Music Award Winners

Centerspreads Centerspreads2 Centerspreads4Rock Breakthrough Act: Benji’s

Our 2019 Breakthrough Act’s first EP came out four years ago, but the RI community is finally starting to take notice. Much like religious minorities seeking liberty, founders Maryssa Morse Philip Geronimo came to PVD in 2014 from LA. Their music reminds me of surfy Pixies mixed with early 2000s Franz Ferdinand. Catch the Benji’s on April 16 at the News Cafe. – JB

Rock Live Act: The Silks


What else is there to say about these local heavyweights and previous winners? They’re probably known best for the guitar pyrotechnics of Tyler-James Kelley, but this band hasn’t gotten where they are by dragging dead weight. Uncle Sam Jodrey on drums, Jonas Parmelee on bass and Johnny Trama on rhythm and lead guitar bring it all together beautifully. Folks in the Boston area have now seen the lSilks’ Swampy, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll that takes no prisoners. – JB

Rock — Favorite Female Vocalist: Tai Awolaju (Boo City)

Tai Awolaju is the backbone of Boo City along with guitarist Andrew Moon Bain. Her show-stealing voice keeps the band’s diverse mix of soul, rock and reggae moving in the right direction. Throw in a dynamic and commanding stage presence, and this Motif award comes as no surprise to those already hip to Boo City. – JB

Favorite Punk Act: The McGunks

Previous winners of the award back in 2012, The McGunks have been tearing through New England since 2003 with their brand of rollicking singalongs about barrooms and beers in the vein of Social D and Dropkick Murphys. Check out their music live at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain on May 4. – JB

Favorite Pop Punk Act: The Callouts

Pop punk is not a lost art, and The Callouts prove it in convincing fashion. Their second album,  give up, just out in January, shows no signs of a sophomore slump, with hook machines like “Amelia” and “Reverse Clooney.” Catch The Callouts at Rob Duguay’s birthday bash April 19 at the News Cafe. – JB

Favorite Cover Band: Sybil Disobedience

It’s just another year in the life of Sybil Disobedience. I hope they have commissioned a trophy case for all these awards, because this is Sybil’s fourth Motif trophy in a row, an impressive achievement. Sybil is the go-to cover band that goes from top 40 to classic rock, and keeps the party going all over RI. – JB

Favorite Post Punk Act: Hope Anchor

It’s the second win in a row in this category for Hope Anchor, who played a killer set at last year’s Motif Music awards. The crew made up of Paul Everett, Terry Linehan, Ray Memery, Robbie Shaggs and Paul Myers was described by Marc Clarkin as “indie rock that reminds me of some descendant of Echo & the Bunnymen and Wire.” And with maybe the hardest-reppin’ RI band name out there, what’s not to like? – JB

Favorite Female Singer / Songwriter: Amanda Salemi

Amanda Salemi’s words and music are the secret sauce that gives Consuelo’s Revenge its signature eclectic folk gypsy punk vibe. Listen to the beautiful “Teri’s Song” or the barnstorming “The Palatine Light” to see what I mean. While CR has another album on the way, Salemi is reportedly working on her first solo album, which likely means more Motif awards to come. You can see Salemi in the flesh at one of Rob Duguay’s turnt up Birthday Benefit Bashes, April 19 at the News Café. – JB

Favorite House Band: Nick-A-Nee’s House Band

Props to the house band at everyone’s favorite dive bar! The band includes keyboardist John Juxo, Hawk Rocco, Jim Morgan and Jim Kelley, and they take the stage every Monday night at Nick-a-Nee’s on South Street in the Jewelry District. – JB

Favorite Reggae Act: Hope Road

Hope Road are a tribute to Bob Marley and The Wailers, and they play a vital role in breathing new life into those songs.  I’m not sure why they got cast in reggae vs. tribute, but since they do both, it isn’t really a big deal. You can catch Hope Road when they bring the rasta jams to the Ocean Mist on April 20. 4/20 and all. – MC

