Ghost Heart, Seth Bernard, Hannah Rose Graves & Justin Wierenga, Dante Cope, Alexis and Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish share award spotlight for jam-packed Intersection show. See the full list of winners.
An established national bluegrass powerhouse. An emerging, nationally acclaimed folk-rock act. An up-and-coming Michigan band on the cusp of a national breakthrough.
WYCE-FM’s much-buzzed-about Jammie Awards show at The Intersection in Grand Rapids honored those much-buzzed-about groups with its biggest prizes on Friday: Kalamazoo’s Greensky Bluegrass snagged the coveted album of the year award for “If Sorrows Swim,” Grand Rapids’ The Soil & The Sun won song of the year for “Are You?” and Traverse City’s The Accidentals walked away with honors for best album by a new artist for “Bittersweet.”
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Spacey folk-rock outfit The Soil and The Sun, which has earned national attention for its 2014 album, “Meridian,” also won a special jury prize for album of the year, with The Accidentals – mixing folk with indie-rock and gypsy swing – also snagging the listeners’ choice prize for best album by a new artist.
“We’re stoked, man. WYCE has been real good to us all along. We’re honored and we love the record,” Greensky Bluegrass mandolinist Paul Hoffman told Local Spins by phone, noting that band members were spread out across the country and couldn’t attend the ceremonies.
The album of the year award from the Grand Rapids community radio station marks another milestone in the progressive bluegrass group’s burgeoning success. Greensky Bluegrass played a sold-out show for 1,700 fans at The Intersection just a week ago.
“We’re lucky to have been growing steadily throughout the process. Every album we’ve done has been more successful than the one before. We’ve been seeing that growth and we’re grateful for it. This record has reached more people and that’s exciting. We couldn’t be happier.”
HAPPY, HUGE CROWD OF FANS AND MUSICIANS
“Happy” was the operative word on Friday night, from the winners to first-time Jammie performers to organizers to throngs of fans milling between the main showroom and the front lounge, aka The Stache.
“We’re really happy,” said Katie Larson of The Accidentals, who won two awards. “For us the biggest deal is coming here and being surrounded by all the artists we look up to.”
“The best Jammies ever,” beamed WYCE program director Matt Jarrells, who was pleased with the performances and said the event ran smoothly with the help of radio station programmers and volunteers. The event drew more than 1,500 people despite the blizzard-like weather.
Ignoring the snowy, blustery and frigid conditions outdoors, attendees squeezed into the sprawling downtown nightclub for short sets by 23 acts on two stages. That was followed, for the first time, by an “after-party” in The Stache hosted by best rock/pop album winner Seth Bernard and featuring performances by Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys, Mark Lavengood and others.
Rock/pop album winner Bernard said it’s gratifying to get so much “support and affirmation” for a lengthy album — “Reconciliation and the Mystical Beyonda” — that packed a lot of tracks and emotion into a single package.
“I feel very honored and humbled. I’m a big fan of all the bands who were nominated and there’s so much great rock and pop music in this area,” Bernard said.
In somewhat surprising fashion, the 2015 Jammie Awards honored a bevy of first-time winners, hailing a West Michigan music scene that’s teeming with young, talented, up-and-coming stars.
Those youthful stars include Grand Rapids’ Hannah Rose Graves & Justin Wierenga (winners of best blues/soul album for “Everything We Already Knew”), Traverse City’s The Accidentals, Grand Rapids hip hop artist Dante Cope (winner of best jazz album for “Jasmin and the Digital Wasteland”), Grand Rapids rockabilly duo Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish (winners of best roots/revival album) and Grand Rapids psychedelic garage rock band Heaters (winners of the special jury prize best album by a new artist).
NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
The joke among some WYCE Jammie organizers is that EVERY Jammie Awards show is the best ever.
But having attended 15 of the 16, there’s little doubt that Friday night’s performances, enthused crowd and general vibe (defying a winter storm to celebrate West Michigan’s music scene) really did elevate the 2015 event to that deserved lofty status.
Every performance — more than two dozen on two stages representing several different genres, from folk to hip hop to surf rock — merited scurrying from one end of The Intersection to the other to catch sets by this talented array of nominees. And considering the number of performances, things ran remarkably smoothly thanks to Rainbow Music technicians, The Intersection and the efforts of WYCE’s Nicole Leach, Pete Bruinsma, Matt Jarrells, AJ Paschka and a bunch of volunteers.
New WYCE station manager Paschka, attending his first Jammie Awards show as head of the community radio station, marveled at an audience that embraced such diverse styles of music.
“What’s unique about this situation in particular is how many different types of people are collecting in one place,” he said. “All those (music) scenes mix at the Jammies.”
As usual, the event packed with musicians and music lovers boasted highlights and some compelling tales:
• Valentiger lead singer and guitarist Brent Shirey attended — and performed at — the Jammies with a heavily bandaged right hand. Shirey caught his hand in a meat slicer, severely lacerating and breaking bones in two fingers. Recovery, of course, will take several weeks. Despite that, Valentiger sauntered on: Shirey asked Stephen Holsinger, who produced Valentiger’s nominated “Stray Animals,” to play guitar for the band’s short Jammies set in the front lounge while Shirey handled the vocals. And the four-piece version of Valentiger was a hit.
• Legacy Award winners The Verve Pipe and Mustard Plug, who wrapped up performances in the main showroom on Friday night, didn’t disappoint longtime fans of the iconic Michigan bands. Alt-rock’s The Verve Pipe continued its re-energized rock vibe, pumping out favorites in fine fashion, and Mustard Plug almost immediately got the pogo-ing moshpit party started in front of the stage with its upbeat, horn-driven ska romp. Fans demanded an encore, which the band certainly would have consented to perform if not for time constraints.
• WYCE’s new-look Jammie Award trophies, the brainchild of Paschka, were striking to say the least: The microphone-like awards also double as incense burners when the top is removed. Of course, their unusual shape also drew a sly comment from Matt Forbush of Alexis upon being awarded the trophy on stage for best electronic album. “Very interesting-looking award you’ve got here,” he quipped.
• With this year’s big Jammie winner, Greensky Bluegrass, unable to attend, last year’s winner Afro Zuma took the stage with Paschka and Leach to announce the album of the year at the end of the night, after which the Jammies’ first-ever after-party commenced in the front lounge, hosted by Bernard with Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys and Mark Lavengood entertaining a crowd of more than 200 who stuck around to dance and sing along to familiar tunes such as Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” It was a true feel-good affair to close out a memorable evening.
THE 2015 JAMMIE AWARDS PHOTO GALLERY: Photos by Anthony Norkus
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VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS PART 2
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