Best Of 2016

The Minister of Culture for the win! Michael Heaton, a longtime personality at the Plain Dealer, has been informing and entertaining readers for years with his take on music, movies and the people making Cleveland as culturally resplendent as it is. Heaton is an unpretentious writer and a hell of a dude, and you want to have a beer with him as much as you want to read his reviews and analyses. That's a telltale sign of a successful voice on the page.

Arts & Entertainment

Zachariah Durr, Artist and Comedian

Even though this 1,200-capacity club is part of a national chain, don't hold that against it. The place is a strong anchor for the Cleveland music scene and often hosts shows that independent promoters such as the Beachland Ballroom and the Grog Shop have booked. The intimate space has great sightlines — even the seats in the balcony give you a good view of the stage — and whether you want to push to the front of the stage on the floor or relax in a seat far away from the pit, the House of Blues caters to every brand of concertgoer. The club regularly brings in an eclectic mix of hip hop, classic rock, metal, EDM and indie rock, and it remains one of the best places to catch national acts.

308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

Even after four decades, Blossom still stands as the best place to catch a concert under the stars. Set on 200 rolling acres in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the venue features the perfect atmosphere for those looking to lose themselves in the performance. The design of the pavilion and the bowl shape of the surrounding grounds keep reverb and echoes to a minimum, meaning that even in the cheap seats, you won't have to suffer through a night of bad audio. The summer concerts run the gamut and will include everything from the Cleveland Orchestra to the biggest acts in pop, rock, hip hop and country.

1145 West Steels Corners Rd.,  330-920-8040,

 Prior to forming Honeybucket a few years ago, the three members were in bands that played a variety of musical styles. That's why they prefer to think of their music as "Newgrass" rather than traditional bluegrass. All three band members have pop-rock backgrounds and write "poppy bluegrass traditional rock songs." To record its 2013 debut, the band launched a $3,000 Kickstarter campaign that ended up raising $4,000. Recently, the band's catchy "Old High Road" served as the trailer theme for the 40th Cleveland International Film Festival.

A fixture on the Cleveland club and hotel lounge scene, DJ Mimo is the go-to guy for cocktail parties — he's even spun at the historic Pump Room in Chicago's swanky Gold Coast neighborhood. In the five short years he's been active on the local club scene, Mimo has opened for acts such as ATB, Sander van Doorn, Robbie Rivera, Tritonal and Paul Van Dyk. He was on the bill with electronic heavyweights Krewella at the festival that took place on Public Square to ring in 2014. Last year, he issued his debut, Generation, which charted on the iTunes electronic music charts.

Formed in 2012, Seafair expanded to a four-piece when singer-keyboardist Chayla Hope and guitarist Joshua Riehl recruited drummer Ryan Kelly and cellist Tara Hanish, both of whom had played in the terrific local act Unsparing Sea. The group then became even bigger when it added guitarist Mike Flaherty and violinist Andrea Belding to the fold. Together, the six create lush soundscapes that have drawn comparisons to Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. As it's put in the band's bio, Hope's "powerful voice, presence and words" give the band's live show its gravitas.

Singer for Post Road, a local cover band that plays "today's Top 40 party country," Shawn Roland has a rich baritone that's well suited to singing tunes by the likes of Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Jason Aldean. The Twinsburg-based group regularly performs songs by those country stars in its sets. On "That's My Road," a somber ballad about the beauty of living in the sticks that's the band's first original tune, Roland's husky vocals sound sharp as the song begins with little more than the sound of his deep voice.

Based in Twinsburg, Post Road, which includes singer-guitarist Shawn Roland, singer Sarah Marie, guitarist Steve Radcliff, bassist Dave Warner, drummer Dave Vogrin and guitarist Andrew Krakowski, plays what it calls "today's Top 40 party country." The band's set list features tunes by all the biggest stars in that world — expect to hear tracks by Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum if you see the band play live. The group recently issued its first original tune, "That's My Road."

For several years now, the party hearty group known as Secret Soul Club — DJs Antoine Henderson, Tom Dechristofaro and David Petrovich — has thrown wild monthly parties that show off the trio's good taste in music, The guys strive to hunt down records that "really sizzle and have that intangible quality that sticks in your head and make the dance floor go bananas." Their sets feature original vinyl pressings of both new and old 45-rpm singles. They strive to play records that were often overlooked or had limited regional distribution.

Breaking its own attendance record again in 2016 (102,255 attendees!), the Cleveland International Film Festival miraculously continues to grow. It is a flagship event for the city, and a truly marvelous assortment of international cinema. But the best news for diehard CIFF fans? Executive Director Marcie Goodman announced that even with the sale of the Avenue at Tower City, the Film Fest will still be housed at Tower City Cinemas in 2017. CIFF is a treasured two weeks in Northeast Ohio, and having it downtown — in the heart of it all — makes this fest one of the most well-regarded in the country.

2510 Market Ave., 216-623-3456,

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