An encore, please, for the first annual Chicago Independent Music Awards (CIMA), held Sunday night at the Field Museum’s James Simpson Theatre. Captivating a packed audience, the awards ceremony celebrated the best independent Midwestern singers and bands in 19 categories.
A legion of music fans voted online for their favorites, among more than 200 artists representing every genre from alternative to electronic to country to hip hop.
Fans’ top selections were a major influence in the ultimate decision made by the judges: Chicago Music Magazine editor Shawn Kellner and business director Brandon Hammer; Swanson, Martin & Bell entertainment attorney Michelle Wahl; RAW:natural born artists’ Chicago director Kara Coraci; BISI Dancers’ director Lynn Arevalo; Ledom Talent agent Giovanni Riccardinni; and promoter Swizzle Steve.
“We needed to have our own Grammys,” said CIMA founder Mackett A Hidalgo, a veteran talent agent and event organizer, who came up with the idea for CIMA last October.
The evening began with a pack of media hounds rushing the nominees on a red carpet underneath the glass ceiling of the Museum’s eastern entrance. In the theatre, a choreographed performance by Chicago’s BISI dancers officially launched the show.
Emcee Tom Fell introduced the judges, who doubled as the show’s presenters.
On more than one occasion, the Plain White T’s had considered “throwing in the towel,” he explained. Then in 2008, their song, “Hey There, Delilah,” was nominated for two Grammys.
“The point I’m trying to make,” he said, “is that the best bands to come out of this city started out in church basements and VFW halls.”
Winners from Chicago included 4 Without, which took Best Rock Band, and Jocelyn Buchanan, who won Best R&B Singer. She accepted her award with props to her brother and producer, William “Dre-iLL” Buchanan.
“We fight,” she said. “But it’s well worth it.”
Before announcing the winner for best R&B Singer, Wahl said, “It took me a really long time to pick the winners.”
Prizes included musical instruments, studio recording sessions, a photo session and an exclusive print and radio interview. Part of the proceeds from the event were donated to Rock for Kids.
The night closed with a live performance by Isaiah Grass, one of five to take place throughout the show. Before busting out his finale, the octave climbing vocalist, whose music boasts millions of YouTube views, invited all the nominees to join him onstage. They complied with enthusiasm.
According to Hidalgo, “99.9% of the emails and reviews we have received have been positive.”
For next year’s event, he plans to incorporate “actors, writers, artists, and other kinds of genres as well.”
“Watch out,” he advises. “We’re gonna come back as the Chicago entertainment awards.”