NQC 09: Saturday night

I’ll save the wrap up for a separate post and deal here mainly with the fan awards and what of the evening’s remainder I caught. Comments especially welcome from anyone who stayed for what came after BFA tonight.

Fan Awards:
In general, a show with big, 40th-anniversary ambitions, but a pretty low-key/ho-hum affair on the whole, depending on which direction you tilt in absence of any real scale tippers. The Booth Brothers dominated again this year, but the second verse of anything is rarely as good as the first. And after a while, their dominance started to feel a wee titch awkward. Michael Booth seemed to recognize this, telling a story about how people loved Jeff Gordon when he started winning NASCAR races … at least until he started winning too much. “This too shall pass,” he concluded sardonically. Probably some truth to this. Taking nothing away from their achievement, which is honestly earned, their wins felt as much like a statement about the dearth of award-worthy music and personalities in the industry right now as it did an affirmation of the Booth Brothers (though of course it is that too). Indeed, this sort of described the general trend in the awards: If you can infer popular sentiment from fan awards (arguably true at best), this year seemed to be largely about sticking with known quantities (with the exception of Triumphant, which won favorite quartet and bass for what I think may be the first time?).

The Isaacs: The rise of canned band tracks has so accustomed us to hearing sophisticated, mostly flawless, digitized accompaniment at NQC, I get the impression audiences are much more likely to under-appreciate the phenomenon of witnessing virtuoso live performances of the sort the Isaacs always turn in. Plus, with the Isaacs particularly, there’s so many marvelous things going on simultaneously – Ben Isaacs’ bass runs, and Sonya Isaacs’ lovely harmonic ornamentations, to name just two I caught tonight. The Isaacs are about the only group I know that can end with three really slow songs (“Does Jesus Care,” “Mama’s Teaching Angels” and “It is Well”) and close huge, with nothing but a trio of unaccompanied voices at the very last. By far, they were responsible for all the very best moments tonight, and the single best sustained musical experience of the evening. I write a version of this sort of thing every year about them, and I’m sure it must sound like I’m phoning it in, but honestly experiencing it live never feels like a rehash.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: as in, can we get a little for everyone’s time – fans and performers alike? The Fan Awards ran way over (just because INSP isn’t cracking the whip anymore doesn’t mean artists and emcees ought to get to ramble on unchecked), and subsequently the rest of the evening was nearly an hour behind by the time I left around 11. And on top of that, the line-up post-Fan Awards was eclectically tedious: Primitives (dirgy), Hunters (they did back flips, literally), Dixie Melody Boys (amateurish), and Janet Paschal, who – it pains me to say – delivered an unremarkable series of songs that never came together into anything approaching a coherent set (get a live piano player, or bring a Gaither friend to harmonize with or something). Shows that run long on time and short on engaging talent disserve the artists closing out the night, of course. But most of all, this kind of thing shafts audiences, who have to choose, at the end of a long tiring week, to sit through music that rarely rises above the quality of a regional showcase in order to see the finale, or leave and miss major performances way down the evening’s bill (tonight: Perrys, Kingdom Heirs, and the Hoppers-Booths-L5-GV finale). FTR, I chose the latter. But even granting that I didn’t leave in a good mood, it was hard not to feel like those of us who tried to stick it out after the Fan Awards – and I really tried – were being played for suckers.

Death by emcee:
I’ll talk more about personalities in gospel music in a separate post, but for now, it’s enough to say that Dennis Swanberg’s moment is over. Larry the Cable guy has pretty much cornered the market on the whole cornpone country voice thing, plus the stuff he says in that contrived country voice is, you know, often funny and stuff, contrivances of voice notwithstanding. Swanberg, on the other hand, just makes a lot of noise and expects us to laugh because it’s noisy (you may not really be a comedian if everything you say relies on the sound of the voice in which you say it). Baptist food jokes, comments about how this or that male performer needs to “take care of that little red-headed wife of yours” or “help your woman up the steps there,  man,” … Billy Graham and John Wayne impersonations. This is his act: boorishness, impersonations and countrified affectations. It makes Tim Lovelace’s innocent tediousness seem desirable. Why can’t, say, Michael Booth and Gerald Wolfe and Lauren Talley just share emcee work and spare us the “entertainment”?

