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Best of Atlanta 2016 After Dark

After Dark BOA


After Dark

Vision guides Atlanta’s best and brightest. Whether it’s through Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher’s work on Ember City, the new rehearsal studio and practice facility he’s overseeing in Capitol View, or young artists such as ABRA pushing the aesthetics of bedroom pop, R&B, and hip-hop production to dark and inventive new places, Atlantans are never satisfied with the status quo.

New development shuffles the city’s people and cultures around the perimeter like pawns on a chessboard. It’s disruptive, but it only makes us more aware of the relationships Atlanta’s residents have with the urban landscape, and with each other. Experimental hip-hop producer and MC Keith William and modern classical pianist Alexa Lima reinvented their respective musical aesthetics by mashing them together and stripping them of traditional expectations. Lil Yachty rounded up a team of his hometown peers to form his own “yacht club” and push Atlanta hip-hop into artfully gritty new terrain. And Fantasy Guys transformed the city’s tried-and-true rock clubs into all-night beach parties.

Neighborhood-centric DIY music and arts scenes grew out of the Mammal Gallery’s incubator for musical experimentation in South Downtown. Elliott Street Deli & Pub in Castleberry Hill facilitated a thriving grassroots jazz community that’s connected by a scene of world-class musicians. Percussionist Rafael Pereira has built a network that led him all the way to a July Fourth gig at the White House. The festival circuit has boomed. The annual Shaky Knees Festival grows larger with each passing year, and the Wrecking Ball digs deep into punk, hardcore, and emo music to fill a much-needed niche.

In 2016, Atlantans looked thoughtfully at the city around them to find new potential, and plant new roots amid the changing scenery.

— Chad Radford

Best blues bar

Blind Willie's Blind Willie's
BLIND WILLIE’S has been a dependable destination for local and national blues acts since 1986. That’s three decades spent slinging out every style of blues music to dedicated audiences that expect a rollicking good time. Little has changed over the years: The T-shirts, menu, furnishings, sound, themore...
BLIND WILLIE’S has been a dependable destination for local and national blues acts since 1986. That’s three decades spent slinging out every style of blues music to dedicated audiences that expect a rollicking good time. Little has changed over the years: The T-shirts, menu, furnishings, sound, the bands, and even the reasonable cover charges are all about the same as the last time you were there. But you don’t go to a place like Willie’s looking for the shiny and new. You go for the friendly faces and to drink a few cold ones. Blind Willie’s is still one of the only joints to book up-and-coming as well as established talent in the roots field, and supports some of the best local blues artists. The monthly calendar boasts regular performances by such long-standing blues fixtures as “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin, Watermelon Slim, and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins as well as more contemporary acts like Mudcat, Joe McGuinness, and the Matt Wauchope Trio. Blind Willie’s has earned its stripes as an Atlanta institution and a go-to spot that any lover of the blues can call home. less...

Best dance floor collab

Speakfoxx & Bosco's Girls in the Yard
A-Town homegirls SPEAKERFOXX & BOSCO’s GIRLS IN THE YARD mixtape collaboration arrived this year as a bass-dropping, confetti cannon-popping summer jam with a lesson in self-esteem to boot. Released by Fool’s Gold Records, the project is full to the brim with anthemic girl power and party songs.more...
A-Town homegirls SPEAKERFOXX & BOSCO’s GIRLS IN THE YARD mixtape collaboration arrived this year as a bass-dropping, confetti cannon-popping summer jam with a lesson in self-esteem to boot. Released by Fool’s Gold Records, the project is full to the brim with anthemic girl power and party songs. Think of “Shooter” as the ride-or-die chick’s club-banger lament upon realizing her dude ain’t quite the hitter he hyped himself up to be, followed by the sense of empowerment that comes from being unafraid to fly solo. With individual grinds that have established them as noteworthy Atlanta-based artists and tastemakers for years, this collective effort is fueling a heightened level of success for both. You might say they’re on some grown woman shit. www.soundcloud.com/speakerfoxxx/bosco-speakerfoxxx-girls-in-the-yard. less...

Best dance music institution

MJQ Concourse MJQ Concourse
MJQ CONCOURSE is Atlanta’s staple spot for all flavors of old-school, new-school, and worldly hip-hop. Want proof? Look no further than the legendary Fantastic Friday nights, featuring D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik, DJ Fudge, Majestik, and DJ Lord (when he’s not on the road with Public Enemy) every first,more...
MJQ CONCOURSE is Atlanta’s staple spot for all flavors of old-school, new-school, and worldly hip-hop. Want proof? Look no further than the legendary Fantastic Friday nights, featuring D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik, DJ Fudge, Majestik, and DJ Lord (when he’s not on the road with Public Enemy) every first, third, and fourth Friday of the month. Come back for Face Off Fridays with DJ Rasta Root and Jah Prince every second Friday. Trap, that old-school, up top sound, Caribbean inflections, EDM, and ’90s classics are all on the playlist. less...

Best engineer

Jonny Rhum
JONNY RHUM truly sees the potential a band brings to the stage. A belief that good sound fosters good community made him the Earl’s go-to sound engineer and philosopher in residence for six years, deploying a mix of the Socratic method, yogic meditation principles, and an easy smile to help musiciansmore...
JONNY RHUM truly sees the potential a band brings to the stage. A belief that good sound fosters good community made him the Earl’s go-to sound engineer and philosopher in residence for six years, deploying a mix of the Socratic method, yogic meditation principles, and an easy smile to help musicians relax and play. Rhum’s ability to listen to and meet the needs of bands, audiences, and his own instincts developed into an artistic touch with sound. Rhum retired from his post at the Earl for a new life in Asheville, North Carolina, but the good vibrations Rhum created in making something beautiful each time he twisted the knobs, along with his skill for deep conversation and-pitch perfect sound, will always be music to ours ears. less...

Best local rock hangout

The Earl The EARL
THE EARL is integral to the character of East Atlanta Village. An impressive array of musical talent has flowed through the restaurant and venue’s intimate settings since the doors opened in the summer of ’99. Some of Atlanta’s most revered indie rock acts such as Deerhunter and the Black Lipsmore...
THE EARL is integral to the character of East Atlanta Village. An impressive array of musical talent has flowed through the restaurant and venue’s intimate settings since the doors opened in the summer of ’99. Some of Atlanta’s most revered indie rock acts such as Deerhunter and the Black Lips cut their teeth here before graduating to larger stages. In 2016, the smoky club still pairs established and upcoming bands with top-notch sound. Performances by storied acts such as post-punk icons Pylon Reenactment Society to the always raucous garage-punk blowout the Atlanta Mess-Around provide concertgoers with a look at diverse, underserved musical legacies. One standout show of the summer placed acoustic songstress Adron with the tropicalia bliss of beach-pop show-offs Fantasy Guys. For serious listeners or those who love to bum around East Atlanta until last call, the Earl is a place for low-key revelry and cultural uplift. Plus, cheap PBR pitchers. less...

Best no-frills chill

Burkhart's Pub Burkhart's Pub
BURKHART’S PUB is a no-frills neighborhood hangout. Free from the travails of urban snobbery, everything from the trivia nights to the drag shows such as the Saturday night Synergy with Monica Van Pelt, Angelica D’Paige, and more makes this two-level hot spot a staple of Atlanta’s LGBT scene inmore...
BURKHART’S PUB is a no-frills neighborhood hangout. Free from the travails of urban snobbery, everything from the trivia nights to the drag shows such as the Saturday night Synergy with Monica Van Pelt, Angelica D’Paige, and more makes this two-level hot spot a staple of Atlanta’s LGBT scene in 2016, whether you’re looking for a relaxing dinner on the patio or a raucous show on the main stage. less...

