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Best local photographer
With an eye for angles, aperture, and aesthetics and an ear for really good music (yes, it comes in handy here), Frank Lanza has left an indelible imprint on the local photography scene. His live music shots bring out the tone the camera can't normally capture. And with subjects that include Bruce Springsteen, Phish, Lady Gaga and many more, Lanza's sense of dedication and absolutely sharp decision-making really matters. His work with fellow "Best of Cleveland" winner Cellar Door Cleveland is a delightful testament to his abilities behind the lens.
Best upcoming band or musician
The Modern Electric
Their 2009 self-titled album really captures the band's "cinematic pop" sound. Album opener "Where I Belong" winds through all sorts of themes and moods as it continues to touch on the central piano melody. And the album's "Vanity Suite" is a surprisingly heart-warming and innovative pairing of songs. Check out their music and catch a show in the area sometime soon to get a feel for what they're offering. Anthemic, confident and highly talented: The Modern Electric's contribution to Cleveland's music scene is well crafted, and you can bet that there's plenty more to come. Look for a new album in the works sometime this year.
Best LOCAL SINGER
For the second year in a row, singer-songwriter Brent Kirby wins a music award. Last year, Kirby won our "Best Musician" poll; this year, it's his voice that Clevelanders want to celebrate. Whether it's his original alt-country jams or his classic Gram Parsons covers, Kirby is a gifted crooner with just enough gravel in his gullet to appeal to listeners all over the city. He's a prolific writer and busy club tourist, and his rustic down-home country songs have struck a memorable note. Keep it simple, says Kirby in his song "I'm Just a Man." Say what you mean and mean what you say. Well, Cleveland says Brent Kirby rocks.
Best Local Musician
Singer-songwriter Shane Didow sneers more than he sings but don't hold that against the guy. A song such as "Welcome" is a self-reflective tune about drinking to avoid thinking and Didow sounds ornery enough to make it work. Because of a similarity in the vocals, the the obvious comparison here is to the Dave Matthews Band, but Didow also cites the Rolling Stones and Dylan as influences and the stripped down approach on 2006's Shhh... Listen has a classic rock vibe to it. myspace.com/shanedidowmusic
Best place for free fun
If whacking off in your bedroom is fun, then whacking off in the pre-dawn moonlight above Taylor Field is even better. So, ipso facto, if hiking around your parents' backyard is fun, then hiking around the abundantly beautiful Cleveland Metroparks all-purpose trail circuit is—yes!—even better. And it's free! Seriously, if you haven't spent an afternoon getting lost in the great outdoors of Northeast Ohio's most important natural asset, then you've essentially pissed away years of your life living in this region. The Rocky River Reservation and, for you culture-depleted East Siders, Squire's Castle each boast unendingly terrific vistas for your day of "getting in touch with your inner Daniel Boone," as it were. clemetparks.com