Perhaps it should've been a tip-off as to how disorganized this thing was going to be when the old dude called Metro Times at 4 p.m. the day of the show, said he'd just read on our blog that he was nominated "for a couple of awards" and wondered what he was supposed to do and whether he was supposed to go to the show — even though MT has nothing to do with the event anymore (I did look up a number for the poor guy to call, though). That Metro Times has nothing to do with the DMAs was part of my confusion as well, though. My brother won a few Detroit Music Awards years ago ... but upon further investigation, I discovered those were Metro Times Music Awards. Somewhere along the way, we must've gotten out of the awards business, but I remember those ceremonies being a much funkier, more rock 'n' roll affair. These newfangled Detroit Music Awards were actually kinda ritzy in comparison ... which I imagine goes hand-in-hand with $2,000 tables and opening the show with the fine-sounding but certainly adult-looking, old-school stylish Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra featuring Jesse Palter and Joan Crawford (who surely must be sick and tired of hearing "no wire hanger" jokes at this point in her life).
Actually, for the most part, the music was pretty excellent throughout the ceremony, and I truly dug the schizophrenic nature of that aspect of the evening. Crud, in particular, woke a few folks up down front. I'd have to hear more of their music to make an informed judgment on its merits — but their show was great, as was member Danielle Arsenault thanking her mom "for giving me this fine ass" when Crud won the best industrial award immediately after performing.
An all-star blues tribute to the late Uncle Jesse White, who passed this year, and the hip hop of Will Louchi were both highlights of the evening and incredibly authentic (can't say the same about the country-rock-meets-soul of Doop & the Inside Outlaws, despite all the hype I've heard lately, though Ty Stone — who I briefly met in the lobby and seems to be one helluva guy — may be a force to be reckoned with down the road). I was especially happy the Go won an award for their excellent Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride album.
Unfortunately, however, most of what came in between the music — that would be the presentations (and, from the list of presenters, you'd think Real Detroit and the radio stations were the only media outlets in town) — left something to be desired. There's only so many times a night one can hear "Detroit has the best music scene in the world" before one starts to apply the rules everyone learns in basic journalism and writing classes ... which is show instead of tell. (Just because you keep repeating something like a mantra doesn't make it so. ...)
You could say that I came to this with some outside perspective, having recently returned from 20 years in a city where, as Woody Allen once suggested, all they do is give out awards every night of the week ("Best fascist dictator: Adolf Hitler"). From the Grammys and MTV Awards to the L.A. Weekly Music Awards and New Times L.A. Music Awards (I had to help organize the latter the year I was music editor there), I went to enough awards shows as part of my job during the last two decades to last me several lifetimes. Of course, it's not fair to compare the DMAs to the Grammys (though, given Detroit's reputation, one might expect the Detroit show to be superior in many regards). But even cutting them a lot of slack, one has to say these were pretty damn Mickey Mouse in approach. And what was the deal with those signs that read:"Nominees arriving after 8 p.m. must pay full admission"? I just hoped my confused afternoon phone buddy had arrived on time.
Anyway, I was pissed that the program listed an intermission (weird for an awards show in the first place) — and host MC Serch announced an intermission — and that when we took advantage of the intermission so my friend could smoke a cigarette, we missed the Muggs' performance ... because there wasn't an intermission after all. Like I said, a night of confusion — but getting drunk certainly helped. I won't even get into the numerous employees who asked "Who's Howard?" when I told them I was supposed to be on "Howard's list" — Howard being Howard Hertz, the president-organizer of the whole thing — upon my arrival; isn't that akin to employees asking "Who's Bill?" outside a Bill Graham Presents event? At any rate, my guest — who was also supposedly "invited" by Howard — and I finally just gave up and decided to sit in the mezzanine ... which wasn't a problem, as there were never more than 15 people up there the entire night ... and proceeded to get sloshed, which also surely helped add perspective to things. As for host Mr. Serch — the onetime 3rd Bass member and WJLB morning man — his Kwame joke just wasn't funny and the only really funny part of the evening, at least in the mezzanine, came when Serch was giving his thesis on the difference between "hip-hop" and "rap," stating "I love hip-hop music," and someone several rows behind me yelled: "Yeah, but who the fuck are you?"
In summary, though, my only real comment on the Detroit Music Awards, after sitting there for nearly five hours, is a definite ... um, I just don't know. However, my guest — a Detroit music fan whom I hadn't seen in 18 years — reminded me that the last time we were in that same theater together, we'd seen the Smiths during their only Detroit stop two decades ago and jokingly complained that I'd used a line or two of his in my subsequent review without giving him credit, So, in all fairness, I'm totally attributing this thought to my friend Mike, who, three-quarters of the way through the show turned to me and said: "If you didn't know any better, this whole thing just kinda showcases the irrelevancy of this city."
Nevertheless, congratulations to all the winners and nominees. A full list can be found on the Metro Times Music Blahg. Bill Holdship is music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com
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