Best progressive pop act

CLAVVS
After first meeting at an East Atlanta house show in 2013, CLAVVS singer/songwriter Amber Renee and producer Graham Marsh used their shared love for pop and Atlanta’s trap music production to jump-start their electrified modern psychedelia. This year’s mesmerizing debut EP Halfblood combines dancemore...
After first meeting at an East Atlanta house show in 2013, CLAVVS singer/songwriter Amber Renee and producer Graham Marsh used their shared love for pop and Atlanta’s trap music production to jump-start their electrified modern psychedelia. This year’s mesmerizing debut EP Halfblood combines dance beats on codeine with a gothic atmosphere. “Cover it with sugar and then feed it to ’em slow/If they spit it out, open up their mouths/Shove it down their throats,” Renee sings in “Throats.” Marsh is a four-time Grammy winner, and has made a career from working with artists like Janet Jackson, CeeLo Green, and T.I. Renee has been singing her whole life. Yet despite their obvious mainstream appeal, the duo stay true to the ominous musical terrain that fascinates them both. CLAVVS’ eerie pop soundscapes are fitting for soirees and séances alike. www.soundcloud.com/clavvsatl. less...

Best leather show

Atlanta Eagle Atlanta Eagle
ATLANTA EAGLE is the low-key leather daddy spot. Its black-walled mystique and fortress-like façade maintain an old-school Ponce flavor amid the rapidly gentrifying cityscape. Walk through the door and hear the pulse of cutting-edge techno playing in the house speakers. In 2016, the Eagle offers a much-neededmore...
ATLANTA EAGLE is the low-key leather daddy spot. Its black-walled mystique and fortress-like façade maintain an old-school Ponce flavor amid the rapidly gentrifying cityscape. Walk through the door and hear the pulse of cutting-edge techno playing in the house speakers. In 2016, the Eagle offers a much-needed respite from the mean streets of new Atlanta. less...

Best new post-punk band

Maudlin
MAUDLIN has a decidedly throwback aesthetic, blending elements of classic ’80s goth and post-punk to carve out its own space amid Atlanta’s punk scene. The band’s members, Sara Slick (bass), Tony Kozera (guitar), Ryan Fetter (drums), and Jessica Knight (vocals), describe themselves as post-punk.more...
MAUDLIN has a decidedly throwback aesthetic, blending elements of classic ’80s goth and post-punk to carve out its own space amid Atlanta’s punk scene. The band’s members, Sara Slick (bass), Tony Kozera (guitar), Ryan Fetter (drums), and Jessica Knight (vocals), describe themselves as post-punk. But while many bands in Atlanta’s DIY scene wear that mark, none of them sound like Maudlin. The group embraces the gothic rock palette of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and New Order, combined with a grind and dedication to lyricism akin to that of punk rock godmother Patti Smith. To put it plainly, they’re spooky and dope. It didn’t take long for movers in the scene to catch on — their second gig was opening for Wax Idols and King Woman at the Earl, and they subsequently went on tour with NYC goth-punks Pawns, all shortly after releasing their first self-titled EP. That’s no small feat. www.maudlinband.bandcamp.com. less...

Best outpost for adventurous music

The Mammal Gallery The Mammal Gallery
Tucked away on South Broad Street in Downtown, THE MAMMAL GALLERY is a stronghold for obscure, challenging, and outsider music. The music programming in 2016 alone provided a crucial service for young and old alike in the experimental music scene. Mammal hosted a low-key potluck and open jam sessionmore...
Tucked away on South Broad Street in Downtown, THE MAMMAL GALLERY is a stronghold for obscure, challenging, and outsider music. The music programming in 2016 alone provided a crucial service for young and old alike in the experimental music scene. Mammal hosted a low-key potluck and open jam session with German krautrock legend Faust. The club also opened its stage to such wild jazz luminaries as saxophone player Joe McPhee and the group Universal Indians. Sun Ra Arkestra sax man Marshall Allen also found a stage there with his improv music and film outfit Cinema Soloriens. But in between these nights of skronking mania the stage has been taken over by the likes of New York songstress Shilpa Ray, Atlanta party-pop weirdos Salsa Chest, Club Morph’s genre bending queer-friendly club music nights, and trap music icon 2 Chainz and Sonny Digital on stage together. By providing a home for such a broad cross-section of underground music, legends are being born in a gritty, DIY spot far from the bustling nightlife scenes of East Atlanta and Edgewood Avenue. less...

Best performance space

Jungle Atlana Jungle Atlanta
JUNGLE ATLANTA is the spot for touring DJs and fabulous drag shows on a stage that’s fitted with a massive sound system and a light show that puts the Starship Enterprise to shame. This is more of a performance space, but definitely comfortable for solid night out of sensory overload. Between the club’smore...
JUNGLE ATLANTA is the spot for touring DJs and fabulous drag shows on a stage that’s fitted with a massive sound system and a light show that puts the Starship Enterprise to shame. This is more of a performance space, but definitely comfortable for solid night out of sensory overload. Between the club’s main room and the cabaret room, Jungle Atlanta makes 2016 look like the future. less...

Best rapper to push ATL’s buttons

Lil Yachty
Pitchfork gave LIL YACHTY’s Lil Boat mixtape a paltry 4.8/10, but this rapper will always score a solid 10 in our hearts. Curmudgeonly critics and old-school purists say he’s contributing to the “death of lyricism,” but as this rapper grows, he’s leaving traditional style conventions in themore...
Pitchfork gave LIL YACHTY’s Lil Boat mixtape a paltry 4.8/10, but this rapper will always score a solid 10 in our hearts. Curmudgeonly critics and old-school purists say he’s contributing to the “death of lyricism,” but as this rapper grows, he’s leaving traditional style conventions in the past. Young, imperfect, and fearless, he shines most when he combines lyrical eccentricity with catchy rhapsodic melodies, and diverges from the trap aesthetic his Atlanta forefathers mastered. The fact that he counts Quavo and Young Thug among past collaborators, however, shows that the scene believes in his potential. What do critics know, anyway? www.soundcloud.com/770rd. less...

Best blues journeyman

Tinsley Ellis
Atlanta has its fair share of homegrown blues journeymen, but few can boast the longevity or have logged the tens of thousands of miles guitarist TINSLEY ELLIS has. In addition to touring the globe, he’s churned out rugged Southern-tinged blues, rock, and soul discs at a steady clip since 1988’smore...
Atlanta has its fair share of homegrown blues journeymen, but few can boast the longevity or have logged the tens of thousands of miles guitarist TINSLEY ELLIS has. In addition to touring the globe, he’s churned out rugged Southern-tinged blues, rock, and soul discs at a steady clip since 1988’s appropriately titled solo debut Georgia Blue. Starting in 2013 Ellis achieved newfound praise for a series of impressive albums on his Heartfixer imprint, named after his first band, the Heartfixers. At one release a year, starting with the rollicking all-instrumental Get It, and the rigorous road work, Ellis shows that even as he’s pushing 60 there’s plenty of gas left in his tank. This year’s acclaimed Red Clay Soul fortifies his reputation as Atlanta’s blues-rock ambassador, one who, like the greats that inspired him, only improves with age. www.tinsleyellis.com. less...

Best instrumentalist

Rafael "Rafa" Pereira
Percussionist RAFAEL “RAFA” PEREIRA celebrated July 4, 2016, in the White House, sitting at the dinner table alongside the president and first lady. It’s one of the job perks of being the percussionist for Janelle Monáe’s live band. Such an evening would be the highlight of anyone’s year,more...
Percussionist RAFAEL “RAFA” PEREIRA celebrated July 4, 2016, in the White House, sitting at the dinner table alongside the president and first lady. It’s one of the job perks of being the percussionist for Janelle Monáe’s live band. Such an evening would be the highlight of anyone’s year, but for Pereira, this has been a year of highlights. In addition to becoming a father, Pereira released his latest album, Zabaduo, a collection of hypnotic Brazilian-flavored numbers with bass player Charlie Wooton, on his self-run Tribo Records label — an offshoot of Ropeadope Records that Pereira uses to showcase Brazilian talent from Georgia and abroad. Pereira has an uncanny ability to adapt as a musician. The Brazilian-born Atlanta transplant has spent the last 13 years in the city allowing his South American percussion style to flourish without letting it define him as an artist. What makes a good musician great is the ability to adapt to whatever the situation calls for. Whether picking up a wedding gig with OutKast cohorts Horns Inc., rolling out polyrhythms alongside Wooten, or guiding the retro-future rhythms of Monáe’s R&B, hip-hop, soul, funk, and sci-fi show on stages everywhere from the clubs to the White House, Pereira’s résumé from the last year alone raises the bar high for musicians around the world. www.triborecords.com. less...

