On Nov. 19, hundreds of local musicians and music fans packed the lower bowl at the Taft Theatre for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. The event’s 11th annual fiesta/ceremony was probably the best attended music program in CEA history, with the usual mix amusing acceptance speeches, drunken heckling, superb musical performances from some of Cincinnati’s finest musicians and … a creepy dancer dressed in a white cat costume, rolling around on an exercise ball (I’m still trying to figure out what that was all about).
Over the Rhine opened the show with a short set, which featured some great Jazz-like interplay between the quartet and a swelling noisescape crescendo that seemed to win over even some of the Indie hipsters and Punk Rock rascals. A fervent, free jam freak-out from Over the Rhine? That’s one of the coolest things about the CEAs — the surprises and revelations.
It’s always fun to hear the lubricated musicians’ acceptance speeches. Rumpke Mountain Boys were down a member when they won Bluegrass — “Jason (Wolf, banjoist) is the bathroom. I bet he wished he was here.” Jason then made a mad dash to the stage at the last second and gave the crowd a heart “Wooo!” Honky Tonk/Rockabilly band Straw Boss was gigging, so when they won the Country award, a random gentleman near the front row simply staggered up on stage and accepted on their behalf. Kim Taylor’s adorable son accepted her award for Singer/Songwriter, being fed lines from his dad, who was hoisting him up to the podium (he ended with, “And anything else you want to add … What? That’s what my dad said!”).
Ryan Malott of 500 Miles to Memphis was also in the bathroom when his band won the Rock award. Veteran lap-steel player David Rhodes Brown accepted for the band, remarking — as most did — about the strength of our city’s music scene. Mallott came on stage at the last minute and said he couldn’t think of anyone better to accept — “I’m glad I had to piss,” he said. Ska/Reggae group The Pinstripes won the World Music statue and trombonist Chap Sowash told the crowd he never thought playing the trombone would get him anything “but pushed into lockers.” When Wussy won Album of Year for their Left for Dead album, Chuck Cleaver said that when the band started, people asked why he would play in a band with “novices” — “This is fucking why,” he said, defiantly.
Speaking of Wussy, they also played a great, energetic two-and-a-half song set that culminated with a soaring version of the coda from “Atlantis” by Donovan, bringing out friends and bandmates from 7 Speed Vortex, Messerly & Ewing and The Fairmount Girls to sing back-ups. Bad Veins did a great three-song set, transferring their orchestral-via-backing-tracks sound well in the big room. Buffalo Killers rumbled the ground and no doubt caused a few ’60s flashbacks with their stellar Psych Pop set. Tropicoso closed the night, filling the big stage with their huge ensemble and Latin music mastery, which featured a couple pairs of salsa dancers and incited a little “salsa pit” going on in front of the stage. And Angels of Meth tore the roof off with a blistering set of their Sabbath-meets-’80s-Hard-Rock sound. As their hair bounced to the boogie, I was starting to believe what someone yelled as the Metal/Hard Rock statue was being awarded — “Metal rules this scene!”
Yes, the omnipresent “Sponsored by Scion” mentions were a bit overbearing (the recorded “skits” and giant Scion emblem on the big stage curtain seemed inappropriate and the crowd seemed to agree). And there was a tinge of sadness throughout, with memorials and tributes to new Hall of Famer, recently deceased Blues legend H-Bomb Ferguson, Michael Bany (the late local bassist whose memorial scholarship fund is the recipient of the money raised at the CEAs) and Chris Walker, who is still working towards recovery after a very serious auto accident recently. Kelly Thomas awarded the Rivertown Music Club recording grants to Liz Bowater, Junior Revolution and Straw Boss, with each award ($500 towards a recording project) being named in honor of late local musicians Red MacCormack, Brad Andress and Sam Nation.
But the warmth in the room whenever a troubled or deceased musician was mentioned is a big part of what the awards show is all about (even the drunk hecklers were respectful). Our local music scene does indeed often resemble a family and CityBeat is proud to be a part of this annual family reunion.
(photos: Keith Klenowski)
— Mike Breen