THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Best Music Video - Best Band Website - Best Alternative Band - Best CD Release - Best New Artist of the Year - Best Blues Band - Blues Instrumentalist
Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature, Review Music Awards, From Issue 790 By: Robert E Martin
08th May, 2014 12
A rebel by birth and musician by choice, Michigan native Donald Benjamin first received notoriety on the regional music scene battling his way as a semi-finalist in the 2002 Mid-Michigan Idol competition. Described as the musical spawn of Buddy Guy, Eddie Vedder and Bon Jovi, Benjamin’s career expanded and he received local airplay, regional recognition, and several honors for his songwriting prowess.
Over a decade since the release of his highly acclaimed Destination Unknown E.P., Benjamin was formerly involved with last year’s RMA winners Lemon Frog and recently formed a new power-house rock’n’blues trio entitled Less Than Ordinary with drummer/guitarist Ron Waldorf and bassist Paul Tinglan. He is busily preparing the upcoming release of a follow-up album entitled Reborn, which showcases his songwriting ability and the divergent influences from which it evolved; and with Less Than Ordinary the collective goal is to create a group that breaks the mold to display a scorching mesh of different musical styles with matching intensity.
Despite the remarkable wave of success that Benjamin and his band-mates secured at this year’s 2014 Review Music Awards, their moment to bask in the spotlight and enjoy the afterglow of their success was unfortunately cut short and tarnished by allegations from former band members and other nominated musicians that Less Than Ordinary had somehow managed to ‘game the system’ by utilizing illicit means to secure their wins, despite stringent controls The Review puts into place to assure a fair and equitable contest; and despite the fact these allegations surfaced on Facebook not during the Nominating Stage of the voting process, but after the final voting stage was completed and the winners announced.
Ironically, this is not the first time a relatively unknown act has swept different segments of the Awards Ceremony. Similar ‘sweeps’ happened in 1990-91 with Roy Simon & Miner’s Junction, in 2009-2012 with Steve Armstrong & the 25 Cent Beer Band, and in 1994 with Mansion. And in each of these instances the groups that surfaced to the top went forward to both further their talents and enrich our lives.
On a personal note, this variety of ‘sour grapes’ is not what the RMA Awards Ceremony is all about. The purpose of this ceremony is to honor the talents of all nominees and the irreplaceable contributions they make to enrich and fortify the musical community of the Great Lakes Bay. Each nominee that manages to make the final Top Five round of balloting earns that distinction not by prejudice, arbitration, greed, or ego; but because they inspire members of the general voting public to action.
One thing that detractors cannot take away from either Donald Benjamin or Less Than Ordinary is their achievement. And as the ensuing interview reveals, great things loom ahead for this group over the upcoming year. Fear not, guys – as P.T. Barnum once astutely noted: ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity.’ And when you’re handed lemons, the best thing you can do is make lemonade. (No pun intended)
Review: Tell me about the origins of 'Less than Ordinary' and how you came to form the group and align yourself with your current band members. What do you feel each member contributes to the group and what are some of your musical goals?
Donald Benjamin: I returned to my roots as a solo performer after I left my previous musical group. Along the way, having jammed with a few local musicians, I decided to form something new… something different. I met Paul Tinglan (bass) through an Internet ad. From the beginning we meshed well and began performing as a guitar/bass duo, under the name Less Than Ordinary, which was the name of an acoustic project I had from 2004-2005.
After a couple failed attempts to find the right additional musician, a chance opportunity allowed us to reconnect with Ron Waldorf (drums), whom I knew from high school. Ron and I were both members of the Standish-Sterling Central band, so I was confident his personality and talent would fit in well with the sound we were looking to create.
Review: Where do you usually perform and what are some of your current and immediate future plans and goals for the group?
