Every spring, I sort through a stack of Sammies nomination surveys from the area’s bookers, musicians, radio DJs and club owners. Some are meticulously detailed, with bands listed in order of preference. Others bear hastily scribbled notes like, “Losin Streaks rock!” Even after eliminating bands that have broken up or aren’t from Sacramento (and the musicians who’ve nominated themselves), it still takes hours to calculate the year’s Sammies nominees.
What this means, aside from the fact that my job can be complicated, is that the local music scene—like Sacramento and the universe in general—is expanding. This year, the Sammies nominating committee offered 44 different suggestions for “outstanding rock band” alone. If people steeped in the music scene can name that many local bands they think are the best; then those 44 must be just the tip of an iceberg composed of teenage garage bands, bedroom recording artists and musicians still acquiring their chops.
Keeping track of musical culture, even at the local level, can be exhausting. Luckily, SN&R has the encyclopedic knowledge of Jackson Griffith at its disposal. In this week’s cover story, “Secret history of Sacramento music,” he chronicles Sacramento’s pop-music history in the decades before the Sammies existed—when the Cramps were college students at California State University, Sacramento, when fans played air guitar along with proto-Tesla outfit City Kidd at the Oasis Ballroom, when pickup trucks hummed with the sweet country sounds of KRAK 1140 AM, and when Tales of Terror recorded an album that influenced the songwriting of a young Kurt Cobain.
Since 1992, we’ve also had the guiding musical force of the Sacramento Area Music Awards, the 15th installment of which happens Wednesday, July 12, at the Crest Theatre. Fans and critics have put in the time listening to local acts in bars and on CDs, and they’ve delivered their educated opinions on the area’s best music to our Sammies polls. All you have to do is show up and take in live performances by 12 heavy hitters (plus nine up-and-comers on the Jammies second stage). By night’s end, you’ll be totally caught up on the local music scene. Until next year.