Best local studio

The work of producer and engineer Ben Price underpins some of Atlanta’s most fearless musical talent. At his home studio dubbed STUDILAROCHE, Price uses his technical and creative prowess to enhance compositions from Little Tybee’s intricate psych-folk to Faun and a Pan Flute’s dizzying brand ofmore...
The work of producer and engineer Ben Price underpins some of Atlanta’s most fearless musical talent. At his home studio dubbed STUDILAROCHE, Price uses his technical and creative prowess to enhance compositions from Little Tybee’s intricate psych-folk to Faun and a Pan Flute’s dizzying brand of modern classical. Price’s production creates a thread of continuity between Atlanta bands, forming a distinct sense of musical community. Before Studilaroche, Price worked with legendary producer Ricky Keller, where he gained early experience working with storied names such as Scarface and Ciara. His ability to frame lavish textures is easily recognizable on some of this year’s most exciting albums, most notably Book of Colors’ eponymous debut and Hello Ocho’s freewheeling sophomore LP, In Portuguese. Those lucky enough to enter Studilaroche’s doors not only get exposure to Price’s extensive recording expertise, but an opportunity to join a local legacy. 404-840-2365. www.studilaroche.com. less...

Best music festival

Shaky Knees Music Festival
The SHAKY KNEES MUSIC FESTIVAL turned four years old last spring — old enough to have an iron grip on the Southeast’s festival scene, and young enough to keep things interesting. The brainchild of promoter Tim Sweetwood has grown steadily with each return, and this year’s move to Centennial Olympicmore...
The SHAKY KNEES MUSIC FESTIVAL turned four years old last spring — old enough to have an iron grip on the Southeast’s festival scene, and young enough to keep things interesting. The brainchild of promoter Tim Sweetwood has grown steadily with each return, and this year’s move to Centennial Olympic Park took the edge off the heat with green grass, dirt, and mud (much more agreeable on the feet than concrete when you’re standing in the sun all day). Since the beginning, SK’s lineup has boasted something for the teen scene, indie aficionados, and dad rockers alike. But placing Jane’s Addiction performing Ritual De Lo Habitual alongside Huey Lewis and the News, Savages, Deftones, the Black Angels, and more surpassed the middle-of-the-road fare that drives such monolithic gatherings. There’s taste and vision on display in Shaky Knees’ lineup. It forces the competition to pick up the pace — even stage DIY counter fests (hello, Flaky Niece Fest) — and Atlanta’s summer music scene is made all the richer because of it. www.shakykneesfestival.com. less...

Best promoter

Ari Fouriezos
When bands talk about ARI FOURIEZOS of Sorry, Mom! Productions, it’s hard to tell whether they’re talking about their favorite promoter or one of their best friends. Fouriezos’ ability to constantly hustle over email, book shows in Atlanta and tours for Atlanta bands, work the door at venues, givemore...
When bands talk about ARI FOURIEZOS of Sorry, Mom! Productions, it’s hard to tell whether they’re talking about their favorite promoter or one of their best friends. Fouriezos’ ability to constantly hustle over email, book shows in Atlanta and tours for Atlanta bands, work the door at venues, give away boatloads of free advice, and always take the time to give a big smile and an even bigger hug when passing you in the street all made Fouriezos critical to Atlanta’s musical community in 2016. She supports bands across genres (Chelsea Shag and Man Up, Yancey) and Sorry, Mom! has booked stand-out shows all over the city. Crafting bills at traditional venues like the Earl, untraditional pop-up shows at places like American Sushi Recording, outdoor neighborhood festivals, and magic DIY shows at the Sewing Room takes patience, creativity, and lots of stamina, which Fouriezos never seems to run out of. www.sorrymomproductions.com. less...

Best psychedelic experience

The 4th Side of the Eternal Triangle
“Welcome to Side Four” kicks off the Difference Machine’s latest album, THE 4TH SIDE OF THE ETERNAL TRIANGLE (Psych Army Records), and begins a headlong trip into the rabbit hole. Hip-hop, surrealism, the Illuminati, and the dark side wriggle and writhe around each other in an unrivaled, intoxicatingmore...
“Welcome to Side Four” kicks off the Difference Machine’s latest album, THE 4TH SIDE OF THE ETERNAL TRIANGLE (Psych Army Records), and begins a headlong trip into the rabbit hole. Hip-hop, surrealism, the Illuminati, and the dark side wriggle and writhe around each other in an unrivaled, intoxicating musical experience. On stage, the Difference Machine experience has always been about jamming the senses — dazzling the eyes and the ears with a show of massive visual projections and bombastic sounds. The 4th Side of the Eternal Triangle presses it onto wax. Time drags, rhythms open up to reveal a kaleidoscope of meanings, symbolism, and spiritual epiphanies via songs such as “Smoke” ft. Homeboy Sandman, “It’s Alive” ft. Paten Locke, and “Kingdom of Earth” ft. Alexa Lima. This is music that smashes through the boundaries of what hip-hop is to what it can be. There are no musical clichés on display here. One could label it “experimental,” but to do so implies that the crew isn’t completely in control of this trip. Turn on, tune-in, freak out! www.thedifferencemachine.bandcamp.com. less...

Best role model

Brock Scott
As the singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter for orchestral rock outfit Little Tybee, BROCK SCOTT knows how to whip an audience into a euphoric state with top-notch players and timeless arrangements. As a conceptual artist, marketing master, and businessman, he knows the value of keeping a closemore...
As the singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter for orchestral rock outfit Little Tybee, BROCK SCOTT knows how to whip an audience into a euphoric state with top-notch players and timeless arrangements. As a conceptual artist, marketing master, and businessman, he knows the value of keeping a close eye on all of his creative pursuits. In the last year, Scott founded his own record label/creative agency called On the Grid Creative. He also spearheaded innovative branding and Kickstarter campaigns to fund Little Tybee’s self-titled fourth album. The results of his creative hustle yielded more than $21,000 to fund the album. In an era when major-label deals and support are as elusive as the Sasquatch, and indie labels are mostly curators of taste sans budget, Scott’s efforts revealed there are ways to work around the old label system. Independent artists can empower themselves with a little bit of sweat, and a whole lot of brainstorming. This is how it’s done. www.littletybee.com. less...

Best comeback

Gucci Mane
Let’s all just take a moment and revel in the fact that GUCCI MANE is back in the mix. Elvis had a ’68 comeback — Gucci’s ’16 comeback is looking lean and mean. Guwop is drug free, focused, and a distinguished beard covers that ice cream cone on his face. With this new reformed disposition,more...
Let’s all just take a moment and revel in the fact that GUCCI MANE is back in the mix. Elvis had a ’68 comeback — Gucci’s ’16 comeback is looking lean and mean. Guwop is drug free, focused, and a distinguished beard covers that ice cream cone on his face. With this new reformed disposition, the Mane is unstoppable. Immediately upon his release from prison, new songs and collabs with the likes of Southside, Young Thug, Zaytoven, Kanye, Mike Will Made-It, and more filled up errrbody’s Facebook and Google news feeds. But nobody anticipated the arrival of his latest and greatest album, Everybody Looking. “1st Day Out tha Feds” is the album’s lead single, and it carries with it a message that mirrors the cautionary tale Gucci delivered with 2009’s “Heavy”: Being a trap god is hard work when there’s so much temptation and felonious behavior at your fingertips. But with “1st Day Out,” Gucci’s looking at the flip side: “Trying to be patient but nigga I can’t wait/On the chase to kill my enemies and beat my case.” Gucci’s mind and body are in a good place, and the path of righteousness lies before him. Still, he pines for the good old days. What he’ll do next is keeping the world in suspense. www.guccimaneonline.com/everybodylooking. less...

