EDITOR'S NOTE: Full disclosure: I am a 2018 LVMA nominee for Outstanding Music Website, Outstanding Music Reviewer, Outstanding Music Supporter and Outstanding Volunteer.
For many local musicians and performers, waiting for the reveal of the Lehigh Valley Music Awards nominees is a lot like Christmas day.
There is excitement, anticipation, curiosity, maybe an overly long sermon, and a stiff drink or three.
Then, like the unwrapping of presents, exchanges of joy and pleasantries, the realization that it's over and you'll have to wait another 12 months to politely bicker with extended family members sinks in.
Pouring over this year's LVMA nominees left me wrestling with those same emotions. Here are five of my biggest takeaways:
Larger representation of artists
This is arguably the first year in which the diverse and thriving greater Lehigh Valley music scene is represented the way it should. Industry veterans and LVMA darlings such as Scott Marshall, James Supra and The Large Flowerheads are facing stiff competition in the form of faces fresh to the scene and acts who have largely gone ignored or overlooked in the past. Marshall finds himself in a dead heat with Americana/folk singer-songwriter Carter Lansing and his band, Acoustic Kitty Project; each of whom have a leading 13 nominations. (Both artists are up for Outstanding Singer-Songwriter and Outstanding Album.)
Singer Mike Roi and his group, Roi and the Secret People, are also well-represented this year, having earned 12 nominations -- among them Outstanding Album, Outstanding Band/Duo and Outstanding Music Video in the fan category and Outstanding Rock Band and Outstanding Male Vocalist under the industry ballot. (Roi and Lansing are members of singer-songwriter outfit Bastard Sons of Burt Sugarman, which received a nomination for Outstanding Folk Band/Soloist.)
Trailing closely behind is singer-songwriter Chelsea Lyn Meyer, who's up for 10 awards, and newcomer Leah Marie Fuls -- who dropped her debut EP, You're Never Gone in 2017 -- with an impressive nine nominations. (Keyboardist-vocalist Jason E. Hedrington, who performs in the bands Roi and the Secret People and The Gonzo Project, is tied with Fuls at 9 nominations.)
Burgeoning talent Julia Sommer landed seven nominations, while her father, singer-guitarist Werner Sommer, also received a handful of nods.
New year, new faces
It is also refreshing to see the next generation of Lehigh Valley talent -- Another Day Dawns, Slingshot Dakota, Neil Grover, Shawn Cav Ensemble, Serene Green, Blue Heart's Revelry, and Soul Folks -- earn nominations in their respective categories. However, the flip side of that coin is the surprising and disappointing absence of equally deserving names such as Pentley Holmes, Summer Scouts, Dave Deubler, Mosey Beat, The Crowning, The Moondogs, and Dear Anna -- each of whom are nowhere to be found on either ballot.
Too loud or too confusing?
After years of covering the LVMAs, I am still stumped, confused and intrigued as to why there are separate categories for rock band and loud rock band? Could someone explain the difference to me? Isn't rock 'n' roll supposed to be loud? If by "loud," the definition is heavy-metal, well, there already is a category for that. So why not combine them into one category? I don't make the rules, but hey, it's just a thought.
Speaking of categories, what about creating separate categories for cover bands and original acts? Yes, the cover bands who did get nominated are talented and deserving of their nominations. But bands whose set lists are heavy on originals should be judged on their ability to craft their own music, not how well they learned a Led Zeppelin tune, and vice-versa.
I am optimistic about the future of the LVMAs as the spotlight continues to widen on the plethora of musicians, singers, songwriters, and supporters who work their butts off in the name of music.
And, at the end of the day, isn't the music that matters?
Unless I lose. Then it's definitely about a recount.
Voting for the 2018 Lehigh Valley Music Awards ends 10 p.m. Jan. 16. The winners will be announced March 4 during the LVMA ceremony at Musikfet Cafe in Bethlehem.