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Whammy roundup

Freak Brothers, Legendary Trainhoppers Both Win Big at Whammy Awards

By Sean Smith

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-03-20


The 6th annual Whammy awards proved to be one of the more exciting in recent years. Maybe it was the arrival of performers and presenters in limos to red carpet entrances, maybe it was the Definitely Gary hosted afterparty, or maybe it was the duel all star jams that took place around the halfway mark. All I know is this year’s ceremony is going to be awfully tough to beat.

Clearly, the big winners of the evening were The Freak Brothers. Walking away with three awards, including Performer of the Year, the band encouraged the crowd to continue supporting local music. Matt Cashdollar acknowledged the other nominees in the category and asked that those attending simply check them out at least once.

This sort of camaraderie is echoed by Matthew Sturm. “It’s not all that often you get that many of your peers in the same room at the same time. You go to something like the Whammys and you see all these people who are out there doing the same thing, and it really reminds you, ‘Yeah, we’re all in this together.’”

Sturm’s day job brought him the Best Rock Performer/Originals award, something that he does not take lightly. “It was a great honor to be nominated, let alone win. I was really excited that there were a lot of people actually getting involved and voting, regardless of whether or not they were voting for us.’ Sturm continued, “There were a lot of heavy hitters nominated in category that we won, and in the ones we didn’t and it means a lot to know that people really are interested in what we’re doing musically.”

Sturm’s other band, The Legendary Trainhoppers, founded by Matt Kelley and filled out by a veritable who’s who of Fort Wayne’s finest rock n rollers, won big as well. Lots of respect and appreciation was shown by the crowd as they gave one of the strongest and most impressive performances of the evening. Dan Smith, Damian Miller, Chris Dodds, and Sturm all handle lead vocals and most of them end up handling guitars, bass, or keyboards (sometimes all three) at some point. Phil Potts (guitar) and Jon Ross (drums) round out the group and both seem to serve as anchors in their own way. After blazing through several of their own songs, Smith and Dodds tackled a Billy Joe Shaver tune and by the end of the song were in amongst the fans singing their hobo garb off.

Alli Pfefferkorn, 25, was truly proud to take it all in. “I’ve known all of those guys for awhile and they have really worked hard to be where they are.” The hard work paid off as they were awarded Best Country Music Performer, in a tie with Dakota Sunrise.

Another highlight of The Trainhoppers set was the inclusion of members from The Matthew Sturm Band, Definitely Gary, and Sankofa joining in for lots of musical chaos during a Trainhoppers original. There was enough percussion and makeshift musical instruments on stage to make John Cage smile.

The acoustic jam that led up to the Trainhoppers set was just as impressive. Mike Conley, Sunny Taylor, David Todoran, Chris Dodds, and others worked more strings than a marionette, as they all crooned along to each others originals. It was truly a highlight that should at least be considered to return next year.

Speaking with those that either watched from the sideline or were there to represent the Fort Wayne music scene, there were a few suggestions or changes that would have been made if it were up to them. “I think that the metal performers should have their own separate category and not be lumped in with the rock category,” noted Jeff Anderson.

Matt Kelley had a few musicians in mind when I asked him his thoughts on the winners that evening, “"I actually own four of the CDs nominated for 'Album of the Year' and they are all great -- I'd say it was the best batch of nominees yet,” he said. “I probably like John Minton's Going Back to Vicksburg best, but then he's an old five-and-dimer like me. I always have that record on my turntable. Or my iPod."

In spite of all the great performances and heartfelt acceptance speeches, one individual managed to have a completely unique experience separate from the majority of those who attended. When I asked Eric English, 27, what his personal highlight of the evening was, he smiled ear to ear and said, “The champagne room was off the hook!”

Perhaps that is the only thing that could improve the awards show next year.

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