Best dive bar

The Highlander The Highlander
One of the best dive bars in town hides in plain sight amid the Midtown Promenade’s many restaurants. THE HIGHLANDER is an old-school punk and metalhead hangout, without being so exclusive to any music scene that curious passersby feel out of place stopping in for some pub grub. The music is loud andmore...
One of the best dive bars in town hides in plain sight amid the Midtown Promenade’s many restaurants. THE HIGHLANDER is an old-school punk and metalhead hangout, without being so exclusive to any music scene that curious passersby feel out of place stopping in for some pub grub. The music is loud and the servers nod along to the whiplash riffs of Metallica as they take your order. Inside feels like the calm before the storm at a classic metal show. The picnic tables on the beer garden patio are the perfect spot for a chill respite from the Southern heat at night. Drinks are reasonably priced and the chicken wings are underrated. The Highlander also makes a worthwhile date night diversion before walking to the nearby Midtown Art Cinema. If you want to stuff your stomach, check out the all-you-can-eat crab legs Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (or while supplies last). Some nights, the back bar hosts live music from gritty, working-class punk and metal acts who just want to throw down. less...

Best experimental act

Dialogue
A Berklee College of Music graduate and classically trained pianist making a hard left into extreme noise seems like an unexpected move. But when Alexa Lima joins forces with Keith William of Atlanta hip-hop outfit Wake, their talents come together in a wash of abstract sound called DIALOGUE. The collaborationmore...
A Berklee College of Music graduate and classically trained pianist making a hard left into extreme noise seems like an unexpected move. But when Alexa Lima joins forces with Keith William of Atlanta hip-hop outfit Wake, their talents come together in a wash of abstract sound called DIALOGUE. The collaboration began as a means of deconstructing Lima’s 2015 self-titled EP. Paired with William’s noisy impulses, Lima’s modern classical compositions are deconstructed to reveal a universe of hidden possibilities through sampling and an avant-garde approach to sound. This year, their efforts culminated in a hypnotic visual compilation titled “Study No. 3,” in which any semblance of hip-hop production or traditional structure melts into a haze of open-ended sonic texture. To call the result of their deep musical interaction noise sells their works short. But to call it anything else is misleading. On stage, they run a turntable into a sampler and synthesizers. William samples and manipulates records live while Lima plays keys and twists knobs. The music is composed, but done in a language that’s singular to this pairing of musicians. Abstractions, a debut cassette featuring Lima’s EP on the A-side and Dialogue’s deconstruction on the flip side, is due out in September. www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT6SaypdpPk. less...

Best live act

Fantasy Guys
It only takes about a minute for FANTASY GUYS to engulf an audience in their seaside beach-pop vibe. Phones disappear, smiles widen, and the whole crowd is happily swept away in pulsating waves of surf-pop euphoria. Inyo Galatea (guitar, flute, voice), Maddy Davis (vibraphone, synth, keyboards), andmore...
It only takes about a minute for FANTASY GUYS to engulf an audience in their seaside beach-pop vibe. Phones disappear, smiles widen, and the whole crowd is happily swept away in pulsating waves of surf-pop euphoria. Inyo Galatea (guitar, flute, voice), Maddy Davis (vibraphone, synth, keyboards), and Mitchell “Hibiscus Chad” Hardage (bass, drum loops) transform any room into a scene that would make Jimmy Buffett’s mouth water. Hardage’s disarming smile and grooving bass, Davis’ smooth vibraphone and mid-song dance moves, and Galatea’s buoyant guitar and cherubic voice float on yacht rock gear and flip-flops. It’s easy to see how Fantasy Guys charm every venue into a mid-tempo crush fest of sweaty dancing bodies. www.fantasycometrue.net. less...

Best neighborhood bar

Elliott Street Deli & Pub Elliott Street Deli & Pub
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Castleberry Hill, ELLIOTT STREET DELI & PUB offers the neighborhood an underground hot spot for creative music. Brothers Mike and Peter Jakob renovated the space in 2006, and in the last decade the unassuming pub has grown into one of Atlanta’s most influential musicmore...
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Castleberry Hill, ELLIOTT STREET DELI & PUB offers the neighborhood an underground hot spot for creative music. Brothers Mike and Peter Jakob renovated the space in 2006, and in the last decade the unassuming pub has grown into one of Atlanta’s most influential music hangouts. Bassist Kevin Scott continues to host Tuesday night jam sessions on the pub’s basement stage, bringing in a rotating cast of jazz heavyweights including saxophonists Kebbi Williams and Eric Fontaine. Elliott Street has participated in art celebrations such as Flux Night and hosted work from local favorites such as Evereman. On April 2, the club celebrated its 10-year anniversary with performances from Kebbi Williams and the Wolfpack, who found new audiences in its intimate basement venue. City Councilman Kwanza Hall helped commemorate the pub’s contributions to local culture by adopting April 2 as “Elliott Street Pub Day” in Atlanta. The Elliott Street Deli & Pub is a cultural touchstone for rising musical talent, and a refuge for those seeking quality food, drink, and community. less...

Best neighborhood color-bearer

Mary's Mary's
One thing that surprises and attracts people from across the country to Atlanta is its no-fuss inclusivity. Nowhere is that more apparent than MARY’S in East Atlanta. While the dive bar is by definition a queer space, all races, gender identities, and sexualities are welcome. Mary’s is a safe space,more...
One thing that surprises and attracts people from across the country to Atlanta is its no-fuss inclusivity. Nowhere is that more apparent than MARY’S in East Atlanta. While the dive bar is by definition a queer space, all races, gender identities, and sexualities are welcome. Mary’s is a safe space, but definitely not a bore. It’s known and loved for its delightfully campy, devil-may-care vibe, and, of course, the famous Tuesday and Saturday night Mary-oke. less...

Best 18+ dance club

IRIS aka Rush Lounge
RUSH LOUNGE AKA the IRIS is the quintessential spot for 18-and-up nightlife, and all things trap, EDM, and candy bracelets. This late-night Buford Highway haunt is a stomping ground for such lauded DJs and producers as Ployd, Skymatic, Eddie Gold, and many more. But this year's resident DJs Strangermore...
RUSH LOUNGE AKA the IRIS is the quintessential spot for 18-and-up nightlife, and all things trap, EDM, and candy bracelets. This late-night Buford Highway haunt is a stomping ground for such lauded DJs and producers as Ployd, Skymatic, Eddie Gold, and many more. But this year's resident DJs Stranger Candy and Syl-O set a high standard for electronic dance music, and they always know how to keep the people on their feet. The weekly ESP 101 Learn to Believe parties are the spot for those in the know. less...

Best album

Anatomy of the Image
Lyonnais presents the perfect mystery. The group’s members are scattered throughout Los Angeles, Atlanta, and London. Sometimes they go for more than a year without playing a show. It would be completely reasonable to believe that TJ Blake, Farbod Kokabi, Farzad Moghaddam, and Lee Tesche had gone theirmore...
Lyonnais presents the perfect mystery. The group’s members are scattered throughout Los Angeles, Atlanta, and London. Sometimes they go for more than a year without playing a show. It would be completely reasonable to believe that TJ Blake, Farbod Kokabi, Farzad Moghaddam, and Lee Tesche had gone their separate ways. Yet the arrival of their second album, ANATOMY OF THE IMAGE, proves that distance equals beautiful music. Anatomy of the Image exists outside of time and out of place. Songs such as “Vienna Circles,” “Pan Am Sun Isles,” and “Hyperblues” teem with the kind of darkness, old-school post-punk, and industrial textures that could’ve landed the group on stages with Joy Division and the Durutti Column in the late ’70s. Each song reaps the rewards of four years spent in production, and it’s a reminder that greatness cannot be rushed. www.geographicnorth.bandcamp.com/album/anatomy-of-the-image-3. less...

