Best of Manhattan 2010: Arts & Entertainment

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Posts.


Best New Music Venue: The Rock Shop
249 4th Ave., betw. Carroll & President Sts., Brooklyn, 718-230-5740

Park Slope got in on the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd action typically reserved for the Lower East Side when The Rock Shop opened this summer. The 90-person-capacity music space, booked by former Union Hall and Bell House guy Jack “Skippy” McFadden, has already featured performances by Dr. Dog’s Scott McMicken, Visqueen, Robbers on High Street and others. Inside the venue, a long and lean bar leads to a small clearing with a tiny, elevated stage flanked by suspended speakers. In addition to the guarantee that your ears will be buzzing by the end of the night, The Rock Shop will further exploit your senses with a spacious upstairs area that holds a second bar, pool table, flat-screen TVs and, the biggest sell, a roof deck. Be sure to succumb to the outdoor splendor before winter arrives or the neighbors start complaining about the noise.

Best Reason to Hate One-Person Shows: The Fringe Festival
Ask any professional theater critic about the Fringe Fest, and you’re bound to get an eye-roll or a heavy sigh. The sprawling annual theater festival is increasingly a tedious exercise in public masturbation for its performers, most of which isn’t even titillating. The one-person shows are usually pretty dreary, but that’s not to say that shows with casts of two and up are much better. With some of the most reasonably priced tickets in Manhattan (and plenty of press every year), it’s no wonder that theatergoing dilettantes whose only exposure to theater is the Fringe don’t see more shows.

Best Small Room for Live Music: Knitting Factory
361 Metropolitan Ave., betw. Havemeyer & Roebling Sts., Brooklyn, 347-529- 6696

Back in 2008, when The Knitting Factory confirmed its move into the former home of the ill-fated Luna Lounge, New York Press asked: “Could it be that 361 Metropolitan Avenue is where music venues go to die?” Much to our delight, the Manhattan transplant has allayed our fears and broken any alleged 361 curse since opening in the space in September 2009. The 250-person capacity music room is smaller than some of its Williamsburg brethren, but its varied lineup of bands, delectably clean sound system and intimate atmosphere have endeared it to our music-loving hearts. Nonconcert-goers have also found a reason to love this space, thanks to its front room. As the back wall of the bar is covered in giant windows, patrons have a clear view of the stage and can sit and absorb the visual— though not the audio—elements of the show from the comfort of cushy booths.

Best Contemporary Art Show: Anne Collier
New York-based artist Anne Collier lands this year’s best gallery show, hands down, for her eponymous exhibition this January at Anton Kern. The show was comprised mostly of photography, with books opened to pages with sunsets lining the gallery. There was also a black-and-white photo of an eye, with a frame resembling a tear duct and an image of a paper cutter slicing that eye. The show is a little aggressive in its demand that the gallery-goer contemplates the act of looking, but it’s an attribute we like. Looking at art shouldn’t always be easy.

Best Place To Experience a High Concentration of Artsy Buzz: Governors Island
The history of Governors Island is a tad stuffy—a military hub going back to the Revolutionary War—and the hippest piece of culture ever to spring from its loins is Tom and Dick Smothers (the comedians were born there ages ago). That hasn’t stopped New York’s artistic community from invading the sedate suburban island for the past two summers to stage all sorts of strange installations and performance pieces—and it’s stayed interesting. Governors Island is also heating up as an indie music hotspot; droves of alts took the ferry over this year to witness performances by the likes of Yeasayer and MIA.

Best Off-Off-Broadway Show: Now Circa
Then A comedy about historical re-enactors at the Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum, Carly Mensch’s two-hander is as close to theatrical perfection as you’re likely to find. The production at Ars Nova sparkled, from Jason Eagan’s direction to Lauren Halpern’s densely detailed set design to the hilarious and poignant performances from Stephen Plunkett and Maureen Sebastian. With even Off-Broadway shows increasingly overblown, what a pleasure it was to sit down and find the focus shifted from high concepts to just telling a great tale.

Best Broadway Asses: Fela!
Tell the truth—were you able to take your eyes off the junk in star Sahr Ngaujah’s trunk? We didn’t think so.

Best Independent Comics Publisher: Secret Acres
It can be hard making your way in the big city, and life as an independent comics publisher is no different. New York, after all, is home to the medium’s two goliaths—Marvel and DC. But even the presence of such monopolistic entities hasn’t deterred the efforts of Barry Matthews and Leon Avelino. This Queensbased publishing house came seemingly out of nowhere in 2006, and has been producing vibrant and essential works by the likes of Ken Dahl, Minty Lewis, Theo Ellsworth and Eamon Espey, ever since. Suck it, Batman.

