Best Of 2017

Best Seemingly Doomed Concert Series

The springtime Tunes & Blooms concerts at the Cincinnati Zoo over the past several years have offered wonderful experiences. Timed to the blooming of flowers in the beautiful gardens scattered around zoo grounds, the free event has allowed some of the best musical acts in Cincinnati (artists from Walk the Moon to The Cliftones to Jake Speed and the Freddies have participated) to perform in front of new audiences in a family-friendly environment. But increasingly the every-Thursday-in-April concerts have seemed to be cursed — in 2016, inclement weather led to most of the shows being canceled (and even some of the rescheduled shows). But the zoo isn’t giving up on the concept — Tunes & Blooms is slated to return in 2017. Perhaps a pre-concert group “no-rain” dance should be worked into the schedule? Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.

Music & Nightlife
Art: Phil Valois


2. Southgate House Revival

3. Arnold’s Bar and Grill

2. Southgate House Revival

3. Madison Theater

2. 16-Bit Bar+Arcade

3. Arnold’s Bar and Grill

2. Molly Wellmann (Japp’s)

3. Nonta Perkins (MOTR Pub)

2. Justin Simmons (Sundry and Vice)

3. Bennett Cooper (16-Bit Bar+Arcade)

2. The Comet

3. 16-Bit Bar+Arcade

2. 16-Bit Bar+Arcade

3. Arnold’s Bar and Grill

Best BEER-FUELED Family Game Night

Popular Northside brewery/venue Urban Artifact attracts a crowd with fresh beer and mostly free live music — it even has a Swing dance night on certain Sunday afternoons, and longtime local favorites the Blue Wisp Big Band perform every Wednesday. Its appeal also expands beyond the expected age range for a “bar.” The brewery has a huge selection of board games and allows kids in with accompanying adults, so some evenings can turn into genuine family affairs, especially on warmer nights, with parents letting their kids run around in the yard between the converted church and the rectory buildings. And you thought the only options for “beer-assisted family game night” were at home or at an overcrowded Dave and Buster’s. Urban Artifact, 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside, 513-620-4729, artifactbeer.com. 

Best Big-Box-Store Black Friday Musical Alternative

Shopping locally is a great way to avoid those nightmarish day-after-Thanksgiving (aka “Black Friday”) sales at the mall or chain retail outlet stores. And if the person you’re buying a present for is a big music fan, Cincinnati musicians are now regularly providing some cool Black Friday options for your gift list. Timed to Record Store Day’s nationwide Black Friday alternative, local record shops in 2016 offered exclusives from local artists like Country singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell (who reissued an expanded vinyl version of his stellar OH/KY album) and Wussy (which put out the rare Funeral Dress II acoustic album on vinyl for the first time). Legendary downtown bar Arnold’s Bar and Grill and Neltner Small Batch Records also teamed up for a great local-music holiday compilation (issued on vinyl), featuring Christmas-themed songs by Honey and Houston, The Part-Time Gentlemen, The Tillers and many other superb Roots/Americana acts.