Favorite Ska Band: The Copacetics

The dynasty continues as once again The Copacetics take home the honors for “Favorite Ska Act” for lord only knows how many years in a row. I’m guessing at least six years, but even that could be selling them short. They dominate this category as if they were the Beatles of local ska. The Copaceptics are next in action at Askew on May 17. – MC

Favorite Jam Band: The Cosmic Factory

I caught The Cosmic Factory recently and it was a haze of funk-fueled mind-bending rock. The Cosmic Factory have a couple of upcoming gigs, including one at The Oasis Pub in New London, Conn, on April 5 and in PVD at AS220’s Psychic Readings on April 18. – MC

Favorite Garage Band: Eric and the Nothing

This has been a huge year for Eric and the Nothing as they released their debut self-titled debut, which sounds great — highly recommend that you pick it up in vinyl. Eric and the Nothing are more or a throwback to ’50’ Buddy Holly style rock ‘n’ roll than traditional garage rock but hey, I’m good with whatever you kids want to vote for. These guys deserve it. Eric and the Nothing are next in action at AS220 as part of a killer bill on April 24. – MC

Favorite Dance Night: Soul Power

Speaking of dynasties, Soul Power is working on its own by taking top honors for at least the fifth year in a row. DJs John O’Leary and the dance commander himself, Ty Jesso, bring the party to Dusk twice a month on the second and last Fridays of the month. I’ve been going to Soul Power for the last 15 years and will keep going for another 15 as long as it and I’m still around. Soul Power bring the best of mostly ’60s soul, go-go, mod, garage, funk and a truckload of fun! – MC

Favorite Harcore/Metal Act: Rhode Kill

Rhode Kill has been cranking out loud blasts of metal and punk since 2005 and are showing no signs of slowing down. These guys have paid their dues and then some. Rhode Kill recently posted that they have some heavy new jams in the works, which I look forward to hearing. – MC

Favorite Noise Band: Dropdead 

Dropdead has been pounding a mix of political hardcore and thrash since 1991. They have released albums and traveled the world and really mean too much to so many people around the world to be a local band. I didn’t think Dropdead really needed a nomination, but sometimes people don’t listen to me. I was excited to see Dropdead recently post photos with the caption stating they had 20-something plus new jams that they are working on.  Can’t wait to hear them; singer Bob Otis is a needed voice in these Trumpian times. – MC

Favorite Tribute Act: Dirty Deeds

Speaking of dynasties, how about Dirty Deeds who are another band that has to be close to at least five consecutive wins? Next year I’m going to suggest adding a new category called Favorite Non-AC/DC Tribute act just to give another band a chance. Dirty Deeds are an interesting story; they have been cranking out those classic AC/DC riffs so long that the band has two generations of family members. Dirty Deeds are at The Whiskey Republic in Providence on May 4. – MC

Favorite Rock Festival: PVD Fest

I can’t name one act that played last year’s PVD Fest and a year from now I probably won’t be able to name an act from this coming year’s fest. That really isn’t what PVD Fest is about. PVD Fest is a celebration of arts and culture in the city. It is just fun to walk through and stop by the different stages and experience all the different genres of music melded together. This year’s PVD Fest will take place June 6 – 9 all over downtown PVD. – MC

Favorite Rock Album and Favorite Male Rock Vocalist: Blackoute Deluxe by Ravi Shavi – Rafay Rashid

On Blackout Deluxe, Ravi Shavi expanded their palette to include psychedelic and funk sonic waves while retaining plenty of the high-energy alterna-punk that has long been their calling card. Singer/Guitarist Rafay Rashid, who took the honors for “Favorite Male Vocalist,” has a solo show coming up at the Columbus Theatre on April 4 as part of the WHEM 2 Year Anniversary show, opening for The Horse-Eyed Men. – MC   

