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Countdown to the Whalie Awards

By Stephen Chupaska

Publication: The Day

Published May 18. 2013 4:00AM

To use the old accountant's saying, this is Sean Murray's busy time of year.

Murray, the marketing and development manager at New London Main Street, was putting the finishing touches on this week's Food Stroll, and the next item on his agenda is the weeklong dash to the Whalie Awards, scheduled for Saturday at Hygienic Art Park.

"Remind me not to plan two big events at once," Murray joked over the phone from his downtown New London office. "It's going to be a sleepless week and a half."

In spite of the damage done to Murray's circadian rhythms, the Whalie Awards, which began in 2011 as a tongue-in-cheek celebration of local bands and of the absurdity of Grammy-style award shows, promises to be one the highlights of a busy summer calendar of events in downtown New London.

"It's awesome," said Luke Hunter, guitarist in Slander, who are nominated for Best Indie Rock. "It's such a fun time."

As in previous years, there will be a "red carpet" entrance, as musicians and fans wearing their finery and some not-so-finery pass through the Art Park gates and mug for the cameras.

Last year's Whalies saw a marked improvement in the quality of presentation of the show, as each category was introduced by videos produced by artist Kat Burns, who has since moved out of state. This year, Murray said local photographer Andrew Bell and hip-hop artist Camacho have been handling the visual aspects of the show.

Between award presentations, a slew of nominated artists will perform, including Matt Gouette, Street People, Slander and Daphne Lee Martin, with others to be confirmed during the week.

"It's put together very well," said Matt Lipman, guitarist in Instant Family, who are up for Best Alternative. "I was impressed."

This year more than 100 artists will compete for awards in more than 30 categories.

As always, the categories are split between those decided by outside critics and those voted on by fans at the local music blog Wailing City.

Murray said there have been some minor changes to the categories, most significantly to the Best DJ award, which due to the number of DJs in the region necessitated an early "run-off" vote to determine the nominees.

Murray said he also was encouraged by the increase in quality and quantity of music videos by local bands; he is considering making that award determination a critics choice rather than a fan vote.

"There's enough videos out that are good enough that we can actually show off to people," Murray said.

And although the awards are lighthearted in origin, it's only natural that the Whalies ignite some natural competition among artists.

"I like to think that people don't take it too seriously, but that's going to happen," Murray said.

Hunter admits that the show does tap into a competitive vein, but added if Slander doesn't come away with a statue it's "not a devastating loss."

But as has been said before, the point of the Whalies isn't really the self-congratulatory doling of out of awards, it's to bring different artists, genres and people together.

"I liked how mixed it is," Hunter said. "It's not just a rock night out."

Lipman said it's also a good opportunity to show off the arts and music which help define the city.

"It uses New London as a backdrop," he said.

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