This year’s SNT Sammys festivities included the 11th run of the annual music award show (the first of which was held in 1993 at the Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St.), as well as eight hour-long sets of music that showcased the diversity of the Syracuse circuit held throughout the day. A headlining performance by alt-rockers Simplelife carried the good vibes of theparty into the more tepid evening.
Grupo Pagan, local Latin favorites andlast year’s winner of the Best Recording for Other Styles Award, kickedoff the sets, accompanied by rock diva Ashley Cox. The group prefaced the day’s high temperatures with a mixture of spicy tunes, including “Oye La Musica,” from the band’s self-released album Save the World. Percussionist Josh Dekaney weathered the heat especially well, shining with licks deserving of comparisons to Michael Shrieve, the drummer who stole the show during Santana’s 1969 Woodstock performance.
Roosevelt Dean brings cool blues guitar riffs to the hot Sammys stage as a Hall of Fame inductee. Michael Davis photo.
The soulful sounds of Five to Life then drew the audience toward its spiritual inclinations. The a capella gospel fivesome, which won the 1999 award for Best Inspirational or Gospel Act, praised the lord and inspired one audience member to stand in front of the stage and testify. It was likely due to the deeply moving sentiments in songs like “Jesus Left the Water At the Well” and“Love Lifted Me” that caused the band’s fan to throw his arms into the air and sing along with the lyrics.
On an entirely separate musical plane,local rapper Oxburg, who later received the honor of Best Hip-Hop or Rap recording artist, brought his sprawling posse on stage to represent. Of course, what would a Sammys award show be without an appearance by omnipresent rap guru DooWiTTle, who introduced the newcomer on stage. Likewise, C-Lite, a colleague of DooWiTTle and Oxburg, also introduced the artist, who then played a high-energy set that showcased “Ox” as the cooler, more suave component of DooWiTTle’s hip-hop coterie.
As the afternoon’s crowd started to trickle in to sample the Taste of Syracuse’s dollar dreams, Bobby Green performed a variety of funked-up blues tunes, including a cover of Maxwell’s 1996 hit “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder).” Green demonstrated his amazing ability to sit in a groove and jam until the cows come home, which is, apparently, on any given stage. Green, who has been known locally as a legendary guitarist for the past five decades, won the award for Best Soul or Rhythm’n’Blues Instrumentalist or Vocalist in 2001, and was inducted into the Sammys Hall of Fame in 2005.
Lisa Gentile, local pop-country afficionado and winner of 2007’s Best Country award, performed a genuine, heartfelt set that featured the airy “Sweet On You,” a tune from her EP 3 (Padre Music). Gentile’s performance also included an impulsive rendition of her tune “Tell Him How You Like It,”a feminine call to arms that describes the methodology women should use to instruct their man in sexual matters.
Lisa Gentile, country singer-songwriter, performs asoul-searing set during the Sammys’ day of musical acts. Michael Davis photo.
Two hard-rockin’ groups followed,pulling the fun closer to the climactic award show. Prime Time pulled off contemporary covers such as Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” as well as Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles,” while Dead Rose played original music from their new album, No Tomorrow (Subcat Studios). Dead Rose, a group typically known for their ties to a modern rock cover set, seemed at home in the comfort of their own tunes, which came across well in front of a live audience. The band also slipped in a killer cover: The Cult’s “Fire Woman,” a creative choice that showed the boys’ taste for classic rock.
But after the event’s emcee, “Big” MikeFiss of WZUN-FM 102.1 (Sunny 102), pulled rocker and saxophonist Joe Whiting on stage for an impromptu rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (is the Sammys akin to a sporting event?) tensions were mounting for those who had come out to support their favorite local musicians.
New Times publisher Art Zimmer began the award show proper with a presentation of the Syracuse New Times Lifetime Achievement award to the late Armond Magnarelli, a local politician and radio deejay who has also been instrumental in the musical theater community throughout his career. Emotions ran high as family members, friends and fans remembered the statesman who was given the award posthumously after passing away in February at age 83.