Benjamin: The short answer is any and everywhere. We’ve played several shows at local venues, such as Bemo’s in Bay City. We’ve also been performing statewide at venues in Alpena, Flint, Lansing and others. In March we opened for Billboard charting artists, REHAB, at the Machine Shop during their farewell tour. Two weeks ago we had a successful run of shows in Ohio, including headlining the historic Avalon and being a featured act at Groamy’s CDs/Gilbert’s Music, one of the last remaining, authentic, record stores in America, on National Record Store Day. This fall we have tentative dates in Manhattan, New York and Nashville, Tennessee. We’re also looking at a potential placement in a major Blues festival in Clarksville, Mississippi.
Paul Tinglan: We try to play as often as we can. So far, in 2014, we’ve been booked nearly every weekend, with random weeknight performances thrown in for good measure.
Ron Waldorf: Over the next few weeks, while Donald is finishing up recording his solo CD release, we will be in the studio as well, recording our first E.P. We have been fortunate to receive the opportunity to get some distribution through worldwide channels so, for the immediate future that is our first priority.
Review: What was your reaction to winning so many awards at this year's ceremony and what do you attribute your popularity to? It seems like you exploded out of nowhere to gain attention among the 7000 people that registered to vote, which is not the first time that has happened; yet claims have been made that that members gamed the voting process by going to the library and using independent IP connections from multiple computers to stuff the ballots. What is your response to these allegations?
Benjamin: As far as the controversy, we look at it like this… Critics are just as the name implies. If the success is not their own they immediately assume there must have been some scandalous reason for it. The notion that we ‘came out of nowhere’ is the first issue. I’ve personally been songwriting in the area for over 13 years. As a solo musician, I was the recipient last year of two personal Review Music Awards and received the title of ‘Best New Artist” with my previous band. It’s not like it was an immaculate conception.
Secondly, the libelous statement that we were seen going from library to library, in an attempt to secure padded votes is ludicrous. We all have full-time jobs, families and other concerns. As a unit we barely have enough free time, around our work and family schedules, to get in a rehearsal every two weeks. The amount of time it would have taken to do so, if these people would stop and think rationally, would have been an immense undertaking. Really, if you look at the low number of actual libraries available in the areas in which we live, let alone the number of computers, this accusation has no grasp on reality.
Ron Waldorf: It wasn’t as if we ‘walked in and swiped all the awards,’ as some claim. As a band we won four. Donald won another four because of his solo endeavors. He also took one for his website. They weren’t all in one chunk or category. They were spread out, for different things. No different than if another band had won for their group performances and then, again, for their acoustic performances as a duo, etc.”
Donald Benjamin: The biggest factor in why we were so very fortunate at the 2014 Review Music Awards comes down to ‘fans vs. friends.’ We’ve heard a notable, local band say that there’s no way a band with only 200+ Facebook ‘likes’ can authentically win a Review Music Award. That in itself is where the discussion lies. While other bands have a thousand or more “fans,” we have a few hundred “friends.” It’s easy to have a large number of people click on a button, but truly how many of those people do bands actually know anything about, on a personal level? On the other side, we may have a smaller number of “friends,” but we see them, sometimes daily. We know their lives and their families and they know ours. Because of this they go to bat for us, calling radio stations and venues, going to nearly every local gig, voting, en masse, for us in fan polls and music awards. It’s simple math. They’re die-hard supporters who know us, respect us and not only follow us, but help shape the direction of our careers. It’s not the number of people who SAY they like you that matters. It’s the number of people that go out of their way to HELP you get there. That’s the difference. That’s why we have been so successful.”
Ron Waldorf: That’s why this controversy has so much collateral damage, beyond what they are attempting to do to our reputations. These friends, who voted their collective rear-ends off, are being made out as having no effect or bearing. That’s disgraceful to them, as they are the people who drive the music scene by attending shows, buying merchandise and supporting musicians.
Review: What do you feel it is about your sound and approach that distinguishes your music the most?
Ron Waldorf: The group, as a trio, is solid. With each of us bringing different elements to the fold there is a diversity that creates an interesting mix. Donald is a straight-up bluesman. Paul is a die-hard “metal head.” Myself, I love hard rock, but grew up around bluegrass and country music players. Together, the sound has its moments of each, but an overall blend that, we think, is pretty cool.”