Best DJ lineup on Edgewood

The Music Room Music Room Atlanta
Dark basement venue THE MUSIC ROOM boasts a solid stage for live music on Edgewood Avenue. R&B and soul music take over the club for Thursday’s Muddy Waters Live on Edgewood nights. But every night after 10 the Music Room claims the throne as Atlanta’s leader in cutting edge house music withmore...
Dark basement venue THE MUSIC ROOM boasts a solid stage for live music on Edgewood Avenue. R&B and soul music take over the club for Thursday’s Muddy Waters Live on Edgewood nights. But every night after 10 the Music Room claims the throne as Atlanta’s leader in cutting edge house music with a 2016 roster of resident DJs including Mike Zarin, Ramon Rawsoul, Treasure Fingers, and Bobi Stevkovski. DJ Kemit breaks the mold a bit with a blend of old-school hip-hop, soulful house, and funk, and WHINE, the WERC crew’s monthly celebration of global riddims are world class. less...

Best electronic act

Mayhem
In the last year, Anthony Rotella, aka MAYHEM, accomplished more than seems humanly possible. Between long bouts of European touring, the Atlanta-based DJ and producer collaborated with Atlanta trap star Waka Flocka Flame and classic crunk mastermind Mr. Collipark to release the song “Bust” for Pornmore...
In the last year, Anthony Rotella, aka MAYHEM, accomplished more than seems humanly possible. Between long bouts of European touring, the Atlanta-based DJ and producer collaborated with Atlanta trap star Waka Flocka Flame and classic crunk mastermind Mr. Collipark to release the song “Bust” for Porn Hub Records. He also remixed Barely Alive’s “Scoop” alongside EDM icon Antiserum and set dance floors ablaze with his remix of Rich Homie Quan’s “Type of Way.” In the midst of it all he played more than 30 North American dates on the massive Seven Deadly Sins Tour. We could run down a laundry list checking off the dozens of other EDM, trap, drum-and-bass, and hip-hop artists he’s shared the stage with, collaborated with, and remixed in 2016. But there just isn’t enough room in this short blurb to do the man’s track record justice. Just check him out the next time he plays another hometown gig, if it isn’t sold out. www.soundcloud.com/mayhem. less...

Best hip-hop hangout

Bulldogs Bulldogs Bar
Since 1978, BULLDOGS has served as Peachtree Street’s premier hot spot for gay African-American men. After 38 years in the game, the club still fosters a thriving scene, rich with hip-hop beats and a smoking dance floor. It’s also one of the more intimate clubs in town. So be prepared to get a littlemore...
Since 1978, BULLDOGS has served as Peachtree Street’s premier hot spot for gay African-American men. After 38 years in the game, the club still fosters a thriving scene, rich with hip-hop beats and a smoking dance floor. It’s also one of the more intimate clubs in town. So be prepared to get a little closer. And when the DJ blends a NOLA bounce track with a straight-up Dirty South beat, the joint is lit. Be prepared for a bouncing, bumping, and grinding good time. less...

Best homegrown music festival

One Musicfest
When ONE MUSICFEST announced a Dungeon Family and Organized Noize reunion as part of 2016’s lineup, a collective cheer rang out across the Perimeter. Sure, packing out the daylong festival’s seventh year with headliners such as Ice Cube, Big Boi, Gary Clark Jr., Erykah Badu, A$AP Ferg, and more ismore...
When ONE MUSICFEST announced a Dungeon Family and Organized Noize reunion as part of 2016’s lineup, a collective cheer rang out across the Perimeter. Sure, packing out the daylong festival’s seventh year with headliners such as Ice Cube, Big Boi, Gary Clark Jr., Erykah Badu, A$AP Ferg, and more is plenty enough to draw accolades from far and wide. But reuniting the old-school Dungeon Family and Organized Noise crews — Killer Mike, CeeLo, Sleepy Brown, Goodie Mob, Cool Breeze, Backbone, Big Rube, Rico Wade, Ray Murray, Slimm Calhoun, and the almighty Witchdoctor — is unprecedented. It’s the party we’ve all been awaiting for decades but never thought would actually happen. One Musicfest made Atlanta hip-hop history in 2016. www.onemusicfest.com. less...

Best indie pop princess

ABRA
ABRA’s successes this year have made her 2016’s flagship act for Atlanta’s misfit art hip-hop collective Awful Records. She’s grown from the self-proclaimed “darkwave duchess” to darkwave Princess, the title of her July 15 EP released by True Panther Sounds. She has a natural ability to risemore...
ABRA’s successes this year have made her 2016’s flagship act for Atlanta’s misfit art hip-hop collective Awful Records. She’s grown from the self-proclaimed “darkwave duchess” to darkwave Princess, the title of her July 15 EP released by True Panther Sounds. She has a natural ability to rise above indie hip-hop and bedroom production by creating an atmosphere of dark, sultry ruminations about life in the Dirty South. She’s a young, savvy, and empowered artist breaking free from musical clichés, and forging her own path. “If you wanna roll the dice on me, OK/If you think you can afford it/Come play, come play,” she sings in the song “Vegas.” Judging by the media blitz surrounding the Princess EP, she has no plans for chilling out or slowing her prowess as one of the defining artists navigating the underground music scene. www.soundcloud.com/darkwaveduchess. less...

Best jazz act

Monkier
Innovative groups such as MONKIER are changing the face of modern jazz by fearlessly blending sounds and reshaping the character of the music. Since starting in 2013, Monkier has expanded into an eight-piece ensemble featuring Zac Evans (sax and vocals), Andrew Lastrapes (guitar), Robert Boone Jr. (drums),more...
Innovative groups such as MONKIER are changing the face of modern jazz by fearlessly blending sounds and reshaping the character of the music. Since starting in 2013, Monkier has expanded into an eight-piece ensemble featuring Zac Evans (sax and vocals), Andrew Lastrapes (guitar), Robert Boone Jr. (drums), Brandon Boone (bass), Umcolisi Terrell (sax), Justin Powell (trumpet), Will Hollifield (sax), and Richard Sherrington (trombone). With ambitious compositions such as “Cold Open/Closure” from this year’s Highs/Lows full length, the group straddles the fringes of hip-hop and jazz, flowing from intimate rap verses into sprawling fusion breakdowns. With each new song Monkier revels in musical spontaneity and adventure, and raises the bar for Atlanta music. www.whoismonkier.com. less...

Best legacy for a local composer

Jeff Crompton
For nearly four decades Atlanta native and saxophonist JEFF CROMPTON has stood among the city’s finest jazz musicians. The 56-year-old retired Fulton County High School band teacher conjures his mojo as a composer and leader of his own groups large (Edgewood Big Band) and small (Edgewood Saxophonemore...
For nearly four decades Atlanta native and saxophonist JEFF CROMPTON has stood among the city’s finest jazz musicians. The 56-year-old retired Fulton County High School band teacher conjures his mojo as a composer and leader of his own groups large (Edgewood Big Band) and small (Edgewood Saxophone Trio). In 2016, Crompton’s legacy was encapsulated on a 7-inch disk. “Tutwiler Depot,” originally penned in the early ’80s, features a glorious collision of baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones that re-creates the Mississippi train station where W.C. Handy first heard the blues. The B-side, “King Oliver in Savannah,” a relentlessly boogying piece of music written in the late ’90s, is a buzzing hive of reeds, rendering a portrait of the once-great leader of one of the world’s finest jazz ensembles. Like everything else Crompton writes and plays, both songs prod the intellect with a balance of reverential blues and avant-garde jazz that swings like the devil’s juke joint. Crompton has long been viewed as one of Atlanta’s most accomplished players and composers. Now the proof is available for listening. www.jeffcrompton.com. less...

