Austin Music Awards hit all the right notes to kick off SXSW Music


Awards shows – but music awards shows especially – are all about vulnerable moments and collisions between people who would not usually be in close proximity to each other.

The awards themselves are fine, but they’re mostly there to serve as the connective tissue between live music pairings that see experienced hands sharing the stage with new partners and featured guests, with fireworks and “wow” moments often to follow.

The 35th Austin Music Awards fit that paradigm perfectly on Sunday night, with a shiny new home at ACL Live serving as a dramatic upgrade from its recent spot at the Austin Convention Center.

Charlie Sexton, serving his third consecutive year as the ceremony’s musical director, played laid back traffic director to the dozens of players and guests on stage for the nearly four-hour ceremony, with KUTX radio personalities Laurie Gallardo and Rick McNulty cracking wise, yucking it up and handing out the award hardware.

What follows are some of the most endearing, humorous or “Wow!” moments from a night where Austin honored its own and prepared for the musical tidal wave of South By Southwest.

Surprise showing: Warmed up and ready from leading the Pretenders earlier in the night at the Erwin Center – where that band opened for Stevie Nicks – Chrissie Hynde was the night’s biggest surprise guest. Leading the house band on gutsy, powerful runs through “Message Of Love” and “Middle Of The Road” during one of the final music interludes, she was every part of the rock legend status that she’s earned.

Insiders get it: Local booker/promoter Graham Williams won the unofficial best inside joke honor. During his tribute inducting punk heroes the Big Boys into the hall of fame, he dryly noted, “And I am at least one promoter who’s named more than one music festival after their songs.” Williams’ aside was of course referencing the defunct Fun Fun Fun Fest and new Sound On Sound Fest.

Random observation/show biz opportunity: Local keyboardist Oliver Steck needs a talk show, podcast or standup comedy career, on the double. Receiving his best keyboard award and speaking during bandmate Bob Schneider’s award for best rock act, Steck was a ball of wiry, nervous hilarity, like an entertainer playing with a Robin Williams starter kit. His extemporaneous rants defy easy quotation, but the guy is captivating.

Big winner: Hayes Carll, the night’s big winner of six awards, was not present and sent a slightly unprepared but affable Ray Wylie Hubbard to accept in his place.

Personality yin-yang moment: Leading Shinyribs on stage to accept the best blues/soul/funk award, showy front man Kevin Russell stomped up to the podium like he was fronting a New Orleans second line brass band, with an orange suit leaving no doubt he’d be the gregarious center of attention. Moments later, local synth stars Survive — whose star rose with their work on the “Stranger Things” soundtrack — accepted the best EDM/dance award with bandmember Adam Jones awkwardly remarking, “I’m really glad people just know who we are now.”

Beloved veterans: A pair of hall-of-famers made their marks in very different ways. Longtime music advocate and activist Rose Reyes’ lengthy hall of fame acceptance speech was simultaneously heartfelt and engaging, which is a tough balance to strike, as she paid tribute to her three decades of heroes and colleagues. By the end, there were lots of tears in the theater.

Terry Allen wrapped his acceptance speech going a cappella/hymnal style on “Bloodlines” before settling in behind the keyboard for a four-song suite — “Amarillo Highway,” “What Of Alicia,” “New Delhi Freight Train” and “Gimme A Ride To Heaven Boy” — that saw him joined at turns by Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Buck Allen and the Trishas, among others. It was likely the longest music spot of the night and had the musical firepower to earn every second of its time.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Music

Get a taste of Austin’s summer to come with this Shark Bait cocktail
Get a taste of Austin’s summer to come with this Shark Bait cocktail

This cold snap drawing temperatures down to record-breaking lows probably has many of us native Texans dreaming of the days when we can wear shorts and sandals again. That’s not likely for at least another week, but one Austin burger joint is offering a fun, Instagram-friendly tiki cocktail in the meantime, a boozy reminder of the warmer months...
We knew this already: Buc-ee’s is officially the best gas station 
We knew this already: Buc-ee’s is officially the best gas station 

Huge, super-clean bathrooms. Fresh sandwiches. Pajama pants covered in little beavers. Home decor. Awesome snacks. Really big car washes. Texans know where it’s at when it comes to gas stations, and Buc-ee’s is the best of the best. We knew this already. This is nothing new.  But now it’s official. GasBuddy listed Buc-ee&rsquo...
Are you the cutest couple in Austin? Enter the 2018 Cutest Couples Contest
Are you the cutest couple in Austin? Enter the 2018 Cutest Couples Contest

Are your friends constantly telling you how cute you and your significant other are? Do they say, “Oh, gross” when you smooch at brunch? Do they tell you to “get a room” when you gaze at each other lovingly over happy hour beers? Do you think you’re pretty cute, too?  Let’s put it to the test. We&rsquo...
Weekend music picks: Fab T-Birds, Dream Syndicate, Moody Blues and more
Weekend music picks: Fab T-Birds, Dream Syndicate, Moody Blues and more

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dz0df22-Zgk&w=492&h=307] Friday-Saturday: Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson at Antone’s. In 1986 the Fabulous Thunderbirds became one of Austin’s biggest bands ever, with the top-10 single “Tuff Enough” omnipresent on the radio. Their...
Houston Barbecue Festival will deliver the best barbecue the area has to offer
Houston Barbecue Festival will deliver the best barbecue the area has to offer

You could drive the 160 miles to Houston and then drive another 160 miles around the sprawling beast trying to get a taste of the best barbecue the area has to offer, or you can just head down to the Houston Barbecue Festival. The event, which this year moves beyond the city limits to the Humble Civic Center, takes place...
More Stories