Hello to the GRAMMYs

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Wed, 02/11/2009 - 21:52

album promo image for Hello to the GRAMMYs

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com

Out of all the music industry's celebrations, theGRAMMY Awards are hands down the most elite, star-studded spectacle of the last half century. Embarking upon its 51st year, producers packed this year's telecast with 24 performances by everyone from living legends to not-to-be-missed newcomers. One of the most ambitious acts from that latter category was LaGrange, Georgia's alternative rockers After Edmund, who may not have earned a performance slot just yet, but were nominated for "Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album," a noted achievement for anyone, especially a new band supporting its first-ever national release Hello (Slanted). Though they didn't wind up taking the trophy (that went to aptly deserving veteran tobyMac), the foursome comprised of bassist/vocalist Mitch Parks, guitarist Ben Hosey, drummer Matt McFadden and keyboardist Yates (alongside the first three members' spouses and manager Van Hohe) scored an all-access pass to the festivities and invited GospelMusicChannel.com along for the ride.

Friday night fun
Before the hustle and bustle of the nominees' reception, red carpet rendezvous, telecast and post-Grammy celebration, After Edmund and its entourage touched down in downtown Los Angeles Friday night to start the weekend as a mini-vacation. Though the itinerary would be packed all of Saturday and Sunday, the first adventure started with a trip to Sprinkles Cupcakes, followed by a perusal of Chinatown. After spending over an hour going in and out of prospective restaurants, the gang decided on the ultra-crowded Zen Cu, though it proved to be well worth the wait.

"L.A. has such a mixture of great cultures gathered in one place," observed Yates (who never discloses his first name), giving a particular shout out to Sprinkles. "Outside of great Mexican, Chinese and American food, it's the only place where you could pay $3 for a cupcake, but they're so delicious, you forget about how much they cost. We just love the atmosphere, scenery, landscape and weather, so when we found out we were nominated, we said we might as well enjoy the city."

Saturday starts the celebration
After the ladies got their nails done and the guys waited in an exhaustive line to pick up Grammy credentials, everyone was ready for food and turned to the equally famous west coast staple In-N-Out Burger for fulfillment. Time was tight for the late afternoon lunch; everyone had to don their formal wear for the early evening nominees' reception, which included the distribution of Lifetime Achievement Awards to country/pop crossover Brenda Lee, gospel/soul icons The Blind Boys of Alabama, Motown standards The Four Tops, plus the Grammy Trustee Award to New Orleans piano great Allen Toussaint. (Check out After Edmund with these and other famous faces in the Photo Gallery.)

Upon valet parking the rental van outside the stunning Wilshire Ebell Theatre, everyone paused for a few pictures on the red carpet before heading inside for a ritzy buffet, mingling and picking up their nominees' medallions. Along the way, there were plenty of stars to spot, including meet-and-greet moments with the ultra-bubbly and talented Lee, her friend and world famous game show host Wink Martindale, members of MercyMe and Superchick, along with "Producer of the Year" nominee Johnny K (Plain White T's, Staind) and Toussaint (who even at 71 asked for After Edmund's MySpace page so he "could check out some songs").

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"The party was pretty cool and the whole atmosphere really was overwhelming," reflected Hosey after the experience. "It was a combination of having a lot of people who we wanted to meet, wanting to just hang with each other as friends and hear some live music. There was seriously so much to do and it was very elaborate, but a ton of fun all across the board."

Though midnight was quickly approaching, a quick, post-party trip to Santa Monica allowed for some late night shopping and a gourmet yogurt run, since after all, Grammy-nominated rock stars deserve the very best. But as conversations foreshadowing Sunday's ceremony enveloped the conversation, the guys truly took the nomination humbly and were clearly committed to their spiritual calling, regardless of the global recognition.

"We look at this [nomination] as a gift," verified Hosey. "We can't say we've gained respect or acclaim yet, because we're not sure how this happened; we just give credit to God for that one."

