by senior contributor Brendan Kownacki
It has been called “Washington’s most interesting mix of music and politics” – and that description did not disappoint on Wednesday evening when musicians, media, VIPs and politicians crowded the ballroom at The Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill for the annual GRAMMYs on the Hill.
The eclectic crowd were all on hand to toast honorees John Mayer and Rep. Howard Berman for their advocacy efforts in the past year. Berman received acclaim from members of the recording industry for his dedication to protecting intellectual property and performer’s rights while Mayer got a nod for his dedication to music education and standing up for veterans’ affairs. Joining them on stage were Cheap Trick lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, blues legend Buddy Guy, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and many more, all being corralled for the evening by NBC News correspondent Luke Russert.
|Kathleen Sebelius (L) John Mayer (C)|
Russert kicked off the evening in high spirits but admitted to a crowd that he would be monitoring the score of the Washington Capitols playoff hockey game from backstage (even interrupting the program at one point to give an update on the score). He poked fun that just like the record industry, which has lots of players behind the scenes for any record, all the congressmen in the room, could agree lots of people behind the scenes help to write the bills that become laws.
The comment drew chuckles from the lawmakers in the room, including Rep. Berman, "I can't get that many cameras at my press conferences" he said, reacting to the storm of flashbulbs as he took the stage. Berman was gracious for the honor and said he was glad to share the evening with Mayer, whose song titles seemed to capture the congressional attitude—such as, “Waiting on the World to Change.”
Mayer was looking for some change himself when took to the spot behind the podium. He expressed that he’s not used to reading off a teleprompter, but “this is not the night for make-em-up-ems.” He kept the mood light as he discussed his work bringing music education to kids and advocating for vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
He seemed to see a similarity, that in both cases, it was about caring for talent and helping them to flourish outside of ideal situations. "I believe our country is waiting to be informed on how to treat our returning veterans,” said Mayer. He addressed how we should say thank you to returning vets, but that the critical piece was being able to help them reintegrate into society, and move on in “years which will most likely, hopefully, outnumber the years of your service.
His message was loud and clear, but music was still the backbone for this talented musician who didn’t hesitate to take the stage with Buddy Guy to lend some crowd shaking guitar chords that got everyone, from recording execs to Steny Hoyer bopping to the beat.