BEST PLACE TO RELENTLESSLY MOCK INSCRUTABLE ART
West Chelsea gets this honor, since you can’t swing a dead paintbrush without finding gallery after gallery (360 in total) full of visually arresting art whose meaning would stump a panel of Mensa experts. The Paula Cooper Gallery (534 W. 21st St. and 521 W. 21st St., 2nd floor), the Paul Rogers/9W Gallery (529 W. 20th St., 9th floor), the Paul Kasmin Gallery (293 10th Ave.), the Luhring Augustine Gallery (531 W. 24th St.), Gallery Henoch (555 W. 25th St.) and Fredericks & Freiser (536 W. 24th St.)—great fun, one and all, but don’t expect profundity to be explainable as it hits you between the eyes.
BEST MUSEUM FANTASY COME TRUE FOR ADULTS
Museum of Natural History’s “One Step Beyond” Parties
American Natural History Museum
Rose Center for Earth and Space
81st St. (betw. Columbus Ave. & Central Park West)
There’s something mischievous about being in a museum after hours, especially when rules like no smoking, no drinking and no eating are thrown out the window for $20 a head. Flavorpill’s monthly “One Step Beyond” parties bring together bands, DJs and VJs, playing generally danceable electronic, techno and hip-hop beats to multimedia displays. Take a break from dancing to hot performers like Superpitcher, or escape from loud confusing acts like Bonde do Rolê, grab a beer and enjoy elbowroom access to model solar system exhibits, weigh yourself on Mars or view celeb-narrated space shows. Despite the yuppie patrons-in-training crowd, the experience is not to be missed. Next month’s show is November 30.
BEST GENRE-BENDING NONPROFIT THEATER
Stolen Chair Theatre Company
Every creative artist thinks their über-wacky parody of noir is one for the ages. Not Off-Off-Broadway’s Stolen Chair Theatre Company, which gave such pretentiousness the bird when it premiered Kill Me Like You Mean It earlier this year, the second installment in its “CineTheatre tetralogy.” Their trick is the opposite of being derivative: They smash genres in a theatrical supercollider and see what happens, such as noir being fused with the idiocy of Ionesco in Kill Me. Stage Kiss, meanwhile, fused Charles Ludlam’s theatre of the ridiculous with Elizabethan blank verse; The Man Who Laughs was a silent film for the stage. Stolen Chair’s latest, Kinderspiel (subtitle: “all art is useless”), currently at the Kraine, is yet another genre-bender: a drop of Weimar cabaret in political drama.
BEST REASON TO FREQUENT A LESBIAN HANGOUT (BESIDES BEING A LESBIAN)
Classic Movies at Living Room Lounge
245 23rd St. (at 5th Ave.), Sunset Park, B’klyn
Due to neighborhood demographics, the crowd is typically made up of butch femmes, but Living Room Lounge welcomes everyone. The 2,500-square-foot lounge acts as community space, music venue, DJ lounge, dive bar and screening room. Tuesdays are the famed movie nights, featuring four-film lineups, including eclectic combinations of black and white classics, Oscar winners and new releases. Starting at 5 p.m. moviegoers can take advantage of 2-for-1 happy hour until 7 p.m. Need your entertainment in the flesh? No worries! The Lounge hosts saucy $5 burlesque shows the second Friday of every month, clothing drops at 9 p.m.
BEST EXCUSE TO MISS BOTH DAFT PUNK AT KEYSTONE PARK AND HOLD STEADY AT PROSPECT PARK ON THE SAME NIGHT
Beastie Boys at McCarren Pool
August 9, 2007 was probably the best night to catch live music in Brooklyn this year. While many chose Daft Punk at Keystone Park or Hold Steady at Prospect Park, there was no better place to be than Greenpoint’s McCarren Pool for one of the last great shows there before it purportedly begins renovation to return to its original pool purpose. Soon to be Rock Hall of Famers, The Beastie Boys made their first-ever Brooklyn show one to remember, starting it all off appropriately with “Hello Brooklyn” and closing it out even more perfectly with party anthem, “No Sleep Til Brooklyn.”
