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First Night Monterey 2023

First Night 2024 Performers!

The diversity of these groups will delight and entertain you!
Your First Night Monterey Button includes admission to performances in multiple downtown Monterey venues and include jazz, folk, rock, blues, reggae, world music and dance, and youth artists!

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

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 1: Colton Lawn Opening Ceremony 3:00—3:15 | 3:45—4:00
Site 8: Alvarado Street Galleria 6:45—7:15
Photo of Shinsho Mugen Daiko

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

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.

Site 1: Pacific Street Stage
Times: 3:15—3:45 | 4:00—4:45

Fun and inspiring performers age 7-17, GUITARS NOT GUNS will perform a mix of Rock, Folk, Pop, and Blues. [Rock/Blues]

The Guitars Not Guns Band features Monterey County youth, alumni, and adult volunteers who gather every Saturday at the Marina Teen Center for free guitar lessons. Playing a blend of American classics and contemporary hits, these kids are fun and inspiring, with groovy rhythm stand out vocal and solo performers. Under the direction of Amy Warren. Guitars Not Guns provides free instruments and lessons throughout Monterey County. The band performs at local festivals and events including the West End Festival, County Fair, and First Night Monterey.

Site 12: Franklin St Stage, Alvarado St.
Time: 5:00—5:30 | 6:30—7:00

Pure Drop Celtic! BANISH MISFORTUNE plays traditional music of the Emerald Isles. Come join us for a wee drop of fun!
**NEW FOR 2024** [World Music]

With fiddle, bodhrán, guitar, and vocals, we enjoy performing Celtic music in the Monterey area. Jackie Pierce (Fiddle), Christopher Beem (Guitar, vocals) and Rebecca Bruemmer (Bodhrán, vocals).

Site 22: Colton Rooms, Conference Center
Times: 6:30—7:00 | 7:15— 7:45 | 8:00— 8:30

Local Indie band, THE DEAD CASSETTES deliver powerful vocals and intimate song writing. [Rock]

The Dead Cassettes are a modern, energetic indie alt-rock band hailing from Salinas. Comprised of two brothers - Jacob (lead vocals and guitar) and Matthew Gonzales-Butorac (synth and piano), with Alex Bezdjian (lead guitar), Kito Rayburn-Garcia (bass), and Adam Renteria (drums). Compared to the likes of The Kings of Leon, Deer Hunter, & Manchester Orchestra, their catchy melodies, Jacob’s powerful vocals, and epic synth and guitar solos capture the eclectic NorCal sound.

Site 9: Bonifacio Stage, Alvarado Street
Times: 6:30—7:15 | 7:30—8:30
Photo of Na Huamana

NĀ HAUMĀNA brings the spirit of Aloha to First Night!   [World Dance]

Nā Haumāna (“the student”, in Hawaiian) is a Marina based hālau hula (hula school) that brings the islands of Polynesia to life through music, dance, and education while perpetuating the values of lifelong learning, community, ohana, and the foundation of Aloha.

Site 18: Serra Ballroom, Conference Center
Time: 6:30—7:30
Photo of Band

RIVER VOICES is a local Americana group with lush harmonies, soaring violin and driving guitar. [Americana]

River Voices is an Americana influenced band comprised of world-class artists performing a dynamic mix of original songs with soulful, heartfelt ballads and straight-on, hook-driven rockers that incorporate country, roots-rock, bluegrass, R&B and blues styles, sung with powerful, distinctive voices.They sing songs seeped in the pleasure and pain of this meandering journey 'tween the cradle and the stone, always with a nod toward the generous beauty that surrounds us, even in the dwindling light of your worst day.

Site 20: Steinbeck 2 & 3, Conference Center
Times: 6:30—7:00 | 7:15—7:45| 8:00—8:30

Listen to a diverse group of local authors from SALINAS LIVING POETRY AND PROSE, helping authors in Monterey County publish their work! [Spoken Word]

The Salinas Living Poetry and Prose Project authors share the roots of their work and perform at First Night 2024 along with Patricia "La Consentida" Alejandres dynamic vocal interpretation of Salinas Valley composer Andres Hernandez's compositions.

