The Pawnshop Roses weren't quite sure what to expect, winning an award from a company that not too long ago was operating out of a garage.
But seeing as how that company is YouTube, they had hopes.
The ride, waiting outside Pennsylvania Station, was a nice touch. "It can't be the limo," guitarist/songwriter Paul Keen recalls thinking. They'd been looking for a van. The Philadelphia roots rockers had arrived.
This was Tuesday morning - hours before they were to meet with the YouTube people, who were flying in from L.A. Awaiting them was a night on the town, new equipment from Gibson, and - too bright and early on Wednesday - a date with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America. She was to present them with a Golden Mouse award for having the best live performance video on the user-generated Web site.
The Pawnshop Roses did what any self-respecting guys who play real rock and roll with a country twang would do. They bought a case of beer - Coronas - and started working on them in their hotel room. The contest people had put them up in the W Hotel on Times Square.
"A great lobby with a bar downstairs," said Keen. The only thing: the room was smallish, and had only two double beds. There are four of them.
"We sort of have gotten used to it," he sighed.
Bassist Justin "Blaze" Monteleone: "The whole thing's been awesome."
The band had won its 15 minutes of fame off a song about coming up poor called "Gets So Hard." Each member holds down a 9-to-5 in addition to playing in the band. Only Keen's is playing music. Four days a week he performs around Philadelphia, acoustic sets of the Rolling Stones, the Allmans and Tom Petty, never his own stuff.
A couple times a month the two get together with guitarist Kevin Bentley and drummer Rich "Figgs" Fogg to play at the Grape Street Pub or some other club. It was at Grape Street that filmmaker and friend Scooter Lammey shot their show this summer. They put a couple videos up on YouTube.
Lammey entered them in the contest, then encouraged people he knew to vote, Kean says. A friend made a poster promoting the video and the contest and put it on their MySpace page. YouTube people emailed them, appreciating the effort. They heard last week that they were going to New York.
A release from YouTube and co-sponsor Cingular Wireless states the band made the finals from hundreds of thousands of voters from viewers. A couple thousand other bands had entered. Then Alexandra Patsavas of Chop Shop Music Supervision selected them with three other winners. She's supervised music on "The O.C," Grey's Anatomy" and "Without a Trace." And by winning, there's a chance they could land a song in a film or television episode, the release promises.
The Badminton Stamps music blog wasn't buying the numbers yesterday. Philabuster wrote:
Philly southern-y roots rockers Pawnshop Roses performed bright and early today on ABC's Good Morning America. Apparently, their videotaped set at Grape Street Pub in August won them "Best Live Performance" in some zany let's-get-middle-america-hip-to-YouTube cross-promotional contest nonsense. The band also won a whole new set of equipment for Philly band thieves to relieve them of. Meanwhile, a press release on the subject is spouting some line about "millions of votes", but the 'Tube don't lie, holmes. It currenty lists total views at 3,375. By this metric, our Garden State Tip Drill deserves to have been featured on national television about, oh, 18 times.
But back to the kings for a day.
There were a couple surreal elements - trouping along to a comedy club with the other winners and some YouTube folks who put the whole evening on their credit card. Then waking up at an hour when they're used to going to bed, and waiting in the green room at Good Morning America with some famous Nascar drivers in suits - but they don't watch Nascar, so wouldn't know them in decals. Then being called.
Kean: "You see it on TV,and you think it's going to be bigger and you're going to be more nervous. You sort of just walk in the room and talk to Diane Sawyer. It didn't seem like 'Good Morning America.' "
They spent the rest of the day at Gibson's Hit Factory, picking guitars and meeting with industry types as a chef catered to their hungers.
Which is a far cry from their origins. They picked their name a couple years ago during a late night at the All-Star Pizzeria in Manayunk at a table with plastic flowers. "Pawnshop?" someone suggested. No, taken already. "Pawnshop flowers?" No, a little prissy. Then, Pawnshop Roses. You can hear this story on a podcast conducted by Earvolution's Jeff Davidson.
Davidson wrote by e-mail how he has long been a fan of the band, and hopes to sign them as his first act as he builds a record label from his blog.
"We definitely are going to sign something," Keen said. After they come down.