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Best of Savannah 2007: Arts and Culture 

Best Local Cultural Event

Best Festival That’s Not St. Patrick’s Day

Savannah Music Festival

Rob Gibson & Co. pulled it into the black this year.

Editors’ Pick: Savannah Music Festival

Best Theatre Director

DJ Queenan

Best Play of 2006

Baby, Cultural Arts Theatre D.J., how is working for the city different from other theatre companies here?

We’re specifically geared toward serving the city and its citizens, and exposing the people of Savannah to the art and culture of the theatre. Our program is also supposed to represent the diversity of Savannah, and that’s certainly one of my goals.

Your play Baby was also voted as Best Play of 2006. Why do you think Baby was so successful?

I think the play is attractive to everyone who’s either been a baby or had a baby (laughs). It was also a meeting of great talent, meaning composers Maltby and Shire, our musical director Warren Heilman and of course the incredible cast (April Aguilera, Ray Ellis, Cheri Hester, Danny Beam, Sasha Travis, Ryan McCurdy, Carol Melton, Rachael Westmoreland, Hai Dang, Pepi Streiff, Josie Streiff, Jen Whiteman, Clare Frank, Meghan Meier, Lariene Brown, and Sheila Tyson).

You’re a SCAD grad. That’s kinda cool.

Yes, from the Media and Performing Arts Department. You know, I’m not old-school Savannah! That’s one reason why winning this is so amazing and so appreciated.

What’s next for Cultural Arts Theatre?

We just had auditions for Footloose, which is going to be huge and have a big cast. That’s at the Lucas Theatre in July. I’ve got two SCAD students as leads, Ryan Brown and Jen Whiteman, with Jamie Keena and Carol Melton as sort of the adult presence. Lots of dancers as well -- Travis Dodd is our choreographer, and of course Warren is our musical director. We’ll be doing Batboy The Musical in the fall in the Black Box. It’s a dark musical comedy based on the character from the Weekly World News. It’s funny and touching and filled with social commentary. We’re also doing The Laramie Project, an interview-style play written about the slaying of Matthew Shepherd in Laramie, Wyoming.

Pretty daring stuff for Savannah.

Well, if I’m supposed to be exposing people to culture and cultural expressions as part of our mission statement, it can’t all be Hello Dolly. -- (JM)

Best Local Author

Paula Deen

Ah, the burning question: For the cookbooks or the magazine?

Editors’ Pick: Rigel Crockett, author of Fair Wind and Plenty of It

Best Local Actor

Sheldon Pinckney

One of Savannah Theatre’s talented musical performers.

Editors’ Pick: Grace Diaz Tootle

Best Indie Film Venue

Sentient Bean

Best Movie Theatre

Carmike Cinemas

Although we still don’t have a dedicated, freestanding art-house theatre, it’s increasingly obvious that as long as Savannahians can wrap their collective head around the notion of making appointments to see cool movies just as they would for a play, concert or other cultural event, then there’s more than enough flickering fun to go around.

It’s heartening to see a small venue like The Bean named Best Indie Film Venue if only because it’s such a homegrown space (seats about 50, plain wooden chairs, video projection, occasional espresso machine noise or telephone ringing in the background), but it’s not that surprising, given the fact that the vegetarian restaurant and Free Trade java hang has welcomed a handful of local grassroots organizations to present their wares for almost 5 years running. Whether it’s the documentaries of IndyMedia Film Night, the critically acclaimed imports of the monthly Third Friday Foreign Film series, or the oddball mix of cult classics, festival circuit picks and sleepers of The Psychotronic Film Society (an organization I’m involved with), this funky gathering place on the south end of Forsyth Park is the bee’s knees.