Political salvation: Last night we discussed a theory that one way southern gospel artists can reliably resuscitate a struggling set is to associate a song with some hot-button political, ideological, social, or religious issue. And tonight, as if to cement the conclusions we were arriving at, comes then Brian Free and Assurance. Their tracks failed completely when they walked on stage (honestly, how does this happen at what NQC itself describes as the largest event in Christian music?). As a result: they pretty much lost the crowd. Happening to a different group, or a different emcee, this might have been the kind of curve ball that calls forth reserves of showmanship and creativity and rewards both artist and audience with something unexpected.  In the event, BFA struggled to get a foothold even after their tracks came back. So was it a coincidence that in the middle of the set Free called a twenty-year-old anti-abortion song and preceded it with a fervent pro-life political statement? Hard to say, but it certainly salvaged the set for them.

Non-sequitur: The music used to walk award winners on and off stage during the Fan Awards was … interesting. It sounded like nothing so much as a cross between the theme songs for Quantum Leap and Knight Rider. The most effective approach would seem to be using clips from the winner’s own repertoire, but if you have to use generic music, it should probably at least be stylistically more like than unlike the music to which the show is devoted. 

Listening to “I Know It was the Blood” tonight, I decided that the next time a songwriter hast the urge to quote or borrow from a hymn while writing a new song, Resist. That. Urge. Just to see what happens. “I Know It was the Blood” is a perfectly fine upbeat tune, but one wonders what kind of much more interesting and effective bridge might have been if the song didn’t ubiquitously borrow from “Victory in Jesus” in such a predictable fashion.  

Quote of the night I: “Lord, I’m tired of being the trouble child of sound check.” Libbi Perry Stuffle, accepting her award for favorite alto and discussing the frustration her hearing problems cause her professionally and personally.

Quote of the night II: “It’s favorite songwriter, not best songwriter.” A friend of mine, reacting to the Songwriter of the Year award.

Resale: It’s always amusing to me to see good Christian folks trying to resell convention tix outside Freedom Hall. As far as I know, it’s not illegal, or if it is, there certainly seems to be no enforcement, or even the threat of it. But still, you can just see the overcast of uneasiness in the eyes of most resellers. Stay strong guys. Maybe next year if Dennis Swanberg isn’t on the Fan Awards, the street value of your extra tickets will go up a bit.

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  1. RF wrote:

    Thanks for the recap. In my absence, I almost knew who the award winners were going to be (the Booths, Triumphant–they’re kind of the latest thing, Kiston because he’s GV’s tenor, Kim Hopper, etc.). Kind of makes you wonder why they do it, doesn’t. very few surprises. The politial stuff makes me sick (though I gather there was less of it this year) and the amateurism of some acts is a tradition.

    That said, thanks for being there and giving us an honest opinion. I’m sure Danny Jones and the rest of the traditional sg “press” will tell us that everything was perfect.

  2. Dixie D wrote:

    Did anyone catch the Hunter Family’s set?

    How did they do?

  3. Tjeerd wrote:

    |”Resale: It’s always amusing to me to see good Christian folks trying to resell convention tix outside Freedom Hall”

    Question to NQC attendees.
    Would it be safe to say that if I came to the NQC next year ticket less, that I would be able to purchase them from a reseller outside the Hall at at least face value?

  4. JBB wrote:

    Dixie: Caught it, didn’t like it….at all.

  5. CDB wrote:

    My favorite line of the night came from Ronnie Hinson before announcing the Song Writer or Song of the Year. It was something like, “Its great to have a guess spot on The Booth Brothers Show.” It was hilarious!
    The Booth Brothers did come across to me as sincerely appreciative of all of the awards and with the right amount of humility sprinkled with a generous dose of giving others credit. I was glad for them.
    Yes, The Isaacs were Awesome and that’s even considering some built in bias on my part. Tremendous talent and obvious hard work!

