The stage was set and brimmed with a myriad of colored light on April 16. Instruments were scattered about the stage. The signature microphone-shaped awards lined a side table. And so, Jillian’s played host to Pulse’s eighth annual Worcester Music Awards.

More than an awards ceremony and competition, the night is about bringing together people who love music, whether they write it, perform it, spin it or simply listen to it. With 27 awards up for grabs, we can all celebrate that Worcester and its surrounding towns have some of the best and most diverse local talent there is.


The evening’s largest award ~ The Lifetime Achievement Award ~ went to Joe D’Angelo. D’Angelo has played with many groups over the years and has appeared on recordings on MGM, BASF, United Artists and Evolution Records. He is also on the faculty of the Joy of Music Program and teaches guitar at Burncoat Senior and Junior high schools and at Clemente Music Studio in Worcester.

The night opened with an acoustic performance by Ricky Duran, who started off with his soulful version of “Georgia On My Mind.” I mean, really, be still my beating heart ~ I can’t think of a better way to start things off. Following a beautiful set of songs, there was a moving dedication to Joe Zupan, who sadly passed away a couple weeks before the ceremony. Zupan, also nominated for a Lifetime Achievement Award, was the jazz director of WCIN and made many contributions to Worcester’s thriving music community.

CaraCara Brindisi, who ended up winning two WMAs that night, then took the stage. A lot of vocal power in a little package, Cara filled every square inch of the venue with sound, an impressive range and a sweet and sultry flair.

Attendees were then graced with the always-glamorous Niki Luparelli, who hosted the night in a fashion all her own ~ with a little serious and a lot of funny. She delivered the Best Blues/R&B Act award to the appropriately named A Ton of Blues, which has taken the award home several years going now. DJ Reckless took home the best Club DJ Award ~ his second year in a row ~ and Luparelli noted that Reckless smelled great, “like Hugo Boss.” Girls, Guns & Glory took home the best Country/Americana act and Wachusett Music Fest was the favorite local festival.

The Best Solo/Acoustic Act went to Cara Brindisi, who said was truly flattered in light of the talent nominated in that category. Jesse Fair from Dope Slap took home Best Female Vocalist, and Best Male Vocalist went to Derek Varnum from Gov’t Surplus.

Hot Letter, nominated for Best Rock Act, took the stage and impressed the crowd with its energetic and colorful performance. Though the band has a song called “One Trick Pony,” these guys most certainly have many tricks up their collective sleeve. In the true spirit of music appreciation, you can download Hot Letter’s entire album online for free.

CougarBaitLuparelli took the stage to hand out some more awards, namely to WICN for Most Supportive Radio Station and The Phreaks for Best Jam & Goove Act. Joe D’Angelo took home Best Jazz Musician, and Flock of Assholes won for having the Best Groupies, with one band member commenting that the group “might not look like assholes right now, but if you come see us next week we will!”

The Palladium took home the Best Venue Award, but unfortunately the building couldn’t leave its foundation to accept it. Ashley DeyJ thanked God and hard work for her Best Up & Comers award, and the Best Punk Act went to Mongrel, with a simple speech from singer Jessica Sierra: “Thanks!” Mistress Carrie of WAAF, though not present, won for best Radio DJ. American Dreamers won for Best Pop Act and the Best Album Cover Art award went to Tiger Lily by Atlas.

Gov’t Surplus then took the stage for a musical break and a chance to grab another drink. Gov’t Surplus gave a great performance ~ one that sounded like a true jam session, no holds barred. Derek Varnum dedicated the song “Soul Shine” to his son, Derek Jr., and “to everyone who is having a tough day.”

Event sponsor Budweiser raffled tickets to the Awesome 80s Prom, which will be at Mechanics Hall on May 4, and Luparelli, envelopes in hand, continued her awards bestowal. Cougar Bait took home the award for Best Electronic Act. Gov’t Surplus won for Best Cover/Tribute Band, and the band that most people wanted to see reunite was Seven Hill Psychos. Day One grabbed the award for best Rap/Hip Hop Act, declaring it may change its name to Day Two in the near future.


For the third year in a row, Thurkills Vision swiped the award for Best Hardcore/Metal Act, thanking fans and noting that Worcester’s music scene is a true collaboration effort. Best CD went to Tiger Lily, and the Sexiest Musician Award went to Cara Brindisi.

Best Rock Act went to Tester, who has won the category for four years straight. Vocalist Tony Tester moved his afro aside to speak into the mic and thank the room and hand the award over to Jim “Shippey” for being the band’s longest-running bass player. The final award of the night went to Flock of Assholes for Best Live Act, to which members said, “Without you guys, we don’t exist, thank you.”

Rounding out the night, DudenGuy spun some club tunes, as musicians were congratulated, networked and posed for some last-minute pictures.

Besides Budweiser, sponsors included Perry Studios, FlashHouse Studios, JLS Design, Kurlan Music Center, Union Music, Immedia Sound and VERO Concepts.

See you all next year!

By Jennifer Russo