This was to be the weekend when WYCE’s Jammie Awards finally returned to The Intersection. But the pandemic has pushed that back to June. So today, Local Spins revisits the jubilant 2020 awards show.
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For Michigan bands and solo artists who’ve released compelling new music over the past two years, that wait for recognition via WYCE’s Jammie Awards has been a particularly long one.
With the 2021 celebration at The Intersection canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many musicians were looking forward to the return of the awards show and band performances originally scheduled for Saturday (Feb. 12). But once again, the Omicron variant foiled those plans, forcing WYCE to postpone the show until June 25.
So to tide things over, Local Spins Rewind today revisits what many consider the biggest, best and most memorable Jammie Awards show ever — the 21st edition of the celebration staged at The Intersection on Feb. 14, 2020. And stay tuned for more information about Jammies XXII.
2020 JAMMIE AWARDS: SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS, VIDEO, FULL LIST OF WINNERS
West Michigan hip hop artists reigned supreme at the WYCE Jammie Awards on Friday night.
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, considering 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.
During an evening 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.
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.
‘THE BEDROCK OF EVERYTHING MUSIC IN GRAND RAPIDS’
For those attending the evening spectacle, it was a night to embrace the wide range of music played at WYCE and performed across the region throughout the year.
“WYCE is the bedrock of everything music in Grand Rapids. It’s the reason the West Michigan music scene is what it is today,” said attendee James Hughes, director of Grand Rapids’ Triumph Music Academy.
“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,” said Matt Clark of Grand Rapids. “A mini-music festival where your friends and neighbors are star performers? What more could you ask for?”
Even musicians who weren’t nominated or weren’t playing on Friday turned out in impressive numbers to support their fellow artists.
Alex Austin, frontman for Grand Rapids’ Deerfield Run, and Dan Rickabus, drummer for The Crane Wives, said they were there to soak up the music from a diverse set of artists they don’t always get a chance to see.
“I’m a sonic sponge,” Rickabus quipped, calling himself an “observer” for the night rather than an accompanist who often performs with several different bands on a single festival weekend.
The night’s other two-time award winner was Grand Rapids progressive neo-soul outfit Earth Radio (Local Spins’ emerging artist of the year for 2018) which won critics’ choice album of the year and best jazz album honors for its boundary-pushing 2019 release, “Mother’s Breath.”
And for the third year in a row, Traverse City songbird May Erlewine landed the award for best contemporary folk album, this time for her socio-politically driven release, “Second Sight.”
HUGE TURNOUT AND A FEMALE SUPER-GROUP
As attendees at one of the biggest turnouts in the award show’s 21-year history meandered from stage to stage, more than two dozen acts performed at The Intersection on Friday, starting with Holland-based Michigan I-O’s tribute to Great Lakes folk songs of yesteryear to stage-closing sets by hip hop’s JRob, alt-country’s Deep Greens & Blues and electronic music duo Pink Sky (which won the Jammie for best electronic album for “Meditations I & II”).
One of the night’s highlights was the large female super-group representing Grand Haven’s Third Coast Recording Co., which performed a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” to roars of approval from the big crowd. (Scroll down for a video.)
The more diminutive Stache Stage may have attracted the most exuberant elbow-to-elbow audiences of the night for sets by Jack Droppers & The Best Intentions, Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish and winners of the listeners’ choice award for best album of the year, Desmond Jones, which announced that 2020 would be the year of the “glam jam.”
The after-party in Elevation starred DJs from Grand Rapids Soul Club, wrapping up an epic night assembled by intrepid WYCE staffers and volunteers.
• 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 off what really is “West Michigan’s biggest night of music.” 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, which plays an album-release show at The Pyramid Scheme on Feb. 28 with fellow Jammie winner Jordan Hamilton, said they were thrilled with the honor. “WYCE has been incredibly supportive, and we are very grateful,” said Angelica Hay. “Hayes 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.
• DESMOND JONES – Speaking of The Stache, Grand Rapids’ Desmond Jones — winner of the listeners’ choice award for album of the year — kept the party rolling late Friday 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 in 2020.
– Matt Marn, Devin Dely, Liv Conaty, Jamie Brackman and John Sinkevics contributed to this report.
VIDEO: Jammmies 2020 Highlights by Local Spins
PHOTO GALLERY: Jammies 2020 at The Intersection
Photos by Kendra Petersen-Kamp and Anna Sink
PHOTO GALLERY II: WYCE Jammies 2020 at The Intersection
Photos by Nathan Purchase
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