  6. JEB wrote:

    I think Rodney is a great songwriter and so do many artists who record his songs other than Greater Vision. In fact, his collaborations with Joseph Habedank are gaining traction also. The Inspirations just recorded one of their joint efforts. However, I would love to see a songwriter category for non-artist. There are many people such as Joel Lindsey and so many more who write great music with superb artist recordings year after year who get no recognition.


  7. Gospel Has Been wrote:

    # 3. DEFINATELY. No trouble at all. I will even let you purchase mine which are on the 2nd row

  8. WB wrote:

    I’m wondering why I even bought tickets. For Friday and Saturday night, plus the Saturday showcase, no one was at the door to even check my ticket. I checked with some friends who entered the arena at different times and they said the same thing.

    Jerry Goff alluded that this was his last time emceeing the convention and pulled Steve French aside after the Kingdom Heirs set and continued a conversation they must have had earlier. It was like turning on the TV when the show was half over. Jerry mentioned the NQC board showing up and I don’t know what else. Was this brought up earlier in the week? I don’t know. It was like a private conversation on microphone.

    re: Quote of the night II. I had the same conversation with a friend after the awards. I compared it to the People’s Choice Awards versus the Grammys. The Fan Awards are the people’s choice. The Grammy equivalent, to the best in SG doesn’t exist. Don’t mistake the Fan Awards for the Grammys. Popular does not always mean the best. One note: When the songwriters name were read for the top ten song of the year nominees, Rodney Griffin was no where to be found. I did hear Rusty Golden and Diane Wilkenson’s names more than once.

  9. Extra Ink wrote:

    Were the crowds up or down this year?

  10. Scot Eaves wrote:

    To my eyes, the crowds were about the same as last year.

  11. Dixie D wrote:

    JBB-Why not? They are very popular in Canada.

  12. LW wrote:

    Did anyone notice that 14 out of 19 of the awards went to the Daywind Music Group Artist? Imo Daywind should not be allowed to advertise their nominees in the Singing News magazine. Just what if the folks marked their ballots from the advertisement that is enclosed in the magazine every time a ballot is mailed to singing news subscribers?
    If I remember correctly, the same thing happened last year.

  13. tn fan wrote:

    to Dixie D, I thought they sang real good, I think we were surprised when they did the backflips.

  14. Tom Kirby wrote:

    Love The Booth Brothers; however, this has become a popularity contest ONLY!

  15. jbb wrote:

    #11, Dixie. Good morning Dixie.
    They did sing well. Their presentation reminded me of The Partridge Family. I just don’t think that presenting Jesus Christ requires dance moves and a backflip…Literally a back flip!!
    #14: I agree with the popularity contest. I think things will change next yr. I could be wrong as I have been before. I really don’t get the popularity of the Booth Brothers. I like them somewhat, but, I guess they connect well to the older people who vote.

  16. Larry S wrote:

    jbb - “I just don’t think presenting Jesus Christ ‘requires’ dance moves and a backflip…”

    No, I don’t think doing backflips IS required (I sure hope not anyway!) - BUT, if that’s one way they can express their enthusiasm for their Savior, why not? Somebody may have seen that and realized that one expression of praise doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s in the room. IMO, anyway.

  17. Sadie Sidewalker wrote:

    Regarding the Hunters: I thought the backflips were the most interesting part of their performance. (Well, besides the fact that a couple of those boys were total hotties!)

  18. Sadie Sidewalker wrote:

    One more thing — regarding the “Victory In Jesus” bridge on “I Know It Was The Blood:” I happen to know that the bridge was not in the original song as written by Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey, it was added during the recording process — not sure whose idea it was though.