BEST ATTITUDE-FREE CLUB NIGHT
Unisex Salon at Delancey
168 Delancey St. (at Clinton St.)
Most nights when you venture to a club’s theme night, you’ll get college kids guzzling down the almost-free well drinks or so much attitude it’ll make you vomit all those $12 martinis. James Coppola has managed to straddle the two worlds with his weekly Thursday night Unisex Salon at The Delancey. It helps that the space can have a DJ on the main floor, a band blaring in the basement, plus one of the most gorgeous rooftop bars in the city to chill out when you get fed up with the catty whispers. On top of that he plies his pals—Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Alan Cumming, Daniela Sea—to hang out and add to the Downtown celebrity quotient. And we’re not even to the fire play, burlesque dancers and little person shakin’ her moneymaker. It’ll remind you why you came to NYC in the first place.
BEST PLACE TO BET ON THE PONIES FROM THE COMFORT OF A BAR STOOL
George O’Neill’s Yankee Clipper
170 John St. (betw. Front & South Sts.)
Gamblers in the know head to the South Street Seaport, of all places, to wager on thoroughbred and harness races live at tracks from Balmoral to Zia. Push past the tourists, TKTS patrons and assorted sidewalk performers to make your way to this OTB mecca, housed inconspicuously in an 1840 landmark. While oblivious diners dwell upstairs, the gambler’s domain remains downstairs. Professional betters congregate in a classroom-like annex, but hobbyists pull up to the bar or nestle into flat-screen manned booths, watching the ponies pace and laying down wagers along with their food orders—spending winnings on rounds of drinks.
BEST CHEERLEADER-FRONTED CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE ROCK BAND
It’s always a challenge, but the nine-piece (formerly 11-piece) Bling Kong always manage to fit all of their members on stage—no matter how tiny the venue. Playing all over the place—winning over crowds with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” performance structure that gives the audience control over the set list and fates of the fictional characters, Snakedawg and Baby Blue, Bling Kong may be NYC’s live band able to have the most fun.
BEST STAGE DOOR TO ASK BROADWAY STARS FOR AUTOGRAPHS
The Color Purple at the Broadway Theatre
Good possibilities include the Brooks Atkinson, where Grease stars Max Crumm and Laura Osnes face fleets of fans following every show; and the Eugene O’Neill, where Spring Awakening’s young cast must tear away from theatergoers titillated by teenage sex. The winner, however, is the Broadway, where cast members of The Color Purple are driving autograph seekers to do everything but bale at the moon in an effort to get signatures on playbills. For several months, “American Idol” Fantasia Barrino has raised the rafters in the lead role of Celie; she’s joined now by another “Idol” favorite, LaKisha Jones—plus Chaka Khan and Bebe Winans.
BEST PLACE TO FIND ART THAT MATTERS
475 10th Ave. (at 36th St.)
As the rest of Chelsea bulges and bursts on the steroids of hedge-fund cash and global capital, it remains increasingly difficult to find a place where artists can display their creative production if it might not sell for exorbitant amounts. That’s why we continue to return to see the odd group shows and film series at this 25-year-old institution. No need to plunk down $20 for one of the gorgeous museums or feel trapped in gallery hell, here you may stumble an unknown Cuban artist or Internet artwork. It’s always a mish-mash of the great and not-so-great—what made us enjoy galleries in the first place.
BEST BOOKSTORE TO FEEL LIKE AN ARTIST
195 10th Ave. (betw. 21st & 22nd Sts.)
For years, Printed Matter has been the coolest book-hub around. Publishing artists’ books and housing the largest collection of publications made by artists, the nonprofit is the epicenter of the do-it-yourself art school ethos. With exhibitions like Fuck for Peace: A History of the Fugs and Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now, they manage to outdo any sort of pretentious vibe that other Chelsea galleries may try to muster simply because they actually care about what they’re selling.