Best Borderline Performance Art: Vicky and Lysander’s Dinner Party
She’s a condescending socialite. He’s clearly gay. But married couple Vicky and Lysander (the hilarious Shannon Walker and Damon Cardasis) presented a united front last spring at Grand Opening, hosting two dinner parties a night for their new favorite strangers. With envelope-pushing jokes and a disregard for the possibility of personal discomfort, audience interaction has never been more fun. If you missed the show, keep an eye out for Walker and Cardasis’ very funny movie, March!. These two never met a button they didn’t like to push.

Best Williamsburg Bar for Dancing: Savalas
285 Bedford Ave., betw. S. 1st & Grand Sts., Brooklyn, 718-599-5565

It’s 1 a.m. on a Saturday, you’re on Bedford Avenue and there are only two words on your mind: dance party. OK, and maybe taco truck. But
when your need to shake it outweighs, at least temporarily, your need
for grub, head to Savalas, where the party don’t stop till… well,
close. The DJs play a smorgasbord of hip-hop and rap by everyone from
Biggie and Dr. Dre to Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, a generational medley
that delights all of those squeezed onto the tiny dance floor. Don’t
know much about hip-hop? It’s too loud in here for anyone to quiz you on
your knowledge anyway.

Best Up-and-Coming Comedian: David Cope
The judges of Last Comic Standing made
a big mistake when they eliminated Brooklyn-based comedian David Cope
during last season’s semi-finals. For those who missed Cope’s LCS appearances, they can watch him perform his unique brand of absurdist observational humor at Hot Soup, the weekly comedy show he produces with Andy Haynes, Mark Normand and Matt Ruby at O’Hanlons in the East Village.

Best Beer to Bring to a DIY Venue: Grolsch
The
city’s DIY venues are heaven for any number of reasons: the rock ‘n’
roll smell of smoke and BO, the graffiti, the thriftstore couches
stacked in a pyramid. Best of all, they’re mostly BYOB. But how to make
sure you stay drunk without running to the bodega every 15 minutes?
Normal-sized longnecks or cans are fine, in theory, except you have to
bring enough to last through the inexplicable 45-minute delays between
every band. Grolsch is your knight in shining green armor. It’s bigger
than your average beer, so two should get you through the show. And,
here’s the real genius: it’s resealable! And we’re not talking
some dinky screw cap BS (I’m looking at you, Natty Light), but some kind
of amazing thing made out of plastic and actual metal that’s
straight from another time, when men were men and beers were drunk on
the go. Drink half of it and then take it on the subway, to a park or
just bring it home to get drunk in peace, alone, like a normal
alcoholic.

Best Place to See New Bands: Shea Stadium
20 Meadow St., betw. Waterbury & Bogart Sts., Brooklyn, no phone
If
you have to see new bands (and you do, let’s face it), there’s nowhere
better to see them than the confusingly named Shea Stadium. First of
all, there’s that delicious moment every time someone tells you that
they’ve just been to a show there and you’re honestly confused,
picturing a baseball stadium. This is half the fun! Suddenly, unbidden,
your mind tries to juxtapose Dinosaur Feathers with cracking bats and
stinky peanuts. This only lasts a second, because you know Shea Stadium
is a venue. It’s a nice venue, actually, with a bar, kind of, lots of
space and that cool roof that sort of feels like you shouldn’t be on it!
Couple this with the crowd (younger but not prettier than you) and
you’ve got a damn fine place to catch next month’s hot new thing today.

Best Usher: Jack Donoghue at Theatre Row
He’s there almost every
night, taking tickets and directing you to your floor, and if you attend
shows at Theatre Row with any frequency, chances are Jack Donoghue will
remember you. His friendliness is never more welcome than shortly after
being forced to interact with the bored and impatient ushers of
Broadway theaters—particularly that super cunty one at The Schoenfeld.

Best Indie Movie Theater: IFC Center
323 6th Ave., at W. 3rd St., 212-924-7771
Just over five years
into its existence, the IFC Center continues to offer some of the best
new art house releases along with an ever-expanding schedule of events.
The latest addition to its repertoire is a full-on film festival: DOC
NYC, a documentary showcase co-founded by Thom Powers, the documentary
programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival whose other
duties at the IFC Center include its Stranger than Fiction series. Also
coming up: The 330-minute Special Roadshow Edition of Olivier Assayas’s
terrorist chronicle Carlos and famed director Claude Chabrol’s final film, Inspector Bellamy.

