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Highmark First Night Pittsburgh

                                                                       Highmark First Night Pittsburgh
                                                     Pittsburgh Cultural District, Downtown Pittsburgh, PA
                                                                  December 31, 2016- January 1, 2017

NYE 2016
                                                       Review and photos by Lisa Sikon

Like most cities across the country, Pittsburgh holds a First Night Celebration on New Year's Eve.
NYE 2016
This is the 23rd year of the event, and the 14th year the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust produced the event. It offers a family friendly celebration with something for everyone including music and comedy shows, creative activities for the kids, magic shows, art exhibitions, a silent disco, dance ensembles, a parade and of course Zambelli fireworks. It was a cold, soggy evening with a constant drizzle, but that didn't stop a large number of people from braving the weather and coming downtown to experience the arts and have a little fun.

The first stop in the evening was to catch a performance of Meeting of Important People (MOIP) at
Meeting of Important People
the Trust Arts Building. MOIP is Pittsburgh favorite, constantly performing a number of local shows throughout the area. Their latest album, Troika, was voted by local public radio station as the top local album of the year and they have also been past winners of this honor.  I like the energy that this garage-pop  band puts into every performance, they certainly know how to entertain an audience and it shows that they love to play. The band consists of three members, lead singer and guitarist, Josh Verbanets, bass player, Aaron Bubenheim and drummer, Matt Miller. Josh Verbanets has a great rapport with the crowd and gives it all into each performance that I have seen. I personally like watching this band perform and always try to catch a show whenever I can.

Next up was Jim Donovan and the Sun Kin Warriors at the Byham Theatre. It was a packed show and
Jim Donovan and the Sun Kin Warriors
 the crowd was definitely enjoying every minute. Jim Donovan was formally the drummer of Rusted Root, who left to form his own band. Their music is upbeat and positive, with a rhythm that makes it easy to dance. There were many in the audience dancing and singing along with the show. Jim also engages the audience to participate and uses the audience as background vocals in many songs.

Supporting him on stage  are percussionists Bryan Fazio and Harry Pepper, bassist Kent Tonkin, and guitarists Dan Murphy and Kevin McDonald. His daughter,  Tupelo also came onstage to sing vocals for a song. Jim also did a drum solo with the percussion backing him as well. It was certainly a highlight of the evening. I love listening and watching this band perform, I always walk away with a song in my head and heart and feeling so upbeat.

The last performance of the evening took part on the main stage, that was situated with a backdrop of
Nigel Hall
the New Year's Ball. Pittsburgh was lucky to obtain the Nigel Hall Band for the evening.  The band took the stage and exploded with a fusion of jazz, soul and funk music that got the crowd jamming right away. Nigel Hall grew up in Washington D.C., but relocated to New Orleans. He has powerful vocals and is a master on the keyboards and currently has a new album out, "Ladies and Gentlemen...Nigel Hall". He's collaborated with a number of bands and is currently touring with Lettuce. He put on a great show, frequently changing from playing the keyboard to standing up and singing. The crowd grew larger as midnight approached and when the time came, the ball rose and the New Year began with a large fireworks display. Definitely a great start to this new year.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust put together a great lineup for the First Night Celebration, there was something that everyone could enjoy. I only touched on a few events in the evening but there was so much more to see. I saw numerous kids with elaborate face paintings, there was a long line at the caricature area, many people were ice skating and the crowd was large at the Fire and Ice exhibit, where ice sculptures were being made while performers were doing their magic with fire.  The weather could have cooperated a bit, but people were in good spirits and there were no major incidents because of the superb protection of our police force. I'm grateful to live in a city where there is so much to do, from the diversity of the local music, art events and sporting events throughout the year. There is always something going on, and a great deal of it is free to the public.  Just find an event and join in the fun!


- More at UnRatedMagazine.com

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