The Klammies Go Uptown


“I’m sorry, Ricky Martin is not here tonight,” announced Comedy Central and Mad TV funnyman Pablo Francisco, saddled with the task of warming up the crowd by giving it some yuks during the preshow, now a requisite part of any awards program and a trend that has spread even to the Kansas City/Lawrence Area Music Awards, a.k.a. Klammies. “Neither are the Backstreet Boys.”

Not surprisingly, nobody seemed to mind their absence — not because Kansas City and Lawrence area residents wouldn’t be proud to have those fine people hail from these parts, but because tonight was about giving it up for musicians of the local variety.

Year four transplanted the Klammies from its former home at the Folly Theater to the newly renovated and reopened Uptown Theater — and brought a change in hosts too. Gone not only from the Klammies but from Kansas City as well, was WDAF Channel 4 news anchor Harris Faulkner, though her former co-host, 98.9 The Rock morning personality Johnny Dare, was still on hand to present the banner awards. Ably taking over duties for the pair was the ever-grinning Bryan Busby, senior meteorologist for KMBC Channel 9 news, with musical host Malachy Papers sticking around for occasion number two on the job.

Before introducing the night’s first presenters, Busby gave a brief history lesson concerning the Uptown. “I was talking to some of the crew backstage about some of the people that had performed here: George Benson, The Little River Band, Little Feat, Metallica, even Pee-Wee Herman,” he said. “So watch out for the floor in front of you.”

There was something else to watch when Missy Koonce and Ron Megee sauntered on stage to present the first awards. At the VIP party earlier, Megee’s impossibly short beaded dress had caused many an eye to drop down south and gawk at the hemline before reaching the awkward revelation that this was, in fact, a man. Upon reaching the podium, he looked down at his tuxedoed cohort and declared, “I love a man with a big gun.”

“Good evening. I’m Bond, James Bond,” said Koonce, throwing herself into the part. “And I’m Pussy Galore,” cooed Megee, further confusing people in the balcony who may have just been figuring this all out. The duo handed out honors for Best Live Venue (Under 1,000 Seats) and Best Live Venue (Over 1,000 Seats), which went to The Bottleneck and the Uptown Theater, respectively. There wasn’t a Klammy for Best Dressed, but if there had, Megee certainly would have been a contender. “We like to be the gender-bending people of the awards show,” he said backstage. “Some of it is from Bunny’s and Gigi’s, and it’s a conglomeration of all the stores in town that sell trashy-wear.” Trashy in a different sense of the word was blues-injected punk act Parlay, featuring Musician of the Year nominee Ernie Locke, the first musical performers, who oddly, yet aptly, followed Koonce and Megee.

Despite the fact that Francisco was handing out awards for Best Folk Act (Coyote Project), Best Christian/Gospel Act (Waterdeep), and Best Country/Bluegrass Band (Split Lip Rayfield), the comic lapsed into his earlier routine about how loverman R&B singers always drop the words “fine,” “smooth,” “soft,” and “silky” into the songs.

At least the first of those two adjectives could be used to describe Sonny Kenner’s subsequent performance, though the words hardly do the man justice. Taking the stage with only his electric guitar, he led the audience in a sing-along of “Minnie the Moocher,” and after seeing that, it was no shocker when he got the Klammy for Best R&B/Blues Band later in the evening. It was a little surprising, though, that he had since left. In the grand tradition of working men, he had another gig to get to before his category came around, so his daughter Romain picked up the award for him.

“How can you tell when the stage is even?” riddled Recycled Sounds owner Anne Winter, stumping her presenting partner, Stan Henry of The Hurricane, but displaying why she wasn’t hired for Francisco’s job. “The drummer is drooling out of both sides of his mouth.” Winter then had the privilege of giving Sister Mary Rotten Crotch the Klammy for Best Punk/Ska Band. Avoiding the pitfall of pulling a Hilary Swank by actually remembering to mention her husband Timothy’s band, head Sister Liz Nord said, “I’d like to thank St. Teresa’s Academy and the Main Street Saints.” Waiting a second after the striking ladies disappeared backstage, Henry suggested, “Just think what your mother would say if you brought those three women home.”

