A dark venue lit with orange, pink, purple and blue spotlight hues. There is one giant center stage and a general floor with banquet tables. Three large screens are projected across on the wall. The center screen reads “Austin Music Awards” and the two screens on each side read “City of Austin and Office of Mayor Steve Adler, Sponsor of the Mayor’s House Band”.

37th Annual Austin Music Awards

By Maria Coraza
Music Journalist

On Wednesday, Feb. 27, Austin-based music lovers gathered together at ACL Live at The Moody Theater for the 37th Annual Austin Music Awards. After witnessing all of the inspirational speeches and diverse performances, the first word that comes to mind is family.

These instrumentalists, singer/songwriters, and musical enthusiasts make up the heart of Austin with their collaborative and fruitful nature. With no matter to age, gender, sexual orientation, color or background, they came together that night as a melting pot of musicians and storytellers. They honored their loved ones, shared a piece of their personal journey, and performed passionately despite the on-and-off technical difficulties.

South by Southwest and Austin Chronicle co-founder Louis Black even made a brief appearance expressing Austin’s genuine music culture and pride prior to the show.

“If you want to get famous or want to break pop-fifty, you go to New York, LA or Nashville,” said Black. “If you want to make music, you come to Austin.”

The jam-packed and banquet-style evening was entertained by a multitude of musical performances directed by legendary musician Charlie Saxton. The night kicked off with an opening melancholic performance by Jon Dee Graham performing Glover Gill’s “Dreamhouse: Cantus Firmus”. With Tosca Strings supporting Graham’s gritty-soulful vocals, it felt like a mysterious film noir. The soul did not end when switched to an expressive and bluesy electric guitar featuring accomplished female singer/songwriter Rosie Flores.

It was refreshing to see a diverse set of women being honored on stage. All-girl band, Sailer Poon (Best Punk Band), accepted their award with thanks to their voters and fans as well as sharing a monumental quote from a “pioneer of a genre”, Avril Lavigne: “It’s a lot more punk to tell people that you are not punk. Whatever.”

Emerging black artist Jackie Venson (Best Guitarist) accepted her award around her eighth year anniversary of picking up a guitar.

“I want you to know that I’m going to keep working hard,” said Venson. “Like so many women before me, I am going to continue to hold the door open for future women, especially black women.”

Latin-folk singer/songwriter, Gina Chavez (Best Latin & Female Vocalist), shared her passion for community and music while being surrounded by her band familia.

“I hope that in some small way my ability to get up on a stage and sing to audiences about being Catholic and lesbian and latina can start bringing people together who otherwise wouldn’t talk to each other because the world needs that right now,” said Chavez.

Notable award-winners Alejandro Escovedo (Townes Van Zandt Songwriting Award), Dianne Scott (Margaret Moser Women In Music Award) and Ruthie Foster (Austin Music Hall Of Fame) were celebrated for their significant contributions in the Austin music industry.

Unforgettable performances also included American singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega with her eighties top-hit “Tom’s Diner”, Black Pumas (Best New Austin Band) with their 2018 single “Black Moon Rising”, Singer/songwriter John Doe and Indian-rapper, Ahbi the Nomad, and a closing tribute to 90’s Austin hip-hop legend MC overlord featuring Dirty Wormz, Bavu Blakes, Tee Double, and Traygod Tha MC.

Proceeds of the 37th annual Austin Music Awards benefitted two organizations that provide access to mental health resources (SIMS Foundation) and affordable healthcare to working Austin Musicians (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians).  

Featured image by Maria Coraza.

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