Motif Music Awards

Motif Music Awards Recap

There is a helmeted man in a reflective aluminum suit juggling bowling balls in the corner. A gang of mustachioed cowboys coagulate off on the side of a winding staircase, a tall, thin-heeled woman whisks by in a dramatically long fur coat, underneath a man unwrapping aux cords from a blue-lit stage. Bass music alternating with ’90s rock pumps at low volume from the speakers. The main bar is too crowded to get a drink, so a young band member retreats to a side room/bar themed with pink lights and bikini-bottom flowers; here is a low-to-the-ground table full of coloring books and buckets of crayons, where kids and adults sit zen-like, scribbling. A camera snaps in the main foyer, illuminating a glowing, shaggy haired jam-bander. Behind his gnarled blonde head the auditorium chairs start to fill and the folk back at the bar rotate toward the stage. A low, anticipatory hush falls over the horizon of hats and wild hair-dos. The background music stops. The feedback of a guitar being plugged into an amp reverberates through the crowd as converse-donning musicians file in from either side to take their places behind an instrument. Beth Barron takes the podium as the man behind the spotlight swings it on her. The whites of the audiences’ eyes stare back from the one bright light in the otherwise inky-blue room. She takes the mic, a smile breaking across her face, “I’d like to welcome you to the 17th annual Motif Music Awards!”
As PVD’s music scene grows, so does Motif’s RI Music Awards. Sponsored by R1 Indoor Karting and Fête Music Hall, the event’s crowd boasted more than 400 people, there to celebrate roughly 53 categories. A table of crafted Motif award trophies lay in wait on a table to be accepted by victorious hands, reminiscent of a conversational fragment I heard at the bar calling this, “the GRAMMYs of Rhode Island.” I don’t know about all that. What I didn’t see at this year’s awards was the egoism of the Grammys; what I did see was a community that is re-strengthening the bonds that frayed after 3 years of a pandemic where the main victim was this very industry.
The awards had four live performances between nominations, beginning with the reincarnation of Janis Joplin and Guns ’n’ Roses by young members from the Seekonk School of Rock, and ending with the kick-ass, heart-breaking set by Iz and Ly from their band, FINE. The soft, eerie folk of a performance by Vudu Sister lingered after the purple-hazed jam funk from a slamming performance by Appala’s Eclipse.
Encapsulated in the acceptance speeches themselves was the spirit and diversity of Rhode Island’s music scene. From Favorite Punk Act winner Sourpunch’s, “Fucking hippies! We’re playing the after party at Alchemy, which means they can’t throw me out so have a shot with me, Providence!” to winner of Favorite Hip-Hop album Jesse the Tree’s, “RI hip-hop is definitely real. Get in tune. There’s a renaissance going on and it’s worth checking out;” to the prepared, written speech from the winner of Favorite Country Act Jake Hunsinger & the Rock Bottom Band, “Thank you from Texas!” (where they were touring), there was an omnipresent sense that the beauty of PVD’s creative capital stretched beyond the bounds of our state, tapping into the bigger essence of what it means to be artists, and what it means to be human, in this chaotic mess of a world.
As the night wound to an end, the crowd thinned, departing either to their beds or the after-party. I found myself leaned against a corner pillar, holding a luke-warm Narragansett; a bartender chugged an energy drink, and the hallway emptied while cigarette smoke eked in from the outside patio. To a nearly emptied audience, and a few drunk celebrating band members, an exhausted but still exuberant Barbi Jo (92 PRO FM) and Mike Delehanty (Union Station Brewery) took the stage to announce the winner of Favorite Electronic Act. The tall, bustling thin heeled woman in the fur coat from earlier took the stage to accept the award as Jackie and the Wizard. She took the stage and leaned into the microphone, looking out across the tired raw-throated murmurings that comfortably settle after a successful evening, “I want to give this award to every band in RI who keeps booking shows, just to show people what they think… stay free Rhode Island, stay free.” – Mara Hagen

Read about all the winners here!