Our music: SDMA 2001

Before the 11th annual San Diego Music Awards got underway Tuesday night, nominees and guests schmoozed around Humphrey’s by the Bay, drinks in hand. The seats were still largely empty as people clustered around the bar or local TV crews’ cameras, and the stage was host only to the occasional engineer adjusting mics and cords.

Tyler Huff

But above the stage, two screens displayed a sequence of snippets of local music history: music videos from San Diego artists. Some of them were quaint and amateurish, VHS gems filmed in high school gymnasiums or montages of readily recognizable SD streetscapes. Wedged among these do-it-yourself classics were videos pulled straight from MTV, like Jewel’s “”Who Will Save Your Soul?,”” Blink-182’s “”All the Small Things”” and Sprung Monkey’s “”Get ‘Em Outta Here.””

These videos’ polish and production and the fame of the artists they showcase were glitzy reminders of the essential conundrum of the San Diego scene. Namely, local acts always have their eyes on the prize of national recognition, but try to remain true to their SD vibe.

The award ceremony played up the latter aspect, but it was clear that every musician and industry member in the house was keenly aware of the distance from San Diego to Los Angeles. For some, it’s a mere hop, skip and a jump. For others, those 200 might as well be 2,000.

Tyler Huff

There is no shortage of local bands with the talent and drive to make it big. Tuesday night was a smorgasbord of musicians on the cusp. It was also an excuse for a tight-knit community of cross-pollinating, props-giving groups to chat each other up, jam the night away and show the love.

Switchfoot opened the show with their bright, Christian-influenced pop. Their floating harmonies mixed with just enough of an electronic kick to launch the night into high gear.

One of those rare bands with success and humility, Switchfoot seemed dazzled by the crowd.

“”It’s good to be here,”” frontman Jon Foreman said bashfully. “”This is probably the only chance we’ll get to play Humphrey’s.””

His modesty was unjustified. Switchfoot have already had a TV movie appearance and their songs have been featured four times on “”Dawson’s Creek.”” That night, they were also honored with the Best Pop Album award for “”Learning to Breathe.””

“”This goes out to every artist that’s better than us that didn’t win,”” Foreman said.

While the category is traditionally highly competitive as the San Diego pop scene is rich and active, Switchfoot was a cut above, avoiding the darling musical cliches that often plague contemporary pop music.

Artists throughout the night gave it up to the less fortunate nominees in their categories. Candye Kane, who is based both in L.A. and S.D. and whose national visibility relies upon her brassy personality and voice and her former work in the sex industry, was tearful in accepting the Best Blues award.

“”There are so many other artists in this category who better represent San Diego music,”” she said.

The classiest move of the night came from Ghoulspoon. Taking the prize for Best Hard Rock or Metal (and also, perhaps, stupidest band name of the year), they invited all the other nominees onto the stage. Once the stage was crowded with dread-locked, tattooed, big-haired rockers with beer cups in hand, Ghoulspoon lead singer Zach Goode explained.

“”This is what the San Diego music scene is all about,”” he said. “”It’s about the bands supporting each other.””

Of course, the underlying tension of potential fame was omnipresent.

The Incredible Moses Leroy took the stage a little more than halfway through the ceremony. Suddenly, the few, sporadic bursts of photographers were replaced by a frenzy of flashbulbs and crowding cameras. Since their incessantly catchy single “”Fuzzy”” exploded into heavy rotation and lead singer Ron Fountenberry appeared in a GAP commercial, this band has been pegged The Next Big Thing. And of course, everyone knew it.

Fountenberry himself was honored with Artist of the Year. In his surprisingly childlike voice, he thanked “”all the people we stepped on to get here.””

But more overpowering than the shadow of those who are on the verge of greatness is San Diego’s current claim to musical fame: Blink-182.

While it’s hard to consider Blink local when 12-year-old girls in Minnesota gaze dreamily at life-sized posters every night after brushing their teeth, the punk heroes were nominated for a smattering of awards. They won for Best Punk Album (“”Take Off Your Pants and Jacket””) and Group of the Year.

The crowd and presenters were surprised to see Blink’s Tom DeLonge shifting down the aisle and onto the stage to accept the awards. His comments at the podium were genuine and graceful.

“”Keep it big, keep playing, and give awards to somebody else, ’cause there’s so many better bands than us,”” he advised the audience.

The penultimate performer was Convoy. Their classic brand of rock recalls Lenny Kravitz, the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, whoConvoy toured with recently. After bringing down the house, they were awarded Album of the Year for “”Black Licorice.””

The band was fresh from a prolonged and highly successful road trip. Lead singer Jason Hill was effusive about his love of San Diego. He told the crowd, “”It’s always good to be home, and we’re glad to be home.””

Complete list of winners:

Artist of the Year — Ron Fountenberry of Incredible Moses Leroy

Group of the Year — Blink-182

Song of the Year — P.O.D., “”Alive””

Album of the Year — Convoy, “”Black Licorice””

Lifetime Achievement Award — Jack Costanzo

Best Adult Alternative Album — Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, “”Walk Alone””

Best Alternative Album — Blackheart Procession, “”Three””

Best Blues Album — Buddy Blue, “”Pretend It’s Okay””

Best Dance or Funk Album — d*fRost, “”Digital Dustbowl””

Best Hard Rock or Metal Album — Life Hates Me, “”Imperfections””

Best Jazz or Blues Album — Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, “”Dance Lesson #2″”

Best Local Recording — Via Satellite, “”Wake Up Heavy””

Best Pop Album — Switchfoot, “”Learning to Breathe””

Best Punk Album — Blink-182, “”Take Off Your Pants and Jacket””

Best R&B, Hip-Hop, or Rap Album — Icons, “”Capture the Flag””

Best Rock Album — Convoy, “”Black Licorice””

Best Acoustic — Steve Poltz

Best Adult Alternative — Eve Selis

Best Alternative — Jack’s Broken Heart

Best Bar Band — ’80s All-Stars

Best Blues — Candye Kane

Best Country — Nickel Creek

Best Dance or Funk — d*fRost

Best Dixieland or Big Band — Big Time Operator

Best Electronic — Square Circle

Best Hard Rock or Metal — Ghoulspoon

Best Latin Jazz — B-Side Players

Best Mainstream Jazz — Gilbert Castellanos

Best Pop Jazz — Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe

Best Pop — Switchfoot

Best Punk — Dogwood

Best R&B, Hip-Hop, or Rap — Downlow

Best Rock — Sprung Monkey

Best Roots, Rockabilly, or Swing — Billy Midnight

Best World — Common Sense

Best New Artist — Rochelle, Rochelle

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