On Sunday night, hundreds of local musicians — as well as the many of the fans who love them — had Covington's Madison Theater packed to capacity to celebrate the 16th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
It was another love fest, as the music, laughs, camaraderie and drinks flowed throughout the tight three-hour ceremony/party CityBeat founded over a decade and a half ago as a means of honoring Greater Cincinnati's music makers (and, originally, local theater artists and productions).
Though it has lessened over the years as more people have grown to understand the CEAs better, there is still plenty of griping about the awards every year. The vast majority of complaints are about who gets nominated. It's understandable in light of the talent that is overlooked annually. Having so many talented and deserving artists in our city making quality music is a good problem to have. But if every worthy musical act in the Tri-State area were to be nominated for a CEA each year, the categories would include dozens of nominees and the show itself would have to be a sleepover affair. You think the Oscars are too long? Sit through one 16-hour CEA show and you'll be begging for a witty Billy Crystal musical number.
Like every year, the sport of CEA bashing is quickly forgotten once inside the venue for the ceremony. The awards celebration is the one time of the year where fellow musicians from every genre — some friends already, some friends-to-be, others perhaps only known via social media messages — gather in one place. There doesn't seem to be a ton of competitive spite within our music scene and the musicians I've talked and worked with, for the most part, are always pretty down to earth. (As if on cue, the griping returned right after the show — a comment on Sunday night's blog post featuring the winners of this year's awards deemed the whole program an embarrassment. Sixteen years of my life, wasted! Oh, anonymous trolls, where would you be without the internet?)
The CEAs can't help but become a communal love fest. (Yes, the drinking probably helps this quite a bit, as well.) In general, there seems to be a lot of internal support amongst local musicians, and it feels like external support and appreciation (outside of jerky, anonymous comments) is on an upswing. The CEAs are always a great reflection of that community spirit.
Ben Davis of Indie Pop duo Bad Veins kicked off the CEAs with his trademark taped accompaniment, but without bandmate, drummer Sebastien Schultz. Davis' performance was still compelling, capped off by that timeless ode to magic and mystery, The Muppets' chestnut, "Rainbow Connection." The singer/multi-instrumentalist set the tone (and the bar) for the night's performances, which included plenty of revelations and some fun, novel surprises.
Those unexpected moments are always the performance highlights of any awards show and this year's CEA lineup and production provided loads of highlights. Local Boogie Woogie torchbearer Ricky Nye rumbled through a great set of rollicking Blues, building up to a cool collaborative climax as Blake Taylor and Jonathan Reynolds of fellow CEA "Blues" category nominees 46 Long joined the pianist/singer. Nye and 46 Long had been embroiled in a mock online feud leading up to the show. Music heals! (Nye ended up winning the category.)
International Punk sensations The Dopamines gave the show a jolt with their explosive performance, launching into Guided By Voices' "A Salty Salute," but only after bassist Jon Weiner managed to insult nerds and "old fucks" in his introduction (they're "Punk," he reminded everyone later). From there, the trio launched into a mini-set of their own adrenalized anthems with fiery swagger. Fans were made.
The same can be said for singer Jess Lamb, the soulful vocalist who wowed the crowd with a few hypnotic songs, joined by her guitarist and bassist (who doubled on throbbing kick-drum). The sparse set-up belied the soaring sounds conjured, guided by Lamb's remarkable voice. Lamb was nominated for a CEA in the R&B/Funk/Soul category, a testament to her unique sound, which comes closer to resembling Florence and the Machine than, say, Usher. We may need to create an "Alternative/Soul/Rock" category to accommodate Lamb next year.
The Hip Hop/Rock band Gold Shoes are also keen hybridizers, and their CEA performance was a great display of the group's unique spin on Hip Hop fusion. The band provides a dynamic backdrop that's spiced with elements of Funk, Rock, Pop, Jazz and beyond. But the group isn't just providing a playground for frontman Buggs Tha Rocka to unleash his tight, captivating flow. The group writes melodic songs with strong, unique chorus hooks. Their CEA performance was a clinic on how to combine Hip Hop with other types of music without sounding like a cheap Pop grab (" … featuring Adam Lavine!"), Gym Class Heroes or, God help us all, Limp Bizkit.
