Arts Dean Gage Averill  on the Grammy experience

Although I have poked fun at the entertainment industry’s obsessively self-congratulatory award shows for years, I have to say that it was a thrill  (even if a hypocritical one) to attend the 2011 Grammys.

First, we were able to bring together most of the team that worked on my project, Alan Lomax in Haiti, 1936-37, a 10-CD and DVD boxed set, including engineers, producers, fundraisers and family members. Some of us were meeting in person for the first time after years of phone and e-mail collaboration. At our small luncheon at a Hollywood eatery, former California Governor Grey Davis surprised us with a visit to congratulate the team.

Second, it was a treat to watch the show with my seven-year-old daughter. With a cast from Jagger to Gaga and Eminem to Streisand and even Dylan, it was an impressive smorgasbord of talent with lots of unpredictable moments. Among her favourites were the performance by the British band Muse and the colorful, Muppet-inspired Cee Lo Green duet with Gweneth Paltrow (F**** You).

Of course, there were many celebrity-sightings (a somewhat redundant concept when most of the audience have some claim on celebrityhood): we sat near Elvis Costello and Dianna Krall, had Rihanna and Cyndi Lauper parading below us, and stood at the party with Esperanza Spaulding, the talented winner for Best New Artist.

Although the industry is in its death throes, the Recording Academy puts on a good show and the Grammys are one of the last award shows to cover the gamut of genres. The Academy clearly wanted to link generations through tribute pieces and performances with mentors, and kept the telecast performance-heavy, leaving most of the awards to the earlier, pre-telecast ceremony, where my categories were announced.

Oh, and we lost in our two categories. But it was only about five minutes of disappointment, and then back to enjoying the show. In one category we lost to The Beatles, so who’s going to complain?

Gage Averill
UBC Faculty of Arts

Hear Averill discuss his project and nomination at ubcproftalk.blogspot.com

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