Best Of 2020

Created in 2008, the Whispering Beard Folk Festival grew into one of the region’s most beloved Folk/Americana fests when it moved to its longtime home on campgrounds in Friendship, Indiana. The festival’s large cult of devoted fans — aka “Beardos” — flocked to the small town and set up camp for an expertly curated weekend of Roots music that over the years featured legends like Peter Rowan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and acclaimed modern greats like Jason Isbell and Tyler Childers. For its 2019 festival, Whispering Beard took the next step in its evolution and moved to Cincinnati’s Smale Riverfront Park. Though the popular camping element was gone, die-hard Beardos were still treated to another excellent lineup that included The Felice Brothers, M. Ward and Ryan Bingham, as well as WBFF alum like Chicago Farmer, Frontier Folk Nebraska, The Tillers and Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle, who participated in one of the fest’s new features — riverboat shows, where fans could enjoy some tunes on a little Ohio River cruise. The festival is slated to return this year for its 13th-annual edition Aug. 28 to 30. Whispering Beard Folk Festival, whisperingbeard.com.

Music & Nightlife
Illustration: Taylor Speed


Veteran Cincinnati Hip Hop artist Santino Corleon (now going by just Santino) kicked off what is looking to be a helluva 2020 by signing a record deal and getting some prime national TV exposure. If you saw the commercials for Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time — the game show’s prime-time tournament on ABC featuring its greatest champions — you got a little taste of Corleon’s talents. Santino’s song “GOAT” — a possible future “Jock Jam” classic — was featured in the promos for the show. The single was the first music released as part of Corleon’s new record deal, as he became one of the first signings to 83 Sound, the label founded by producer Cook Classics (whose work includes hits like Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes” and Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho”) and Platinum-selling Pop artist and songwriter Outasight. Santino, facebook.com/santinocorleon.

Twenties, the descriptively named 1920s-themed cocktail bar that took over the former Myrtle’s Punch House spot in East Walnut Hills, is a jazzy sort of destination that plays on century-old cocktail culture with a drink menu featuring classic libations and updated takes — think an Old Fashioned made with mezcal or rum instead of your standard bourbon (but they have the bourbon version, too) — as well as local craft drafts, wine and spirits from Cincinnati distilleries. The generously sized bar features ample seating throughout the space as well as in the cozy catacomb-style cellar, which is more like a speakeasy with cool ambient lighting and less about skeletons. TVs play black-and-white films for some anachronistic flair, and they recently opened a billiards parlor inside. For a real deal, the bar offers $7 select drinks on Thursdays. If you’re looking for a spot to try out your new futuristic flapper look, this might be the place. Twenties, 2733 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, facebook.com/twentiescincy.

If Rock legends KISS are going to roll around the country to graciously give fans one more chance to see them/give them money on their “farewell” (insert eye-roll emoji) tour, the band could have at least hired a merch director who knows how to spell the names of the cities they are visiting. When the group came to rock Riverbend one last time over the summer, they were selling the local version of their city-specific tour T-shirts, which were created to make fans feel like KISS cares so much about our town, they went and made an exclusive Cincinnati shirt. Or, rather, “Cincinnatti” shirt. The misspelled tees — photos of which quickly went viral on social media — were priced at $50 and are probably collector’s items of some sort, so hold onto yours if you bought one. Heck, maybe that was the game plan all along — if nothing else, KISS are pretty savvy when it comes to making money off of merchandizing. Maybe Jean Simons held back a few boxes for himself to sell on eBay as he gets further into his twilight years?

2. March First Brewing         

3. The Village Tavern 

2. Northside Yacht Club        

3. The Comet 

2. MOTR Pub  

3. Arnold’s Bar & Grill

2. Mt. Lookout Tavern

3. Latitudes Bar & Bistro      

2. The Hannaford      

3. The Southgate House Revival

2. The Crow’s Nest   

3. Blue Note Harrison