The best rock band in this town is composed of some real heady local músicos and dedicated Midwest transplants. Fronted by keyboardist and vocalist Tony Orant, a denizen of the City of Big the Shoulders and supported by the sublime guitar gymnastics of long-time local hero Chuck Hawley (Splinter Fish, Mucho Buddha) as well as bassist Doug Bellen, percussionist Brad Yablonsky, vocalist Rachel Ross, saxophonist Carli Marshall and visual artist Mike Gerdes, this outfit covers the works of classic, Waters-dominated Floyd with a relaxed confidence and attention to detail that would probably get any one of them fired from the real deal band if Roger knew.
2) Ashes of Jupiter
3) Sweet Nothin
Best Punk Band
This year, we celebrate the crowning of the Best Punk Band in Burque, according to our annual and accurate reader’s poll. Please welcome Ugly Girl. They do it with a ska-swathed back beat that is narrow and hard to master, as the master once said. Raw and tender at the same time, with plenty of nods to local brilliant bands of yore like 12 Step Rebels and a tenor sax player that slays, Ugly Girl gets it.
2) TIE: Russian Girlfriends/Sweet Nothin
Best Metal Band
Ashes of Jupiter
When Weekly Alibi interviewed this group, early in 2018, we noticed a seething and sensational excellence emanating from this prog-like metal band. Ashes of Jupiter (Adam Liston, Tim Scarberry, Jared Houston and Robson Guy) continue to push boundaries and raise heck with rowdy yet informed performances and a stash of songs that resounds with awesome sci-fi references that will send most readers straight outta orbit and into a good space where Creedence and Alter Bridge collide.
2) Warlike Wolves
3) Red Mesa
Best Pop Band
Red Light Cameras
Red Light Cameras
One of the most popular Albuquerque bands of all time, Red Light Cameras has been part of the scene for so long that we’re sure some of their younger listeners don’t remember when getting busted by one of those stationary robotic police units was a thing in the Burkes.No matter because this indie garage-pop unit rocks, and with tuneage like our favoritos “Summer” and “Juice” they always will. Fronted by Amanda Machon and abetted by guitarist Chris Walsh, bassist Barney Lopez and drummer Joe Bolt, these Red Light Cameras say “Never Stop” in colors brighter than just red, yellow and green.
3) TIE: Blame it on Rebekkah/Prism Bitch
Best Jazz Band
The award for Best Jazz Band goes to Entourage Jazz, a variable-sized ensemble that features the vocal power of Emerson Corley and the mad, mad arranging skills of pianist Roger Baker. Backed by a small combo or a big band, these two put together some of the most authentic jazz visions to come out of Albuquerque since the days when Bobby Shew and Bill Wood ruled the roost. Award-winning in many categories this year, Entourage Jazz, its leaders, players and followers and the whole dang entourage deserve credit for bringing it brightly and broadly to a town of eager listeners.
2) Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra
3) Eddie Brewer and the Manic Episodes
Best Latinx Band
Combining the music of Peru and Ecuador, inflecting it with an Afro-Cuban attitude mixed up with Arabic timing and lush instrumentation, both traditional and electronic has been a great format for Barcutanga, a collective of local musicians who are this year’s Best Latinx Band of 2018. With propulsive tunes that touch on serious social issues and a groove that is as deep as any river in the south lands, Baracutanga has what it takes to keep you dancing all night while you think about how to make this world a better place. Thanks Jackie Zamora, Kilko Paz, Carlos Noboa—the heart of the band—for bringing Baracutanga to Burque!
2) Severo y Grupo Fuego
3) Son Como Son
Best Reggae/Ska Band
Local readers totally dig reggae and ska in Burque. Since the age of Mystic Vision and even back to days of yore when big outfits like Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff played all the time up in Santa at the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, the high desert digs the upbeat strains of Jamaican music. En Burque, there’re a lot of fine reggae bands to this day and readers voted Innastate Number One. Innastate combines reggae with rock and indigenous influences to rule the day. Innastate is Adrian Wall of Jemez Pueblo (guitar/vocals), Rylan Kabotie of Santa Clara Pueblo/Jicarilla Apache (bass/vocal) and Lawrence Bailon of Santa Clara Pueblo (drums). Innastate also utilizes a large pool of talented musicians for live performances, including Jir Anderson (guitar), Carly Marshall (tenor sax) and Doug Bellen (keys).
2) The Riddims
3) Mondo Vibrations
Best World Music Band
Baracutanga, a collective of Latinx musicians are this year’s Best World Music Band of 2018. With propulsive tunes that touch on serious social issues and a groove that is as deep as any river in the south lands, Baracutanga has what it takes to keep you dancing all night while you think about how to make this world a better place. Thanks Jackie Zamora, Kilko Paz, Carlos Noboa—the heart of the band—for bringing Baracutanga to Burque!
3) Jade Masque
Best Country-Western Band/Artist
Kyle Martin, a perennial award-winner in the Best of Burque Music reader’s poll, worked hard to get to the top. Used to gigging at least 200 days out of any given year, Martin has taken his gritty, guitar-driven, Tejas-style brand of rockin’ country from local phenomenon to nationally admired multi-instrumentalist. Dude’s got acoustic flair too, as he showed on last winter’s excellent record “Broke Down.” Catch this killer axe-handler with a heart of gold at this year’s showcase. You’ll dig his sound.