Paul Tinglan: We’re not unlike most bands. We work hard. We practice as much as possible. We are always writing and fine tuning our performance. The biggest thing for us is that we each have a different major focus. Donald delivers on songwriting and managing the group. He also has a deep, soulful sound quality, in his voice. I bring a big energy level and always aim to entertain. I like to take the pressure of the other guys by making the crowd focus on myself a bit more often. Ron’s the kind of guy that will do whatever he needs to, to make us better. Drums, guitar, bass… whatever we need, he can do. With that work ethic and our blend of musical styles, that’s how we click. We’ve heard it said that you “can’t hide it when you’re live, on stage.” They’re right! People don’t want to just hear the music. They want to be entertained. They want to see and feel it. That, in itself, is our combined focus.
Review: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing your endeavors at this stage of the game?
Donald Benjamin: Without question, it’s a combination of the critics and venues that, because of what they hear and perceive about us, are hesitant to give us the opportunity to show what we can do. With the current controversy, and the dark cloud of my previous musical group constantly looming, many people are hesitant to separate us from what they knew about my prior incarnations. They listen to what former associates say and take it as gospel.
I fell into a bad scene and situation and inherited drama through association. I left on my own accord because I wanted more. I wanted better for my family, my music and myself. With Paul and Ron I’ve found that. It’s a great feeling to be surrounded by guys who have the same goals, the same drive and passion. Our goals are firm, focused and not shadowed by ‘haze.’ We know, as a unit, that we’re as tight as any group and willing to do what it takes to succeed. Beyond that we do our best to play great music. The venues that have graciously hosted us, know that, and we have been well received and, so far, repeatedly asked back.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
I personally saw Paul Tinglan at the Wirt and Sage Library\'s using the computers. Donald also claims that the band member\'s all have full time jobs. That is not true, Paul Tinglan does not work at all. It seems someone should check into this before anyone hiring this band feels burned. Seriously 7,000 votes? I saw this band play at Bemo\'s and The Willew Bar, how does a band that only drew a half dozen people at the most when they are playing get so many votes? The bass playing was mediocre and done more to impress himself. Donald claims to be working hard writing songs when in reality all the band played live was cover tunes. It seems Less Than Ordinary was formed just to obtain a Review Award and for Paul\'s Mother Jessie Tinglan to pad their ego\'s.
My wife and I saw them play last weekend at the Alibi in Midland. They were very very good. they didn\'t play the normal bar band music that gets old easily. They played several original songs that were very good to. We bought one of their cds and it was very good also. Congrats fellas. Looking forward to seeing you again soon.
To \"Scott\" \"LMAO\", your IP address has been traced. You\'re seriously not over being a stalker yet? You are a joke. Thanks for the evidence---again. See you in court stupid.
lol, I don\'t know who you think I am but you obviously have confirmed the helicopter parent behavior that annoyed me when I watched this band. Obviously I have drawn out the woman with the awful behavior when I witnessed this band play. My advice is to stop thinking you are the show. You stood in front of me and mu guest several times, you were annoyed if anyone was doing anything but looking at you and your son. And at Bemo\'s you demanded that we vote for your son, clearly you were oblivious to how you were annoying our table. The talent in the band is Ben, sorry that all the grandstanding didn\'t impress anyone. I can imagine your are sitting around keeping tabs on any negative comments that would get posted here. And that\'s why I left mine. Everything I said was valid, you seemed to avoid stating anything to oppose it.
This speaks volumes. Even if they managed to get the votes, there should be some quality control on these awards. This is simply bad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP8alU6p3sw
I find it intriguing your personal attack on my son. I support my son & if you are a parent, I\'m sure you support your children too. I certainly never \"demanded\" anyone to vote, thats just a silly comment. And if I \"stood\" in front of you, I was probably taking a few pictures. Sorry I momentarily blocked your view of a band you obviously dislike. As far as you attacking me & claiming my ego, again silly. You have no clue who I am & what I do. As far as you attacking my son, that ends today. I wish you peace as you seem to be preoccupied & disturbed with my family.
