cover story: best of jax 2017

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS & OUTDOORS

Folio Weekly's BEST of JAX 2017

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Best Local Community Theater
ALHAMBRA THEATRE & DINING
Favorites: Theatre Jax, Players by the Sea
This past July, local theater stalwart Alhambra Theatre & Dining hit the 50-year mark of presenting family-geared entertainment featuring the full package. Musicals and comedies keep the house packed, and each production includes a specially designed menu, only adding to the overall experience at this historical dinner theater. Since 2012, the Alhambra has presented its After Dark concert series, featuring comedy, dancing and, for example, last year’s performances by the likes of Shawn Mullins and The Everly Brothers Experience. This season’s final, main-stage line-up includes The Addams Family and Bruce Allen Scudder’s Christmas Carole.

Best Local Actor/Actress
ELIZABETH DALY-BRICKNELL
Favorites: Lisa Valdini, Blake Osner
Community theater can be a rewarding, but tough, road to travel for actors. Time spent seeking out roles and rehearsing scripts is offset by keeping afloat in a life off the stage, of jobs and bills, families and responsibilities; but the passion of performing remains the pulse beat of actors, who are more concerned with curtain calls and auditioning for dramas, comedies, or musicals. Local theater lovers give their highest props to Elizabeth Daly-Bricknell. As a versatile presence on the local scene, Bricknell can be seen at ABET in Atlantic Beach and down the coast at St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre, performing in an ensemble cast or starring role; no small part for an actor who is in turn celebrated by our readers and her peers.

Best Local Theater Production
ANNIE, ST. JOHNS RIVER STATE COLLEGE
Favorites: Steel Magnolias, Avenue Q
Oh, that a plucky red-headed waif could intervene on the heart of our own unredeemed Oliver Warbucks—that is to say the current occupant of the White House—and in addition to getting him to lay off the Twitter-trolling, perhaps get him to focus on civil international relations. But since that’s highly unlikely, take comfort in knowing what Folio Weekly readers know well: the sun will come out tomorrow. In this production we imagine that Annie’s message of hope and love was heightened when Martin Charnin, the original lyricist and director of the play, stopped by St. Johns River State College to give a few notes on this Tony-award winning work that’s had audiences dreaming of “Easy Street” for 41 years.

Best Movie Theater
SUN-RAY CINEMA
Favorites: Cinemark Tinseltown, San Marco Theatre
Let’s not bullshit ourselves: When it comes to the best theatrical experience in Jacksonville, Sun-Ray Cinema remains the titan of all things movie. Since 2011, co-owners Tim Massett and Shana David-Massett have screened some of the most engaging flicks, from classics from the Golden Age of cinema to current-day, cutting-edge films. Fans can see “genre” films, arthouse and documentary fare screened right next to anime, comedies and—in the case of the Oct. 11 screening of the classic Italian horror flick Suspiria—full-blown weirdness. The Massetts also know how to throw a party. In March, they presented the inaugural, four-day Sleeping Giant Film Festival, featuring scads of great flicks, live experimental music, and a return visit from John Waters. And don’t get us started on how amazing their menu is.

Best Dance Studio
DANCE TRANCE FITNESS
Favorites: Ballet Arts Center, The Dance Shack
While many Folio Weekly staffers count climbing the stairs at work as their daily cardio fitness, our readers are apparently a regular Debbie Reynolds or Jiminy Cricket when it comes to dancing and getting the blood a-pumpin’! Led by their oh-so-skilled instructors, Dance Trance puts you through the paces with different skill levels of dancing and moves, all set to hip, upbeat music, to help you have fun, shed pounds, and possibly even decipher the unholiest of all dances: “The Lambada Beta.”

Best Museum
THE CUMMER MUSEUM OF ART & GARDENS
Favorites: Museum of Science & History, MOCA Jacksonville
Perhaps now more than ever, the Cummer needs to feel our love. Though the building that houses the collection weathered Irma well enough, the gardens, including the breathtaking Frederick Law Olmstead firm-designed garden, are in ruins. The museum is running a fundraising initiative—if you’ve ever whiled away an afternoon or evening in that splendid space, now is a lovely time to thank the institution for all it does with a little cash—or a lot. This month, drop by and ogle jewelry from some of the finest artisans Paris ever produced. Bijous Parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris opens Oct. 13.

