Top 10 CEA Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

First-time CEA host — and CityBeat Arts & Culture Editor — Jac Kern shares little-known facts about what happens backstage

click to enlarge Before performing with his band, DAAP Girls, Frontman Stuart MacKenzie is greeted by the drunken ghost of his appearance at last year's ceremony.
Before performing with his band, DAAP Girls, Frontman Stuart MacKenzie is greeted by the drunken ghost of his appearance at last year's ceremony.

The CEAs are a much bigger production than people might assume, and while it might appear that some of us up there were winging it at times (definitely true), we think that’s part of what makes the event great — allowing space for musicians, presenters and hosts to contribute creativity and fun to the experience. The 2014 CEAs for the first time included a social-media Q&A session during which I answered some of the pressing (“How are the nominees determined?”) and not-so-pressing (“I am big in local music and haven’t event heard of half the artists nominated for CEAs this year haha #notsurprised”) questions and comments surrounding the show. The following are 10 more notes from my experience hosting.

[Check out photos from the 2014 CEAs at CityBeat's Facebook page here.]

There are no dress rehearsals.

If it looked like most of us non-performers were doing this for the first time, we were! Bands get a sound-check earlier in the day, but no one knows exactly what the entire show will look like until it begins. You just prepare what you can, show up (in my case, get told a major bit has been cut in an effort to not offend our mayor) and go on!

A family of four could live comfortably backstage.

I don’t think I’ve ever been backstage at a music venue, having never been

a musician, concert crew member or groupie. Directly offstage at the Madison is a big loading/storage area that leads to what appears to be a tiny apartment. Countless bands have hung out in this quaint three-room space, which is either really cool or really gross depending on how you look at it. There was a small but full kitchen and a bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub (that’s where the gross comes into play) in addition to a photo booth room, a space with couches for bands waiting to perform and a storage room. Packed with bands, presenters, photographers, pizza and booze, it seemed a little tight, but the backstage quarters were actually much more than I had imagined.

I still had to change in the storage room.

It’s not all glitz and glamour!

Hosting is fun, but you completely miss about 90 percent of the show.

I’ve attended the CEAs for the past few years: as a regular attendee, as a presenter and, now, as a host. Those who haven’t been to the CEAs might think the show is mostly for the bands that were nominated and those performing, but it is actually a really entertaining night (“entertainment” is in the name, after all) for the audience, especially non-musicians and those not affiliated with or rooting for any one nominee. Being a host, I missed out on that experience. When I wasn’t onstage attempting to be at least mildly amusing, I could only catch a few glimpses of the performers, presenters and winners.

Even when I was onstage, I had no idea what was going on.

In order to have a smooth show with limited delays, each performer must set up onstage during the preceding set of awards. Each time I came onstage I would carefully hop over music equipment and weave around the musicians setting up, the hot stage lights burning the back of my head (and considering the amount of hairspray I’d used, this was a legitimate concern). By the time I made it to the podium and looked out into the audience, the bright spotlight blinded me to the 900-plus attendees piled in the space. All I could see were a few vague shadows and a row of completely unamused photographers; all I could hear was a dull roar of chatter and clanking equipment.



get banned from the Madison Theater.

I’m lookin’ at you, Valley High.

People will straight up talk over you,

which is a good reminder what this is all about — the music! Somehow the audience’s lack of attention eased my nerves a bit. I could have been stringing together random words and I probably would have gotten the same responses, which were primarily, “You did great!” and “You looked sooo drunk!”

You have to pace yourself and try to make it to the after party.

BLDG was packed with people for the post-CEA bash. I gave out the new people’s choice award, Best Musician/Band Not Nominated, which went to Young Heirlooms. Melissa Fairmount and Dana Hamblen of the Fairmont Girls doled out the Fashion Trashies, which is basically a tradition where they award their friends with demented dolls. Nominee for Electronic CEA, Dark Colour, later performed, igniting a full-on dance party.

Cops are lurking everywhere afterward.

Don’t drink and drive, kids!

Despite all the inevitable craziness, the CEAs are really well organized.

I have to give major props to CityBeat Events Director Kenneth Wright and everyone working behind-the-scenes, from organizing the show to executing the production and cleaning up. This crew did a great job keeping the show on schedule, wrangling rowdy musicians and making sure I wasn’t taking too many bathroom breaks (when I get nervous, I have to pee). 

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