A woman dressed as a crow threads her way past an ’80s hair metal band. Another woman takes the stage to perform a Lady Gaga lip-sync accompanied by a scantily clad cowboy. The music is loud, and every wall is covered in photographs and multimedia displays. Upstairs in the mezzanine, paintings are propped up in movie theater seats like headstones depicting looming graphic art faces and disembodied torsos.
This anthill thriving with sensory input is Madison’s Semi-Final RAWards, held Nov. 7 at the Majestic Theatre to honor the creativity of local artists. While the artists maintain their booths and showcase their work, the public casts votes for their favorite to determine who will go on to represent Madison in the final ceremony.
With categories including photography, makeup, hair, fashion design, visual art, filmmaking, music and performing art, RAWards is a modern-day variety show for Madison’s thriving art scene. A noted part of the evening was the fashion promenade, which not only included fashion designers, but also hair and makeup designers as well.
Hairstylist Hattie May created towering creations that focused on the dimensionality of the hair itself. Two of her three looks were new age beehive pompadours that not only dominated the stage but drew looks from around the room when others were performing.
However, the hairstyling winner for the night was Rebecca Loomans, who created light, airy runway looks that could have easily been seen in New York Fashion Week. The models were all dressed in plain white shift dresses, wore barely any makeup and had bare feet instead of heels. Their simplicity underscored the clean architectural design of the hair.
Another highlight were performances by Madison’s unique music artists. Dressed in Freddie Mercury-style apparel and with a full, hairsprayed head of hair, Madison band Livewire entertained the crowd with hard rock originals that pounded the venue. The band’s website lists influences as “Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses,” and its music was certainly a mélange of early metal thrashing and burning.
Yet the band that took the prize for RAW Madison Musicians of the Year was the band Sexy Ester. Although the band’s music was not much more than generic pop with a twinge of electro and dance, lead singer and front woman Lyndsay Evans stole the show with her commanding vocals that didn’t miss a note. Her well-rehearsed vocal style contrasted with the band’s punk styling, including Evans’ mohawk. In all, the band captivated audiences with its in-the-pocket groove and Evans’ showmanship.
Madison’s RAWards are unique because they are able to showcase the city’s thriving art scene all in one venue on one night. The awards also have a sense of uniqueness, because although the nomination is an honor, it is not the end of the road. This week’s winners will advance on to represent our local artists on a national level, and from what was on display this weekend, Madison natives will be real competitors.
For more information on the RAWards competitors who will advance to the final national round, visit rawartists.org/madison.