  19. Darrell wrote:

    #14 Totally agree with you. If you look at the Fan Award winners, you would think the Booth Brother, Hoppers, Perrys, Greater Vision, and Triumphant were the only nominees. If I have to see Kim Hopper win another Favorite Soprano and Favorite Female Singer award, I think I will throw up. She is not the best soprano out there. Case in point: My wife and I were listening to the Hoppers “Jerusalem” album the other week. My wife is an alto and she was able to hit all of Kim’s “high” notes without even straining. Let me know when a real soprano wins the award. On a side note, I was happy to see that the Crist Family won the Horizon Group award. They rock. Anyway…..

  20. Stackhouse wrote:

    I spent five days at NQC the fews time I went in the sound was horrible!! They should probably hire Gaithers people to do it next year. The Isacs were the best thing at NQC, just pure, raw, and flawless talent. Why did Kyla Rowland not have a song on the Song of a Lifetime? Phil said she didn’t have one but Jim Brady had two, what about “Did I Mention” that was a huge song this year. And one more thing why is Taranda not winning the soprano award? It should at least be Sonya Isacs if not her. These are my grips anyway, but seriously fix the sound problem…….

  21. Stackhouse wrote:

    Sorry— Isaacs

  22. Casual Observer wrote:

    #12 - Daywind artists won about 2/3 of the awards because about 2/3 of all A-List artists are on the Daywind roster. It’s just math. And do you really mean to suggest that fans who see a Daywind ad in the Singing News cannot resist the temptation to vote for a Daywind artist? Wow….

  23. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    Backflips are far more appropriate when presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ than are “hot-button political, ideological, social, or religious issue(s).”

  24. GVBFan09! wrote:

    Did anyone get to meet CAROL CHANNING at NQC on Friday? What an interesting thing!

  25. Seriously wrote:

    These votes are all about who can mobilize their fan base during a window of opportunity. It has nothing to do with the group’s/artist’s overall popularity or sales. Case in point: Mark Trammell Trio recently had a song in the Top 10 of the year that had barely released by the time the voting happened. It couldn’t have been the favorite song of the year; it simply didn’t have time to gain any traction — and it barely qualified for that year’s awards. It was just about fans supporting the group — and a good PR campaign.

  26. Tony Watson wrote:

    #14 - dude, the awards say “favorite” on them . . . it is SUPPOSED to be a popularity contest

  27. FJW wrote:

    Four years now in a row the sound has been progressively worse. This year it hot monitors and mic levels that were set too low at the beginning of each song. With the continual changing of mics, (once three times in one set) I can’t fathom how the sound check presets were relative to anything. There was also a phantom noise that was ear wrenching (I suspect spurious signals from the airport or planes overhead) The house PC with the tracks performed dismaly everynight. Either the hard drive would go to sleep, or they did not trim the leads. It sure wasn’t EMCEE PRO or Instant Replay quality

  28. SGinsider wrote:

    The reason the Booth Brothers won so many fan awards is largely attributed to the amount of time, attention and respect they give to their fans. They spend huge amounts of time cultivating relationships with their fans everywhere they travel, sometimes to their own physical detriment. The awards are just a way for the fans to love them back. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard fans exclaim, “They have such a sweet spirit”, “Who they are on stage is who they are all the time”, or “We just love these guys”. And it doesn’t hurt that they also sing well. From what I’m hearing the reason Triumphant won is the same reason the BBs won. Now if every other group ever figures they need to start treating their fans as well then we might have a different horse race.
    Also, the BBs never set out to win awards. It just happened. They’re appreciative, but if they never won another award it wouldn’t matter to them. They’d still be out making friends out of fans.

  29. Dixie D wrote:

    Hurry up with the review already DOUG!!

  30. Wade wrote:

    #12… LW….THAT comment of yours is the most insane thing I have read on here in a while.

    Maybe the other labels should advertise more ORRRRRR even better sign BETTER talent!!!

    What kinda dope are you smokin’?? I bet you are a fan of our current POTUS.

    Yeah lets just out law Daywind being able to advertise because ya know the other artist should have a better chance. Get that legislation all ready they don’t read much of what they pass any way.

