Four Langley artists earned recognition at the fourth annual Fraser Valley Music Awards (FVMA), which took place Thursday, Nov. 21, at Corky’s in Chilliwack.
Awards were handed out in sixteen categories including achievements in punk, metal, jazz, folk, country, blues, and First Nations music.
Langley’s Dale Sawatzky won best Blues musician of the evening, an unexpected victory that he felt was vindication for years spent being “a nobody musician.”
“There’s a lot of people like me who are completed nobodies,” Sawatzky explained.” Now that I am retiring from I’ll have time to play more gigs and I think this will be a significant help to me – it’s a super thrill.”
Sawatzky told the Langley Advance Times he picked up the guitar when he was 17 and couldn’t put it down. Though he ultimately chose a more stable career path, he found himself writing tunes in his spare time, which more often than not, came out with a bluesy sound.
After recording the guitar tracks in his own home on a week off of her, Sawatzky’s songs took shape. The musician “picked away at it over time” until releasing the blues album in the fall of 2018 on various streaming sites.
“I had heard about the music awards last year but missed the cutoff date,” Sawatzky said. “I’m rather impressed with the organizers, there’s such a rich array of diversity. A conscience effort to have all genres covered – it was really well done.”
Despite being based out of Victoria, two out of the three members of West My Friend are from Langley and routinely perform in the area, most recently, at Langley Community Music School.
Gone Sugar Die took best Rock Group/Act, the final award of the night. Langley’s Patrick McWilliams accepted the award, one half of the Canadian/American band who was also nominated in the same category for his work under the name The Cut Losses.
“I wasn’t looked to kindly upon in Langley Fine Arts School – because I listened to and wanted to play rock, I was sort of used as an example of what not do to,” McWilliams said.
After getting in contact with musician friends, McWilliams has divided his team between Langley and L.A., performing at various festivals including as a headliner for the immensely popular Emo Night concert.
McWilliams said two recent diagnoses of mental and physical health problems have hindered his ability to perform continuously, but the award win served as encouragement.
“I’m a lot younger than a lot of the other musicians here and Brian Smith, who won the lifetime achievement award, is also from Langley – so it felt like everything was just coming full circle,” McWilliams said.
Brian Smith, guitarist for the iconic rock band Trooper is also a Langley resident; he took home the first ever FVMA Lifetime Achievement Award.
Smith attended with his wife and daughter and Trooper band mate Ra McGuire and was treated to a congratulatory video featuring some of Canada’s top musicians including Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, Mike Reno of Loverboy, Kim Mitchell, Bryan Adams’ guitarist Keith Scott, Tom Cochrane, Darby Mills of the Headpins, a Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page.
Hosted by local producer and comic Harry Doupe, FVMA’s are an undertaking of CIVL Radio under the direction of station manager Aaron Levy.
Chilliwack mayor Ken Popove gave a greeting while presenters ranged from Lori Paul, Manager of Music Programs for CreativeBC Brenda Grunau, Chilliwack councilor Jason Lum, and Misfit, member of the multi-Juno winning Hip Hop group Rascalz.
Full Fraser Valley Music Award Winners 2019
Blues – Dale Sawatzky (Langley)
Country – David Ivan Neil (Abbotsford)
Electronic – Stephen Carl O’Shea (Abbotsford)
Experimental – Kristin Witko (Abbotsford)
Folk – West My Friend (Langley)
Hip Hop/Urban – Hooper Turnt Sanger (Surrey)
Jazz – Natalia Pardalis (Surrey)
Metal – Eric “The Lightning” Taylor (Abbotsford)
Pop – Kristin Witko (Abbotsford)
Punk – Joanie Loves Chachi (Chilliwack)
Rock – Gone Sugar Die (Langley)
Achievement by a Female Artist – Lori Paul (Chilliwack)
Achievement by a First Nations/Indigenous Artist – Alexis Lynn (Surrey)
Achievement by an LGBTQ2+ Artist – Mackenzie Widdows (Mission)
Dakota Leslie Award for Fan Vote – Western Jaguar (Maple Ridge)
Lifetime Achievement – Brian Smith (Langley)
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