(Bennett Wales & The Relief’s dynamic sophomore album, “II.” 

By Jeff Maisey

Way back in 1980 — 40 years ago — MTV debuted with The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star,” and thus entered a new threat to a medium in which recording artists made a career for themselves.

Music videos, as it turned out, also made superstars of bands who might otherwise remained in obscurity; more serious future obstacles came in the form of digital downloads and streaming.  

Still, nothing has impacted musicians and the entire industry more than COVID-19, which has decimated the live music industry, impacting everyone from major acts such as the Rolling Stones to local bands who made a living on their music like Anthony Rosano. 

Due to the pandemic and the governor’s mandate on public gatherings, we’ve canceled the Veer Music Awards scheduled for early February.

There will be no ceremony, no physical awards, no thematic live performances, no having the entire music scene in one room together to celebrate the notable achievements of 2020. 

Instead, we are including what the Veer Magazine staff has picked as the Best of 2020 in local music in the following categories. We also included honorable mentions to showcase the many who would have been “nominees” in a normal year as well as a couple pandemic-specific categories unique to the year. 

In fact, though live music has been severely limited in 2020, some bars and venues were able to have limited seating for shows. Musicians also put their shelter-in-place time to creative use by writing and recording new songs, albums and videos, and then releasing them for all to enjoy.

Those bands/musicians who released new material in 2020 were given consideration for “best” or “honorable mention.”  

Here are our staff picks.


Album of the Year 

Bennett Wales & The Relief, “Album II” 

Honorable Mentions:

From Overseas, “Home”

Rob Oliver, “Highes & Lows & Blues”

K’Bana Blaq, “Death to Mindless Music”

Ian Randall Thornton, “Wide Open”

Holly Kirsten, “Starlings”

Exploding Sun, “Truesonic”

Lori Creek, “Copenhagen” 

Luca Burgalassi, “Come to My World”

Electric Johnson, “Alcohol Train & Food Bank Girl”

Cysthen, “Home (s)”

The Jason Cale Band, “World of Wonder”


Live Recording of the Year

Lucky 757: Released a well produced album and video titled “Live at the Goode Theatre.”

Honorable Mention:

From Overseas, “Live at the Hermitage Museum”


EP of the Year

Koren Grace, “All My Friends”

Honorable Mentions:

Dariel Clark, “The In-Between Times”

Derek Smith & The New Day, “Derek Smith & The New Day” 

Broken Beaches, “A Fistful of Singles”

Grim Bright, “Grim Bright”

Shaolinn, “OME (Organized Mixed Emotions”

Song of Praise, “MXMX”

Norfolk Nightmares, “Gimme Blood”

Spirit Gun, “New Eyes”


Song of the Year 

Bennett Wales & The Relief, “The War”

Honorable Mentions:

Akeylah Simone, “Uncertainty”

Rob Oliver, “Help Me Keep My Head Up High”

Koren Grace, “My World”

The Lifehacks, “Pretty Monsters”

K’Bana Blaq, “Blackness” 

OK Mayday, “Blossoms”

Derek Smith  & The New Day, “Another Long Day”

Attenuator, “Bottle It Up”

D*Nik, “Stuck on Dumb” 

Ashley Felder, “Far Beyond”

Holly Kirsten, “Cool Breeze”

SICMaN of VA, “Sandy”

Court Street Company, “Modern Age”

RunitupTahj, “Hit Yo Groove” 

Lori Creek, “A Fire Waitin’”

Ladada, “Oh No (Only Love)”


Social Justice Song of the Year

Ben Phelps Project, “Where Were You When”

Honorable Mentions:

Bobby Black Hat Walters, “America, How Do You Feel Today?”

The Dharma Initiative w/Mr. Moe, “Walk with Me”

Michael Goldberg, “Open Up Your Hearts”

Tom Farley, “Our Better Angels”


Pandemic Song of the Year

Anthony Rosano, “Isolation Blues”

Honorable Mentions:

ARock & Just Archie, “Corona Kisses”

Jim Bulleit/Zach Moats, “Catastrophic Thinking”

Bobby Black Hat Walters, “Coronavirus Blues” 


Music Video of the Year

K’Bana Blaq ft. Mona J, “Blackness”

Honorable Mentions:

Magg Dylan, “Delusional”

Runnin’ Shine, “The Way You Need Me” 

Bennett Wales & The Relief, “The War”

Carlos Armon, “Alright”

RunitupTahj, “Hit Yo Groove”

OK Mayday, “Blossoms”

Norfolk Nightmares, “Second Time Around”

Court Street Company, “In the Street”

Bennett Wales & The Relief, “Hey Otto”

Derek 32Zero, “He Doesn’t Care”

K’Bana Blaq, “Warrior”

The Purge, “Carried Away”

Carlos Armon, “Dreams”


Best At-Home Video Performance

Karl Werne: Folk singer Karl Werne created a live video series with fellow musicians participating via video from home. 