    With our current government Robin Hood Policy and let’s ram something down the ppl’s throats regardless of HOW INSANE it is… your idea makes about as much sense!! Sheesh… Put the pipe down and move away from the keyboard.

    #15 jbb you ended well with the observation of Booth Bros doing well with OLD folks that vote… but what are they going to do to change it???

    #26 Like Tony said… IT IS a popularity contest… which is better than being the favs of some one who owns a web site that shills for the artist they have signed to their signed to their Publicity/PR OTHER company.

    I LOVE the disclosures they have on the site like it is some publicly traded company. Since GCQ is their most fav customer helps ya understand a few things huh???

  31. Ron F wrote:

    I know that Gospel Music Channel was taping. What about INSP with Bill Traylor, are they not showing any of 2009 NQC. Just wondering

  32. Mike wrote:

    #28 - Couldn’t agree with you more! The BB’s are huge. I was so disappointed that Ivan Parker was Soloist of the Year! So many are so much better than he and he IMO couldn’t even make a decent acceptance speech.

  33. Wade wrote:

    Mike…what do you mean that he couod not make a decent acceptance speech???

    It sounds like he was sick. Which if I had to sing last week I might have been in trouble. I had just a normal comedy show and a wedding reception I DJed and I had to take some Sudafed to get through it and I did not have to sing.

    If he had to have Bruce out there stacking him as reported he had to be sick.

    I am surprised he did not just play a TOTALLY STACKED track with FULL VOCALS and take a DEAD Mic out and lip it!! …ahh it has been done more than once!!

    He might have been concerned that THE SOUND GENIUS would mess that up too!!

    I am sure some one will write in and tell us!

  34. Rob wrote:

    Ron - Bill Traylor is no longer with INSP. Saw Bill there. He was just walking around in exhibit hall not interviewing anyone just looking around.

  35. Scot Eaves wrote:

    Ron - INSP no longer has the contract to record and broadcast the NQC. Beginning last year, GMC (Gospel Music Channel) started doing it. They package it into a one hour show called “Four”, an allusion to four-part harmony, with Brian Free as host. Gerald Wolfe announced from the stage that they only record Thurs-Sat nights for their material, and joked that they waited until everyone was worn out before they started.

    I don’t know how long GMC’s contract runs. Anybody else know?

  36. RUSTY GOLDEN wrote:

    I happened to have won (along w/ my dear friend and cowriter Dianne Wilkinson) this years “SONG OF THE YEAR” award. It was sung by my friends THE BOOTH BROTHERS. I have been reading all about how in some folks opinion….had the BOOTHS not recorded the song…I might not have won (i also had another song written with Jerry Salley called ‘I WANT TO THANK YOU” recorded by Karen Peck & New River up for “Song of the Year”). All I can can say is….I’m so glad that they (BB) DID record the song. I’ll take “SONG OF THE YEAR” any way I can
    get it (HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!)
    Seriously, to all the folks who DID vote 4 my song…I WANT TO THANK YOU !!!!
    (sorry, couldn’t help myself there). I have had 4 songs released 2 radio since I began writing my Gospel songs and am thankful to report that ALL FOUR have gone to the #1 spot. For those who wanna know:
    1. “John in the Jordan” (Ernie Haase/SS)
    2. “What Salvation’s Done For Me” (BB)
    3. “I Want 2 Thank You” (KP & NR)
    and finally, starting in October
    4. “Between 12 & 33″ (McKameys)

    There were songs of mine that were recorded and released as “album cuts” on Kingsmen, Legacy Five and others
    on their last CD projects….

    I have songs cowritten w/ DW on upcoming projects from HOPPERS & the next as yet untitled BOOTH BROTHERS project produced by LARI GOSS. I can’t WAIT for these 2 come out.

    On a personal note:
    I can see why the BOOTHS are “fan favorites”…but I will step out and say that if it WERE an “industry voted award show”, you would still see the BB getting their due simply because they deserve it. The guys can really sing GREAT.
    There…..I just got it ALL out. I feel better now. RG

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