Best new punk band

Mutual Jerk
Even in the bleak, death-afflicted world of Atlanta punk in 2016, MUTUAL JERK’s eponymous demo cassette stands out as an original. The Atlanta quartet celebrates the darkest aspects of modern punk — minimal structures, razor-sharp guitar fuzz, and lo-fi tape hiss — with a skewed fusion of gothicmore...
Even in the bleak, death-afflicted world of Atlanta punk in 2016, MUTUAL JERK’s eponymous demo cassette stands out as an original. The Atlanta quartet celebrates the darkest aspects of modern punk — minimal structures, razor-sharp guitar fuzz, and lo-fi tape hiss — with a skewed fusion of gothic and amateurish punk melodies. The group’s got a warped vibe — all of the musicians are learning their way around new instruments as they go. Guitarist Bobby Michaud (Uniform) and drummer Rob Sarabia (Rapturous Grief, Strategic Warheads) hadn’t played their respective instruments live before Mutual Jerk’s 2015 debut. It’s also bass player Sam Camirand and singer Tyler Roberts’ first band since settling into Atlanta’s punk scene. Songs such as “4 Door Sedan” and “Midtown Set” build around Roberts’ off-center singing style. His vocal delivery takes shape like short stories. Each word is fueled by genuine emotion, a welcome departure from the macho bravado that often dominates abrasive punk music. Mutual Jerk’s demo tape has made the rounds over the last year, earning the group credibility. Roberts’ on-a-dime transformation from an amicable introvert off stage to a bounding frontman on stage makes for a hell of a fun show. www.mutualjerk.bandcamp.com/releases. less...

Best old-school punk band

Antagonizers ATL
The street punk stalwarts in ANTAGONIZERS ATL aren’t chasing trends. Not in Atlanta, at least. Working-class punk rock went out of style here right as the garage-punk boom took hold in the early aughts. Fortunately, those who really felt it then, such as longtime Atlanta musicians Richard Hendersonmore...
The street punk stalwarts in ANTAGONIZERS ATL aren’t chasing trends. Not in Atlanta, at least. Working-class punk rock went out of style here right as the garage-punk boom took hold in the early aughts. Fortunately, those who really felt it then, such as longtime Atlanta musicians Richard Henderson (guitar), Eric Antell (drums), and Billy Fields (bass) never lost their zeal for old-school punk. That’s why all three got the call in 2012 for singer Bohdan Zacharyj’s local relaunch of Antagonizers, a band he originally founded in North Carolina. The band’s universal messages of self-reliance and self-respect continues impressing the old guard and winning over new fans, both here and on the road with famous tourmates the Queers and Gang Green. The May release of the band’s debut full-length, Working Class Street Punk (Pirates Press), unleashed the band’s catchy, tough, and memorable songs that are ripe for circle pit sing-alongs. www.antagonizersatl.com. less...

Best progressive dance club

The Sound Table the Sound Table
THE SOUND TABLE is the cornerstone of Edgewood Avenue, where the current epicenter of Atlanta’s weekend nightlife developed its sense of style. Since opening its doors in 2010, the Sound Table has served as an essential spot for delicious dining and making moves on the dance floor. The club’s DJsmore...
THE SOUND TABLE is the cornerstone of Edgewood Avenue, where the current epicenter of Atlanta’s weekend nightlife developed its sense of style. Since opening its doors in 2010, the Sound Table has served as an essential spot for delicious dining and making moves on the dance floor. The club’s DJs spin a sophisticated set of funk, soul, R&B, and hip-hop. This year, the addition of Drums On Fire on the first Thursday of every month, added of bit of old-school Atlanta flare by exploring underground beat culture through the lens of DJs Ryan Rasheed (LebLaze, Prefuse 73), Chris Devoe, and Gnosis. less...

Best trivia night

Hip Hop Trivia ATL
Bar trivia got bigger and deffer in 2016, thanks to HIP HOP TRIVIA ATL. Though not the first in Atlanta, it’s quickly become the best. Case in point: Name another hip-hop trivia night where the answer to your question is liable to be found rubbing shoulders with you at the bar? Since taking over Wednesdaymore...
Bar trivia got bigger and deffer in 2016, thanks to HIP HOP TRIVIA ATL. Though not the first in Atlanta, it’s quickly become the best. Case in point: Name another hip-hop trivia night where the answer to your question is liable to be found rubbing shoulders with you at the bar? Since taking over Wednesday nights at Slice on Piedmont last May, the notable guests just keep rolling in — from iconic names in the game (Andre 3000, Diamond D, Killer Mike) to tastemaker artists/DJs (Trendsetter DJ Sense, Sean Falyon, DJ Dibiase, Wally Sparks, DJ Kerosene, DJ Hourglass), from hip-hop journalists (Benjamin Meadows-Ingram) to industry heavyweights (Kawan Prather). When noted culture and lifestyle writer Branden Peters got the idea to mix two of his favorite things — hip-hop and bar trivia — it was only natural that he huddle up with his Day 1 Radio homie and co-host Maurice Garland, as well as Need My Music’s own Crystal Thomas. And Hip Hop Trivia ATL was born, with Peters and Garland as co-hosts. But it’s the regulars with their ironic team names (Brew Tang Clan, Shug Lite) and theme nights (Pimp Trick Gangsta Clique, #1 Hit Wonders) that make it a good time. Forget that pretentious, see-and-be-seen vibe. This is where real heads go head-to-head in dance/karaoke drink challenges. With $5 drink specials for all and $50 bar tabs for the winning team, ain’t nothing to lose. Wednesdays. 8-11 p.m. Slice, 75 Piedmont Ave. N.E. Suite 150. www.instagram.com/hiphoptriviaatl. less...

Best way to give gentrification the finger

Wrecking Ball ATL
New development continued displacing Atlanta’s cherished cultural institutions in 2016. None, however, received such a raucous send-off as the Masquerade thanks to WRECKING BALL ATL. The venue’s decades-long tenure as a staple for Atlanta nightlife came to a close with a two-day punk, hardcore, andmore...
New development continued displacing Atlanta’s cherished cultural institutions in 2016. None, however, received such a raucous send-off as the Masquerade thanks to WRECKING BALL ATL. The venue’s decades-long tenure as a staple for Atlanta nightlife came to a close with a two-day punk, hardcore, and emo blowout that brought everyone from Gorilla Biscuits to the Julie Ruin to the Masquerade and Historic Fourth Ward Park. Music lovers young and old bonded over the role the Masquerade’s Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory rooms have played in their lives. The vibe was warm, the sun was hot, and the music was loud. But the festival symbolized the closing of one chapter and the opening of another for Atlanta music, with Atlantans coming out in full force to raise a drink to the Masquerade’s legacy and a middle finger at the looming luxury apartments moving in. www.masq.com. www.wreckingballatl.com. less...