Site 23: Steinbeck 1, Conference Center
Times: 6:30—7:00 | 7:15—7:45
Photo of Band

Playing styles ranging from traditional to contemporary, SINGING WOOD MARIMBA brings high-energy music from Zimbabwe. [World Music]

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 15: Monterey Center for Spiritual Living
Times: 6:30—7:00 | 7:15—7:45

Enjoy a program of cultural music and dance featuring WILLIAM FAULKNER AND PILAR MENDOZA, WITH TRIQUI DANCERS [World Music]

Jalisco Harpist and world-renowned harpist William Faulkner will tickle your ears with enchanting sounds of the Mexican harp. Pilar Mendoza, folkloric dancer will join William, presenting her interpretive dance of original choreography. Based on the Mexican folklore tale "La Llorona" this dance performance represents the legend of the weeping woman who laments the loss of her missing children. Not to be missed!

Indigenous Triqui women will dance to traditional Oaxacan music wearing the traditional 'huipil', a hand-woven garment. The Triquis are one of many indigenous groups in southern Mexico; many have migrated to California to work in the fields as agricultural laborers. These women live in Greenfield.

Site 11: Golden State Theater
Time: 6:30—7:15
Photo of Flashpoint

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

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: 7:30—8:00 | 8:45—9:15 | 10:00—10:30
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 —get ready to dance!! You're the star! There's something for all ages.

Site 10: Best Buy Stage, Alvarado Street
Times: 7:00— 9:15
Photo of Black Irish Band

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

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 11: Golden State Theater
Times: 7:30—8:00 | 8:15—8:45 | 9:00—9:30
Photo of Di Franco DanceProject

Local dance troupe DI FRANCO DanceProject will present a fun-filled program of dance! [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 8: Alvarado Street Galleria
Times: 7:30—8:00 | 8:15—8:45

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

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
Times: 8:00—8:45 | 9:00—9:45 | 10:00—11:00
Photo of Band

Up-tempo, danceable gumbo of NOLA-influenced music from RED BEANS AND RICE — It’s more than just a tasty dish! [Rock/Blues]

Although often billed as a blues band, Monterey, California based Red Beans & Rice consistently blends original compositions and lesser-known classics into an up tempo danceable gumbo of New Orleans-influenced, blues-inspired party music suitable for dancing or just listening. Formed in 1993, Red Beans & Rice has become a household name on the Central California Coast. Founding member Gil Rubio’s original compositions and his arrangements of a carefully selected blend of Chicago, Texas swing, Louisiana, and contemporary music has earned the praise of fans and critics across the United States. Red Beans & Rice also features the talents of vocalist Jesse Bravo, keyboardist Gary Thomas, bassist Thomas McNamara, drummer John Nava and Jim Stainton on saxes.

Site 18: Serra Ballroom, Conference Center
Times: 8:00—8:45 | 9:00—9:45

We can all use a good laugh! Brought to First Night by new local improv troupe CONTROLLLED CHAOS! [Spoken Word]

'Controlled Chaos' improv puts their own twist on traditional improvisational theatre. Quick wit and spontaneous energy is combined with truth in comedy to bring something fresh and fun to the stage. Get ready for a fun night of laughs!

Site 23: Steinbeck 1, Conference Center
Times: 8:15—8:45 | 9:00—9:30

Learn line dancing with HEIDI DEE DANCEMONSTERS! [Dance]

We think dance should always be fun! Learn to line dance between sets of the California Cowboys! We teach to all levels, with the emphasis on fun! DanceMonster has taught at various venues/events in the Bay Area, including The Saddle Rack, The Rodeo Club, Bourbon Highway and Mavericks. We've worked many times with the amazing California Cowboys!