Best Outdoor Concert Series: Rock Yard
Sure, the shows at the
Williamsburg Waterfront get most of the glory—not to mention visits from
Senators and pop stars—but the shows that Waterfront party people
JELLYNYC threw at the corner of Wythe Avenue and South 2nd Street, where
lesser-known but way more exciting acts like Tough Knuckles and Total
Slacker played, made Saturday afternoons way hotter than what was going
on anywhere else in town. Will it be back next summer? Who knows, but we sure as hell hope so.

Best Band to Withstand Its Own Hype: Das Racist
Everyone’s
been swinging from Das Racists’ nuts for so long, it’s shocking the
dudes haven’t had to get corrective surgery. Still, the fucked-up and
funny rap trio manages to churn out smart, jerky, can’t-stop-listening
tracks, and can always be counted on to play a show that you’ll barely
remember the next morning. They usually won’t remember it the next
morning either, ’cause pretty much every time we’ve seen these guys,
they’ve been so wasted they could barely stumble through their shows.
But the mixtape, Sit Down, Dude, the follow up to Shut Up, Dude, is
blowing up the Internet and even the nearly-a-year-old, cheap-ass video
for “Rainbow in the Dark” is amazing, so we don’t predict Das Racist
going away any time soon.

Best Rescue Work: So Help Me God!
Whether Maurine Dallas Watkins’ lost 1920s play So Help Me God! is
actually a great play or star Kristen Johnston elevated it to higher
heights is beside the point: Few plays last year were as vicious, tart
and unrelentingly cynical than The Mint’s production of this show about a
bitchy theatrical diva and the up-and-comer who threatens to usurp her.
With so many Off-Broadway plays enjoying unnecessary transfers to
Broadway, this is the one that got lost in the shuffle. Again.

Best Rising Cinematic Star: reRun
147 Front St., betw. Pearl & Jay Sts., Brooklyn, 718-797-2322

Drinking
at the movies has been a rare luxury in New York City, but reRun
provides that lavish opportunity without overplaying the gimmick. The
screening room in the back of reBar in Dumbo, this enjoyable gastropub
experience contains a nifty indie program that’s entirely distinct from
anything else in the city, and scruffy enough to match the theater’s
cozy interior. Also: Duck-fat popcorn. ‘Nuff said.

Best Karaoke Night: Karaoke Killed The Cat
Hosted by heartthrob
hype men Lord Easy and Chris Goldteeth, this party, which happens
Mondays at Brooklyn Bowl, Thursdays at Cargo Café and every so often at
Union Hall (where we think it fits best), is the best sing-along you’ll
ever have. Not only is the selection of songs impressive (and nobody’s lost The
Smiths songs… we’re looking at you, Winnie’s), but the hosts will
perform alongside you, making singing and watching way more fun. If
you’re attached to a night of Sapporo and Celine Dion, this won’t be for
you, but if you want to have the most fun possible while belting out
“Father Figure” and watching a room full of sexy strangers pump their
fists at you, there’s nowhere else to go.

Best Return to the
Stage: Julianne Nicholson

Taking a break from her busy TV workload,
Julianne Nicholson made a fabulous return to the boards this year in two
worthy shows: Playwrights Horizon’s This and The Flea’s Parents’ Evening. Both
shows found her as women fretting over the choices they’ve made, and
both shows were perfect showcases for Nicholson’s delicate, intelligent
passiveness. Here’s to more of them, and soon.

Best Museum Show: John Baldessari
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave., at E. 82nd St., 212-535-7710

This show just
opened at The Met last week, but having seen it already at the Tate
Modern last year in London, we think this is an easy call. John
Baldessari spent a lifetime establishing rules for his own art-making
practice, and making art that followed those guidelines. In a time when
the criteria for what constitutes good contemporary art seems
increasingly vague, this show couldn’t offer a more timely antidote.

