The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards celebrate 20 years of Greater Cincinnati music makers and supporters

The CEAs return to Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine Nov. 19

click to enlarge The Slippery Lips rockin' the 2016 CEAs at the Madison Theater - PHOTO: CRAIG WEIGLEIN/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Craig Weiglein/CityBeat Archive
The Slippery Lips rockin' the 2016 CEAs at the Madison Theater

In 1997, CityBeat founders John Fox and Dan Bockrath solidified an idea to complement the arts coverage in their 2-year-old altweekly: throw a big party celebrating local performing artists, try to get as many of them to show up as possible, make sure alcohol is available and give out some trophies under the guise of an “awards show.”

The concept wasn’t entirely “new” — it was something of an altweekly tradition (I coincidently attended the hugely popular one presented by The Austin Chronicle during the 1995 South By Southwest conference/showcase in Texas). But it was new to Cincinnati, and it was decided that — with the help of CityBeat critic Rick Pender — the awards program would honor not only local musicians, but also those from the local theater community. The name “Cincinnati Entertainment Awards” was decided upon due to the multiple disciplines covered. (Oddly enough, the CEAs weren’t the first such awards show in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s music critic Larry Nager had apparently been scheming up a similar local-music awards program for the daily paper. Legend has it that once he got wind of CityBeat’s plans, “The Cammys” were suddenly fast-tracked and took place a few months earlier in 1997.)

click to enlarge The first CEA Artist of the Year winners The Tigerlilies in 1997 (with onstage dancer friends and Buddy Rogers Music's Bill Harvey on the far right). - PHOTO: DANNY NADER/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Danny Nader/CItyBeat Archive
The first CEA Artist of the Year winners The Tigerlilies in 1997 (with onstage dancer friends and Buddy Rogers Music's Bill Harvey on the far right).
The first CEAs ceremony was held at the Sycamore Gardens nightclub in Over-the-Rhine (which is currently the club OTR Live). Some of the behind-the-scenes talk (which continued over the years) involved concerns over whether the theater and music communities would mesh well in a joint awards program — would the wild musicians clash with some of the older theater crowd? — but the majority of us enjoyed the crossover and contrast. We did learn from the performances that year though — high-octave mini-sets from bands like The Tigerlilies (who were joined onstage by some colorful dancer friends), a sword-fight scene from Hamlet and a Mark Twain monologue created an awkward programming flow, leading to only musical theater performances at future CEAs.

From the start, the CEAs strived to not only honor Cincinnati’s current (the bulk of the nominees) and future musical acts (prominently spotlighted in the annual New Artist of the Year category and satellite showcase events like BRINK and the Best New Bands concert), but also those who came before and paved the way. Cincinnati music legends Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger and Chris Arduser brought their band project The Bears out of hibernation to perform for their induction into the CEA Hall of Fame in 1997, playing a jaw-dropping closing set, as did celebrated and influential musician Adrian Belew. The Hall of Fame inductions continued for a decade and honored everyone from legendary Jazz DJ Oscar Treadwell and Blues shouter H-Bomb Ferguson to Modern Rock artists The Afghan Whigs and Over the Rhine. Along with Buddy Rogers and CCM (which worked together on the Lonely Instruments for Needy Kids charity, the event's initial beneficiary) and the Michael W. Bany Music Scholarship Foundation (created in honor of the late local musician slain following a gig in Over-the-Rhine), the CEAs have also long partnered with the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, whose members have organized presentations about their various successful missions to draw attention to the vital contributions Cincinnati institutions like King Records and Herzog Studios have made to popular music.

The CEAs have grown since 1997, selling out bigger venues and stepping up the overall production value. The theater CEAs were split off into a separate show in the mid-’00s. In a throwback to the Cammys’ head-butting, due to disorganization and the confusion created when CityBeat was convinced to combine forces with The Enquirer’s theater awards, both programs unfortunately ended a few years later.

But those “wild musicians” of Cincinnati still show up in full force to perform, heckle, complain, celebrate, drink and party with their compadres every single year. Looking back over the nominees, winners, ceremonies, performances and general debauchery of the CEAs over the past two decades (see below), we’re so thankful they do.

