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Best Of 2016

Arts & Entertainment
Best of Charlotte 2016

Photo by Grant Baldwin

Photo by Grant Baldwin

CRITICS' PICKS

Artwork by Arthur Brouthers
  • Artwork by Arthur Brouthers

Best Solo Artist Showcase

Arthur Brouthers' Chroma exhibit

Held in a warehouse in South End, Arthur Brouthers' many new works — which made up his Chroma exhibit in June — filled the room with life and color. Vibrant paint globs formulated cell-like bodies and lush landscape scenes via canvass. Brouthers creates the whirling details within these compelling works. The exhibit featured around 60 pieces of artwork by Brouthers, the smallest measuring in at six-by-six inches and the largest at eight-by-eight feet. The latter left us scratching our heads and wondering, how will anyone who buys this fit it through their home's door frames?

One of Henry Schreiber's signature marmots.
  • One of Henry Schreiber's signature marmots.

Best Arts Collective Return

Genome Arts Collective

Back in 2012, Genome Gallery, a funky gallery in Latta Arcade, closed its doors for good. The founders — artist Henry Schreiber and his friend John Josef — decided to take a break and Josef moved to Atlanta for a bit before the pair reunited as Genome for a series of planned pop-up shows. The debut pop-up, held at The Art Hole in May, featured works from several artists who had worked with Genome collective, one new guy, and Schreiber's signature marmots. Oh, how we missed those furry little rascals!

Best Art/Community/Environment Partnership

Particle Falls installation

The Andrea Polli installation, which was on view from March through April in Uptown, came about through a partnership between UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture and Clean Air Carolina. Showcased along UNC-Charlotte's Center City, it continuously captured colored readings of Charlotte air quality, putting the importance of clean air and air pollution into abstract visuals. Should we start wearing masks?

Charles Williams' "Big Gulp"
  • Charles Williams' "Big Gulp"

Best Use Of Art As A Form Of Therapy

Charles Williams' Continuum exhibits

Greensboro-based artist Charles Williams has had three near-death experiences, all of them involving water. Luckily, he turned his bad experiences into a good thing through his Continuum series, which showcased at CPCC's Ross Gallery during this year's Sensoria and also at New Gallery of Modern Art in Uptown. Williams has acknowledged his fears of water and accepted that he can't swim, although his ability to paint water and ocean scenes has been a success. As he said in an interview earlier this year: "When I feel like I don't want to paint water anymore, then that's when I'll take swimming lessons." We suggest you keep splashing that paint onto canvasses, Charles.

Best Arts Haven

Goodyear Arts

First holding artist residencies in the defunct Goodyear Service Center building in Uptown, the crew behind these arts endeavors — the two Amy's, Amy Bagwell and Amy Herman — have since moved on to occupy new quarters at 516 North College St. The space provides artists with room to work and it gives the public a chance to view pieces from local artists during monthly showcases. Now that's what we call a win-win. Plus, it's putting an otherwise empty building to good use.

Best New Public Art

Mural of deceased drag queen Brandy Alexander

What better way to honor a former Q.C. entertainer than by painting their face on the side of a building in one of Charlotte's artsiest neighborhoods? Local artists Nick Napoletano, Matt Hooker and Matt Moore painted the masterpiece, which dominates a side of 1510 Antiques and Consignments in Plaza Midwood. In the painting, Alexander holds a wand with the Hand of Justice and there are other nods toward HB2 disapproval, including her pearl necklace with a transgender bathroom charm on it and cameo earrings with what looks like Gov. Pat McCroy's face on them.

Best Use Of A Spray Can

Fried Chicken Art Party

In May, local artist Phoebe Alicia organized this graffiti art show with Matt Fletcher of Armada Skate Shop. Featuring works from several local and regional artists, the exhibit displayed the talent that can come from taking up a spray can. Alicia, who started doing graffiti at a young age, has stressed the importance of being mindful and law abiding, but she feels that folks generally have misconceptions when it comes to the art form. She's raising funds and taking the show on the road with stops in cities like Austin, Wilmington, Nashville, Los Angeles, scheduled for later this year and more to come in 2017.