BEST MUSEUM FANTASY COME TRUE FOR CHILDREN
American Museum of Natural History’s “A Night at the Museum" Sleepovers
79th St. (at Central Park West)
Any child who fantasizes about after hours at a museum is in luck; the American Museum of Natural History’s “A Night at the Museum” invites your kid—and 465 of their closest friends—to spend the night with the blue whale, an Alaskan brown bear or a volcanic formation: $109 gets your 8- through 12-year-old a snack, Imax film, flashlight exploration and visit to a live-animal exhibition, a cot and breakfast. All you need bring is a sleeping bag, pillow, PJs and a toothbrush. So successful is the program that sleepovers are sold out until January 2008. Get moving on making your child’s dream come true now, or they’ll hate you forever.
BEST SWAMP ROCK COUNTRY BAND TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR
2007 started with a bang when Brooklyn’s favorite fiddle-playing, banjo-pluckin’ band brought their out-of-place sound to Cake Shop for a New Year’s hoe-down. Their Emmit Otter’s Jug-band country folk sound may be more fitting for a home in the bayou, but we love having them here in NYC—and expect a new country-punk scene to develop soon.
BEST PLACE TO BE A GEEK AT MIDNIGHT
Waverly Midnights at IFC Center
Joss Whedon’s cult fave, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will never die. And thanks to the midnight movie screenings during IFC Center’s Waverly Midnights series, you can also have an interactive, sing-a-long to the “Buffy Musical” episode once a month. Or another screening of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (for yet another sing-a-long to “Wig in a Box”). Or perhaps some other cult fave or obscure cine phenom that deserves some recognition and screen time but doesn’t get nearly enough—in your dork-tastic opinion.
BEST RE-IMAGINING OF AN OLD TESTAMENT PARABLE BY A FORMER MEMBER OF NEW YORK SKETCH COMEDY GROUP THE STATE
David Wain, The Ten
Proving once again that the words “religious” and “cult” were meant for one another. Stella star David Wain reimagines the Ten Commandments as the fractured vignettes of a romantic comedy, which, despite having a fair bit of star power, is destined to wander the desert of cinematic obscurity, until its eventual resurrection as an essential dorm room DVD, like Wet Hot American Summer before it. How’s that for a mixed metaphor?
BEST LOCAL COMEDY TROUPE FEATURING A GUY NAMED AZIZ
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who benefited as much from viral video in the past couple of years (who didn’t have to, you know, come in direct contact with Paris Hilton, in the process) as these three dudes from Manhattan. Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer turned a handful of YouTube videos into a prime-time sketch comedy show on MTV. Featuring cameos by NYC comics such as Matt Walsh and Jons Benjamin and Glaser, Human Giant is one of the most intentionally funny shows the basic cable channel has aired since the glory days of The State.
BEST REASON TO LAMENT A VENUE CLOSING
The Lower East Side is quickly deteriorating from a dark, creative place to a boring yuppie development. Not long after the neighborhood lost its landmark venue, CBGB, it lost the neighborhood’s home for experimental music, Tonic, leaving artists like John Zorn and Marc Ribot searching for new places to display their groundbreaking work.
BEST PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
Death by Audio (run the shop/label/venue)
The band has been around the scene for years, gathering a reputation as the loudest band in the city. Finally, at the end of the summer, the band blew down the door to Pitchfork and received high praise from the all-powerful reviewers. Now the band, and their effects pedal shop/venue, Death By Audio, are emerging as top dogs in the NYC music scene—at last.
BEST NEW MUSIC VENUE
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 N. 6th St. (betw. Kent &
Wythe Aves.), B’klyn
When Northsix shut its doors, we witnessed the inevitable change as Williamsburg undergoes continual upgrading of facilities and residents. But who knew that we’d be so overjoyed with the replacement? The Bowery Presents replaced the skuzzy venue with something superior: Music Hall of Williamsburg. Gone are the rickety walls and stadium seats. Now there’s a balcony and great sightlines no matter where you stand. For years, Bowery Ballroom has been our favorite venue for shows. Must be nice to be knocked from your throne by your own devices.