1997

click to enlarge Adrian Belew and Rob Fetters battle for the Bears' Hall of Fame statue at the first CEAs in 1997 - PHOTO: DANNY NADER/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Danny Nader/CItyBeat Archive
Adrian Belew and Rob Fetters battle for the Bears' Hall of Fame statue at the first CEAs in 1997

Sycamore Gardens (Over-the-Rhine), Nov. 24

Performers: The Bears, The Tigerlilies, Lee Harvey Skaswald, PsychoAcoustic Orchestra, Uncle Daddy & the Family Secret, IsWhat?!

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: Adrian Belew, Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger, Chris Arduser (The Bears)


And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: The Tigerlilies

Album of the Year: The Tigerlilies’ Space Age Love Songs

New Artist of the Year: The Fairmount Girls


Memories: The inaugural CEA event was a bit manic, as everyone (from the attendees to the organizers) was kind of sizing up what exactly the purpose of it all was. But it ended up being a fun night, topped off by a jaw-dropping performance from The Bears. The band hadn’t been active for several years, but when the musicians kicked off their pre-show soundcheck with “Superboy,” they sounded as tight and electrifying as they did when the song was first released on The Bears’ debut album 10 years earlier. Jerry Springer appeared to present an award — via video, which froze up (it wouldn’t be the last CEA tech glitch). Local drag queen Mrs. Sorken hosted. The CEAs only “tie” occurred this year (Chalk and Roundhead received the exact same amount of votes in the awkwardly named Alternative/Underground category).

1998

Taft Theatre (Downtown), Nov. 23

Performers: The Afghan Whigs, Rob Fetters, Big In Iowa, Janet Pressley, Watusi Tribe, Throneberry

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: The Afghan Whigs

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Throneberry

Album of the Year: Rob Fetters’ Lefty Loose Righty Tight

New Artist of the Year: Oval Opus


Memories: For year two, the CEAs moved to the much larger Taft Theatre, which if you attended you’ll very much remember, also serves alcohol. Singer/wildman Mojo Nixon (who’d moved to Cincy for a radio gig at WEBN) joined even-keeled local radio legend Jim Scott to host the event, and the pair’s Odd Couple chemistry made for either the worst or — if you weren’t producing the show — the best hosting presence in CEA history (let’s just say Mojo really appreciated the free beer backstage). Former local booking agent/manager Dan Reed (now a public-radio icon) returned to induct the Whigs into the Hall of Fame. Though tardy to the stage (leading to some hilariously teetering Mojo vamping and, unfortunately, lots of people hitting the exits), the Whigs — fresh off of the release of their final (first-incarnation) album, 1965 — and its extended entourage were transcendent. Whigs tourmates Throneberry — which released what would also turn out to be its swan song, Squinting Before the Dazzle, in 1998 — also rocked the Taft stage and won Artist of the Year.

1999

click to enlarge Otis WIlliams helps celebrate King Records in at the 1999 CEAs - PHOTO: CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: CityBeat Archive
Otis WIlliams helps celebrate King Records in at the 1999 CEAs

Emery Theater (Over-the-Rhine), Nov. 22

Performers: Otis Williams, David Wolfenberger, The Greenhornes, Roger Klug

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: King Records

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: David Wolfenberger

Album of the Year: Ray’s Music Exchange’s Alivexchange

New Artist of the Year: All Weather Girl


Memories: On the move again, the CEAs were one of the last public events in the historic Emery Theater before a remodeling project that turned the main building into an apartment complex (the event would return there almost a decade later). After inducting Cincinnati’s most broadly influential music institution, King Records, into the Hall of Fame, King legend and Cincy native Otis Williams (who, with his rotating Charms Doo-Wop group, scored several Pop and R&B hits in the ’50s) closed out the night with a 20-minute set. Williams, who now has a street named after him in Evanston, asked for a few hundred bucks to perform and also requested that it be paid in cash before going on stage, undoubtedly a defensive mechanism developed over years of being ripped off (something for which King had a reputation).