Best Film Series

"Hollywood Shoots Itself" at the Main Library and ImaginOn

A film series for film lovers, this program focused on movies about making movies, and in the process acquired the services of Billy Wilder, Mel Brooks, Robert Altman and other helmers who knew a thing or two about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in Tinseltown.

Best Movie Theater

AMC Concord Mills

Anybody remember those long-ago days when mall theaters used to be cramped, hole-in-the-wall spaces featuring a mere one or two auditoriums? Clearly, they've come a long way, and this spacious and well-maintained venue continues to serve as a flagship of sorts for such shopping center-supplemented multiplexes. Bonus: Right outside the theater, there's a Cinabbon, a nice, sweet treat after all that salty popcorn.

Best Way To Shoot a Film Under Pressure

48 Hour Film Project

In its fourth year, this film challenge is not for the faint of heart. Will Fisher, the Charlotte city producer for 48HFP, organizes the project and folks participating have 48 hours to write, direct and shoot a short flick. There are genre requirements (you draw from a box and hope you don't get 'Sci-Fi' or 'Western') and featured requirements (lines and objects that must be in the flick). It can be tough, but the results are worth the stressful efforts. And for Charlotteans who just get to kick back and watch the films when they showcase on the big screen at Blumenthal, it's all just a care free ride.

Best Use of Words and Author Visitations

Amy Bagwell

Artist/poet/teacher Amy Bagwell's Wall Poems remind us of the power of words — sometimes in the most forgotten corners. Snippets of poetry, painted and adorned by Graham Carew on the sides of buildings are a refreshing sight. Bagwell also organizes appearances from authors/poets that come to Charlotte for CPCC's annual Sensoria, and she also curates author visitations at McColl's New Frequencies series. If literary lulls are your thing, she can direct you to compelling reads and she certainly has had a part in enlightening Charlotteans who have stumbled aross her words and the words of those she favors.

Best Performing Arts Extravaganza

BOOM

In April, this three-day Charlotte showcase of experimental and contemporary performance and visual art dominated Plaza Midwood. Organized by the creatives who make up Que-Os — the collective responsible for Charlotte's Pecha Kucha — BOOM featured entertainment from Q.C. groups like XOXO, OnQ, Taproot and more.

Jonzi D (Photo by Daniel Coston)
  • Jonzi D (Photo by Daniel Coston)

Best Place for B-boys and B-girls to Congregate

Breakin' Convention

The second annual Breakin' Convention highlighted breakdancing as an artform, along with the hip-hop culture that goes hand-in-hand with it. Giving locals a chance to break a move, in addition to hosting international break dancing troupes — from South Korea, England, Canada and South Africa — and workshops around Levine Center for the Arts, the two-day event is any b-boy or b-girl's dream come true. Bluz, who co-host's the event, and creator Jonzi D are just as entertaining. It's so exciting to finally have an event like this in the Q.C.

Best Place To Tell A Story

Charlotte Storytellers

The group created its first "safe" space in February of 2015 and has since gone on to host regular shenanigans — from those that feature members of the group who share their stuff to open mic style gigs that welcome anyone who signs up. The group meets weekly and is open to anyone who wants to hone their craft in a workshop-like setting before disclosing it to the masses. It's a fun, quirky group that will push you out of your comfort zone and get you in a more creative and relaxed mindset.

Best Comedians To Keep An Eye On

(tie) Ryan Davis and Sid Davis

Both of these comedians, who are totally unrelated, merit a closer look. Keep an eye on Ryan Davis, a fresher comedian who comes to the Q.C. by way of Concord, in addition to Sid Davis, whose been in the comedy game a bit longer — though he got his start later in life. Both Ryan and Sid regularly open for a lot of bigger named acts that fill The Comedy Zone, but can easily stand alone and are no strangers to headlining gigs.

