Best Of 2013

Best Bar Theming

Lot1433 and

Stepping into the Courtesy feels like wandering into an old-fashioned space (worthy of serving the classic drink by the same name) through a Narnia-esque portal – it’s that big a shift from downtown’s otherwise downtrodden curb appeal. The most immediate impact comes by savoring the theming and details executed so rustically by the inspired folks at Lot1433 – and more specifically, design mastermind Andrew White. Up next for Lot1433: designing Skyebird juice bar at East End Market. Let’s hope the aesthetic there is as intoxicating as Courtesy’s.

Best Case Studies to Stop Indoor Smoking

The success of Peacock Room and Lil Indies

The Peacock Room
1321 N. Mills Ave.

Lil Indies
1036 N. Mills Ave.

Tobacco use kills more people annually than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. This fact makes indoor smoking particularly distressing for live music fans who cannot escape the stench of premature death at local shows. Thanks to the September opening of Will Walker’s smokeless sidecar, Lil Indies, and the Peacock Room’s April 1 smoke-free rebirth, Orlando has observed that music and drinks both go down better with a few gulps of clean air.

Best Cheese

Mr. Belding at Mac & Cheese

Early-’90s teen sitcom Saved by the Bell isn’t your garden-variety bad. It’s uniquely, spectacularly bad. That’s why bringing Mr. Belding in to host a special celebrity edition of a dance night dedicated to cheese is just about the pinnacle of stupid perfection. Just ask the 900 people who showed up for it.

Best Development in Local Music

Rabbitfoot Records

3548 Hopkins Ave., Titusville

Countless local musicians could’ve wept (from joy) when Rabbitfoot Records announced earlier this year that they were starting an affordable record-cutting service, using a German-imported lathe. The icing on the cake, though, was their next bold steps: becoming an independent record label; signing Palm Bay’s Gillian Carter, Orlando’s the Woolly Bushmen and a slew of talent; and distributing their records close by at Park Ave CDs, so we don’t have to make that Titusville drive. But after they renovate and reopen Aug. 3, you might want to.

Best Freak Music Derby

Pedal Challenge

This is not the talent-show lameness or corporate shilling of your typical band battle. It’s a wildly left-field individual music challenge imagined by some of the freakiest minds of the local underground, and it’s won by whoever best combines the ability to work effects pedals and the talent for inspired extemporaneous experimentalism. Past winners of this monthly-ish contest include Dr. Moonstien, Tiny Waves’ Steven Head and Bob on Blonde’s Bob Hershberger. It’s a crazy event that’s as likely to make you laugh as it is to blow your mind.

Best Music Release Event

The Sh-Booms at Independent Bar

For their release parties, most bands just get up on the stage of whatever bar they haunt most and play their usual set. But not these Orlando soul revivalists. Befitting their grand, dazzling style, they filmed a professional video for their single (“123”), took over the city’s best indie dance club with a free party and premiered the clip before a packed house on the club’s famous video wall. Your release party ain’t shit.

Best New (Mostly) Free Music Room

Lil Indies

1036 N. Mills Ave.

This little secret has become arguably the best new craft brew hideaway on Mills Avenue. But because it’s the sister spot to Will’s Pub, it only took a short while for the music strand deep in its DNA to show. Now, it’s host to a vibrant carousel of themed music nights including ’90s R&B (I Don’t See Nothin’ Wrong), ’80s underground (Smilin’ Dan), ’50s and ’60s dance (Shake a Tail Tuesdays), jazz (Absinthe & Friends) and even a monthly record club, all for no cover. It also sometimes hosts exceptionally intimate special performances by notable touring musicians (Matt Pond, Matt Woods, etc.).

Best Random Sample of Orlando Nightcrawlers
Dave Plotkin

Paul McCartney and Bret Michaels perform downtown on the same night: Saturday, May 18, 2013

WMMO Downtown Concert Series featuring Bret Michaels
Paul McCartney at the Amway Center

Several dozen cops and Guardian Angels watched nervously as a sweaty tension began to permeate Orange Avenue late on the night of Saturday, May 18. The street was closed to traffic, while hundreds of singing, celebrating music fans exited one of two big shows happening just blocks apart: Bret Michaels’ aging frat-house crowd, stumbling out of the WMMO Downtown Concert Series, intersected with Paul McCartney’s audience of boomers and grandkids, leaving the first of his two nights at Amway Center. So did this group of ill-matched mobs clash, or come together in harmony? Let’s just say that the fans of two different old white men can get along marvelously.

Most Improved Music Room

The Peacock Room

1321 N. Mills Ave.

The now non-smoking Peacock has recently undergone general renovation, but the upgrades to the music room are what matter most to us. The more open space now has a proper stage, better sound system, taller ceiling height, visual connection with the street (for now) and no more of the ill-fitting, ill-sitting benches that used to just get in the way during shows. This spot has a long tradition of great music happenings, especially in the past couple years, but the recent facility improvements show a stepped-up commitment to live music. Now you’re talking our language.