BEST PLACE TO FIND A MISUNDERSTOOD COMIC BOOK ARTIST
Comic Book Club at The PIT
154 W. 29th St. (betw. 6th & 7th Aves.)
The mix of dubious improv talent and other odd-ball acts that fill The People’s Improv Theater’s lineup are always loaded with the risk of not satisfying the need for actual entertainment. But the three fanboy pundits who host the weekly Comic Book Club—Alexander Zalben, Justin Tyler and Pete LePage—have stumbled on something that seems to have been lacking for the city’s comic book-obsessed. Every Tuesday at 8 p.m., they gather with comedians and industry professionals to dissect the latest promotional materials and the origin myths of various superheroes. Add to that quirky musical guests and you have the reigning kings of geekdom holding court for the masses.
BEST THING ON THE PIER
Fulton Fish Market, South Street Seaport
You mean you haven’t been to the South Street Seaport? You haven’t seen the hordes of tourists who congregate for some simulacra of NY maritime history? Or perhaps you have and that’s why you got out of there—fast. For those who found their way through the throngs and into the mirrored and brocade Spiegeltent, it was worth all the torture. For the second year in a row, the Spiegelfolk have brought Spiegelworld to this most unlikely of places. Most attention has been on the Absinthe and La Vie spectaculars that collect some of the kinkiest and strangest circus acts into raunchy acro-burlesque event. But the lineup of international musical acts with debout followings—DeVotchKa, Lila Downs, Jose Gonzalez—in such a peculiar setting were something no one should miss.
BEST EP BY A QUIRKY IVY LEAGUE INDIE ROCK BAND NOT NAMED “BISHOP ALLEN”
The kids of Vampire Weekend graduated from Columbia with a double major in afro-beat and pop culture references. The resultant three-song EP and their frequent live shows about town have generated absurd volumes of buzz, generally attributed to groups on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Tunes like “Oxford Comma” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” are almost enough to make you wish that those humid days of summer could stick around just a little big longer.
BEST WRITER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF BUT SHOULD GO READ RIGHT NOW
We can’t shut up about Ellis Avery’s The Teahouse Fire. The novel makes the story of 19th-century Kyoto as it is opening to the West—told via the perspective of an American orphan, Aurelia, adopted by a Japanese family of tea masters—seem like it’s playing on IMAX. Aurelia inhabits a hyper-cinematic world of lacquered palanquins, shoji-screened teahouses and Geishas wearing layers of kimonos as the “butter-smelly barbarians” (that would be Americans) are on their way. Just go read it already. Go! Why are you still reading this?
BEST LESBIAN/QUEER LITERARY RENAISSANCE OF NEWISH WRITERS
It didn’t all end with Gertrude Stein or Elizabeth Bishop. The city is crawling with overachieving queer writers like T Cooper and Felicia Luna Lemus. The two are a couple and, while both are established, they are still “the loudest, wittiest and prettiest fag/hag duo ever,” as Lemus said in a recent Queerty interview. For memoir, Alison Smith’s Name All the Animals has earned its rightful position as top-selling nonfiction title at Oscar Wilde Bookshop; and Nightlight is just out from Janine Avril, who founded and runs the popular Girlsalon reading series. Ellis Avery and Aoibheann Sweeney will capably defend New York’s reign as the place for great dyke fiction long into the future. Honestly, it’s a lesborific plenitude of talent we’ve got going on here. In fact, we’re feeling a new city slogan.
BEST PLACE TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL THEN COME BACK AND DO A READING
McNally Robinson Booksellers
50 Prince St. (betw. Mulberry & Lafayette Sts.)
Mark Binelli pulled this one off with his hilarious, scarily clever Sacco & Vanzetti Must Die. He wrote some of his novel, in which his ersatz, knife-juggling S&V leave no pie unthrown, at the Prince Street bookstore, and then in an eerie twist of fate (OK, maybe not) went back there to read from his much-lauded work published by Dalkey Archive Press. McNally Robinson can’t garner a rave from Michiko Kakutani, but they’ve got a café that apparently has good writer mojo, and a virtually limitless source of procrastination.
