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Contests: We're chock-full of them.
When the members of the Reejers decided to enter the Jim Beam One Shot to Stardom contest earlier this year, none of them had the slightest expectation that doing so would lead to anything; as guitarist Nick Iurato notes, "We didn't think we had much of a chance." But after submitting a demo tape put together this summer, the combo--which also includes vocalist/guitarist David Houghton, drummer Kyle Comerford and bassist Bug ("He doesn't need a last name," Iurato points out)--was chosen as one of five finalists from the Denver area. The nominees, who included X-Lulu and Sketch, performed for a sizable crowd and a panel of judges at the Church in August. "They scored you on different things," Iurato recalls. "It was kind of like The Gong Show."

The Reejers weren't gonged; instead they were chosen to represent Colorado at the One Shot national finals, held in September at the House of Blues in Chicago. Also competing were winning outfits from Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina--the survivors from over 600 contestants nationwide. Says Iurato, "They flew us out there and put all the bands up in the same hotel. So all of us hung out together. We made a lot of friends there; it was like summer camp." This sense of camaraderie came about despite considerable differences in the bands' musical styles. Iurato says, "Everybody else was a lot poppier than we were. We were definitely the weirdest, hardest band there."

That may have been an advantage. On the big night, the nominees were herded into the House of Blues and paraded before judges who included, Iurato divulges, "A&R people and a guy from ASCAP and the manager of Sugar Ray and somebody from the David Letterman show." Fifteen minutes was all the quartet got to prove itself, but that was enough; when the votes were tallied, the Reejers emerged victorious.

What did you win, Nick? "The next day they rushed us into a studio with all rented equipment, and we banged out three songs with a producer from New York. They're putting those on a CD and making 500 copies of them that are basically ours. They're also putting us on a three-week tour with a major act to be named later. It's going to start in San Francisco at the end of October and go all over the nation--ten cities. Plus, they're giving us a bus to use--a big rock-star bus with a driver and everything. And they gave us a whole lot of free whiskey." Without much prompting, he adds, "We heartily endorse their product."

The timing of this exposure is perfect for the Reejers. The players had moved from Boulder to Chicago a couple of years back, but late last year, Iurato explains, "our old drummer retired and we picked up Kyle, who had a house in Boulder. Then, around the same time, the building where we were living in Chicago was sold, so we were sort of homeless." As a result, the players returned to Boulder in January, but while they've toured along the West Coast a couple of times in 1997, their profile in their home state has been fairly low. Now, however, they're benefiting from a new set of connections that they hope to exploit when they finish up their latest batch of recordings. "It's been great, especially since we never expected to win," Iurato allows. "It's still a little shocking to me."

Also a winner is John McKenna of Evergreen, whose original song, "The Unchose," took third place in the rock division at the seventh Annual Billboard Song Contest, sponsored by Billboard magazine. This news dovetails nicely with details of the eighth annual version of this competition: Contestants will be judged in eleven categories, including a new bracket for performances, and prizes include guitars, recording equipment and stuff like that. The entry deadline is December 15; for more information, dial 405-523-4817.

There's no need to contact anyone else in order to learn who topped the various categories at the third annual Westword Music Awards; the victors are listed on page 84 of this issue. Of course, folks who were part of the packed house at the awards ceremony, held September 28 at the Bluebird Theater, already know who took home prizes in the thirteen categories being contested. But for those of you who were unable to tear yourselves away from the Minnesota-Philadelphia game long enough to check out the festivities, here's some of what you missed:

The ceremony's first-ever heckler. Didn't get a very good look at the guy, but he seemed to have a problem with the performers who took the first several prizes. In the name of unity in the music community, representatives from Westword's business department had him expelled. As he was being escorted out, the man reportedly asked, "Is it against the rules for me to have an opinion?" Not at all, pal--but next time, keep it to yourself, okay?

The first Westword Music Awards winner to thank God in his acceptance speech. To be specific, Kingdom, who triumphed in the hip-hop/funk bracket, gave props to "my Lord and Saviour, for all the talent," as well as to his family, his friends, his fans and showcase organizer Dolly Zander, "for taking all my phone calls." (When I arrived at the Bluebird that evening, Zander had asked me, "How many times have you talked to Kingdom today?") The rapper's enthusiasm was mirrored by the hip-hop runners-up; the first to congratulate Kingdom and his crew were members of Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass and nGoMa, who seemed legitimately excited for their musical peer. If there had been trophies for good sportsmanship, each of them would have deserved one of their very own. By the way, Francisco Mejias also cited God while accepting a plaque for Conjunto Colores, the top vote-getter in the Latin/Tejano division. A trend is born.

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