The 2012 Offbeat Awards

Best Artist - Shane Howard

THIRTY years ago, Goanna released Solid Rock and this year's anniversary put the song's writer, Killarney's Shane Howard, back in the limelight. To celebrate he and his band put on the wonderfully received Other Side Of The Rock concerts, gave an amazing performance at the Dreamtime At The G game, criss-crossed Australia to play and even toured Canada. It may have been a year of looking back for Howard, but what a career to look back on. The re-recordings featured on the Other Side Of The Rock album further confirmed his status as one of this country's great songwriters.

Honourable mentions: Former Ellerslie muso Nigel Wearne earned radio play and great reviews for his album Black Crow, Warrnambool's Dave Burgess proved his flexibility with his album Hurry Slowly and Mailors Flat export Jackson McLaren's star continued to rise with the release of the Walk Along The Wire EP last year.

Best Band - Blackwood Jack

THEIR hefty dose of blues-rock took them to Melbourne, New South Wales and South Australia, and it seems that everywhere Blackwood Jack went, the reviews were glowing. Whether they were marking new territory in Melbourne, supporting (and sometimes overshadowing) visiting bands at The Loft in Warrnambool or rocking the stage at the Kennedy's Creek Music Festival, this power trio gave their all. They made you want to start your own blues band. They jammed and gelled like few other south-west bands this year. Can't wait for the next record. 

Honourable mentions: Warrnambool's Red Eagle added more great-sounding sets to their CV as well as having a song used on a cycling commercial, Hamilton's The Still Trees made heaps of new fans in Los Angeles in between keeping south-west and Melbourne punters happy, and Rhys Crimmin & The Toms finished third in a worldwide band competition, toured Europe and released an album of reworked Crimmin material.

Best Recording - Gin Mercy EP by Dan Kirk

WHEN you have songs this good, you don't need million-dollar studios and polished production. Kirk, ditching the SS Radio moniker, simply set-up a small recording system in his loungeroom and lovingly crafted a rickety collection of five lo-fi alt-blues tracks. It's dirty and it's loose, but it sounds incredibly alive and honest and like it could fly off the rails at any minute. These factors, mixed with Kirk's aching voice and killer turn-of-phrase, make this EP exciting and fascinating. 

Honourable mentions: Jackson McLaren & The Triple Threat sounded polished and in fine voice on Walk Along The Wire, Warrnambool rockers Hex impressed with their self-titled mini-album, Dave Burgess pulled together a great collection of different grooves on Hurry Slowly, and Killarney resident Archie Roach sang with renewed strength and presence on the uplifting album Into The Bloodstream. Illuuminus's self-titled debut is also perhaps the most ambitious and well-polished recording to come out of the south-west.

(Note from Jono Pech) Warrnambool rockers The 80 Aces deserve a shout out for their huge year, peaking with the release of their EP Dollars. As their guitarist, it probably wouldn't be fair for Matt Neal to rate his own band in here, but I feel the need to testify on behalf of those who picked up a copy of the record or got to see the Aces bring the house down this year.)

Best Film Clip - Song To Sing by Archie Roach

ROACH brought a film crew, his band and actor Uncle Jack Charles to Crossley and surrounds to make this uplifting black-and-white clip for what is an incredibly uplifting gospel song. Beautifully shot, it also brought the community together to take part. And not only is the best south-west video this year, but it's also probably the best south-west song of the year.

Honourable mention: Members of Red Eagle, The 80 Aces, Jimmy & The Mirrors and a large crew of friends gathered to help trash a house in the name of making a film clip for Red Eagle's Dancing All Night Long. The end result almost makes you feel like you were there.

Best Gig - The Loft's Big Day

TWENTY-THREE bands in 12 hours no south-west venue has ever dared such a feat, let alone pulled it off so perfectly. The event was sold out and the punters weren't disappointed. The local bands performed brilliantly especially Tom Richardson Project, Blackwood Jack and Red Eagle and the visiting Melbourne bands were the cream on top The Toot Toot Toots, The Peep Tempel, Moroccan Kings, and Kingswood all blew minds. Look out for it again in 2013. If you miss it, you'll be a damned fool.

Rising Star - Michelle's Velocity

THIS Timboon four-piece gets better and better every time they play. Their stage presence, led by the strong vocals of Dylan Hanegraaf, reflects their growing confidence, and their expanding repertoire of original material just gets better and better. Michelle's Velocity is a rock band to watch out for.

Honourable mention: Big things are happening for Warrnambool country singer Kayla Dwyer who is off to play at Tamworth in 2013 and is bound to have a busy year.

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