2) Dirty Brown Jug Band
3) Tylor Brandon
Best Blues Band/Artist
This is Platero’s second trip to number one in the Blues Band/Artist category. The king of blues in these parts, this is what we said and still believe about Levi: “Straight outta Diné Bikéyah, Levi Platero emerged as an important interpreter of the electrified blues—through the guitar—while still an adolescent. He and his family left the Rez and toured practically everywhere to prove that contention; a little later in his young life, Levi played mostly rock guitar before recently returning to New Mexico and a solo career that kicks ass. His 2017 single “Take Me Back” won awards and reestablished the guitarist as a regional force to be reckoned with.
2) Hillary Smith
3) Chris Dracup
Best Folk/Americana Band
Higher Ground Bluegrass
Last year Higher Ground Bluegrass celebrated their 20th anniversary. This year they are Weekly Alibi’s Best of Burque Music Best Folk/Americana Band. Informed by the musical musings of Duke Weddington, a fellow who plays banjo and guitar while singing, HGB has produced seven albums, won three New Mexico Music awards and generally had a dang good time playing original bluegrass music mixed with hearty renditions of traditional tunes. Famed for their fair four-part harmonizing, this ensemble also includes Dave Devlin (mandolin, dobro), Fred Bolton (guitar, vocals), Pat Mahoney (fiddle, vocals) and Laura Leach-Devlin (bass, vocals)
2) Silver String Band
Best Hip-Hop Artist
This is the rap-tastic story of a flow master who flew outta the weighty weight of Motor City and landed in the Burkes at the tender age of 26. With a tough-as-nails flow and a tendency to focus on flash, cash and party-time interactions with human females, this artistic direct descendant of everything hard that ever came out of the upper Midwest, including but not limited to the divine path of the Juggalos as manifested via ICP. Anyway this sorta rap is like very sharp diamonds. It’s not made of glass and tunes like “Make it Out” (Feat. BeEzYb) and “True Religion” prove that sharp and unrelenting can be fabu.
2) Z-Man Thompson
3) Beanz Valentino
Best Soul/R&B Band/Artist
This is one of jazz and blues chanteuse Hillary Smith’s most definitively groovy projects. Besides the awesomely talented and totally swanky Smith, Chill House is Jim Casey on guitar, Mo Roberts on drums, Bryan Abel on bass and Glenn Kostur on sax and keys. Together the band concentrates on contemporary smooth jazz, jazz standards and blues epics. Subtle and refined yet beset by the same monster chops that seem to fill the jazz tank at Albuquerque’s music aquarium, you can chill like a shark or float like a sting ray while listening to this stuff; it’s that luxuriously watery and translucent.
2) Citizens of Tape City
3) Rachel Ross
Best Rockabilly Band
This year’s Best Rockabilly Band is the much-awarded Despots (who won many of last year’s categories), since hitting the scene in 2015. Their show is hot and sly with talented instrumentalists providing a deep and authentically American sound that flies high and fast, hard yet joyfully, like a ’67 Mopar super stock Challenger. Fronted by Eddie Brewer and populated by a band that means business (Danny Poel on guitar, Mark Manspeaker on drums and bassist Steve Wild), The Despots do rockabilly most excellently.
2) Moonshine Blind
3) The Shadow Men
Best Electronic Artist
A jam band that builds on expansive musical expeditions on deep improvisatory grooves, Zillaphyst creates transcendent sounds that make the soul ache and the brain melt. Tony Orant of Pink Freud is a major contributor to this project, along with bassist Kelly Wilson, drummer Mikey Jaramillo and visual effects magician Mike Gerdes (who also works with Pink Freud). Comparisons are difficult but suffice to say their music is like the dark side of the moon, but not like the album of the same name by a band called Pink Floyd that has obviously influenced Orant and his troupe of merry pranksters, but in a good and decent way.
DJ Wae Fonkey
This cat is way funky. Guaranteed. With a sense of music that’s free and easy, he mixes a luscious, totally diggable combination of genres together at his gigs. With soulful taste in certain grooves found in hip-hop, the rhythms that this DJ rocks are bound to get your body movin’ to the groovin’. In fact, listening to this one may even turn you into a veritable dancing machine. We’ve seen it happen at rock clubs all over town.
2) Pezz De La Groove
3) DJ Flo Fader
Best Cover Band/Tribute
Entourage Jazz does arrangements of standards, the music that comes out of the Great American Songbook. So yeah, they cover ol’ Blues Eyes and have paid tribute to the likes of the masterful Bobby Darin. But they also dig Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, Frank Loesser and Tonight Show host and part-time jazzer Steve Allen himself. Roger Baker’s ace arrangements, Emerson Corley’s smoking vocals and a band of the best players in town put this variable size ensemble in the Number One slot for Best Cover/Tribute Band. I’m trying to get Emerson to try a Glenn Miller tribute show next year, what do you readers reckon?
2) Pink Freud
3) Higher Ground Bluegrass
NM Peace Choir
Whoa. For the first time in like a million years, neither New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus nor Quintessence won this year’s Best Choir category. Instead, this year’s winner is the very deserving New Mexico Peace Choir, a group of singers founded at the close of 2015 to sing inspirational music. The themes that this inclusive non-auditioned, mixed voice choir explores through its programming include nature, social awareness, the human spirit and peace. The choir was founded by musical director Christie Conduff and now includes over 50 vocalists and instrumentalists working in harmony.
2) New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus
3) Quintessence: Choral Artists of the Southwest
Best Experimental/Avant-garde Band/Artist
LCB stands for The Lonn Calanca Band, a deep jam band whose frontman and namesake is also the brains behind Let It Grow, a local Grateful Dead tribute band. As The Lonn Calanca Band, the dude favors a lush and spacey sound that features reverb-laden guitars, bubbling bass and crash cymbals right out front to lure listeners into an improvised, jazz flower-studded world filled with wonder and bright melodic riffs destined to make one want to dance, dance, dance.