It probably depends on how cool your mom is, though more conservative parents would most likely disapprove of Sister Mary’s naughty take on the Catholic schoolgirl outfit, substituting the jailbait sexiness of the uniform for an equally arousing look that says stare-too-long-and-we’ll-kick-your-skinny-ass. Truth be known, it wasn’t even an outfit the girls had put together for the Klammies in particular, though it still would have put them in the running for Best Dressed. “We’re dressed for prom. We’re not dressed for here,” explained drummer Amy Farrand, noting that the band had a gig to play at nearby El Torreon’s Punk Rock Prom, which had Ernie Locke lined up to be its emcee. “But he’s out there sitting in the front row right now, giving me shit when I walked by.”

No one could give any of that to The Anniversary, nominee for Best Alternative/ Rock Band, though Frogpond had just picked up that award moments before the five-piece was slated to play. The Lawrence-based group turned in a staggering performance of “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” the lead track from its Klammy-nominated disc, Designing a Nervous Breakdown. Sadly, that was the only song The Anniversary played, not because of time constraints but because of the band’s own volition. “I think at awards shows you should do one song and that’s it,” theorized guitarist-vocalist Josh Berwanger. “Keep it short and simple.”

Short and simple is how the Klammies were running at this point, a very easy feat when there aren’t any windy acceptance speeches to be heard, as was the case with the Best Male Vocalist and Best Female Vocalist awards. Neither Kevin Mahogany nor Ida McBeth was there to pick up the awards, though each sent a representative. Backstage, Mahogany’s wife, Allene, took a moment to explain why her husband, who has won a Klammy every year, has never attended. “I think it’s timing,” she said. “He’d love to do it, and when he came and (gave a concert at) the Uptown, they talked to him about it. But then he was scheduling, so maybe they need to do it a year ahead of time. I don’t know. He wanted to do it this year, but he’s in Texas. Every year he’s somewhere.”

Tech N9ne was definitely present, and he brought the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains up with him when called forth to pick up the Klammy for Best Hip-Hop/Rap Act, awarded after a tight performance by the jazz quartet Dunn-Freeman Mix. During Francisco’s opening set, the comedian had observed that a lot of rappers talk about violence, drinking, and weed in the music but then give a shout-out to God during their acceptance speech. Tech N9ne, with the word “Bane” written across his forehead in white letters, fulfilled Francisco’s prophecy, replacing last year’s catchphrase, “It’s all sizzlin’,” with “It’s all Jesus.”

After leaving the stage, he later explained what that meant. “Jesus is good,” Tech N9ne said. “It’s all Jesus this year because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing this. I wouldn’t be getting as much as love as I’m getting.” Grand Emporium owner Roger Naber handed the award to him, though Naber himself should get a nod in the yet-to-be established Best Dressed category, looking very glam in an ocelot tuxedo jacket. “It was made by a designer in London named Peter Golding who was also the designer for the rock and roll stretch jeans that The Rolling Stones and all the big rock bands wore in the ’70s and ’80s,” Naber said during intermission. “He sent this to me to get married in as a wedding present. I didn’t wear this tie for the wedding, and the satin shirt came from him as well and I’ve got some of his stretch jeans on. It’s a rock and roll event, so I’m not going to wear my normal Grand Emporium workshirt.”

Of course, it was an awards event too, and one wouldn’t be complete without someone making a political statement. The Klammies’ words of wisdom came courtesy of last-minute stand-in presenter Don Miller from Airborne Audio, occurring after he and tenor saxophonist heavy Alaadeen gave out Best Choral/Classical Ensemble (Kansas City Symphony), Best Jazz Artist (Mahogany), and Best Jazz Ensemble (Boko Maru). It turned out to be a statement very appropriate to the crowd. “I’d like to take just a moment to mention something that’s happening in Kansas City,” he said. “For about two years, there has been a committee working actively towards membership in the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, establishing a presence, and the momentum is under way.”

