By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 18, 2008
In Washington, politics and the press always manage to inject themselves into the proceedings, even at a music awards show honoring the best and brightest on the local music scene.
So at a long-standing music awards ceremony like the Wammies, you pretty much expect that at some point, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer is going to take to the stage. After all, there is no moment more quintessential D.C., more inside-the-Beltway, than the sight of Schieffer -- who won a Spotlight Award last night -- rocking at the mike with the local band Honky Tonk Confidential, speak-singing with a country-western twang a little ditty called "TV Anchorman." He also extolled the wonders of the "American dream" -- and promised that after the presidential inauguration next year he'll forswear TV life for a full-time music career. You expect this.
A sort of good-natured chaos reigned at the Washington Area Music Association's 22nd annual awards program, with the action meandering throughout the State Theatre in Falls Church. It was a night to hang out by the bar, schmooze with old friends, indulge in a little networking and, every so often, look up to applaud the happenings taking place onstage.
There were surprises: The award for hard-rock duo or group went to Wicked Jezebel, beating out Fugazi founder Ian MacKaye's group, the Evens, as well as the Points and the Speaks.
Lisa Moscatiello won for folk-contemporary vocalist, while Cletus Kennelly & Lori Kelley won for folk-contemporary duo/group. Rare Essence won for go-go group/duo, while Richard Smallwood & Vision and Seven Sons of Soul tied for gospel/inspirational group/quartet. J.P. McDermott won for country vocalist while Clecia Quir¿z and Storm the Unpredictable took home the prizes for Latin vocalist and rap/hip-hop rapper, respectively.
The Speaks performed, but not without declaring first that they'd lost to Wicked Jezebel and were therefore "representing for the up-and-coming generation," bringing a blast of youth and energy to the State Theatre as they threw themselves around the stage. Frederick Yonnet, the jazz vocalist who's performed with Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu and India.Arie, rollicked and rolled, bouncing around the stage, blowing into his harmonica, bouncing faster and faster until he jumped up in the air and slammed down again, rock-star style.
Meanwhile, Margot MacDonald won new artist of the year, looking a little stunned as she accepted the award. Chuck Brown and the Grandsons tied for artist of the year. Jon Carroll won WAMA/SAW (Songwriters Association of Washington) songwriter of the year, while album of the year was a tie between Carroll's "Love Returns" and Chuck Brown's "We're About the Business."
It was a night long on graying boomers wielding banjos and harmonicas, and short on Gen-X'ers and -Y'ers wielding turntables and electric guitars. And while it professed to celebrate the musical diversity that is Washington, it didn't always live up to its own assertions. It's been an exciting year for local rappers Wale and Tabi Boney, who've both found success on the national scene, but their names were nowhere to be found on the lists of honorees and nominees.
It was a night to honor those who remain on the local scene, working in relative obscurity, and for those who break out beyond, so much so that it's hard for them to make their way back to celebrate with the ones who were there when they got their start. Working a paying gig always takes precedence, even over award shows, so one heard "she isn't here to accept her award . . . " often, but everyone understood.
You don't really expect folks like neo-soulster Raheem DeVaughn, a Grammy nominee this year, to show up to accept his Spotlight Award and maybe sing a tune or two, or for Maryland homegirl Tori Amos to take to the stage, pounding the ivories and singing about "Me and a Gun."
There were tributes to the ones who passed away in recent years: jazz vocalist Pam Bricker and jazz pianist Hilton Felton, a regular at Kinkead's.
"The diversity of the musicians in this area, we shouldn't be so surprised," Marco Delmar said as he accepted his award for producer of the year. After all, he said, "we live in the nation's capital."
Mambo Sauce rounded out the night, serving up a potent salsa of hip-hop, go-go, R&B and fusion, with rap and vocals battling for dominance onstage, crooning, "Welcome to D.C., welcome to D.C."