If I was still able to spit, I would have spat coffee on the computer screen after reading the nominees for the 2020 San Diego Music Awards.
However, it’s hard to find anything truly shocking these days – my nerves and understanding of the world have been reduced by political, cultural and economic crisis after crisis. The shock is now replaced with an overwhelming sadness and a feeling that compassion can no longer exist in our world. Instead of taking saliva, it would be more of a muddy dribble; instead of coffee, it is my hope in humanity.
So instead of spitting, I looked desperately at my computer screen, because right there – sitting all aggro, hairy and sweaty among the other nominees – were the words As i die.
For those who don’t know, As I Lay Dying is a Christian metalcore band from San Diego that makes music for angry adults. The music is punitive to say the least, but the emo breakdowns in its chorus belies a secret hiding place of sadness. I imagine this is the type of music that gamergaters listen to.
But more notable than the band’s terrible music is its singer, Tim Lambesis. In 2014, Lambesis pleaded guilty to hiring a hitman to kill his wife. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but got parole in 2016 because that’s often how it shakes when you’re white and rich in America.
Of course, such an affront to humanity would surely mean the end of the group, right? Well, not really, because in 2018 As I Lay Dying reunited, assuring everyone that Lambesis was really, really sorry.
The reaction was immediate, but maybe not the reaction you’d expect: Almost every concert on the band’s comeback tour sold out. Obviously, fans and bandmates alike were eager to overlook Lambesis’ crime. Remember: don’t let a planned little murder get in the way of your financial success and, more importantly, your friendship.
Last year As I Lay Dying released their first album since the Lambesis crime, and that’s why the San Diego Music Awards decided to name the band not for one, but of them award: Song of the year and Artist of the year.
I’m not quite sure what qualifies someone for Artist of the Year, but it certainly involves prestige and importance, and the fact that the San Diego Music Foundation – the organization that hosts the ceremony. awards show – chose to nominate As I Lay Dying for Artist of the Year says it all.
I’m not saying Lambesis deserves to be canceled – I believe everyone is capable of reforming, and I’m not against forgiveness. But the group’s sudden return to the limelight gives the impression of capitalizing on controversy, and the accolades it has received (award nominations, media coverage) validate toxic behavior. It would have been very easy for Lambesis to live a quiet life of soul-searching after being released from prison.
The San Diego Music Awards have never been perfect. More often than not, the nominations reflect only a superficial knowledge of San Diego’s vibrant music scene. I mean, Schizophonics are great and all, but they’ve been on the ballot for five years. I’m no medium, but I can almost guarantee you that they and The Creepy Creeps will be nominated for Best Live in 2021, and the world will end before Vokab Kompany is nominated for Best Hip-Hop Group. Does Blink-182, another song of the year nominee, really represent the San Diego music scene? And how the hell does Switchfoot keep getting nominated? Did he win a raffle or something?
This is not a judgment on any of these bands, as they’re all talented (I mean, probably). But they’re also very popular, and that’s where the problem lies: The San Diego Music Awards are not a celebration of talent, but of capitalism. Name the groups that will get the most fans to sell the most tickets, and hope that either blink-182 or As I Lay Dying shows up (they won’t).
It’s always a great feeling when someone recognizes your art, and I’m thrilled for all of my friends who have been nominated. And to dispel any accusations of jealousy, my band Forest Grove was nominated last year (watch us on Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, at your desk, at home, sneaking through your blinds, we outside). But the SDMAs don’t care about you hardworking San Diego musicians. Not really. If they had, they wouldn’t have named As I Lay Dying.
I don’t know who these awards are for, but they are not for us.
For more awkwardness, follow Ryan on Twitter at @theryanbradford and subscribe to his newsletter at awkwardsd.substack.com