As anyone who’s watched four hours of the Oscars can tell you, award ceremonies can be tedious. Cheesy jokes, plastic celebrities politely clapping for the winners, and the obligatory political acceptance speech are standard operating procedures. By the end, everyone’s over it.
Not so with the Austin Music Awards. Rather than a collection of stars, it’s a gathering of friends. On Feb. 28, 2018, Austin’s Moody Theater transformed into a celebration of the best our fine city has to offer. By paying homage to those who cleared the way for the artists of today, this year’s Austin Music Awards wasn’t just a ceremony. It was a welcome home party.
Winners at Austin Music Awards
Over the course of the evening, 58 awards were handed out to deserving artists, bands, and industry leaders. Winners included Whiskey Shivers for “Best Country/Bluegrass,” Night Drive for “Best Electronic,” and garage rock stalwarts A Giant Dog for “Best Rock Band.” Reveling in the punk rock attitude, a man dressed in drag accepted the award on behalf of Sabrina Ellis.
Other notable winners included The Deer for “Best Folk” and Hard Proof for “Best World,” and the beat-making, rhyme-saying duo Magna Carda walked away with “Best Hip Hop.”
And who won the majors? In the latest chapter of its meteoric rise to Austin stardom, rap/rock/funk band Trouble in the Streets took home “Best New Austin Band.” In a somber moment, recently departed Americana legend Jimmy LaFave received a posthumous “Austin Musician of the Year” award.
And to the delight of the packed Moody crowd, ShinyRibs took home both “Best Austin Band” and “Album of the Year” for “I Got Your Medicine.” Kevin Russell showed his appreciation by breaking into a joyful wiggle. If you’ve ever seen him live, then you know exactly what I’m talking about!
The Chronicle has the full list of the evening’s winners.
Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement
The ceremony also saw four Austin bands get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Honors went to Latin pop/salsa band Beto and the Fairlanes, Jimmy LaFave, country/blues singer Toni Price, and street punk act Fuckemos.
When Mayor Adler took the stage around the midpoint of the show, he joked about how glad he was to not have to introduce the final Hall of Fame inductee by name. He also shared how important music is to the fabric of Austin. Regardless of your political affiliation, it’s easy to appreciate Mayor Adler’s public advocacy for local arts.
The final awards of the evening were the Margaret Moser Women in Music Award and the Townes Van Zandt Songwriting Award. The Margaret Moser was awarded to hotelier Liz Lambert, and the Van Zandt was handed over to honky tonk king Joe Ely.
Incredible Live Performances
The evening wasn’t all handshakes, hugs, and acceptance speeches. There was a concert going on! After the introductory monologues, Adam Torres, violinist Phoebe Hunt, and David Ramirez took the stage for the opening set. Torres’ enchanting tenor played counterpoint to Ramirez’s Americana growl, creating a cool, laid-back vibe.
Next up was the undeniably intense hip-hop group Third Root. The set was sensational, full of tight, socially-conscious rhymes bolstered by MC’s Trizzol, Soul Force, Bavu Blakes, and the incredible Riders Against the Storm. The set was full of invigorating energy and showcased how far Austin hip hop has come.
After the next set of presentations, it became all about old school Austin. When watching new musicians, it’s fun to appreciate their energy and raw talent. But when you listen to foundational Austinites like Charlie Sexton, Joe Ely, and Alejandro Escovedo ply their craft, it’s overwhelming. Every set, from Ely and Sexton’s dueling guitars, to Lucinda William’s beautiful, soul-tearing performance, proved the old guard deserves to not only be remembered, but appreciated.
And that was my biggest takeaway from an incredible four hours of recognition, applause, and stirring, stunning music. The Austin music scene isn’t a simple billboard tagline or a pleasant afterthought. It’s in our DNA, the very fabric of what makes our city unique and special.
The next time you’re walking down South Congress and hear sweet 12-bar blues flowing out of the Continental Club, pop in and see what’s going on. Maybe you’ll discover the next Austin Music Awards recipient before they realize their full potential.
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