Best Unconventional Use Of A Bathroom

McColl Center for Art + Innovation's Open Occupancy: Artists Respond to HB2

McColl's Open Occupancy featured seven installations that were placed on every floor of the art center in public restrooms. Participating artists included D'Angelo Dia, Raymond Grubb, John W. Love, Tom Thoune, Andrea Vail, Jason Watson and Rosalia Torres Weiner. They came together to address sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, that came with a message of peace and tolerance.

Best Musical

Queen City Theatre Company's Heathers: The Musical

Once upon a time, CPCC Theatre ruled as the best musical company in Charlotte, particularly with their summertime slate. In 2015-16, they certainly led in ambition and daring with their Phantom of the Opera extravaganza, which I suspect would easily win the popular vote around town. But at my electoral college of quality, Actor's Theatre of Charlotte and Queen City Theatre Company were more deserving. ATC's Fly by Night sported the best cast I saw all season — and a fine score — but I'm giving the edge to QCTC's Heathers the Musical. It was fresher, funnier, and far more relevant, merrily hitting the topics of bullying and terrorism in its brash high school takedown.

The cast of PaperHouse Theatre's Much Ado About Nothing.
  • The cast of PaperHouse Theatre's Much Ado About Nothing.

Best Comedy

PaperHouse Theatre's Much Ado About Nothing

Actor's Theatre of Charlotte's Bad Jews and Stephen Seay Productions' Killing Women were the edgiest comedies of last season, and Theatre Charlotte's revival of The Importance of Being Earnest was the most elegant. But PaperHouse Theatre's triumphant return to the Frock Shop for their zany environmental staging of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing keeps this quirky company on top of the comedy heap. The mad tea party atmosphere whirled indoors and outdoors with an orgy of role switching and cross-dressing, sustained by a clunky hand puppet when one performer had to be two people at the same time.

Best Drama

(tie) Queen City Theatre Company's Casa Valentina and Actor's Theatre of Charlotte's Father Comes Home from the Wars

Honorable mentions go to Three Bone Theatre for their acerbic Seminar and Warehouse PAC for their cosmic Constellations, but once again Actor's Theatre of Charlotte and Queen City Theatre Company vied for preeminence. With a dark intensity that occasionally echoed O'Neill or Williams, QCTC's Casa Valentina delved into the intimacies and betrayals of a Fire Island transvestite klatch. ATC's Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, and 3), on the other hand, was epic, recalling the soaring ambitions of August Wilson. Chronicling the service of an African American slave to his wicked Confederate master during the Civil War, Suzan-Lori Parks' three-act drama, paralleling Homer's Odyssey and mischievously strewn with time-warping anachronisms, is just the first installment of an ongoing project that will eventually take her Ulysses far beyond his emancipation.

Best Actress

Jill Bloede

Caroline Renfro's one-woman show, Grounded, certainly made her a contender, and Meredith Zahn's exploits as Roxie Hart were a prime reason why CPCC's Chicago eclipsed their Phantom in excellence. Nevertheless, Jill Bloede takes the laurels for her astonishing performance as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. Bloede was such a majestic tugboat from the moment she entered as Her Ladyship — a crowdpleasing villain who actually drew an ovation when she exited — that I proposed changing her name to Bloede Bracknell forever after. Whether the new rhyming moniker sticks is doubtful, but this Best Actress plaudit should add an exclamation point to her distinguished résumé.

Best Actor

Michael Harris

Looking for multiple excellent performances helped narrow the field to Jerry Colbert, Berry Newkirk, and Michael Harris. Newkirk, probably the most unique performer we've had around here since Alan Poindexter, excelled with his twisted, neurotic delicacy in Casa Valentina and P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. One of our most versatile veterans, Colbert was an avuncular presence in Fly by Night and a pompous patsy in Sleuth. Harris powered through to the prize as two memorable protagonists, a humble beekeeper who beguiles a quantum physicist in Constellations and the arrogant author in Seminar.

The cast of Breaking the Moon.
  • The cast of Breaking the Moon.

