The 2012 Wire Awards Keep It Light, Do It Right

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Last Sunday brought us The 2012 Wire Awards at Market Hall, a gala award show honouring Peterborough music, featuring musical performances by ten local groups, special guest appearances, and twenty-five awards, covering everything from Rock Band Of The Year to CHEX TV Personality Of The Year to Instrumentalist Of The Year. Electric City Live was there, and you can read how it all went down, and have a look at our huge photo gallery from the night.

I think it’s important that I say right off the bat that I quite liked The Wire Awards, because I also feel it necessary to spend the rest of this paragraph talking about why I think award shows are stupid and shouldn’t exist. Overall, I think they’re horrible, pandering, self-congratulatory bits of pageantry that accomplish little except make people in the in-group feel good about themselves. They build a false narrative that everything done in the past year was good, bulldozing any kind of critical self-evaluation that could actually push the arts forward, rigidly defining what’s ‘good’ in the arts – generally in a very traditional, uninteresting way – and forcing out talent that doesn’t fit that definition (which tends to be the type of talent that actually needs help to succeed and could actually benefit from special recognition). And, while award shows claim to help foster and grow arts communities, they actually just rigidly define the boundaries of who’s in and who’s out, and prove to those on the outside why they’re happy to remain there. Plus, I was deeply offended that Electric City Live wasn’t even nominated for anything, even for Female Vocalist Of The Year, which I thought was a lock. Thank you for indulging me in this rant, and now back to your regularly scheduled Wire Awards review.

All of that should provide some context for what I’m about to say, which is that I found myself utterly charmed by The Wire Awards, in a way I’ve actually found myself charmed by a number of local events. Maybe it was the fact that all the standard award show pomposity and pageantry (I mean, the invitation said “dress to impress,” for god sake) was counter-balanced somewhat by being relatively self-aware, and a little bit make-shift, but it remained essentially a very Peterborough event. The entire show, audience members were yelling out jokes and comments, lightly heckling people on stage, and screaming out like an early-90s sitcom audience (I feel relatively confident that, if two people on stage had kissed, the audience would have yelled “wooOOOoo!!!”), often with the hosts and presenters yelling right back. Most of the typical award show theatrics were present, but handled with tongue pretty firmly in cheek, such as the totally over-the-top fake announcer voice that listed nominees.

It even helped that not everything worked perfectly. There were small delays in the show, as people who were supposed to be on stage were retrieved from the bar or as everyone tried figured what was even supposed to be next, and there were occasional technical difficulties; but that simply added to the evening’s charm. After all, these people are professionals; they’re musicians!

No one seemed really angry or upset about any of the problems, either, which also helped. A lot of this can be attributed to the show’s hosts, Wire’s editor/publisher Michael Bell and Wolf radio host Dani Stover. Bell masterminded the entire evening, and obviously gets a huge share of the credit for how well it went, though he did seem a bit frazzled during the show (he was balancing hosting, organizing, and performing duties at once). The lion’s share of hosting duties were covered by Stover, and it should probably come as no surprise that a radio DJ who hosts twenty-some hours of morning show a week would be good at a live event. She was cool, she was funny, she kept everything moving, and she looked like she was having a ball, too.

It all just felt tremendously friendly, and tremendously Peterborough, too. I mean, this was an awards show that not only gave an award to Blackhorse residents Rick and Gailie; it actually had them on as the opening musical act of the evening. (For a complete list of 2012 Wire Award winners, head over to The Wolf’s website.) It cast an exceptionally wide net for who it invited on stage and who it chose to honour – much wider than this site casts, to be honest. There were up-and-comers, such as Rock Group Of The Year winners Before The Curtain and singer-songwriter Martha Meredith, to well-established acts like The Express and Co and Colt Harley, to non-performing appearances from local music legends, including Joe Hall, Washboard Hank, Adam Gontier (of Three Days Grace), and Ronnie freaking Hawkins, who looked absolutely delighted to be there.

For the newer musicians, it must have been a tremendous opportunity to get their name out to a wider audience, and simply to perform in one of Peterborough’s best venues; and it was also an excellent opportunity to honour those artists who are legends in Peterborough, but would never receive much recognition outside of town. And there’s just something undeniably wonderful about an award show equally likely to honour a couple old hippies banging away on a tambourine as it is to honour a band like Tin Vespers or The Burning Hell. So in that way, the award show was a success.

There can, of course, be a downside to this as well. Trying to include everyone meant that there were an exhausting 25 awards to give out, and most awards had at least eight to ten nominees, with Rock Group Of The Year up around sixteen nominees. I mean, even the Best Picture Oscar keeps it to ten nominees, and that’s an award for all movies everywhere! It also gave the evening an occasionally disjointed feel, switching genres and tones wildly. And a remark by Michael Bell near the end to the effect of, “Don’t worry if you weren’t nominated this year; we’ll get you next year,” didn’t really lend a lot of credibility of a merit-based award.

In a way, though, I know what he means, and it’s another reason I was more willing to accept this award show than some: there’s actually a huge amount of talent in this town that deserves recognition, and that might not get a chance to be honoured otherwise. I wouldn’t say I agreed with all of the choices for nominees or winners (though that’s partially a function of the older demographic for the awards), but they did show off the sheer number of talented musicians in this town. Each of the ten musical performances was good, and some of the best (Martha Meredith, The Crux) were also among the youngest and newest.

So in the end, I still think award shows are stupid, and I still think that they shouldn’t exist. That being said, there was a concerted effort at The Wire Awards to reward a variety of performers, and to reward new talents as well the old guard. Peterborough has a productive, exciting, vital arts community to support, and that’s a fact that too often goes overlooked. So kudos to The Wire Awards, and to Michael Bell, for trying to help correct a problem, and for doing it with enough of a sense of fun to keep it from making me want to strangle myself. Well done. See you next year, and remember: Electric City Live, winner of the 2013 Wire Award for Keyboardist Of The Year.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of The Wire Awards? Do you think Peterborough music needs an award show, and do you think The Wire Awards are it? Let us know in the comments below, or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page.

All photos by Scott Dancey.

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