Sunday, December 28, 2003

Best of 2003: Pop music

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Here are my top 10 reasons to love music in Cincinnati in 2003:

1. Tall Stacks Music Arts & Heritage Festival - The biggest, best and cheapest good time in the country happened on the Cincinnati Riverfront Oct. 15-19. Five days of great roots music and beautiful riverboats, all for $12. Cincinnati's major music fest might happen again - scaled-down and minus the boats - in 2004.

2. MidPoint Music Festival - With more bands and twice the attendance of last year's debut, MidPoint rocked Cincinnati's Main Street Entertainment District in September for three nights. Organizers promise a bigger MidPoint for 2004 (Sept. 23-25).

3. Queen City Blues Fest finale: Lonnie Mack and the Campbell Brothers - Cincinnati's original blues-rock guitar hero sat in with a band he loves - the sacred steel gospel group the Campbells. You could feel the love and hear some of the hottest blues/gospel fusion on the planet (Aug. 2).

4. Nicole C. Mullen's soulful crusade - Former Cincinnatian Nicole C. Mullen continued her reign as the Queen of Contemporary Christian Music with the October release of a live-in-Cincinnati DVD that, along with documenting her 2003 Aronoff Center concert, gave props to such favorite Mullen hangouts as Poppie's snack stand in Madisonville.

5. Newlywed Nick - 98 heartthrob and former Cincinnatian Nick Lachey became TV's most famous music-biz husband since Sonny Bono. In 2003, he and bride Jessica Simpson became the biggest stars of reality TV with their Newlyweds MTV series, The Newlyweds second season begins Jan. 21.

6. Hot locals - The Cincinnati scene saw some great new acts.Singer/songwriter Kim Taylor formed her all-star namesake band. Simpleton frontman Eric Diedrichs founded cari clara. The long list includes the original pop-rock of the Screaming Mimes and the moody rock of Light Wires.

7. The Wisp's Jazz babies - The new Blue Wisp spent its first full year as a destination point for jazz-loving high school and college students. Nowadays, the non-smoking, coke-sipping Wisp crowd is younger than what you'll find at most punk clubs. That movement is spilling out to the stage. Thursdays are New Talent Nights, featuring such rising, underage stars like tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman, 20.

8. Rockabilly Roundups at Southgate House - Pompadours were on the rise in 2003, as rockabilly and retro honky-tonk bands filled the Southgate House. The StarDevils, Straw Boss and Jerry King & the River Town Ramblers all kept their hair high and their guitars low-down, rocking similarly attired crowds as if it were 1957 again. A circuit began as regional rockabilly acts joined the fun. A major rockabilly "weekender" fest here in 2004 could be next.

9. Wilder bluegrass in Wilder - Bobby Mackey's, the Tristate's longest-running honky-tonk, started bringing in big-name bluegrass acts for Sunday concerts in 2003, including J.D. Crowe & the New South. More monthly shows are planned for 2004, starting with award-winning Rhonda Vincent & the Rage on Jan. 18.

10. Hispania-Mania - The Latin music boom continued in 2003, as mainstays Latin X-Posure, Tropicoso and Salsa Caliente were joined by Son del Caribe, Zumba and a number of others, playing a broad range of local venues. It all came together Dec. 12 at the marathon, multiband "Planet Mambo II" at 20th Century.


Best of 2003: Classical music
Best of 2003: Film
Best of 2003: Theater
Best of 2003: Dance
Best of 2003: Pop music
Best of 2003: Visual art

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