4th Place

My wife and I attended the Shepherd Express Best of Milwaukee 2015 Awards Party last night at the Turner Hall Ballroom. It was certainly an affair to be seen at, all congratulations to The Shepherd and all the folks that worked hard to make a great event.

best of milwaukee 2015 logo

What a Party!

The menu was insane, with catering from almost 20 of Milwaukee’s best restaurants and hospitality groups. Needless to say, we all ate very well. As much as I enjoyed the food, and it was certainly a main focus for me, I went for different, personal reasons.

november criminals plea for votes

Holy Crap! We’re on the ballot!

If you’ve been following us at all, you know that The November Criminals were actually nominated in our category of “best rap/hip hop group.” We were officially on the ballot, thanks entirely to the tireless support of our friends, families and fans. It was unheard of. We were listed among the ranks of Milwaukee’s most visible, most beloved rap acts – acts that had managed to achieve the unthinkable for a Milwaukee band: recognition outside of our local stage. There we were, in black and white with a little check box beside our name. It was unreal. I told myself I was attending the awards party for the awesome food, but there was a small part of me that wanted to go to see if it was possible, if we could really actually take home the title.

I consider myself an optimist, but I fall short of that lofty goal pretty frequently, especially when it comes to my own personal success. Realistically, I told myself we couldn’t possibly win. We have incredible fans and followers, but their numbers – though staggering to me – are not nearly as large as the numbers of fans our esteemed competition enjoy. I use the term “competition” here very loosely. I’d wager 90% of Milwaukeeans have never heard of us, and that estimate is probably too low. So, yeah, I knew we couldn’t win. The numbers told the story. Yet, in the back of my mind flickered a small, fragile candle of hope. Maybe we had managed to creep by in the polls. Maybe our competition hadn’t cared enough about the title to promote their nomination. Maybe they were resting on their laurels and figured their name recognition would be enough to win. We, on the other hand, campaigned furiously on social media.

we continue to pander

Just one example of our tenacious campaigning.

For us, this opportunity wasn’t just another award like it was to so many of the area businesses that win one every year like clockwork. For us, this opportunity represented a chance to gain real visibility, on a scale we could never achieve alone through our own network of connections. This was a real chance to get some recognition for the insane thing we’re doing musically. It would also represent a palpable admission that what we are doing isn’t so far from the mainstream that it will never be accepted. It would be validation and vindication that I, personally have been craving ever since we started this project.

It was not to be.

At 7:00  the winners were projected on a giant screen behind the band (shoutout to Wifee and the Huzz Band) one after another in order of category. First Milwaukee characters and representatives, then services rendered, restaurants, boutiques, animal advocacy groups, the list went on. There are a lot of categories. I clapped and cheered for the winners, especially businesses and individuals I appreciated and voted for. I fell silent when the Music category finally appeared. Best acoustic musician, best choral group, best female singer, etc. I held my breath. I could feel my heart pounding. I knew we couldn’t win. I knew it as a fact, but still, that glimmer of hope fluttered in my chest. Finally: “Best Rap/Hip Hop Group.” It was all I could do to bring myself to read the name below the title heading. WebsterX. Well, it wasn’t a surprise. I wasn’t shocked. It was exactly the name I’d expected to see. It made perfect sense, but no amount of logic can soothe that feeling of loss. We came in 4th among the runners-up. We came in dead last.

A measure of hindsight has been a salve to the pain of losing. We made it on the ballot! There might be people out there who had never even heard of us before, who may have been curious enough to look us up after they voted for WebsterX. They might not become fans after they find us, but they had to look us up! There are probably at least a few people who never knew Non-Ironic Polka Hip Hop even existed before this competition, who now know undeniably that it does! We almost certainly got a modicum of exposure out of this whole thing, and that alone is a triumph, especially when you’re a band like us. Yes, the news is that we lost. The news is, we came in dead last. But maybe, for us, bad news is still good news.

Maybe next year?

Maybe next year?