Those efforts were under way as close as the lobby, where a booth was set up for people to add their names to the list of those interested in starting a local chapter of NARAS, the organization that heads the Grammys. That said, it was time to get back to the reason such a thing should exist, with a performance by Arthur Dodge & the Horsefeathers, easily showing why they were nominated for Best Folk Act and Best Country/Bluegrass Band. The first song was an acoustic-driven lesson in subtlety, and the follow-up was a potent barn-burner.

Next on the agenda was giving out the L.C. “Speedy” Huggins Critical Achievement Award, named after the late KC jazz and blues drummer, which two PitchWeekly staffers had the honor of presenting. “Past recipients of the Klammies Critical Achievement award have included Mayor Emanuel Cleaver and club owners Roger Naber and Brett Mosiman. This year we recognize someone who has worked in conjunction with one of those previous winners to provide a vibrant and nourishing habitat for local music,” began Music/Film Editor Jon Niccum. “Wisconsin-born Jacki Becker first became a staple of Lawrence’s music scene when she created a radio show called Plow the Fields Martha for the University of Kansas’ KJHK. The program was a haven solely for local artists and then continued as a feature after her graduation from KU.”

Staff Writer Shawn Edwards, who served double duty as the evening’s backstage announcer, continued the scripted speech before stumbling over a couple of phrases and condensing the entire spiel into five words: “Yo, Jacki is the shit.”

Even though Becker was working the Klammies in the role of stage manager, the award came as a complete surprise to her. “Wow, I had no idea at all,” she said, leaving her place behind the scenes for her moment in the spotlight. “I’m so proud of the Lawrence and Kansas City scene. For the 10 years I’ve been here it’s been amazing, and everything is coming around again. You guys are all wonderful. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”

That could have been because Becker didn’t realize she was even up for an award (no nominations are announced to the public) until Mosiman told her to pay attention to what was going on out front. “You can’t hear anything backstage,” she later revealed. “I just suddenly heard my name and I thought it was from my walkie-talkie.” As great as it was to win, Becker sarcastically mentioned that it would happen this year of all those possible. “The one year my boyfriend’s not here and the one year I don’t bring my camera.” Still, Becker got to relive the honor when two friends who were sequestered in the box office all evening found out about it after the show.

Best New Band recipients Cross Country Felons also didn’t have much in the way of friends, family, or even band members in the crowd, though Timmy the Wrench, the only Felon who could make it, offered a tragic explanation of why. “I regret that tonight Horatio Ignatz and Rod Ramrod can’t be here,” he started. “We got some bad news Wednesday. They had a friend down in Connecticut that they grew up with that was in a bad motorcycle incident. They had to go back and deal with that, help his family, and they’re in Connecticut now, but they wish they could be here. This award is for Corey Cerrone, their friend who died.”

At least Ignatz and Ramrod had good reasons for not showing up. Scheduled next on the bill was Kansas City native-gone-national and the only performer with her own dressing room, Solé, but she was nowhere to be found. After all was said and done, Event Coordinator Jason Dockery still wasn’t sure what had transpired. “We were supposed to pick her up at 8:30 p.m. from the Hyatt, and she wasn’t there. We sent a cab, and the cab acted like we hadn’t called so we sent another one,” he said of the first-ever performer to no-show at the Klammies. “I sent two different cars to go get her and they went to her room. They had a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, but they knocked on the door, banged on the door, and then we got security to bang on the door. We called her over and over and she didn’t call any of us.”

Edwards heard a different version of the story. “According to reports, Solé broke a nail while she was in her hotel room and wouldn’t come out,” he joked.

