Best Of 2020

Hero Radio is a podcast with a local music focus created by the staff and students at Melodic Connections, a nonprofit that provides creative music therapy programs and classes for people with developmental disabilities and others who would benefit from them. Hero Radio is hosted by Melodic Connections students, who interview a different Cincinnati musician or music figure on each episode and make connections to their own experiences in the organization’s programs. Longtime local musician Justin Todhunter (an instructor at Melodic Connections) helps set up the interviews, which are often impressively insightful, as the guests offer up honest and informative answers about their musical “hero’s journey,” talking about their creative processes and the things they’ve learned about music and life in general throughout their careers. So far, the show has featured artists like The Cliftones’ Diedrich Jones, Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver, Wonky Tonk, Missy Werner, Eddy Kwon, Freekbass, Lauren Eylise, Maria Carrelli, Jess Lamb, The Tillers’ Mike Oberst and Triiibe’s Siri Imani. Hero Radio has completed three seasons, and all episodes are available to listen to via Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Hero Radio, melodicconnections.org.

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