Best Of 2013

Best Local Festival

Best Art Event


According to its web site, Ingenuity's mission is to "ignite the creative spark where the arts, science, and technology intersect." And over the course of nearly ten years, the festival has done just that. Formed in 2004, it was originally intended to show off local artists and entrepreneurs. Held in 2005, the first festival drew some 30,000 people to a downtown Cleveland that had yet to experience the renaissance that resulted in the development of East 4th Street. Anyone who witnessed the "Symphony for 21 iPods" knows how unique that first festival was.

Best Museum

Cleveland Museum of Art

If you haven't been to the art museum in a while, then right now is the perfect time to do it. Unless, of course, you're reading this on a Monday. Otherwise, get on over to Wade Oval's most majestic offering and check out the new arrangement within. A plaintive moment of meditation in the new Atrium alone is worth a day playing hookie from work. But the rest of the museum's actual exhibits are, as always, top tier in every way imaginable. Dig the web site and check out the current slate of offerings. "The Last Days of Pompeii" looks incredible, BTW. Even to the uninitiated, the museum extends a welcome warmth to those seeking inspiration. And (psst... If you haven't heard...) it's FREE. Donations are welcome, of course.

11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350,

Best Movie Theater


The Cedar Lee is the most unique movie theater in the Cleveland area because it's literally the only venue for exclusively indie small-release films. In other words, if you can't stomach one more trashy big-budget iteration of Transformers; The Dank of Saturn's Spear, options are limited, especially between January and November, before Valley View and Crocker Park start showing Oscar contenders in a more concerted way. With Cedar Lee, you can count on a continually surprising, fluid line up with challenging foreign fare, documentaries, and wider release films that appeal to more refined sensibilities. (It's not that there's never a time and place for Fast and the Furious 106; it's that the Cedar Lee is the only consistent alternative.) The late-shift cult classics series that they share with the Capitol is another point of recommendation. Situated on the corner of Cedar and Lee in Cleveland Heights, there's an ample roster of bars and restaurants nearby to enhance your movie night as well.  2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 440-349-3306,

Best Performing Arts Space


Playhouse Square is the nation's largest performing arts complex outside of New York City, and the thrill of going to see a touring Broadway musical in one of its elegant theaters never gets old. There's something old-timey about it, a night on the town. But it's not just Broadway musicals you'll find at Playhouse Square. With nine distinct venues, programming includes (but is by no means limited to) comedy acts, variety shows, literary lectures and concerts. There's something happening every night of the week, and with competitive ticket prices and discounted season bundles, seeing high-caliber performing arts has never been as classy nor as comfortable.  Both Book of Mormon and The Lion King are coming this summer, so get your tickets early! 1501 Euclid Ave., 216-771-4444,

Best Place for

Spoken Word

B-Side Liquor Lounge

Though it's about to undergo a rebranding and become the B-Side Liquor Lounge & Arcade, the B-Side Liquor Lounge has been the go-to place for local spoken word artists for the past 8 years. Dubbed Lyrical Rhythm night, the Tuesday night spoken word event boasts "open mic poetry and soul" and will sometimes feature a live band to back the performers. But with the rebranding of the club, owners say Lyrical Rhythm has come to a close and they held the last Lyrical Rhythm night earlier this month. 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216-932-1966,

Best Local Act


Sketch comedy! Sketch comedy! Sketch comedy! Who needs SNL when we've got local top-notch sketch comedy! Four really funny dudes, helmed by the omnipotent Mike Polk, were YouTube sensations thanks to their "Honest R&B Song," "First Semester Spanish Love Song," and of course Polk's seminal "Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video." These guys are hard-nosed, wacky comics with pedigree and charm. They've been delighting audiences around the country and have earned rave reviews in Canada! That's a different country altogether! Their YouTube videos are still original and snappy on repeat viewings in the way of the best viral content. Go and see them live at Playhouse Square.


Best local promoter

Cellar Door

With the recent—and very successful—Cellar Door Rendezvous music festival in the books, Cellar Door Cleveland is primed to offer more of what's made it an indie-pop household name here in town. What started out as an idealistic vision in bucolic Madison, Ohio, has turned into an absolute force of local music promotion, production and everything in between. With the acquisition of a primo loft space in AsiaTown last summer, Cellar Door has really ramped up its efforts to be the name in local music. With names like the Modern Electric, Herzog, Ohio Sky, Bethesda and many others attached to its name, Cellar Door knows how to present and offer the best of our city's artistic highlights.

