The schmoozing and back-patting created the communal love buzz of the 14th annual CEAs, but the great live sets turned in by each of the night’s performers made it one for the ages. Masterful showman and Outlaw Country marvel Dallas Mooreand his band gave the CEAs a gritty, electrifying kick in the ass, while Kim Taylorsoothed souls as her always gorgeous and mysterious songs hovered hypnotically over the packed house.
Two of the nominees for “New Artist of the Year” provided tight, compelling introductions to the many potential new fans in attendance. Its second year hosting the event, the Madison again proved to be a great fit for the CEAs’ vibe and set-up. The stage and sound are excellent, presenting the performers in their best light. The great sound illuminated No No Knots’ layered, spellbinding Art Rock, a progressive, multi-hued soundscape of edgy, creative guitar, buoyant beats, electronic undertows and engrossing, radiant melodies from charismatic vocalist Molly Sullivan.
Fellow “New Artist” runners-up (Pop Empire won the category) The Guitarsshowcased their crisp, classics-informed Pop songs, superbly written nuggets that live up to the members’ avowed inspiration from classic Soul Pop from the ’60s (evident in the arrangements, melodies and instrumentation).
Foxy Shazam’s Molotov cocktail of a performance instantly validated the Sire Records recording artist’s first CEA win of the night, for “Best Live Act.” Foxy’s animated, high-drama mash-up of Punk force, proud Prog audacity, surrealistic Pop and twisted Broadway musical pomp might not be for everyone, but it’s hard to deny the entertainment value of the band’s live presentation. With perfectly placed horns from funky ensemble The Cincy Brass, the Foxy fellas whirled perpetually in frenzied motion from the first note, their live act being a natural reflection of the cheeky absurdity, maniacal intensity and fearless abandon inherent in their imaginative songwriting.
Mustachioed singer Eric Nally — who spoke only in absurd non sequiturs all night — has a bottomless bag of stage moves and used all of them (and then some) for the group’s CEA debut, letting a cymbal on his head be bashed by the drummer, riding around on the guitarist’s shoulders and multiple tricks involving the mic and mic stand (James Brown andLux Interior would have been proud). Foxy took home the most awards of any artist, also scoring wins for “Artist of the Year” and “Best Musical Ambassador For the City.”
As winners collected their plaques and presenters tore open envelopes, there was a common thread in most of what was said on stage. No, not that “George Bush doesn’t care about white people,” as a member of Small Time Crookssaid in his acceptance remarks. Repeatedly, artists and presenters enthused about Cincinnati’s unusually supportive, rarely hyper-competitive music community and how lucky we all are to live in a city filled with such consistently strong and uniquely creative musicians. The CEA celebration is the city’s annual reminder to not take those very things for granted.
For photos and more from the show, click here.
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