Best Gallery
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART JACKSONVILLE
Favorites: Space Gallery, Florida Mining Gallery
Though technically a museum and not a gallery, there’s no denying that MOCA Jax strives to bring a balance of contemporary as well as the antecedent works that crossed the hurdles to bring us to this current post-post-modern point. We’re especially pleased that Folio Weekly readers acknowledged this museum in light of some of the newer shows that’ve been mounted, which seem to be moving toward a more direct focus on the art of our time—we’re specifically thinking of the Gabriel Dawe installation in the atrium (on view until Oct. 29), and the lectures by Dr. Nikki Lane and Gideon Mendel.

Best Local Visual Artist
Reader Nominated Category
Best Local Public Art
JESSICA BECKER
TacoLu mural
Visual Artist Favorites: Shaun Thurston, Jeff Luque
A muralist who’s gained notice in Miami as well as in Jacksonville, Jessica Becker might be best-known (in town) for the Dia de los Muertos-style Virgin of Guadalupe mural she painted on the side of taco-joint extraordinaire, TacoLu—which Folio Weekly readers gave the highest kudos, calling it the city’s Best Local Public Art. A self-taught artist, in 2014 Becker told Miami New Times, “I paint anything that paint sticks to: vehicles, walls, canvas, whatever.” Plus she’s got a big-ass tattoo on her neck of a shark with a bloody dollar-sign carved into its head—so we know she’s viciously (wink) ’bout making those art dollars.

Best Place to Attend a Concert
ST. AUGUSTINE AMPHITHEATRE
Favorites: Daily’s Place, Veterans Memorial Arena
Very few venues in the Southeast can host concerts by both Paul Simon and Slayer; yet, sadly, not on the same bill. The mind reels. That aside, readers give a loud shout-out to the St. Augustine Amphitheatre as the Best Place to Attend a Concert—and rightfully so. While the venue holds around 4,000 music fans, there’s nary a bad seat in the place, and between the killer sound, almost-suspiciously-friendly staff, and good beer and food choices (and boxed water! Earth first!), you get a top experience for your ticket price. Upcoming shows include The Avett Brothers, Roger Daltrey (who?) with Edgar Winter, Bon Iver with Aero Flynn, Son Volt on the Backyard Stage and alt-country guru Ray Wylie Hubbard at the new Front Porch stage.

Best Concert of the Year
JASON ALDEAN
Favorites: DEFTONES, Rockville
Long before a senseless act of violence claimed 50 lives at a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, Folio Weekly readers voted the country star’s August show at Veterans Memorial Arena as the Best Concert of 2017. The details of the tragedy are still unfolding as this issue goes to print, but one thing we do know: Aldean is not going to merely give lip service to the victims. Though busy with the They Don’t Know Tour, Aldean had already scheduled two concert dates for charities this fall, and his philanthropy, including the annual Concert for the Cure benefiting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure which he launched in 2004, is nothing short of inspiring.

Best Local Musician/Band
THE BAND BE EASY
Favorites: Whiskey Dogs, Here Comes the Hero
Just like sipping on a good whiskey, The Band Be Easy can most aptly be described as smooth. Taking inspiration from many different styles of music—pop, funk, reggae, hip-hop and even a hint of pop-rock—the Best Local Musician/Band Be Easy makes the kind of music you want to sit down and listen to while taking it easy.

Best Club DJ
DJ NICK FRESH
Favorites: DJ Q45, DJ E.L.
You might not know that in addition to being Jacksonville’s favorite DJ, Nick Fresh is a classically trained musician who founded the world’s largest online Soul Train fan community. He’s also a radio personality—hosting The Looseness on Wednesdays on 92.7 The Beat Jams—but if you just want to dance, find him Thursdays at The Loft in Riverside where he’s always spinning a song that’ll make you want to come on and get up, get down.

Best Gay/Lesbian Club
METRO ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX
Favorites: In Cahoots Nightclub, Park Place Lounge
The Metro is an awesome place. Awesome in the definition of the term which, in addition to meaning impressive, also means inspiring apprehension because, yes, we’ve been there when the club feels like a magical playground suspended in time and space like a faceted disco jewel. We’ve also been there when a white-haired fellow in greyish tightie-whities totters up and tries to engage in conversation about fossil-hunting in Ponte Vedra. Glamour and weirdness married to some of the best music and drag performances in the city ensures that we always go back!

