Holy moly, what an overwhelming (and fantastic) experience. Never in my life have I been to something quite like this. Musicians and music fans, hipsters, scenesters, photographers and bloggers… a wild circus of sights and sounds, with my buddies Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys appropriately holding court in the lobby with grandeur, party favors, boobs and bubbles, as only they can (sadly, they didn’t win ‘Live Artist of the Year’, but no matter – they’re playing First Night!). Confronted by a total sensory overload, I became a sort of comatose bloodhound in search of great live music. And happily found it everywhere.
From The Jazz Tellers Trio performing in the lobby as people arrived, to the cool ‘Rock Artist Of The Year’ winners Girlfriends, a small sweet taste of Gozu at the end of what must have been a scorching little set, sorority-pop Varsity Girls (cute), and Worcester-rockers DOM (‘Song of the Year’). One band I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, Kingsley Flood, were absolutely beautiful, with their ‘city-wise’ take on Americana. Singer-songwriter Naseem Khuri, Jenée Morgan’s soaring violin, Chris Barrett adding a bit of trumpet; Nick Balkin on bass, guitarist George Hall, and drummer Steve Lord creating a full, rich sound which was just phenomenal in that small room. My first time seeing them; definitely not my last. ‘New Artist of the Year,’ and rightly so.
Drifting out of the Kingsley Flood experience in a daze onto a packed balcony as the awards were being announced. I’ve often made little jibes about living in Boston – the freezing cold, the aloofness, the fractured and sometimes factional music scene – but this night felt very special, and though from my view they didn’t get it completely right (I don’t know of any high-profile awards that ever does), it wasn’t bad. There was an ‘Unsung Hero’ award (with a lovely video tribute) given to the late and greatly-missed Billy Ruane, accepted with a sweet speech by friend and Boston legend Mary Lou Lord. Curtis Warner, Executive Director of Berklee City Music, won the ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ award for his work in bringing music to middle- and high-school students. Legendary 60’s band Barry and the Remains received the ‘Hall of Fame Award’, and ‘Artist Of The Year’ went to the inimitable Amanda (F*cking) Palmer, who, in eloquent fashion, serenaded us with an emotional rendering of “Creep” on her ukulele.
My personal highlight was ‘Best Music Blog,’ which was awarded to Ryan’s Smashing Life. Everyone there probably heard my shriek when this was announced. I’ve been writing for that wonderful publication for a little while now, so this was beyond thrilling. Why, he even publishes my dodgy photos, god bless him. A little shameless self-promotion: go on over and check out my articles. Thanks so much, Ryan! And thanks also to the other great folks who are a part of RSL, including the (real, and really good) photographers.
Back to the music. Caught the end of M-Dot and Moe Pope‘s set (M-Dot won as ‘Hip-Hop Artist of the Year’), and they were great, which is high praise from someone who isn’t much of a hip-hop fan. A fun time with 60’s Boston luminaries (and award winners) Barry and the Remains, and most certainly the widest audience age range of the evening.
Another artist I’ve been hearing a lot about and wanting to see for some time now, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, closed out my evening in very grand fashion. Performing solo on guitar, she filled the room with her powerful songs and deeply personal, emotionally moving vocals. In very good news, she’s just relocated from Portland, Maine to Boston, and has a few local shows already booked – The Lizard Lounge on Dec. 16, and just announced, Cafe 939 on Jan. 27. She also happened to win ‘Folk Artist of the Year.’ No surprise there; this lady is brilliant. Do yourself a huge favor and see her!
For a full list of Boston Music Award Winners, see Ryan’s Smashing Life.