Thousands filled The Intersection on Feb. 14, 2020, to honor the best regional music of the year with memorable performances on three stages. Browse highlights from last year’s big night in words & images.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly one year ago, community radio station WYCE (88.1 FM) staged its 21st Jammie Awards show at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, with performances on three stages and awards doled out for the best local and regional music of 2019. Because the COVID pandemic has forced indefinite postponement of this year’s awards show, Local Spins Rewind today revisits that magical night in February 2020. Scroll down for a video, photo galleries and the 2020 winners’ list.
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It was truly a night to remember, especially for West Michigan hip hop artists who reigned supreme at the WYCE Jammie Awards on Feb. 14, 2020.
Kalamazoo’s Last Gasp Collective and hip hop cellist Jordan Hamilton won multiple awards — including album of the year for Hamilton’s “My Thoughts Are” and best album by a new artist for Last Gasp’s “Seen Not Heard” — with Grand Rapids rapper JRob taking home honors for “Black Super Hero” as song of the year.
The Last Gasp hip hop/R&B ensemble also won the critics’ choice award for best album by a new artist, with Hamilton snagging honors for best hip hop album as well as being named Local Spins’ “Emerging Artist of the Year.” Indeed, Hamilton was the biggest winner of the night because he’s also a member of Last Gasp Collective, which played the main showroom stage.
During its set, the Last Gasp Collective brought its unique blend of hip hop, jazz and rock to a packed house. Led by Jay Jackson and featuring longtime member Hamilton on the cello, the group dialed in its eight-member lineup to create a rich and fully orchestrated sound with a stage presence to match.
Overflowing with thousands of fans and packed with performances on three stages at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, the 21st annual Jammie Awards show hosted by radio station WYCE (88.1 FM) rolled out as a true celebration of Michigan music, honoring the best releases of 2019 in 16 categories.
There were countless moments during the Jammie Awards show that transcended what sometimes gets brushed off as “local” music.
There was the epic superstar rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” by a chorus of West Michigan female stars backed by a Third Coast Recording Co. band.
Or the crowd-revving performances in the jam-packed Stache — featuring the smallest of the three stages — for rambunctious sets by Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish, Jack Droppers & The Best Intentions, Desmond Jones and Deep Greens & Blues.
Or the boundary-pushing spectacle unleashed by Dante Cope and Les Creatif in Elevation, which also boasted the mesmerizing electronic wizardry of Jammie Award winner Pink Sky.
Or Grand Rapids rapper and song of the year winner JRob and Bedrock’s fiery closing set on the main showroom stage.
All of it was just the tip of the iceberg on a night when thousands cheered more than two dozen performances on three stages inside the Grand Rapids nightclub, escaping the blustery, below-freezing temperatures outside.
Jack Droppers, who fronts the rock band The Best Intentions, may have said it best after his rock band’s energetic set.
“I think it’s cool to live in a city that celebrates local music,” he said. “It’s one of those rare things. In a city our size, most people want to move out and go to Austin or Nashville or New York. I think there’s a presence around the Jammies and around WYCE and Local Spins that really says, ‘You don’t have to leave to make it.’ You can make really great music here, and we celebrate that.”
Noted attendee Matt Clark of Grand Rapids: “If there’s anything that could inspire one to believe that a local music scene can be simultaneously strong, supportive and genuinely littered with talent, it’s absolutely the Jammies.”
Performances ranged from the inviting indie-rock-hued pop of Political Lizard to the electronic wizardry of Silent Spirit and Pink Sky to the surf-guitar twang of Guitar UP! to the world music-inspired strains of Uganda native and Kalamazoo-based artist Samuel Nalangira and his band.
“We’re excited to be at the Jammies. It’s such a big platform for my music,” Nalangira said after his set.
Here are more highlights and salutes from West Michigan’s “biggest night of music” last February.