Best Local Furniture Designer


The business premise of A Piece of Cleveland is simple: Make really high quality furniture products out of raw materials with a local history. Only when they say "raw materials," what they mean is "shit that probably would have been thrown away." The folks at APOC have recycled hundreds of floors, doors and lumber that were otherwise destined for the landfill. And the philosophy is even prettier: They love Cleveland and want to preserve its history. By revamping unwanted products—from homes slated for demolition, churches, old office buildings—they create something uniquely beautiful. Every chair and table tells a story. Their warehouse is located on East 49th and they sell retail furniture at Banyan Tree in Tremont and Lake Erie Artists Gallery in Shaker Square. Naturally, they also do custom work for the home or office.

Best Local Artist


Technically not a single artist, but we're nonetheless thrilled to anoint the Rust Belt Monster Collective this year's winner. The Collective is a group of six insanely awesome visual artists—Tim Switalski, Randy Crider, Erin Schechtman, Craig Worrell, Ben Hale and Jim Giar—who just sort of discovered that they work really well together and now work as a group creating art around town. They also do bi-weekly sketch challenges and host events. For last year's Ingenuity Festival, the Rust Belt Monster team spent 12 hours painting a mural across 16 Scene distribution boxes which were then placed around the city to promote the festival. It was one of their "Live Art" projects. The whole team gathers and creates murals live with zero planning beforehand—improv art. It's masterful stuff.

Best Art Gallery

Best Event Space:

78th Street Studios

It's not just the 40 art galleries and studios and showrooms that make the Roarin' Twenties-era warehouse-turned-fine-arts-enclave so magical. They've got live programming as well! Most notably, the new Blank Canvas Theater has taken up permanent residence in the space and has been wowing sold-out crowds with fresh, funny theater and comedy shows thanks to the hard work and vision of local theater celeb Patrick Ciamacco. The Third Friday public art events are a fan favorite and, in general, the Rust Belt decor (including a truly bad-ass old-school freight elevator) makes a chic, ambient setting for the champagned drinking and art viewing favored among the sort of urban affluent or rag-tag bougie crowds who tend to salivate over exposed brick. (We do not judge. We identify.)

1300 W. 78th St.,

Best music venue

Beachland Ballroom

Seeing shows at the Beachland is a quintessentially Cleveland thing to do. It helps that the Beachland—both Ballroom and Tavern—is freaking awesome. Next time you catch a Beachland staffer on the streets of Cleveland or, say, in the Beachland itself, shake his or her hand and let 'em know they're doing a fantastic job of bringing in the bands that truly matter. Also: Don't forget This Way Out, the vintage-plus-vinyl shop located in the venue's basement. And whether it's the walls bedecked in concert paraphernalia or the overzealous drunkards next to you, there's something inherently magical about taking a leak in the Beachland bathrooms. Wait. What? 15711 Waterloo Rd, 216-383-1124,

Best Local Sculptor

Loren Naji

Loren Naji has displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Art, SPACES, and the Butler Art Museum, but he's probably best known for what might be Cleveland's most famous piece of public art that isn't a slightly embarrassing giant piece of office equipment on Lakeside. "They Have Landed," a 3,000-pound, eight-foot plywood sphere of startling smoothness and polish is meant to look like a shimmering time machine materialized in Ohio City—and that is exactly what happened. The work is not just in the community, but also of the community, filled with keepsakes, messages, and relics that have been sealed up inside the time capsule until the year 2050, assuming anyone's still here. Naji probably will be, and he'll be a hell of a host. Besides his public installation, he advances local art at his Loren Naji Studio Gallery just blocks away from "They Have Landed" on West 25th, where exhibit openings are crowded, loud affairs with live bands which can go on until well after midnight.


Best local photographer

Frank Lanza

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.


Brent Kirby

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

Shane Didow

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.

Best place for free fun

Cleveland Metroparks

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.


