A special Sammies

Jeff vonKaenel

It was an incredible show. Nearly two dozen local music acts and 36 awards. All crammed into four hours on a Friday night at Ace of Spades. It was the 22nd annual SN&R Sacramento Area Music Awards—or what we like to call the Sammies—hosted and produced by the one and only Jerry Perry.

Every year for 22 years, SN&R staff has determined award categories such as Blues, Indie and Release of the Year. SN&R readers and music fans throughout the region vote for their favorite artists; this year, more than 15,000 unique visitors voted at www.sammies.com.

At the show, the winners receive their awards, and a select group of local musicians perform, showcasing genres such as folk, rock, hip-hop and hardcore. It is a celebration of Sacramento music. And over the past two decades, it has put a spotlight on many talented artists.

Music in Sacramento is art. It is also a business, a job, a creative process and a family. But, unlike most families, this musical unit bonds around a love of music, a willingness to spend an incredible number of hours practicing their craft and a financially irrational pattern of focusing on passion rather than dollars.

The Sammies show on November 8 felt like a family affair, where all the musicians, no matter how different they were from each other, were all part of the same household. And they were incredibly different. Some were urban, some suburban, some were rich and some were poor. There were people of many different skin colors, and the songs told of many different kinds of joy and pain. Yet the bond of music triumphed that night.

There was a joy in the fact that Sacramento’s music community was being recognized and celebrated. And, as each band performed—and performed well—there was a growing sense of the wonderfulness of the Sacramento musical family.

When we at SN&R started the Sammies 22 years ago, the paper did not have a weekly Nightbeat concert calendar because only a small handful of Sacramento nightspots hosted live music. The conventional wisdom was that Sacramento would never be able to develop a good music scene because we were just too close to San Francisco: The City by the Bay would always vacuum up our best musicians and our best fans.

The purpose of the first Sammies show, held at the historic Crest Theatre, was to give much-needed recognition to the music community. That Sammies led to the first downtown Friday-night summer-concert series, which also helped Sacramentans discover many talented performers and great bands. More and more bar owners began to book bands. One thing led to another. And our music scene is still growing.

It was a special night at the Sammies.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.