FIVE-STAR MOMENTS AND SALUTES
• THE PRODUCTION – Assembling 26 performances by varied artists and ensembles over three stages on a single night — with a passel of award presentations and video images to boot — approaches the very definition of miraculous, especially when it comes off on schedule and without any major glitches. Kudos to the entire WYCE and Community Media Center staff and volunteers — as well as The Intersection crew and all of the sound techs — for pulling it off. Special nod goes to WYCE music director Shane German, who assembled an impressive and dizzying lineup of diverse acts to showcase what the region is all about.
• PATTY PERSHAYLA – Patty PerShayla & the Mayhaps livened up The Stache with their cool, smooth rock, keeping the audience in awe of her rich voice and bass-guitar led beats. Performing with her newly formed rock band, PerShayla later learned she had won the Jammie Award for best rock/pop album for her “Oracle Bones” solo debut. Fans and friends continued to run up to her afterwards, hugging her and congratulating her on the honor. “I’ve been in a band before this,” said PerShayla, moved nearly to tears at the show of support for the hard work she had put into her release. “But going solo … is risky. I am so glad people are enjoying what I do. Thank you to everyone who is supporting my music.”
• MICHIGANDER – Kalamazoo-based Jason Singer and Michigander gave fans in the main showroom a taste of the energy he promotes at his shows. Uncorking indie-rock infused music with a trumpet, tight harmonies and feel-good jams, the band kept the crowd singing, dancing and throwing their hands up throughout the entire set of pop anthems.
• PINK SKY — Pink Sky closed out the main lineup on the Elevation stage with hypnotizing music that earned them the Jammie for best electronic album of year (“Meditations I & II”). The duo of Ryan and Angelica Hay said they were thrilled with the honor. “WYCE has been incredibly supportive, and we are very grateful,” said Angelica Hay. “Hayes (Griffin) and the WYCE crew have done so much with this event, and we are so excited to be a part of such a supportive community.”
• “THE CHAIN” – Prior to an enthralling performance by Michigander, Third Coast Recording Company’s all-female supergroup took the showroom stage for a special performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” The group turned heads when they released a video of the cover in September, and they put their impressive vocal chops in the spotlight when they performed the song live on Friday for an approving throng that sang along.
• JESSE RAY & THE CAROLINA CATFISH – Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish cranked things up a notch (starting with a rebellious scream) in The Stache. Frontman Jesse Ray turned up the heat in the packed room, inciting a raucous party with howling blues riffs and “old-school” rockabilly fire.
• FROM CENTURY-OLD MICHIGAN FOLK MUSIC TO MODERN-DAY HIP HOP – Officially, the evening began with Holland-based Michigan I-O’s heartfelt tribute to Great Lakes folk songs of yesteryear and ended with crowd-pleasing, stage-closing sets by hip hop’s JRob, alt-country’s Deep Greens & Blues and electronic music duo Pink Sky. And then there was the after-party …
• DESMOND JONES – Grand Rapids’ Desmond Jones — winner of the listeners’ choice award for album of the year, “Hello, Helou” — kept the party rolling late into the night with its dance-inspiring, self-described “glam jams.”
• LAST GASP COLLECTIVE – Two-time award winners Last Gasp Collective brought a unique blend of hip hop, jazz and rock to the packed main showroom. Led by Jay Jackson and featuring the award-winning Hamilton on cello, the group dialed things in with an eight-member lineup that delivered a rich and fully orchestrated sound with an engaging stage presence to match.
• POLITICAL LIZARD – The band led by Rockford’s Jenna Olson and Caleb Waldvogel turned an early-evening slot into an advantage — drawing in the growing showroom crowd with its fetching, pop-hued indie-rock and building fan fervor as the set progressed. It was proof that this is a band to watch.
– Matt Marn, Devin Dely, Liv Conaty, Jamie Brackman and John Sinkevics contributed to this report.
More Local Spins coverage of the Jammies: Last Gasp Collective, Jordan Hamilton, Earth Radio, JRob big winners at 2020 Jammie Awards
VIDEO: Jammmies 2020 Highlights by Local Spins
PHOTO GALLERY I: WYCE Jammies 2020 at The Intersection
Photos by Nathan Purchase
Photos by Kendra Petersen-Kamp and Anna Sink
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