The idea for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs) was essentially born when CityBeat came into being in 1994. It was on the paper’s “Things Altweeklies Are Supposed to Do” list from the start, as was the dedication to making local music coverage a cornerstone of the paper.
On Sunday evening at Covington’s Madison Theater, the CEAs will be staged for the 14th year, marking the latest chapter of a rich Greater Cincinnati music scene tradition. Presented yearly the week of Thanksgiving, it’s our way of giving thanks to the local artists who enrich our city in ways they likely don’t truly understand.
The CEA program is an attempt to remind local musicians that their contributions are greatly appreciated. It’s also an attempt to bring together musicians (as well the non-musicians who work to support and nurture the music community) from across the local music spectrum, proving year after year that regardless of the type of music they play, creative types are going to have an outrageously good time when you put them all in one room. Having a full bar in that room might be a factor, too.
Sunday’s party/ceremony/live music showcase is the second year for the CEAs at the Madison Theater. The show (again hosted by local TV personality Jen Dalton) has moved a lot over the years, utilizing venues from the Taft and Emery theaters to the Aronoff Center to Old St. George church on the edge of UC’s campus. Though the rooms naturally became a little weirder and more Rock & Roll when the CEAs took over, none of them has felt like a better natural fit, with the Madison’s concert atmosphere and bar vibe matching the loose, funky spirit and celebratory mood the event was always intended to convey.
Among the performers this year are two nominees in the “New Artist” category.
The Guitars contain former members of explosive, abrasive bands like No Arms, No Legs and Death in Graceland, but in this latest guise the musicians’ passion and musicianship shine as they opt for a finessed brand of Rock steeped in classic ’60s Pop. Fellow performers No No Knots have been building a following with a crafty blend of Electronica, Post Punk, Indie and Dance Rock powered by singer Molly Sullivan’s exquisitely captivating vocals.
Ska/Reggae ensemble The Pinstripes, nominated in the “World” category, bring their vintage approach and tight live show to the CEAs after regrouping with a new guitarist. Also performing are singer/songwriters Kim Taylor and Dallas Moore, guiding lights in their respective fields locally for years (both have since drawn substantial attention from outside of Cincinnati).
Taylor’s mesmerizing songwriting and grippingly haunting voice has helped her folksy Pop become a favorite of NPR, Paste magazine and those who pick songs for placement in TV shows. Moore and his band are the kings of gritty Outlaw Country, with a rocking live set that's slayed audiences regionally and down South, as well as a strong, versatile songwriting prowess that has earned Moore’s releases widespread praise.
The eccentric rockers of Foxy Shazam (pictured above) make their CEA debut Sunday. The band’s debut for Warner Bros. Records has kept them touring practically non-stop this year, nothing new for the offbeat band, which booked extensive road treks seemingly from its inception. Foxy is selling its strongest asset, a performance style that’s like a Salvador Dali painting of James Brown, Queen and Iggy Pop juggling fire at a carnival run by Rob Zombie and Willy Wonka. Foxy will perform with The Cincy Brass, a funky, New Orleans-style horn ensemble known for its jubilant live show and unexpected cover selections.
Proceeds from ticket sales for the CEA program go to the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, an organization that strives to make Cincinnati’s vital contributions to popular music more widely known. The members have been involved in several events promoting the legacy of King Records and Herzog Studios, and this year the group hosted an open-to-the-public recording session in Herzog's former downtown space where Hank Williams recorded some of his early breakthrough hits (and eventual classics).
The CUMHF’s stated mission is “to elevate the region’s rich music heritage and the contributions of the past, present and future music community through preservation, education and celebration.” Add “and get musicians drunk and give them trophies” and it could also describe the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards’ main ambitions. For all that music does for us, it’s the least we can do.
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