Thanks for reading Willamette Week's Best New Band issue. As a postscript to this special issue, I'd like to offer some historical context behind this prestigious award. The first thing you should know is that the Best New Band award is much older than you might realize. I did a deep plunge into the annals of history, and in doing so discovered some startling evidence that the earliest recorded instance of a "new band" being recognized as "the best" in "Portland" was in 1916, when six local youths known as the Ready Greenhorns were bestowed with the momentous honor.
The Ready Greenhorns don't have much in common with your modern-day Randy Bachmans or Fred Turners. In fact, they weren't musicians at all. They were a group of Oregon teens so fired up over Germany's shameful treachery against the Lusitania that they quit their jobs in a timber mill to come together to train so that they might have the privilege of traveling halfway across the world to fight the Kaiser's army in the trenches of Europe.
The Ready Greenhorns conducted bayonet practice and mustard gas drills in public spaces all throughout Portland, day after day, with such unrestrained fervor that crowds of onlookers would often gather to watch and cheer them. They were so impressive and so disciplined in their maneuvers that spectators would occasionally wonder aloud if they were the best new militia Portland had seen in some years. A local trophy smith, perhaps wishing for some free advertising or to buoy local morale, presented his fanciest tin cup to the Greenhorns, though apparently he did not have enough space on the engraving plate to inscribe "Best New Militia" and opted instead for "Best New Band."
Between 1916 and 2004, WW conferred the Best New Band award to Portland's most promising up-and-coming militias. In 2004, the paper controversially decided to revise eligibility requirements to allow musical acts to compete against militias for the award.
To win Best New Band, musical acts and militias must submit an application packet stamped by a Portland-born notary public, along with a 5,000-word creative essay graded on a rubric of spelling and grammar, originality and persuasiveness. Bands with the best application packets are invited to the second round, which includes submitting a list of personal and professional references, signing a waiver consenting to be followed by a private detective, and hand-delivering any and all equipment and/or musical instruments to the WW offices, where the editorial staff conducts an exhaustive final inspection process.
The logic behind the final inspection is twofold. First, to ensure that no bands have unfairly modified any of their equipment. Secondly, when 2012 Best New Band winner Radiation City accused another band of illegally wiretapping its musical instruments, questions naturally arose about the legitimacy of the award. That was a dark day, friends. I don't think I've ever been so scandalized by anything on the Portland music scene since the classical harpsichord shop down the street from me started selling pianos.