Best of Columbia 2014: Music & Nightlife

By Free Times
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 |
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  • Darius Rucker’s show at Colonial Life Arena wins Best Concert.
 Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Concert
    Darius Rucker (Colonial Life Arena)
    Runner-up: John Legend (Township Auditorium)

    His name’s still not Hootie, and while he no longer spends his time leading Columbia’s most successful rock export, Darius Rucker is hitting it big on the country scene. His first show at the Colonial Life Arena was an important milestone for him. It seems he’s up to the moment.

    Best Music Venue
    Colonial Life Arena
    Runner-up: Township Auditorium

    It doesn’t host the most concerts in town, but the Colonial life Arena does host the biggest. This year, the arena has hosted big-time acts like Bruno Mars, Darius Rucker and R. Kelly. Quality, not quantity, right?

    Best Blues or Jazz Club
    Speakeasy
    Runner-up: Hunter-Gatherer

    Delaney’s Speakeasy in Five Points has long been the go-to room for reliably great jazz in Columbia. With a calendar anchored by weekly gigs from some ace local talents — not to mention a wide selection of tasty cocktails and beers — that doesn’t look to change any time soon.

    Best Karaoke
    Linda’s Carraoke (Art Bar)
    Runner-up: Kelly’s Deli and Pub

    Last year, the cynical among you might have assumed that this win was merely the residual effect of taking over for the ever-popular Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke Explosion. But now Linda Carr has taken the top spot for the second year in a row. Sure, she had a big fan base to please — and, clearly, she’s done it.

    Best Local Band
    Weaving the Fate
    Runner-up: Prettier Than Matt

    Once again, the proficient and popular modern rock outfit Weaving the Fate takes the crown as the Best Local Band. If you’ve ventured to any of the group’s typically packed concerts — or just been paying attention to the last few years of Best of Columbia — this won’t surprise you.


    Danielle Howle is Best Local Solo Artist. file photo

    Best Local Solo Artist
    Danielle Howle
    Runner-up: Jessica Skinner

    While the Charleston-based Danielle Howle might not meet everybody’s criteria to be considered “local,” her fiery folk-rock warble is certainly strong enough to reach here from the coast. Plus, she lived in Columbia for many years, and she recently released “Let Me Take You There,” the “famously hot” anthem put out by the Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau as part of its campaign championing the city as The New Southern Hotspot.

    Best CD Store
    Papa Jazz
    Runner-up: Manifest Discs

    The true strength of Papa Jazz is records, not CDs — more on that below — but the time-tested shop has a selection wide enough to scratch a diverse range of musical tastes. And the staff is knowledgeable enough to steer you in the right direction.


    Papa Jazz wins Best CD Store and Best Store for Vinyl. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Store for Vinyl
    Papa Jazz
    Runner-up: Manifest Discs

    Looking for that new reissue of your favorite classic rock record? Go to Papa Jazz. Stoked on a local band and want to see if they’ve released any vinyl? Go to Papa Jazz. Just looking to leaf through a broad selection of used LPs to find some tossed-off treasures? Go to Papa Jazz. Either way, they’ve got you covered.

    Best Musical Instrument Store
    Sims Music
    Runner-up: Pecknel

    Whether it’s a booming bass rig, a new ride cymbal or just a fistful of guitar picks you need, Sims is the place to go.

    Best Recording Studio
    The Jam Room
    Runner-up: Strawberry Skys

    Bolstering its brand with the annual Jam Room Music Festival can’t have hurt the Rosewood institution in winning this category, but the Jam Room is also a recording mecca for both local rock bands and out-of-towners alike. With the attached Boom Room also tracking some of the area’s best hip-hop, the Jam Room sets the standard by which all other South Carolina-based studios are judged.


    Bourbon wins Best New Bar or Club, Best New Restaurant and Best Cajun Restaurant. Photo by Jonathan Sharpe

    Best New Bar or Club
    Bourbon
    Runner-up: Tilted Kilt

    What’s the chief draw to hanging out at Bourbon — is it the fine assortment of whiskeys? The beautiful people? The chill but energetic vibe? The excellent location near the heart of the city? We don’t know, but we know it’s working for Columbia.

    Best Bar or Club
    Tin Roof
    Runner-up: Art Bar

    For many years, Columbia has struggled to have a live music venue that people actually want to hang out in when there’s not live music being played. Tin Roof is that venue — a great bar in its own right, and also a fine place to take in a band.

    Best Bartender
    James Pickle (Uncle Louie’s, Ruth’s Chris, British Bulldog Pub)
    Runner-up: Will Green (The Whig)

    Mr. Pickle is a busy man, what with his three bartending gigs at three very diverse Midlands drinking establishments. It’s that kind of efficiency and interest that makes for a great bartender. Next time you see him, buy him a congratulatory drink.