Best Drag Star
BEBE DELUXE
Favorites: Karrissa Wade, Brittany More, Sofia Andrews
The visionary behind the Glitterbomb variety drag shows Ms. BeBe Deluxe (née Alex Palmer), brings a sense of Old Hollywood glamour and camp to her productions. She’s an LGBTQIA activist and was profiled in the project 100 Days of LGBcuTies as one of 100 most interesting and influential people who were, at that time, fighting for the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance’s expansion to be passed (it did, February 2017), and more recently she was the subject of a delightfully raunchy roast to celebrate her 28th birthday—but we think this fantastical, bearded glamour-puss doesn’t look a day over 37-3/4! BeBe, we love you.

Best Local Comedian
MARK ALAN
Favorites: Danny Johnson, Jim Thomas, Ron Moore
What’s better than a comedian? If you guess a comic who’s also a bona fide unicorn-whispering wizard, then you win the Philosopher’s stone. OK, Mark Alan isn’t really a demon-fighting warlock (or even an apprentice who gets out-maneuvered by anthropomorphic mops), but he is an internationally lauded magician with more than 25 years of experience wowing audiences with his singular blend of hilarity and hocus-pocus. And we hear he smells good, too.

Best Live Music Club
Best Dance Club
MAVERICKS LIVE
Live Music Club Favorites: Lynch’s Irish Pub, Sliders Seaside Grill
Dance Club Favorites: theLOFT, Myth Nightclub
Lest ye faire Northeast Floridian think that our readers have gone all-kuntry, all the time, for some time now Mavericks Live has been throwing it down with rock, rap, reggae and, yes, country music. So be you a line-dancin’ fool, a Stomp the Yard dance-off master, or just feel like shakin’ that tush with your pals, Mavericks at the Jacksonville Landing has a show that will set your feet on fire. Just don’t get white girl wasted—it’s easy to get lost in this large, dark space. Not that we’d know. (We know.)

Best Comedy Club
THE COMEDY ZONE
Favorites: The Comedy Club of Jacksonville, Hourglass Pub, Gypsy Cab Co.
Since 2006, The Comedy Zone has practically swept this category, so we know FW readers are a humor-lovin’ herd. The Zone throws some big names onstage: Shawn Wayans, Funnymaine, John Witherspoon, Carlos Mencia. And every New Year’s Eve, it’s nonstop hilarity plus food, drinks, fun … it’s in the Got to Go zone. Best of all, old friends come back from time to time to make us laugh anew—Grandma Lee, we’re lookin’ at you, babe!

Best Gentlemen’s Club
WACKO’S
Favorites: Gold Club, The New Solid Gold Club
Wacko’s is an institution in the city—of what, we’re not sure. Pretty girls dancing around strategically placed poles? Check. Special events with prizes? Check. Tasty lunch specials? Double-check. Hearty red-blooded male-influenced menu? Checkity-check-check! FW readers have declared Wacko’s the winner among show bar institutions in Northeast Florida—and the regulars there swear by the burgers.

Best Local Athlete
Hottest Local Celebrity
Local Hero
TIM TEBOW
Athlete Favorites: Blake Bortles, Derrick Henry, Jalen Ramsey
Hottest Favorites: Nikki Kimbleton, Melissa Ross, Jeremy Spicer, Tim Deegan
Hero Favorites: Denise Lee, Andy Johnson
The athletic superstar (c’mon, admit the boy was good) plays football and baseball, has written a couple of inspirational books, announced for the SEC and helped those affected by recent hurricanes. The man is an angel. And he’s rather attractive. Rumor has it that he’s been squiring Savannah Chrisley around … 10-year age difference and probably a couple dozen IQ points in between. Mama say no, Tebow!

Best Open Mic Night
RAIN DOGS
Favorites: Fly’s Tie Irish Pub, Whiskey Jax
Music fans have waited too damn long to hear your inhalant-inspired variation of The Allman Brothers Band’s stalwart, now as “Whippet Post.” The time is nigh. Every Wednesday at 9 p.m., Rain Dogs in Five Points features an open mic night. Hosted by local singer-songwriter Shawn Lightfoot, this weekly open call is more laid-back bar-hang than American Idol, unless that TV talent show/brain-melter offered really good draft beer and bar snacks. So tune up that electric zither, squeeze into those purple leather chaps, and invite the crowd into the arcane world of your brand-new, original tribute to ’90s French-toddler rap sensation, Jordy.