 

2000

Aronoff Center (Downtown), Nov. 27

Performers: Steve Schmidt, Mike Wade, Greg Mahan, Five Deez, The Simpletons, Tracy Walker, The Fairmount Girls

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: Oscar Treadwell

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: The Simpletons

Album of the Year: The Ass Ponys’ Some Stupid with a Flare Gun

New Artist of the Year: The Stapletons

 

Memories: The new millennium saw the ceremony squeeze into the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater and included what was an early trademark of the CEAs — cute kids playing violins, a nod to the program’s initial beneficiary, Lonely Instruments for Needy Kids. Oscar Treadwell might have been the only non-musician inducted into the CEA’s Hall of Fame, but the DJ/historian’s importance to Jazz looms much larger than most players'. He earned the respect of giants like Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk (among a huge number of other legends), who both name-checked their friends in song titles; current local Jazz greats Steve Schmidt and Mike Wade both played during the show. Also notable: Cincy Boogie Woogie piano icon Ricky Nye won his first Blues CEA, making him the person to beat in the category over the next 15 years.

2001

click to enlarge Todd Almond as Hedwig, fronting a local-music all-star Angry Inch in 2001 at Old St. George
Todd Almond as Hedwig, fronting a local-music all-star Angry Inch in 2001 at Old St. George

Old Saint George (University Heights), Nov. 26

Performers: Saturday Supercade, Rob Fetters, Chuck Cleaver, Ruby Vileos, Bill Caffie, Len’s Lounge, Hedwig & the Angry Inch all-stars

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: Cal Collins

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: The Ass Ponys

Album of the Year: The Bears’ Car Caught Fire

New Artist of the Year: Ruby Vileos


Memories: The CEAs went to church in 2001, moving to former holy place Old Saint George near the University of Cincinnati, which, as the show-runners soon found out (and Punk band Saturday Supercade emphasized with their opening set), was not exactly conducive to the acoustics of loud Rock bands. Artist of the Year winners The Ass Ponys were unable to play, so singer/guitarist Chuck Cleaver got roped into playing a rare “solo acoustic” set. At a couple of CEA preview shows leading up to the event, Cleaver’s new friend Lisa Walker joined him onstage at the last second to sing harmony. It went so well that she reprised the role at the CEAs and afterward the pair formed Wussy, which grew into one of Cincinnati’s most acclaimed bands. Also notable was the peak convergence of the theater/music duality, when actor/singer Todd Almond reunited with an all-star local-music backing band and played as Hedwig & the Angry Inch, roles they played earlier in the year during a successful run of the Hedwig musical at Ensemble Theatre.

2002

Old Saint George, Nov. 25

Performers: Thee Shams, Boom Bip, Jake Speed, Readymaid, Kim Taylor, IsWhat?!, Mike Wade

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: Bootsy Collins

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Jake Speed

Album of the Year: Boom Bip’s Seed to Sun

New Artist of the Year:  Kim Taylor


Memories: Despite the sound issues (and valiant efforts to dampen the ping-ponging audio), the CEAs returned to Old Saint George and drew its biggest crowd yet. Thee Shams (featuring future members of Buffalo Killers) played the opening-act role of blasting everyone’s ears to get them used to the active acoustics, while Readymaid’s rich, layered Indie Rock somehow utilized the funky room sound to create something more befitting a church (the backup chorus helped). Bootsy Collins graciously accepted the Hall of Fame nod, joined at the event by his brother and longtime guitar partner, the late Catfish Collins, and — between that giant top hat and numerous fans wanting to say hello — caused some major traffic jams in the skinny lower corridors of the church near the bathrooms. Progressive Electronic artist Boom Bip closed the night by debuting his new band, which didn’t stay together long; he moved to California and drew global acclaim for his new work, which included collaborations with members of Super Furry Animals, Franz Ferdinand and Red Hot Chili Peppers (among many others).

2003

click to enlarge Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist at the 2003 CEAs - PHOTO: CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: CityBeat Archive
Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist at the 2003 CEAs

Old Saint George, Nov. 24

Performers: Over the Rhine, Pearlene, William Menefield, Ma Crow, The Five Deez, The Light Wires

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: Over the Rhine

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Pearlene

Album of the Year: Mallory’s The First One Hundred Years

New Artist of the Year: Cari Clara


Memories: OK, the CEA organizers really liked Old Saint George (there was a perfectly funky ambiance to it that felt right). Over the Rhine’s Karin Bergquist played a beautiful, chill-inducing solo-piano version of “Ohio” after accepting the group’s Hall of Fame honors, while The Light Wires (featuring singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell, whose successful solo Country career scored him multiple CEA nominations this year) offered an equally mesmerizing set of heavenly Indie/Americana. Hip Hop group The Five Deez rocked a high-energy set that literally resembled an aerobic routine, leaving some crowd members a bit puzzled. Brian Newman, who’d go on to become Lady Gaga’s go-to Jazz partner and score his own major-label deal, won the 2003 Jazz CEA.

