Air Traffic Controller by Lindsay Nolin

Air Traffic Controller

Call it a Cinderella story. Because for the creative minds behind the New England Music Awards, what started out as a niche industry event has transformed into one of fastest growing annual celebrations packing in the best live music from across six states.

In its fifth year, NEMA will spotlight more than 100 bands up for awards in two dozen categories. From rock, punk, rap and blues to hip-hop, jazz, country and everything in between, count on discovering several homegrown artists worthy of your playlist.

The awards ceremony was born in 2011, when local music promoter Joe Graham and Sugarpop Records label-exec Dennis Hennessey shared a conversation about their love of rock ‘n’ roll over a couple of beers. That night at the bar resulted in a bona fide tribute to New England’s best bands and solo artists.

The inaugural show at Boston’s Hard Rock Cafe in 2012 honored dozens of up-and-comers like The Suicide Dolls, Darlingside, Frank Viele, and Mission Hill, as well as some seasoned players who are no strangers to radio airplay including Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and the Ryan Montbleau Band.

Since then, artist submissions have skyrocketed going from 800 to more than 5,000 for the current year.

In need of a larger venue that could accommodate an all-ages crowd, NEMA moved the show to Lowell Memorial Auditorium and Patriots’ Place at Foxboro before landing its current venue, Blue Ocean Music Hall at Salisbury Beach.

“When you take New England as a whole and look at all the amazing music and talent that’s out there, it’s mind blowing,” said NEMA event coordinator Mike Flynn. “Putting that talent together under one roof also helps some artists get recognition that they might not have had before.”

But NEMA weekend really belongs to the fans, who, in the event’s fifth year, have come to view the show as a link to music that matters.

The awards show helps roll in a thoroughly overwhelming onslaught of up and comers, unknowns, fresh sounds and new obsessions. Check out all the nominees and get your tickets to the April 9 main event at

Reasons to Rock: Performing Live at NEMA

Anna Madsen

Anna Madsen
Moody and ethereal, Anna layers her sweet vocals over ambient soundscapes that alternate between bouncy and melancholic.

Alex Preston

Alex Preston
Indie rock with soaring melodies and clever song writing.


Fun and fierce, this indie band is a shot of adrenaline on stage.


Gretchen & The Pickpockets
An epic groove fest rolled into an offbeat mash-up of jazz, soul and swirling guitar rock.

Frank Viele

Frank Viele
Soulful, gravely-voiced sincerity that will rattle your bones and penetrate to the core.

Daphnee Lee Martin

Daphne Lee Martin with Suave Ski
Pop-funk featuring Suave Ski’s smooth flow, guaranteed to move you to the dance floor.

As The Sparrow

As the Sparrow
Thoughtful and groovy alt rock that can elevate your neighborhood speakeasy from simmer to boil in under 60 seconds.

Chriss Ross & The North

Chris Ross & The North
Alt-country rock that will make you want to drink moonshine and dance with strangers.



About The Author

HOWL Street Team

Exploring everything from food and shopping to arts and entertainment so you can experience the best of what Greater Lowell has to offer.