Local Stars Shined Bright at 2021 San Diego Music Awards

R&B chanteuse Brisa Lauren performing Tuesday at Humphrey's By the Bay
Dan Chusid

More than a thousand musicians and their fans, friends and family members turned out Tuesday night at Shelter Island for the 30th annual San Diego Music Awards.

This year's in-person awards at Humphrey's By the Bay were a welcome return after 2020's virtual event, which, let's be fair, ran extremely smoothly, considering all the technical hurdles that had to be overcome. While there may not have been many live shows last year -- which was why there was no Best Live Band award this year -- the music never stopped. Artists gotta make art.

Longtime local singer/songwriter Gregory Page was the evening's big winner, claiming a pair of statuettes for Album of the Year and Best Pop Album, for One Hell of a Memory. After carving out a role in the San Diego scene as a member of the Steve Poltz-fronted Rugburns back in the '90s, Page has had a long career as a performer both locally and overseas, often working as a solo performer. He put in so many appearances at Lestat's over the years that the club ended up naming the stage for him, in fact.

Gregory Page accepting an award at the 30th annual San Diego Music Awards that was presented by 91x's Tim Pyles. Photo courtesy of Dan Chusid

For the most part, usual suspects like Switchfoot, P.O.D., Vokab Kompany and Tribal Theory were shut out this year, but Jason Mraz did get his name on one of the top honors, for Mr. A-Z's contribution to R&B chanteuse Rebecca Jade's Song of the Year winner, "BadWolves," for which she leaned on Miki Vale and Veronica May for additional creative assistance.

Performers on Tuesday night included the glam rockers of the Frets (see below), singer/songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, jazzman Ed Kornhauser, local legends Jerry Raney (who received a lifetime achievement award) and the Farmers, the rockers of Electric Mud, alt-Latino all-stars Marujah, blues twang from Chickenbone Slim and R&B chanteuse Brisa Lauren.

The Frets performing on Tuesday night at the San Diego Music Awards. Photo courtesy of Dan Chusid.

Other notable winners included Whitney Shay, whose Stand Up! claimed Best Blues Album; Black Hesher, whose Saints and Sirens stood out in Best Hip-Hop or Rap Album category; up-and-comer psyche rockers Aviator Stash, who laid claim to Best Rock Album for Psiyh; and Kahlil Nash, whose name is now etched on 2021's award for Best R&B, Funk or Soul Album for Transcendence.

Eagle-eyed NBC 7 fans spotted the station's reporters Joe Little and Ramon Galindo up onstage giving out SDMA's. Little knighted Suede Radio for Best Rock Song ("The Premonition"), and Galindo got to present Nash with his award.

NBC 7's Joe Little at the podium with KGB FM's Clint August
Joe Little
NBC 7's Joe Little at the podium with KGB FM's Clint August

SDMA officials said that, as per, the big winner in 2021 was the San Diego Music Foundation’s Guitars for Schools program, which, over the years, has collected a lion's share of the money raised and donated since 1991.

A full list of winners is below:

  • Best Folk or Acoustic Song: Lee Coulter, "Look Away"
  • Best Jazz Album: Ed Kornhauser, The Short Years
  • Best Blues Album: Whitney Shay, Stand Up!
  • Best Americana, Jazz or Blues Song: Shane Hall, "Under My Voodoo"
  • Best Americana or Country Album: Coral Bells, Treehouse Tapes
  • Best Hip-Hop or Rap Song: Sloat Dixon, "Sloat Style"
  • Best Hip-Hop or Rap Album: Black Hesher, Saints and Sirens
  • Best Pop Song: TonyaJae, "Leave the House"
  • Best Pop Album: Gregory Page, One Hell of a Memory
  • Best Rock Song: Suede Radio, "The Premonition"
  • Best Rock Album: Electric Mud, Communication
  • Best Indie/Alternative Song: The Frets, "Daisy"
  • Best Indie/Alternative Album: Aviator Stash, Psiyh
  • Best World Music Album: New Leaf, Feels Like…
  • Best R&B, Funk or Soul Album: Kahlil Nash, Transcendence
  • Best Local Recording: Skyler Lutes, Rewind
  • Best Video: Heavy Hawaii, "Boy Don’t Drown"
  • Album of the Year: Gregory Page, One Hell of a Memory
  • Song of the Year: Rebecca Jade, featuring Jason Mraz, Miki Vale, Veronica May, "BadWolves"
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Jerry Raney
  • Music Industry Award: Liz Abbott of the San Diego Troubadour
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