This is my last column of 2013 (yay vacation!).
I'm still binging on movies and am going to hold off publishing my top 10 films until Jan. 2, but here are a few other entertainment highlights of last year.
l Concerts - There were some great live shows locally this year. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes rocked River Rock at the Amp. Country music's biggest star, Carrie Underwood, sold out the Covelli Centre for a second time. And Brian Regan and Lewis Black brought big laughs to Youngstown.
But I also enjoyed getting to hear Warren native Sean Jones, one of the best trumpet players in the country, play with The Top Notes at the Warren Community Amphitheatre, and seeing Carlos Jones (who I used to go see when I was in college at Miami University) at the same venue with his P.L.U.S. Band. And while I had to go to Akron to see him, Newton Falls native David Mayfield proved to be a great showman and musician at Musica.
I always tell folks one of the best things about my job is I get a chance to see acts I never would pay to see. And I'll confess, as a rock / punk / new wave fan in the late '70s and '80s, I made an effort to avoid hearing Kenny Rogers during his peak. But it was fun to hear one hit after another during the first half of his Christmas show this month at Packard Music Hall. And the Charlie Daniels Band took me back to my southern Ohio roots with its Sharon Speedway show.
Some of the acts I gladly traveled to see were Dawes in Columbus and Kent, Watershed in Columbus, Bob Mould at the Beachland, Michael Franti at House of Blues, Avett Brothers at Nautica, Joseph Arthur (with REM's Mike Mills on bass) at The Summit's studios in Akron and Walk the Moon, Red Wanting Blue, Cake, the Mowgli's, fun and many others at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati.
l Music - Nothing is more more subjective. There are too many different genres, too many releases to do anything more than say, "Here are the CDs I listened to the most in 2013." That said, Jason Isbell's "Southeastern" was my favorite album. He wrote some of the band's best songs when he was with the Drive-By Truckers. He's continued to put out great records, fronting his band, the 400 Unit. "Southeastern" is his first solo album and features some of this most evocative music yet.
Other favorites from 2013 include: Vampire Weekend, "Modern Vampires of the City"; Frank Turner, "Tape Deck Heart" (and his "Recovery" might get my vote for favorite single of 2013); Dawes, "Stories Don't End"; the compilation "Songs for Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight"; David Mayfield Parade, "Good Man Down"; JD Eicher & the Goodnights, "Into Place"; Head and the Heart, "Let's Be Still"; and Jake Bugg's self-titled debut. I haven't picked up Bugg's second release of 2013 ("Shangri-La") yet, and I haven't listened to Arcade Fire's "Reflektor" or the Avett Brothers' "Magpie and the Dandelion" enough yet to decide how much I like them.
l Theater - I didn't see everything and I'll probably leave something out I loved, but I had a lot of fun watching local stage veterans Tim McGinley and James Penn bicker and banter in "The Sunshine Boys" at Trumbull New Theatre. Youngstown Playhouse delivered a rousing, hilarious "Spamalot" on its main stage and handled the dark comedy of "Carnage" just as well in its Moyer Room. Kent-Trumbull took audiences on a dark journey about Alzheimer's disease with "Day Trips."
A young cast shined in "Hair" at the Oakland Center for the Arts, and Rust Belt Theater Company continued to do some of the most adventurous theater in the Mahoning Valley.
And, best of all for those who were around between 1989 and 1991, Easy Street Productions gave fans a chance to visit the Double Cupp Diner one more time with its revival of "Pump Boys and Dinettes."