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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Harmony and diversity

Creative forces from here and elsewhere rub elbows at the LA Weekly Music Awards.

June 28, 2003|Steve Hochman | Special to the Times

Kool Keith, the first performer at the 2003 LA Weekly Music Awards on Thursday at the Henry Fonda Theatre, is originally from the Bronx, rapped about San Francisco and wore a Minnesota Vikings jersey.

Minibar, the second act, makes its country-rock with an English accent, having relocated here from Britain only a few years ago. And the third act, the band the 88, is from here, but sounds more English than Minibar does.

How much more L.A. could you get? If anything has ever defined the city's music world (or the city itself), it's that the most creative forces often come from elsewhere.

The awards themselves, voted on by a panel of writers for the alternative publication, colorfully celebrated the diversity and independent spirit engendered by that reality. Of the 20 awards, just two went to acts currently signed to major record labels (Queens of the Stone Age for hard rock/metal, Jurassic 5 for rap), and many of the nominees barely fit into the category designations given them.

That kind of diversity has led to rifts at past shows, but this year's event -- well-run but with appropriate raggedness -- was ruled by fellowship, the tone set by the evening's droll but sincere co-hosts, rappers Aceyalone, Busdriver and Abstract Rude.

Three lifetime achievement honors furthered the sense of variety and community. One went to uber-drummer Hal Blaine (the presence of his friend and frequent employer Phil Spector caused much crowd chatter). The second went to art-pop innovators Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks and the third to Los Lobos.

Of the six performers, the 88 (best pop/rock band winner) and Elliott Smith (tied with Eleni Mandell for the pop/rock songwriter award) were crowd favorites. The former exuberantly breathed new life into Kinks-derived power-pop, while the latter showed the timeless value of heartfelt songwriting. The most confrontational act, metal band Otep, was saved for last.

Other winners: Cody Chesnutt (contemporary blues/R&B), I See Hawks in L.A. (country), Insect Surfers (instrumental), the Warlocks (rock), Gwendolyn (new genre/uncategorizable), Cumbeley (salsa), Anita O'Day and Teddy Edwards (tied for jazz eminence), 400 Blows (punk), Moving Units (new artist), KXLU-FM's (88.9) Rev. Dan (radio show), Charlie Haden (jazz), Adam Rudolph (world music), Dntel (electronic dance), Cut Chemist (DJ mixmeister), DJ Haul (DJ selector) and the California E.A.R. Unit (classical).

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