Bands look to shine on stage

The Huntington Beach band Headshine met at the studio Tuesday to rehearse a new song, and they had one week to make it unique, well-written, tightly performed, crowd-pleasing and delivered with authority.

Those are the five categories the judges will use to rate the band Jan. 11 when it takes the stage for the OC Music Awards' Showcase Series. Headshine, which is singer-guitarist Ras and percussionist Jeff Maldonado, is nominated in the Best Live Acoustic category, and with the band being less than a year old, it was still working on new material a few days before taking the stage in Tustin.

Tuesday's tune, "Cool Breeze," was a lanky, acoustic shuffle with a soaring vocal on the chorus, one of the songs intended for the band's upcoming CD. Ras (pronounced "Ross") had recorded a demo of it already with producer Jim Perkins, but now he and Maldonado tried a new arrangement, the guitarist singing and strumming while his partner pounded a djemba drum and tapped his foot on a tambourine.

"This is just how we're going to do the song live," said Ras, a Huntington Beach resident. "You want to have a game plan for how you're going to do a song live."

The OC Music Awards, now in their 10th year, give out two kinds of awards. Winners in most categories, such as Best Album, Best Hip Hop and Best Punk, are chosen by an academy of producers, venue owners and others in the music industry. To spotlight live performers, the awards put on the Showcase Series, in which artists perform before audiences with a panel of judges. The judges narrow each category down to five finalists, and the winners are announced after a final round of competition in late February.

Headshine is one of four Huntington Beach or Sunset Beach acts nominated this year, joining Skee, Honeypie and Danny Maika. Ashley Eckenweiler, a spokeswoman for the awards, said the recognition was invaluable to an up-and-coming band.

"We're definitely exposing them to the right people in the industry," she said. "Anything can happen."

Artists may submit their work for consideration in the Best Live Band or Best Live Acoustic categories, with the awards staff whittling the list down to 35 nominees. Many of the nominees are up-and-comers, but some are more established; last year's Best Live Band winner, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, had three albums and a Wikipedia page under their belt.

Headshine has had a much more rapid rise. Within months of Ras and Maldonado meeting, they had recorded a four-song EP, gotten a rave review in Performer Magazine and even had a song clip featured in a video for surfing champion Brett Simpson.

Ras, who taught guitar to fourth-graders at Circle View Elementary School in Huntington Beach before devoting the last few months to touring, said he looked forward to the competition, but would take losing in stride.

"Hopefully, our style of music fits into what they're looking for," he said. "I have no idea. I just know that we enjoy what we're doing. We've been very fortunate to get a nice response here on the West Coast, so we'll hope to keep that momentum going and make some friends along the way."

If You Go

What: Headshine, Skee, Honeypie, Canvas and Stacy Clark

Where: The District at Tustin Legacy, 2437 Park Ave., Tustin

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 11

Cost: Free


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