I do not like to miss the What’s Up! Awards.
Case in point: Last year, I had to have an unexpected bit of minor ankle surgery two days before the longstanding Bellingham music magazine’s awards show, and even though I wasn’t yet cleared to bathe and had to be helped to the bathroom when nature called, I still somehow thought attending the show to be a possibility.
It wasn’t. It wasn’t even within spitting distance of being a possibility. And yet, somehow I still thought it was, which speaks a little to the strength of my own denial (read: idiocy), but much more to the powerful lure of the What’s Up! Awards.
For nearly 15 years, What’s Up! magazine has given its readers a monthly dose of what’s happening, musically speaking, in Bellingham, and for the past 12 of those 15 years, publisher Brent Cole (along with a little help from his friends) has thrown the annual party/music scene lovefest known as the What’s Up! Awards.
While the awards show itself takes place on just one night in just one place this year—Sat., Jan. 26 at the Wild Buffalo—it all actually starts much earlier, with the unleashing of the awards ballot. Unlike other awards ceremonies, the winners of the sought-after golden beer cans that embody the awards themselves are chosen by the magazine’s readers via an online ballot, rather than by a committee of What’s Up! powers that be. So, while Cole has long claimed (and rightly so) that What’s Up! is not a democracy, he suspends that policy when it comes to the awards, and the democratic process rules the day.
This means that when the winners are announced in such categories as “Best Booty Shakin’ Music,” “Best Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock,” “Best Axes of Folk,” “Best Video Killed the Radio Star,” and others, those stepping onto the Wild Buffalo’s stage to give their acceptance speeches will be winners chosen by the magazine’s readership, many of whom will be in the audience, cheering them on.
This makes for an atmosphere in which people set aside the issues that are a normal part of existence in such a tiny-but-mighty music community for one night in order to simply appreciate each other, the bounty of music we enjoy in Bellingham, and, of course, Cole and What’s Up! magazine itself. And, when attendees wake up the next morning, their hangovers are just as likely to be from all the love in the room as they are from the libations they imbibed.
But winners and golden beer cans do not an awards show make. The night wouldn’t be complete without a whole slew of live music—and if you want to catch a varied bill of local bands, the awards show is the place for you. The night of music will kick off fairly early for this town—at 9pm, if all goes according to schedule—with a set by the Shadies. They’ll be followed by Learning Team, the Ames, Palisades, and Black Beast Revival, before My Dad Bruce rounds out the night with their brand of homegrown hip-hop. DJ Postal and IG88 will provide the between-sets soundtrack, while the lovely ladies of the Dirty Bird Cabaret will dance their asses off in their inimitable way, and the equally inimitable Poops will be on hand to play host (and if history is any judge, he’ll probably end up as whipping boy—either literally or figuratively—for the Dirty Birds by night’s end).
As for me, I’m going to spend the days preceding the What’s Up! Awards avoiding any and all hazards and dangerous situations. In fact, I’m thinking of fashioning myself a head-to-toe suit made of bubble wrap to encase myself in, in order to ensure I actually make it to this year’s ceremony, uninjured and in one piece. So, if you see me wandering the streets of downtown during the coming week looking like a science experiment, chalk it up to my commitment to What’s Up! and to Cole. And please don’t pop me.
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