2013 Detroit Music Awards

Doors opened at 6 p.m. at the Fillmore last Friday night. Crowds were lined up well past the city block when I arrived and came pouring in past the red carpet and into the lobby. On all levels booths, tv crews, and news stations were set up waiting to interview nominees and important Detroit figures for our music scene. This event only happens once a year, and we were all anticipating the live performances we were about to see.

It didn’t take long for everyone to fill up all levels of the Fillmore. While everyone was getting acquainted with their friends and chatting with local celebrities the energy felt visceral. Backstage, however, the band Sweet Crystal was getting ready to rock the house with keyboard and guitar-driven rock and roll. Marq Speck, the band’s lead singer, won both “Outstanding Gospel/Christian Vocalist” and “Outstanding Gospel/Christian Songwriter.” Sweet Crystal as a band won both “Outstanding Gospel/Christian Act” and “Outstanding Gospel/Christian Recording” for the song “Nothing Here (For You To Fear)” – From the motion picture soundtrack “War Flowers.”

Sweet Crystal performing at the Fillmore in Detroit
Sweet Crystal 08 – Bill Blatter, Martin Zarski, and David Winans
Sweet Crystal – Marq Speck

On stage event Emcee Tom Daldin (known for his PBS show Under the Radar) was warming up the crowd while outside the stage area Blues musician Paul Miles and the legendary bass player Tony (T Money) Green were all in high demand after Sweet Crystal accepted the award of “Outstanding Gospel/Christian Act.” Although they did not attend the event this year Jack White and Sixto Díaz Rodríguez received top national prizes. White won “Outstanding National Major Label/Distribution Album” for his album Blunderbuss and “Best Single” for his song I’m Shakin and Rodriguez was awarded his first DMA for his soundtrack from the Academy Award-winning documentary “Searching For Sugar Man.”


Emcee Tom Daldin
Paul Miles Interview

Blackbyrd Revue was the next band to come on stage. For those who do not know, this group plays funk/fusion/jazz. Allen C Barnes is the frontman of this ensemble and is probably best known for his saxophone skills in the Blackbyrds (a group that formed in 1973 and best known for their 1975 hit “Walking in Rhythm.”) Barnes was born in 1949 and has been a heavily established Detroit artist for most of his lengthy career.

Blackbyrd Revue
Blackbyrd Revue – Allan C. Barnes

Harry Balk, a well-respected music industry executive producer was awarded Distinguished Achievement Awards for his lengthy career and involvement with EmBee Productions and the creation of the Rare Earth label during the Motown era. Balk discussed his thankfulness to all those he worked with in his life while leaning against the stage under the spotlight. This was one of those moments where everyone in the room was really listening. After all, this is a guy who worked close to Barry Gordy (founder of the Motown Record Label) and helped launch careers for bands like Johnny and the Hurricanes, Del Shannon, and Marvin Gaye.

Harry Balk at 2013 Detroit Music Awards
Harry Balk at 2013 Detroit Music Awards

Ife Mora is a Detroit-born artist who can sing, shred the guitar, and get everyone’s attention. She wrote “Detroit Blues,” a song about not being able to tear the girl from Detroit… This was her first performance in Detroit after being away for six years (she currently lives in New York) but certainly won’t be her last.

Ife Mora

As I came back to the stage I was warned by security to be careful. When I asked why they told me “fire will be used on stage.” Cybertybe’s performance… OK, now I was getting really excited. The room grew exceptionally dark as two fire dancers spun flames, setting up the suspense as pulsing lights and smoke filled the stage. Sean Moore and the band later went on to win “Outstanding Electronic/Dance Artist/Group” and “Outstanding Electronic/Dance Recording” for their remix of “Kitty Get Your Gun.” As shown in the images, monkey masks and girls in lingerie were a big part of the show as well.

Cybertribe and Half Life Firedancer
Cybertribe and Half Life performing
Cybertribe-Outstanding Electronic Dance Recording

Outstanding Country Vocalist was awarded to Vinnie Dombroski (best known for being the lead vocalist in the band Sponge.) Mike Novak was honored in detail at the Award show for the counseling in the entertainment industry for clients like Bob Seger and Kid Rock. Video speeches projected above were given by celebrities like Tim Allen and Jeff Daniels. Sadly Novak passed away recently at age 57. He was more than just an attorney everyone said, he was a great friend to everyone he worked with and will be greatly missed.

Vinnie Dombroski – Outstanding Country Vocalist

Passalacqua was the next band to come to the stage. The rap duo known for live conceptual and theatrical interpretations with masks lifted up the audience up yet again as they began their rather unusual performance… Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith’s last big performance was at the DIY fest in Ferndale last year.

Passalacqua – Bryan Lackner
Passalacqua – Brent Smith

After Passalacqua’s lively act Kem gave his soulful performance and brief speech about his involvement with the community. Kem Owens Album II sold over half a million copies and featured Stevie Wonder. In August last year, KEM played a free event and food drive in Cass Park to help those in need and benefit the homeless. Kem still makes Detroit his home and is actively involved in foundations like Mack & Third. R&B singer KEM and Mack & Third Records received Special Achievement Awards at the ceremony.


Singer and songwriter Katie Grace was born in Detroit and has played her very own style of alt-country and bluegrass music in a number of bands before branching out on her own. She is notoriously dubbed as a model Catholic school girl by day and a bad girl by night. Although she played guitar at the Award show she got her start as a bass player for the band’s Doop & Inside Outlaws as well as Shotgun Wedding. Grace was awarded a total of four awards in the country category. One of them was for her album “Best Bad Girl” released by Detroit’s very own Static Records.

Katie Grace
Katie Grace – Best Bad Girl

Citizen Zero won the award for “Outstanding Rock/Pop recording” just before Insane Clown Posse took the stage to award “Best Live Performance” to The Ruiners, whose lead singer Rick Ruiner accepted in his own graceful fashion by doing the splits.

The Ruiners accepting the award for Outstanding Live Performance
Insane Clown Posse presenting the award for Best Live Performance to The Ruiners

Suzy Quatro was given the spotlight to close out the 2013 Detroit Music Awards and was presented a lifetime achievement award. Her captivating finale of four songs generated more media buzz than anything I’ve ever experienced. Her performance here was the first in nearly two decades. Quatro’s career began in the mid-1960s with the band Pleasure Seekers and Cradle, where she played bass and became an idol for female rockers. Her music took off in Europe and Australia during the late ’60s and she eventually moved to London in 1971. Quatro took the stage backed by the Motor City Horns during her performance and opened with the cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” She played her hits to a standing audience for “Can the Can,” “Stumblin’ In” and “Sweet Little Rock ‘N’ Roller.”

Suzi Quatro – Pre Performance Speech
Suzi Quatro and the Motor City Horns

Photographers All Capturing the Same Scene

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