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.
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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.
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.