Honorable Mentions:

Anthony Rosano

Sherri Lynn 

The Dharma Initiative “COVID Sessions” 


Best Holiday Themed Release

Jae Sinnett & Brittany Burrell: Released the R&B-meets-funk/jazz single “All the Lights We See”

Honorable Mentions:

The Muddy Gems, “Christmas Kiss”

Blue Ribbon, “The 12 Strings of Christmas”

Tornado Bait, “Brown Paper Bag Christmas”


Best IndiePop

The Lifehacks: Released the retro-vibe single “Pretty Monsters.” 

Honorable Mentions:

OK Mayday

Red Weather

Broken Beaches

Court Street Company


Suburban Key Party


Best Pop

Koren Grace: Released the EP “All My Friends.” 

Honorable Mentions:

Akeylah Simone





Best Metal

Magg Dylan: Release the edgy music video for “Delusional”

Honorable Mentions:

The New Mutiny

I Like Loathing

Beggar’s Row


Best Rock 

Exploding Sun: Released the 8-song album “Truesonic” 

Honorable Mentions:

The Ben Phelps Project

Big Al Staggs

Spirit Gun


Best Garage/Punk

Norfolk Nightmares: Release the video single “Second Time Around.”

Honorable Mention:

Song of Praise


Best Jazz

Left of Center: Released the album “Crossing the Water”

Honorable Mentions:

Eddie Williams

Jae Sinnett

Quicksilver Night feat. Jeff Saunders


Best R&B/Soul

K’Bana Blaq: Released the album “Death to Mindless Music” and several music videos.

Honorable Mentions: 

Ashley Felder

Carlos Armon 

Myra Smith


The Fuzz Band


Best Hip Hop

Just Archie & ARock: Released the album “Love Songs for Corona: The Pandemic” and the “The Epidemic Painkillers” EP. 

Honorable Mentions:

Dariel Clark



Ghetto Chris

Derek 32Zero


Best Americana/Bluegrass/Old-Time

Lori Creek: Release the whimsical 8-song album “Copenhagen.”

Honorable Mentions:

Jackie & Resa



Best Contemporary Country

Runnin’ Shine: Released a well-produced music video of  “The Way You Need Me.”

Honorable Mentions:

Cody Christian

Secret Ingredients

Celeste Kellogg

Troy Breslow


Best Acoustic/Folk 

Holly Kirsten: Released the 14-song album “Starlings”

Honorable Mentions:

Ian Randall Thornton 

Derek Smith & The New Day

Luca Burgalassi

Roy Ira Moats & the Moats Dogs

Tom Farley

Karl Werne

Jim Newsom


Best Blues

The Jason Cale Band: Released the album “World of Wonder”

Honorable Mentions:

Rob Oliver

Bobby Black Hat Walters

Anthony Rosano

Paul Urban

Tom Euler 


Best Electronic/Ambient

From Overseas: Released the beautiful album “Home” and a live album recorded at Hermitage Museum. 

Honorable Mentions:

Grim Bright

not kevin 

The Purge




Best Cover Band

Last Fair Deal: The group played two sold-out shows at Elevation27 performing Grateful Dead’s “Workingman’s Dead” in its entirety on its 50th anniversary. 

Honorable Mentions:

The Deloreans Band


The Detonators 

Raw Beets

Mike Proffitt Band

Intangible Cats


Best Gospel/Spiritual

Jonah’s Run: Released an EP titled “War 8:46” 

Honorable Mention:

Voices of Fire


Best Live Music Venue

Elevation27: The Virginia Beach venue continued to operate as a musical dinner theater with a set number of tables. Most of the performing acts were tribute bands. 

Honorable Mentions:

The Vanguard

Abbey Road



Old Beach Tavern

South Beach Grill 


Best Live Music Series

Festevents “Thank Goodness We’re Open”: Festevents held a series of outdoor shows featuring local bands in Town Point Park with reserved circled spaces. 

Honorable Mentions:

Suffolk Center “Together On Stage”

Culture Fix Masks & Music Popup Concert Series