Austin Music Awards: 2018

The 36th annual Austin Music Awards ceremony was held at the ACL-Moody Theater last week. The evening’s hosts were KUTX DJs Laurie Gallardo and Rick McNulty. Charlie Sexton was again tapped to be the musical director and as usual, he led an excellent show. Proceeds from the event benefited the Sims Foundation, a local non-profit which provides mental health and addiction recovery services to musicians and their families.

The nominees and subsequent winners of each category were determined by a two-tier contest sponsored by The Austin Chronicle. Most first-place winners attended the ceremony and came up on stage to collect their award. Some acceptance speeches were memorable (i.e. Austin-weird).

Some of my favorite local musicians were honored: Grupo Fantasma (Best Latin Band and Best Horn Section), Willie Nelson (Best Song: Still Not Dead – Willie was touring and did not attend), and Tameca Jones (Best Female Vocalist). I’ve added two others to my must-see list: Bidi Bidi Banda (Best Cover Band) and Whiskey Shivers (Best Country/Bluegrass Act).

The Chronicle has posted the full list of winners. Here’s some other highlights from the evening…

The late Jimmie LaFave was named Austin Musician of the Year and also inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame. Michael Fracasso and John Fullbright performed in his honor.

Members of an Austin/San Antonio collective called Third Root gave an energetic hip-hop performance.

Lucinda Williams presented the Margaret Moser Woman in Music award to her friend, Liz Lambert. Starting with the San Jose Hotel on South Congress, Lambert now leads a company which has expanded to manage other trendy boutique hotels plus Jo’s Coffee. Williams powered through several songs in honor of her friend.

The evening’s surprise special guest was Fiona Apple, who performed two songs. I’d never seen her before. She has a pleasant singing voice, but an unusual performance style.

Joe Ely was honored with the Townes Van Zandt award. He told a story about how he had picked up a hitchhiker in West Texas years ago who turned out to be Van Zandt. Ely played a few songs with his friends Alejandro Escovedo and John Hiatt.

Shinyribs won two awards: Best Austin Band and Album of the Year. I wasn’t surprised. Kevin Russell and his band had played all around town over the past year, including at the O. Henry Pun-Off. Russell is an entertaining performer.

Psychedelic rock band The Black Angels closed out the evening. This year’s awards ceremony lasted over three-and-one-half hours—a long, but enjoyable, celebration of Austin’s live music scene.

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