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High Energy, High Spirits at L.A. Awards

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Celebrating what the evening’s host El Vez called “the diversity, the creativity, the culture that is L.A. music,” the L.A. Weekly Music Awards opened on Tuesday at the Palace with a campy, mock-Vegas production number, then zoomed through 20 presentations and five performances in less than two hours.

The alternative news and arts weekly revived the awards, last held in 1987, for a fourth installment, which capped a series of concerts and other events surrounding L.A. Music Week, co-sponsored by the Weekly and other organizations. The winners were determined by the paper’s music writers.

Acceptance speeches were brief to nonexistent, and the audience consisted mostly of nominees, presenters and local music luminaries. But the spirit of the event shone in the wide range of stellar performances, including a lively number by Bobby Matos’ Afro-Cuban Ensemble (winner of the best salsa/Latin award), a powerful pair of tunes by hip-hop artist Medusa and an ethereal turn from Nels Cline and his band (named best new genre/uncategorizable).

Best rock band winner the BellRays nearly incinerated the place with their hard-hitting soul-punk fury, while alternative-pop group the Negro Problem paid homage to an earlier era of L.A. pop with a spirited rendition of the 1974 Redbone hit “Come and Get Your Love.”

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The evening’s biggest winner was rap act Black Eyed Peas, which took both best rap/hip-hop and best new artist on the strength of its 1998 debut album, “Behind the Front,” a positive-minded blend of hip-hop, soul and funk.

Some questioned the quirky choice of the Cramps for rock/pop lifetime achievement (from a field of nominees that included Hadda Brooks, Dick Dale, Arthur Lee and Mike Watt), but few quibbled when jazz musician and teacher Buddy Collette won the “jazz eminence” award.

Other winners were the Leaving Trains, Backbiter, Possum Dixon, Rosie Flores, Etta James, Ozomatli, Davie Allan & the Arrows, Cut Chemist, Rodney Bingenheimer, Hepcat, California E.A.R. Unit, Beck and the KXLU-FM program “Blues Hotel.”


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