has kept the group fresh, although the lineup has remained relatively constant, which has lent stability to the group and allowed its sound to evolve. Falling somewhere between rock, hip-hop and electronic music, the Avengers are an amalgam of beats, riffs and rhymes that, given the right setting, can be both addictive and absorbing.

They've been righting the wrongs of boring parties for quite a while now, but their touring and gigging schedule seems to have slowed down a bit in recent years. Though they still play out, one begins to wonder if the Avengers are heading toward the nadir of their career. For the sake of us all, let's hope not, because while they're here, we are safe from the tepid gatherings and frigid fraternization of the Midwest mainstream. As long as they remain strong, wherever there is lameness and wherever there is someone standing with arms crossed and attitude flaring, the Midwest Avengers will assemble! -- Erik Carlson

Best Punk
Dead Celebrities
Once again, this year's RFT Music Awards' Best Punk Band category was a toughie, revealing a deep wealth of talented punk rockers in the St. Louis region. How were voters to choose from such disparate acts as the fuzzed-out and sloppy Spiders, the funk-noise-addled In Medias Res, the young and politically outspoken Nineteen and the Bluebeard-meets-Blue Cheer pirate-punking Whole Sick Crew?

For the second year in a row, though, an overwhelming majority of you decided that when it comes to punk rock in St. Louis, you'll make yours the Dead Celebrities. The Dead Celebrities take a fairly straight-ahead approach to their music, playing a riff-heavy yet melodic punk style that traces its roots back to the Ramones, with stops along the way for the surfy punk of '80s bands such as the Descendants and the tongue-in-cheek irreverence of bands such as NOFX. What the listener ends up with is a high-energy, highly pogo-able set of fun punk rock, featuring lots of jumping around onstage, lots of whoa-oh-oh background vocals and lots of lyrics about stuff like wanting X-ray eyes in order to see girls in their underwear.

Although the best punk rock is a participation sport and the Dead Celebrities should be seen live to be fully appreciated (dead drunk at the Way Out Club if you really want the full effect), it should be noted that their strong-selling début full-length, Clean Up In Aisle Three, was nominated this year in the Recording Of The Year category as well. Had the band been from some sunny, skatin'-and-surfin' city, the disc probably would have come out on some mid-size punk label, and the band would be second-staging on the Warped Tour. For now the Dead Celebrities remain a St. Louis (or at least a Midwest) phenomenom. As voters proved again this year, though, the Dead Celebrities must be doing something right. -- Matt Harnish

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