Tech N9ne keeps it Keebler at a tasteful Awards ceremony.

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Tech N9ne keeps it Keebler at a tasteful Awards ceremony.

In 1985, Lionel Richie greeted each of his five American Music Awards with an incredulous "outrageous!" That simultaneously started a short-lived phrase-craze among his fans and sounded the death knell for that totally '80s expression as a hip exclamation among teens. By contrast, Tech N9ne has marked each victory in the Pitch Music Awards' Rap/R&B category with a newly minted saying. (On April 12, he won his sixth trophy in as many years.) Past favorites include "it's all delicious" and "it's all Jesus," but this year's model was his tastiest confection yet. "Keep it Keebler," he told a crowd that was increasingly comprised of fans who had bought tickets to catch his evening-ending set. As onlookers pondered his words, wondering what was sizzling with this new elf-touting slogan, he explained his alliterative utterance. "Everything that comes from Keebler is good," he declared, and the assembly of Vanilla Wafers applauded while his posse of Toasteds shouted encouragement.

Tech's live show, filled with choreography but bereft of live instrumentation (the prominently displayed drum set in the background remained untouched) or even on-site beat manipulation (there were no turntables to be found), struck some rock purists as more Cheez-It than tha shiznit. Still, his charisma remains magnetic, and he exudes more energy while seated (as during the reflective number "This Ring") than many rappers can muster while pacing the stage and chanting "throw your hands in the air" until even party people just don't care. He might not be attentive to detail ("What's up, Klammies!" was his outdated opening salvo) or especially family-friendly (after a touching introduction by his pint-sized daughter, who identified Tech as a sweet, loving daddy, he unloaded a profanity-packed performance spiced with dirty dancing), but Tech epitomizes the spirit of local music awards, if only for his hometown-pride anthems. The best of those, "It's Alive," galvanized civic pride like no tune since "Goin' to Kansas City."

One of Tech's new jams proclaimed his "Absolute Power," but even that wasn't enough to score him a second award in the Best Live Act category, which instead went to gospel-informed garage rats the Gadjits. Unfortunately, the brothers Phillips, who also earned Best Rock Band honors, weren't on hand to pick up their hardware (the band is touring in Canada), so Stan Henry, the event's host, came up with a makeshift solution, enlisting officer Rob (puts the rock in) Shorrock of the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, for award-acceptance duty. During his first speech, Shorrock earned big cheers with a heartfelt salute to area musicians. He looked like a pro at the podium -- so much so that Best Electronic/DJ/Dance winners Namelessnumberheadman asked him, "Will you accept for us next year?"

Namelessnumberheadman's victory in a category otherwise populated by beat-crazy DJs qualified as the second-biggest surprise of the night, after the appearance of a few Get Up Kids to accept their award for Best Pop Band. Apparently, the Kids attend in shifts; this was the first Music Awards cameo for bassist Robert Pope. By picking up its prize for the second consecutive year, the Kids have proven scene-centered enough to merit local-band attention despite the group's national scope. And as Pope soon discovered, winning comes with privileges -- he and members of Season to Risk, who took Best Metal/Hardcore Honors, lit up backstage, showing blatant disregard for the Uptown's infamous smoke-free policies. S2R singer Steve Tulipana needed the nicotine to calm his frazzled nerves. "I can go up on stage and take off my pants and spit and do anything when we're playing," he said, "but I get so nervous just being up there for fifteen seconds for that speech." Perhaps looking to spread the anxiety, Season to Risk told the crowd "this award belongs to Descension," much to the grunted approval of that group's face-painted black-metal gremlins.

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