For Lifetime Achievement Award winner Larry Heard, the trek across country wasn’t possible so instead he sent his best rep in Brett Dancer, owner of Track Mode Recordings. Up from Baltimore just to say thanks in person and bringing Larry’s well-deserving spirit with him, Brett was another last minute confirmation that really made an effort to show his support of the Awards and the voters. Thanks again for taking the ride. Last year’s biggest winners, Blaze were a no-show but were ably represented by Ian Friday who accepted their nod for Album of the Year, SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING.
After bringing down the house at the first CHOICE Awards event last year, was it any surprise that Solu Music’s Kimblee earned this year's Artist of the Year trophy? Accepting her honor from producer / DJ / friend Wil Milton, Kimblee’s ovation was the most enthusiastic of the night. Moved by the power of her award and their role in helping to launch the ubiquitous single “Fade (Wave Music),” Club Shelter’s Freddie Sanon took the mic to express his respect for our program and to spread some love our way for producing this completely un-sponsored event. That was a great segue to our first ever raffle of a classic MAW conference bag filled to the brim with assorted promos, swag bag junk and UA.com love that went to jojo’s sister who drove down from Montreal for the night with her brother.
Returning to one of the best closing acts we know, we welcomed Kimblee back to perform everyone’s favorite classic “Fade” – this time the Hex Hector remix version, along with her latest releases with Wil Milton. There were plenty of times we didn’t think we would make it but on the strength of Kimblee’s ecstatic performance and our own belief that we will never fade, we dare you to see what we come up with next year!
Next it was on to key awards for Best Website, Radio Show and another multi-winner for Best Emerging Talent / Track of the Year. Presenting Best Website to two-time champion Deep House Page was community member Shalewa who brought NYC webmaster Timmy Richardson to the stage to deliver site creator G-man’s sincerest thanks. Pinch-hitting for ailing 2001 CHOICE Award winner DeeJay True, we surprised this year’s Best Radio Show victor Jeannie Hopper with long-time friend and Groove Collective co-founder Jay Rodrigues as her presenter. He already provides her show’s ethereal opening theme and his words of respect and awe of her talent were very touching. Hopper offered a quick timeline of her decade old show and of course, thanked everyone for helping her achieve such an important milestone in her career. Representing for German winners Needs – who copped Best Emerging Talent and Track of the Year honors, we dug up For The Record pool president Jeffrey Allen to read their prepared statement. Even with his glasses, he had trouble reading their comments explaining why we’ll be implementing rehearsal sessions for all subsequent awards presentations. ;0)
Accepting on behalf of her husband and production partners Little Louie Vega & Kenny Dope, new vocalist Anané picked up the Award for Best Annual Event – fresh from the airport and on the way to their big Union Square Ballroom party after our show. Lending a very beautiful touch to the festivities, she had the room hollering as much for the Louie-penned acceptance speech as for sporting the second-best dress of the night. (Sorry but Brooklyn-based designer Moshood made sure I had the first. S N S to Kunle!) Just before heading to his own BKNY 667 event, Tyrone Francis stepped up to introduce Brooklyn vet and our shyest winner yet, DJ Spinna. Accepting top prizes for Song and DJ of the Year, it was clear this humble hot-boy was less than comfortable under the lights but his sincere speech and warm smile confirmed that he deserved to win such coveted awards. Keep your eye on that one for real!
Repping for the international massive, the equally lovely jojoflores was our International DJ of Year Award winner who not only won by a landslide but earned best dressed man honors for his stylish attire and more likely, the extra squeez-y hug I got. EMan served as his non-controversial presenter and as I mentioned before, we were honored to have them both participating in such a positive way. Every event needs a touch of class and all of these participants really brought it.
And kick it off we did. Singing one of 2003’s biggest buzz records, Lorenzo Tyler delivered a rousing version of the Carlos Sanchez produced single “Spirit of the Dance” (SLAAG RECORDS) before premiering the DJ Camacho produced track, ”Life”. As a 12th hour substitute, Tyler proved why he’s one of the best new underground artists we can’t wait to hear more from and he put the emphasis right where it belongs – on the music and those who make it happen on the dancefloor. Taking our cue from your CHOICE for Best Venue / Best Local Event for dancing, we welcomed our first co-host to the stage – Ms Carolyn Byrd, to present the award to John Best for Club Shelter. This diverse renaissance man (he’s a former model and current international man of mystery) has been leading the club for the last couple of years and is another of the industry faces you rarely see, let alone hear. In his first turn at the mic, he thanked their loyal supporters for helping them win two years in a row and promised more good parties to come.
We broke up the Shelter love-fest by presenting another multi-award winner, Spiritual Life Music. Joe Claussell, traveling from Mexico, just missed coming in person but label manager Kamati Pinkston appeared and accepted their Best Compilation / Best Indie Label honors from another mystery industry face, David Leifer. If you are lucky enough to be on his email list, then you know him for his outspoken culture critiques, endless supply of funny forwards or the useful entertainment schedules and artist details that only he seems to get. As a long-time friend of Joe and the label, he pointed out the importance of niche imprints like SLM to fill the void for our more unique music styles and praised them for their work over the years. In his acceptance speech, Kamati expressed Claussell’s gratitude on winning and kicked off the hugging craze with a really big one for me. Then it was time to honor your CHOICE for Promoter of the Year and welcome Robbi to the stage where he accepted his second consecutive win in the category.
With 2002 being one of the toughest years ever for dance music, celebrating it became even more important. Faced with diminished sales, closing venues and top-level executive firings, it was time for the collective industry to get some much-needed hugs. Luckily, I got lots of them tonight too, but stay tuned for those details later. Thanks to you though, the amount of total votes for 2003 was well into the upper thousands proving that if you build it, we will come and that soulful dance music is still alive around the world. Which brings me to the UA.com CHOICE Awards presentation version 2.0… where do I begin? Of course, at the beginning but let’s get the thank you shout-outs handled first.
The biggest thanks go to my hardworking webmasters Zuna Media who keep us looking, running and sounding great. Your support is always appreciated and never underestimated, so keep up the excellent work (please)! Thanks again to 2x UA.com CHOICE Award winning promoter Robbi for continuing to get the word out about our program. Thanks to the members of our Executive Planning Committee for helping select another tight list of nominees...and to the UA.com resident DJs Donna Edwards and Jemal C who rocked the box with extended sets that kept you moving and grooving till the start of the show. Wet smooches to Ricky for donating Opaline and an open bar for the second year at his fashionable LES venue. Your support has really helped us get off the ground.
Kudos to our participating artists Joey Vega and Roy Morrison (the dancer ‘Superman’) for delivering such great work. Thanks for sharing your paintings and original club photographs offering us a look into the fine art culture of our beautiful scene. Luis Kee, you are an excellent host and "the man" at the door – thanks for getting our guests to pony up some dough driving our first raffle to such great success. To my very able-bodied soundman Jack, you are still the best and I won’t have an event without you. Lorenzo Tyler and Carlos Sanchez, thanks for saving me on the performance tip and bringing the "Spirit of the Dance" to us all. Shout out to my new co-host Carolyn Byrd, who we’ll certainly see again.
Last and certainly not least, my sincerest gratitude goes out to the nominees, voters, winners and party people who support us with their participation and attendance. Without you, we are truly nothing and I look forward to seeing you all again in 2004! Let's kick this off.