Irena Kaci 

Leap year 2024 had an extra special treat for Worcester County by way of the Worcester Music Awards. Tucked away in the ‘Off The Rails’ events room,  the expectant crowd was gifted the special treat of Angelo Gray’s Jackson Five-esque vocals belting out a great opening act. The evening was an impressive musical “who’s who” of Central Massachusetts. I had the happy task to connect with our award winners and learn a little bit about their journey to the top.

Youth Poet Laureate Serenity Jackson a.ka. Lil Rennie began performing original hip/hop songs when she was six years old. “I needed a talent for the pageant I was in. I told my older cousin that I wanted to do rap songs for the talent portion so she started helping me write songs for them.”  Sound: “My sound is old school rap/hip op with a modern flair. Joyner Lucas, a famous Worcesterite, was a huge influence. Dreams: “I would love to perform at Polar Park, the Palladium and the DCU center.”

FANTA VIBEZ & EVELYNROZE photo courtesy of Mike Morrisey

Fanta Vibez the self taught artist and Liberian immigrant who has been making music for about six years.  Style “I would describe my sound as future renaissance, because I tend to move from genre to genre to feel out my voice. My main sound now is Neo-soul and R&B.” Looking forward: The places I’m looking forward to performing at in the upcoming year is, Boston music awards & bam fest. My hopes and goal for the future is to grow a fan base from just being an independent artist, while expanding a team with the indie label monks temple records. And of course working towards a major tour with a major label.” Locals she listens to: “I would say tresure508 , Burn herm, forte & gasoline monk.”

Sunshine at Night began experimenting with ambient music when they were nineteen years old. Style: “I make techno, house, and breaks with an organic feel (since I create everything live and improvised with synthesizers.” Looking forward: “I plan on going on a cross-country US tour with synthesizers and am most excited about Halloween in Huntington Beach, CA!” Locals they listen to: “Probably, Dan DeCristofaro from Blue Light Bandits, they’re the first band. I played at a bar with and I still love their sound!”

Tony Soul Project has been together for fourteen years. Anthony Parente, the artist’s given name, was dormant in the music business for close to forty years. He was discovered while attending another musical performance, and was compelled into rehearsing again. Sound: “We are blues oriented, play rock and roll and rhythm and blues and some soul music too. Looking forward: “We would love to play some bigger venues. We love to play outdoors in the summertime at concerts on the common or some outdoor venues that we’ve been frequenting in the left past couple years.” Favorite local acts: ”Mike Giarnfrido, Dan Fontaine, Brett Brumby, Mike Lynch, Mike Welch.”

Moonlight Saints have been making music together for about 5 years, with its members ranging between 5-10 years of musical experience. When it comes to describing their style, there is an amalgam of sounds mentioned altogether, including rock/bluesy Multi-Rock and jam band influences. Looking forward: They are really excited for this upcoming year. “We are super excited for a couple of shows we have on the horizon! We have The Last Band Standing event later this month and we have never done a battle of the bands before so I’m hoping that’s a lot of fun! We are looking forward to Terrapin. We played the Big E last year so I hope we are able to play it again this year as well as a few other really cool festivals!” Who they listen to: “Midnight Riders, Mowesby & Blue Light Bandits.”


Angelo Gray started singing at age 9. He sounds like a young Michael Jackson circa the Jackson 5, and his singing voice has a wide range. He hopes to one day become a famous r & b singer and write his own original music.  Dreams: “I want to have a concert of my own songs to make people happy. I’d also like to someday try acting.” Looking forward to: I am looking forward to singing for the Worcester Red Sox and the New England Patriots, as well as back at the Celtics.” Favorite local singers: “I love Joyner Lucas and Lil Rennie.”

Drive South Band originated as a Country Rock Band. Its former members still perform with lots of local bands on the circuit. About twelve years ago, the style morphed more toward Classic Rock. When former keyboard and rhythm guitar player Ray Perrone passed away in 2022, the band had a new sense of purpose in continuing to perform in his name. Style: In fact their plans for 2024 are quite unique: “Our hopes now for 2024 are in the making  forming a new high energy show band called DIVA. This band consist of former Drive South members Sharon Larange (Stevie Hale) ,Joe (Shreddy) Girard , Anne Girard ,and myself Johnny Murzycki. Along with new Bass man Mark Laferriere, and Keyboardist John Keys. Looking forward: “Our plan is to hit the circuit by this summer into many of the Top Clubs.” Local favorites:  I’d have to say Mauro DePasquale with Jazzed Up , Fabulous Keyboardist and a great guy. I’ve done many gigs with him since 1976.

LIL RENNIE, EVELYNROZE & BAND, KIDKASH photo courtesy of Mike Morrisey

KidKash began his DJ journey about a decade ago, while searching for his place in the music world. Initially drawn to the idea of joining a band, he found that he didn’t gravitate toward any specific instruments. “When I heard the distinctive scratching effects in Slipknot’s “Sip It Out” and discovered it was the work of a DJ on vinyl. Instantly captivated, I knew that I had found my calling.” Style: “My sound is deeply influenced by my cultural background and upbringing. Raised in the Latino cultural as well as in the cities of Worcester Massachusetts and Boston Ma, I’ve infused elements of my heritage into my music, resulting in a diverse and distinctive sound.” Dreams:  “My ultimate goal as a DJ is to become a global presence in the industry. I aspire to share my love and passion for DJing with audiences worldwide, bringing joy and energy to every performance. Whether it’s on cruise ships or at big time venue locations, I’m excited about the upcoming events and the opportunity to connect with new audiences.” Local Favorites:  “Matt Gates (Melk) & Danny Gentilucci (Sun E-D). Their mastery of multiple instruments and talent for composing records is truly remarkable. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend exploring their journey and experiencing their beautiful music firsthand.”

