These music awards showcase O.C. talent

Sonny Spectrum and his band still haven't played a live gig together. The singer-songwriter plans to round up his studio crew for a performance at the Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa, and given everyone's schedule, they may not even have time to rehearse before the night of the show.

Worst-case scenario, Spectrum and his backing group will work out the kinks and learn what to improve next time. Best-case scenario? Well, they'll be honored as the best live band in Orange County.

The Huntington Beach resident — real name Nick Sellberg — is among the 35 acts vying this year in the OC Music Awards' Best Live Band Showcase Series, which pits contenders against each other for seven consecutive Tuesday nights at venues around Orange County.

Spectrum is up Jan. 21 along with FutureFix, Gardeners Logic, Midnight Hour and Semi Sweet. If judges and fans smile on him, he'll be among the five finalists who move on to the last round in February.

"I believed in the music, but you never know how other people are going to respond," said Spectrum, who applied for the Showcase Series by submitting his studio recordings. "Obviously, something that I created myself is like my baby. So, like, I'm a proud mama. I think my songs are my little kids, and they're adorable no matter what people say."

Spectrum, also a nominee for Best Electronic, hasn't performed onstage since his old band, Evening Hour, called it quits half a decade ago. For a while, he took a hiatus from music and studied law — he still works at his father's firm across the street from Huntington Beach High School, where he graduated — but when the creative urge hit him again a year ago, he set to work writing songs, invented a stage name and rounded up a studio ensemble.

At the Detroit Bar, Spectrum will have 45 minutes to stand out with his dance-pop confections, the titles of which include "Get Freaky" and "Be the One." The judging panel selects four of the five acts, which move on to the finals. The fifth slot goes to the act not chosen by the judges that gets the most online votes from audience members.

If Spectrum makes the final round, he'll find out the results at the awards ceremony March 8 at the City National Grove of Anaheim. Victory or not, he'll be in prestigious company.

The Music Awards, now in their 13th year, honor performers who range from major-label veterans to up-and-comers. The only official criteria, according to producer Ashley Eckenweiler, is that more than one member of a band live in Orange County. No Doubt won Best Album, Song and Music Video last year, and Avenged Sevenfold, the Offspring and Social Distortion are among the current nominees.

"They have to have an Orange County presence," Eckenweiler said. "They have to be from Orange County."

Spectrum may be a newbie at the awards, but he's far from a stranger to the local music scene. He remembers watching Avenged Sevenfold's Matt Sanders — also known as M. Shadows — play basketball at Huntington Beach High. At Golden West College, he took part in the Battle of the Bands with Evening Hour.

As the awards date approaches, Spectrum is busy recording an EP that he plans to master at Capitol Records. And then? He hopes it's back on stage again.

"It's kind of like a two-headed monster here," he said. "I want to keep putting out material, but also, it's time to start playing shows."

If You Go

What: OC Music Awards Best Live Band Showcase Series

Where: Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21

Cost: Free (21 and older only)


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