The Boston Music Awards hosted a fun music event at Boston’s House of Blues last night. It showcased a diversity of greater-Boston’s high caliber musical talent and the event drew strong enthusiasm from an audience as diverse as the artists coming up to play on stage.
With most of the nominees and winners announced on a visual screen and PA, most of the time was filled by musical performances. Ashley Jordan, who later was named Country Artist Of The Year, opened the show with her original hit song “Smoke On His Gun.” It featured brisk country tones, a rangy electric guitar melody and Jordan’s voice, pure, sharp, powerful. Her tune “I’m Coming Through” was at once rocking and twangy. She belts over it all with an ownership of her material that made her sound as strong as the powerhouse players around her. She and her band mates also slammed home their rendition of the Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Off To Boston.”
The hard rocking band OC 45 played their material with racing tempos, hard hitting musicianship, and screamy vocals. They performed with the chug of a all terrain vehicle mounting rugged surfaces, knocking off notes that pounded their message home with a muscular sound. Party Bois came on next, turning things funky with a deep bass and drums groove. Dual vocalists added a sense of multi urgency. Primal energy erupted from multiple drum sets and fluid guitar was another spiky edgy during their hit single “In Your Hands.”
Representing the Hip Hop Transformation organization, rapper TreShawn Taylor gave one of the night’s best performances. He moved around the stage like a jackrabbit singing his song “This Thing,” a spirited, rhythmic romp. His rapid fire rapping was another feat he pulled off using a stream of consciousness flow of lyrics to paint his vision out for the audience.
Boston Music Awards maintains a program called The 617 Sessions to record and feature local artists at the annual awards show. Each artist from this program made a strong impression during their sets. Johnny Glenn offered his fun funk-rock songs, music that played out with edge and heavy grooves. Glenn could either belt out a tune like a hard rock mad man or he could take it down low with a sublime sussurant croon. His guitarist played atmospheric lines that increased the interest in this music. Another 617 artist, Ghost Girl, began and finished her set in a quiet singer-songwriter style. Despite her low key presentation, she picked notes on her electric guitar that rang out with emotional punch, supporting her girlish chirp with depth. For a quiet, down tempo set, Ghost Girl made clear the themes of regret, longing, and sorrow she sews into hers songs. I cannot wait to see where she takes her material in the future and if she translates her songs to a full band. Valley Heart was an indie rock band that featured a glacial guitar sound, shining and rising up from a motivational groove. 617 artist Oompa received the wildest applause when announced and she was the winning contestant among the 617 artists. She was later named Unsigned Artist of the Year. Her own set was marked by her trademark style of rapping over a band of keys, synth, and a whole lot of other players. She rapped-sang at such a fevered pace that you couldn’t help but carried along with her for the ride. Her material was as seriously good as the seriously good band supporting her.
Performing his song “TV Dinner” from his album The Color Blue, Justin Clancy had plenty of room on the HoB stage to jump and jive around like masters of the universe declaring their love for the galaxies. One of the evening’s wildest acts was The Devil’s Twins, later named Rock Act of the Year. Her guttural vocals were larger than life and scary as hell. She sings like a cross between Eartha Kitt and a very possessed Linda Blair from The Exorcist. She certainly gave new meaning to the terms “hard rock lead vocalist.” Her purring vocals ran up high or dived down low without ever losing steam. The Guitarist played his melodic phrases like he was constructing a wall of sound, much going on at once, many moments of huge mountainous sound.
Another highlight came when Cliff Notez performed, his rap-soul delivery was buttressed by a band consisting of a fiddler, a keyboardist, drummer, a bass guitarist , and a wavy four piece horn section. Down tempo, Cliff Notez’s voice flowed like honey when he did a gentlemanly crooning thing.
Most of the show ran quickly and smoothly, with a few glitches in the audio and visual presentations becoming difficult to ignore. Yet, BMA owner and president Paul Armstrong eased through those moments with a calmness of purpose that smoothed things out. The greatest things about the evening, aside from the rappers, singers, and players who delivered soothing and or smoldering sets were the changes instituted by the BMA. The previous categories of Female Vocalist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year were condensed into Vocalist of the Year. That is because the BMA believe we have a right to identify however we choose. The second major sea change was the beautiful diversity of faces on stage and in the audience. Reflecting greater-Boston’s complex demographics and New England’s progressive idealism, I was able to look around the House of Blues last night and see that my fellows in the human race come in a variety of appearances.
A couple of quibbles were that artists named in the categories of blues and jazz might not be considered jazz artists by many jazz fans or considered blues artist by many blues fans. The community of jazz and blues may have fewer representatives on the BMA nominating committee so that is bound to happen when other nominating committee members from outside the blues and jazz world vote in greater numbers.
Otherwise, it was a grand time and a new time for Boston Music Awards and for the city’s and the region’s diversity of music and diversity of population.
Here are the winners from last night’s show:
Artist of the Year
New Artist of the Year
Unsigned Artist of the Year
Album of the Year
Sidney Gish – “No Dogs Allowed”
Song of the Year
Latrell James – “Okay”
Music Video of the Year
Joyner Lucas – “I’m Not Racist”
Live Artist of the Year
Alternative/Indie Artist of the Year
Americana Artist of the Year
Blues Artist of the Year
Country Artist of the Year
DJ of the Year
Electronic Artist of the Year
Folk Artist of the Year
Hip Hop Artist of the Year
International Artist of the Year
Soul Rebel Project
Jazz Artist of the Year
Gretchen & The Pickpockets
Metal Artist of the Year
Pop Artist of the Year
Punk/Hardcore Artist of the Year
R&B Artist of the Year
Rock Artist of the Year
The Devil’s Twins
Singer Songwriter of the Year
Vocalist of the Year
Session Musician of the Year
Live Production Engineer of the Year
Studio Producer of the Year
Janos Fulop (The Arcitype)
Music Promoter of the Year
Christine Varriale – Allston Pudding
Live Music Venue of the Year
House of Blues
Intimate Live Music Venue of the Year
Music Night of the Year
Emo Night at The Sinclair
Live Ongoing Residency of the Year
Ali McGuirk First Fridays at Bull McCabe’s
Live Music Photographer of the Year
Music Journalist of the Year
Music Publication of the Year