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It wasn’t easy to think local at Tuesday night’s 10th Anniversary Wammies, what with the way transplanted Brits kept upstaging the natives. The first invader was London-born John Wicks, who gained something approximating fame in the early ’80s as a member of the Records. Even before the first award had been doled out, Wicks took the stage in the Hinckley Hilton ballroom and treated attendees to a faithfully jangly reprise of his former band’s sterling period piece, “Starry Eyes.” That ditty set a standard for toe-tapability that subsequent performers were unable to match. Then there were the shenanigans of Mick Fleetwood. From his front-and-center table, the gangly Fleetwood took steps to ensure that his presence wasn’t kept a secret. The most overt was an inadvertently comical and distinctly Anglo rant that started as a teensy-weensy push for artistic patronage and ended up a big ol’ plug for the Alexandria nightspot that bears his surname. (During the harangue, Fleetwood dropped a couplet from Shakespeare and a couple of references to “nurturance.”)
As distasteful as the address was, Fleetwood outdid himself later. Cellar Door’s Kevin Spence was slated to read off the nominations for the most anticipated award of the evening, album of the year. After Spence capped the lengthy list of potential winners with an obligatory “And the Wammie goes to…,” all the overflow crowd heard was…silence. Turns out Spence’s scheduled presenting partner—Fleetwood—was given the special envelope for that category. And for reasons that were never disclosed, the Loquacious One didn’t find his way to the podium to divulge its contents. In fact, Fleetwood wasn’t seen or heard from again that evening. After about 90 anxious/tedious seconds, and with the crowd buzzing about Fleetwood’s Houdini act, organizers scrounged up a copy of the winners’ roll, and Spence conferred the big prize upon Fairfax’s fledgling major-label act, emmet swimming, for wake. To their credit, the swimmers, who also garnered three statuettes in the “alternative rock” category, were unfazed by Fleetwood’s disappearance. “We’re just happy to be off the road and home in D.C.,” explained Andy Gibson, the band’s road manager.
Not all the honorees shared emmet swimming’s giddiness or gratitude. Sadly, several multiple-Wammie winners didn’t even bother to show up and claim their statuettes: Neither of the year’s most recognizable award recipients, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Fugazi, was in attendance. Nils Lofgren, who was awarded five statuettes, including musician of the year, was another no-show, but at least Lofgren sent a proxy to pick up his prize and apologize for his truancy. The substitute, who identified himself as the artist’s manager, gave the hometown crowd an excuse that seemed very much in keeping with the evening’s general theme: “Nils would’ve liked to be here,” he said, “but he’s touring England.”