The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, which provided a great experience for VIP ticket buyers in the balcony, reminded everyone of the Queen City's place in shaping popular music with a segment presented by the group's president, musician Marvin Hawkins. After talking a bit about the organization's plans to continue honoring the area's rich musical past in 2013 (expect a lot of King Records-related events in honor of the locally-based groundbreaking label's 70th anniversary), Hawkins joined a host of local Roots musicians for a spin through a pair of songs from the recent collection, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a project spearhead by Bob Dylan that involved writing songs from a cache of unearthed lyrics written by the American music icon. The all-star band assembled — including Magnolia Mountain's Mark Utley and Renee Frye, David Rhodes Brown and Sylvia Mitchell — expertly played songs they had recorded at the Music Heritage Foundation's downtown headquarters, in the same space once occupied by Herzog studios, the site where Williams recorded "Lovesick Blues" and other classics.
The CEA show itself ran smoothly and first-time host Ted Clark proved to be a great fit for the show. Clark's deadpan, sardonic humor — familiar to those who flock to his "live talk shows" at MOTR Pub — was reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis and sometimes he had great lines that were maybe to subtle for the CEA's "party atmosphere." But from those of us paying attention — bravo, Mr. Clark.
There was an array of entertaining acceptance styles from the winners, ranging from choked-up and sincere to pumped-up and enthusiastic to more matter-of-fact. Wussy had a huge night, taking home the Album of the Year (for Strawberry) and Artist of the Year CEAs, capped by some funny lines while accepting. Drummer Joe Klug joked that, for anyone doubting they deserved the Artist award, Wussy "played Little Rock, Ark., four times in the past year."
The award presenters — a collection of local music supporters and personalities, mostly from radio and press outlets, as well as sponsor reps — did a great job hammering home the "support local music" message of the CEAs' mission. But presenter and CityBeat Arts and Culture Editor Jac Kern provided one of the funniest bits in CEA history with her tribute to Beyonce — via a soon-cut-off lip-synced performance of the National Anthem.
Culture Queer capped off the show (or warmed up the after party?) with a set that captured the fun of the night, rocking out a trio of quirky, animated Electro Indie Art Pop gems with their trademark film backdrop. The sprightly CEA trophy hostesses came out for some dancing on finale "Born Again," their funky get-ups matching CQ's twitchy, offbeat anthem — and the jubilant, colorful energy of the entire night — perfectly.
In a lot of ways, Cincinnati's Over the Rhine belonged to the world almost as soon as they birthed its spectacular debut album, 1991’s Patience. There wasn't really an evolutionary period involving chops-honing and building an audience with local bar gigs every weekend before becoming a songwriting and performing powerhouse that could stand toe-to-toe with its peer group on the national level. Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler sprang fully formed from Zeus’ forehead as a mature and supremely talented duo with the undeniable ability to mingle heartache and joy with words and music and find an indelible way to invest each emotion with a taste of the other.
Local RCA Records recording artists Walk the Moon surprised fans today by announcing that they have teamed with video service VEVO to premiere its new, self-titled album, which hits stores this coming Tuesday. The album is being premiered as a "series of officially unofficial videos, hand-made, band-made by yours truly without a film crew or a budget."
Check out the full Walk the Moon album below (in playlist form).
Scoring major glowing reviews in national music magazines for your first two albums might intimidate some artists. But for Wussy, set to release its newest (a self-titled effort) for locally-based Shake It Records, a natural progression and tightness has resulted in their best album yet.
The best music show on TV, PBS’s Austin City Limits, has announced the lineup of artists for its 35th anniversary season (yup, ACL can now officially run for President) starting Oct. 3. The roster is another great mix of established artists and relative newcomers, with the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello, Ben Harper, M. Ward, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, Band of Heathens and Okkervil River slated for episodes. The season will also feature the first appearance by Cincinnati’s Heartless Bastards.
One of Cincinnati's all-time great turntablists, Tobotius (aka Tobe Donohue, member of DMC award-winning collective Animal Crackers), is preparing to release a solo album this February titled I, Tobot, but website The Untz posted the first leak from the record yesterday (click here for a free download). The track, "The Blox," is a collaboration with local Funk master, bassist Freekbass (aka Chris Sherman); the two local musicians have been working the national club circuit together as Freekbot. (They also collaborated on a modern "fight song" for Notre Dame's Fighting Irish called "We Are ND"; click here to view.) Check the hyped-up Tobotius/Freekbass track (fueled by a flurry of chaotic samples and scratches) below.
