The 2019 SAMMIES winners
This year, more than 40,000 votes were cast in SN&R’s Sacramento Area Music Awards, far exceeding participation the past four years. More than 250 artists were nominated in 29 categories in the 27th SAMMIES awards.
You voted. Here are the winners.
Nominees are selected through a combination of recommendations by promoters, venue owners and music experts in the community; popular vote among readers; and from our editorial staff. Winners are chosen purely by popular vote.
Thanks to everyone who participated in SN&R’s tradition of celebrating the local music scene, including the artists who put themselves out there and the experts who recommended nominees: Scott Holbrook, Paul Willis, Gabriell Garcia, Thomas Mackerness, Patrick Hills, Art Luna, Maya Wallace, Mindy Giles and Mark Kaiser.
Our annual Music Issue also has stories on some of the artists who are defining the city’s artistic renaissance. Read about them here.
Artist of the Year; Release of the Year; Music Video; Progressive Rock/Post-Hardcore
Dance Gavin Dance
The 14-year-old post-hardcore band still explores the frontiers of experimental rock, and with its 2018 album Artificial Selection, dared to take another giant leap in 14 songs. The album never takes shortcuts for radio play: Tirelessly technical guitar melodies waltz to heady rhythms, bloodletting screams and soul-pop vocals soar. The band had a great 2018 performing at Concerts in the Park and Aftershock, and toured globally for its eighth record. Travel between dimensions in the animated music video for “Son of Robot,” and read about co-founder and guitarist Will Swan’s record label for post-hardcore underdogs here.
Watch: “Son of Robot”
Band of Coyotes
These open-mic soloists formed a pack last June, and they’re casting a spell of woolen blues and Angus and Julia Stone-style ballads onto the music scene. Check out their 10th St. Sessions live video series on YouTube, and learn about their untamed species of sound here..
Lifetime Achievement Award
For more than 30 years, Perry has been Sacramento’s music scene champion. An event promoter for the storied Cattle Club in the ’90s, he introduced the city to Deftones and Cake, but also out-of-towners such No Doubt and Green Day when they were on the rise. Countless Friday night summer concerts in Cesar Chavez Plaza, the annual Chalk It Up! Festival and SAMMIES awards shows make Perry one of Sac’s most prolific event promoters. Perry recently suffered a stroke and is recovering. Read about his legacy and health here.
Creative Achievement in Support of the Music Scene
Girls Rock Sacramento
This summer day-camp turns teens and pre-teens into rock stars. Led by a team of local musicmakers including Larisa Bryski, a former Skips Music Stairway to Stardom director, the organization empowers girls of all skill levels and music genres to find their voice through songwriting and performance, culminating every year in a showcase at Ace of Spades.
Hobo Johnson & The LoveMakers
Hobo Johnson’s viral live audition for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert was divisive on the internet, and the folk-rapper opened a what-is-real-art rift among fans when he released a music video for the recorded version. What was better, Frank Lopes admitting his feelings to millions of smartphone users from a backyard, or the music video’s choreographed dance in Star Wars costumes? Learn more about Sacramento’s latest claim-to-fame here.
Watch: ”Peach Scone” (live version)
Last November, blues-Americana maven Katie Knipp released her fifth album, Take It With You. The 10-song mardi gras marathon launched her to the Top 10 Billboard Blues Album charts nationwide. She strives to be the first of her kind to reach major airwaves: a mother of two kids, a 20-year blues multi-instrumentalist and piano teacher. Opening for Grammy-winner Robert Cray at the Crest Theatre last year, she’s well on her way.
Listen to: “I Don’t Sing For You”
She marks her second consecutive win in this category, and you’ll be hearing from Amanda Gray soon. She plans to release a solo EP and embark on a West Coast tour in 2019. A competitive singer since she was 10 years old, her voice is center stage to her alt-country sound. Flanked by steel-string acoustic guitar and violin, it’s deep, dynamic and powerfully somber.
Listen to: “Weep For Me Willow Tree”
Cover Band/Tribute Band
MoonShine Crazy isn’t a “tear-in-your-beer” country band. That means no sad song requests and no crying on the dance floor. It provokes jigs and gyrations through modern and classic country, and popular rock songs old and new. Keep an eye on the band’s calendar, because it does a decent job of selling out shows.
DJ Elements has an impressive turntable resume. He’s spun for the Kings, Lil Jon, Steve Aoki and LMFAO. He plays a big role in creating a dynamic playlist for downtown nightlife, holding residencies at The Park Ultra Lounge, Mangos and Social Nightclub.
My Cousin Vinny
You might have seen Vinny turn tables for thousands of people at Concerts in the Park last year, opening for the electronic duo Rituals of Mine. The artist with a name that references the Joe Pesci mafia comedy is also developing original music, inspired by the global bass and EDM he normally twists.
