Best Of 2021

Staff Pick — Best Field of Dreams: Frontyard Festival

"If you build it, they will come." OK, maybe no ghostly baseball players gave spectral pep-talks to the planners behind the Frontyard Festival, but the end result is pretty damn close to an ongoing Field of Dreams scenario. Launched late last year amid a pandemic that's still far from over, the Frontyard Festival was the first of its kind — an al fresco, socially distanced arts and music series — and it's perfectly suited to the needs of the now. Taking over the sprawling front lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando and filling it with a stage, a high-level sound system and safely distanced pod seating, FYF is a great way to support the performing arts while still centering individual and community safety. And the Frontyard's stage has hosted top-level talent, from King Crimson to Indigo Girls to Michael James Scott, along with movies, community events and even some exercise programs. The Festival secured some funding to stay open for a while longer, so take in some music and performing arts in the fresh air while you can. (drphillipscenter.org)

Milovac lying on the floor playing bass with Bongus

Great jazz music is built on a solid foundation of collaboration and communication between musicians and, for our money, there's no one locally taking this tenet to such radical extremes as bassist and composer Thomas Milovac. Since venues started reopening their doors to live music over the last few months, Milovac has been a ubiquitous blur of activity, equally comfortable leading or playing the sideman role in all manner of combos and spaces. Whether it's skronking with free-jazz collective Bongus in large and small variations at Will's and Grumpy's (which saw him lying on the floor while playing), backing Ryan Devlin at the Blue Bamboo Center, jamming Skatalites songs with an extended Florida Man lineup at Tanqueray's, hitting the open mic at Austin's Coffee, playing a city event at Winter Park's Central Park as one-third of the Tropical City Jazz Trio, or even somehow cramming the entire Unit Colossus 12-piece ensemble into Uncle Lou's and conducting the music in the two-foot space between the bar and the players, it's clear Milovac feeds off the endless possibilities of new and unexpected creative partnerships. Add in the launch of his Cosmo Sonic Collective label on Valentine's Day (awww) to signal-boost music by his comrades, and it's proof positive Milovac favors musical discovery over ego. (thomasmilovacmusic.com)