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First Night Monterey 2023

FNM 2023 Performer Lineup

The diversity of these groups will delight and entertain you!
Use the Program Grid to plan your evening! *Program subject to change due to rain* Updated 12/30/2022
Photo of Band

AJ LEE AND BLUE SUMMIT, explores the threads of great music through the lens of Bluegrass!
**NEW FOR 2023** **FINALE BAND**

AJ Lee & Blue Summit is based in the San Franciso Bay Area and one of the hottest acoustic bands in the country. A powerful singer, talented mandolinist and gifted songwriter, bandleader AJ Lee has been making waves on the acoustic scene for many years, performing in The Tuttles with AJ Lee since she was ten, and is beloved for her incredible songwriting and mandolin playing. She is surrounded by 4 other world class musicians to build a sound that is totally original and captivating.

Site 11: Golden State Theater, Alvarado Street
Times: 10:15—11:00 | **FINALE** 11:15 —MN
Photo of Dancers

AZAHAR FLAMENCO DE MONTEREY will bring us to the southern cities of Spain where Flamenco was born!

Azahar Flamenco de Monterey is a local flamenco dance ensemble. The group has performed at many events throughout Monterey County since its formation in 2014. The ensemble performs lively and colorful group and solo numbers which feature traditional and contemporary flamenco dance in a variety of forms, such as sevillanas, rumba, gypsy tango, and fandango. The group's director and founder travels annually to Spain to study, returning with knowledge to ensure the authenticity of the performances. You will be mesmerized by the colorful costumes, fast turns, rhythmic footwork, and passionate music!
Site 24: Steinbeck Dance Venue, Conference Ctr. Times: 9:30—10:00 | 10:15—10:45

Traditional folkloric dance from BALLET FOLKLORICO will put smiles on your faces!

Local Folklorico group, Ballet Folklorico Aguila Real, was created with the intention of keeping children away from gang violence. Sonia Villalobos is keeping the legacy of the group alive. Through the heart of traditional Mexican folk dance, participants say they found community. Sonia Villalobos has been teaching dance since she was 14 years old and says the children are her biggest motivation.

Site 24: Steinbeck Dance Venue, Conference Center 6:15—7:00 | 7:15— 7:45
Photo of Black Irish Band

Perennial FNM favorite BLACK IRISH BAND opens the night with their highly entertaining Folk, Americana, and Celtic Pub-Rock!

BLACK IRISH BAND, has been performing for 34 years and has recorded 27 albums. The band has performed at the First Night Monterey event longer than any other group, and has performed to large crowds of very happy people who love the fun spirited music of the band that entertains, as well as educates. The band performs original as well as traditional music: Celtic, Maritime/ sea shanties/ as well as Americana. Happy New Year!

Site 21: Steinbeck Ballroom, Conference Center
Times: 6:30—7:00 | 7:15—7:30 | 10:00—10:30

**NEW FOR 2023**

Jacob Chase is an incredible Singer/Songwriter from Salinas, playing now with a five-piece band and bringing a more exciting and upbeat blend of Soul / R&B/ Indie Rock and Pop. Backing the angelic and powerful voice of Jacob Chase, this group makes for an absolutely captivating and beautiful set.

Site 9: Bonifacio Stage, Alvarado Street
Times: 6:30—7:15 | 7:30—8:15
Photo of Di Franco DanceProject

Local dance troupe DI FRANCO DanceProject will present a fun-filled program of dance!

The DiFranco DanceProject, Dianne Lyle's company of dancers, ranging in age from 8 through 17 years, will offer a fun-filled, eclectic and exciting program of dances, inspired by cultures from around the globe.

Site 24: Steinbeck Dance Venue, Conference Center
Time: 5:00—6:00
Photo of Dirty Cello

With a unique spin on Blues and Bluegrass, DIRTY CELLO is cello like you've never heard before!

Combine the virtuosic wail of Jimi Hendrix, the soul of BB King, and the fire of Bill Monroe, and add a whole lot of cello, and you get the Dirty Cello band. Dirty Cello performs all over the world, from Iceland to Israel, from Scottish castles to underground caves presenting an energetic and wild show that's been described as,"Dirty Cello’s music is all over the map: funky, carnival, romantic, sexy, tangled, electric, fiercely rhythmic, and textured, and only occasionally classical." by Oakland Magazine.

