Marie Lovejoy, Big Easy Awards executive director, with Female Entertainer of the Year Meschiya Lake
The 24th annual Big Easy Music Awards ceremonies were held last night at Harrah's Casino amid much revelry and glitz and down home New Orleans flavor. Executive producer Margo Dubos and executive director Marie Lovejoy put together a showcase of some of New Orleans's biggest show business names and the music community came together to honor one another with a very diverse and talented line-up of stars.
Drummer Johnny Vidacovich ("Astral Project") took to the stage as the master of ceremonies for the evening as Honorary Music Chairman, arriving in a cloud of smoke and a drum set that afforded him the opportunity to emulate different styles of play. Later, he called his wife Debbie to the stage to "sing" the rules for eligibility to the tune of "Basin Street Blues" while he tapped out a beat with his drumsticks.
Top recognitions went to the Rebirth Brass Band, recent recipients of a Grammy Award for their Basin Street Records release "Rebirth of New Orleans." The Rebirth Brass Band won for the award as 2012 Entertainer of the Year, presented by their former member Kermit Ruffins as well as the Best Album of 2011 and the award for Best Contemporary Brass Band of 2011.
Jazz performer Meschiya Lake, also a presenter and last year's Female Entertainer of the Year recipient, repeated that award for 2011.
Trombone Shorty, absent from the ceremonies, won the Male Entertainer of the Year Award for 2011. New Orleans Jazz Fest executive director Quint Davis and jazz educator and performer Germaine Bazzle accepted the award on his behalf.
Irma Thomas presented the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award to Walter "Wolfman" Washington, a former member of her band. Earlier, Washington was surprised by Mac Rabennack - Dr. John - who won the award for Best Rhythm and Blues 2011 and insisted on presenting it to him as a token of his appreciation.
The 2012 Ambasadors of New Orleans Award was presented to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who also picked up the award for Best Traditional Jazz of 2011.
Performances by Irma Thomas and the Professionals, Los Po-Boy-Citos with Blac Sol, the Stooges Brass Band, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue and Big History were interspersed between awards. The final jam session in honor of Washington had Washington on guitar, Ivan Neville and Dr. John on keyboards, George Porter Jr. on electric bass and Vidacovich on drums.
Special recognition awards went to Dithyrambalia for "The Music Box," a performing space on Piety Street dedicated to musicians and to the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, who were given the 2012 Business Recognition Award by Margo and Clancy Dubos on behalf of The Foundation for Entertainment Development and Education, which funds the Big Easy Entertainment Awards for Theater, Music and Classical Arts.
The 2012 WWOZ Guardian of the Groove Awards were presented to volunteer Eric Ward and on-air personality Gene "Jivin' Gene" Mark for their longtime dedication to the radio station.
A special video tribute to the late executive director Gloria Powers was also seen by audience members, who remembered her dedication to making the awards shows bigger and better for the more than two decades she served. Powers died February 7 and a memorial service was held in her honor on February 17, her birthday.
Other awards presented were:
Best Gospel Choir 2011 - Tyrone Foster and the Arc Singers
Best Gospel Grop/Individual 2o11 - Trin-I-Tee 5:7
Best World 2011 - Debauche
Best Latin 2011 - Los Po-Boy-Citos
Best Mixed Bag 2011 - The New Orleans Bingo! Show
Best Roots Rock 2011 - Honey Island Swamp Band
Best Cajun 2011 - Lost Bayou Ramblers
Best Zydeco 2011 - Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha-Chas
Best Funk 2011 - Galactic
Best Blues 2011 - Tab Benoit
Best Traditional Brass Band - The Storyville Stompers
Best Rock 2011 - GIVERS
Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal 2011 - Haarp
Best Contemporary Jazz 2011 - Helen Gillet
Best Rap/Hip Hop 2011 - Big Freedia
Best DJ/Electronica 2011 - Mannie Fresh
Best Country/Folk 2011 - Hurray for the Riff Raff
Best Emerging 2011 - Brass-A-Holics "Gogo Brass Funk" Band