If I were still capable of spit-takes, I would have spewed coffee all over the computer screen after reading the nominees for the 2020 San Diego Music Awards.
However, it’s hard to find anything really shocking these days — my nerves and my understanding of the world have been whittled down by political, cultural and economic crisis after crisis. Shock is now replaced by a bulldozing sadness and a sense that compassion no longer can exist in our world. Instead of a spit-take, it’d be more of a sludgy dribble; instead of coffee, it’s my hope in humanity.
So instead of spitting, I looked hopelessly at my computer screen, because right there — sitting all aggro, hairy and sweaty among the other nominees — were the words As I Lay Dying.
For those who aren’t familiar, As I Lay Dying is a Christian metalcore band from San Diego that makes music for angsty adults. The music’s punishing to say the least, but the emo breakdowns in its choruses belie a secret cache of sadness. I imagine this is the type of music that Gamergaters listen to.
But more noteworthy than the band’s terrible music is its singer, Tim Lambesis. Back in 2014, Lambesis pleaded guilty to hiring a hitman to kill his wife. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but got out on parole in 2016 because that’s how it often shakes out when you’re white and rich in America.
Of course, such an affront to humanity would surely mean the end of the band, right? Well, not really, because in 2018 As I Lay Dying reunited, assuring everyone that Lambesis was really, very sorry.
The reaction was immediate, but maybe not the reaction you’d expect: Almost every show on the band’s comeback tour sold out. Obviously, fans and bandmates were eager to overlook Lambesis’ crime. Remember: Don’t let a little bit of planned murder get in the way of financial success and, more importantly, friendship.
Last year, As I Lay Dying put out its first album since Lambesis’ crime, and this is why the San Diego Music Awards decided to nominate the band for not one, but two awards: Song of the Year and Artist of the Year.
I don’t really know what qualifies someone for Artist of the Year, but it certainly implies prestige and importance, and the fact that the San Diego Music Foundation — the organization that puts on the awards show — chose to nominate As I Lay Dying for its Artist of the Year speaks volumes.
I’m not saying that Lambesis deserves to be canceled — I believe that everyone is capable of reform, and I’m not against forgiveness. But the band’s sudden return to the spotlight feels like it’s capitalizing on the controversy, and the rewards the band has been given (award nominations, press coverage) validate toxic behavior. It would’ve been really easy for Lambesis to live a quiet life of introspection after he got out of jail.
The San Diego Music Awards have never been perfect. More often than not, the nominations reflect only a superficial knowledge of San Diego’s vibrant music scene. I mean, The Schizophonics are great and all, but they have been on the ballot for the past five years. I’m no psychic, but I can almost guarantee you that both they and The Creepy Creeps will be nominated for Best Live Act in 2021, and the world will end before Vokab Kompany doesn’t get nominated for Best Hip-Hop Group. Does blink-182 — another nominee for Song of the Year — really represent San Diego’s music scene? And how the hell does Switchfoot keep getting nominated? Did it win a sweepstakes or something?
This is not a judgment on any of those bands, because they are all talented (I mean, arguably). But they’re also very popular, and therein lies the problem: The San Diego Music Awards are not a celebration of talent, but of capitalism. Nominate the acts that will bring the most fans to sell the most tickets, and hope that blink-182 or As I Lay Dying show up (they will not).
It’s always a great feeling when someone acknowledges your art, and I’m stoked for all my friends who were nominated. And to dispel any accusations of jealousy, my band Forest Grove was nominated last year (check us out on Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, at your office, in your home, peeking through your blinds, begging you to check us out). But the SDMAs don’t care about you, hardworking San Diego musicians. Not really. If they did, they wouldn’t have nominated As I Lay Dying.
I’m not sure who these awards are for, but they’re not for us.