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While the red carpet processional at the Third Annual Whalie Awards Saturday probably won't feature Will Smith clubbing anyone, the possibilities are otherwise endless, fun and fascinating.
As a celebration of All Things Musical in New London and the region, the Whalies have captured not just the imagination of the musicians and fans, but also the public. The awards show, which spotlights over 100 nominated acts in both People's Choice and Critics awards in several categories, is a testimony to the increasing variety of music in our area - and e'er increasing public support for same.
Why not? The Whalies are a blast. There's a parodic element, but it's affectionate and self-effacing. At the same time, this is a damned fertile musical region, and the artists are deserving.
"I think the Whalies have become a gauge of sorts; a barometer of the quality that the New London music scene is churning out," says Sean Murphy, founder and producer of the Whalies. "Bands and artists get really excited, and that's the only way I can stay inspired to do this. It means a lot to me because it means a lot to them."
Among the acts performing at the ceremony will be The Fly Ones, The Weird Beards, Daphne Lee Martin & Raise the Rent, and Pocket Vinyl.
One big difference this year, Murray says, is the dominant presence of hip-hop - given that the scene has always been associated with indie rock and Americana.
New London rappers Camacho & Poe Swayzie earned nine nominations each - most ever for a Whalie artist - including Album of the Year and Hip-Hop Album of the year for their collaborations as The Fly Ones.
But artists from all styles showed up big in the nominations. Americana group Daphne Lee Martin & Raise the Rent are up in several categories including Album of the Year and Americana Album of the Year for "Dig & Be Dug." Rock band The Suicide Dolls received five nominations. Their "Prayers in Parking Lots" CD is up for Best Album and Best Rock Album, and "Smash" is up for Song of the Year.
Whalies categories include: alternative, folk/bluegrass, blues/country-rock, hardcore/metal, hip-hop/r&b, dance/electronica, punk/ska, indie/experimental, and rock. Within each of those are awards for artists, songs, albums and videos. No wonder there are over 100 nominations this year - up from 65 in 2010's first ceremony and 80 last year.
"This year's Whalies are definitely proof that our scene has grown and continues to grow," says Meghan Killimade, the drummer for Bedroom Rehab Corporation and the Paul Brockett Roadshow Band. In addition, Killimade also runs the popular wailingcity.com web site that chronicles the local arts community and that hosts the "People's Choice" section of the awards.
"We had over 1,000 site hits the first day of balloting compared to half that in the last two years," Killimade says. "Now we're wondering if we'll break 8,000 votes this year."
In 2010, 4,507 fans voted, and last year 6,399 cast ballots.
The growth is emblematic of the across-the-board expansion of the scene.
"Every year, you see more collaboration," Murray says. "I think this is what the Whalies does for the music scene now. Every year you see new bands and new faces, meeting together for the first time, exchanging ideas and working together. This is why the event matters for the artists. As for me, I just hope the Spa 264 gift bags are nice."
WHALIE AWARDS, RED CARPET AT 6 P.M. SATURDAY, SHOW FOLLOWS IMMEDIATELY, HYGIENIC ART PARK, 79-83 BANK ST., NEW LONDON; $10 SUGGESTED DONATION; (860) 857-6337, HYGIENIC.ORG.