    The Whig is Best Bar to Go to With Only $10 in Your Pocket, and Will Green is runner-up for Best Bartender. Photo by Christian Barker

    Best Bar to Go to With Only $10 in Your Pocket
    The Whig
    Runner-up: Uncle Louie’s

    The Whig is a good bang for your buck any day, but especially on Mondays and Tuesdays, when the subterranean parlor offers $1 slices of cheese and pepperoni pizza (Monday) and tasty black bean and beef tacos that go for 75¢ each (Tuesday). Matched with cheap liquor and an expansive beer selection, they may well be the best specials in town. And remember: Just because the food and drinks are cheap doesn’t mean you can stiff the staff.

    Best Place to Pick Up Guys
    Tin Roof
    Runner-up: Art Bar

    You really don’t need bifocals to find truth in sexiness. To paraphrase Shakira, if you’re curious about whether or not it’s going down tonight, you know the hips don’t lie.


    Tin Roof wins Best Bar or Club, Best Place to Pick Up Guys, Best Place to Pick Up Girls and 
runner-up for Best Neighborhood Bar: Downtown/The Vista. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Place to Pick Up Girls
    Tin Roof
    Runner-up: Social Bar and Lounge

    You know how super played out those “Keep Calm and…” whatever T-shirts are, right? Well, this girl at a show — raven hair, olive skin — she was wearing a white tank top with this slogan: “Keep Calm and Be Yonce.” It makes no sense, but girls love Beyoncé. So next time you’re there, bring Queen Bey up to the single ladies that catch your eye and you’re in. Questions?

    Best Bathroom Wall Wisdom
    Art Bar
    Runner-up: New Brookland Tavern

    Pro tip: Don’t actually ever call the numbers you see scribbled on the bathroom wall at Art Bar. Instead, revel in the wisdom and hilarity that surrounds them.

    Best Bar Trivia
    Flying Saucer
    Runner-up: Village Idiot

    Trivia, readers, is a lot like porridge. Sometimes, it’s too hot. (Read: Mental Floss lunchtime quiz-level hard.) Sometimes, it’s too cold. (Like, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Easy.) Flying Saucer’s Tuesday Trivia Bowl is just right: Difficult enough to get a good mental workout, but simple enough to do a little sloshed — meaning the only thing killing your cranium the next morning is your raging hangover.

    Best Bar Service
    Speakeasy
    Runner-up: World of Beer

    Those charming Prohibition-era suspenders and arm gaiters certainly help, but the real reason Speakeasy’s bartenders are so consistently great is that they know what the hell they’re doing.


    Jake’s wins Best College Bar, Best Neighborhood Bar: Five Points 
and is runner-up for Best Deck. Photo by Jonathan Sharpe

    Best College Bar
    Jake’s
    Runner-up: Group Therapy

    A spacious outdoor deck and indoor pool tables make Jake’s a great place to meet up with your friends at any point of the night. Also, the adjoining Subway is pretty clutch when the drunken hunger kicks in. Bring your dog on Tuesday evenings to enjoy drink specials during Yappy Hour.

    Best Dance Club
    The Woody
    Runner-up: Social Bar and Lounge

    The best thing about The Woody is that everyone dances there — young people, old people, black people, white people — and while they might not know all the same songs (some do the shag, some do the Cupid Shuffle), everyone has a great time.

    Best Neighborhood Bar: Downtown/The Vista
    Thirsty Fellow
    Runner-up: Tin Roof

    Thirsty Fellow manages to achieve its exalted neighborhood bar status despite its location on the outskirts of the Colonial Life Arena parking lot and across the street from the Greek Village. How? It’s got a welcoming atmosphere, good food, a solid beer list and a comfy side deck. From sports fans to music professors, all are welcome here.

    Best Neighborhood Bar: Five Points
    Jake’s
    Runner-up: Delaney’s

    Last year, the winner and runner-up in this category were reversed — because both bars fit the bill, no doubt. How did Jake’s get the nod this year? We’re not sure, but its farm-to-table menu, craft beers and comfy back deck couldn’t have hurt.


    Rockaway Athletic Club wins Best Neighborhood Bar: Shandon/Rosewood/Forest Acres

    Best Neighborhood Bar: Shandon/Rosewood/Forest Acres
    Rockaway Athletic Club
    Runner-up: Henry’s

    Rockaway’s is basically a way of life for some people in the Shandon/Rosewood neighborhoods. With that long bar, pleasingly dim lighting and those tasty pimento cheeseburgers, there’s no better place to catch up with your friends or just stare contemplatively into your beer.


    The British Bulldog Pub is Best Neighborhood Bar: Harbison/Irmo. file photo

    Best Neighborhood Bar: Harbison/Irmo
    The British Bulldog Pub
    Runner-up: Carolina Ale House

    It might seem strange that the best neighborhood bar out in Harbison would be an authentic British pub, but the Bulldog pairs its tasty fare — holy crap, those fish and chips — with a beer selection that draws from both sides of the pond and a relaxed and welcoming vibe. It’s also an excellent spot to catch some European soccer.


