Official Dispatch from the 2008 Boston Music Awards [VIDEO]

The Subaru limousine – which I assume belongs to Ernie Boch, Jr. (nominee: Outstanding Blues Act of the Year) – idling outside the Roxy last night was an appropriate metaphor for the 2008 Boston Music Awards. Despite it being a quasi-posh invite-only event (albeit one that any super fan could have easily penetrated), the gala didn’t reek of superficiality. Even in the VIP lounge, where those lucky enough to secure laminates enjoyed free drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres with Donnie Wahlberg (winner: Act of the Year – National), the mood was refreshingly grounded. Very Boston, I might even say.   

Those who endured tragic adolescences might have had some eerie flashbacks. From the downstairs party (which unfortunately ended before the awards segment) to the balcony, the Roxyplex resembled a quintessential high school cafeteria. In one corner indie rockers complained about the pricey aluminum Bud bottles; in another, remnants of the Rat renaissance reminisced; and across the room hip-hop crews tried convincing bouncers that they weren’t puffing blunts. Unlike an actual lunch room, though, the crowd spanned at least four generations and thrice that many genres.

Since things started promptly, and since I showed up (characteristically, not fashionably) late, I missed Bearstronaught (winner: Best College Band) and Drug Rug (nominee: Best Song of the Year – Local), both of which rocked the basement stage at Pearl. For more on that, consult my dude Jed Gottlieb at the Boston Herald. I did, however, arrive in time to mellow out with Miss Tess (winner: Outstanding Folk Act of the Year) and to raise deserving beer salutes for Girls Guns and Glory (winner: Outstanding Americana Act of the Year & Act of the Year – Local) upstairs, and then to shake my ass and mental back at Pearl with Big Digits (nominee: Outstanding Hip-Hop Act of the Year).     

Frequent Phoenix collaborators and renowned Big Digitaries Mac, TD and DJ Mac Moon brought out all their goodies, from medieval headgear, white denim cutoffs, tambourines, and Sambas to a sexy Shannon Dougherty look-alike fan whose bangs smacked against her dome as she maniacally gyrated. Some acts have difficulty wowing diverse groups at inter-genre affairs like the BMAs, but Big Digits are famous for blitzing crowds of all colors. Mac and TD never leave shows with fewer fans than they arrive with, and that especially goes for last night.

After catching the tropically inspired all-female outfit Zili Misik (winner: Outstanding International Music Act of the Year), I returned to the cellar for JADA (winner: Outstanding Pop / R&B Act of the Year). Being that they’re signed to Motown, these local divas had some hype to live up to. And they did; homegirls look hotter in person than in press shots (one even has a little Jess Alba thing going on), and, unlike manufactured hoaxes like Destiny’s Child, every last one of them can belt and grind.    

Around 9:30 the lower room closed and club workers ushered heads upstairs for the big announcements (via PowerPoint presentation), which were painless thanks to the nixing of acceptance speeches. Since BMA organizers already extracted the most excruciating segment, I’ll follow their lead and just mention three brief observations: 1 – Ernie Boch, Jr. wants to raise “more money than fucking Bono” for his Music Drives Us foundation; 2 – You can check the winner list here; and 3 – Much like I believe is the case with national awards shows – though the only one I’ve actually seen in the last decade is the AVN fiesta – there’s significant overlap between the performance roster and list of award recipients.

After the half-hour semi-ceremony, Statik Selektah (nominee: Producer of the Year – Hip-Hop/R&B), Lawrence MC Termanology (winner: Outstanding Hip-Hop Act of the Year), and their S.T. Da Squad and Showoff entourages beat out Bang Camaro (nominee: Outstanding Live Act of the Year) for the most-people-on-stage-at-one-time record. The posse dynamic didn’t compromise their set, though, as it once did at a 2006 New Hampshire gig where the crew tore a makeshift outdoor stage to pieces. For the past month, Term and his team have tightened their act on tour with Redman and Method Man. Last night’s was by far the most remarkable “Watch How It Go Down” that I’ve ever seen him shred.

After a righteous romp by Wild Light (winner: Outstanding Rock Act of the Year), who killed with “California On My Mind,” the crowd began to shrink. Considering that most people truly seemed to be enjoying themselves, the company, and, most importantly, the music, the only plausible explanation for the thinning was understandable Sunday exhaustion caused by any number of must-see shows that swung through town this past weekend.  

Those who remained until the end were rewarded; not only with proper sets by Marissa Nadler (winner: Outstanding Singer-Songwriter Act of the Year) and Southie rhyme thug Slaine (nominee: Outstanding Hip-Hop Act of the Year), but by the inevitable comedy that comes from the consecutive pairing of two worlds that rarely collide. Thank God this was not the Grammy Awards; they probably would have had Nadler sing the hook on “Mind of a Criminal” and “Drugs, Money, Sex” while Slaine shot snot rockets on the monitor and slammed back his fans’ floaters.

Boston might have a lot of problems, and our public transportation system may be inept, but there’s a proud populism that separates it from cities like New York and Los Angeles. And that inclusiveness prevailed last night. Instead of having an A-list versus B-list pissing contest, BMA organizers fostered a bash with folks of all strokes trading numbers and discovering new allies. Sure, they could still make improvements – in addition to securing a Saturday slot for next year, it’s time to abandon the useless and misleading local versus national classifications – but the crowd mix and sentiment seemed perfect.     

Unfortunately, the Special Olympics have made it impossible to declare “everyone a winner” without being laughed at. So how about this: Unlike what I’ve heard from an overwhelming number of people about past BMA shindigs, at last night’s, while not everybody won, at least not everybody lost. And in a city that has historically struggled to establish for itself a dominant, all-encompassing, stylistically diverse music scene, the 2008 Boston Music Awards was an honorable display of uncommon pride and unity.

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