First Night Monterey 2006

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

For sheer value in New Year’s Eve entertainment, it’s hard to beat First Night Monterey.  Since 1993, the volunteer-run, non-profit organization behind this event has taken over downtown Monterey each December 31 and presented a family-friendly arts festival.  The festival features over 100 performers and artists at 30 different venues around town.  One admission button gets you into all of the venues, which feature music, comedy, magic and visual arts.

Although artists come from all over the country to perform at First Night Monterey, many are drawn from the local community.  This year, Salinas area artists are particularly well-represented in the program line-up. 

The Chicano All-Stars are back by popular demand for the third year as headliners.  If you haven’t seen Sam Martinez and his band yet, this alone would be a good reason to head over to Monterey this Saturday.  The All-Stars play Latin rock and old school R&B, and are the closest thing you’ll see to a Santana concert on the peninsula!

Airman Basic, recently featured in a 411 cover story, will be entertaining the crowds at Community Bank’s back lot.  The members of Airman Basic have had a busy year this year – not only did the band win a local Battle of the Bands competition, but also put together a benefit concert in Salinas to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

Richard Myer and Farrell Dillon are well-known Salinas area magicians.  They will be presenting their Grand Illusion Magic Show in the afternoon.  The show features large-scale magic tricks such as sawing the woman in half – you will not believe your eyes!

If you’re out and about on Alvarado Street, be sure to see the Ayotochtli Aztec Dancers.  This 10-member dance troupe performs the traditional dances and storytelling of the Aztecs, and the members wear authentic costumes.

Looking at some other highlights of the event, several acts are new to First Night this year. Sugar and Gold hails from the San Francisco area and will be playing funky, synthesizer-rock on the Custom House Plaza Main Stage.  If jazz is more your scene, be sure to check out the acts at MIIS Irvine Auditorium.  In the early evening, Andrea’s Fault will be playing favorite old-time jazz standards.  Later, the Storm Nilson Quartet will bring things bang up to date with sizzling jazz fusion.  Also new this year is Joni Morris, who will be presenting her tribute to the music of Patsy Cline at the newly refurbished Golden State Theatre.

If you are a returning visitor to the event, then you’ll be pleased to know that many of the regular performers are back again this year.  Trusting Lucy will be playing their original rock with vocal harmonies at Colton Hall, and the Black Irish Band will be raising Celtic mayhem as usual at the Golden State theatre.  Also in a Celtic vein is Jana Heller at the Monterey Conference Center, which will also be hosting African mbira and marimba music from Sadza and folk music with a middle-eastern flavor by Alisa Fineman and Kimball Hurd.

At 11:00 pm, head down to Custom House Plaza to see in the New Year with the Grand Finale, featuring fire dancing, confetti and of course the Chicano All Stars.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, December 29, 2005

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