Best Trivia Night
(TIE) EUROPEAN STREET CAFÉ, BUFFALO WILD WINGS
Favorites: Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, Dick’s Wings Lakewood
Do you have an over-abundant amount of semi-useless and trivial knowledge crammed inside your head? You do?! Well then why don’t you just stop by European Street Café or Buffalo Wild Wings for trivia night? For E-Street, it’s Mondays at 7:30 p.m. on Riverside, Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on Beach Boulevard and 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Jax Beach. For BW3s, it’s round-the-clock. Both joints serve up some tasty grub and a decent selection of brews.

Best Farmers Market
RIVERSIDE ARTS MARKET
Favorites: Jacksonville Farmers Market (aka Beaver Street), Fernandina Beach Farmers Market
Fresh herbs, hand-milled soaps and custom-fitted toe rings are only a few of the glorious items available at the market under the bridge. It’s a great place to catch some of Jacksonville’s extraordinary local musicians while cooling down with the breeze off the river, and a delicious iced coffee (or a.m. beer). Then wander around perusing the legit local cheeses, produce and baked goods on offer. Pro tip: Regarding the baked goods, we find that operating in a “one-for-now, one-for-later” mode works out really, really well.

Best Place to Bike
JACKSONVILLE-BALDWIN RAIL TRAIL
Favorite: Hanna Park
Located just west of Downtown Jacksonville, the 14.5-mile Baldwin Trail runs through a former railway line, offering two parallel paths–one for walking, jogging, in-line skating and biking–and a second for horseback riding. Local pedal-pushers know that the bike trail is still one of the best places in Northeast Florida to pop on their helmets, spin their wheels, and commune with nature while zipping along on a sunny day.

Best Surf Spot
JAX BEACH PIER
Favorite: The Poles
Why is surfing like sex? Because when it’s good, it’s really, really good. And when it’s bad … it’s still pretty good. What other sport combines the water, death-defying skill, cool clothes and good music? While many of you answered, “Okie Noodling, Ya Dingus!” surfing is a straight-up local sport and locals head for the Jax Beach Pier when they want to carve out some waves, while not slamming headlong into a large pole.

Best Place for People-Watching
JAX BEACH
Favorites: Memorial Park, Riverside
The 20th-century guru Yogi Berra once noted, “You can observe a lot by watching.” While we’re not sure that Sri Baba Berra visited Jax Beach, we’re pretty certain his eyes would have been ablaze with what he saw. Our readers love the sights, sounds (and possibly smells) of the beach, where the game of “Is that the mayor or a bum?” is always at play. While there are bars and

Best Fishing Spot
MAYPORT JETTIES
Favorites: Jax Beach Pier, Fort Clinch
The Jetties, at the confluence of the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean, are full of great bait this time of year: mullet and pogies all over. You need live bait for the big catches like kingfish, tarpon, jack crevalle and sharks of several varieties and levels of fierceness. At the bend in the river, there’s Helen Cooper Floyd Park, named for a grand dame of old Mayport, where you can relax and dry off; many fisherfolk stand in the water waist-deep to practice their craft and try to reel in some dinner.

Best Festival
JACKSONVILLE JAZZ FESTIVAL
Favorites: Springing the Blues, Welcome to Rockville
Since 1981, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival has continued to attract large audiences of jazz heads and newbies alike, with free concerts boasting lineups featuring some of the greatest legends and up-and-coming musicians. Held each year over Memorial Day weekend, the party spans 15 blocks in Downtown Jacksonville, with stages located at various spots, adding to the party atmosphere that attracts more than 130,000 each year.

Best Local Cosplayer
CANDY KEANE
Favorites: Jenna Esposito, Jenifer Ann
All right, we’re just gonna come right out and say it: Candy Keane’s Wonder Woman is en fuego. This self-decribed geek isn’t just a gorgeous face, beautiful bod and chameleon of costume: She’s also an incredibly talented seamstress who makes her own threads. Seriously. Move over, superheroines, ’cause Keane is putting you to shame and looking flawless doing it.