2004

Old Saint George, Nov. 22

Performers: Heartless Bastards, Culture Queer, Big Joe Duskin, Ali Edwards, Derrick Sanderson's Soul Expression, The Sidecars, The Chocolate Horse

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: Big Joe Duskin

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Thee Shams

Album of the Year: Culture Queer’s Supersize It Under Pontius Pilate

New Artist of the Year: Cathedrals


Memories: The CEA’s last year at Old Saint George (and also the last year the band Jackass won the Hard Rock/Metal category after several years of dominance) felt like it — the building noticeably needed repair (access to the church’s balcony was hindered by a collapsed stairwell). Confined to a wheelchair, Blues hero and Hall of Fame inductee Big Joe Duskin’s performance was, sadly, one of his last. Now a versatile artist based in New York, C. Spencer Yeh won the first Experimental CEA; fittingly, his acceptance speech was delivered in some indiscernible language (Elfin? Alien?).

2005

click to enlarge Patrick Keeler (Greenhornes, Raconteurs, Afghan Whigs) and Cincy Jazz Hall of Famer John Von Ohlen in 2005 - PHOTO: CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: CityBeat Archive
Patrick Keeler (Greenhornes, Raconteurs, Afghan Whigs) and Cincy Jazz Hall of Famer John Von Ohlen in 2005

Taft Theatre, Nov. 21

Performers: John Von Ohlen, Cathedrals, 500 Miles to Memphis, Heartless Bastards, Marvin and the Experience, Czar*Nok, The Greenhornes

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: John Von Ohlen

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Heartless Bastards

Album of the Year: Heartless Bastards’ Stairs and Elevators

New Artist of the Year: Staggering Statistics

 

Memories: 2005’s return to the Taft marked the first year the music and theater CEAs were split into separate ceremonies. The production and turnout were light years beyond the CEAs’ 1998 debut at the Taft. Iconic local Jazz drummer/mentor/bandleader John Von Ohlen stole the show with a great set with some fellow Jazz greats — musicians of every stripe were in awe. Though based in Austin, Texas now, Erika Wennerstrom and Heartless Bastards took off quickly when they formed in Cincinnati, dominating the CEAs in their first year of eligibility.

2006

click to enlarge Napoleon Maddox and the late Chris Walker of IsWhat?! - PHOTO: DANNY NADER/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Danny Nader/CItyBeat Archive
Napoleon Maddox and the late Chris Walker of IsWhat?!


Taft Theatre, Nov. 19

Performers: Kenny Smith, Da Muttss, The Hiders, Viva La Foxx, Freekbass, Mike Wade, Staggering Statistics

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: Kenny Smith

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: IsWhat?!

Album of the Year: Heartless Bastards’ All This Time

New Artist of the Year: Buffalo Killers

 

Memories: The 2006 awards show included some wonderful tributes to local music heavyweights we lost that year, like Oscar Treadwell, Marjean Wisby and Sam Nation. Thrillingly chaotic Punk crew Viva La Foxx provided an all-time CEA highlight performance, after which singer Amy Combs crawled back under the just-closed curtain to retrieve a stray high-heel shoe (to the amusement of co-host Bob Herzog). Late, great IsWhat?! bassist Chris Walker got political during the group’s Artist of the Year acceptance speech, saying simply, “Impeach Bush. Impeach Cheney” (hmmm — will anyone say anything bad about our current prez at this year’s CEAs?). Veteran Soul singer Kenny Smith performed six tunes with a band that included members of Pearlene and other local musicians, and sounded amazing considering he hadn’t performed in front of people in 30 years.

