It's a tall order to encapsulate the city's diverse musical acts in one night, but the L.A. Weekly Music Awards came close, offering a revealing sampler of local artists while celebrating the cream of the crop Wednesday at the Roxy.
The smoothly executed invitation-only event turned out a small crowd of nominees, presenters, voters and their guests. Rather than alternating the award-giving with performances by such acts as Radar Brothers and Deepsky, as was done to chaotic effect last year, this time the winners were announced in the middle of the program, during an hourlong segment hosted by Andy Prieboy, the local singer-songwriter recently lauded for his Guns N' Roses-inspired musical revue "White Trash Wins Lotto."
Most of the awards were determined by the alternative newsweekly's music writers, but this year the paper's readers also selected honorees in several people's-choice categories. Hard-rock band My Ruin, led by local veteran Tairrie B., was one such popular favorite, and about half the crowd stayed late to witness its metal-flavored sturm und drang.
Among the evening's winners who performed brief sets were best new artist Dengue Fever, a collaboration between adventurous brother musicians Ethan and Zach Holtzman, their pals, and elegant vocalist Chhom Nimol, who sang in Khmer. This cross-cultural hybrid of Cambodian pop, soul, jazz, surf and rock had a movie-soundtrack quality, and was definitely a uniquely L.A.-born style.
Other honorees who played were longtime local darling Concrete Blonde (rock band), expansive surf-meisters Double Naught Spy Car (instrumental band), and the always-riveting Medusa and Feline Science (tied with Shapeshifters for rap/hip-hop artist).
In general, the awards made more sense this year, eschewing some arguably logical but overly obvious choices (i.e., Beck) in favor of spreading the appreciation around.
Still, consensus within categories was often split, as shown by ties between the Excessories and Weezer (pop-rock band); E and Stew (rock-pop songwriter/composer); Nortec and Crystal Method (electronic dance artist), and Lalo Schifrin and Leonard Stein (classical ensemble/artist).
Veterans had a good showing, with Etta James garnering the pop-rock lifetime achievement award, Les McCann winning the jazz eminence award, Bad Religion getting the punk/hard-core nod, and Solomon Burke, taking honors for contemporary blues/R&B artist.
Other honorees were Queens of the Stone Age (hard-rock band); James Carney (jazz artist); Dave Alvin (country); Quetzal (salsa/Latin); W.A.C.O. (new genre/uncategorizable); Ozomatli (world music/recombinant); Babu (DJ mixmeister); Tony Watson (DJ selector), and the Monkey Man's show on Pirate Cat Radio (radio show).