Site 11: Golden State Theater
Times: 7:45—8:15 | 8:30—9:00 | 9:15—9:45
Photo of Flashpoint

FLASHPOINT ENTERTAINMENT will entertain you with their LED light shows incorporating dance and juggling!

The Flashpoint Fire Show is a spectacle of the most cutting edge entertainment that perhaps has only been experienced in your dreams and should not to be missed. You will witness some of the most talented and beautiful fire dancers execute the most elegant maneuvers ever seen to exciting music that is sure to blow your mind. These professional performing artists known as Flashpoint will not disappoint to truly bring light and magic to First Night Monterey!

Site 14: Alvarado Street Illumination Artists
Times: 7:00—8:00 | 8:30—9:30 | 10:00—10:45
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With his Acoustic French String Jazz Band, GEORGE COLE brings the music of the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, fully into the twenty-first century!
**NEW FOR 2023**

George Cole is an internationally acclaimed,versatile, and multi-talented guitarist / composer / singer / bandleader. He is an award winning Bay Area musician (BAMMIE) who first came to fame as a rock guitarist and expanded his musical palette to encompass the Great American Songbook, gypsy jazz and uptown swing, and his own tasty compositions. His unique, high-energy performances are a salute to Reinhardt, one of the greatest guitar players of all time, with the driving, swinging style known as “hot jazz." George Cole's original compositions, delivered with masterful virtuosity, are what sets this group apart. The George Cole Group engages their audience with outstanding musicianship, excellent songs, and superb arrangements.

Site 15: Monterey Center for Spiritual Living, Conference Center
Times: 9:00—9:30 | 9:45—10:15 | 10:30—11:00

JAYSON FANN RHYTHM presents Rhythms of Life—a Celebration of rhythms from across the globe!

Jayson Fann, percussionist, and celebrated musicians with his band of international drummers and dancers will bring alive FIrst Night Monterey with a celebration of rhythms from around the globe. Jayson is a multi-Instrumentalist, percussionist and drummer, specializing in Pan African percussion and drums with a special emphasis in Afro Cuban folkloric, Ghanaian, Yoruba, Jazz , Hip hop, Brazilian, Flamenco and middle eastern music. His work is centered in the creation of arts and cultural collaborations that foster connection with nature, intercultural dialogue and awareness.

Site 12: Franklin Street Stage, Alvarado Street 8:00—8:45 | 9:00-9:45 | 10:00—11:00
Just Dance


Step to the beat and get into the rhythm as you play the Just Dance video game! From Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish to Meghan Trainor —get ready to dance!! You're the star! There's something for all ages. Presented by Best Buy.

Site 10: Best Buy Stage, Alvarado Street
Times: 6:45—9:15
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LATIN JAZZ COLLECTIVE WITH JOHN NAVA received a standing ovation from a full-house crowd at the 2017 Monterey Jazz Festival! **FINALE BAND**

The Latin Jazz Collective is a high energy, eleven piece Latin Jazz ensemble that received a standing ovation from a full-house crowd at the 2017 Monterey Jazz Festival. Led by percussionist John Nava, saxophonist Stu Reynolds, and drummer Martin Binder, the band creates a rich and eclectic blend of original compositions and highly acclaimed standard Jazz arrangements steeped in authentic Latin rhythms. LJC members have shared the stage, recorded, and performed with the likes of Carlos Santana, Pete Escovedo, The Yellow Jackets, Malo, Kim Stone (Rippingtons), Wayne Wallace, and many other well-respected artists from around the world. Members of LJC maintain active performance schedules as band leaders, arrangers, and music educators throughout the Central Coast and Bay Areas.

Site 17: Serra Ballroom, Conference Center
Times: 10:15—11:00 | **FINALE** 11:15—MN
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Welcome the New Year with MONTEREY BAY LION DANCE TEAM symbolizing the arrival of prosperity and good luck.