Best Musical Combat Against Teen Suicide

Breaking the Moon

Local musician Amy Steinberg of POP (Performance on Purpose) Theatre wrote and directed this musical that debuted at Studio 1212 with shows that followed in Asheville and back in Charlotte at CPCC's Tate Hall. The set was barebones, but the show's teen subjects — ranging from 13-16 years old — packed a powerful punch with teen angst, saracasm and a public display of verbal scar tissue as they chatted about what got them into a treatment facility, most of which was the result of bullying and self love. It was an intense convo, but the journey ended with hope.

Best Venue

Evening Muse

For years, the Evening Muse has been a fixture in the Charlotte music scene and the model of consistency. Pick a night, and you know you're going to hear quality performers in the city's best-sounding room. Find Your Muse, the Monday night open mic, is a launching pad for most local artists, and the booking is solid from day to day, week to week and month to month. That's not to mention the amiable nature of every employee. With so much turmoil in the local music scene these days, the Muse has remained the needed, solid foundation. Thanks, Joe!

Worst Best Reason To Go To A Concert

One last show before the venue closes

It seems like every time you turn around, another venue is closing its doors. First it was the Chop Shop, then it was Tremont Music Hall, then it was Tommy's Pub and now the Double Door Inn and Amos' Southend have both announced future closings. A terrible reason to go to a concert is "because it's the last time you'll be able to go there," so get out and support the ones that are open and show love on a regular basis, or go say farewell before Amos' and the Double Door say "last call" for a final time.

Most Promising New Music Venue

The Underground

This new venue at AvidXchange Music Factory took over Bootleggers Saloon, a former honky tonk spot that failed to generate a shuffle. The Fillmore Charlotte's Chris Ozment and his crew now reign over the spot, which has been revamped with a state of the art lighting rig, an improved sound system and an elevated lounge area in the back of the room. They are also slated to add an outdoor patio. But the biggest upgrade isn't cosmetic at all. Folks at the Underground are promising more local music coverage and they're welcoming Charlotte area bands. Their first show on July 30th was an all-local showcase with Fifty Watt Freight Train, Something Clever & The Reason You Stayed. They plan to do local bills, of varying genres, monthly.

Best Concert For A Good Cause

Urban Ministry's Housing Fest

This concert to end homelessness featured an impressive lineup and performances to match from Josh Ritter, Lindi Ortega, Jim Lauderdale, Nikki Hill and Matrimony, a former Charlotte-based act that reunited for this good cause. With all the growth and development happening in Charlotte via apartments popping up on every corner, it's easy to forget that many folks are struggling to make ends meet. Hearing a story of a man who had overcome homelessness was inspiring, giving folks a good nudge and urging them to help out in the community.

Best Concert Series

Squirt Day Parties

For fun in the heat, you can't beat the Squirt Day Parties at Snug Harbor on a summer afternoon. Aside from the fun of acting like a kid again and shooting water guns at random people and friends — better leave your attitude at the door, because you will get wet — they also have fantastic lineups with national and local artists. The atmosphere of relaxation and fun is a huge part of why this series continues to be so successful.

Best Musical Response to Bigotry

Stand Against HB2 Concert Series

As soon as the NC GOP took power, they peered into the abyss, liked what they saw, and dove in headfirst, enacting racist, sexist and trans-phobic laws left and right. In response, promoter Mike Allen and a group of tarheel musicians launched Stand Against HB2, a powerful concert series that will conclude touring the state on Nov. 6th at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. The all-star show hit the Neighborhood Theatre on Sept. 24th with Jon Lindsay, Bless These Sounds Under the City, Rapper Shane, Alternative Champs, The Loudermilks and many more. Proceeds raised from the shows go to Equality NC, a nonprofit dedicated to pursuing equal rights for LGBTQ North Carolinians and QORDS, a Southern summer camp that builds queer community through music.

Ancient Cities' Supermoon Blackout.
  • Ancient Cities' Supermoon Blackout.

Best Album

Ancient Cities' Supermoon Blackout

Stephen Warwick has always been one of the city's finest songwriters, but the sophomore album from his band Ancient Cities solidifies that status. But it's not all about Warwick here — this one's got more depth and truly presents itself as the work of the band. There have been a lot of great local albums released in the last year, but this is one of the few that gets better with every listen and doesn't have one track we want to skip over.