While downtown’s beautiful Lucas Theatre is also known as the coolest place to reliably catch offbeat movies on 35mm, when it comes to straight-up mainstream fare, our readers prefer Carmike Cinemas on Stephenson Ave., and it’s no wonder why. This 10-auditorium outlet was one of the first in the area to upgrade to DLP digital projection technology, and given the fact that most cinemas in this town seem to have a serious, ongoing problem with a little thing called a “focus knob,” anyplace where the picture is automatically razor sharp and crystal clear would get my vote too, every time. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick, indie venue: Lucas Theatre

Editors’ Pick, theatre: Carmike

Best Local Orchestra

Savannah Sinfonietta

There’s no point in arguing the relative merits of the handful of groups on the scene or which one of them —if any— is truly poised to most effectively “fill the void left by the dissolution of the Savannah Symphony.” However, there’s no getting around the fact that under the leadership of Bill Keith, The Savannah Sinfonietta has made tremendous strides in that direction. Their aggressive courtship of local underwriters and venues, flexible lineup of professional players and guest soloists, and creative approach to programming selections which appeal to both art-music aficionados and average joes has proven a winning combination to date. Regardless of whether or not any one group ever emerges a clear “winner” in something that most would rather not view as a competition, it’s already a forgone conclusion that the future of classical music in Savannah will have to operate an awful lot like the Sinfonietta already does. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Savannah Sinfonietta

Best Local Classical Musician

Ricardo Ochoa

They say Savannah picks up on everything 3 years too late, and funnily enough, that saying might apply to this win for multi-instrumentalist Ochoa, who, when informed of his award laughed heartily and replied, “But I don’t even play classical music anymore!” Technically that’s true in that Ricardo is not a member of any local symphonic group. But this former member of the Savannah Symphony, ARTillery Punch and The Richard Leo Johnson Trio stays busier than ever. Between playing classical violin and viola, flexing his jazz muscles with The Roger Moss Quintet, or donning garish outfits to play eerie synthesizer and theremin music in the instrumental prog-rock band BlackwÜrm, he’s seemingly omnipresent. In addition to overseeing production of the 2007 Savannah Music Festival, he’s also the founder and owner of New Arts Ensembles, which books some of the area’s finest live musicians for private engagements. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Ann Cafferty

Best Local Vocalist

Kim Polote

Past winner of the American Traditions vocal competition.

Editors’ Pick: Kristina Beaty

Best Museum

Best Museum Gift Shop

Best Visual Arts Gallery

Jepson Center for the Arts

Moshe Safdie’s architectural genius, in service of some of the best art in the Southeast, an increasingly (and refreshingly) diverse attitude toward rotating exhibits and a growing outreach program.

Editors’ Pick, museum: UGA Marine Education Center & Aquarium at Skidaway

Editors’ Pick, visual arts: Pinnacle Gallery

Best Live Concert of 2006

Blues Traveler

Another of SCAD’s huge free year-end bashes in Forsyth Park -- for all us, you know, graduates!

Editors’ Pick: Tie: John Jorgenson Quintet at Randy Wood’s Concert Hall / Del McCoury Band at Trustees Theater

Best Local Cover Band

Liquid Ginger

Despite the fact that this popular local band has released 2 impressive indie albums of original pop-rock, it seems their loyal fans also appreciate them at least as much for the large number of hit songs by other groups that fill LG’s setlists at club shows and private engagements.

One of the only acts in this area (besides theatrical rockers like GAM and Dan Deacon) to put as least as much emphasis on their stage presence as their songs, Liquid Ginger has been waiting for their close-up ever since the start of their career. Through their use of wireless microphones or ultra-modern in-ear monitors, they bear the trappings of the big-name acts that strut the stage at MTV’s Spring Break tapings, and that attitude has helped win over a crowd of locals who appreciate a slick stage show and a well-played rendition of a familiar radio hit at least as much as a catchy song written from scratch by the musicians right in front of them. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Voodoo Soup

