The good people of Syracuse have been doing it right as far as it comes to music since a few heads came together in 1992 and Frank Malfitano opened up the grand Landmark Theatre for the first Syracuse Area Music Awards in 1993.
Friday night in The Palace Theatre on James Street, the community came together once more to hand out those shiny black trophies.
Presenters took the stage to announce nominees. Winners walked up to receive their hard-earned applause. Five bands of various stripes took the stage to show their talent.
Yes, indeed. A good time was had by the 680 or so folks who filled the gussied-up joint. So I listened once again as hard as I could while taking notes on my reporter’s pad and pictures and videos on my iPhone 6. I also skipped up to that stage with New York State Blues Fest honcho Julie Briggs and fantastic drummer Buke Babikian because Sammys Chair Liz Nowak graciously asked me to be among those to present, this time the People’s Choice Award for Best Live Series or Festival.
What we had here was people who’ve got it proving they get it.
Master of Ceremonies Skip Murphy started the night of recognition by inviting veteran radio host Dave Frisina to call up the newest members of the Sammys Hall of Fame. George Rossi, The Bells of Harmony, Jam Factory and Savoy Brown were recognized at a dinner held at Upstairs at the Dinosaur Bar-B-
Que the night prior, but they were all happy to go up for their deserved moment of cheer in front of the big crowd.
Then came individual awards for top recordings, and some memorable and wise words.
The front guy for the group that won for best jam recording, Jam Factor, thanked his father for letting the band use his building to rehearse for eight years. Now that’s dedication.
Speaking of Frisina, who’s been hosting his Sunday night “Soundcheck” show now showcasing local music on The Rebel 105.9, he urged fans to come out to see local music from the acts on stage more than once a year, because that limited go-out would be like “appreciating your mother only on Mother’s Day.”
After winning for the best Hard Rock recording, the leader for After Earth received the trophy and proclaimed “Ooooh, it’s heavy.” Perfect.
Kim Simmonds, fronting his new Hall of Fame blues band Savoy Brown since he started it in London 51 years ago, told all that he still prefers to look forward. “Always look ahead,” the guitarist and singer said. “The past can drag you back quickly. You know what they say. If you live in the past, you suffer twice.”
While receiving his trophy for Best Hip-Hop/Rap recording, Mafiosa remembered how he felt when he came to the Sammys when previously nominated in the category and somebody else’s name was called as the winner: Disappointment and frustration. “That gave me lots of motivation for this project here,” he told all in the seats.
The Lightkeeper took home the honor that will always be closest to my heart. The Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist is named in recognition for the late music writer for the Syracuse Herald-Journal, who died while on a biking vacation just before the first Sammys. Scott Sterling, sound man at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and veteran engineer who works closely with the group, told me after the show how he huddled with the band members to tell them about Brian’s work ethic, personality, and importance to the music scene. They got it, he said. Bravo, Scott, The Lightkeeper, and the forever memory of Brian.
When the winner for the Best Country recording was called up, I did a double-take. Hello, Lonnie Park. No, Keith Urban was not in the house.
Here’s the Carolyn Kelly Blues Band performing:
Here’s Ohne-Ka and the Burning River performing:
Here’s Savoy Brown performing:
Here’s Joe Driscoll performing:
Here’s Jam Factory performing:
The Winners for best recordings
Rock: Joe Whiting
Folk: Austin MacRae
Pop: Elizabeth Canino
Jazz: Andrew Carroll
Americana: Early Bird Trio
Other: Josh Dekaney
Jam Band: Jam Factor
Alternative: Professional Victims
Country: Lonnie Park
Hard Rock: After Earth
Favorite Band: The Horn Dogs
Favorite Festival or Music Series: The Great New York State Fair
Favorite Venue: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
129,000 votes were counted this year
Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist Sponsored by Syracuse.com: The Lightkeepers
Hall of Fame
Music Educator: Mark Copani
The Bells of Harmony
Lifetime Achievement: The late, great Mark Murphy
Which quote is your favorite, and why? Which video is your favorite, and why? Which photo is your favorite, and why?