A superstar-filled Sunday
That down-to-earth approach continued on Sunday, which started with a simple run to Subway, followed by a blur of ironing clothes, hair combing and catching the Grammy shuttle to the red carpet. After being a bit miffed for missing the first one, everyone rationalized it was totally cool to be fashionably late and made the second shuttle (right alongside the Blind Boys of Alabama), which took a perplexing 45 minutes to travel a mere half mile given the onslaught of worldwide media and more stretch limos than all of LAX's car rental lots combined.

After Edmund arrived at the carpet just after noon, following in the footsteps of comedian Kathy Griffin, bluegrass hero Ricky Skaggs, "Best Urban/Alternative Performance" nominee/ P. Diddy protégé Janelle Monáe, and the familiar face of Steven Curtis Chapman following closely behind. After chatting with the latter three (all of whom were incredibly gracious) and posing for pictures, the guys spoke with a cavalcade of mainstream media as diverse as MTV and VH1 to reporters for major mobile outlets Sprint and Verizon. The fellas also treated the photographers' pool to some jokes and fashion-focused poses, though faith was still at the forefront of the conversations.

"It was a great thing for our career because we could introduce ourselves to people who didn't know us beforehand, but it also gave us the chance to tell people why we make our music," Parks noticed. "Every day when we walk out our front door, our goal is to represent Jesus in any way we can and we didn't think twice about doing it on the red carpet. It's easy to do that when you're in church in a comfortable setting, but also doing so at the Grammys was actually easier than [it sounds] just because sharing Jesus is part of our lifestyle anyway."

Following those witnessing opportunities, everyone made their way into metal detectors to the pre-telecast ceremony adjacent to the Staples Center. Between the walk inside and an hors d'oeuvres reception, the gang had the chance to hang with Metallica's Roberto Trujillo and members of Death Cab For Cutie, while also catching glimpses of Carrie Underwood, Cyndi Lauper and Chris Tomlin mingling with friends and industry contacts.

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The "Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album" came up shortly thereafter, but the After Edmund camp sat calmly waiting for the verdict. Though it felt like forever for the list to be read, tobyMac's name was eventually called. Just as they had the entire weekend, the guys took the moment in stride.

"It would've been great to take home a trophy, but just being here is the biggest part," admitted a sincere and still smiling McFadden. "We still have this unbelievable title on our resume and we can take that to the grave, plus we're so pumped that this came on our first record, which means we'll have to come back and try again."

Show time
Before being able to think too far into the future, the group darted inside the spacious Staples Center for the televised portion of the program, shedding any previous stresses of rushing to get ready or wondering about an award. From U2 to Coldplay, Radiohead, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Paul McCartney with Dave Grohl, Stevie Wonder and The Jonas Brothers, along with Al Green tag teaming with Justin Timberlake and Boyz II Men, it was indeed a jaw-dropping spectacle.

"Al and Justin was my number one pick because it was so amazing to see such a living legend pull it off so well in the live setting," said McFadden, followed by Parks picking Coldplay, Hosey championing Wonder (whom he would've preferred solo) and Yates tying between Radiohead and an all-star tribute to Bo Diddley. "I have a soft spot for both Radiohead and marching bands, so combining the two was amazing," he joked. "And seeing B.B. King, John Mayer, Buddy Guy and Keith Urban [tipping their hats to Bo] was one of the most amazing guitar playing combinations you could ever ask for."

Following a finale performance from a solo Wonder, the guests were quickly ushered to an after-party in the same room as the pre-telecast presentation, but After Edmund could only make a cameo because a red-eye flight awaited. After the extraordinary experience of the weekend, it was back to business as usual, including a gig the very next night in Nashville. But before rushing out the door, the troupe did catch Robin Thicke perform a short set, scored some more free food and a goodie bag loaded with ultra-expensive hair care products.

"It's a crazy schedule, but we'll look back and smile on it once we get a chance to breathe and take it all in," added Yates while everyone hurriedly packed before having to dart for the airport, return the rental van and check bags within a single hour. "I think it will take a least a week before we digest everything that just happened, but as a whole, it's been a fantastic trip. We've been doing this for about three years, but it's never been about getting to the Grammys. We've just sought God first through it all and He just inserted this in the equation, which turned out to be the ultimate icing on the cupcake."


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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