Favorite Rock Act: Tall Teenagers

Despite being neither tall nor teenagers, Tall Teenagers come as advertised if it’s dingy post-punk/ alternative rock with harmonies that is on the label. Tall Teenagers have two releases out of low-fi unsettling pop that reminds me of Pod-era Breeders meets Ty Segall at the Rock & Bowl on Saturday night. Next up for these giants is rocking out at the one year anniversary of Askew in Providence on April 20 with The Low Cards and Barn Burning. – MC

Favorite Sound Person: Kris Hansen

It’s one of those jobs that you don’t notice if it’s done well, but you definitely notice when it’s not. Well, voters are noticing you, Kris Hansen! Hansen is a true pro and has done sound at just about every club in Rhode Island. If your favorite band sounds particularly good one night, you just might have him to thank.  – EO

Favorite Wedding Band: Brass Attack

Once the I do’s are done, the real party starts, and Brass Attack is this year’s favorites among voters who like to get down on the dance floor to woo that cute bridesmaid or groomsman. Tying the knot this year? Make sure your ring isn’t brass, but your band is. – EO

Favorite Photographer: Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson started photographing live shows for local act Sybil Disobedience, then began getting calls to shoot other band’s shows. He said of his work that “I make enough money to put pizza in my belly and pay for my big camera.” What more could a photographer ask for? – EO

Favorite Music Video: “Victims” by Mass of Man

This is a new category in the Motif music awards this year. Check out Mass of Man’s winning video tht accompanies their meaningful and hard-hitting song here: – EO

Favorite Country Act: RI Rednecks

It’s easy to forget that just about three-quarters of our tiny state is agricultural land, but the RI Rednecks will help you remember. These old boys have the look of a country band down pat — big hats, leather boots and good American blue jeans. More importantly, they have the sound. Jangling Telecaster and warbling vocals coming together over a solid shuffle in tune after tune. Suitable for all your yeehaw needs and available right in here town. – DS

Favorite Jazz Act: Take it to the Bridge/Greg Abate

Take it to the Bridge won Motif‘s music award for Favorite Jazz Act, but they declined the award since they don’t fit the genre and so the second place winner, Greg Abate, took home the trophy. Those keeping an eye on the local scene have undoubtedly felt the presence of the saxophonist who, between stints touring around the world, has called RI home and remains a constant fixture in the area, leading the charge of bebop excellence around the state. Dig his latest release Road To Forever and learn more at – BS

Favorite R&B Act: Steve Smith and the Nakeds

The sound of a full band playing truly American rock ‘n’ roll is harder and harder to find, but not if Steve Smith and his crew have anything to do with it. Sporting a full, robust sound, Steve Smith and the Nakeds do it right. Tight horn hits punctuate jangling piano, rollicking guitar and Smith’s hollering, joyous vocals. A mix of originals and well-advised covers blare out with unapologetic intensity at every turn. – DS

Favorite Math Rock / Prog Rock: David Tessier

It’s rare that an album name sells a mood so well as David Tessier’s Dreams in Hyperspace. Crunchy synths, metal-inspired guitar riffing and rapid-fire drumming give way in turn to gentle, swelling, thoughtful ballads like “Hey Mary.” Tessier’s harmonized vocals traverse the sometimes-unruly, sometimes-majestic backing music. Somewhere between Queen and King Crimson, deep into hyperspace you’ll find the sound that Tessier has managed to lock down so well. – DS

Favorite Bluegrass Band: Hollow Turtle

Hollow Turtle bucks the trends of folk rock moving into the world of saccharine, overly commercial pop ballads. Old-school style brings new-world grief to light in their careening, tightly wound vocal harmonies. Relentless strumming and plucking from the string section lifts the harrowed singing to great heights. Even the most steadfast bluegrass disparager will find their foot tapping when Hollow Turtle gets to it. – DS

Favorite World Music: Gnomes

Gnomes’ mythic name it seems is no accident. The band’s music channels old-world, fantastical folk. Penny whistle? Plenty of it. Plunking, thick bass lines? But of course. Accordion? Applied liberally. That’s not to say Gnomes’ catalog is all dusted-off, ancient tunes — somewhere in the studio and on the stage, a modern liveliness finds its way into the music. Whether any given song is Hassidic, Celtic, Slavic, African or even of some vague sea shanty origin, each brings something new and distinct to the table. – DS