Best New Band

El Malpais

We're not quite sure what's in that Childers bloodline, but if there's ever one involved (father David or son Robert), you can be sure it's gonna sound damn good. Drummer Robert Childers is partnered here with multi-instrumentalists Buck Boswell and Jude Salinas for instrumental music that's befitting of the group's "Badlands" name. This is far less hectic than Boswell's Hectagons work, providing more subtleties to carry the listener along. The band's only done a handful of gigs, but they're already set for the November residency at Snug Harbor.

Best Alt-Rock en Espanol

Patabamba

Taking Peruvian chica, a blend of folk music, addictive cumbia rhythms and American psychedelic rock, as a jumping off point, Patabamba craft coiling, catchy and hypnotic songs that mix a range of Latin genres with indie rock, Brazilian grooves and darkly alluring lyrics. The foursome — percussionist Claudio Ortiz, his sister and keyboardist Lisa, guitarist Patrick O'Boyle and drummer Davey Blackburn can also be cited for "Best Use of Farfisa Organ and Demon Masks". Lisa Ortiz mans the vintage Farfisa, an instrument forever associated with swirling 1960s acid rock, which is a key to Patabamba's Pan-American sound. The band gets further props for creating wonderfully creepy Carnivale masks for a surreal Halloween show.

Best Rapper

Elevator Jay

Crank Up & Dip! In August, west Mecklenburg’s own and Waffle House’s biggest fan followed up on last year’s amazing release Sum’na Say with his latest EP Slurred in Mecklenburg. It did not disappoint.

Best Up and Coming Singer/Songwriter

LeAnna Eden

Whether strumming solo or playing with her supple, genre-jumping band The Garden Of, singer-songwriter LeAnna Eden is a force to be reckoned with. The self taught guitarist weaves her spell with a grab bag of influences ranging from neo-soul to alt-rock, coupling the fierce intelligence of Ani DiFranco with the soulful swing of Joan Armatrading. But what really puts this young artist over are her songs. From the uplifting and defiant "Protest Song" to the whirlpooling and aspirational "If There's Nothing More," Eden's alluring and deceptively smooth tunes connect with the sharp bite of truth.

Best Jazz Band

Ghost Trees

This duo, comprised by Brent Bagwell (tenor saxophone) and Seth Nanaa (drums), isn't your typical jazz band. This is free jazz at it's finest and having them in Charlotte is a real treat. The duo frequently crosses the pond for shows in Europe, but they play shows around town somewhat regularly — sometimes Ghost Trees Big Band, featuring a number of other musicians who contribute eclectic sounds to the unique performance. Earlier this year, The Ghost Tress Big Band released Goodyear, one of 2016's finest.

Best Theatrical Soldier for Soul

Quentin Talley

The musician/actor/producer behind On Q Productions, Charlotte's only theater spotlighting the African-American experience, is on a mission to share the music, words and rhythms of black culture. "Q" produced and starred in Miles & Coltrane: Blue (.), a powerful story of the interwoven lives of two jazz legends. His annual revue, A Soulful Christmas, puts some soul into the season.

Best Creative Collaboration

Donna Scott Productions/Charlotte Art League

What are three innovative actresses to do when they've got talent to spare but no place to perform? Donna Scott and her partners in Donna Scott Productions (DSP) — Tonya Bludsworth and Glynnis O'Donoghue — didn't let a little thing like not having a physical address deter them from bringing theater to South End. They set up shop at the Charlotte Art League and — twice a year — convert the front of an art gallery into a theater. DSP is now the gallery's resident theater company. And people who never knew the space existed have rented it for events ... including a wedding.

Best Early Morning Mover and Shaker

Matt Olin

Writer Matt Olin is Charlotte's Pied Piper of creativity, leading hundreds of people on the first Friday of each month to an early-morning breakfast meeting that feels more like a party. Since Olin brought CreativeMornings, an international movement, to town last year, he's attracted throngs to these monthly gatherings where people mingle, hear live music and get inspired by a guest who's been assigned a one-word topic ranging from "risk" to "magic."

