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San Diego Music Awards Honors the Best in Local Music


The 19th Annual San Diego Music Awards take place tonight at Viejas Concerts in the Park. There will be live performances from bands like Get Back Loretta and The Silent Comedy, as well as a performance from the 2009 Lifetime Award Winners, The Zeroes. And, of course, awards will be given out for Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Song of the Year and more.

The 19th Annual San Diego Music Awards take place tonight at 7pm at the Viejas Concerts in the Park. You can read more about the awards in this week's San Diego City Beat and at the San Diego Music Awards.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. Tonight is a huge night for local bands and musicians. The 19th Annual San Diego Music Awards will be presented at Viejas Concerts in the Park. If this awards event is typical, some very deserving San Diego bands will be honored, along with some undeserving ones. There will be surprise winners and surprise losers, along with some hard partying. My guest Seth Combs, who writes about the local music scene at San Diego City Beat says the San Diego Music Awards is always a good time, even though he doesn't always agree with the winners. Good morning, Seth, and welcome.

SETH COMBS (Arts Editor, San Diego CityBeat): Thank you very much for having me.

CAVANAUGH: Now this is the 19th year, as I said, of the San Diego Music Awards. Has the awards program evolved over the years?

COMBS: Oh, certainly. Well, like most events it had a rather humble beginning like 300 or so people packed into the Museum of Contemporary Art, of all places, in La Jolla, which I believe at the time was called the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. But they were there to watch bands like Fatburger and Roughneck Posse take home some of the half a dozen awards or so. If I'm glib at all because when I mention those bands, it's because even I had to look them up. But over the years, it's moved venues a few times. It's been at Spreckles and Humphrey's and even here at SDSU before finally moving to Viejas, and the half a dozen awards have since expanded to dozens of awards, covering almost every genre.

CAVANAUGH: And I'm wondering, in your opinion, since the awards program is tonight, is there a lot to celebrate in the local music scene right now?

COMBS: Yeah, this has been a great year for the local music scene, if not the best I've ever seen it.


COMBS: The best in 20 years, it seems. For as long as I can remember, San Diego has always been a vast untapped musical town while cities like New York and L.A., Detroit or even Seattle in the nineties, got all the attention and still get all the attention. That's seemed to change a lot this year and there has been a lot of national attention from major musical outlets like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork and Spin who've finally seemed to acknowledge that we have an amazing and talented and diverse music scene here.

CAVANAUGH: And just a really brief technical question. How does the voting work for the San Diego Music Awards?

COMBS: Well, if it's a album count – if it's an album category, you know, Best Rock Album, Album of the Year, it's voted on by the San Diego Music Academy, which is, you know, about 40 or so people who work in and – directly in the…


COMBS: …the music scene: promoters, deejays, editors, me. The rest of the categories are what they call the genre categories: Best Alternative and Best Jazz, for example, are voted on by the public. Anyone with a internet connection can vote for those.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay. Well, we only have time to talk about a few of the awards given out…

COMBS: Okay.

CAVANAUGH: …tonight, so let's talk about some of your predictions from this week's CityBeat. For Album of the Year, what can you tell us about this category?

COMBS: As far as my prediction?

CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Uh-huh.

COMBS: Well, as I mentioned in this week's CityBeat, I predicted a band called Crocodile should win and probably will win for their debut album "Summer of Hate." There was a lot of buzz, like I said, generated nationally about the scene here and these are two guys who play like a shoegazy kind of blend, like rock genre, and they used to be in a rather infamous band called Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower but they really made a bold statement with this new record and I think it was enough – It was enough for Rolling Stone to declare San Diego the hot music scene in their annual Hot issue.

CAVANAUGH: I didn't know that. That's a distinction.

COMBS: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Who's their – Who are their big competition, the Crocodiles? In this Album of the Year category.

COMBS: In the Album of the Year category, probably I would say Anya Marina and perhaps – Yeah, I think that's – I think that – maybe – I don't know. I think that's about it. I think they – I think that they really – I think that they're really going to…

CAVANAUGH: They're going to get it.

COMBS: They're going to win this category. I don't…


COMBS: …think they have competition in this particular category. In the other ones, maybe.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let's hear a bit of the Crocodiles. This is the song "I Want to Kill" from the album "Summer of Hate." And, of course, it's been nominated for a San Diego Music Award.

(audio clip from "I Want to Kill" by the Crocodiles)

CAVANAUGH: That's the Crocodiles with their song "I Want to Kill" from the album "Summer of Hate." It's up for Album of the Year in the San Diego Music Awards, which will be presented tonight. And this one is also up for Song of the Year, right?

COMBS: Yes, it sure is.

CAVANAUGH: This particular cut? "I Want to Kill?"

COMBS: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Now, who are the Crocodiles up against?

COMBS: As I mentioned before, they're also in this category up against Anya Marina, singer/songwriter, blues rockers Delta Spirit, singers Jack Tempchin and Jason Mraz, a rapper named MC Flow, a sort of like a punk alternative band called Scarlet Symphony and a reggae band called Slightly Stoopid.

