SDMAs AWARD

    The 2003 San Diego Music Awards, held at Humphrey’s by the Bay, began not with a bang but with a puff of pink, fluffy smoke.

    Travis Ball/Guardian
    Clockwise from top: Ilya, Steve Poltz, The Accident Experiment, The Troys performed at the SDMAs.

    The Troys, newly anointed into the realm of major label status, showed plenty of enthusiasm and confidence, but it was all for naught. Sisters Lindsey and Anna Troy sang their little hearts out, gyrating onstage in glammed-up schoolgirl outfits, but they were smothered by banal pop-rock arrangements (you can partially blame Avril Lavigne’s songwriting partners The Matrix for that) and a generic, overproduced sound.

    What to expect after such an underwhelming opening? The SDMAs vacillated between inspiration and insipidity throughout, both in performance and in presentation. The bad: terribly scripted and unfunny introductions by presenters. The good: some excellent performances, rightly-given awards and elementary schools benefiting from donated Taylor brand guitars.

    Following the Britney-with-a-band sound of the Troys was three-award nominee (and sadly, three-award loser) Ilya, one of San Diego’s most celebrated groups. Ilya proved its acclaim is completely deserved as it delivered the show’s finest performance, combining the cool trip-hop atmospherics of Portishead with occasional noise outbursts and almost spoken-word vocals. Frontwoman Blanca Rojas danced like she was swatting flies (totally in a good way) and seduced the audience with her sultry croon, prompting co-host Tim Pyles to proclaim, “”I’ve never wanted to be a microphone more in my life!””

    Up-and-coming Christian rockers Switchfoot won both Best Album and Best Pop Album for their 2003 release The Beautiful Letdown. Their recent success has proven the continued commercial viability of music with firm roots in Christianity, and the band happily accepted the awards.

    Jason Mraz won both Best Song and Best Artist. The trucker hat-clad singer failed to make the awards show, understandably so as he is currently making waves on the national scene. The two big winners of the night were both artists with national exposure and radio and video airplay, begging the questions: What exactly did they win for? Helping to keep San Diego on the musical map, or creating great music?

    Tenor saxophonist Joe Marillo gave a stirring performance, living up to his title as the “”Godfather of San Diego Jazz.”” The longtime performer and teacher was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for his various contributions to the San Diego jazz scene, including collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Pepper and Sonny Rollins. The audience greeted both the award and Marillo’s performance with due enthusiasm.

    Longtime San Diego favorite Mojo Nixon h

    ammed it up with his strange and confrontational country rock. Drunkenly singing lines like “”where the fuck are the goddamn nuclear weapons?”” to his acoustic guitar and an accompanying electric guitarist, Mojo Nixon’s unique personality bore well with an audience in need of a good laugh. They certainly weren’t getting it from co-host Troy Johnson. Sample joke: “”The award goes to: Troy Johnson ‹ My Life on Prozac.”” Ouch.

    Best New Artist winners and nu-metal “”supergroup”” The Accident Experiment (ex-members of San Diego bands P.O.D. and Sprung Monkey) proved to be more bad accident than compelling experiment (bad pun alert!). The sound of sludgy Korn guitars and angry-guy singing did help to form a sizable crowd in front of the Humphrey’s stage, and they got into a bit of a groove in the second song, showing off their Pink Floyd influence. To be fair, they are a new band. Next time, guys, you need to “”experiment”” more (sorry).

    Best Blues nominee (and frequent SDMA performer) Earl Thomas gave a soulful performance with gospel singers the Jezebels. Despite losing the award to the Bill Magee Blues Band, Thomas and the Jezebels sang with feeling and precision. Best Acoustic winner Steve Poltz and Best Pop winner A.J. Croce performed together at the show’s end, performing a duet on songs they recently co-wrote. The songs were likeable but slightly forgettable, failing to show off the talents of either singer-songwriter. However, their merits suggest that future collaboration should be worth noting.

    Rockola won Best Cover Band, and the band will be performing the entire White Album by The Beatles at Spreckels Theatre on Oct. 31. Best Alternative went to Hot Like a Robot, who barely made it to the stage, and Best Punk and Best Punk Album went to Agent 51, who took the opportunity to thank fellow nominees The Classified, who they deemed more deserving (and who didn’t have a current 91X hit).

    Other notable winners include: No Knife’s Riot for Romance for Best Alternative Album; Nickel Creek’s This Side for Best Americana Album; a.m. Vibe’s self-titled album for Best Local Recording; B-Side Players for Best World Music; and The Album Leaf for Best Electronic. A full list of winners can be found at http://www.sdmamusic.com.

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