Best Of 2015

Best Place to Worship Your Tiki God
Photo by Rob Bartlett
431 E. Central Blvd., 407-839-0080,

Some wicker furniture, grass mats on the walls and hula girls serving drinks does not a genuine tiki bar make – as any true tikiphile will tell you, tiki is not cheesy beach-themed decor and ukulele music. It’s a lifestyle, and people who are into it take it seriously. Which is why people who are truly into tiki culture like Aku Aku Tiki Bar, a Polynesian-themed oasis in downtown Orlando that embraces tiki culture like no other bar in town. The artwork on the walls is by tikiphile artists, the drinks served at the bar are authentic tropical cocktails made with quality ingredients (no drink mixes here), the decor is retro, the atmo is laid-back, and yes, there are real tiki god totems here, carved by genuine tiki artists. Stop in to Aku Aku, order yourself a Tigerfucker, marvel at the real pufferfish lanterns hanging over the bar and pray that Kane Milohai smiles upon you.

Music & Nightlife

Music & Nightlife
Best Music Festival Pivot
Photo by James Dechert

As the city’s most established annual festival, FMF has long become synonymous with major label business. But rather than topple with that crumbling paradigm, the organizers this year made some seismic and, frankly, surprising shake-ups. First, they ditched the headliners because the fallacy of paying big bucks for washed-up names finally sunk in. Then they got back to refocusing on unsigned, mostly indigenous talent. Finally, and most notably, they made the shows free, thereby removing all barriers to what this is all supposed to be about: the music.

Best Club DJ
1. The Angel of Boom,

2. DJ BMF,

3. Jimmy Joslin,

Best Club Nights
1. Backbooth, 37 W. Pine St., 407-999-2570,

2. Dancers Royale, 5221 E. Colonial Drive, 407-281-0120,

3. Pulse Orlando, 1912 S. Orange Ave., 407-649-3888,

Best Electronic Act

2. Queens of Noise,

3. Moon Jelly,

Best New Imaginative Music Series
The Gallery at Avalon Island, 39 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-913-1426,

Exhibit turnovers are usually the least public, least artistic times of a gallery. At the hands of gallery director Pat Greene and the network of art-forward musicians in his orbit, however, the Gallery at Avalon Island now uses this brief window each month to present a relaxed but engrossing evening of live conceptual music that has so far included percussive, electronic, audiovisual and orchestral performances. It’s cultured, it’s progressive and it’s free (but donations gladly accepted).

Best Folk/Country Act
1. Thomas Wynn and the Believers,

2. The Bloody Jug Band,

3. Terri Binion,

Best Hip-Hop Act
1. Solillaquists of Sound,

2. Luscious Lisa,

3. Table for Three,

Best Jazz Act
1. The Groove Orient,

2. The Absinthe Trio

3. The Cook Trio,

Best Surprising New Indie Venue
445 S. Magnolia Ave.,

Of all the hype and expectation leading up to the opening of this new crown jewel of the city’s cultural scene, practically none of it was about music, or at least cool music. This was supposed to be your parents’ nightlife. But it’s demonstrated some real taste already by making smart moves like partnering with leading Orlando indie promoter Foundation Presents to do excellent shows like Hundred Waters, Mark Kozelek and Justin Townes Earle. Bravo and encore to that.