I have to admit, when I got to the Showbox at the Market last night, I was not even remotely prepared for what would greet me: a red carpet and a Hollywood-style backdrop for photo ops with Seattle's music royalty. VIPs sat at tables near the stage. Everyone else milled around at the bar upstairs. The situation called for a stiff drink. And while I got there right on time, I was not surprised that the ceremony got off to a late start.
Laura Musselman Robin Pecknold at the Seattle City of Music Awards
The proceedings began with an R&B performance by a foursome of young girls (they couldn't have been older than 14 or 15) representing More Music at the Moore who absolutely killed it. It felt appropriate to kick off such an event with a performance by people who may very well be the future of Seattle's music scene. Riz Rollins (you might know him as DJ Riz) MC'd.
The KEXP staff accepted their "Impact Award" first, and while I've heard gripes from friends and acquaintances about KEXP's programming (mainly, its proclivity for mopey indie rock songs that all sound the same) I always get irritated when people criticize KEXP, because those people obviously did not grow up in a cultureless town with crappy radio stations. No, you're not going to like everything you hear on KEXP. That's the point. But when you do like a DJ or a show, you know you're going to like pretty much everything on the docket for the next chunk of time. Knowing that I always have a station to listen to that won't subject me to Fergie or Rush is one of the main reasons that Seattle is a special place. KEXP deserves recognition for what they do, and I'm glad they got some last night. I also found out that Audioasis (hosted now by our own Rocket Queen Hannah Levin) is the longest-running local music radio show in the city (if I heard correctly. It was loud in there.)
Laura Musselman The KEXP folks accepting their impact award
Then, Aja Pecknold (full disclosure: she was the SW Clubs Editor right before yours truly, and I used to write for her) got up and read a speech she'd prepared for the Fleet Foxes, and she got a little choked up before presenting them with their "Breakthrough" award, which was sweet. Robin Pecknold said next to nothing -- he seemed unbelievably uncomfortable, which is surprising for a guy who plays to such huge audiences on such a regular basis -- and though I'm sure everyone was holding their breath that the Fleet Foxes, all of whom came up to accept the award, would play some music, they didn't.
Buddy Catlett accepted Quincy Jones' Lifetime Achievement Award in Jones' absence. I wish I'd been able to hear him speak better. I sometimes forget how hot Seattle's jazz scene was 60 years ago, since (as Aja said onstage) every music critic in the universe can't get through a reference to Seattle without bringing up grunge. Not that anyone was trying to play that down last night -- Kurt Cobain's face was plastered on these huge "City of Music" posters that flanked the stage, which felt strange to me. He is literally Seattle's music scene poster boy, and when I saw those giant posters I couldn't help but wonder if he'd be pleased or pissed. Jones, meanwhile, came in on video (there was a huge projector screen and a couple TVs set up) to broadcast his message of thanks to the city of Seattle from afar.
The awards were interspersed with performances by Pearly Gate Music (Zach Tillman's project) and the Maldives, both of which went fairly well. But the fun part was after the show, when the Tea Cozies played a set for the 30-40ish intrepid souls who stuck around and the Showbox staff, who took advantage of the time to start stacking chairs. Once all the fancy awards-ceremony sheen had been removed from the Showbox, it felt more like Seattle again and less like some Los Angeles industry schmoozefest. It was a relief. And while I'm glad we take the time to honor the people who enrich our city's music scene, I'm also glad we only do it once a year.