The winners at this year’s Detroit Music Awards thrown by the Motor City Music Foundation at the State Theatre on Friday were a fine snapshot of the sounds coming from our fair city. The White Stripes, Blackman & Arnold, DJ Assault, the Brothers Groove, Ed Love, George Benson, the Trash Brats, Dally in the Alley, the Wrenfields and American Mars all took home well-deserved trophies.
With more than a dozen performances crammed into the show lineup and twice as many awards handed out, this shoulda been a no-brainer. So why did the affair feel like a glass half-empty? Aw, hell, it’s a party, right? And it’s not really a party till the Trash Brats show up. And it’s not over until they convince a couple fly honeys to accept an award on their behalf and testify to the Brats’ prodigious cock size. So it was that the Detroit Music Awards ended for yours truly.
This was also around the time that the State Theatre security guard asked me to please leave the balcony. I wasn’t outta control or anything. Nope. I was the only person in the balcony and he wanted to shift his attention elsewhere.
The schmoozing was blazing full-force, the beer and high-end cocktails were flowing and the botox tips were no doubt being swapped furiously. The Detroit Music Awards, after all, is supposed to be all about networking, right? No, wait, it’s all about recognizing the great music from the city of Detroit. Um, or is it about putting on a really interesting show that showcases the best of Detroit’s music? Oh, wait. But it’s also about giving something back to the community too, right? Oh, the humanity. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the State Theatre was not exactly overflowing with music fans Friday night. Schizophrenia’s never good for event marketing.
And so the din of the bar could drown out the sound from the podium and stage.
The show headed straight toward the bizarre as Kiff Vanden Heuvel (that’s what the program says, I swear!), dressed as Kid Rock, was introduced as Mr. Ritchie returning to rule the awards-show roost. A hilarious conceit in a year when the Awards’ star power was at low magnitude. But it got truly odd when Vanden Heuvel — in an attempt to maintain the charade with a parody version of Rock’s hit “Bawitdaba” — realized his mic wasn’t working. So there we all were, staring at a mute “plus-sized” Kid Rock as he bopped around the stage in a proper rock froth, as a 2-year-old mosh pit anthem blasted the wine ’n’ cheese-noshing show sponsors up front.
From the mosh pit to the nosh pit. Detroit rock ain’t always pretty. And Jojo the clown was in the house, making balloon animals for anyone who asked.
And we’re off!
As pompous ’n’ circumstance shows go, the performances at this year’s Detroit Music Awards felt like a musical garage sale — fun in a kitschy sort of way with the occasional gem.
Royce da 5-9’s crew hijacked the show’s long-in-the-tooth apathy and injected it with enough spice to make you wonder why they didn’t just end it there. Sista Otis & the Wholly Rollers displayed the anarchic, funky-folkie energy that’s made her the pied piper of the urban folk scene. Gospel singer Evelyn Turrentine-Agee came very close to getting the crowd to dance — imagine!
The show was also cluttered, chaotic and full of gee-gaws. (Hip-hop MC Obie Trice sent a few tuxedoed dignitaries toward the exits with a disjointed monologue that ended with him — and one middle-aged woman in a sundress — shouting “Fuck you, asshole!" DJ Assault wooed the intermission crowd with his ass ’n’ titties booty anthems.)
But wasn’t until the band fronted by Tracy Leigh Bechard and Janis Leigh hit the stage like a karaoke tilt-a-whirl that it became apparent that programming by committee never, ever works.
Immunity — a reggae band nominated for a gang of awards as usual — played “Exodus” by Bob Marley and “Pass the Duchie” by Musical Youth (!) at the same nearly breakneck ska tempo. Um ... Why would I, Joe Detroitmusicfan, wanna hear these chestnuts here and not, say, over a nice plate of ribs at Memphis Smoke?
And despite Immunity’s let’s-cram-it-in tempo, the nosh pit remained unmoved.
As usual, the high points of the evening came not from the performances, but when you’d least expect them:
As S&M-goth-”rap” icon the Impaler approached the podium, a twentysomething cat to my left pointed at the stage and shouted, “Holy shit! That’s my librarian!”
A member of the Dearing Concert Duo bounding toward the stage to accept his award for Outstanding Classical Duo/Group was overheard shouting, “No way! No fucking way!”
A representative from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences actually accepted an award on behalf of Marvin Gaye!
Two paramedics overheard wondering about the show’s closing act: “That’s an actual group? The Fags?”
I saw the White Stripes at the Magic Stick about a half hour after the Music Awards, attending what turned out to be a brilliant Waxwings show. I informed them of their earlier win and I can’t say they didn’t enjoy hearing the news.
Check out the entire list of lucky DMA winners.Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org