2007

Taft Theatre, Nov. 19

Performers: Tropicoso, Over the Rhine, Wussy, Bad Veins, Buffalo Killers, Angels of Meth

CEA Hall of Fame Induction: H-Bomb Ferguson

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Buffalo Killers

Album of the Year: Wussy’s Left For Dead

New Artist of the Year: The Seedy Seeds

 

Memories: The 2007 CEAs were sponsored by Scion, which you couldn’t escape knowing due to the constant mentions and omnipresent branding (the video “skits” aired throughout the show were painful). But 2007’s show was otherwise top-notch — Over the Rhine got both jazzy and noisy to the delight of the crowd; Wussy included a part of Donovan’s “Atlantis,” bringing out members of The Fairmount Girls and 7 Speed Vortex to sing backups; and Salsa faves Tropicoso closed the night by filling the stage with musicians, dancers and pure joy. At least two members of winning bands were late to the stage after making mad dashes from the bathroom when their names were announced; Jason Wolf of Rumpke Mountain Boys just made it at the very last second of the acceptance speech, emitting a victorious “Whoo!” into the microphone before the music started up again.

2008

click to enlarge Bootsy Collins and the JBs pay tribute to King Records and James Brown at the 2008 CEAs - PHOTO: CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: CityBeat Archive
Bootsy Collins and the JBs pay tribute to King Records and James Brown at the 2008 CEAs

Emery Theater, Nov. 23

Performers: Bootsy Collins and the J.B.s, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, The Sundresses, Eclipse, The Seedy Seeds

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Seabird

Album of the Year: The Sundresses’ Barkinghaus

New Artist of the Year: Daniel Martin Moore

 

Memories: With the Emery Theater attempting a comeback (it didn’t work out), the 2008 CEAs returned to the beautiful but dilapidated venue in a big way. Though it was the first year without a Hall of Fame induction, two huge musical icons connected to King Records helped celebrate the label’s 65th birthday. Bootsy Collins opened the show with a rare local performance and paid tribute to King superstar and former boss James Brown (joined by other Brown associates), while Ralph Stanley (whose Stanley Brothers were a cornerstone Bluegrass act for King) closed the night; the late legend’s appearance was such a big deal, “Ralph only” tickets were made available (general tickets sold out). The Fairmount Girls presented their Fashion Trashies awards for the sixth year in the row; the CEA tradition has included appearances on the red carpet before the show as well as a post-ceremony ceremony at the after party where various fun awards are given out to honor attendees’ sartorial choices.

2009

Madison Theater (Covington, Ky.), Nov. 22

Performers: The Lions Rampant, Magnolia Mountain, You, You’re Awesome, II Juicy, Small Time Crooks, Brian Olive


And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Bad Veins

Album of the Year: The Seedy Seeds’ Count the Days

New Artist of the Year: You, You’re Awesome


Memories: The CEAs moved out of not only Cincinnati but also Ohio for a seven-year run at Covington’s Madison Theater beginning in 2009. The show’s performers that first year there showcased a strong cross-section of Cincinnati’s diverse music scene that year — Garage Rock, Americana, R&B, Hip Hop, Soul and Pop were all represented — and the looser bar/club feel fit the event’s vibe well. Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation reps talked about the importance of Clyde Stubblefield, whose “Funky Drummer” beat for James Brown is one of the most sampled in Hip Hop history, as well as how Hank Williams and others recorded seminal music at Cincinnati’s Herzog Studios, the site of which got a historical marker earlier that day.

2010

click to enlarge Foxy Shazam performing with The Cincy Brass at Madison Theater for the 2010 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. The band scored the Artist of the Year trophy. - PHOTO: EMILY MAXWELL/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Emily Maxwell/CityBeat Archive
Foxy Shazam performing with The Cincy Brass at Madison Theater for the 2010 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. The band scored the Artist of the Year trophy.

Madison Theater, Nov. 21

Performers: Foxy Shazam, The Cincy Brass, The Pinstripes, The Guitars, No No Knots, Kim Taylor, Dallas Moore

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Foxy Shazam 

Album of the Year: The Lions Rampant’s It's Fun to Do Bad Things 

New Artist of the Year: Pop Empire 

 

Memories: Foxy Shazam was one of Cincinnati’s all-time best live acts and the rockers’ insanely energetic performance at the 2010 CEA show (with a horn assist from The Cincy Brass) was one of the highlights of the event’s history. Riding high off of its self-titled major-label debut and non-stop tour schedule, the band fittingly won the Best Live Act trophy after performing, then capped off the night with the Artist of the Year nod. Elsewhere, the CEA tradition of winners and presenters referencing current news and pop cultural events manifested itself in a member of Small Time Crooks’ acceptance speech (“George Bush doesn’t care about white people”), while a presentation introduced the audience to the planned King Studios complex in Evanston (which is still in the works) and reps from Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation talked about the org’s involvement in trying to get a memorial plaque placed at the site of the 1979 Who concert tragedy (it has since been erected outside of what is now U.S. Bank Arena).

