Riverfront Times Music Awards '04

Best Punk

Corbeta Corbata

In the earliest days, when men cowered in darkness before the despot Reagan, the gods in their infinite wisdom created hardcore punk. "Let there be fast, monotonous rhythms," they spake. "Yea, let no man violate the impenetrable wall of guitar." And so it was, and men rejoiced. But a tribe of blasphemers and heretics defied the holy order. With unspeakable names like Nomeansno and the Butthole Surfers, they perverted hardcore with bizarre rhythmic changes and melodies that bespeak a deep spiritual corruption. Corbeta Corbata kneels before this profane altar. Its "music" sows confusion and doubt among the hardcore faithful. Be warned: open your ears to Corbeta Corbata, and these licentious apostates will defile the punk purity of your soul. 10 p.m., Delmar Lounge

Dead Celebrities

Punk rock has been co-opted into so many different styles that it's impossible to keep track without a flowchart based on a series of Byzantine algebraic equations. It seems as though every new punk-leaning band wants to add a klezmer or other trendy 'archaic' instrument, sing lyrics about their love for the works of Rilke and generally be way too self-important. It's at times like these that the charms of the Dead Celebrities, category winners two years running, become apparent. They're not emo, screamo, extremo, schemo, or whatever the next mutation is. The DCs are just punk rock, and while they weren't together in the '80s, their simple and straightforward sound would have fit in perfectly then. With energetic songs about girls, fun, etc., the Dead Celebrities are a welcome relief from both the overbearing and the overly complex. 11 p.m., Delmar Lounge

In Medias Res

At last year's RFT Music Awards, In Medias Res played its jerky, lithe brand of punk at the festival's outdoor stage and, oddly enough, fit right in alongside the adult-contemporary and reggae bands sharing the stage. The band was clearly comfortable taking its act out of the basement and giving its sound some room to breathe, and those in attendance (many of whom were waiting for Nadine or Javier Mendoza to take the stage) could be seen bobbing right along. In Medias Res plays a sort of gutbucket punk rock that can be at once sloppy and danceable, and judging by its 2002 seven-inch, the band can switch gears effortlessly, from aggro to dance-punk to instrumental. Expect good things from the upcoming full-length.

The Pubes

What many of today's punk-rock bands lack is the snotty, rebellious attitude that originally made the music exciting. The Pubes have attitude in spades, and it's captured in the half-sung, half-shouted vocals; the sloppy squeal of the guitars; and the woefully underused practice of killing a song before it has a chance to get old -- like around the two-minute mark. The immediate reference point for Pubes' sound is the melodic East Coast hardcore of the Bouncing Souls and their ilk, but this band packs a lot of Midwestern muscle as well. This is music to piss your parents off with, and the Pubes seem like they're having a lot of fun making it. 2:30 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

The Spiders

Punk guys getting their panties in a bunch over blink-182 or whatever other band is ruining punk's good name: What a waste of time. What do you care what thirteen-year-old MTV watchers think about the state of punk? Let them have their sugary rock -- we have the Spiders. A three-man demolition derby disguised as a band, the Spiders are to blink-182 what a napalm enema is to three-ply Charmin. Drop your cares on the way to the show, or get prepared to have them impacted permanently into your brain from your exploding eardrums. The Spiders have got the kind of energy we're pissed that Libya sold to North Korea. 10 p.m., Hi-Pointe

Best Singer/Songwriter

Matt Ahearn

"I just realized that I can't sing," goes a chorus on Matt Ahearn's new album, Juke Box Grave. The lyric is a lie. Ahearn may not have the spectacular range and vibrato of, say, Mariah Carey, but play a track from both artists for a friend, and they'll pick Ahearn as the real voice. (If they don't, get a new friend.) His voice sounds like he ripped it from an older man's throat, jamming it down his own gullet so it would match the weight of his music. Whether strumming a guitar at an open-mic night or backed by a band, Ahearn's songs sound like they bubble from deep out of him. If he can't sing, no one can.

Larissa Dalle

Larissa Dalle is tough, smart, beautiful, and she sings like a nightingale (It's about time her co-conspirator in the Wormwood Scrubs, Jason Rook, put that ring on her finger. Congrats!). She's been goth, country and goth-country since electrifying the scene in the early '90s with the dark-synth styling of Collaborateur, but whatever label you decide to give her, Dalle's PR team (the wooly Rook) recently opined that her nomination in the singer-songwriter category is a misnomer. True enough, she hasn't played solo in a while, but she sings and writes songs like Dolly Parton casts a shadow. Her love of beagles may have earned her a few points too.

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