On Nov. 25, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony took place at Over-the-Rhine’s Memorial Hall. The show was founded by CityBeat 21 years ago to pay tribute to the local music-makers who make Greater Cincinnati’s music scene so amazing.
There were great performances by local artists and award presentation in 19 categories, but the overall theme of this year’s CEAs was once again all about appreciation for living in such a music-rich city. If there is any tradition of the CEA program itself it’s that — as we’ve written many times, the show is a veritable love fest.
The 2018 CEA ceremony began on a somber note. Veteran local act Over the Rhine was scheduled to open the night but canceled due to illness, so the evening started with a remembrance of the local musicians and behind-the-scenes members of the Cincinnati music community who passed away in the last year, including recording/tech expert Dave Davis, the Southgate House’s Ross Raleigh, Blue Wisp Big Band drummer/co-founder John Von Ohlen and Freekbass and The Bump Assembly’s Joel “Razor Sharp” Johnson. Co-host Aaron Sharpe (of the late, great WNKU) asked that instead of a moment of silence, the audience give the dearly departed a more suitable tribute — a standing ovation. Sharpe and Chanell Karr (a DJ for Inhailer Radio who in previous years helped organize the CEAs) were great first-time CEA hosts, keeping the show moving nicely and helping smooth things over during lulls or tech issues.
When Freekbass later won the “RB/Funk/Soul” CEA, the singer/bassist got choked up as he dedicated the award to his late bandmate; Jazz pianist Steve Schmidt did likewise while accepting the Blue Wisp Big Band’s latest CEA (in the Jazz category), paying tribute to the ensemble’s “founding father” during his acceptance speech.
Freekbass opened the night with a tasty slab of tight, quirky Funk, playing with the same band that joined him for his annual Funksgiving show a couple of nights before. Vocalist Sammi Garett of Brooklyn band Turkuaz added extra color to the grooviness, as did Foxy Shazam keyboardist Sky White, who’s been filling in with the Bump Assembly in the wake of Johnson’s passing.
It was the first of many great live performances throughout the night, including short sets from Indie Soul group Knotts (who pumped up the sequins and size of the band for the event), AltPop newcomers PHYSCO, cello/drums Indie Rock duo Lung and Triiibe, whose set turned into a Cincinnati Hip Hop cypher, with guests like Ronin, Patterns of Chaos and Devin Burgess joining the group onstage. Meanwhile, Foxy Shazam vocalist and masterful showman Eric Nally was the night’s surprise guest; the singer — who appeared on the cover of CityBeat’s recent Music Issue and talked to us about his forthcoming Full Moon recording project — debuted a new song to close the night out in style.
By welcoming fellow nominees and others onstage, Triiibe’s set emphasized the spirit of community that the CEAs strive to spotlight every year. It can be a tough balance sometimes, since an awards show necessarily has “winners and losers” and sometimes people feel left out. But the beautiful thing about the CEAs is that it is always the artists and presenters who make sure that Cincinnati’s music scene — as a whole — is shouted out and celebrated.
During a segment from the Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation discussing King Records’ 75th anniversary events, King legend Otis Williams perhaps laid out that “big picture” outlook best.
“The biggest love you can have is music. Music brings us all together,” Williams reminded the audience. “There are no ‘bests’… there’s just music.”
Artist of the Year Triiibe
Album of the Year Moonbeau – Moonbeau
New Artist of the Year Knotts
Bluegrass Rumpke Mountain Boys
Country 90 Proof Twang
Folk/Americana The Tillers
World Music/Reggae The Cliftones
Metal/Hard Rock Go Go Buffalo
Indie/Alternative The Ophelias
Punk The Pistol Mystics
Blues Noah Wotherspoon
Jazz Blue Wisp Big Band
Hip Hop Triiibe
Best Live Act Go Go Buffalo
Best Music Video The Tillers – “Riverboat Dishwashing Song” (produced by Even Hand, Nola Lee, Alex Hand and Eli Bedel)
Singer/Songwriter Wonky Tonk