Best NYC Musicians by Genre, Clubs, and Comedians
It's out! This year's Best Of Issue is, if we say so ourselves, the best. It features (rough count here) 1,000,000 write ups about the unknown or undeniable things that make our city great. Here, we run down some of big Best Of Winners for music, bars, clubs, and comedy. Check it all out and get back to us about whether or not you agree. (You will.)
Willie Davis Lucius is NYC's Best Indie Band
Best Guitarist: Yonatan Gat
A few short years ago, three hairy men from Tel Aviv, Israel, routinely stalked the States with a boisterous rock show built from pure chaos, piss, and gnashed teeth. Monotonix were all punkified Black Sabbath chords and gritty distortion, lead singer and Doug Henning lookalike Ami Shalev flinging his sweaty body about sweatier crowds with no regard for his personal safety. He was Monotonix's madman focal point, but the protein in the meal was provided by way of guitarist Yonatan Gat, who managed to miss nary a note even while being pummeled in the surrounding maelstrom. Monotonix are no more, but Gat goes on. Now he's living in New York, adding his wild guitar improvisations (which vary from caress to shred) to a music and film project with Elisa Da Prato, Ex Caves. It's a spontaneous blast, and it puts Gat's virtuoso guitar playing front and center, where you can (finally) view it without threat of being injured.
Best Comedy Open Mic: Loose Tuesdays
Alphabet City dive No Malice Palace hosts a weekly open mic that's the most entertaining joke lab in the city. Loose Tuesdays is run by Will Winner, easy to spot because he's the lovable goof lobbing Ed McMahon-ish quips between sets. Winner has built a warm, welcoming room where you'll see both new and established comics bashing their material into crowd-killing form. Thanks to the emcee's childlike enthusiasm, the place has a clique-free energy that hums with generosity rather than judgment. It's so much fun, there's usually a small crowd of non-comics in attendance (about as rare as hen's teeth in NYC). Want to get up? E-mail the man himself a day ahead of time. For the price of one drink, you get four to six minutes of stage time (depending on the day) to do with what you please. If you want to try stand-up, there's no better place to start.
Best Vinyl Record Store: Academy Record Annex
While most record stores specialize in a single genre, Academy Record Annex manages to carry something for everyone. Where else in New York can you stop in to buy the latest indie release and scoop a first pressing of a Sun Ra record? This Greenpoint outpost just relocated from its original Williamsburg digs but hasn't lost any of its charm or endless sea of wax for your perusing pleasure. The staff remains generally helpful and chipper, a rarity for most jaded record counter jockeys. They probably won't even look at you like an idiot if you ask if they have any Hall & Oates albums. And with such a constantly replenished epicurean stock including their own imprint of rare African releases, Academy remains a mecca that record junkies can visit every day to get their fix.
Best Jukebox: Boat Bar
Boat Bar is a dark, affable little hipster dive whose name you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere on its bright-red exterior. You have to guess it once you're inside, using clues like the life preserver hanging on the wall, the drooping pirate flag, and the stuffed squid holding court behind the cash register. One place where it doesn't stay genre-pure, thankfully, is the glorious jukebox, which is mostly made up of mix CDs with hand-lettered track lists. Someone is clearly a big fan of vintage soul and r&b. You'll find lots of regal, sadly obscure ladies like Barbara Lynn and Linda Lee, alongside the obligatory Kills and Velvet Underground every Brooklyn bar is legally required to play. In a time when soulless electronic jukeboxes are eating every bar in the city, Boat's is a glorious anachronism.
Best Comedian: Mark Normand
Get on the Mark Normand train now, before people ask if you've heard of him. The Louisiana native has spent the past few years quietly becoming the best joke writer in a city full of them. Combine that with a punishing performance schedule (he'll perform north of 90 stand-up sets a month) and you get a comic in title-shot shape. In the past year he's told jokes on John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show and Conan, and has opened for Amy Schumer on her nationwide tour. He also co-hosts (with Matt Ruby) the hugely entertaining We're All Friends Here at The Creek and the Cave. Billed as a "comedy chat show with boundary issues," We're All Friends Here uses Normand's folksy charm to get New York comedians to reveal terrible things about themselves to a global audience (the confessions are then turned into a podcast). Plus, the guy sounds like a 1940s baseball announcer. What's not to love?