Best Art Gallery
Quietly but steadily since its founding in 2001, this gallery at 31 Barnard Street has played host to many of Savannah’s up-and-coming artists from a variety of traditions.
Red Gallery -- This SCAD venue on Broughton Street shows cutting-edge art as well as hosting workshops and panels.
Best Photo Gallery
Jack Leigh Gallery
Jack Leigh may be gone but he’s clearly not forgotten, as his beloved gallery at the corner of Oglethorpe and Abercorn continues to host new exhibits of local photographers, under the capable direction of Susan Laney.
Black Orchid -- This fairly new Drayton Street gallery not only offers cutting edge visual art, but it’s an award-winning tattoo studio as well.
Best Local Artist
DiNello’s quasi-Cubist take on the human form and intriguing grasp of texture -- she’s a master mosaicist as well as a painter -- are instantly recognizable, almost iconic images in the local art scene.
Lori Robinson -- A founder of Chroma Art Gallery, she’s a well-respected painter in her own right.
Best Local Author
The author of the Savannah-themed trilogy of Casey’s Revenge, The Reluctant Corpse and Nightmare in Savannah appears in this category for the very first time. Well, actually both of them appear -- “Mary Charles” is the collective nom de plume of GSU prof Mary Hadley and art restorer Charles Martin.
Paul Thigpen -- This local theologian, who turned to Catholicism after an early life steeped in evangelical Christianity, has been quietly establishing a career as an amazingly prolific writer of religious-themed books and articles.
Best Theatre Company
Savannah Theatre Players
The cast of Jukebox Journey, the latest smash musical revue at this historic venue, grabs the top spot for the second year in a row. Beginning in June, the venue hosts another musical revue, Broadway on Bull Street through September.
AASU Masquers -- More than just a student group, this troupe has an institutional history of outstanding dramas and musicals going back decades.
Best Poet/ Spoken Word Artist
This frequent Connect Savannah contributor is not only a topflight journalist -- for example, co-authoring the outstanding Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance -- but he’s an acclaimed poet as well, published in Essence magazine and author of I Made My Boy Out of Poetry.
Best Local Concert Event & Best Local Festival That’s Not St. Patrick’s Day
Savannah Music Festival
When he first came onboard in 2000, Savannah Music Festival Executive Director Rob Gibson faced a dilemma: Savannah has too few affluent arts patrons to support a large-scale venture by themselves, but the market isn’t large enough to attempt any such venture without the support of that core group, either. Gibson, to his everlasting credit, has figured out how to attract new, young audiences and donors to the festival without alienating that cadre of heavy-hitters. With the key input of Associate Artistic Director Daniel Hope, the Festival brings the absolute best in musical talent to town each year, with a wide-range of genres from jazz to classical to world music.
Runner-up, Best Local Concert -- From George Clinton to James Brown, SCAD’s secret-but-not-so-secret special guests to celebrate graduation have certainly livened things up.
Runner-up, Best Local Festival: The Beach Bum Parade is off the mainstream media radar, but word is spreading about this offbeat Tybee Island celebration of local eccentricity.
Best Local Song Writer
This guitarist has been a familiar face in regional venues for years, when not making occasional trips to L.A. and Nashville to showcase and collaborate with other, more established songwriters (many of whom boast major chart hits and Grammys/Oscars on their own). He’s self-released a handful of albums filled with material that runs the gamut from quiet, contemplative modern folk to steamy ‘70s-style hard rock and lush, dreamy radio-ready pop — and seen his original tunes used in several indie films and network TV series’. Armed with lyrical sensibilities informed by the classic Stratocaster poets (Dylan and Hendrix), and the vocal chops to pull off even demanding love songs that would not seem out of place soaring over the credits of a Disney movie, he remains a monster (if still criminally underexposed) talent.
Jason Bible -- A staple for several years on the acoustic cover scene, this Texas-born guitarist and singer still regularly plays background hits (Dylan, Petty, Springsteen, Marley, etc...) at any number of bars and restaurants in the area — however, of late he’s gained notoriety as the frontman for upstart roots-rock trio The Train Wrecks. It’s a brasher, ballsier format that’s allowing him to showcase more of his original material than ever before.