Best Jukebox

Happy Dog

When they're not hosting live shows, this hot dog joint-cum-requisite hipster hangout has enough record geek-approved options on their jukebox to keep even the most diehard music snob satisfied. Cue up some Sparks, Can, or ESG if you wanna clear out the alt bros, some LindaPerhaps if you're trying to impress the girl with the pixie cut and manatee tattoo at the end of the bar, Fleetwood Mac or good ol' Otis if you're feeling diplomatic, Sabbath or Jimmy Cliff if you're baked, or a track by the Clean, Guided by Voices, or Mission of Burma if you're in the mood for a crowd pleaser. With a respectable selection of Clevo groups past and present—Pere Ubu, Dead Boys, the Mice, Herzog, Little Bighorn—and judiciously selected compilations, it's almost impossible to go wrong. Especially if you buy everyone a round of Powers. 5801 Detroit Ave.,


Best hip-hop dj

DJ Flaco Flash

DJ Flaco Flash bought his first turntable on a trip to New York with his father and hasn't looked back. The guy grew up listening to Latin music and he brings that vibe to the party. For five years, he was the house DJ at the Velvet Dog, one of the city's best dance clubs. He now lives in Phoenix and jet sets across the country, regularly spinning here in town at Liquid and the Velvet Dog. He most recently performed in Austin at the industry music festival South by Southwest.

Best DJ On the Ones and Twos

DJ Corey Grand

A Cleveland native, DJ Corey Grand started scratching when he was only 8 years old. Then, after watching VHS tapes of famous DJ battles, he eventually developed his scratching skills and started DJing parties at Case Western Reserve University, where he met up with local legend DJ K-Nyce. Grand, who was nominated as best new DJ in last 2011's Ohio Hip-Hop Awards, has produced artists such as 2dopeboys, Livemixtapes, Kevin Nottingham, Leak Jones, Radio Big Boy — we assume those names carry weight in the local underground hip-hop scene. He regularly spins at clubs in Columbus and Cleveland.

Best House DJ

Jimmy Beats

The house DJ at Velvet Dog, Jimmy Beats spins a bit of everything: house, progressive house, electro, Latin house and Euro house. Though he couldn't make it to Ultra Music in Miami this year, he composed a special mix as a tribute to his friends who went to the electronic music festival and conference. A mash-up of Tiesto and Joe Ghost, the track ebbs and flows before it ultimately turns into a trance-y, throw-your-hands-in-the-air bit of euphoria. For booking: [email protected]; For music:

Best Local Artist

Derek Hess

Even if you don't recognize the name, you're probably already familiar with Hess' frenetic, diabolical style—the CIA grad is a nationally acclaimed rock artist, counting numerous big-name acts—from Pantera to Pink Floyd to the Jesus Lizard—as acolytes. Once the house wing-fryer, musician booker, and flier-artist for the Euclid Tavern during its early 90s heyday, Hess has since expanded his horizons, but his versatility hasn't flagged. With his work now in the Louvre's permanent collection, Hess' latest pieces sublimate the damaged iconography and comic-book dynamism of his early music posters to fine art, while his clothing company, Strhess, makes his counter-culture motifs wearable. And as legions of fan-submitted photos on his site attest, Hess' fiery artistry has inspired gorgeously demented tattoos around the world. We can't wait to see what he comes up with next—we suspect it might feature skulls and wayward angels, but that's just a hunch.

Best Local Graphic Designer

Justin Lipsky

Accomplished navigator of all things design, Justin Lipsky, who alternately goes by Ju$tin Hu$tle, boasts skills that bleed red, white and blue. As the owner of Another Enemy, a savvy and distinctly badass local clothing line, Lipsky has an increasingly visible outlet from which to promote his vision. And what might that be? In short, Lipsky merges the worlds of expressive imagery and design with practicality and apparel. Distilling the essence of a proud middle finger into a wearable piece of art, he’s honed in on the cultural necessity of going against the grain of society. A vocal opposition to business-as-usual and a concern for the truth - slapped onto a fresh T-shirt, no less - may be the best way to flaunt one’s patriotism. Plus, of course, a sharp sense of style goes a long way.

Best Local Illustrator

Glen Infante

Talented designer, artist and entrepreneur Glen Infante burst onto the scene back when Delonte West was still a Cavalier who demanded rookies bring him donuts. As the LeBron-era Cavs dominated the local sports discussion, Infante's illustrations found their way to t-shirts under his label, I Love The Hype, and onto the bods of Cavs fans around the city. From his Delonte design to illustrations in the hip-hop realm, Infante's work became popular enough to support a brick-and-mortar flagship store in Detroit-Shoreway.

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