Fresh out of high school, Francis is the lead guitarist for the Black Diamonds, an up-and-coming Perry band. But he's also considering venturing off to college.
If Francis needs any encouragement to follow his musical ambition, local fans spoke loud and clear in their votes for Scene's 2006 Cleveland Music Awards.
Nominated both for Best New Band and Best Local Song, the Black Diamonds walked away with the latter award for their Zeppelinesque blues rocker "Cold Cold Heart."
"It's not like college won't be there for me later, if we do keep playing," says Francis, who brought his proud parents to the awards ceremony, held last Friday at the House of Blues. "I'm still deciding."
Francis was just one of the many musicians who packed the club for the annual celebration of local music. In true rock-and-roll fashion, the event did away with tuxes and boring awards speeches in favor of the chance to enjoy the free drinks and food and shmooze with comrades from the local music circuit.
From Akron nominees Houseguest, the Black Keys, and Good Morning Valentine, to Cleveland's Rambler 454, VentanA, and Dead Even, the turnout was a testament to the vibrancy of the local scene.
Several of the nominated bands took the stage, providing a taste of why they were up for honors. The winner of this year's Best Hard Rock/Metal band, Dead Even, tore through the opening set, mixing the feral intensity of death metal with locomotive guitars and furious drumming.
Perhaps it's best that the instruments of fellow performers Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival are made of easily replaceable household objects, because the devil-baiting duo did its best to destroy them during its brief set. Brother Ant brought the biggest cheers of the evening as he promised to kick the devil where it hurts, "in his wee little dick."
For eye candy, the event included girls from Cuervo Black dressed as cheerleaders, while upstairs, several rows of beautiful, custom-crafted Hill Guitars were a feast for the ears. When things got slow with the floor show, several musicians took turns on the axes. We think we even spotted a guitarist (who shall remain nameless) noodling "Stairway to Heaven" on a gorgeous cherry-red guitar.
Appropriately, in a week that saw the death of Syd Barrett, the Cleveland scene showed its respect for Pink Floyd by giving two awards to local tribute act Wish You Were Here. The octet won for Best Tribute/Cover band and Best Live Act. The latter award is especially fitting, since the band's stage performances mimic Floyd's over-the-top theatrical stage show, right down down to the inflatable pig.
Perhaps foremost among the attendees was this year's Best Rock/Pop band, the Black Keys, who were represented by drummer Patrick Carney. "We've won an award three times. This is the first time we showed up," Carney acknowledged. "But it's always an honor."
VentanA drummer Dan Fox couldn't wait to share the news of his band's victory in the Best Goth/Industrial category. Just hours after accepting the award, he posted a message about it on the band's MySpace site.
In a magnanimous gesture, Fox went out of his way to thank fellow Goth/Industrial nominees, Keratoma, Disown, and In Winter, writing, "We are all in this together!"
Indeed we are.
And the winners are . . .
Best Rock/Pop: Black Keys
Best Solo Artist: Jami Ross
Best New Artist: Who Killed Marilyn?
Best Reggae/World: Carlos Jones
Best Jazz: Ernie Krivda and The Fat Tuesday Big Band
Best Goth/Industrial: VentanA
Best Roots/Country: Lords of the Highway
Best New Local Album: Ringworm, Justice Replaced by Revenge
Best Concert of the Year: Nine Inch Nails
Best Live Act: Wish You Were Here
Best DJ/Electronic: Deviant
Best Local Song of the Year: Black Diamonds, "Cold Cold Heart"
Best Punk/Hardcore: Vacancies
Best Metal/Hard Rock: Dead Even
Best Blues: Sam Getz Band
Best Indie/Alt-Rock: Machine Go Boom
Best Hip-Hop/R&B: 216
Best Tribute/Cover Band: Wish You Were Here