2011

click to enlarge Walk the Moon's mothers showed up to collect the band's Artist of the Year award in 2011 - PHOTO: EMILY MAXWELL/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Emily Maxwell/CityBeat Archive
Walk the Moon's mothers showed up to collect the band's Artist of the Year award in 2011

Madison Theater, Nov. 20

Performers: Wussy, Pomegranates, Young Heirlooms, Los Honchos, Two Headed Dog, Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers

 

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Walk the Moon

Album of the Year:  Brian Olive’s Two of Everything

New Artist of the Year:  SHADOWRAPTR


Memories: There are a few moments at every CEA show where we wonder what’s going to happen when the winner is announced and no one comes to the stage to accept the award. The second year at the Madison was a big one for that, but it was, as they say, a “good problem to have,” because most of the winners who were absent were tending to their blossoming careers on tour or otherwise, including DJ Clockwork, Rumpke Mountain Boys and Foxy Shazam, who were traveling the U.K with The Darkness. On the road with Fitz and the Tantrums, Walk the Moon was building up its national profile (this was pre-“Shut Up and Dance,” after its major-label debut) when the musicians won Artist of the Year, setting the stage for a classic, adorable CEA moment when their mothers accepted on their behalf.

2012 (aka 2013)

Madison Theater, Jan. 27 (2013)

Performers: Bad Veins, Jess Lamb, The Dopamines, Gold Shoes, Culture Queer, Magnolia Mountain

click to enlarge Jess Lamb performing at the 2012, er, 2013 CEAs - PHOTO: BRIAN GLASS/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Brian Glass/CityBeat Archive
Jess Lamb performing at the 2012, er, 2013 CEAs

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Wussy

Album of the Year: Wussy’s Strawberry

New Artist of the Year: DAAP Girls


Memories: Though most CEAs have been hosted by TV or radio personalities, 2013 was a fun year thanks to host Ted Clark, who was getting attention for his funny Ted Clark After Dark live talk show appearances. The CEA timeline gets a little weird this year with a shift to January from November (we were too overwhelmed with music after taking over and putting on the big MidPoint Music Festival in late September). That means what were technically the “2012” Cincinnati Entertainment Awards were held in 2013… and not in Cincinnati. Performance highlights included Benjamin Davis of Bad Veins opening the show solo (with his backing tape machine) and playing a great version of The Muppets’ “The Rainbow Connection,” Culture Queer playing with guest Ricky Nye (who donned his drag outfit) and Jess Lamb, who was lesser known at the time, making her mesmerizing performance all the more impactful (in just a few years, she’d appear on American Idol and claim Artist of the Year CEA honors).

2014

click to enlarge Buggs Tha Rocka (aka SPEED Walton) and some lovely CEA trophy presenters at the 2014 event, following Buggs/Speed's latest win for top Hip Hop artist - PHOTO: JESSE FOX/CITYBEAT ARCHIVE
Photo: Jesse Fox/CityBeat Archive
Buggs Tha Rocka (aka SPEED Walton) and some lovely CEA trophy presenters at the 2014 event, following Buggs/Speed's latest win for top Hip Hop artist

Madison Theater, Jan. 26

Performers: Honey & Houston, Moonbow, The Yugos, The Tillers, Rob Fetters and the Saint Ain’t Mangled Angels, The Upset Victory, DAAP Girls, The Almighty Get Down, Valley High


And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Walk the Moon

Album of the Year: Fists of Love’s I Sang My Heart Out to a Snake Once

New Artist of the Year: Tweens


Memories: CityBeat’s Arts and Culture Editor Jac Kern — who made a few funny appearances during the previous CEAs — took over hosting duties and was hilarious (and not in the typical canned-joke-award-show-banter way). The Best Music Video category was introduced (“8 Ball” by Hip Hop crew Valley High won). And Walk the Moon members Nicholas Petricca and Eli Maiman were in town this year and gave a great acceptance speech after their Artist of the Year win, thanking and praising Cincinnati for its great music and support for musicians.

