Welcoming the local honor roll

Let's not kid ourselves: Distilling a band's sound to an easily comprehensible genre can feel as arbitrary as assigning a kid to a high school clique. Just like there are jocks who suddenly show up junior year wearing Birkenstocks and Dead shirts, just as there are punks who find Jesus, so does music continue to evolve, making it increasingly difficult to categorize. This is especially true in an age of cross-breeding influences that span countries, decades, and recording techniques to create new hybrids of sound. All of which makes the job of your average music-related worker bee (record clerks tagging CDs, alt-weekly journalists reviewing those CDs) that much more challenging — doubly so when we want to dole out honors to some of our favorite Bay Area acts.

For the 17th annual SF Weekly Music Awards, we've decided to brand bands not just by genre, but by schoolyard posse. To have a little fun with the struggle of whether, say, a versatile act like Black Fiction really counts as indie rock, we've loosened the constraints: For example, rappers and hip-hop crews are in the debate club, world music practitioners are exchange students, and DJs and turntablists are part of the pep squad (the full list of categories and nominations follows). But such labels are less important than the fact that these are artists that SF Weekly — and our nominating committee, which includes promoters, record label staffers, club bookers, and employees of the music industry, i.e., folks who spend a lot of time in the trenches of homegrown talent — believes are the heads of their class. In the end, the winners are the acts our readers are most excited about: Your votes decided who got top billing in each category.

Unlike an actual honor roll, though, we can't hand kudos to every group/DJ/singer-songwriter whose music we love — that would require a ceremony as long as a graduation (not to mention the budget of Ivy League college). So take these awards, performers, and nominees as a tribute to the music we're passionate about, and remember that this is merely a selection from a much larger school, which thrives beyond any labels or cliques. The more you support Bay Area talent, the more local artists rise to the top, and the harder it is for us to narrow our favorites down for parties like this one. But hey, that's how we like it.

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