View From a Stool: San Diego Music Awards
For better or worse, the San Diego Music Awards are a popularity contest. Winners are inevitably the artists with the biggest record sales or the most family, friends, and fans (and it helps if they have no qualms voting multiple times with different e-mail addresses). It’s little surprise, then, that a number of the musicians I’ve talked to don’t take the awards seriously.
Seth Combs, Pacific San Diego Magazine editor and former CityBeat arts and culture editor, wrote in CityBeat last year that the nomination and voting process is in need of a m
ajor overhaul. After last night’s ceremony at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay, I wholeheartedly agree. But I’m not about to dismiss the whole thing outright. A number of great San Diego artists went home with awards, among them Deep Rooted (Best Hip Hop), Cuckoo Chaos (Best Alternative) and Tomcat Courtney (Best Blues). Proceeds help put Taylor guitars into the hands of schoolchildren. Plus, it was a total schmoozefest.
When it comes to Best New Artist, I was convinced that The Nervous Wreckords had it in the bag—Louis XIV vet Brian Karscig gives name recognition, they’ve got a radio-ready sound and they’re ambitious. (Seriously ambitious: They played with an orchestra during their performance.) I was rooting for D/Wolves and Grand Tarantula, but I was pleasantly surprised when the winner turned out to be Little Hurricane, a solid blues-rock duo reminiscent of The Dead Weather… who’ve only got 8,048 MySpace profile views!
What didn’t surprise me was that Drew Andrews won Best Electronic—he’s got tons of fans, he’s a great songwriter, and he’s a veteran of The Album Leaf, which has owned this prize for years. The funny thing is that even Andrews himself acknowledged that he’s not actually an electronic artist.
“I love all that [electronic] stuff, but it’s interesting for me because I play acoustic guitar,” he said in his acceptance speech, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Electronic is a different thing.”
When it came to acceptance speeches, Josh Damigo stole the show. In accepting his award for Best Acoustic, he talked about his brother Nathan, a former Marine who’s been imprisoned because an apparent case of combat trauma compelled him to attack and rob a man. And then Damigo announced to the packed audience that Seth Combs, Damigo’s storied friend / adversary, can “suck my balls.”
As the night wore on and seats emptied out, acceptance speeches grew surlier and more ridiculous–culminating in the hilarious antics of The Burning of Rome. After hearing they’d won Best Rock, their puckish guitarist scampered onstage, picked up the podium and tried to run away with it before it was apprehended by an angry stage hand.
“CityBeat magazine should only be Ed Decker writing and marijuana dispensary ads,” one of them said, apropos of nothing.
But nothing could’ve prepared me for the farce that was Artist of the Year.
I was looking forward to the moment all night. In fact, I practically shook with anticipation. Who would it be?, I wondered. As the pre-recorded drums rolled, I expected a sweet, climactic moment celebrating an artist who’d done something worthwhile this year. (Thinking about it later, maybe I just had too much faith in a voting process that so many others have long since regarded with skepticism and disdain. As I was walking out of the venue, I reminded myself not to be surprised that a band that hasn’t released anything over the past two SDMA cycles could actually, by the grace of some weed-smoking deity, manage to win Artist of the Year. Two years in a row! Beating Jason Mraz in the process! What was I thinking?! This isn’t the Mercury Prize, after all. This is a public vote.) I should’ve known better. When the words “Slightly Stupid” emanated from the announcers lips, they had the dramatic impact of wind rushing from a whoopee cushion.
Here’s the full list of winners, according to the SDMA website:
Best Tribute Band – 40 Oz. to Freedom
Best Club DJ – Gabe Vega
Best Acoustic – Josh Damigo
Best Electronic – Drew Andrews
Best Jazz – Jaime Valle
Best Jazz Album – Steph Johnson: Mysterious Feminine
Best Blues – Tomcat Courtney
Best Blues Album – Sue Palmer: After Hours
Best World Music – The Devastators
Best World Music Album – Skelpin: A Trip to Skye
Best Americana – Eve Selis
Best Americana Album – John Meeks: Old Blood
Best Hip Hop – Deep Rooted
Best Hip Hop Album – Vokab Kompany: The New Kong
Best Pop – Dynamite Walls
Best Pop Album – The Silent Comedy: Common Faults
Best Alternative – Cuckoo Chaos
Best Alternative Album – Rafter: Animal Feelings
Best Rock – The Burning of Rome
Best Rock Album – Transfer: Future Selves
Best Hard Rock – Lord Howler
Best Hard Rock Album – All Leather: When I Grow Up…
Best Local Recording – White Apple Tree: Velvet Mustache
Best New Artist – Little Hurricane
Song of the Year –Crocodiles: Sleep Forever
Album of the Year – Switchfoot: Hello Hurricane
Artist of the Year – Slightly Stoopid
Lifetime Achievement Award – Iron Butterfly