Showcasing the diversity of West Michigan’s talent, WYCE’s annual awards show boasted a capacity crowd, more than two dozen dynamic performances and a host of happy prize winners.
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Vox Vidorra, The Go Rounds and Lady Ace Boogie triumphed Friday night at the Jammie Awards – an evening filled with camaraderie, musical zeal and masterful performances celebrating West Michigan’s music scene at a jam-packed Grand Rapids nightclub.
The trio of diverse acts took home the most coveted awards presented by community radio station WYCE-FM at the 17th annual event: Grand Rapids soul-rock band Vox Vidorra snagged album of the year honors for “Promise Land,” Kalamazoo twang-rock/folk outfit The Go Rounds won the special jury prize for the year’s best album for “Don’t Go Not Changin’,” as well as the first-ever runner-up award for album of the year, and Grand Rapids hip hop artist Lady Ace Boogie proved to be a triple threat by winning two “best album by a new artist” prizes along with best hip hop album for “Feel Good Music.”
It’s the second big honor for Vox Vidorra this year. Previously, Vox Vidorra won the Local Spin of the Year Award for “Promise Land” (sharing honors with Dave Hardin’s “Magnolia”).
The awards came at The Intersection with upwards of 1,400 fans reveling in six hours of performances on two stages, with 25 acts playing short, vibrant sets, including this year’s Legacy Award winner, singer-songwriter Ralston Bowles.
TEARS OF JOY AND A SUPPORTIVE ATMOSPHERE
Molly Bouwsma Schultz, lead singer for Vox Vidorra, which also delivered a memorable set Friday night, said she felt “truly blessed” by the honor accorded the band and was awed by “the idea that a community can be a collaborative place. You can make something beautiful, and we can all be proud of it.”
For Lady Ace Boogie, aka Linda Tellis, it was an honor she’d dreamed about. “It’s dope. I think I’m gonna cry,” she said. “I’m just so honored and so proud.”
Added DJ Dean Martian, who contributed to Lady Ace Boogie’s winning “Feel Good Music” album: “It’s always nice when your artistry is admired by others.”
In all, 19 awards were doled out, including honors selected in voting by WYCE listeners: Holland indie-folk group Brother Adams won the listeners’ choice prize for best album of 2015, with vintage soul ensemble The Soul Syndicate taking home the award for best album by a new artist.
Other big winners Friday night included Heaters, The Crane Wives, Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys, Jukejoint Handmedowns, Scott Pellegrom, Tunde Olaniran, Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe and legendary Grand Rapids bluesman Jimmie Stagger, 64, who won best soul/blues album for his poignant “A Graveyard of My Own.” The recording was his first studio album in 14 years.
Producer Tommy Schichtel, owner of Grand Rapids’ all-analog Goon Lagoon Studios, earned honors for best production/engineering thanks to his work on Stagger’s album as well that of award winner Vox Vidorra, not to mention projects by Hank Mowery (“Excuses Plenty”) and The Legal Immigrants (“Drugs to Roses”).
“It makes me feel good,” Schichtel said. “I feel like I’m a conduit for a lot of good music coming out of here (Grand Rapids).”
Pellegrom, drummer for the Scott Pellegrom Trio, was surprised to hear the announcement that he’d won the award for best jazz album of the year. He said he was honored just to be nominated.
“It’s funny, most people that know me know (that) I’m quiet as a person,” Pellegrom said. “But my outlet is drumming. When I’m onstage, let’s get it. Let’s have a blast.”
Guitarist-singer Jesse Ray also expressed surprise because for the second year in a row, rockabilly/blues act Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish won the award for best roots/revival album, this time for the full-length album, “Dead Man Walking.”
‘LIKE A MUSIC FESTIVAL’
Pajama-clad concertgoers and non-jammie wearers alike wandered between sets sipping on Bell’s Brewery beer and snacking on treats from San Chez Bistro, with The Legal Immigrants’ rollicking rock show and Vox Vidorra’s funk-and-soul performance standing out as true highlights.
WYCE honchos AJ Paschka, Matt Jarrells, Pete Bruinsma and Nicole LaRae always joke that each year’s Jammie Awards show is the best, but with a gleeful, elbow-to-elbow crowd, a light show that even included lasers and some dynamic sets, the 2016 edition certainly made a strong bid for the overall title — even if performances ran a little behind schedule.
“It’s good. I feel great,” station manager Paschka said backstage. “It’s like a music festival.”
Branden Garner of The Waxies, who performed on the main stage, may have articulated one of the central themes of the night. “I like that we’re supporting local music. That’s important to me,” he said. “I guess nothing makes me feel the way music does. I love both literature and music, but music can convey so much more.” ”
Added Bigfoot Buffalo frontman Kyle Brown: “The audience and atmosphere was great; it was fun to be a part of this.”
Sarah Fuerst, of Kalamazoo’s Thunderbolt & Lightfooted said the Jammies were a “good representation of the support for the retail music community. Shows all great music for West Michigan.”
Like always, it was also a night of smile-inducing camaraderie, crowd appreciation and 11th-hour improvisation, including bluesman Greg Nagy having to make do without organist Jim Alfredson, whose vehicle broke down in Portland, Mich., on the way to Grand Rapids. Nagy didn’t miss a beat, delivering a powerful, audience-pleasing set that included a terrific rendition of the title track from his “Stranded” album.
Fable the Poet took a break in his set in The Stache to acknowledge mental health and substance abuse awareness, asking the crowd to raise their hand if they know anyone dealing with these issues, or if they have themselves.
“To see so many faces being attentive and to see so many people connecting and cheering back and forth and engage was amazing,” he said later.
‘LIKE THE MECCA’ FOR ARTISTS
“This is like the mecca of all the artists who are really trying to put their work out and get to the next level. It’s a showcase for all these artists who are creating noise in a city that’s creating noise. That’s really the beautiful thing about the Jammies.”
As part of that community-supporting vibe, ska’s The Sailor Kicks even encouraged members of the crowd to come up to the stage because it “makes us feel more at home.” Of course, one uber-enthusiastic female fan who jumped on stage during Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers’ set had to be removed from the stage by security.
Six-time Jammie Award attendee Erin McKay may have put it best: “We really have a tremendous amount of talent in West Michigan. I’m here to see all the local acts I always see from Billy’s (Lounge) and Tip Top (Deluxe Bar & Grill). I feel it [this event] gives them a crowd and the crowd picks up on the vibe, and the vibe feeds on itself.”
By the way, this year’s Jammie Awards — which are voted on by the army of volunteer programmers at WYCE — fell on the same week as the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, Mo., with Michigan acts such as The Accidentals, The Crane Wives, Appleseed Collective and Chris Bathgate attending that out-of-state event.
PHOTO GALLERY: The 2016 Jammie Awards
Photos by Anthony Norkus and Anna Sink
EXPANDED JAMMIES COVERAGE WITH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS AND SECOND PHOTO GALLERY ONLINE HERE
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC