Best Singer

Viveca Hawkins

With her tattoos and gaudy jewelry, singer Viveca Hawkins looks like a dyed-in-the-wool punk diva, and, fittingly, she's best known for fronting popular garage outfit The Memorials. But Hawkins' appearance belies her upbringing. She learned to sing in church, served in the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, accompanied jazz combos, and honed her pipes at the well-reputed Berklee College of Music in Boston. In short, she's the kind of vocalist who could have easily spent her career standing in a pew or draping her voice over a piano. Hawkins might have done just that, had she not hooked up with former Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen and decided to reinvent herself in rock. Now she pits her soulful, vibrato-laden vocals against pulverizing drums and reverb-heavy guitar riffs. It's a fascinating combination that hasn't yet caught the attention of mainstream rock consumers, though Hawkins certainly has her own cult following in the East Bay. And she's still endlessly versatile, able to sing hooks on rap songs (like "Get Off Me" by Mike-Dash-E) or croon over a horn section. Just listen to The Memorials' jazzy thrash number "Day Dreamer," and you'll hear those church roots coming out.

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