I walked into the State Theatre Friday night for the 2001 Detroit Music Awards with hope — and enough money for the three Jack ’n’ Cokes I knew it would take to get my social-phobic ass up on stage to present an award. Like almost everyone, I hate awards programs. They’re so long and they always dote to the mainstream and mundane. My parvenu ears usually perk up to music with fringe, not fluff.
But I had hope, because in Detroit, “mainstream” is anything but boring. Just look at the nominees in the “national album” and “national single” categories: Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, Kid Rock, Eminem, Madonna, the Suicide Machines, Uncle Kracker and the Workhorse Movement. (Eminem won both categories.)
And this year, there was a new rule stating that artists who had won a category three or more consecutive years were ineligible in that category for one year. No offense, Jill Jack, but things were starting to get a little déjà vu. For the most part, however, this rule just meant that repeat winners won in different categories. But before diving into that ocean, let’s just say that the entire event was a lot more enjoyable than I ever could have imagined. (The three J ’n’ Cs might have something to do with this, but anyhoo …) The performances and the house DJs were excellent. The special achievement awards presentations for Barrett Strong, Arthur Penhallow, “Backstage Pass” and Willie D. Warren were very nice. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood and there was that indescribable energy to the room that always happens when you get Detroit music peeps together. Now onto my spiel. Sonic Metropolis (sonic.metrotimes.com) lists Web sites for 54 country bands and 84 world music bands playing in the Detroit area. But if you follow the DMAs, you’d never know this. Not to downplay the talent of repeat winners, but are they really the only ones worth attention? Local reggae supergroup Immunity won six more awards this year to tack onto the list of 12 they’ve already got. And because of the new rule, the Forbes Brothers weren’t allowed to win “Outstanding Country Artist,” Scott Forbes wasn’t allowed to win “Outstanding Country Vocalist” and Dennis Forbes wasn’t allowed to win “Outstanding Country Instrumentalist.” But “Outstanding Country Writer” was up for grabs and they got that one. J.C. Whitelaw of the band also picked up “Outstanding Country Instrumentalist.”
Hmmm, what’s going on here? Must bands either sell a million records or know a secret handshake to get noticed? Are votes getting lost or not counted? Are Detroit Music Association computers crashing and losing the e-mail addresses of people who request ballots? Consistency is important. There is a standard by which music is judged and perhaps the multiple repeat-winners are the only ones who make the cut. But I know this isn’t the case.
Most people at the event didn’t even seem to care about the onstage action. My balcony correspondent said that the second and third floors buzzed like a high-school cafeteria and she couldn’t even read the screen listing the nominees, let alone hear the presenters. The less representative the awards are of the entire scene, the less the awards are going to mean. If they don’t mean anything, then what’s the point of caring if you win or not? If no one cares, why am I bothering? What am I doing? Where am I? Too many people. Starting … to feel … dizzy.
Fashion Soul Records has started hosting a hip-hop night (yeah!) at the Attic Bar (11667 Joseph Campau in Hamtramck, 313-365-4194) every other Wednesday. This week (April 11) includes performances from Backstab the Kingpin, You and an open mic. Waxmaster D. Smooth hosts a party at the Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave. in Detroit, 313-961-4668) every Wednesday with a rotating lineup of DJs. DJ Raybone hits the decks this week (April 11). Audra Lynne Kubat has established Union Street Saloon (4145 Woodward in Detroit, 313-831-3965) as the place to be on Monday nights with her open mic night in the side room, which features everything from acoustic folk to poetry to electrified rock. And jam-psychedelics Metaphysical Jones are having their CD release party this Thursday at 313.JAC (624 Brush in Detroit, 313-962-7067), where you can find them every other Thursday too.Melissa Giannini wants the $75 from a Wayne State research study on social phobia, but she's too nervous to go through the interview process. Send her some self-esteem at firstname.lastname@example.org