Also, there has been MUCH discussion, questioning & disagreement with the Review Music Awards for MANY years as mentioned in this article, I agree with that, but attacking people is not the way to \"solve\" it. If you were at the awards, you likely saw my son & I talking privately over by the window where we were discussing this very topic & how it seemed odd that Don was winning everything. I encouraged him to branch out, talk to Bob, etc & make his own decision. I fully support my son, his bandmates, & EVERY other band completely. Local music is extremely important. However, supporting each other is even more important.
So Jessie T., you\'re claiming you had some conversation with your son Paul about the votes he was casting at the Wirt and Sage Library\'s because Donald Benjamin was receiving too many awards. LOL That\'s narcissistic. More likely your son was mad he didn\'t receive any award! Just look at the picture of him drooling on them in the Bay City Times! All anyone has to do is watch this barely watchable video. Your son Paul doesn\'t even know how to play a rhythm on his bass! But what is really sad is I saw way better new bands that should have gotten some recognition in these Review Awards and they never will because a group of people scammed the system to satisfy their own selfish egos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP8alU6p3sw
Bob - I understand you trying to defend the process, because we know you do make your best effort to prevent ballot stuffing. This is different though. Not only had \"no one\" heard of this band, all evidence is that they are simply awful. The Awards, not matter how seriously people take them, should celebrate the best musicians in the area, not some band that figured out a way to beat the system and try and establish a reputation off the awards, rather than their ability. Seriously, take a look at some of the other winners - compare this band to Matt Besey, Hokori, YUM, Ten Hands Tall or even cover bands like Jedi Mind Trip, they are an embarrassment. Heck, even that band of teenagers blast Less Than Ordinary and Don Benjamin . How the heck can you honor a release that is 11 years old - and bad. It is great that they are trying, but they really were not even close to good enough to be considered for the awards they won. I believe the 10 trophy night by these guys is going to undermine the reputation of the awards. Good bands are going to abandon the process. PS - Mom, you are embarrassing yourself and your kid\'s band even more by your responses. If you actually support the music scene, you have to know where this band fits. Tell him to get a job and maybe this problem goes away.
Because this issue revolves around actual people and their actions, it\'s hard to address the topic without it sounding like a personal attack. That being said, if we were able to look at this objectively and with no emotion I think our intuition tells us what happened. Occam\'s razor thinking here. While they might not have simply gone from library to library, there are other means to which an illegitimate win could be achieved -- one possibility that comes to mind immediately is temporary free email accounts. Whatever the means, method, or motivation, if a civil judge were required to coldly pick the most likely scenario, his decision would certainly lean towards hoax.
They would not need to use a library to change their IP address. It is extremely easy to use various proxy servicer to mask your IP address on a computer. Anyone could do it. So without jumping into this increasingly petty exchange of comments, the way the awards are organized right now is indisputably highly exploitable. Right now the only thing preventing the exploitation of the system is trusting the integrity of the nominees, as well as hoping they aren\'t computer literate enough to know how to use a proxy server.
The fact that this woman Jessie Tinglan, went on a personal attack of me believing I was someone else should be a clue to the issues going on here! The night at Bemo\'s she was dressed as a sparkly \"Biker Bitch\" and was trying to intimidate everyone that didn\'t praise her and her son. Maybe she should spend more time raising her kids instead of letting them run all over Bay City, at least teach them ethical behavior so they will actually grow up. I am very pissed that this evolved into the Review Awards being someone\'s outlet for intolerable behavior. Seeing this dreadfully awful band in the Bay City Times photo has really tarnished something that was established for doing good for local musicians. And if I was at the Review I would demand the trophies back to further end the Review Awards from getting dragged through the mud and try to get back some credibility. After witnessing Jessie T. in action I have no problem with calling her out to be a major part of the blame here also. Just watch the video people. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP8alU6p3sw