    New Brookland Tavern wins Best Neighborhood Bar: West Columbia/Cayce. file photo

    Best Neighborhood Bar: West Columbia/Cayce
    New Brookland Tavern
    Runner-up: @116 Espresso and Wine Bar

    Yeah, New Brookland Tavern hosts a lot of cool rock shows. But it’s also a cozy place to head on an off night — knocking back cheap PBR tallboys, hanging out with friends and making new ones. Sounds pretty good, right?

    Best Neighborhood Bar: Lexington
    Old Mill Brewpub
    Runner-up: Mellow Mushroom

    It brews great beer! It has indoor and outdoor tables and a view of a scenic pond! Of course it’s the best neighborhood bar in Lexington.

    Best Neighborhood Bar: Northeast
    Polliwogs
    Runner-up: Solstice Kitchen and Wine Bar

    Trivia on Monday, burger deal on Tuesday, live music on Wednesday — there’s always something good going on at this local eatery. Polliwogs is good environmentally, too — it’s recycled 150,000 pounds of glass, plastic, aluminum and cardboard to date. Not too shabby.

    Best Outdoor Deck
    Liberty on the Lake
    Runner-up: Jake’s

    That view of Lake Murray is hard to beat. Seriously, you can’t beat this deck.


    Art Bar wins Best People-Watching Bar and Best Gay Bar. file photo

    Best People-Watching Bar
    Art Bar
    Runner-up: The Woody

    After all these years, Art Bar still reigns supreme as the place to go to see Columbia’s weirdest and most diverse blend of folks. And now, with that sweet upgraded outdoor area, you can watch people walking by through the Vista as well.

    Best Gay Bar
    Art Bar
    Runner-up: PT’s 1109

    While it’s not officially a gay bar, with a clientele that reflects that fact, Art Bar has long been a friendly, safe, hip place for LGBT folks to congregate in Columbia.

    Best Adult Entertainment Venue
    Platinum Plus
    Runner-up: Platinum West

    Still the biggest and the best. We’re talking about the venue, people — though the knockers are pretty great, too.

    Best Sports Bar
    Carolina Ale House
    Runner-up: The British Bulldog Pub

    Like pretty much every location of this regional chain, the Carolina Ale Houses in our parts are made for sports. With a cozy vibe, a plethora of large TVs, an impressive draft selection and a menu filled with reliably tasty bar food, it’s a fine spot to root for the Gamecocks. Or the Tigers. Though you might want to keep the latter affiliation under your hat.


    Pearlz Oyster Bar wins Best Happy Hour. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Happy Hour
    Pearlz Oyster Bar
    Runner-up: Cantina 76

    When people downtown get off work, they head to Pearlz, which hosts a bustling happy hour packed with young professionals. The prices are right, and the vibe is most pleasant.

    Best Beer Selection
    World of Beer
    Runner-up: Flying Saucer

    If you’re looking for that rare gueuze or limited-edition barrel-aged stout, you’re likely to find it at World of Beer. The staff are well trained to help you explore new brews, too, so you can always expand your palate.


    World of Beer wins Best Beer Selection and Best Craft Beer Selection. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Craft Beer Selection
    World of Beer
    Runner-up: Flying Saucer

    If craft beers are taking over the world, it stands to reason they’re taking over World of Beer, too. A great place for local and regional brews, and for craft beers from places far and wide.


    River Rat Brewing wins Best Local Brewery. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Local Brewery
    River Rat Brewery
    Runner-up: Conquest Brewing

    Isn’t it awesome that we finally have local breweries? Columbia’s second brewery is getting creative right off the bat, hanging its hat on a scrumptious abbey ale and producing a lemon zest wheat for the warmer months, offering it as a radler mixed with bubbly lemonade. With a cozy yard and deck attached to the newly opened tasting room, River Rat is a great place to hang out, as well as drink.

    Best Local Brewpub
    Hunter-Gather
    Runner-up: Old Mill Brewpub

    That rich but refreshing ESB. That biscuity pale ale. That light and lively wheat ale. By now, you’ve likely tried at least one of Hunter-Gatherer’s impressive brews. After all, they’ve been here for almost 20 years. And you’ve probably also tried the food — perhaps one of those famously tasty burgers. Yeah, as brewpubs go, it doesn’t get much better.

    Best Margarita
    Cantina 76
    Runner-up: San Jose

    Folks, this is the fifth straight year that you have bestowed this honor upon Cantina 76. As long as they keep serving up such favorites as The Cantina, Prickly Pear and Strawberry Basil, we suspect they’ll be hard to beat.


    Motor Supply Co. Bistro wins Best Speciality Drink. file photo

    Best Specialty Drink
    Motor Supply Co. Bistro
    Runner-up: Bourbon

    Motor Supply Co. bar manager Josh Streetman is a cocktail wizard. His ever-changing menu of bar drinks is perhaps the most creative, ambitious and, most importantly, delectable in Columbia. Congratulations, Mr. Streetman.

    Which categories did the readers get right? Which ones did they blow? Which categories should go away — and which ones are missing? Let us know what you think: Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

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