Site 18: Serra Ballrooom, Conference Center
Times: 7:45—8:00 | 8:45—9:00 | 9:45—10:00 | 11:00—11:15
Photo of Band

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

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 and received a Grammy with Outcast. Drummer Leon Joyce spent years as a decorated musician with the Marine Corps Band and recently has worked with a wide variety of top artists. 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: 8:15—9:00 | 9:15—10:00
Photo of Band

SUNNY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN will lift your spirits and leave you with a smile on your face!
**NEW FOR 2024** [Folk/Americana]

Sunny Side of the Mountain is a high energy string band rooted in bluegrass, folk, and country. Led by Amy Warren, the band grew out of musical relationships formed jamming for years at festivals, where members of the band developed their musical chemistry pickin’ familiar songs until the sun came up. Now they are bringing all that joy, camaraderie, and chemistry to the stage with a mix of traditional favorites and original material!

Site 22: Colton Rooms, Conference Center
Times: 8:45—9:15 | 9:30— 10:00 | 10:15— 10:45

Dance the night away with JONAH AND THE WHALEWATCHERS The Monterey Bay's premier reggae group! [Rock/Reggae]

Jonah and the Whalewatchers have been Monterey's favorite reggae band for more than a decade. What makes the Whalewatchers unique is it merges African beats and Caribbean music with American jazz, Blues and Soul, to create a very unique sound, with the inclusion of a steel drum, and trumpet.

Site 9: Bonifacio Stage, Alvarado St.
Times: 9:00—9:45 | 10:00—10:45

Welcome the New Year with MONTEREY BAY LION DANCE TEAM symbolizing the arrival of prosperity and good luck. [World Dance]

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
Times: 9:00—9:30 | 9:45—10:15 | 10:30—11:00
Photo of Band

SHANNON AND THE NIGHT DIVERS will make the whole family dance with great live funk/disco tunes! [Rock/Latin]

Shannon & The Night Divers are a Monterey-based band. The band explores repertoire from Pop, Funk, and R&B. Their concerts include works by Al Green, Chic, Jamiroquai, and Diana Ross, as well as the players’ original compositions and arrangements.

Lead Vocalist Shannon Casapia is joined by Back up Vocals Amber Guzman, Lead Guitarist Manuel Aguilera, Bassist Glenn Bell, Drummer Thomas Fidler, Keys Robb Naimark, Rhythm Guitarist Jorge Casapia.

Site 20: Steinbeck 2 & 3, Conference Center
Times: 9:00—9:45 | 10:00—10:45
Photo of Band

With rowdy, foot stompin’ original songs THE CALIFORNIA COWBOYS will get you up and dancing into the New Year!
**FINALE BAND** [Country]

R. W. Smith and the California Cowboys deliver a powerful sound, with the clear punch of tight three-part harmonies. With rowdy, foot stompin’ original songs as “We Ride’ em We Rope’ em” and “Double Shot of Hank”, it’s easy to see this band is a big hit with audiences. Lead singer and song-writer, R.W., who loves to dance and joke, skilled drummer Hal Atkinson, guitar player and producer Gary Potterton, bass player Cary Atkinson and Steel Guitarist, Bobby Black form one of California's most successful country-western bands. With a solid draw and non-stop show, the Cowboys will entice you to get out on the dance floor and put those cowboy boots to good use!

Site 18: Serra Ballroom, Conference Center
Times: 10:15—11:00 | 11:15—Midnight **FINALE**

WOLF JETT and their “Cosmic Mountain Music” will make you dance, sing, and possibly even howl!
**NEW FOR 2024** **FINALE BAND** [Rock, Bluegrass]

Their music is a celebration of perseverance, infusing folk, blues and americana into what can only be described as "Cosmic Mountain Music.” Frontman Chris Jones was born in the south and raised in CA. His songs combine the best of both worlds to create a vibe that is fresh, yet immediately familiar to a broad audience. He is joined by long-time musical collaborator Jon Payne on drums, Duncan Shipton on bass, Will Fourt on dobro/guitar. Often featuring Laura T. Lewis on vocals/percussion and other special guests.

Site 11: Golden State Theater
Times: 10:00—10:45 | 11:15—Midnight ** FINALE BAND**