The Boston Music Awards took over the Sinclair in Cambridge last week (Dec. 9 and 10), inviting 17 local acts to perform for the two-day event. The 28th annual ceremony honoring local musicians moved its locale to the restaurant-rock venue, changed its voting policy and adopted an invite-only policy for night one under its new ownership, welcomed changes for some attending honorees.
“I feel like the BMAs were opening up the nominating opening up the nominating committee was a huge step towards saying, ‘I hear you, I see you,'" said Pop Artist and Female Vocalist of the Year-winning artist Ruby Rose Fox.
This year's BMA co-owners Paul Armstrong and Jake Brennan doubled the number of voters to a 400-member nomination committee and expanded celebration into a two-night affair to celebrate Hall of Fame winner Evan Dando of The Lemonheads.
“[We want to] celebrate the artists who work around the clock, 365 days a year,” said Armstrong, whose resume includes co-founder of Boston online music pubVanyaland and creative services director at the now-defunct radio station WFNX.
Additionally, moving toward a performance-centered program at a music venue, opposed to the hotels (Revere, The Liberty) of the past, changed the tone of the evening, putting the focus back on the music.
“It was very show-focused,” added 2014 BMA nominee and scene supporter Glenn di Benedetto. “You couldn’t really get away from the fact that these were really good acts.”
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There were 29 awards given out that night, but here are five you can't walk away without knowing.
Pop Artist of the Year: Ruby Rose Fox
Powerful vocals and bluesy rock ‘n roll define the nine-piece locals still hoping for a national breakout moment. Considering their spirited live show complete with three backup singers and carefully crafted pop songs, expect it to happen sooner than later.
International Artist of the Year: Shun Ng
Fingerpicking guitarist Shun Ng may have been brought up in Singapore but he’s made a name for himself in Boston since studying at Berklee College of Music in 2013. Now 25, the soul singer/songwriter has caught the attention of Queen guitarist Brian May and famed record producer Quincy Jones.
New Artist of the Year: Palehound
Singer/songwriter Ellen Kempner’s guitar skills and emotion-filled lyrics on her rock project Palehound make it difficult to comprehend that she’s only 21. Listen to her debut record Dry Food for the poetic lyrics but stay for its encompassing, visceral feeling.
Artist of the Year: Speedy Ortiz
The Sadie Dupuis-fronted group spins rock into an off-kilter, amalgam of spiky guitars and intelligent lyrics on the intimate aspects of life. The concoction is certainly working: after developing in the Boston DIY scene, Speedy Ortiz have since graduated to international club tours and festival dates.
Hall of Fame Inductee: Evan Dando of The Lemonheads
Often mentioned in the same breath as Dinosaur Jr., and fellow Bostonians The Pixies, The Lemonheads helped define ‘90s melodic indie rock. The Essex, MA-born frontman Dando is the only consistent member of the group known for alt rock hits like "It’s A Shame About Ray" and "Into Your Arms."