Americana — Favorite Female Vocalist: Allysen Callery

The mood of much of Allysen Callery’s music is pleasantly dark. Her dappling, vamping chords provide fertile soil for her winding, explorative lyrics. Not all music needs to be cheerful and someone certainly let Callery in on that fact — her tunes are best suited for deep pondering, rainy days, cups of coffee gone cold and remembrances of days long past. And that’s a good thing. Her songs tell the kinds of stories that make you think, make you feel and make your eyes a little misty. – DS

Favorite Locally Based National Act: Roomful of Blues

There aren’t a lot of bands who manage to be contemporary now and when my parents were kiddos long ago. Roomful of Blues manages to hold that down and has done so for decades. Having played in virtually every venue across the state and boasting a staggering array of talent, this band is dear to fans of the blues in a way that few others ever have been. They touch every corner of the the genre with a no-fuss, big band sound that has earned them the status of legends. – DS

Favorite Male Singer/Songwriter: Nate Cozzolino

There’s comfort in Nate Cozzolino’s raspy singing. Even as his subject matter is often dark, a warmth permeates his music, thanks in no small part to his supremely talented backing band, The Lost Arts. There’s quiet triumph in here, told in the form of subtle bass runs and drum fills, all moving in perfect unison to Cozzolino’s cozy chord progressions. With a sound of important news from far away told in the form of a song, Cozzolino has found his niche. – DS

Favorite Open Mic: Tuesday at the Parlour

Favorite Karaoke Night: Friday at The Parlour

The Parlour has great music just about every night, so it’s no surprise that their Tuesday open mic is no different. A revolving cast of familiar and new faces plays to an enthusiastic crowd each week. Great sound production and drink prices are sure to please (nothing goes with cheap drinks like a no cover event). If you like what you see on Tuesdays, come back any other night of the week for a different theme and a different vibe, all in the same place. – DS

Favorite Street Band: Big Nazo

The Big Nazo band is its own experience. Not often enough do you get to see people in beautifully crafted and slightly creepy costumes getting their groove on over a brash, big-band sound. This crew had been around in one form or another for years, taking their unique PVD vibe around the world and holding down classic PVD staples like PVD Fest and Foo Fest when they can. If you’re thinking of GWAR for the whole family, you’re not too far off. – DS

Favorite Choral Act: Providence Gay Men’s Chorus

Full of hope and wonder, the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus truly knows how to work as a group. The combined sound of so many voices is full and rich, often teetering toward tear-inducing. Representing a slice of our city’s many LGBTQI folk, each song is an anthem of hope and inclusivity, told in many voices. Catch this huge ensemble whenever you can to take in the lush vocals and snappy attire. – DS

Favorite Folk Act: The Quahogs

Sometimes you want to go out and barroom brawl your troubles and sorrows away. Sometimes you just want to hear about someone else doing it. Steve Delmonico and the Quahogs behind him can help you do either, or probably both. Rowdy and raunchy, the band blasts out good old crunchy rock music that is welcome home in anywhere from beautiful Olneyville warehouses to the stripmall bars of Warwick. – DS

Americana — Favorite Male Vocalist: Steve Delmonico 

Steve Delmonico has the rare gift of singing with passion while still sounding tired of it all. His world-weary swagger is the gleaming shine on top of the Quahog’s sound, inviting listeners to take in his tales of worry and woe. He varies between outright howling and more ponderous crooning, with an occasional big “woo” thrown in for good measure. Big woos are good for morale, both for the band and the listener alike. – DS

Favorite Americana Album and Favorite Blues Act: Neal & The Vipers 

There’s a solid comfort in blues-rock arranged in 12 bars. It goes where you want it to, does what you came for and puts a smile on your face the whole time. Songs of exhaustion, the man, romantic partners who just don’t understand — you’ll get it all from Neal & The Vipers on their album One Drunken Kiss. They rock, they roll, they take big, loud solos whenever possible. They do everything you want them to and they do it well. – DS