Best Punk/Hardcore/Metal Band

Baroness

Those who’ve seen this powerhouse 4-piece can surely attest that they’re arguably the finest and most intriguing metalcore band to ever call Savannah home. True, they carry their fair share of the brutal metal genre’s more entrenched mannerisms —such as hellish, garbled/gargled scream-singing— but these more pedestrian affectations are tempered by well-developed and nuanced senses of pacing, atmospherics and song structure. Guitarist/lead vocalist John Baizley (who also does the majority of the group’s dazzlingly intricate if morbidly psychedelic album and merch art), bassist Summer Welch and brothers Allen (drums) and Brian (guitar, vocals) Blickle —as well as former guitarist Tim Loose— have carved their own phantasmagoric brand of over-the-top stoner rock that’s more Hawaiian Baby Rosewood Seeds than creeper weed. It’s a dark, tense, haunting approach to technical riff-metal with brief flashes of calm and mercy amidst the grinding chaos. With their 3rd LP out soon on the esteemed genre label Relapse, and several North American tours as well as a 6-week run through Europe under their belts, Baroness seems poised to join Damad and Kylesa in continuing to spread the name of our fair city far and wide. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Baroness

Best Overall Local Musician

Best Local Jazz Artist

Ben Tucker

This jazz legend sat in with Wynton Marsalis at this year’s Music Festival.

Editors’ Pick, overall: Annie Allman

Editors’ Pick, jazz: Howard Paul Group

Best Local Country Band

Hazzard County

Lead singer Jason Courtenay fronts this honky-tonk, country and Southern rock outfit.

Editors’ Pick: Paul Parr Band

Best Local Rock Band

Turtle Folk

Local jam artists unite!

Editors’ Pick: Argyle

Best Local Funk, R&B Artist

Stephanie Edwards

American Idol becomes Savannah’s idol. It’s true; things seem to go better if you don’t actually win the whole thing.

Editors’ Pick: Bottles & Cans

Best Local Hip-Hop/Rap Group/Artist

DOPE Sandwich

Best Local Spoken Word Artist or Group

A.W.O.L.

It’s undeniable that both hip-hop and rap are intrinsically linked to the spoken word. So, it only stands to reason that the profiles of Savannah’s hip-hop culture should be increasing at a rate commensurate with that of its spoken word and performed poetry community. As far as most people outside the extremely insular local hip-hop community know, slain budding rap star Camoflauge epitomized Savannah’s hip-hop community with his thuggish tales of street violence and retribution. However, there has always existed a more positive, “conscious” rap scene in town, and of late, that scene has flourished. This is due in no small part to venues such as The Jinx and Loco’s on Broughton St., which opened their doors to underground hip-hop centered around students at SCAD.

Refreshingly, such moves helped to forge an ever-growing bond between the black and white musical communities, and has resulted in large, peaceful, racially-mixed crowds of both young people and old-schoolers turning up regularly for freestyle rhyming contests, breakdancing throwdowns and showcase sets from touring underground hip-hop artists — something of an anomaly in Savannah, where —sadly— the spectre of aggression and gang activity has historically hung over most such events.

DOPE Sandwich (a slang term for something that’s way good) is a collective of talented MCs, DJs, graffiti artists and breakdancers with a local connection whose membership fluctuates between a handful of members and more than two dozen. The group emerged out of The Jinx’s weekly Alternative Hip-Hop Night, and together and separately, its members have released mix-tapes, compilation CDs and their own indie record.

A.W.O.L. (or All Walks Of Life) on the other hand, was the first recognized rap-based student organization on the campus of Savannah State University, but has since gone on to become one of the leading local exponents and organizers of spoken word events of all types. It’s a nonprofit geared toward promoting self-awareness through performed poetry and hip-hop, and though its origins are Afro-centric, the group is proudly geared toward people from any number of backgrounds. Most folks are hip to A.W.O.L. through the group’s regular free meetings/shows at The Sentient Bean Coffeehouse. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Dope Sandwich

Best Local Blues Artist

Eric Culberson

Let’s face it, he just keeps getting better and better and now can legitimately be called one of the country’s best interpreters of electric blues.

Editors’ Pick: Bottles & Cans / Eric Culberson Blues Band

Best Local Club DJ

DJ Analog Kid

Holdin’ it down at Savannah Down Under on Congress Street.

Editors’ Pick: DJ KZL

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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