As the sun rises on another beautiful day in the Inland Empire, the IE Music Awards producer Martin Brown rubs the sleep from his eyes. Or rather, he would rub the sleep from his eyes had he slept. Unfortunately the combination of extreme excitement, anxiety and caffeine have ensured another all-nighter for this 50-something Brit. As he sifts through the seemingly endless stream of emails concerning burning matters such as ticket dispersal, dress code and bribes for awards, he ruminates on the wisdom of investing six months of his life in an event which provides much needed exposure and recognition for the largely overlooked IE music scene. After all, he says in a brief interview, “if you divide the profit by the number of hours I invest in this, I make about $.04 an hour. Next year I will outsource it to China, I think.”
This year’s change of venue comes as a response to the hundreds of fans who complained about the seemingly endless drive to Morongo, home to the first three events. So Brown and his cohorts have moved the bash to the magnificent Riverside Municipal Auditorium. The challenge now is to fill the place with IE music fans.
On the night of Jan 31, more than 20 awards will be handed out in categories as diverse and far apart as Best R&B to Best Punk. These accolades will be interspersed with performances from most of last year’s winners. Brown uses this formula to preclude the necessity of selecting performers, and to avoid the, “why are they playing and we’re not, they suck” types of questions he gets every year, according to the graying producer.
The live performances represent a cross section of the IE music scene and this year’s line-up features Stico and Da Bandit, Conspiracy of Thought, Souljourners, Curt Phillips, Antonio Pontarelli, Waiting for Decay, Chaos Device, Melissa K, Groove Session, Evren Ozan and 15 North.
Some of these acts have been involved in the IEMAs since the first year. “It has been very interesting watching and hearing these performers progress and develop,” says young Brown. “Souljourners, for example, have grown from a high school act to a highly polished and musically deep act with their progressive rock genre. In fact their new album was produced in part by one of the members of Def Leppard.” He adds that, “Antonio Pontarelli, who had just been voted as one of America’s most talented kids when he entered the awards in the first year, has just completed session work for former System of a Down frontman, Serj Tarkanian, and Antonio is now enrolled in the prestigious music program at USC.”
According to Brown, the music scene has changed a lot since the show’s inception. The first year was predominantly hard, angry rock—theretofore staples of the fringe scene. This year, however, there’s been more submissions from Hip Hop artists than any other genre, a reflection of the changing face of the Empire’s musical tapestry.
What can the unsuspecting IE public expect at this show? Well, they are guaranteed a party, some great local music and an opportunity to feel part of something that is growing into a highly anticipated annual event.
And all this for ten lousy bucks. (Braxton Leeds)
The Fourth Annual Inland Empire Music Awards at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium, 3485 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, (951) 788-3944, Thursday, January 31. Tickets available now at www.ticketmaster.com or www.riversidemunicipalauditorium.com, and will be sold on the night of the event, $10. Doors at 7PM