Celebrate the New Year and lift your spirits with traditional Chinese lion dancing, a challenging art form complete with martial art postures and exciting rhythms of drums, cymbals and gongs. Elaborate costumes characterize the Lucky Lion and Happy Buddha. This dreamlike lion mimics human-like emotions and intelligence, symbolizing life and humanity. The lion dance is customarily performed during the Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations, for the lion brings prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year. In conjunction with the lion dance team program, Monterey Bay Healing Tao Tai Chi members perform traditional Tai Chi martial hand & weapons forms for self-defense application as well as health and wellness.
Site 8: Alvarado Street Galleria 9:15—9:45 | 10:00—10:30 | 10:45—11:15

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With big horn lines, catchy hooks, and down-to-earth lyrics, MATT MASIH & THE MESSENGERS is a must-see local act!
**NEW FOR 2023**

The Messengers, a 6-piece Jam Band (Funk/Soul/Groove/Reggae) hailing from Santa Cruz, has been dominating the west-coast music scene for the last 2 years. Their highly anticipated record COMMOTION, was released last fall. "We believe that music is best when it truly comes from your heart and feelings; this is why we have a lot of room in our songs for improv solos that enhance creativity and paint a picture through sound. Whatever's inside of us, comes out through notes which creates harmony and allows us to make music through unity!" Their upbeat music is sure to get you up and dancing!

Site 17: Serra Ballroom, Conference Center
Times: 8:00—8:45 | 9:00—9:45
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Don't miss the return of MC LARS, Monterey local Indie artist and literary post-punk rapper!

MC Lars is the creator of Post-Punk Rap and Lit-Hop, which he has extended and powered into a fusion of Rap, Punk, and Jazz. He combines his music with powerful relevant lyrics, packing concert venues worldwide with raps about everything from the iGeneration to Guitar Hero to Edgar Allen Poe to Game of Thrones, the Simpsons and cyberbullying. He is a story-teller with energy, humor and wit, speaking to and for people of all ages, lifestyles, and perspectives. Playing First Night most years since 1998, Lars has always been grateful to return to the place where his career bagan. Don't miss him!

Site 25: Colton Rooms, Conference Center.
Times: 6:30—7:00 | 7:15—7:45 | 8:00—8:30
Photo of the Band

Under the direction of award-winning conductor Dr. Carl Christensen, MONTEREY COUNTY POPS! presents their full orchestra of 40 players with three guest soloists in a gala New Years Eve program titled "May I Have This Dance?"

This year's special presentation features beloved selections including "The Blue Danube Waltz," "The Waltz of the Flowers" from the Nutcracker, "Bacchanale" from Samson & Deliah, and "Lord of the Dance" from Riverdance, holiday favorites e.g, "A Christmas Festival" and "Sleigh Ride" by Leroy Anderson and "Chanukah Medley" by Steve Ettinger, Hartnell College Music Department Chair. Flute soloist Monica Mendoza will perform "Tempesta di Mare" by Vivaldi. Mozart's "Concerto for Horn No. 3" will be interpreted by young french horn virtuoso Eliodoro Vallecillo and Mezzo Soprano Tatiana Magdaleno will sing the ever popular "O Holy Night".

Site 11: Golden State Theater
Time: 6:15—7:15
Photo of Na Huamana

NA HAUMANA brings the spirit of Aloha to First Night!  

Nā Haumāna recognizes their foundation in tradition. Today, they evolve with creativity and testing, experimenting in music and dance movement, teaching culture and dance from the Polynesian and Micronesian Islands. Their piece, Aloha ‘Aina, pays homage to the respect and preservation of Hawai'i land and culture to perpetuate her aloha for generations to come. Nā Haumana (“the student”, in Hawaiian) brings the islands of Polynesia to life!

Site 24: Steinbeck Dance Venue, Conference Center
Time: 8:00—8:30 | 8:45—9:15

Traditional Mexican music and dance from PILAR MENDOZA AND WILLIAM FAULKNER will put smiles on your faces!

World-renowned harpist William Faulkner will tickle your ears with enchanting sounds of the Jalisco Harp. Pilar Mendoza, folklorico dancer will join William, filling the room with the sounds and sights of traditional Mexican melodies and dance. Please join them for an evening of celebration and musical enchantment!