Best Local Cosplay Event
Best Art Exhibit
GAAM SHOW, GAAM (GAMES, ART AND MUSIC)
Show Favorites: WasabiCon, Mandarin MiniCon
Art Exhibit Favorites: LIFT at the Cummer, Jeff Luque’s Girl with Flowers at CoRK
Whenever the GAAM Show rolled into town, it was almost like a bat signal went up, calling all nerds throughout the land to gather in one spot to celebrate everything good about being a nerd. Even though GAAM stands for Games, Arts And Music, none were excluded as they stood like the Statue of Liberty gathering and accepting the huddled masses of nerds. This year’s GAAM was a celebration of the beautiful—and criminally underrated—art of the video game world. Yet sometimes it’s not just about the art itself, but what the art can do. This year’s GAAM event not only showcased relatively unknown and underrated artists, but put on a live art auction with all the proceeds going to local charities.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Golfer 
JIM FURYK
Favorites: Russell Knox, Jordan Spieth
Our readers’ fave local golfer is a pro in every sense of the word. Jim Furyk is ranked as the world’s 115th best golfer, but don’t let that fool you. Furyk’s career is loaded with great stats. He’s ranked No. 2 in driving accuracy, at 72.9 percent, according to cbssports.com. He’s won more than $67 million on the PGA Tour, nothing to sneeze at, and more than $3 million on European tours. The 6-foot-2-inch, 47-year-old holds the record for the lowest score in PGA Tour history—he shot a 58 in 2016’s Travelers Championship final round. The Ponte Vedra resident is community-minded; the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation supports local charities that focus on making better lives for Northeast Florida’s children. That’s a drive we can all get behind.

Best Local Character
Reader Nominated Category
Best Local Mascot 
JAXSON DE VILLE
Character Favorites: Jeremy Spicer, Kerry Speckman
Mascots Favorites: Scampi, Ozzy Osprey
Jaxson de Ville has been with us through thick and thin. Good times and bad. By zipline, by bungie and by scooter, Jaxson has always been there. Just like the vigilante Bat of Gotham, he is our own masked crusader. Even in our darkest hours, we can all sleep soundly knowing our that our silent protector is on the prowl. When T-shirts need shooting, Jaxson will be there. When cakes need to be smashed in people’s faces, Jaxson will be there—queue the epic Batman musical score.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Dressed 
CINDY PLATT, Grease Rags Clothing
Favorites: Matt Hunt, Paul Green
In these days of snatched-back hair and uniform-dressing, it’s easy to lose sight of the panache and savoir-faire that sartorial deliberateness can bring to everyday life—even if it is just running out to get your fake eyelashes trimmed. Grease Rags owner Cindy Platt takes dressing and coiffure to new levels—we’ve never not seen her spiffily turned out and, in turn, we are inspired to at the very least turn in our comfy flannel shirts for something with a waist.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Local Attraction 
JACKSONVILLE ZOO & GARDENS
Favorites: Historic St. Augustine, The Beach
There’s a place in the city where wild beasts strut and roam, living in delicate harmony as they bellow mysterious calls and thump their chests in dominance. But very few ever go inside City Hall. However, way up yonder on the Northside sits the Jacksonville Zoo, featuring approximately 117 acres and more than 2,000 animals and 1,000 plants in its collection. Always a family favorite, the zoo is also a great place for a date, where you can sidle up close to your partner for some snuggle bumpkins, while whimpering, “B-b-but I’m a-scairt of gift shops...” Their annual Spooktacular is always a seasonal favorite, allowing certain people to break out in paroxysms of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown-induced reveries.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Coach
TOM COUGHLIN
Favorite: Mark Brunnell
Well, that didn’t take long! Former Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin, then of the NY Giants, and now back with the Jags as executive vice president of football operations, set the Jaguar Nation’s hopes on fire in January when he returned to EverBank Field. And, as the Jags have actually won some games—plural!—already this season, it looks like the Coughlin Magic is working!

Reader Nominated Category
Best Celebrity Look-Alike
NEGAN UNCHAINED
Making a living looking like somebody else may seem odd to some, but to us, it makes perfectly good sense. To pull off The Walking Dead character Negan—famous for bludgeoning his victims to death with a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat—you have to not only look the look, but walk the walk and talk the talk. Gene Russell—our resident Negan’s real name—does all three to perfection. So, dump the clown for little Timmy’s next birthday and call Negan. We promise you’ll be entertained.

 

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