Favorite Americana Act: Cactus Attack

Cactus Attack is able to mix cheery music with sour subject matter. It’s a skill that’s essential for a good country band, and Cactus Attack has mastered the blend. They avoid any overstuffing, even with strings upon strings plucking and bowing out all together. A deep-rooted coordination rules over the music. Hairpin turns and changes reveal not a single misplaced note. A prime example of the music of our previous generations making its way seamlessly into the hearts and minds of that elusive millennial generation. – DS

Favorite Americana Breakthrough Act: My Mother

According to their own words, My Mother is too intense to be called folk but too graceful to be labeled grunge. I’d be willing to say that’s true. The guitar is thick and confident, never wavering in its purpose of propelling dynamic and often chilling vocal harmonies that careen through unexpected but welcome melodies. Now that they’ve broken through, we’re all excited to see where this duo goes, all while walking such a fine line of genres. – DS

Favorite Locally Produced Festival: Rhythm and Roots

If you would like to see what a REAL music festival is like then you should check out this year’s Motif Award winner for Best Locally Produced Festival, The Rhythm and Roots Festival. This one has all the ingredients of a perfect festival experience: multiple music stages, camping, food, after hours jamming, dancing and much, much more. This festival has been happening at Ninigret Park in Charlestown every Labor Day weekend for more than 20 years and has presented performers such as Steve Earle, Little Feat, Natalie McMaster, Bruse Hornsby, Roseanne Cash, The Mavericks, Keb Mo, Los Lobos, Lake Street Dive, Lucinda Williams and many, many others! For more,  zydego-go to – JF

Favorite EDM DJ: DJ Leucistic
DJ Leucistic infuses Breakz, Electro, DubNWubz, Hard Trap and maybe some Hardstyle and Future House in what he calls a high energy open format. See him spin at FreQ Fridays at Alchemy. – CA-K
Favorite Goth Night: Phantasm at Alchemy
Phantasm was conceptualized about six years ago and has been going on for five years. Joey Electric runs the evenings, and he had this to say: “I don’t feel that Phantasm is different from other goth nights in New England. We champion the notion that music is a universal force that brings us all together. We come together at Phantasm to share the love of dark music, art and culture. We just love to dance to music with atmospheric synth, and this ideal is evident at other goth nights all over New England.” – CA-K
Favorite Club DJ: Pauly Danger

Pauly Dancer has been spinning music since 2002 when he had his first radio show as an undergrad at UVM, and he started playing in clubs in Burlington around 2006. His biggest inspirations include local DJs and radio personalities DJ A-Dog, Melo Grant, Nastee, Big Dog & Demus, DJ Cr-8, Fattie B and Selector Dubee. Follow him on Twitter @DJPaulyDanger to see where he’ll be performing. – CA-K 

Breakthrough Hip-Hop Act: $wifty

$wifty has a knack for fast-pace freestyling, and he’s continuously improved his craft since his high school days. From rapping in a close friend’s basement and Honda Oddysey (ask him about it, he’ll tell you) to better-equipped studios and time in Los Angeles, he’s never lose his unrelenting desire to progress upward on the mountain of success.

$wifty struck gold with his late 2017 single, “Cyclone.” which elevated his musical status and introduced him to a wider audience. The success continued as he fired off his next single, “Shame,” alongside labelmate Mags. At the top of 2018, $wifty dropped his debut project, Show & Tell a 10-song effort, which showed audiences his artistry, 10 years in the making. 

If you thought he had any plans of slowing down you are quite mistaken. Standing strong with rappers Mags & Young Sen with their newly established label, Problem Child Records, $wifty recently released a five-track EP titled Realest Out alongside producer guccydior. – WO

Favorite Hip-Hop Act: Toad and the Stooligans

Bands are a rarity in the hip-hop world, but Toad and the Stooligans are determined to lead the charge to break that norm. Repping my hometown of PVD, the five-member group is composed of frontman Mike Jencks, guitarist Dan Pomfret, bassist Alex Caimano, drummer Matt O’Brien and keyboardist Daniel Hill.