It's official — the Heartless Bastards are indeed still "from Cincinnati." When the band appeared on David Letterman's Late Show Tuesday night, Dave walked over at the end of their performance and asked, "You're from Austin?" Both Erika Wennerstrom and bassist Jesse Ebaugh corrected him by saying, "We're from Cincinnati."
Music Tonight: Popular Detroit Psychobilly/Punkabilly/Powerbilly trio The Koffin Kats hot-rod it into Newport for a show at the Southgate House. While the band, which formed in 2003, has done the Psychobilly schtick, writing songs with Horror and Sci Fi themes, the Kats' more "real life" songs have always been around and, over the years, become more dominant in KK sets and on albums. That should be especially evident on the upcoming Our Way & The Highway, due in mid-January, which reflects what singer/bassist Zac Victor told CityBeat was a general move towards a "Bruce Springsteen approach more than a Dracula approach" and even more reflective of their broad musical influences. Read the entire interview with Victor at citybeat.com, then catch the band tonight at SGH with Dr. Bombay, The Returners, Vice Tricks and Switchblade Syndicate. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($13 for those ages 18-20). Below, check out the great, swoony track (anybody else hear some Smiths in there?) "The Bottle Called" from last year's "split album" with 12 Step Rebels called From Our Hands to Yours (it will also be on the new album).
Music Saturday: There's a clinic on modern Psych Rock music at the Southgate House as three disparate practitioners team up for a 9:30 p.m., all-ages show. Headliners The Black Angels touch on the Velvet Underground brand of psychedelia, with droning hypnotics, as well as later artists like Spacemen 3 and Jesus and Mary Chain. D.C.'s Dead Meadow have been working their brand of hard-rocking trippiness for the past 13 years, while L.A.'s Spindrift make soundtracks for desert vision quests, influenced by the likes of The Doors, Hawkwind and Electronic music pioneer, Bruce Haack. The band's cinematic sound has been used to soundtrack several film projects (including the Tarantino-produced Hell Ride), and, this spring, the group released Classic Soundtracks Volume 1, featuring 14 themes from various scores, which were made into short films by various directors, touching on everything from Bollywood to film noir (the films, music videos and trailers from the project have been screened to a national audience on the IFC network). Check out a few examples from Spindrift's soundtracks project below. Tickets for tonight's show are $18 at the door.
Cincy rockers Wussy are set to join the much-celebrated Afghan Whigs' reunion tour this fall when the band finally hits the U.S. for a string of dates. Another great exhibition of Cincy's rich music scene, again in the national spotlight. Wussy has been touring a lot more than usual lately, including its first West Coast jaunt, so this should help raise the group's national profile even more.
So far, Wussy is set to open for The Afghan Whigs for their homecoming show at Bogart's on Oct. 25 (sold out), as well as dates in New Orleans (Oct. 19), Atlanta (Oct. 20), Carrboro, NC (Oct. 21) and another sold-out affair in Detroit (Oct. 24). More dates are expected to be announced soon.
Wussy co-lead-singer/songwriter Chuck Cleaver is a longtime friend/mutual fan of the Whigs. Back in 1993, the local label Mono Cat 7 released a split single featuring the Whigs and Cleaver's former band, The Ass Ponys. The Ponys covered The Whigs' tune "You My Flower," while Greg Dulli and Co. tackled the Ass Ponys classic "Mr. Superlove." (That's the cover art, with former Short Vine mayor Archie acting as the model, above.)
Here's a fan-made video for the Whigs' take on "Mr. Superlove" (NSFW due to mild nudity).
More recently, Wussy recorded a great cover version of another early Whigs song, Up In It opening track, "Retarded," for an Afghan Whigs tribute compilation put out by fantastic Afghan Whigs site Summer's Kiss (listen or purchase here). The comp also included Whigs renditions by Mark Lanegan, Joseph Arthur and several other acts.
Give a listen to Wussy's "Retarded" below.