2019’s champion lyricist is also an educator driven to help others find their purpose. Read more about him and other socially conscious hip-hop artists here.
In 2018, Malone was the SAMMIES Artist of the Year, and took home awards in the Singer-Songwriter and Folk/Bluegrass categories as well. Steep yourself in Americana meditations woven with earthly instruments in her 2017 albums Miles Left to Walk and The Waiting Hours.
Listen to: “Porch Swing Sundays”
Joy and Madness
Formed in 2013 from another great funk band called The Nibblers, Joy and Madness are 2019’s funk royalty. The eight members are all world-class musicians, and their frantic vibes are like medicine for mood swings. Be cool with their 2015 EP Little Bright World.
Watch: “Shook Down”
California Riot Act
Yay for California Riot Act, and yay for Auburn as a music town that has its share of great players. This is the band’s second consecutive win in the category. A new album is on the way, but for now, bask in their ’90s hard rock-influenced LP Welcome to California.
Listen to: “Welcome to California”
House of Mary
Aubrie Arnoux and Spencer Byrnes worship Stevie Nicks, and the duo’s mystical folk-love tales will remind you of the singer-songwriter and her days in Fleetwood Mac. House of Mary’s second album will release this year. Meantime, listen to their 2017 Release of the Year nominee Clout.
Listen to: “More Problems”
City of Trees Brass Band
New Orleans style second-line is alive and well in Sacramento. If you hear a parade of brass blares coming your way, don’t run. Let City of Tree Brass Band kidnap you into its blusterous celebration of life.
A Waking Memory
A Waking Memory are metal-scene newcomers, and their hotheaded deathcore nihilism—influenced by bands such as Suicide Silence, Slipknot and Thy Art is Murder—is a humbling beatdown in a good way. Catch a bad dream or two with their EP These Words Were Written in Cold Blood.
Listen to: “It’s Your Funeral”
John Morris has been putting local artists’ dreams to the soundboard at Tanglewood Recording Studios since 1992. At the Folsom Lake HQ he built from scratch, Morris has recorded some noteworthy Sac talent, including Jessica Malone, Frankie and the Defenders, and Dana Moret & Mr. December.
Listen to: “Miles Left to Walk” by Hobo Johnson
Life of the Afterparty
If crunched guitars and smooth vocals inspired by The Killers, Green Day and Twenty One Pilots sounds like a party, then the tunes of this Folsom alt/punk trio are what you’d enjoy putting on repeat following that. Their untitled debut album drops in April.
Listen to: “Don’t Waste My Time”
Ode to Saturday
“Every day is Saturday.” That’s the mantra of Deiy Leone and Jordan Kalé, an avante-garde R&B duo worth your curiosity seven days a week. Their EP Last Saturday Night just dropped on March 24, with a full album planned next.
Listen to: Last Saturday Night
Arden Park Roots
These SAMMIES Hall-of-Famers are so proud of their hometown, they’ve included an entire Sacramento neighborhood in their band name. And we’re proud of them: their Sublime-style rock-reggae songs have been a part of Sac’s musical DNA for 12 years. Congrats on the fifth SAMMIE.
Listen to: “Under the Sun”
Island of Black and White
The year’s lone Hall of Fame inductee plays everything: rock, blues, alternative, folk. They keep the energy upbeat, and the five are all really good musicians. Lead vocalist Chris Haislet is particularly fun to watch for a stunt he performs live, playing an accordion while riding a unicycle. Congrats on making the Hall of Fame. Read the full list of inductees over the last 27 years here..
Listen to: IBW
Frankie and the Defenders
There’s a close-knit community of rockabilly acts in Sacramento, from The Twilight Drifters to Dyana & The Cherry Kings. Frankie and the Defenders are particularly electric, going full-swing on songs that harken back to the decade of Elvis Presley and the Stray Cats. Check out their 2017 album, Women Cars and Guitars.
Listen to: Women Cars and Guitars
A Veteran songwriter who recently traded the Cleveland music scene for Sac, Evans heads the Sacramento Songwriter Circle, a community of some 30 musicians looking to grow in their craft together. Follow her vlog on YouTube, where she aims to write 12 songs in 12 months.
Listen to: “20 Years From Now”
The indie-emo band may not be old enough to drink, but we can all drink to them and their SAMMIES win this year. Vibe with their frankly somber and simply catchy EP The Giving Tree.
Listen to: “Eraser”
Genres can’t really contain Achilles Wheel, the Nevada City/Placerville band that wants you to dance to rock ’n’ roll, roots and a global pallet of grooves. Get the full experience live, or check out their 2016 record Sanctuary.