Keith Richards once dismissed a writer's assertion that the Rolling Stones were the greatest rock & roll band ever by simply stating that on any given night in some tiny club somewhere in the world, some band is hammering out spine-tingling rock & roll. On that particular night, that band is the greatest rock & roll band ever, he said.
It's something to keep in mind while perusing the results of this year's Slammies; transcendent musical moments are occurring all over the city every night. Maybe the musicians up onstage have as their audience a bartender, a few drunks and a couple sucking face in a dark corner. Maybe the place is packed and the moment is captured on tape. Regardless, musicians experience moments when they truly are the greatest at their craft, and no one anywhere, whether at Kiel Center, Riverport or the Way Out Club, is better. These moments vanish as quickly as they arrive, never to be heard from again. That's live music, and with luck there's someone in the audience who can experience and appreciate these moments.
Musicians thrive on the reality of an audience. They bounce ideas off them, react to a crowd's reception of a new song, suck energy from them. So, despite the fact that these sorts of awards are sometimes dismissed as popularity contests, the reality is that any band interested in developing an audience, striking up a relationship with them and using them to reassure their egos is engaged in a sort of popularity contest. If not, you wouldn't bother lugging that goddamn drum set up two flights of stairs and onto a tiny stage; you wouldn't be double-checking yourself in the mirror to make sure your hair looks smart; and you wouldn't be playing the same song over and over and over again to make sure that it sounds perfect before you go into the studio. There's nothing wrong with being popular, as long as you don't compromise your musical integrity.
And regardless of the relative popularity and success of the winners of this year's Slammies, one thing needs to be said to all musicians: Congratulations. You play music. Audiences envy you. Music writers envy you. You sing; we don't. And whether you consider yourself the best in your field or the absolute worst, the most misunderstood or underappreciated, it doesn't really matter. You make music in St. Louis, and thousands of people appreciate it more than you'll ever know.
-- Randall Roberts