Buffet of Champions

You came, you saw, you voted: the winners of the 2005 Riverfront Times Music Awards

We shook up the Riverfront Times Music Awards this year, killing a few categories, adding some and squishing others together. The best change, in our humble opinion, was the addition of Best National Band from St. Louis. Just think: a national-act category makes sense for us now. People around here may moan that the Lou's music scene ain't nothing to crow about. Bollocks. Just ask the emo fans around the nation who swoon for Story of the Year, the country-rock aficionados who have made the Bottle Rockets a South by Southwest standard, the alt-country fans dying to get their hands on Son Volt's latest or the hip-hop nation that made Chingy and, of course, Nelly household names from Portland to Miami.

Not that you need to play in Peoria to make people smile in the Lou. Just shake it like you mean it, and someone will listen and cheer. From electro-mad artistes to blues stalwarts to hip-hop fusion, whatever your tastes, you'll find someone you love in the following pages. Even if you don't know it yet. -- Jordan Harper

Best National Artist

Nelly
G. Ohlenbostel/Action Press
Nelly
From top: Soulard Blues Band, Steve-O, The Trip Daddys
Jennifer Silverberg
From top: Soulard Blues Band, Steve-O, The Trip Daddys

Nelly/St. Lunatics

This year it was almost easy to forget that Nelly is famous for putting St. Louis hip-hop on the map. It's been almost twelve months since Sweat and Suit signaled Nelly's desire to go two directions at once: Sweat was all dance-floor bangers while Suit paired our pop-hopper with, no foolin', Tim McGraw. In the strange world of mainstream music, the fact that the two albums sold a whole bunch, but not a whole whole bunch, was seen as a bit of a defeat. And in the month following Nelly's film debut (we're not counting Snipes) in The Longest Yard, we have to wonder how much more Nelly has to contribute to the St. Louis music scene.

But, heck, we're just as proud as the dickens for him. So it's no wonder that Nelly and the Lunatics won our first Best National Artist award. While Story of the Year continues to blow up, they just don't have the megatonnage to compete with the man who introduced the world to the country grammar of the Lou. Last month's Tivoli premiere of The Longest Yard drew Burt Reynolds, Chris Rock, Darius Miles, Adam Sandler and Ozzie Smith onto a Loop red carpet right underneath the RFT's office, all while raising money for charity. It all but defined what a world-class national artist should bring to his hometown. What have you done for St. Louis recently? -- Jordan Harper

Best Blues

Soulard Blues Band

There have been some serious changes in the St. Louis blues scene over the past year. Perennial local favorites Oliver Sain and Johnnie Johnson have passed on, leaving us richer for having known them and their music, yet indisputably poorer in their absence. The departure of Sain and Johnson also prompts once again a nagging question: With so many of the music's elder statesmen no longer with us, who's going to carry the torch?

For RFT readers the answer is clear, and it hasn't changed in more than a decade. The Soulard Blues Band has been the favorite local blues ensemble in our music poll more than a dozen times now, even when Sain, Johnson, Tommy Bankhead and many other departed giants were still working regularly on St. Louis' stages.

SBB bassist and leader Art Dwyer isn't a boastful sort, and he's more the type to worry about the practicalities of tomorrow night's gig than his band's place in local music history. Yet as one of the region's most popular and enduring blues acts, the Soulard Blues Band have to be considered elder statesmen of a sort now, too. For more than 25 years they've kept rolling like the proverbial big river, surviving personnel shakeups, stylistic shifts, changes in public tastes and the myriad vagaries of the music business to keep on doing what they do, night after night, week after week, year after year.

With the recent departure of trombonist John Wolf, the SBB is, for the time being anyway, a lean four-piece featuring Dwyer, drummer Kirk Grice and guitarists John Mondin and Bob Kamoske. At this point, another RFT Music Award on their already-bulging trophy shelf isn't going to change their lives much. There's always another gig to get to, another audience to win over, another song to sing, solo to play or story to tell. Perhaps there will be a brief celebration, but then they'll be back at work soon enough -- partly because it's what they do best, and partly because, as all blues fans know, even elder statesmen have to pay the rent. -- Dean C. Minderman

Best Club DJ

Steve-O

We'd like to counsel St. Louis' other club DJs against violence toward Steve-O. Sure, it might seem to you that the only way you'll win Best Club DJ in this lifetime is to permanently sprain Steve's mixing hand or give him an incurable case of swimmer's ear. But put the bag of oranges down. Drop the needle-nose pliers. Don't do something you'll regret.

For one thing, you love Steve-O and his insistent house style as much as the rest of St. Louis. You can't help it: The man is a well-practiced master of his craft. He knows how to read a dance floor the way a surfer knows a cresting wave, and Steve-O can ride that crest until the crowd ebbs into exhaustion. And his legendary record collection always seems to have that one song that can put off the ebbing for just a little while longer.

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