Announcing the Winners of the First Voice Media Group Music Writing Awards
By Ben Westhoff
Photo by Christine Taylor Jesse Sykes
Each week in our print editions and every day on our blogs, the 13 Voice Media Group papers feature some of the best music writing in the country.
That's why we're excited to announce the winners of our first VMG music writing awards. The honor goes to the authors of one blog post and one print piece; eligible were any of our freelance scribes.
The envelope please...
Picking a top blog post was particularly difficult, as there were literally thousands to choose from. The winner is Shea Serrano's piece "Here Are the Songs They Play at a Middle School Dance," published on L.A. Weekly's West Coast Sound blog. It's a sidesplitting minute-by-minute account of an afternoon he spent chaperoning a junior high dance.
Photo by Larami Serrano Shea Serrano
1:45: "Thriller"? This guy is killing me. Zero continuity. He couldn't have spent any time planning this mix, right? I mean, fuck. One time for Valentine's Day I gave a girl some chocolate milk, a pair of neon shoelaces and a card with a picture on it of a dog smoking a cigar that I'm fairly certain was meant to go to a dad celebrating the birth of his first child. (All available at your local Walgreens, FYI.) In fairness, I was only 14 years old, which meant I wasn't having sex yet, which meant I wasn't really trying to impress her that much, but still. It was bad. I knew it even then. This is worse than that.
Serrano is a full-time ESL teacher and father of three in Houston who writes regularly for Houston Press, L.A. Weekly, XXL, MTV, Grantland, and many others. He also created and illustrated Bun B's Jumbo Coloring and Activity Book, which will be available in print next fall through Abrams books.
The best print story from our papers this year comes from Jesse Sykes, whose piece "From Cripple Creek to Pound Ridge" was published in Seattle Weekly. Written upon the death of Levon Helm, it remembers the area of upstate New York where she grew up, near Woodstock, famous battlegrounds, and the spot where The Band recorded Music From Big Pink.
My family had a little house in Bethel, New York, a town in the Catskills, right down the road from Yasgur's farm where the Woodstock festival was held...I remember the shot-out windows, the half moon on the outhouse door, the metal porch chairs, and the complete silence. The house stood in a meadow surrounded by 150 acres of deep woods. I was too young to remember, but my dad always liked to tell the story of how Max Yasgur supposedly held me in his arms when I was a baby. As a teenager, my dad would take me to the field where Woodstock all went down, and I recall feeling an intense ache in my chest and throat, a sweet kind of sadness. I had not been there, yet I felt I had.
Sykes is an Iowa-based singer-songwriter. After releasing three well-received albums on Barsuk Records, her band, the Sweet Hereafter, self-released its latest record, Marble Son. She began writing for Seattle Weekly in January.