Political Rockers All The Rage At California Music Awards

Rage Against the Machine win five 'Cammies,' including Artist of the Year.

SAN FRANCISCO — Political rockers Rage Against the Machine were the big winners at Saturday's 23rd annual Tower Records California Music Awards, taking home five "Cammies."

The Los Angeles group, which last year released the critically hailed The Battle of Los Angeles, was honored with Artist of the Year, Outstanding Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album, Outstanding Guitarist and Outstanding Group awards, as well as a recognition for public service.

Guitarist Tom Morello was on hand to accept the awards, speaking eloquently and passionately each time he ascended to the podium. His remarks weren't acceptance speeches so much as short, informative lectures, covering such topics as the band's music, its fans, activist Leonard Peltier, the United Garment Workers of America and various censorship efforts leveled at the band.

But Morello's bandmates, and many other winners and nominees, didn't attend the ceremony, held at the Bill Graham Civic Center.

Latin-rockers Santana took home the Outstanding Album award for Supernatural and the Outstanding Single award for "Smooth." Bandleader Carlos Santana, who was performing that night in Southern California, accepted the awards via videotape.

Other no-show winners included Fiona Apple (Female Vocalist), the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea (Outstanding Bassist), pop-rockers Third Eye Blind (Outstanding Songwriters) and producer/record executive Clive Davis (Lifetime Achievement).

Also not in the house were nominees Tom Waits, Beck, Primus, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Counting Crows, Jewel, Ben Harper, Cher, Will Smith and Sheryl Crow.

Throughout the years, the ceremony has developed a reputation for allowing fans to mingle with the artists, but this year audience members spent a lot of time applauding for and craning to catch glimpses of artists who simply weren't there.

Founded more than two decades ago by BAM magazine as the Bay Area Music Awards (nicknamed the "Bammies"), the ceremony was expanded two years ago to include artists from all of California — though Saturday's production was still at times very much "small town."

Awards were presented by local comedians, news anchors and second-string cast members of the television show "Nash Bridges." By happy coincidence, most of the awards were won by the handful of nominees who were in attendance.

Boisterous San Francisco foursome Stroke 9 enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, accepting the trophy for Best Debut Album (Nasty Little Thoughts), and playing a jangly, 10-minute set that included their hit "Little Black Backpack."

It was a breath of fresh air in an evening that saw Eddie Money (looking and sounding a lot like Rodney Dangerfield) perfunctorily cranking out "Two Tickets to Paradise" backed by ousted Third Eye Blind guitarist Kevin Cadogan's new band, Bully. Cadogan milked it for all it was worth, and later refused to come to the stage to accept a joint songwriting award he was to share with former Third Eye Blind bandmate Stephan Jenkins.

"I didn't need to go up there," he said after Bully's short set. "I'm having the time of my life. Can't you tell?"

San Jose pop-rock quartet Smash Mouth were on hand to pick up a few awards and play a closing set. When first called up to accept their Outstanding Rock/Pop Album award for Astro Lounge, the guys lingered at their table for a moment, trying to finish their cocktails, before deciding to just bring them along to the stage.

Later, accepting his award for Outstanding Male Vocalist, Smash Mouth's Steve Harwell thanked the music-engineering computer program Pro-Tools "because I really sucked as a singer." He then went on to explain how Smash Mouth's Greg Camp should have won the Outstanding Songwriter award, "because Stephan Jenkins really sucks, too."

Good-natured goofing or just a few too many martinis? Hey, at least he showed up.

Later, Smash Mouth returned to close out the evening, as people left their tables and streamed down to the front of the stage. The band's current radio hit, "It Ain't No Thing," was met with an adoring response. Their trademark surfy-guitar and retro-keyboard sound was energizing and loud, lifting the haze of ennui that had long ago settled onto the crowd. The audience sang along and pogoed happily.

As they swung into the sing-song opening of "All Star" (RealAudio excerpt), the crowd became even more joyous. The song's stompy, chant-along chorus seemed perfectly tailored to both incite the pent-up crowd and also comment on the evening's proceedings:

"Hey now, you're a rock star/ Get the show on, get paid/ All that glitters is gold/ Only shooting stars break the mold."

2000 California Music Awards winners:

Artist of the Year

Rage Against the Machine

Outstanding Album

Supernatural, Santana

Outstanding Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album

The Battle of Los Angeles, Rage Against the Machine

Outstanding Rock/Pop Album

Astro Lounge, Smash Mouth

Outstanding Debut Album

Dirty Little Thoughts, Stroke 9

Outstanding Female Vocalist

Fiona Apple

Outstanding Guitarist

Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine)

Outstanding Drummer

Lars Ulrich (Metallica)

Outstanding Single

"Smooth," Santana featuring Rob Thomas

Outstanding Hip-Hop/Rap Album

Willenium, Will Smith

Outstanding R&B Album

Bitter, Meshell Ndegeocello

Outstanding Group

Rage Against the Machine

Outstanding Male Vocalist

Steve Harwell (Smash Mouth)

Outstanding Bassist

Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Outstanding Songwriter

Stephan Jenkins/Kevin Cadogan (Third Eye Blind)

Bill Graham Lifetime Achievement Award

Clive Davis

Arthur M. Sohcot Award for Public Service

Rage Against the Machine

Arthur M. Sohcot Award for Excellence

Metallica and Michael Kamen