2015

Madison Theater, Jan. 25

Performers: Mad Anthony, The Cliftones, Young Heirlooms, Zebras in Public, Injecting Strangers, Buggs tha Rocka, Dark Colour


And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Wussy

Album of the Year: Wussy’s Attica!

New Artist of the Year:  Honeyspiders


Memories: Capping off yet another breakthrough year that saw their profile rise internationally, the members of Wussy — the band whose origins trace back directly to the 2002 CEA show — took home the Artist and Album of the Year trophies (full circle!), just as they did in 2013. Previous Jazz CEA winner Brian Newman — taking a breather from his work with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett on the Cheek to Cheek album and subsequent performances, as well as his own increasingly popular shows in his adopted NYC home base — brought his trumpet to jam with Reggae greats The Cliftones, who played a killer set. Perennial CEA Hip Hop nominee and winner Buggs Tha Rocka (who now goes by SPEED Walton and has a project coming out soon through a Capital Records partnership) performed tracks from his recent album, including one with a pair of dancers from the Cincinnati Ballet.

2016

click to enlarge Wonky Tonk at the 2016 CEAs paying tribute to the late David Bowie during Jess Lamb's opening set.
Wonky Tonk at the 2016 CEAs paying tribute to the late David Bowie during Jess Lamb's opening set.

Madison Theater, Jan. 31

Performers: Jess Lamb, The Slippery Lips, Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle, Noah Wotherspoon Band, Abiyah, Rumpke Mountain Boys, The Whiskey Shambles

And the Winners Were:

Artist of the Year: Jess Lamb

Album of the Year: Honeyspiders’ Honeyspiders

New Artist of the Year: Dawg Yawp


Memories: WNKU’s Matt Sledge hosted the 2016 CEAs, which featured stellar performances from acts like high-wire rockers The Slippery Lips (featuring high-energy frontperson Jesse Fox, then CityBeat’s staff photographer) and Rumpke Mountain Boys, who had been consistently nominated for the Bluegrass CEAs (often winning), but regular tour jaunts across the country usually meant they’d miss the show (it was worth the wait). Nominated for five CEAs, Jess Lamb’s profile had been raised considerably by her appearance on American Idol, but she had shown local audiences her talent was deeper than most who find success on TV talent shows. Lamb drove that point home with an excellent opening set, which included a David Bowie tribute featuring singer/songwriter Wonky Tonk, and was rewarded at the end of the night with Artist of the Year honors.  

2017

Memorial Hall (Over-the-Rhine), Nov. 19

Performers: Moonbeau, The Hiders, Carriers, Lauren Eylise, Young Heirlooms, Audley & Sylmar

And the Winners Are:

Come and find out — tickets can be purchased now at memorialhallotr.com.


Memories: To be determined (check out the full list of 2017 nominees here). The CEAs initially were held around Thanksgiving time — first on the Monday before Turkey Day, then on the Sunday. The thought was there would be a better chance of artists working out of town being home for the holiday, and local performances were less likely on Mondays and Sunday.  It was moved to the end of January in 2012 (there was, amusingly, one year where organizers worried about clashing with the Super Bowl, because the Bengals were totally going to be in it — ha!). After the 2016 show, due to some staffing turnover and a desire to do the CEAs 20-year celebration justice, it was determined that the show would move back to Thanksgiving time, meaning technically a year was skipped — though this is the 2017 CEAs, the body of work from local musicians in 2016 didn’t get a proper ceremony. Fear not: The fans and committee members that determined the final ballot were instructed to include all of 2016 when considering the accomplishments of all potential nominees. Apologies for the confusion.


The 2017 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards celebration takes place Nov. 19 at Over-the-Rhine’s Memorial Hall. Find tickets and more show info here.


Click below to check out more Cincinnati Entertainment Awards photos from the CityBeat archives, shot by photographers Danny Nader, Emily Maxwell, Keith Klenowski, Graham Lienhart, Scott Beseler, Brian Glass, Jesse Fox, Joe Lamb, Cameron Knight, Craig Weiglein, Hailey Bollinger, Catie Viox and others. Please pardon any size/pixel quality discrepancies; our archives sometimes didn't handle the digital takeover too well.

You can also check out photo galleries on Facebook here and here



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