Best local experimental music act

TIE: Dux AND The Difference Machine

Best sports bar

Hudson Grille AND Taco Mac
www.hudsongrille.comhttp://hudsongrille.com AND www.tacomac.com

Best stripper other than Blondie

Barbie (Clermont Lounge) AND Lux ATL (Pink Pony)

Best bouncer

Chewie at Ormsby's Ormsby's
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Best blues bar

Blind Willie's Blind Willie's
BLIND WILLIE’S has been a dependable destination for local and national blues acts since 1986. That’s three decades spent slinging out every style of blues music to dedicated audiences that expect a rollicking good time. Little has changed over the years: The T-shirts, menu, furnishings, sound, themore...
BLIND WILLIE’S has been a dependable destination for local and national blues acts since 1986. That’s three decades spent slinging out every style of blues music to dedicated audiences that expect a rollicking good time. Little has changed over the years: The T-shirts, menu, furnishings, sound, the bands, and even the reasonable cover charges are all about the same as the last time you were there. But you don’t go to a place like Willie’s looking for the shiny and new. You go for the friendly faces and to drink a few cold ones. Blind Willie’s is still one of the only joints to book up-and-coming as well as established talent in the roots field, and supports some of the best local blues artists. The monthly calendar boasts regular performances by such long-standing blues fixtures as “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin, Watermelon Slim, and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins as well as more contemporary acts like Mudcat, Joe McGuinness, and the Matt Wauchope Trio. Blind Willie’s has earned its stripes as an Atlanta institution and a go-to spot that any lover of the blues can call home. less...

Best dance floor collab

Speakfoxx & Bosco's Girls in the Yard
A-Town homegirls SPEAKERFOXX & BOSCO’s GIRLS IN THE YARD mixtape collaboration arrived this year as a bass-dropping, confetti cannon-popping summer jam with a lesson in self-esteem to boot. Released by Fool’s Gold Records, the project is full to the brim with anthemic girl power and party songs.more...
A-Town homegirls SPEAKERFOXX & BOSCO’s GIRLS IN THE YARD mixtape collaboration arrived this year as a bass-dropping, confetti cannon-popping summer jam with a lesson in self-esteem to boot. Released by Fool’s Gold Records, the project is full to the brim with anthemic girl power and party songs. Think of “Shooter” as the ride-or-die chick’s club-banger lament upon realizing her dude ain’t quite the hitter he hyped himself up to be, followed by the sense of empowerment that comes from being unafraid to fly solo. With individual grinds that have established them as noteworthy Atlanta-based artists and tastemakers for years, this collective effort is fueling a heightened level of success for both. You might say they’re on some grown woman shit. www.soundcloud.com/speakerfoxxx/bosco-speakerfoxxx-girls-in-the-yard. less...

Best dance music institution

MJQ Concourse MJQ Concourse
MJQ CONCOURSE is Atlanta’s staple spot for all flavors of old-school, new-school, and worldly hip-hop. Want proof? Look no further than the legendary Fantastic Friday nights, featuring D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik, DJ Fudge, Majestik, and DJ Lord (when he’s not on the road with Public Enemy) every first,more...
MJQ CONCOURSE is Atlanta’s staple spot for all flavors of old-school, new-school, and worldly hip-hop. Want proof? Look no further than the legendary Fantastic Friday nights, featuring D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik, DJ Fudge, Majestik, and DJ Lord (when he’s not on the road with Public Enemy) every first, third, and fourth Friday of the month. Come back for Face Off Fridays with DJ Rasta Root and Jah Prince every second Friday. Trap, that old-school, up top sound, Caribbean inflections, EDM, and ’90s classics are all on the playlist. less...

Best engineer

Jonny Rhum
JONNY RHUM truly sees the potential a band brings to the stage. A belief that good sound fosters good community made him the Earl’s go-to sound engineer and philosopher in residence for six years, deploying a mix of the Socratic method, yogic meditation principles, and an easy smile to help musiciansmore...
JONNY RHUM truly sees the potential a band brings to the stage. A belief that good sound fosters good community made him the Earl’s go-to sound engineer and philosopher in residence for six years, deploying a mix of the Socratic method, yogic meditation principles, and an easy smile to help musicians relax and play. Rhum’s ability to listen to and meet the needs of bands, audiences, and his own instincts developed into an artistic touch with sound. Rhum retired from his post at the Earl for a new life in Asheville, North Carolina, but the good vibrations Rhum created in making something beautiful each time he twisted the knobs, along with his skill for deep conversation and-pitch perfect sound, will always be music to ours ears. less...

Best local experimental music act

TIE: Dux AND The Difference Machine

Best local rock hangout

The Earl The EARL
THE EARL is integral to the character of East Atlanta Village. An impressive array of musical talent has flowed through the restaurant and venue’s intimate settings since the doors opened in the summer of ’99. Some of Atlanta’s most revered indie rock acts such as Deerhunter and the Black Lipsmore...
THE EARL is integral to the character of East Atlanta Village. An impressive array of musical talent has flowed through the restaurant and venue’s intimate settings since the doors opened in the summer of ’99. Some of Atlanta’s most revered indie rock acts such as Deerhunter and the Black Lips cut their teeth here before graduating to larger stages. In 2016, the smoky club still pairs established and upcoming bands with top-notch sound. Performances by storied acts such as post-punk icons Pylon Reenactment Society to the always raucous garage-punk blowout the Atlanta Mess-Around provide concertgoers with a look at diverse, underserved musical legacies. One standout show of the summer placed acoustic songstress Adron with the tropicalia bliss of beach-pop show-offs Fantasy Guys. For serious listeners or those who love to bum around East Atlanta until last call, the Earl is a place for low-key revelry and cultural uplift. Plus, cheap PBR pitchers. less...

Best no-frills chill

Burkhart's Pub Burkhart's Pub
BURKHART’S PUB is a no-frills neighborhood hangout. Free from the travails of urban snobbery, everything from the trivia nights to the drag shows such as the Saturday night Synergy with Monica Van Pelt, Angelica D’Paige, and more makes this two-level hot spot a staple of Atlanta’s LGBT scene inmore...
BURKHART’S PUB is a no-frills neighborhood hangout. Free from the travails of urban snobbery, everything from the trivia nights to the drag shows such as the Saturday night Synergy with Monica Van Pelt, Angelica D’Paige, and more makes this two-level hot spot a staple of Atlanta’s LGBT scene in 2016, whether you’re looking for a relaxing dinner on the patio or a raucous show on the main stage. less...

Best progressive pop act

CLAVVS
After first meeting at an East Atlanta house show in 2013, CLAVVS singer/songwriter Amber Renee and producer Graham Marsh used their shared love for pop and Atlanta’s trap music production to jump-start their electrified modern psychedelia. This year’s mesmerizing debut EP Halfblood combines dancemore...
After first meeting at an East Atlanta house show in 2013, CLAVVS singer/songwriter Amber Renee and producer Graham Marsh used their shared love for pop and Atlanta’s trap music production to jump-start their electrified modern psychedelia. This year’s mesmerizing debut EP Halfblood combines dance beats on codeine with a gothic atmosphere. “Cover it with sugar and then feed it to ’em slow/If they spit it out, open up their mouths/Shove it down their throats,” Renee sings in “Throats.” Marsh is a four-time Grammy winner, and has made a career from working with artists like Janet Jackson, CeeLo Green, and T.I. Renee has been singing her whole life. Yet despite their obvious mainstream appeal, the duo stay true to the ominous musical terrain that fascinates them both. CLAVVS’ eerie pop soundscapes are fitting for soirees and séances alike. www.soundcloud.com/clavvsatl. less...

Best sports bar

Hudson Grille AND Taco Mac
www.hudsongrille.comhttp://hudsongrille.com AND www.tacomac.com

Best stripper other than Blondie

Barbie (Clermont Lounge) AND Lux ATL (Pink Pony)

Best leather show

Atlanta Eagle Atlanta Eagle
ATLANTA EAGLE is the low-key leather daddy spot. Its black-walled mystique and fortress-like façade maintain an old-school Ponce flavor amid the rapidly gentrifying cityscape. Walk through the door and hear the pulse of cutting-edge techno playing in the house speakers. In 2016, the Eagle offers a much-neededmore...
ATLANTA EAGLE is the low-key leather daddy spot. Its black-walled mystique and fortress-like façade maintain an old-school Ponce flavor amid the rapidly gentrifying cityscape. Walk through the door and hear the pulse of cutting-edge techno playing in the house speakers. In 2016, the Eagle offers a much-needed respite from the mean streets of new Atlanta. less...

