Ring In 2003 With Any Music You Like

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Fans of live music could do no better this coming Tuesday than a trip to downtown Monterey for the First Night 2003 Celebration of the Arts. Approximately 45,000 people are expected to attend the event, which runs from 2 p.m. until midnight. The $15 fee ($12 if you buy before Dec. 31) gets you into as many events as you like, and with about 1,000 artists and performers in 50 venues throughout the city, there's bound to be something to suit everyone.

First Night Monterey is a nonprofit organization with a mission to bring families together and unite the community in all its diversity through the visual and performing arts. Tuesday’s festival is an affordable, alcohol-free event, one of 225 First Night celebrations that take place on New Year’s Eve throughout the United States and Canada.

So what kinds of music can you expect to see in downtown Monterey? Here’s a quick run-down of just a few of the attractions. All bands will be playing three half-hour sets, so you can see a number of events in the course of the day.

If you are a fan of the blues, then you won't want to miss local favorites Red Beans & Rice and the Broadway Blues Band. Red Beans will be at the San Carlos Cathedral Hall from 6:30 p.m. onward, and the Broadway Band will be at the Serra Ballroom in the Monterey Conference Center from 9:30 p.m. If you prefer your blues a little more acoustic, check out Rev Rabia with Virgil Thrasher in the McKee Ballroom at Casa Munras from 9 p.m. onward.

Those who like folk and Americana also will find selections to satisfy their tastes. Local cajun-zydeco outfit The Cachagua Playboys invites you to get up and dance in the Serra Ballroom from 3:45 to 5:30 p.m., and acoustic folk-rock comes from UK recording artist Jana Heller in the Ferrante Room, also at the Conference Center; from 9 to 11 p.m.

Monterey has a strong tradition for quality jazz, and First Night is no exception. Early in the evening, the nostalgia of the 1940s comes to life at the Conference Center’s Steinbeck Forum at 6:30 p.m. in the form of Vocal-Ease and the Boogie Men. Flautist Kenny Stahl has a new album, which is receiving national airplay and he is performing in the San Carlos Cathedral Sanctuary from 9:15 onward.

Classical and opera are well represented this year, too, with performances from I Cantori di Carmel, Montage Opera Ensemble, Amy Krupski and Dancing on Strings, who all will be performing at various venues.

If you prefer to join in yourself there will be a Hootenanny in the McKee Ballroom from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. Lyric and chord sheets will be provided. Alternatively you might like to learn swing, salsa and ballroom dancing with Monterey Peninsula Dance Inc. at the YMCA during the same time slot.

Finally don’t forget to go to the Custom House Plaza at 11:30 p.m. for the Grand Finale, which will feature performances from some of the day’s top artists, all on stage together.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, December 26, 2002

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