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Art by Rika OharaWHEN THE WEEKLY'S MUSIC CRITICS MET TO DISCUSS THE BEST WAY TO PRESENT AN AWARDS program, slurs against mothers were hurled, punches were thrown, hexes were drawn and hot coffee was dumped in laps. Some stomped huffily out of the room, while others snootily wouldn't deign to grace the room with their presence. Buncha prima donnas, that's what we are, but it turns out that music is important to us — we love it and feel strongly about pushing it forward and having it deeply felt and understood.


The task of selecting the “best” musicians in Los Angeles has been, as you might expect, a daunting one. It's no big stretch to say that we have an embarrassment of musical riches in our city, and that each of the nominees is a winner for having made it so far to the top. But decisions had to be made.


Our distinguished 20-member panel of experts was drawn from staff and regular contributing writers with specialized knowledge and enthusiasms, from hard rock, punk and pop to hip-hop, jazz, R&B, Latin music, electronic dance and new-genre. Each panelist was asked to select the outstanding artist in as many categories as he or she felt qualified to judge.


The categories themselves were a pretty sticky item on our agenda. When does pop become rock, and when does rock become hard rock? When does hard rock become metal/industrial, and when does punk become no genre at all? Since styles and genres in music are rapidly breaking down or overlapping, our categories place rather rough boundaries around the bands' and musicians' areas of endeavor and expertise. Obviously, many of the nominees would've fit the bill in several different stylistic zones.


The idea overall was that the awards go to acts that live and work in and around Los Angeles. As L.A. is generally conceded to be the center of the world's recording industry, our nominees could have ranged from obscure unsigned bands plugging away on the local club circuit to L.A.-based international arena-superstars, and it's interesting to note that our judges generally seemed to favor more low-profile artists. A bit of inverse snobbery, maybe, but then there's something to be said for keeping it small and real.


Refreshingly, there's little agreement among critics about what constitutes the most important new music. For example, some wondered about the presence of DJs as nominees, and whether spinning discs could really be rated in the same way we'd evaluate the skills of musicians who compose and play music on “real” instruments. The Rock Is Dead contingent's derisive howls quickly beat them into submission; the RIDs argued that DJs are taking part in the creation of an entirely new art form. The question of whether or not to break things down by gender and race was met with both scorn and befuddlement, the conclusion being that such considerations would be retrograde.


The one thing we all easily conceded and that had us all, in the end, warmly embracing and slapping ourselves on the back, is that we live and work in a city that for a fact has more groundbreaking musicians per square mile that any other place on the entire globe. With that in mind, we strode boldly and purposefully forth to cast our ballots.


THE NOMINEES:


BEST NEW ARTIST


Black Eyed Peas
Queens of the Stone Age
Los Super Elegantes
Medusa and Feline Science
Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948
 
BEST ROCK BAND
The BellRays
The Muffs
Mother Superior
Wayne Kramer
The Hangmen
 
BEST HARD ROCK/METAL BAND
Orgy
Queens of the Stone Age
Backbiter
Fear Factory
Downset
 
BEST POP/ROCK BAND
Baby Lemonade
Possum Dixon
The Negro Problem
The Sugarplastic
Wondermints
 
BEST PUNK/HARDCORE BAND
The Vandals
Betty Blowtorch
L7
The Grownups
Leaving Trains
 
BEST RAP/HIP-HOP ARTIST
Black Eyed Peas
Divine Styler
Aztlan Underground
Alkoholiks
Kid Frost
 
 
BEST JAZZ ARTIST
Vinny Golia
Bobby Bradford
B Sharp Quartet
Brad Mehldau
Nels Cline
 
BEST COUNTRY ARTIST
Rosie Flores
Rick Shea
Brantley Kearns
Kathy Robertson
Groovy Rednecks
 
BEST CONTEMPORARY BLUES/R&B ARTIST
Etta James
Cafe R&B
Joe Houston
Big Jay McNeely
Leo Nocentelli
 
BEST SALSA/LATIN ARTIST
Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca
Bobby Matos Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble
Son Mayor
Johnny Polanco
Poncho Sanchez
 
BEST INSTRUMENTAL BAND
Davie Allan & the Arrows
Satan's Cheerleaders
The Black Widows
The Bomboras
Double Naught Spy Car
 
BEST NEW-GENRE/UNCATEGORIZABLE ARTIST
Nels Cline
Kraig Grady
Anna Homler
Brad Laner/Electric Company
Solid Eye
 
JAZZ EMINENCE AWARD
Billy Higgins
Buddy Collette
Wadada Leo Smith
Vinny Golia
Nels Cline
 
ROCK/POP LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Hadda Brooks
Dick Dale
The Cramps
Arthur Lee
Mike Watt
 
BEST WORLD MUSIC/RECOMBINANT ARTIST
John Bergamo
Zakir Hussein
Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca
Ozomatli
Adam Rudolph
 
BEST DJ
(MIXMEISTERS)
Cut Chemist
Beat Junkies
Doc Martin
Michael Sanchez
Marques Wyatt
 
BEST DJ
(SELECTORS)
Rodney Bingenheimer
Joseph Brooks
Jason Lavitt
Mike Messex
Richie Rich
 
BEST RADIO SHOW
Alma del Barrio (KXLU)
Kurtis Blow's Old School Show (Power
106)
Blues Hotel (KXLU)
Demolisten (KXLU)
Garth Trinidad's Chocolate City (KCRW)
BEST ROCK/POP SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
Beck
E (The Eels)
Eleni Mandel
Andy Prieboy
Stew (The Negro Problem)
 
BEST DANCE ARTIST
Cirrus
The Crystal Method
Gearwhore
Hepcat
00 Soul
 
OUTSTANDING CLASSICAL ENSEMBLE/ ARTIST
L.A. Philharmonic's New Music Ensemble
CalArts New Century Players
California E.A.R. Unit
Long Beach Opera
Esa-Pekka Salonen
 
The L.A. Weekly Music Awards will be presented at the Palace on Tuesday, June 29. Tickets are limited; call (323) 462-3000.