Shortly after Dave Nowak, one of this year’s Hall of Famers, performed a nostalgic set that included his tune“How Long,” which has since been recorded by the Eagles. Nowak also performed “Friends Like You,” hinting to the crowd on his big night, “I hope you guys notice that there’s a theme going on here!”
Sandy Bigtree, who had performed on television and elsewhere in Syracuse during her formative years with her sisters Norma and Jean as The Bigtree Sisters, seemed emotionally moved upon receiving her award, thanking her husband Bill Arnold “for finding a way to bring me home.” That, of course, was a reference to the fact that Bigtree had spent the middle portion of her musical career performing in New York City. Bigtree’s subsequent performance sounded contemporary, perhaps even in line with the likes of modern rockers Cake.
Hall of Fame recipient Roosevelt Dean also performed an impressive all-too-short set, including a 12-bar blues that talked-up the better points of living in downtown Syracuse.Dean seemed to be in high spirits accepting his award, and he spent much of the hot evening relaxing in the cool shade with Carolyn Kelly,a fellow blueser who has performed with Dean throughout the past two years.
Other highlights included an appearance by The Goonies, who won this year’s Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist, a designation that is meant to scout out talent among the local scene’s younger set. The group’s intrepid front man, Illumination (aka Langston Masingale) clutched copies of his band’s eponymous, Roots-like hip-hop album, as did his sidekick Clam Weezy (aka Peter Cappelli).Both predicted “we’ll see you again next year.”
This reporter then had the pleasure of presenting the People’s Choice awards with local singer Kim Monroe. The awards were selected via 25,000 Web-based votes off the Sammys page,www.syracuseareamusic.com. Adam Gold, owner of Funk’n Waffles and creator and host of The Funk Show on WAER-FM 88.3, seemed thrilled that his venue had been honored by the public, while favorite band The Action! drew enthusiastic applause from local fans of ska music.
Funk’n around: Kyle Corea (left) and Adam Gold, the masterminds behind the local music haven Funk’n Waffles,received the People’s Choice Award for Best Venue at this weekend’s steamy Syracuse New Times Syracuse Area Music Awards. Michael Davis photo.
By the time all of the awards had been doled out, however, the local rockers of Simplelife were itching totake the stage. The band performed many of the original tunes that populate their newest album, New Addiction, including a raucousversion of the disc’s title track, and a jangly run through the heartfelt, country-ish song “Where Did I Go.” The band’s pair-in-the-front, guitarists and vocalists Mike Frisina and Ben Sumner, seemed spot-on amid a crowd of thousands who also dug the pocket-centric rhythm section, composed of bassist Brett Hobin and drummer Jim Lucas. The set capped a full day of memory making and musical crisscrossing, befitting the Sammys’ 15th birthday.
2008 Syracuse New Times Syracuse Area Music Awards Winners:
Best Alternative or New Rock: Torment the Vein, Faded Life (Subcat Studios).
Best Blues: Los Blancos, Just This Once (Casablancos).
Best Country: Branded, Branded (Subcat Studios).
Best Folk or Bluegrass: Cluidan, Anymore (independent).
Best Jazz: Hanna Richardson and Phil Flanigan, Live At the Fleece (La-La).
Best Hip-Hop or Rap: Oxburg, Death Before Dishonor (CrateDiggers).
Best Pop: Leif Olsen, Bones (Castle Recording Studio).
Best Recording Other Styles: Kh’Mi, Away Now (Subcat Studios).
Best Rhythm’n’Blues: Electric Relaxation, Volume 1: The Definition of Hip-Soul (422 Music Studios).
Best Rock: Joe Whiting and Mark Doyle, The Truth (Free Will).
Hall of Fame: Sandy Bigtree, Roosevelt Dean, Mark Hoffmann, Larry Luttinger and Dave Novak.
Hall of Fame Music Educator Award: Jerry Santy.
Lifetime Achievement: Armond Magnarelli.
People’s Choice Award for Best Band: The Action!
People’s Choice Award for Best Venue: Funk’n Waffles.