Site 25: Colton Rooms, Conference Center 9:00—9:30 | 9:45—10:15
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RIVER VOICES is a local Americana group with lush harmonies, soaring violin and driving guitar.
**NEW FOR 2023**

River Voices began deep in the pandemic, when Lyla Englehorn, Kate Faber and Jaqui Hope began by gathering in their backyards, outdoors, 6 feet apart, simply to sing – the activity that had given them the most joy all their lives. Talented local singer-songwriter Linda Arceo brought her driving rhythm guitar and deep love of the songs they had developed. Vera Marie Bridges jumped in and splashed around on violin and percussion elements. Together they make River Voices—like the sound you hear when you step into a cool stream, they hope it gives you the solace that they were seeking when they first connected. Shifting from 100 year old songs to reimagined radio hits and Rock originals, River Voices will take you on a ride.
Site 21: Steinbeck Ballroom, Conference Center
Times: 8:00—8:45 | 9:00—9:45

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THE ROBERT TURNER & KEVIN O’NEAL TRIO plays Soul-Jazz: where Jazz, Blues And Gospel meet. Music from the heart!

Grammy award winning trio. Robert Turner has worked with Ronnie Laws, Dr. Dre and Stevie Wonder to name a few. Kevin O’Neal has worked with The Bus Boys, received a Grammy with Outcast, and drummer Lyndon Rochelle earned a Grammy with Esperanza Spalding. The trio is currently recording a new album at Capitol Studios. Along with some original tunes, they will be performing great standards such as New York New York, I Left My Heart in San Francisco , La La Land, Auld Lang Syne, etc.

Site 15: Monterey Center for Spiritual Living
Times: 6:30—7:00 | 7:15—7:45 pm | 8:00—8:30
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Monterey's SENSORY TRiBE will lift your spirits and leave you with a smile on your face!

Sensory TRiBE brings Collaborative Reggae Fusion Music with a message, an exhilarating blend of good vibes, Reggae, soulful rhythms and cheerful music collaboration. The band is a harmonious fusion of six diverse voices: Samra Asrat, Glenn Bell, Zack Benbich, EL Kallpa, Sean McGill, and Nathan Osterman. Sensory Tribe has performed the Winter Warm Up Battle of the Bands at The Catalyst Atriu, Colton Hall Evening Music Series, the Monterey Museum of Art and the West End Celebration. With multiple members writing original music for the band, their performance promises fresh tunes that will make you dance and feel the vibe!

Site 9: Bonifacio Stage, Alvarado Street
Times: 8:45—9:30 | 9:45—10:45
Photo of Shinsho Mugen Daiko

Hear the thunder of the drums! SHINSHO MUGEN DAIKO opens First Night Monterey with traditional Japanese drumming.

Experience the exquisite physicality of these Taiko Drummers as they perform traditional Japanese drumming, incorporating elements of martial arts. Shinsho Mugen Daiko, founded in 1999, is a group of drummers who are interested in studying the art of Japanese drumming. Taiko, which means “big drum or big drums”, have been played at festivals, religious rituals, the theater and orchestras of the Imperial Palace. The founding director, Ikuyo Conant, emphasizes cultivation of energy, self-awareness and social and personal harmony in Taiko drumming.

SHINSHO MUGEN DAIKO will be presenting a free concert at the JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) at 424 Adams St (the white 2 story building by the Monterey Sports Center and Jack’s Park). Limited seating.
Times: 3:30—4:00 | 4:30—5:00
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Playing styles ranging from traditional to contemporary, SINGING WOOD MARIMBA brings high-energy music from Zimbabwe.

Singing Wood plays the Shona style of marimba. This music offers exceptional melodic and polyrhythmic variety, from the very simple to the extremely complex, and its ancient spiritual roots strike common chords in all people who are open to it. A glorious learning experience and playing experience is what Singing Wood aspires to be; come be a part of it!

Site 18: Conference Center, Serra Ballroom
Times: 6:15—6:45 | 7:00—7:30 pm

YAOCUAUHTLI CULTURAL DANCE opens the First Night celebration with stunning costumes and traditional Aztec dances.

Yaocuauhtli Cultural Dance is a calpulli (social unit) dedicated to the cultural enrichment of the community of Salinas thru Aztec dance, music, song and culture. Since its founding in 2003, Yaocuauhtli is dedicated in strengthening the identity of the Mexican community by teaching indigenous traditions of their ancestors to future generations. They handcraft their regalia utilizing exotic skins, natural stones and beads, genuine leather and naturally molted exotic feathers for their headdresses.
Site 24: Steinbeck Dance Venue, Conference Center
3:00—3:30 | 3:45—4:15 | 4:30—5:00

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