Best new post-punk band

Maudlin
MAUDLIN has a decidedly throwback aesthetic, blending elements of classic ’80s goth and post-punk to carve out its own space amid Atlanta’s punk scene. The band’s members, Sara Slick (bass), Tony Kozera (guitar), Ryan Fetter (drums), and Jessica Knight (vocals), describe themselves as post-punk.more...
MAUDLIN has a decidedly throwback aesthetic, blending elements of classic ’80s goth and post-punk to carve out its own space amid Atlanta’s punk scene. The band’s members, Sara Slick (bass), Tony Kozera (guitar), Ryan Fetter (drums), and Jessica Knight (vocals), describe themselves as post-punk. But while many bands in Atlanta’s DIY scene wear that mark, none of them sound like Maudlin. The group embraces the gothic rock palette of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and New Order, combined with a grind and dedication to lyricism akin to that of punk rock godmother Patti Smith. To put it plainly, they’re spooky and dope. It didn’t take long for movers in the scene to catch on — their second gig was opening for Wax Idols and King Woman at the Earl, and they subsequently went on tour with NYC goth-punks Pawns, all shortly after releasing their first self-titled EP. That’s no small feat. www.maudlinband.bandcamp.com. less...

Best outpost for adventurous music

The Mammal Gallery The Mammal Gallery
Tucked away on South Broad Street in Downtown, THE MAMMAL GALLERY is a stronghold for obscure, challenging, and outsider music. The music programming in 2016 alone provided a crucial service for young and old alike in the experimental music scene. Mammal hosted a low-key potluck and open jam sessionmore...
Tucked away on South Broad Street in Downtown, THE MAMMAL GALLERY is a stronghold for obscure, challenging, and outsider music. The music programming in 2016 alone provided a crucial service for young and old alike in the experimental music scene. Mammal hosted a low-key potluck and open jam session with German krautrock legend Faust. The club also opened its stage to such wild jazz luminaries as saxophone player Joe McPhee and the group Universal Indians. Sun Ra Arkestra sax man Marshall Allen also found a stage there with his improv music and film outfit Cinema Soloriens. But in between these nights of skronking mania the stage has been taken over by the likes of New York songstress Shilpa Ray, Atlanta party-pop weirdos Salsa Chest, Club Morph’s genre bending queer-friendly club music nights, and trap music icon 2 Chainz and Sonny Digital on stage together. By providing a home for such a broad cross-section of underground music, legends are being born in a gritty, DIY spot far from the bustling nightlife scenes of East Atlanta and Edgewood Avenue. less...

Best performance space

Jungle Atlana Jungle Atlanta
JUNGLE ATLANTA is the spot for touring DJs and fabulous drag shows on a stage that’s fitted with a massive sound system and a light show that puts the Starship Enterprise to shame. This is more of a performance space, but definitely comfortable for solid night out of sensory overload. Between the club’smore...
JUNGLE ATLANTA is the spot for touring DJs and fabulous drag shows on a stage that’s fitted with a massive sound system and a light show that puts the Starship Enterprise to shame. This is more of a performance space, but definitely comfortable for solid night out of sensory overload. Between the club’s main room and the cabaret room, Jungle Atlanta makes 2016 look like the future. less...

Best rapper to push ATL’s buttons

Lil Yachty
Pitchfork gave LIL YACHTY’s Lil Boat mixtape a paltry 4.8/10, but this rapper will always score a solid 10 in our hearts. Curmudgeonly critics and old-school purists say he’s contributing to the “death of lyricism,” but as this rapper grows, he’s leaving traditional style conventions in themore...
Pitchfork gave LIL YACHTY’s Lil Boat mixtape a paltry 4.8/10, but this rapper will always score a solid 10 in our hearts. Curmudgeonly critics and old-school purists say he’s contributing to the “death of lyricism,” but as this rapper grows, he’s leaving traditional style conventions in the past. Young, imperfect, and fearless, he shines most when he combines lyrical eccentricity with catchy rhapsodic melodies, and diverges from the trap aesthetic his Atlanta forefathers mastered. The fact that he counts Quavo and Young Thug among past collaborators, however, shows that the scene believes in his potential. What do critics know, anyway? www.soundcloud.com/770rd. less...

Trophy Case

Mastodon
At the dawn of the 21st century, MASTODON was born of blood and thunder. Since then, the group has smashed eardrums one twisted metal opus after another. Grammy nominations come and go, but good music is timeless and Mastodon has left a gargantuan footprint on Atlanta’s music scene. The group is stillmore...
At the dawn of the 21st century, MASTODON was born of blood and thunder. Since then, the group has smashed eardrums one twisted metal opus after another. Grammy nominations come and go, but good music is timeless and Mastodon has left a gargantuan footprint on Atlanta’s music scene. The group is still basking in the glories of 2014’s sixth album, Once More ’Round the Sun. New material abounds as each member of the group embarks on his own journey. Guitarist Brent Hinds has worked with Alice in Chains’ William DuVall recording as Giraffe Tongue Orchestra. Singer/bassist Troy Sanders teamed up with Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen for Gone Is Gone. Drummer Brann Dailor was spotted sitting in with the house band on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Closer to home, guitarist Bill Kelliher is building out Ember City, a new multi-room practice facility in the Capitol View neighborhood. All the while, Kelliher rolled out two new signature ESP guitars over the summer. Whew! Mastodon has earned our eternal respect. www.mastodonrocks.com. less...

Best blues journeyman

Tinsley Ellis
Atlanta has its fair share of homegrown blues journeymen, but few can boast the longevity or have logged the tens of thousands of miles guitarist TINSLEY ELLIS has. In addition to touring the globe, he’s churned out rugged Southern-tinged blues, rock, and soul discs at a steady clip since 1988’smore...
Atlanta has its fair share of homegrown blues journeymen, but few can boast the longevity or have logged the tens of thousands of miles guitarist TINSLEY ELLIS has. In addition to touring the globe, he’s churned out rugged Southern-tinged blues, rock, and soul discs at a steady clip since 1988’s appropriately titled solo debut Georgia Blue. Starting in 2013 Ellis achieved newfound praise for a series of impressive albums on his Heartfixer imprint, named after his first band, the Heartfixers. At one release a year, starting with the rollicking all-instrumental Get It, and the rigorous road work, Ellis shows that even as he’s pushing 60 there’s plenty of gas left in his tank. This year’s acclaimed Red Clay Soul fortifies his reputation as Atlanta’s blues-rock ambassador, one who, like the greats that inspired him, only improves with age. www.tinsleyellis.com. less...

Best bouncer

Chewie at Ormsby's Ormsby's

Trophy Case

Mastodon
At the dawn of the 21st century, MASTODON was born of blood and thunder. Since then, the group has smashed eardrums one twisted metal opus after another. Grammy nominations come and go, but good music is timeless and Mastodon has left a gargantuan footprint on Atlanta’s music scene. The group is stillmore...
At the dawn of the 21st century, MASTODON was born of blood and thunder. Since then, the group has smashed eardrums one twisted metal opus after another. Grammy nominations come and go, but good music is timeless and Mastodon has left a gargantuan footprint on Atlanta’s music scene. The group is still basking in the glories of 2014’s sixth album, Once More ’Round the Sun. New material abounds as each member of the group embarks on his own journey. Guitarist Brent Hinds has worked with Alice in Chains’ William DuVall recording as Giraffe Tongue Orchestra. Singer/bassist Troy Sanders teamed up with Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen for Gone Is Gone. Drummer Brann Dailor was spotted sitting in with the house band on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Closer to home, guitarist Bill Kelliher is building out Ember City, a new multi-room practice facility in the Capitol View neighborhood. All the while, Kelliher rolled out two new signature ESP guitars over the summer. Whew! Mastodon has earned our eternal respect. www.mastodonrocks.com. less...

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