First coming together in early 2015, the five members joined to bend the general rules of hip-hop as much as possible. Funk and jazz are just a few of the genres that appear in their music and all these elements are all carefully placed paint strokes that create the landscape that is their sound.

The band launched their official start in the last quarter of 2017 with Very Handsome. Sporting 12 tracks, the album effectively introduced their unorthodox take on the genre. Since the release of Very Handsome, the group has stayed under the radar aside from their 2018 track, “Trap Song.” Hopefully, that just means they’re hard at work on a new project that we’ll see in the near future. – WO

Critic’s Choice: Chuck Wentworth
Chuck Wentworth received his critic’s choice award because of his long-time, behind-the-scenes, commitment to music in RI and beyond. His company, Lagniappe Productions, produces the annual Rhythm and Roots Festival in Charlestown, The Mardi Gras Ball at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet and more. He was also involved in other out-of-state festivals, such as the Grey Fox Bluegrass festival in upstate New York. In his earlier days, he also produced cajun and zydeco dances at community halls and festivals at Stepping Stone Ranch in Escohag. In addition to all of this, he was a DJ and the head of the Folk Radio at WRIU for more than 30 years. While he recently retired from WRIU he still works tirelessly to promote music through Lagniappe Productions. – JF

Critic’s Choice: Dan Lilley
Dan Lilley received his critic’s Choice Choice Award because of his 45 years of performing the RI music scene. Dan is a music warrior and stills plays just about every Friday and Saturday night, as a solo, in a duo or band somewhere in RI. Over the years his bands have included: Sane; Tyger, Tyger; The Flying Ditchdiggers, Lovetrain, Dan Lilley and the Keepers, Dan Lilley and Scatman, and Forever Young. He channels his soul into every performance whether it is for three people at the bar or a thousand at a theater. Lilley is also a songwriter and has recorded several albums of his own music. His song “Hey, Josephine” was the inspiration for the Rhode Island Songwriters Association to release an album of the Songwriters In The Round shows. Other songs he has written like “Jealous Heart” and Home Fires” should have been hits, but like the music of many local performers, it never received the right exposure. Nevertheless, he keeps playing and playing for you. In addition to his dedication to music, he has been an English teacher at Central High School in Providence for more than 30 years. – JF




Special Recognition Vocalist: Meaghan Casey

Meaghan Casey is a singer-songwriter who earned multiple nominations in this year’s awards. Casey was narrowly edged out coming in 2nd, but in all the categories she was nominated in, she got more votes than some of the winners. She is obviously a local favorite so we just wanted to recognize this very talented artist. You can catch Meaghan Casey at the Galactic Theatre in Warren on April 7 opening for Hollow Turtle. – MC


Critic’s Pick for Favorite Album: Jay Berndt & The Orphans Life, Love, & Loss  The long awaited debut album from Jay Berndt & The Orphans, Life, Love, & Loss, more than lived up to the hype the band’s electrifying live shows have generated. There is a heavy Springsteen influence running throughout the album between the mix of rockers and ballads with tasteful horns. My favorite jam on this one is “Sweet Marie” but Life, Love, & Loss is a rare album that I’ll tend to listen all the way through when I pop it on. Jay Berndt & The Orphans will be rocking out at the News Cafe in Pawtucket on April 19.  – MC


Special Recognition Rock: 123 Astronaut

123 Astronaut bolted on the scene with the release of their debut EP, The Friction. 123 Astronaut play guitar dominated alterna-indie rock that culls from across the decades and quite possibly the galaxies considering singer/guitarist Jeff Robbins taste for space wear.  123 Astronaut recently finished recording a follow-up EP, which is currently being mastered and should be out in a few months. – MC