Tragedy almost struck again when local comedian David Naster attempted to present the award for Song of the Year and found himself the subject of heckling. “Oh, you’re busting my balls, Coolio, is that what you’re doing?” he queried the unseen verbal assailant. “What’s that? Get a toupee? No, it’s mine. You’ve got to get a better heckle line than that,” the balding Naster continued before lifting his fist in the air and adding, “Stay in school.” Naster’s adversary, later identified as S-Wheeler, came downstairs before climbing on stage. Rather than rumble, though, S-Wheeler accepted Naster’s invitation to announce the winner, Ultimate Fakebook’s “Tell Me What You Want (I’ll Be Anything),” a song that the band, ironically, had not played during its blistering set right before intermission.

Upon saying his thank-yous, bass player Nick Colby kidded, “I’m also glad that the Klammies put two Get Up Kids songs (in the category) to split the vote so we had even a chance.” Unlike The Get Up Kids, on tour in Australia, Ultimate Fakebook had actually canceled some East Coast shows from an albeit closer location to fly back for the Klammies.

The next award, Album of the Year, also went to Ultimate Fakebook for This Will Be Laughing Week. Frontman Bill McShane acknowledged that even in just getting the nomination, Ultimate Fakebook still faced strong competition. “It’s awesome, but there’s so many other bands that don’t get nominated, and this one is for everybody, because a lot of people say the same bands get nominated. But whatever, man. We’re just here to have fun — and say stupid things like this.”

Almost as soon as the speech was over, drummer Eric Melin inadvertently invoked Tech N9ne’s latest catchphrase upon realizing he had omitted some of the most important people from his list of thanks. “Jesus, we didn’t even thank the fans,” he said to his bandmates. Curiously, the Klammy-winning disc will be re-released nationwide by Epic/550 later this year, bringing about questions of some technicalities in the Klammies rulebook. Of a suggested repeat trip, McShane declared without hesitation, “I’d have to call bunk on that.”

The final live performance was by Black Crack Revue, known shorthand by BCR. Fitting for a group that has the word crack in its name, it made an entrance from the rear portal of the Uptown and marched up the aisle to play its set. Though nominated for Best Reggae/World Beat Band, an award that went to Common Ground, BCR should still be singled out for yet another Best Dressed nomination, if only for the matching crushed purple jackets two of its members wore. “I got this at Hullabaloo in St. Louis actually about 10 years ago,” confided guitarist Joey Skidmore, though founder the Rev. Dwight Frizzell lucked into his. “My mom got it for me,” he said.

The last two awards were passed out by 98.9’s Johnny Dare and Q104’s Shotgun Jackson, standing in for Dare’s usual cohort, Murphy Wells. “Murphy couldn’t be here tonight. I’m not going to tell you the truth, because you’ll be like, ‘He’s a pig,'” Dare said, hesitating only for a second before divulging what was up. “The truth is two words: cranky hanky.” And by saying so, Dare proved himself right.

Still, there was business to be attended to, and the award for Musician of the Year went to Tech N9ne, allowing him to make good on his earlier promise. “I told you we were going to be back up here.” Adding two more Klammies to his already impressive count, backstage Tech N9ne revealed what he does with them all. “My wife likes to put them where we put all our wineglasses and stuff. She said you better bring me one so I can add to my collection,” he confided, pointing out that the physical Klammy award has gotten much more sophisticated since the first time he took one to her. “The first one was a little bit simpler and this one is beautiful, man. It has all the designs on it and everything. It gets better every year.”

Frogpond also has a wagonload of them and got yet another when it won the final award, Band of the Year. “It really means a lot to us. The Kansas City-Lawrence music scene is great and it really makes a difference, I think, to everybody,” singer-guitarist Heidi Phillips succinctly said. “We appreciate it all.” Her bandmates didn’t have anything to add. “They really can speak. Don’t let them fool you.”

No fooling, the consensus at the afterparty, held at The Velvet Dog, was that the Klammies had another great year, even with the Solé incident. In fact, that no-show might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise because, Jesus knows, no one wanted the Klammies to run as long as the Oscars. A recap of all the music, awards, glamour, and humor that encompassed the fourth annual Klammies (Kansas City/Lawrence Area Music Awards).

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