San Diego Music Awards Celebrate Three Decades With In-Person Return to Humphreys



The local music scene has come a long way over the past three decades, and the San Diego Music Awards (SDMA) are set to celebrate.

On its 30th anniversary, the annual Music Awards – which celebrates the diversity of musical talent in San Diego – returns to its long-standing birthplace of the Humphreys Concerts on the Bay.

“This is probably the best place for us,” said SDMA founder and promoter Kevin Hellman, noting that the outward appearance alleviates some concerns related to COVID-19.

Ariel Levine, whose track “In This War Or The Next” is nominated for Best Independent / Alternative Song of 2021, performs at the 2019 San Diego Music Awards at House of Blues.

(Courtesy San Diego Music Awards)

Although Humphreys has hosted the most SDMA editions to date, past events have taken place across the county, from La Jolla to Alpine. Most recently, the event took place at the House of Blues downtown. And like many other regional events, last year’s ceremony went virtually and featured pre-recorded performances.

As the SDMA’s in-person comeback celebrates the resurgence of live music in San Diego, recorded music will take center stage at the 2021 ceremony.

“When we made our nomination announcement and our vote, it was still closed,” Hellman said. “No one had played since March 13, 2020. So having categories that sort of relied on live performances didn’t make a lot of sense.”

The 2021 ballot replaces performance-based categories with additional genres for Best Album and Song of the Year awards, and also features Best New Video, perfect for a year of virtual music experience.

More than 100 artists and groups from San Diego are vying for awards. Singer-songwriter Gregory Page tops the list with four nominations, while Carlsbad band Aviator Stash follows with three.

Whitney Shay accepts an award at the 2018 San Diego Music Awards at House of Blues.

Whitney Shay accepts an award at the 2018 San Diego Music Awards at House of Blues.

(Courtesy San Diego Music Awards)

Other popular nominees include Rebecca Jade, Switchfoot, Whitney Shay, Electric Mud, The Frets, Coral Bells, Casey Hensley and Ed Kornhauser. And while Jason Mraz’s 2020 album “Look for the Good” is not up for grabs, it was featured on two of the seven tracks nominated for Song of the Year.

A few other nominees to watch for this year are rapper / hip-hop artist and Southeastern San Diego native The Toven, who released his debut album “Bigger Vibes” last August after years of singles releases); four-piece punk group The Havnauts, winner of the SDMA Award for Best New Artist in 2019; and longtime jazz saxophonist Charles McPherson, who celebrated his 82nd birthday last month.

The winner of the Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award is Jerry Raney, a musician from San Diego best known as a member of The Beat Farmers, the local rock band that won the Group of the Year award at the event. SDMA’s inaugural premiere in 1991., which debuted in 1993, is actually named after the late Beat Farmers drummer.)

This year’s San Diego Music Industry Award will go to Liz Abbott, publisher of San Diego Troubadour, a publication that champions musicians from alternative country, Americana, blues, folk, jazz, gospel and bluegrass.

Indie band The Verigolds performs at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards at House of Blues.

Indie band The Verigolds performs at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards at House of Blues.

(Courtesy San Diego Music Awards)

In addition to the prizes, there will be live performances from seven local artists: The Frets, Brisa Lauren, Ed Kornhauser, Chickenbone Slim, Electric Mud, Marujah and Cindy Lee Berryhill.

As the coast seems clear for the show to continue this week, Hellman acknowledges the ever-present unpredictability of in-person events with a coronavirus still looming, noting that the pandemic forced the SDMA to go virtual just eight days before the ceremony. 2020.

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay is currently operating at full capacity, and the SDMA will follow all updated COVID-19 guidelines enforced by the outdoor venue. At this time, masks are not mandatory for those vaccinated, but participants are encouraged to wear face covers if it makes them more comfortable.

Looking back

Awards aside, when previous San Diego Music Awards spring to mind, one can remember predictable technical glitches, cheesy stage jokes, loud audience members, and the tendency of large crowds to indulge. to a little alcohol.

But there are plenty of unexpected and very memorable performances from SDMA’s 30-year history – from the elusive punk band The Locust taking the stage in insect costumes at The Burning of Rome performing with severed pig heads on polls.

There were also politically charged times.

In 1992, rapper Lord Byron (also known as Trick) hosted the ceremony due to the lack of rap, funk, or hip-hop categories. The following year, he was invited to the SDMA as a performer and nominated in this newly created category. More than a decade later, in 2003, Mojo Nixon performed the song “Show Me the Weapons”, a cursing attack on President George Bush and the war in Iraq.

But perhaps the most memorable of all was David Jass’s animated explosion in 1993.

After the group Asphalt Ballet won the Best Hard Rock or Metal category, Jass – the guitarist of Uncle Joe’s Big Ol ‘Driver – jumped on stage to denounce the group’s connection to San Diego, and then attempted to do the same. when Stone Temple Pilots won the Best Album of the Year award. But when his path was blocked by Hellman the second time around, Jass was knocked to the ground, prompting a few security guards and members of the public to jump into the fray.

The brief brawl highlighted a bigger issue: the long-standing controversy over who should and should not be eligible for the rewards. Despite the event’s strong local ties, bands and artists can be nominated even if they don’t currently live or perform regularly in San Diego.

One of the biggest turning points for the SDMA was Hellman’s decision in 1996 to enlist outside help, including Tim Mays from the Casbah, to help with the nomination process. While the eligibility criteria haven’t changed, the revamped approach has bolstered the event’s credibility and respect on the independent scene, arguably cementing its future as a beloved San Diego tradition.

San Diego Music Prize

When: Doors open at 6 p.m. and start of the show on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Or: Humphreys Concerts by the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island
Who: Live performances by The Frets, Brisa Lauren, Ed Kornhauser, Chickenbone Slim, Electric Mud, Marujah and Cindy Lee Berryhill
Tickets: General admission is $ 35; $ 100 for VIP tickets. Tickets available for purchase at A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the San Diego Music Foundation’s Guitar for Schools program.
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