Best Local Musician
Butler is perhaps best known as the electric guitarist and frontman for local bar band-turned-rising international jam sensation Perpetual Groove —which tours far and wide, playing large clubs, small theatres and outdoor festivals, and recently completed a short run of dates in Japan. When he’s in town, he often appears solo, or backed by one or two bandmates at a select few downtown bars and restaurants. Those gigs find him airing out new material, stripping down familiar P-Groove numbers to their core, and offering his own takes on favorite cover tunes.
Ben Tucker -- The Savannah Music Festival recently threw this esteemed jazz artist a 75th birthday bash that found him joining (and serenaded by) many local and nationally-known musicians and singers — all of whom have a deep appreciation for his contributions to the idiom, both on record and off.
Best Local Punk/Hardcore Band
Formed from the ashes of the notorious local band DAMAD, Kylesa has become minor international stars in the ever-growing brutal metal genre. After a short string of releases on tiny, fringe labels, they signed with Prosthetic Records (an indie backed with major-label dough), and have graduated from years of grueling DIY roadwork to regularly headlining large clubs and enjoying featured act billing on major package tours both in the USA and abroad. Though their hometown shows are infrequent, they always draw legions of diehard fans as well as those curious to see what a true Savannah rock success story looks and sounds like.
Baroness -- If anyone were to take bets on which Savannah band would likely make the most international impact over the next couple of years, the odds would be on this undeniable juggernaut of a group. Mixing the animal ferocity of thrash, the wicked technical precision of speed metal and the cavernous, brass-knuckled riffage of stoner rock, this epochal outfit is already making waves abroad, and —if they continue to develop at this pace— seem destined for some sort of infamy.
Best Local Rock Band
This dynamic, original alternative rock group wears its reggae and hip-hop influences proudly on its sleeve. They’ve quietly become one of the biggest underground success stories in town, mostly through word of mouth. They tour with increasing regularity, and have already found homes for their self-released tracks on the soundtracks of extreme sports DVDs.
Liquid Ginger -- This modern rock act (fronted by vocalist Ginger Fawcett) plays both cover tunes and originals and is a major draw at clubs and festivals around the Coastal Empire. They’re easily the slickest, most radio-ready pop group to emerge from our immediate area in years, and their well-constructed indie albums enjoy no small amount of regional airplay.
Best Local Jazz Artist
Without a doubt a legend of sorts in our neck of the woods, Tucker is a celebrated musician and composer whose signature tune “Comin’ Home Baby,” has become one of the more popular jazz standards of the second half of the 20th Century. However, that’s only one of several hundred tunes this formidable bassist, businessman and broadcaster has penned over the course of his lengthy career. He was recently honored by the Savannah Music Festival with a sold birthday party/jam session that found top regional and national players “singing” his praises.
Annie Allman - She shares a bloodline with the Allman Brothers, but above and beyond that impressive lineage is one heck of an artist in her own right. A multi-instrumentalist who’s as comfortable on the bass or guitar as she is on a trap set, she spent years up North honing her chops and learning how to jump right in with all manner of cats. These days she divides her time between laid-back solo gigs, acting as a sideperson to a handful of local blues and jazz acts, and helping outfit players with sweet gear at the retail store which bears her name (Annie’s Guitars & Drums).
Best Local Blues Artist
‘The Hitman’ (Brett Bernard)
Runner-Up: Eric Culberson
Well, this rather stunning upset just goes to show that one can never predict the will of the people. Runner-up Eric Culberson has virtually owned this category since the inception of our annual Reader’s Poll, which is not surprising, given that singing guitarist has fronted a fiery electric blues band for nigh on 2 decades, tours the East Coast regularly, and has released 3 critically-acclaimed CDs. Guitarist Brett “Hitman” Bernard, on the other hand, is an extremely late bloomer. This frontman started on his instrument less than 5 years ago, and has only helmed his own band for a relatively short period of time. While both musicians mine similar stylistic territory, Culberson is known more for his finesse and restraint, while Bernard’s calling card is a ferocious, manic intensity.
Best Local Country Band
Fronted by longtime acoustic guitarist/singer Jason Courtenay (of The Courtenay Brothers), this full, electric country-rock act has quickly become one of the more popular cover bands in the immediate area. With a setlist that draws on modern country radio hits as well as twangy rock standards, they’re a regular attraction at a handful of local venues, and are often tapped to open for well-known country acts passing through town.