CAVANAUGH: Well, MC Flow has won a number of San Diego Music Awards in the past. Do you like the music?

COMBS: Do – Yeah, I love her music. I mean, not only is she an amazing and talented rapper, she's also a bit of an anomaly within the hip-hop scene. I mean, not only is she a woman but she's an openly gay woman at that. So in a scene that's been a historically very male dominated and homophobic, for her to have as much success as she's had is, I think, a great thing.

CAVANAUGH: Well, okay, so for Song of the Year, there's MC Flow's song "Created Equal."

COMBS: Right.

CAVANAUGH: It's been nominated for Song of the Year. We have a little clip from it so let's hear it.

COMBS: Okay.

(audio of clip from "Created Equal" by MC Flow)

CAVANAUGH: That's MC Flow's song "Created Equal" and I'm speaking with Seth Combs, Art Editor of San Diego CityBeat, about the 19th Annual San Diego Music Awards. "Created Equal" is up for Song of the Year at the Music Awards. And that's about Prop 8, isn't it, Seth?

COMBS: It sure is. It was her direct response, I think literally written the day after the passage of Prop 8, which I think, you know, we all know has changed the California Constitution to not allow gays to get married.

CAVANAUGH: Right, indeed. Now – And as you said, her lifestyle, her – the fact that she's a woman…

COMBS: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …is sort of an anomaly in the hip-hop scene even here in San Diego.

COMBS: Oh, certainly. I mean, it's – To ask somebody to name a female rapper, it would be very difficult for them, as is, on a national level no – much less, you know, a San Diego local level. So the fact that she is a woman and hip-hop, I think is a great thing but it's also very – it can also be very threatening to the other people that are in the hip-hop scene here, I think, and, you know, while they've certainly accepted her I think that sometimes they – with the fact that she wins almost all the awards can be sometimes like disheartening to them.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let's move on to the category called Artist of the Year. We – You have a couple of top contenders for this category. Who do you see as win – as taking this one home?

COMBS: Well, there are 8 artists nominated but I would say that the major contenders here are, again, Anya Marina, Crocodiles, Jason Mraz, and Slightly Stoopid.

CAVANAUGH: Now you predicted Jason Mraz will win but you're – don't seem to be too fond of that. Why is that, Seth?

COMBS: I wouldn't say I'm not fond of him. I mean, I'm a self-acknowledging music snob when it, you know, but I'd be lying if I said – if I said that I didn't find his music somewhat catchy. There's – Here's the thing. Over four million people downloaded Jason Mraz's single. It's called "I'm Yours." Since it's been released, it broke a decade-long record previously held by LeAnn Rimes by spending 70 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. So I mean, I can be as opinionated as I want to be but how do I argue with four million people? I try to but, I mean, really, I'm going to lose.

CAVANAUGH: I – I wouldn't say yes, but I wouldn't say no either. There…

COMBS: I put up a good fight but, you know…

CAVANAUGH: There's a Lifetime Award category as well. And they are going to – you – we know who are going to win this award.

COMBS: Yes, it's…

CAVANAUGH: It's a punk band called The Zeros. Tell us who they are.

COMBS: The Zeros. A great unacknowledged, unrecognized band who came from very humble beginnings in Chula Vista and began playing punk music in the mid-seventies, you know, while a band like the Ramones, who are considered to be the fathers of punk, they didn't release their debut album until a year later. So they were essentially, The Zeros, were essentially playing this kind of music before a lot of the bands who are – you know, got big in the scene. Just as important, in my opinion, as those bands in the annals of punk rock. They just happened to live on the wrong coast, I think.

CAVANAUGH: Oh. Well, let's hear their song "Beat Your Heart Out." They were famous for playing this over and over and over again. It's The Zeros with "Beat Your Heart Out."

(audio of clip from "Beat Your Heart Out" by The Zeros)

CAVANAUGH: Those are the Lifetime Award winners at tonight's San Diego Music Awards, The Zeros with their song "Beat Your Heart Out." Now we should mention in only the minute we have left, Seth, that some of the proceeds from the Music Awards do go to Taylor Guitars and the Schools program. And tell us how that program works.

COMBS: Well, what they essentially do, real quickly, they buy what they call Baby Taylor guitars, which are just, you know, very smaller versions of a regular Taylor gar – Taylor guitar and they buy them at cost and they donate them to kids in elementary schools all over the county and last time I checked, over, I think, 1300 guitars had been donated to kids that just want to learn to play rock music or play music in general.

CAVANAUGH: So the San Diego Music Awards, our schools win, too.

COMBS: Absolutely, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much, Seth, for telling us about all of this. I really appreciate it.

COMBS: Not a problem. Thanks so much for having me.

CAVANAUGH: Seth Combs is the arts editor at San Diego CityBeat. The 19th Annual San Diego Music Awards take place tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Viejas Concerts in the Park. You can read more about the awards in this week's San Diego CityBeat, and on the Awards' website which is

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