Best Venue For Parties: The Hudson Hotel
The era of the great
disco dance palaces is long gone. Lately, some of the best parties have
taken up residence at the Hudson Hotel. With the sprawling Good Units
down in the bowels of the place, a monthly party like Susanne Bartsch’s
Bloody Mary can pack in a huge crowd. Upstairs, there are regular weekly
parties in the Hudson Library and the Hudson Bar, on the other side of
the hotel. The Private Park is in the courtyard of the lobby and the
setting for many a private party during the summer, and even better is
the rooftop Sky Terrace on the 15th floor, complete with glittering
views of the city. The security staff at the Hudson is over-zealous and
even thuggish, but then again, a lot of drunks are wandering the
hallways looking for a party.

Best Big Movie Theater: Court Street Stadium 12
106 Court Street, betw. State & Schermerhorn Sts., Brooklyn, 800-326- 3264 x615
Still the wackiest
multiplex screening in town, and we don’t expect that to change anytime
soon. Getting your bag checked on the way into a late-night screening at
Court Street (preferably for a really bad horror movie) has become a
right of passage. Audience reactions are through the roof and sometimes
beyond it. Don’t go if you actually want to hear the movie; Court Street
is a beast of unrestrained human energy where the talky moviegoers
provide the most fun. It’s like MST3K happening by accident. With Saw 3-D just around the corner, what else do you need to know before making the trip this month?

Best New Art Fair: The Independent Will
The Independent
see even more foot traffic this winter now that Jorge Pardo, the man
behind the famed floor in the DIA location, has been awarded a MacArthur
Genius Grant? Unlikely, but it’s a good reason to visit the building
regardless. Founded by gallerist Elizabeth Dee, the fair separates
itself from many others by attempting to depart from the Borg-like cube
spaces offered up by The New York Armory. Last year it worked. The
contemporary art we saw at The Independent was by far superior to that
of any other fair. Let’s hope this year sees a repeat performance.

Best Comic About Menstruation: Lisa Hanawalt’s “Menstrual Terminology”
The world of
menstruation mini-comics has become surprisingly populated in the last
few years, but no one’s got anything on this strip from Lisa Hanwalt’s
first issue of I Want You. It’s not exactly fodder for a health
class filmstrip, but you’ll undoubtedly learn a thing or two about the
miracle of menstruation. What’s a “Bento Box?” A “Red Lobster?” A
“Tampon Wonton?” There’s only one way to find out.

Best New Gallery: Soloway
348 S. 4th St., betw. Hooper & Keap Sts., Brooklyn, www.soloway.info

This is an early
call—the gallery’s only held two shows thus far—but Soloway is a solid
pick. An artist-run space formed by Munro Galloway, Annette Wehrhan, Pat
Palermo and Paul Branca earlier this summer, the gallery offers a great
excuse to head out to East Williamsburg. The first exhibition, Parts and Labor, showcased
the editions and multiples by emerging talent like Jessica Dickenson,
Marc Handelman, Rochelle Feinstein and Dushko Petrovich. The latest,
simply titled Dirty Hands, brings together work that evokes
materiality and the morally ambiguous. This isn’t an easy topic, so it’s
good to see artists and galleries willing to do some of the heavy
lifting.

Best Artsy Performance Venue: MoMA PS1
22-25 Jackson Ave., at 46th St., Queens, 718-433-4807

For all the shit that MoMA PS1’s Greater New York got
this year, its performance schedule is enough to land it this year’s
Best Performance Venue award. Last month alone, the museum played host
to over 10 performances, amongst them Tricia Baga, Andrew Lampert and
Franklin Evans. Additionally, the last Warm-Up event of the season, with
musical guests Holy Ghost!, House of House and DJ Mehdi, literally had
us dancing in the street. Rumor has it the museum is working on a giant
collaboration with Terence Koh to open next year, and we wouldn’t be
surprised if a collaboration between Koh and Lady Gaga were included in
the programming.

Best Look at Tortured Christianity: The Revival
A gay Southern Baptist
preacher who rationalizes having an affair with an 18-yearold by telling
himself it’s a sabbatical from God? That’s the premise of The Revival, and
few pieces of theater have ever nailed the very real terror of being
both gay and a devout Christian. Hopefully, this is a harbinger of New
York theater taking Christians more seriously than as just satirical
targets.

Best Non-Profit Art Initiative: Triple Candie
500 W. 148th St., at Amsterdam Ave., 212-368-3333

Harlem’s Triple Candie
offers perhaps the city’s most direct push back to the dominating force
of the art market: Not only does the gallery refuse to sell art, it also
no longer exhibits work. Owners Shelley Bancroft and Peter Nesbet focus
instead on engaging a lower-income-class community typically located
outside of fine art circles. A unique and laudable outgrowth of New
York’s vibrant non-profit art scene.

