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The scene is now

What we can learn about Boston from the local winners
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  July 30, 2009

COCHLEA SCRAPERS Ketman's radical punk adventures are but a slice of Boston's estimable loud-music scene.

View the complete results from this year's Boston Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll.

As newspapers cede arbiter status to random bloggers with Fios and afternoons off, the function of polls like our humble offering must change out of necessity. What once was a forecast is now more like a diagnostic — it's anthropology versus tastemakery. This year's poll had a few little subplots to spill. Here are some things I gleaned after some blithe hours of data gazing.

THE ABBEY: UNSCENE | Five years ago, the then-dubbed "Abbey Scene" — a seemingly bottomless resource of underachieving garage rawk à la the Konks or the Dents, as well as campier fare like Paula Kelley and the Rudds — wasn't exactly ruling our poll, but it's hard now to find any trace of the Abbey diaspora among our results (even the write-ins). Robby Roadsteamer, maybe? There's still no definitive adoptive home for this once-vital scene following the closing of the club in November. It may be not just the end of another era of Boston rock but the end of a whole approach to "making it" around here.

HYPE IS CENTRIPETAL | Yes Giantess — whom we only just now heard of — received more votes than any other act in any other category (save Grace Kelly and Laszlo Gardony in Local Jazz). They handily beat Coldplay, Neko, and Dylan. Sure, they have the same management (Neon Gold) that poll sweepers Passion Pit had for their career-cracking "Sleepyhead" seven-inch. And like the Pit (as well as our recent "50 Bands/50 States" pick Magic Magic), the Yes Giantess boys are inverting the old model of rallying locals, stapling flyers to poles, and trying desperately to open for What's-His-Butt downstairs. Instead they toured the UK, dropped a free mixtape on-line, and scored a slot on an NME tour. Harsh new fact: bands don't need Boston to run it. Yowch!

Y'ALL NEED TO LISTEN TO MORE RAP | Okay, Akrobatik actually deserved to win the Local Rap/Hip-Hop category this year with his insanely hot Absolute Value (Fat Beats) — so you're off the hook. But seriously, for the last five years it's been Esoteric, Lif, and Akrobatik over and over and over. Look, we all love these guys like crazy, but when I see runners-up as good as Termanology, East Coast Avengers, and Moe Pope getting not even half the tally, I don't know whether to give you guys a mixtape or a ruler slap.

PEOPLE DANCE HERE | Our Dance/Electronic category has always been a little unsure of itself. Is it for DJs? Producers? Sentient terminals? What was formerly a modest, kitschy klatch of electro-minded acts has grown into a sprawling scene of styles, approaches, and sounds — all entirely dependent on a truth that Boston has been glacially slow to accept: people here dance. The minimal hints at work in the house odysseys of André Obin and Coralcola belie their complexity. Meanwhile, the maximalist smutjams of Hot Pink Delorean represent a sweatier side of town. As Boston nightlife increasingly defines itself by its club nights (like Circus, Make It New, and the Pill), you can expect a lot more four-on-the-floor.

OUR LOUDEST MUSIC IS AMAZING | Boston has a deep, almost genetic proclivity for cochlea-scraping volume. I'd even contend that Boston's best music is its loudest. Our Metal/Hardcore and Punk ballots were brimming with bands who couldn't be more defiant of the implications of their categories. Big Bear's baroquepocalypse, Disappearer's stoner flames, Ketman's radical punk adventures, and the slo-mo avalanches of Summerduck (who may have been too new to place this year) are among our city's finest, smartest, and (thus) most hype-resistant output. If you'd rather introduce the world to Boston's best acts, rather than have it the other way around, this scene is where you should start.

Related: Year in Local Pop: Local motion, Various artists | Winter Is Cold, Hump Day?, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Science and Technology, KETMAN,  More more >
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