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Duty Calls 

Radar Station pulls rank to check the best local music. Once again, good triumphs over evil.

Last week we vowed to conclude our RFT Music Awards showcase coverage. Given the allotted column space, we'd better hop to it with a minimum of introductory fuss, so here goes:

7 p.m. to 1 a.m. : We got back from checking out Nite Owl in time to catch most of Nineteen's set, the last scheduled outdoor-stage performance. Nominated in the Best Punk category, the high-energy, endearingly earnest young trio turned its legions of teen disciples into a frenetic (if consistently friendly) mass of moshers. Nineteen isn't breaking any new ground -- in fact, the group sounds like several high-school punk outfits we used to favor 20 years ago during our own teenage-punk-rock salad days -- but hey, like the man said, there's nothing new under the sun, and of the many revisions and perversions of punk that we've witnessed lo these many years, the loud/fast/hard variety is perhaps the least annoying and the most enduring. We got the distinct feeling that if their multitudes of fans had actually bothered to vote in the poll, Nineteen would have won by a landslide. Turns out Nineteen adherents didn't bother (perhaps fearing they'd stain their hands with the filth of corporate hegemony, or some other Maximum Rock & Roll-sanctioned reason), and consequently the much-less-ideological Dead Celebrities fan base prevailed. Oh, well. Nineteen doesn't need our approval. When they invited everyone to join them on stage at the end of the show, they reminded us once again why punk rock matters. It's not about distant stars lording it over the worshipful throngs; it's about closing your set with an a cappella singalong version of a Rancid song and letting the fat autistic dude grab the mic and bellow incoherently while dozens of kids knock shit over. As our colleague Paul Friswold put it, "Rock & roll wins, good triumphs over evil and the soul of my race is re-forged anew for the thousandth time."

After Nineteen, we meandered up and down Delmar for a while, catching portions of sets by Tinhorn, the Urban Jazz Naturals, the John Norment Trio, the Midwest Avengers and the Rockhouse Ramblers. Too antsy to stay put for any length of time, we could only observe that the venues were all packed to capacity and far too claustrophobic for Radar Station's delicate sensibilities. We did our best to get back to the Duck Room in time to hear Asia Minor (we'd heard it would be the current lineup's last performance), but they'd gone on a bit earlier than scheduled and were finished by the time we made our breathless entrance. We stuck around to hear the first few songs by the always-entertaining Gentleman Callers, then trotted across Blueberry Hill to its other music venue, the Elvis Room, to hear the fantastic hip-hop collective Soul Tyde. People were stuffed into the tiny basement like clowns in a Volkswagen, which prevented us from seeing anything but a few random dreadlocks (not stinky at all, we might add), but what we heard sounded sublime. We tried our best to stick around for the Committee, but unfortunately our Xanax supply ran out and we had to bail.

At 10 o'clock we caught the first part of the Trip Daddys' scorching set and then headed down the street to hear Isis Jones, only to find a long line of impatient fans winding around the outside of the Delmar. We seldom pull rank, but duty called: While a bunch of people glared, we slipped inside the dangerously overcrowded bar and staked out a stool. Accompanied only by a keyboard player, a couple of backup singers and the odd instrumental CD-R, Jones, who sounds a bit like Jill Scott, managed to cut through the din and capture the audience's hearts and minds. Although we usually find a cappella renditions of the national anthem thoroughly nauseating, Jones managed to pull it off without coming off like an opportunistic panderer. (We enjoyed her original songs more, though, we must say.) Coultrain, supported by a full band and two backup singers, took the stage next, and we were very glad we'd stuck around. Impossibly charismatic, ridiculously handsome and off-the-chain talented, the young singer had star power the likes of which this town hasn't seen in ages. If he isn't as famous as D'Angelo or Maxwell or Musiq (Soulchild) in a couple of years, the universe makes no sense at all.

We ended our night at the Halo Bar, to the cacophonous strains of the Phonocaptors and their inebriated, speaker-toppling minions. Slap-happy, exhausted and transported by hours on hours of great local music, the crowd went predictably nuts when the band launched into its final encore, a revelatory medley of the Stooges' "No Fun" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

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More by René Spencer Saller

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