Whiskey Dick -- This is the stage name of Tony Beasley, whom many will recognize as a veteran bartender at indie-rock venues The Jinx and The Velvet Elvis. A devotee of ‘60s and ‘70s outlaw country (think David Allen Coe, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Paycheck, etc...), his shows combine vintage tunes from the masters of that genre with ribald, tongue-in-cheek originals that push the boundaries of good taste. Initially a solo artist, he now fronts a band of the same name, featuring moonlighting members from a number of local punk groups.
Best Local Hip-Hop Artist
Yancy & The Breakneck Quartet
While frontman Yancy has been on extended leave in Atlanta for several months (with his Quartet soon to relocate their themselves), Breakneck has continued to gig locally, backing up-and-coming MC trio S.O.L., and integrating more straight-up rapping into their organic, groove-oriented funk jams. A crossover act that has unfortunately failed to excite the black listener base in town as much as the (predominantly) white art college crowd —from which they sprang— they seem to have many of the ingredients required for greater success on a regional level, and perhaps beyond.
Camoflauge -- Known by his friends and family as Jason Johnson, this up-and-coming rapper was shot and killed in May of 2003 outside his hit factory of choice, the (unfortunately) aptly-named Pure Pain Studios. Well on his way to what appeared to be some sort of major national success, he unfortunately was never able to make good on his promising potential. He’s since become an iconic symbol of sorts for the C-Port’s fledgling hip-hop community.
Best Local Acoustic/ Folk Artist
Multi-instrumentalist Nelson holds his own on ukulele, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and guitar, among other axes (seemingly, if it has strings and a neck, chances are he can coax a melody out of it), and when it comes to acoustic sidemen, has quietly become one of the “go-to” guys in town. A strong-willed picker with a voracious musical appetite, he’s famous for attending all manner of local club shows, from hardcore to bluegrass. An aficionado of “old-time” Americana, he’s plays contra dances with The Glow In The Dark String Band, blues with Acoustic Landlady, outlaw country with Whiskey Dick and slacker rock with The Darlins.
“Georgia” Kyle Shiver -- He was born in Georgia, but paid his dues on the Northeastern coffeehouse scene before returning (and briefly collaborating with Atlanta’s critically-acclaimed Shawn Mullins). A proficient guitarist and nuanced singer, he plays regularly on the islands and in the Historic District. His independently-released CDs (including a recent live solo set captured at Tybee’s own Café Loco) showcase a devoted fan of blues and folk who also keeps up with contemporary acoustic pop.
Best Local Club DJ
This longtime local turntablist has won or placed in this category for years. He currently spins upstairs at Club One’s “hi-NRG dance level,” and —among other things— is part of the Polk family, known throughout the area for their independently owned and operated fresh produce markets.
DJ Swisher -- Resident DJ at River Street’s 309 West, he can be found behind the decks 4 nights a week from 9 till 3 am.
Best Independent Film Venue
A sort of grassroots-citizen group of local film buffs, Reel Savannah presents indie & foreign films at this historic venue that was, after all, originally designed to screen silent films. Recent films have included Gunner Palace, Murder Ball and Broken Flowers.
Sentient Bean -- In one of his alter-egos, our music editor Jim Reed screens semi-obscure indie & cult films at this Park Avenue coffeehouse as part of the Psychotronic Film Series. In addition, Reel Savannah’s Tomasz Warchol helps bring topflight foreign cinema here every third Friday.
Best Movie Theater Carmike
Centrally located on Stephenson Avenue, this theatre is owned by the same company that owns the Wynnsong on the deep southside.
Regal Cinemas -- Two locations to choose from, southside at Savannah Mall and Eisenhower Drive.
Best Bathroom Graffiti
Vinnie Van Go-Go’s
Back in the day you had to get a key from behind the counter, walk outside and up a flight of steps to the second floor of City Market to take a whizz. Now, you just have to go up some stairs. Either way, great graffiti.
Chuck’s Bar -- One of the liveliest little places in town, this rainbow establishment also offers some cutting edge literature in the ‘loo.