MTV hasn’t been a proper music video channel in at least a million years and yet music videos are alive and well, thanks in large part to YouTube, which makes the sharing of videos easy, and also to huge technology advancements making the production of videos much more accessible and affordable. The art of music video-making here in Maine is being celebrated on Thursday night at the second annual Music Video Portland awards show.
The show’s creator is Victoria Karol, who runs the Hot Trash Portland! website that is “dedicated to the betterment of music culture, one band at a time.” I’ve been a fan of it for years as Karol’s writing is whip-smart and hilarious, and we clearly share a love for much of Maine’s local music scene. Karol told me she likes to describe the site as a music and culture blog covering the local music scene and feminism from a humorous, insider’s perspective. Karol, originally from New Jersey, has called Portland home since 2014. A decade ago, Karol was asked to produce a video awards show in North Carolina, where she lived, and it’s still going strong. Last year, she decided to see what would happen if she tried it here in Maine. I was at last year’s show and can tell you it was a smashing success with a packed house.
When I reached out to Karol for the skinny on this year’s show, I first asked about the response she got when she put out a call for submissions, and she said it was overwhelmingly positive. “We have some incumbents coming back to the awards ceremony for a second year, including last year’s best video winner Bri Lane, last year’s best rock video winner The Very Reverend, last year’s best pop video winner Forget, Forget and last year’s best hip-hop video winner Sarah Violette, along with fellow nominees from last year, including Myles Bullen, Jeff Beam, John Hughes Radio and Ben Shorr.”
Karol said she also received first-time submissions from several artists including Shameek the God, Jamie Colpoys (from the Fogcutters), Armies, Tiger Bomb, Dead Gowns, QUAD and SnugHouse, among others. “I am so in love with the fact that this year we got submissions from a wider range of artists that represent the shift happening in Portland’s music scene. While last year featured a lot of white/cis-het-male artists, this year we received submissions from a lot of women, and I’m happy to see more representation from people of color and LGBTQ+ people,” said Karol, who hopes for even more diversity next year. “This year is definitely a ‘girls to the front’ kind of year, and as an intersectional feminist, that’s a definite start in the right direction.”
Here’s the nominated video for “Sunshine” by Bri Lane
I also asked Karol for her thoughts about video making on the whole and whether she thinks there’s been a resurgence. “I don’t know that there has been a resurgence, necessarily, but there has definitely been an awe-inspiring leveling up in the quality of the music and videos being released independently. As recording and editing tools have become more affordable, we’ve seen more independent creators entering the space for sure. And as our culture shifts (every so slowly and painfully) toward a global awareness and casting off of deeply harmful behaviors like cultural appropriation, portrayals of casual violence and racism, the objectification of women’s bodies, black bodies and genderqueer bodies, economic oppression, endemic rape culture and xenophobia, the content of videos has become so much more engaging and enlightening in a way that feels positive,” explained Karol.” “The videos I’m watching feel more informed, more forward-thinking.” I couldn’t resist asking Karol what she personally think makes for a good video, and she said she appreciates videos with iconic images, that make statements and that make her feel something. “I grew up on a steady diet of Madonna and Michael Jackson, and while those performers aren’t my favorite musically, their dexterity with music and imagery cannot be denied. If I say the word ‘thriller,’ the first thing most of us think of is a red leather jacket and zombie face. If I say ‘like a prayer,’ we think of burning crosses and black Jesus. Karol also cited Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” video as a recent one that had a huge emotional impact on her with its imagery. “It also cut to the heart of so much political, cultural and socioeconomic stress that our country is going through, it deserves a place in iconic American art as a whole.” Ultimately, said Karol, people connect to art for its message, how it makes us think and the way it makes us feel. “I’m no different,” she said. Karol told me that she and local drag queen sensation Cherry Lemonade will be sharing hosting duties. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but Cherry has put together some hilarious bits for this year’s show,” hinted Karol. “The man behind the makeup, Conor Tubbs, is an absolutely incredible, dedicated performer with a professional acumen that he has mastered over his years performing. Cherry is creative and talented with music, dancing, singing and even video editing, so she’s the perfect queen to helm this wacky, wild ship.”
As for the flow of the evening, videos will be shown by genre category, and attendees will vote for each award in those categories. Interspersed between the blocks of videos, Karol said there will be a number of performances, including Joel Thetford with Ian Riley, Armies and the Hustle and Flow dancers. Karol said we can also expect some humorous bits from her and Cherry and that she also take a moment to address something of huge importance to her. “I plan on taking just a few minutes to make a ‘common sense’ speech about how we can level up our music scene, addressing our weaknesses, like over-competitiveness and harmful call-out culture.”
Karol expects the overall vibe of the show to be irreverent, fun and definitely adult-only. “There will probably be some grownup language, drinks flowing freely from One Longfellow’s awesome bar and, as always, the existence of sex will likely be acknowledged at some point – so parents are encouraged to get a babysitter for the night, but they are also welcome to bring their emotionally mature teens as per their own judgment.” Karol also wants people to know that the show is run almost entirely by volunteers, and her gratitude and appreciation for them is tremendous.
Karol was also thrilled to share that this year marks the inaugural Music Video Portland MVP Hall of Fame award, chosen annually by a committee for outstanding achievement in making music videos and for an overall positive impact on Maine’s music scene. Karol spilled the beans and told me that the recipient will be rapper Spose. “Spose has worked diligently since his early teens to create a beloved catalog of music that has gone far beyond the boundaries of New England.” His video “I’m Awesome” will be shown at the ceremony, followed by a very special intimate performance by Spose, who will be backed by Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard from Armies.
Music Video Portland awards, 7:30 p.m. Thursday. One Longfellow Square, 101 State St., Portland, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. onelongfellowsquare.com