What’s New at the 42nd Annual Austin Music Awards?

The Zev Award launches, Antone’s hosts, and winners are out of the bag

Poster art by Billie Buck

Though the details wiggle around annually, the meat-and-potatoes mission of the Austin Music Awards sticks. The Austin Chronicle celebrates the year in citywide music-making with a springtime concert, now for the 42nd year. For the first time, the party moves to Antone’s Nightclub on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 7pm.

Tickets are on sale now at austinchronicle.com/austin-music-awards, with all proceeds directly benefiting the SIMS Foundation.

Presented by Cap Metro, the show will feature performances from winners, nominees, and special guests – including DAIISTAR, Pussy Gillette, S.L. Houser, and Walker Lukens & Friends. Lukens’ eclectic homegrown assembly includes Ben Kweller, A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit’s Sabrina Ellis, Kalu & the Electric Joint’s Kalu James, Croy and the Boys’ Corey Baum, Sir Woman’s Uncle Roy & Spice, Magic Rockers of Texas’ Jim Campo, and pedal steel wiz Zack Wiggs. Of the venue, show producer Paul Minor says “their multi-purpose space lends itself perfectly to the latest update of the event format,” which also packs an all-star musical tribute to Music Industry Hall of Fame inductee Jim Franklin featuring Eve Monsees, Shinyribs’ Kevin Russell, Theo Lawrence, Henri Herbert, and many more.

“I always tell my musician partners that if we are having fun, the audience will have fun too,” says Minor. “I think that this show is being produced with a focus on the performing musicians having a good time, which will translate to one heck of a party for everyone in the house.”

Alongside live music, the show will include a curated presentation of select awards. Unlike in past years, all 51 award categories will not be announced live onstage, but rather unveiled ahead of time in this keepsake special issue of the Chronicle. (Revisit our rundown of these less-stuffy, still-glitzy changes in “An Austin Music Poll FAQ,” Jan. 5.) Poster artist Billie Buck captured the spirit in this year’s poster featuring spiffily-dressed cats and dogs in a smoky backstage hangout. She imagines some homemade haircuts and tattoos in the mix too.

“This year’s Austin Music Awards will be a little different, with the winners announced in print that week, the event will feel more like a cool afterparty with all your friends (bad tattoos and bad haircuts also in attendance),” Buck wrote on social media.

Alongside the show’s annual Hall of Fame inductions, much-loved Austin musician Ben Kweller launches a new award in honor of his son Dorian Zev Kweller. Under his middle name, Hebrew for wolf, ZEV explored hip-hop beats, acoustic ballads, indie rock, and chillwave grooves in musical releases dating back to 2022. He was also an integral member of the Dripping Springs High School music program, Drip Skate Club, and B.H. 22, a duo with his friend Ronny Rosenberg.

Dorian died on Feb. 27, 2023, at age 16, after an oncoming truck swerved into his lane while driving home from a friend’s house. His family has launched the 501(c)(3) organization Zev United to support young musicians and skateboarders, reflecting Dorian’s two biggest passions.

“He was a shining light that still burns bright,” writes his father, Ben Kweller. “Dorian touched more lives in 16 years than most people touch in 80! As someone who came up in music at a young age myself, I know how important it is to have love and support and even a little financial backing. I’m so excited that through Zev United we can give real support to artists at the beginning of their careers when they need it the most.”

At the Austin Music Awards, the new Zev Award will recognize an exemplary musician or group under the age of 18. According to the organization, the winner will receive a $2,000 cash grant “that may be used towards musical instruments, software and other tools that may help the young artists on their musical journey.”

Kweller writes: “We aren’t looking for the most virtuosic musician or the most classically trained. This award is for an artist or group that is truly original, creating their own music and marching to their own beat.

“Often in our Instagram/American Idol culture we focus so much on musical technique, proficiency, and superficial traits like looks and how many followers someone has. When these things are the focus, it’s easy to overlook the gift of songwriting and originality. Those two attributes will be at the forefront of future Zev Award winners.”

Find all the 2023-2024 Austin Music Poll winners, including inaugural Zev Award recipients Lila + Sofia, right here.

Tickets for the Austin Music Awards on Feb. 25 are on sale at austinchronicle.com/austin-music-awards.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Austin Music Awards, Austin Music Poll, Billie Buck, Ben Kweller, Dorian Zev Kweller

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