Best Way to Discover Emerging Artists

The Arts & Science Council's Community-Supported Arts program

ASC's CSA program is based on Community-Supported Agriculture. With a traditional CSA, you pay a fee to a farmer or farming co-op and get whatever's harvested that week. With ASC's CSA, 50 shareholders who have bought into the co-op get nine original works of art — paintings, pottery, jewelry — created by carefully vetted local artists. And the harvest is delivered at three arts-related events, like one last season at Theatre Charlotte, where shareholders got to see a preview of The Miracle Worker. And just as you get to know who's growing your food in a traditional CSA, ASC's version allows patrons and artists to establish relationships. Be warned: Shares sell out quickly.

READERS' PICKS

* Best Museum

Mint Museum Uptown, 500 S. Tryon St. 704-337-2000. mintmuseum.org.

* Best Art Gallery

Twenty-Two, 150 Central Ave. 704-334-0122. gallerytwentytwo.com

* Best Exhibit

(tie)80x80 at Mint Museum and Body Worlds at Discovery Place, 500 S. Tryon St.; 301 N. Tryon St. 704-337-2000; 704-372-6261. mintmuseum.org; discoveryplace.org

* Best Art Space

C3 Lab, 2525 Distribution Center St. 980-349-5803. c3-lab.com

* Best Display of Public Art

ArtPop, www.artpopstreetgallery.com.

* Best Visual Artist

Rosalia Torres-Weiner

* Best Performing Artist

Big Mamma D

* Best Theater Company

Children's Theatre of Charlotte, 300 E. 7th St. 704-973-2828. ctcharlotte.org

* Best Actor/Actress

(tie) Matt Cosper, Michelle Busiek and Rob Brafford

* Best Theater Show of the Past 12 months

(tie) Queen City Theatre Company's Heathers: The Musical, Shakespeare Carolina's They Fight and Children's Theatre of Charlotte's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulanequeencitytheatre.com

* Best Movie Theater

Regal Cinemas Manor Twin, 609 Providence Road. 944-462-7342. regmovies.com

* Best Charity Event

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, walkamilecharlotte.org

* Best Place to Hear Spoken Word

UpStage, 3306 N. Davidson St. 704-749-4245. upstagenoda.com

* Best Improv Troupe

Robot Johnson, robotjohnson.com

* Best Place to See Comedy

The Comedy Zone, 900 NC Music Factory Blvd., Suite B3. 980-321-4702. cltcomedyzone.com

* Best Comedian

Johnny Millwater

* Best Drag Performer

Beth Amphetamine

* Best Photographer

(tie) Daniel Coston, Brian Twitty and Donna Bise

* Best Solo Performer

(tie) Funky Geezer and Drake Margolinick

* Best Open Mic

Find Your Muse at The Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. 704-376-3737.eveningmuse.com

* Best Singer/Songwriter

(tie) Christy Snow, Crystal Crosby, Deirdre Kroener

* Best New Band

El Malpais

* Best Rock/Country/Folk Band

(tie) Hectorina, Dead Cat and Love Sucker

* Best Blues/Jazz/Soul Band

Fat Face Band

* Best Rapper

Rapper Shane

* Best Hip-Hop/R&B Band

Well$

* Best Local Album of the Past 12 Months

Ancient Cities' Supermoon Blackout

Best Concert for a Good Cause

Save the Milestone benefit concerts

* Best concert of the past 12 months

The Cure

* Best Music Event of the Past 12 Months

God Save the Queen City

Best Concert Venue

Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. 704-358-9200. visulite.com

* Best Place to Hear Jazz

(tie) Cajun Queen and Petra's, 1800 E. 7th St.; 1919 Commonwealth Ave. 704-377-9017; 704-332-6608. cajunqueen.net; petraspianobar.com

* Best Place to Hear Country

Coyote Joe's, 4621 Wilkinson Blvd. 704-399-4946.coyote-joes.com

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