BEST PLACE TO VISIT YOUR ROOTS WHILE GETTING SOME CULTCHA
The Tenement Museum Shop
108 Orchard St. (betw. Delancey &
The Tenement Museum makes the To-Do-Eventually List of a lot of New Yorkers, but it should get nudged towards the top. There aren’t too many places where you can so fully feel the ghosts of Gothamites past: the German Jewish Gumpertzes, who lived during the Great Panic of 1874; the Levines, a Polish family that ran a garment business in their rooms; or Baldizzi family, Sicilian Italian Catholics. The museum brings all that to life with artifacts, pictures and sound recordings but also with the carefully selected immigrant titles in the Tenement Museum Shop. The Tenement Museum also stays current with ongoing immigrant issues and hosts a trek-worthy reading series with writers like Chris Abani, Frank McCourt and Pete Hamill.
BEST PLACE TO BUY A BOOK AND A LATTE
200 Avenue A (betw. 12th & 13th Sts.)
What with all the closings of independent shops—as well as the sturdy chains—who can make a bookstore/café combo work? It seems Joe Birdsong and Brian Butterick (aka Hattie Hathaway) understand what it takes to compete: clean, spacious digs, free WiFi and a hefty dose of underground artist street cred. Not only do folks enjoy the friendly vibe, but the readings, performance art and other kooky events (egg decorating?) have enough cache to get the cool kids to skip Starbucks and head indoors. Oh, and you can also get a stiff drink.
BEST USE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR PRETENTIOUS PURPOSES
The scrappy Williamsburg Brick Theatre held an Impending Theatrical Blogging Event featuring the major New York theater blogs—including Aaron Riccio’s metaDRAMA, Garrett Eisler’s The Playgoer, Isaac Butler’s Parabasis and Leonard Jacobs’ The Clyde Fitch Report. All were asked to sit in the theatre and blog about blogging while yet other bloggers at home blogged about blogging while keeping tabs on a screen at the Brick where every blogger could post their posts. It was a technological triumph, and pretty pretentious, too.
BEST USE OF GLITTER AND A UKELELE TO TELL A STORY
Taylor Mac in The Young Ladies Of…
The pancake makeup, glittery red lips and sequins as eye shadow can easily convince someone that Taylor Mac is just another drag queen. In fact the performance artist has been around for years, stumping for all manner of political causes, and he was selected this year to perform as part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival. Unlike so many current performers, Mac understands that the personal is political and his very act of getting up in the morning (and putting on makeup) is a mini revolution. In his current autobiographical piece, The Young Ladies Of…, he continues to strum his ukulele, yack about suburban mindsets and impress upon all who see him that they should never give up hope that art can change the world.
BEST PLACE TO MEET AN AGING WARHOL SUPERSTAR
Coffee House Chronicles at LaMaMa E.T.C.
74A E. 4th St. (betw. Bowery & 2nd Ave.)
The Saturday Coffee House Chronicles at LaMaMa are designed to continue the discourse about where Off-Off-Broadway came from and what’s currently going on in the scene. The cramped “club” space can seem like a hangout for old-timers—until you realize those aging folks are in fact the big names of a generation that once was the epitome of NYC cool: Leee Black Childers, Geraldine Smith, Taylor Mead, Ultra Violet, Holly Woodlawn. They arrive to discuss the Theatre of the Ridiculous and their time with Andy and Candy Darling and, invariably, Brigid Berlin and drug binges at Max’s Kansas City. Recently Richard Foreman and Edward Albee showed to discuss their work, but even these grandpas of the old guard pale in comparison to the stories of a NY that seems so far away.
BEST PLACE TO RELENTLESSLY MOCK INSCRUTABLE ART