Falls Church will bask in the regional limelight this Sunday evening, as the Washington music scene gathers for the fifth consecutive year in the State Theatre to celebrate the 23rd annual “Wammies” award ceremony.
The Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) presents the Wammies to honor D.C. area musicians from all across the musical spectrum. The yearly fete also attracts hundreds of fans, production staff and music producers to enjoy the historic State Theatre, a 1930s theater reopened by Tom Carter and his business partner in the 1990s, now one of the area’s premier music venues.
Even so, neither the City nor the State Theatre has yet again taken the initiative of planning a concerted welcoming effort for the hundreds of visitors expected to flood Falls Church on Sunday. For the past couple of years, Falls Church’s then Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry attended the annual fete to deliver a welcoming address.
This year, however, the Wammies will receive no official presence from the Falls Church City Hall, save for a flyer that the Communications Office will post around the city announcing the event. Communications Director Barbara Gordon said the flyer will contain restaurant hours and locations, as well as a map of downtown Falls Church. “It’s important for visitors to get good information and good directions,” said Gordon.
Gordon, who also said City Hall had been unaware of the Wammies’ return, added that “if the Wammies are back next year, they will certainly be on our radar. We all just need to communicate.”
Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner shared Gordon’s confusion. “We see it as a big deal,” said Gardner, who explained that no one had notified the City of the event. “If the State Theatre or the Wammies alerted the city, not only would the city be happy to do something, but the Chamber of Commerce would probably love to have the extra business.”
Sally Cole, the executive director of Falls Church’s Chamber of Commerce reported “no coordinated effort at all” has been made, although area restaurants are aware of the event, she said. Cole added that the chamber has “got the word out to our members.”
The State Theatre did not post signs for the event because “we don’t sell the tickets,” said State Theatre talent buyer Meredith Johnstone, who noted that the Wammies “has also been included in all of our print ads for the past couple of months and in our in-house advertising.”
Until Wednesday evening there was no notice of the Wammies on the State Theatre Web site. Now, an event listing, detailing the time and ticket costs, directs visitors through a link to the WAMA Web site.
Like last year, upwards of 800 or more members of the music elite and their followers are expected to crowd the State Theatre, as well as attend pre- and post-awards parties across the city. Wammies party-goers will have to traverse a mile down W. Broad to the official after-party held at Falls Church’s local live music scene, Bangkok Blues, featuring versatile swing-blues musicians, King Teddy.
With 97 awards categories for the hundreds of nominees, from rock to hip hop, the accolades recognize individual group musical talents, alongside the producers and record labels that play vital roles in the music industry. Awards also go to best album cover, band Web site and video of the year, among many others.
Falls Church’s own musicians are once again in the spotlight, having garnered several nominations for this Sunday. Local musical heavyweight Tom Principato, who is based in Falls Church, won the 2006 Wammie’s Best Blues Recording and Best Blues Vocalist for “Guitar Gumbo,” is up for several blues categories. Randy Barrett is nominated again for best bluegrass vocalist, as are Cue Recording for recording studio of the year and City resident NPR’s Mary Cliff for “most supportive of Washington music.”
Several Wammies nominees have been featured in “Press Pass,” the weekly original music interview column of the Falls Church News-Press, including Billy Hancock, Fools & Horses and Shane Hines & the Trance. (Another nominee, Thievery Corporation, is slated for an interview in two weeks.)
The Sunday evening extravaganza begins at 8 p.m. with a pre-reception performance by J.P. McDermott and Western Bop, with another appearance in the pit by the Tommy Lepson Band, who were also last year’s pit band. The Wammies have lined up eight performers for awards night: Christylez Bacon, Cletus Kennelly and Lori Kelley with Arthur Loves Plastic, Esther Williams, Familiar Faces, 4 out of 5 Doctors, Jon Carroll & Love Returns, Juniper Lane and Margot MacDonald.
Hosting the Wammies this year are three area personalities. Radio journalist Kojo Nnamdi is best known for his public broadcast shows, “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU radio and the “Evening Exchange,” which Nnamdi hosts on WHUT public television. Alongside Nnamdi will be Andrea Roane, the weekday morning anchor at channel WUSA-9, and popular radio talk-show host Jim Bohannon.
For more details about the Wammies, and to purchase tickets, visit the WAMA Web site at www.wamadc.com/wama/the_wammies.html.