Best Place to Ink And Drink: Fun City Cappuccino & Tattoo
94 St Mark’s Place, betw. 1st Ave. & Ave. A, 212-353-8282

Even with a
change of ownership, the fireengine-red awning sticking it to the man
erected during the tattooing ban still flies, albeit quite dirtily. Best
to get the order right at this historic tattoo parlor; a cappuccino to
calm your nerves might have you jittery enough to fatally disrupt the
artist’s needle.

Best Bartender: Tommy Hottpants
You can’t go wrong with a name like Tommy Hottpants. Rufus Wainwright
wrote a song about him and photos of him with Wainwright, Debbie Harry,
Miss Guy and Darian Darling clutter the Internet. But not only are his
pants hot, the rest of his body is too, and what a face! Tommy’s a
crowdpleaser, not just with his good looks, smile and buff body, but the
dude’s friendly. Go see him sling the suds yourself at Woody’s on
Saturday and Sunday nights. He’s a promoter at Ladyland on Thursdays at
the Hudson Hotel and used to bartend at Amanda Lepore’s Big Top on
Wednesdays, but for now that’s on hold while they search for a new venue
(the party’ll happen one more time at Carnival Nov. 24).

Best Theater Newcomer: Nina Arianda
One
of the joys of seeing a lot of theater is discovering new actors, and
no one was a bigger discovery over the last year than Nina Arianda.
Making a huge splash in David Ives’ Venus in Fur, Arianda immediately became a critical darling. Now Hollywood has come a-callin’, but we hope she’ll hit the boards again soon.

Best New Party Drug You Probably Haven’t Heard Of: Roxicodone
Oxycontin
is so addictive and has been so much of a plague that the entirety of
Middle America is a bunch of goofed-up zombies breaking into Walmarts
for a fix. Unfortunately, it’s time-released. Roxicodone is Oxycontin
except it has an immediate release effect. And it’s fucking amazing.
Pure bliss. And they give it to cancer and AIDS patients, so you know
it’s good for you! It’s going to ruin your friends in the next few
years, but it’ll be fun for a bit, so sit back and enjoy!

Best Comedy Series: Lasers In The Jungle
Producers Carol Hartsell and Sean Crespo and host Dan Wilbur have certainly outdone themselves with Lasers in the Jungle, their weekly comedy series on Thursday nights at Luca Lounge. Where else can you see SNL’s John Mulaney try out new material, Community’s Donald Glover do a last-minute drop-in set or The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac do 15 minutes of comedy in an audience member’s lap? All for free, no less.

Best Button-Pushing Show: Clybourne Park
Playwright Bruce Norris previously proved his adeptness at creating uncomfortable theater with The Pain and the Itch. But his recent Clybourne Park took it to the next level, as both a prequel and a sequel to A Raisin in the Sun. You
might have felt guilty for laughing at the racist jokes (“What do a
Tampon and a white woman have in common? They’re both stuck up cunts”),
but admit it: You did laugh.

Best NYC-Based Film Festival: New York Film Festival
After last year’s firestorm of criticism for offering up an insular
program only accessible to diehard cinephiles, NYFF bounced back in
style with a healthy blend of high profile premieres (The Social Network, The Tempest, Hereafter) and
small-scale discoveries from the festival circuit. It’s still Lincoln
Center, which means the prestige factor remains firmly in place with the
latest offerings from Jean Luc-Godard and Abbas Kiarostami, but they
now share the stage with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Jesse
Eisenberg—a healthy cinematic diversity that should help sustain an
image for the festival that’s aiming to feel both literate and
contemporary.

Best Weekly Party: Family Function
Woody’s, 31 2nd Ave., at E. 2nd St., 212- 777-0774.
There’s
simply nothing out there, week after week, that’s more consistently fun
than Ladyfag’s Saturday night party. For one thing, there’s location,
location, location. Second Avenue and East 2nd Street has a vortex of
bars: Woody’s (formerly Dtox), The Urge Lounge and the Cock. Since
there’s no cover to get in, the boys stop by before making other stops,
often just to try out the stripper pole. The dance floor is hopping with
Michael Magnan as DJ, and Ladyfag, famous for her bushy armpit hair and
fabulous outfits, has been paying her party dues as promoter so it’s no
surprise she knows how to throw a party.

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