On Nov. 19, members of the Greater Cincinnati music community put on their finest duds and gathered at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine to celebrate 20 years of the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, as well as (and most importantly) some of the best local music acts of 2016 and 2017. (Accomplishments from 2016 were factored into the nominating process due to the CEAs taking a year off.)
It was a great night full of love for not only Cincinnati’s abundantly talented musicians, but also those who support them. Northern Kentucky’s beloved radio outlet WNKU — a dedicated and longtime supporter of local music, helping to promote it throughout the region (and world, via its website) — was surprised with a special “Best Cincinnati Ambassador” CEA, after ceasing operations earlier this year due to Northern Kentucky University selling it off.
There were numerous excellent performances by CEA nominees and other area artists throughout the show. After nominees and fans packed into the venue via the red carpet (where The Fairmount Girls were once again on hand to size up revelers for the always fun Fashion Trashies, with awards given out later at the after-party), one of the most creatively consistent and consistently great local bands, The Hiders, kicked off the CEAs with a three-song set that beautifully showcased their well-crafted and soulful sound. The band likely picked up a lot of new fans, as did the performers who followed, including AltRock band Sylmar, who backed singer/MC Audley for a dynamic, genre-crossing set, and transcendent, harmony-rich Indie Folk greats Young Heirlooms.
New Artist of the Year nominees Carriers opened its mesmerizing, textural set with a haunting tribute to Tom Petty. The band’s performance also gave a nod to a couple of bands with Cincinnati roots that have gone on to huge international acclaim. Sitting in with the group as a special-guest rhythm section were The National drummer Bryan Devendorf and Afghan Whigs bassist John Curley, whose bands released two of the best albums of 2017 (Sleep Well Beast and In Spades, respectively).
Judging from the jaw-dropped response of the audience, Neo Soul powerhouse Lauren Eylise was the big revelatory moment of the night (she’s definitely one of the top artists to keep an eye on in the Midwest), while Synth Pop group Moonbeau brought its joyous dance party to the seated audience (as singer Claire Muenchen recommended, most everyone made the best of it and danced along in their chairs). Decked out in a sweet patterned suit that looked like an explosion at an ’80s music-video graphic design office, singer/guitarist Christian Gough accepted both Moonbeau’s CEA in the Electronic category and the Indie/Alternative award for his other band, The Yugos, while setting up to perform. Gough’s brother and Yugos bandmate Jordin gave the night’s most wonderfully weird acceptance speech, which appeared to be a somewhat lengthy magazine quote about the X-Files reboot.
Along with Dawg Yawp accepting both Artist of the Year (via video, since they’re on tour) and Album of the Year (via the duo’s mothers) CEAs, the night ended with WNKU’s Aaron Sharpe and Liz Felix accepting the Best Cincinnati Ambassador award and being serenaded with a rocked-up version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by This Pine Box, one of many area groups that benefited from the exposure WNKU provided. A band of young students from the School of Rock outpost in Mason, Ohio showed that the future of local music is in good hands, closing out the 2017 CEAs with great versions of the Talking Heads’ classics “This Must Be the Place” and “Burning Down the House.”
Contact Mike Breen: [email protected]