- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

The Washington Area Music Association held its 17th annual Wammies ceremony Sunday night at the State Theatre in Falls Church, honoring some of the region's top performers, songwriters and producers.

A somewhat entropic but always lively event, this year's Wammies brought together stalwart veterans such as local guitar great Bill Kirchen and young comers including Welbilt, an impressively proficient modern rock band from Fairfax that turned in the best performance of the night.
Early Sunday evening, Mr. Kirchen, with his wife Louise singing, led the D.C. Guitar Army, a company of more than 30 guitarists, in a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine."
The cover of Mr. Lennon's utopian daydream was meant as an anti-war gesture, so it probably didn't matter that most of the guitars were inaudible, anymore than it matters that you can't read most of the signatures on a petition.
In any case, the protest received perfunctory applause. Global politics is the last thing on people's minds at Wammie ceremonies.
The State Theatre, a converted 1920s art-deco movie house, was humming with networking next-big-things because that's the point of the Wammies: It's a trade show for local musicians. They peddle merchandise in the front lobby, hand out demo recordings to producers, meet potential managers and promoters and commiserate with fellow musicians.
"This area has got an incredibly diverse variety of musicians," said Marco Delmar, who took home the producer of the year award. "They get stronger and stronger every year."
Representing the region's burgeoning roots-rock movement, Little Pink, an Arlington-based band that took its name from the Band's "Music From Big Pink," performed a cut from its debut CD, "Cul de Sac Cowgirl."
The Wammie awards strive to be inclusive more than 120 are distributed across 24 genres, and some of the categories included up to 10 nominees. They don't always meet the goal; a few artists won multiple times.
"Godfather of go-go" Chuck Brown won every award in the go-go genre.
Other big winners this year were blues singer Deanna Bogart (five awards, including songwriter of the year), the retro-country group Honky Tonk Confidential (four awards, including album of the year, "Your Trailer or Mine") and the roots-rock band Last Train Home (three awards, including album of the year).
Storm the Unpredictable won a best-rapper Wammie, while the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours (last year's best new artist) got the nod for best rock duo/group.
"This was a really good record," quipped Diana Quinn, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Honky Tonk Confidential, as she accepted the album-of-the-year Wammie. Miss Quinn, wearing a piled-up beehive 'do and a zebra-print jacket and skirt, was one of many oddly dressed delights Sunday night. Not for the Wammies the formal wear of the Grammy Awards shindig.
You could pick out the musicians by their clothes sense: the classic honky-tonk get-ups of the country boys, the grungy secondhand look of the hard rockers, the baggy sweat suits of the rappers.
Opera vocalist Mary McReynolds brought a touch of class to the ceremony as she sang an aria from "La Boheme" in an elegant black gown. She was accompanied by pianist George Peachey.
Richard Harrington, a Washington Post music critic, gave a moving tribute to the late Chuck Levin, founder of the legendary Washington Music Center in Wheaton, who died in December at age 76.
Mr. Levin was honored posthumously with a Special Appreciation award, which his son Alan accepted on his behalf.
Thievery Corporation, a District-based electronica duo, nabbed the Spotlight Award, a periodic recognition reserved for local acts that create "a real national buzz," according to WAMA Vice President Jay Rosenthal.
Previous Spotlight recipients include Mary Chapin Carpenter, Toni Braxton and Placido Domingo. Pretty good company.
Many Wammie winners weren't present to claim their awards, including MeShell Ndegeocello, a D.C. native who has long since risen to national fame. You wouldn't have known that from Sunday night's ceremony: No one could pronounce her name.
Other, less famous Wammie winners were playing gigs, which is no bad thing.
"To have the artists here to accept the awards is wonderful," Mr. Scott said, "but it's even more wonderful to have 'em working."

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