By: Jenna Wesner
For the third year running, the Brooklyn Arts Center hosted Encore Magazine’s 2015 Best of Wilmington Awards and 80s Dance Party on Saturday, February 28. The doors opened at 6 p.m., and by 7 o’clock, the BAC had a full house of nominees, bands, comedians, and folks who dressed up in their in their finest and most fabulous 1980s garb. It was an awesome night in Brooklyn...and the proceeds benefitted DREAMS of Wilmington, one of the city’s finest nonprofits.
Pineapple-Shaped Lamps, the hilarious local comedy troupe, returned for, well, an encore as host of Encore’s awards show and entertained the audience through the evening with pop-culture skits, hysterical impressions, slapstick puns and put-ons, and comedic dances. As part of their performance, they read the raffle numbers and announced the Best Of winners.
Founded and directed by Wesley Brown and Holly Cole, Pineapple-Shaped Lamps began as a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast in 2010. As the curtain went up on this year’s Encore Awards, Brown said he hoped for “a great night of dancing because DREAMS did a really great job decorating the BAC to drive home the 80s Dance Party theme.” He wasn’t disappointed. Kevin Bacon from Flashdance (played perfectly by Pineapple Jordan Vogt) “interrupted” the show several times to get the big crowd moving, and, oh my, did they ever move.
As part of their preparation, the members of Pineapple-Shaped Lamps spent the week before the awards show with the children of DREAMS of Wilmington, getting to know the organization from the inside out. The comedians and the kids made four videos together, and these short films were shown throughout the evening to encourage Wilmington to continue their invaluable support of this important local nonprofit, which offers after-school classes and programs to more than 100 children—90 percent of who attend local schools with free or reduced lunch. The money that DREAMS received through the Encore Awards show will help pay for art supplies, summer camp costs, and more.
DREAMS of Wilmington jumped at the opportunity to put on the Encore Awards and, apropos of their mission to provide art and cultural education to school-age children who would otherwise not be exposed to music, dancing, drawing, painting, sculpting, acting, film, and more, the fabulous DREAMS decorated the BAC with dozens of incredible 80s posters and other perfectly placed 80s paraphernalia and then ran the event flawlessly.
More than 30 restaurants volunteered to feed the crowd and the Pineapple people announced 138 award winners. Vendors collected plaques, bragging rights, and photos, which were taken by the fabulous Blueberry Creative and were then were projected on the BAC’s cathedral ceiling, which was cool and funky and awesome at the same time. Many of the 550-plus in attendance dressed like it was the 1980s, some channeling Michael Jackson and other 80s icons, others showcasing big hair, neon leggings, and funky sunglasses. Costume competition winners were announced with great hilarity.
The Battle of the Bands was a highlight of the night. Wilmington’s iconic L Shape Lot took the stage for the first round and played “Beautiful Day,” a song written by Eric Miller, founder, guitarist, and lead singer of LSL. Miller stood beside guitar virtuoso Alex Lanier, as he has since they started playing together 13 years ago, and kicked off the competition with a soft sweet tune. “We figured it would be good to play something pretty, without drums or bass, to get the thing going,” said Miller. And it definitely was.
Next band up, The Midatlantic, fronted by lead singer and mandolinist extraordinaire Jason Andre, followed L Shape Lot with “Never Be.” Written by Andre, “Never Be” invigorated the crowd and got things hopping—fantastic fiddler Will Maxwell brought the house down with a killer solo. The five-man ensemble shook the BAC with two barnburner, and the big crowd loved it.
For their second number, L-Shaped Lot added a bass player and rocked the BAC with “Shady Brick,” a mash-up of “Shady Grove,” a popular folk song, and “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. In the end, L-Shaped Lot took home the “Best Band” award, but both bands played the encore together.
And that’s thing about this amazing event: all of Wilmington gets to take an encore together.