Decades by DeZyne started some twenty-eight years ago with a man named Howard Ray. Ray began playing with a ‘soft rock’ band as a bass player. Ray proceeded to change the band over toward more ‘R&B’ dance music. Ronnie Jones is the only remaining original member of that first band, which has now transformed into Decades by DeZyne. Style: “We are described as for Frontline vocals all with different styles that come together and complement one another in harmony. Put the four vocals together and we can cover just about anything in any style of music.” Looking forward:  “In 2023, We were blessed to play for celebrity artist such as the O’Jays,Orleans, Taylor Dayne Jeffrey Osborne, just to name a few. We are looking forward to working with other celebrity in the upcoming future as well as the general public.”  Local Favorites: Although we don’t get out very often due to the fact that we’re always performing. We very rarely get a chance to check out other artists or bands. But they were a few that come to mind it caught our attention. The XS band and DA FUNK BAND are very good.

Whiskey 6 has been making music since 2018. Two of its members were in a cover band together but decided to strike out on their own looking to develop their own original music, with a focus on country. Style: The sound of Whiskey-6 is country music with a rock edge with strong country 3 part harmonies. Our hopes and goals are to take it as far as we can with our original material without losing sight of having fun or forgetting who we are. Looking forward: We’re looking forward to performing at the Jordan Davis concert this year at Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion and of course our shows at Patriot Place. To us, we look forward to every show we perform at. Looking forward: There are so many talented local artists but to name a few that are good friends to us would be Annie Brobst and Martin & Kelly.


TESTER has been making music since the early to mid 90s.  “My older brother Chuck was in a band and when they parted ways with their lead guitarist My brother was like let try Tony out and that was how the magic started!” When Charles Tester passed in 2021, the band almost disbanded. It was during a celebration of life for Charles “Chucky” Tester that the band was re-born. “Over 400+ people came so many amazing musicians / friends we had played with over the years. We had some music equipment set up and at the end of the night Brett who played bass for us but is a drummer at heart came up with me and we did Purple Rain. Lot’s of tear were cried and my dad said you gotta keep going! Ryan who I hadn’t seen him in years (he had helped us out on Bass back 2012/2013 but at the time couldn’t commit full time) asked if I still went down to the space on practice nights and I said “yeah” and he said than I will too! So Brett, Ryan and myself talked about keeping the music alive. It’s truly what Chucky would want. Chuck always thought of them as little brothers so it was like we’re keeping it as a family business (Supernatural fans would understand) so that’s why winning this year’s award meant so much! It was for Chuck, it was for Us and it was for all the people that encouraged us to keep fighting/playing! “ Style: “I’d describe TESTER as Heavy Rock. We always prided ourselves to be able to play with Rock, Metal or whatever! Looking forward: “Worcester has great new to us places we want to rock like Rascal, Electric Haze, off the rails and we love playing The Raven and Ralph’s.. Boston has some great new places like Big night live, roadrunner and MGM and Angel City in Manchester is great to play so we hope to get in there again. If there’s a stage we want to play it that’s for sure! Local favorites: A Simple Complex, Trawl, Prospect Hill, Inverter, Living Wreckage, Mammothor, Scarecrow Hill. The list is long cuz there’s truly some incredible and inspiring music/musicians out there right now and hope to play with them all!

Wildfeuer photo courtesy of Mike Morrisey

Wildfeuer is a baby band, beginning in October 2023. But that does not make them any less formidable, as its founder has been writing music since she was thirteen years old.  Style: ”I have been describing our sound as “light rock”. Not sure if that’s an actual description or not but it sounds right to me!” Looking forward: We are all looking forward to several shows we have booked this upcoming year, our soonest is going to be at the Middle East Corner on April 21st!” Favorite local: Our favorite local artist, who we have performed alongside several times, is Evelynroze and The Thornz. We both work closely with Baby Safe Haven and have gotten to know each other through that!

It is impossible not to feel the hometown pride as a Worcester resident with so much hidden talent residing in every corner of the city. Just imagine, as you move through your neighborhood this spring, that the ordinary stranger passing you by could be the star of your next favorite band.  



Lifetime Achievement Award: Mike Hsu

Best Live Venue:
Off the Rails
Best Country Act:
Whiskey 6
Best Jazz Act:
Best Female Vocalist:
Best Small Venue:
Valley Pub
Best Blues Act:
Tony Soul Project
Best Pop Act:
Decades by DyZyne
Best Male Vocalist:
Scott Edman
Best Cover Art:
Lexi Jordan
Best Punk Act:
Memory Lame
Best Rock Act:
Drive South Band
Best Solo:
Best Music Video:
Lexi Jordan
Best Metal Act:
Best Tribute Band:
Petty Larceny
Best Up and Comers:
Best Electronica:
Sunshine at Night
Best Jam/ Groove Act:
Best Rap/ Hip-hop:
Lil Rennie
People’s Choice:
Lil Rennie
Best R & B:
Fanta Vibez
Best World Music:
Jerard Rice
Best Live Act:
Moonlight Saints
Best Club DJ:
Kid Kash