Two Cats from Walker Art Center's Internet Cat Video Festival
Art, Theater, Dance, and Music
Best Dance Venue: Cowles Center
Before the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts was built, the closest thing the Twin Cities had to a "nice" dance venue was O'Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. The Cowles Center's Goodale Theater was a considerable upgrade, and it instantly became one of the top dance venues in the country. Fantastic things are happening on that stage almost every week now. thecowlescenter.org
Best New Band: Poliça
When Roma di Luna singer Channy Leaneagh divorced and hooked up musically with Gayngs' Ryan Olson, the Twin Cities lost two great bands but gained a greater one: PoliÁa. No band in modern memory has hit the scene so hard, so fast, and so self-assuredly, making both local and national headlines. The band's first album, Give You the Ghost, is a masterpiece; the reception at this year's SXSW festival was ecstatic, and virtually every show PoliÁa plays, anywhere, is an instant sellout. 2013 is going to be a great year for the band—if they can stay together long enough to make it. thisispolica.com
Best New Music Series: Liquid Music Series
One of the criticisms of conventional orchestras is that they are basically living museums, playing music 200 years old for audiences not much younger. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's new Liquid Music Series is anything but, offering a broad-ranging program of innovative new music by the hottest composers and musicians working today. This is as cool as classical music gets. thespco.org
Best New Opera Company: Mill City Summer Opera
Sure, Minnesota Opera puts on great productions—but it does it inside, in the winter and spring. This summer, a new young opera company, Mill City Opera, broke on the scene with a playful production of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, on a stage shaped like a clown's face, outside, in the middle of July. It was a gutsy, glorious experiment that built an instant audience for next summer's production, whatever it may be. millcitysummeropera.org
Best Neighborhood Theater: Open Eye Figure Theatre
The Jungle Theater has long been the cute, classy little theater where magic regularly happens onstage. That's still true, but plenty of wonder and magic is also happening now at Open Eye Figure Theatre, run by artistic director Susan Haas and puppet master Michael Sommers. IT's a small space carved out of an old tenement house, but in Sommers's hands the possibilities are limitless, and the charming, exquisite shows just keep coming. openeyetheatre.org
Best New Old Museum: Minnesota Museum of American Art
The museum without a building finally has a space in which to exhibit and a place to reclaim its mantle as St. Paul's premier art museum. mmaa.org
Best City Song: Minneapolis
Irish transplant Ben Kyle's "Minneapolis" is a gushing, unabashedly romantic ballad to Minneapolis that calls to mind one of those tear-jerking odes to the homeland that only a drunk Irishman could sing with a straight face. As city songs go, "Minneapolis" is too much, really, but it takes guts to publicly say you love something, and something in this song's too-much-ness is kind of great.
Best Art Installation: Playing the Building
Using an organ and lots of pneumatic tubing, musician David Byrne turned the old Theatre de la Jeune Lune building into a giant musical instrument—proving that he can do just about anything.
Best Music Festival: River's Edge Music Festival
This summer, the first-ever RIver's Edge Music Festival drew thousands of music fans down to Harriet Island in St. Paul to hear headliners Dave Matthews Band, Tool, and 30 or so other bands tear it up under the sun. Concert promoter Live Nation has committed five years to the project of creating in the Twin Cities a major Midwest festival on the order of Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo, making it yet another must-attend event for dedicated summer concert-goers.
Best Mid-Sized Theater: Park Square Theatre
In Minneapolis, the Guthrie Theater is the undisputed king of theater, but in St. Paul, Park Square Theatre has slowly built a reputation for performing an intelligent mix of Shakespeare, recent Pulitzer winners, political plays, regional premieres, and even the occasional new or commissioned play. Plans are in the works to build a second stage—a thrust—further expanding the theater's ambition and reach. parksquaretheatre.org
Best Music Truck: Yeti Records
In summer the popular south Minneapolis vinyl record shop closed its doors and moved its inventory into a 1975 Beach-Craft mobile home. The new "mobile" record store can—and will—set up shop just about anywhere. Look for it at local music events, art fairs, and random locations throughout the metro. twitter.com/yetirecords
Best Rockabilly Band: Reckless Ones
If you like classic rockabilly and wonder why the kids don't cotton to it as much as, say, dubstep, look no further than talented Twin Cities trio the Reckless Ones to restore your faith. These guys infuse old-school rockabilly riffs with just enough punk and jazz to give them new life, add gritty lyrics, and rock like crazy on instrumental breaks that reveal, quite vividly, that they know how to play. facebook.com/recklessones
Film, Radio, Books, and Family Fun
Best Use of Cat Videos: Walker Art Center
What's better than a cute cat video? Dozens of them, back to back, projected on a giant screen, to an audience of 10,000 people, on the Walker Art Center lawn. Yes, the Walker's Internet Cat Film Festival, held in August, became a meme of its own, generating international attention from a world full of people who, apparently, can't resist anything having to do with feline film antics. (Garnering somewhat less attention was a national poll indicating that, among dogs, estimations of human intelligence dropped a whopping 62 percent.) walkerart.org
Best Hip Hangout
Old School: Nye's Polonaise Room
With sparkly gold booths, a piano bar, jaded waitresses, a polka lounge with a ridiculously tiny stage, light fixtures, that look like something out of Land of the Lost, and a crowd that runs the gamut from Nordeast old-timers to college kids, Nye's hasn't changed since 1950. And we like it that way.
New School: Icehouse
Here's how you know you're in the right place: The walls are fragrant cedar, the drinks have clever names such as Wearing Makeup, Playing Guitar, the chicken wings are to-die-for, the servers are mustachioed, and if you hand out long enough you can see a band. Yep, you're definitely in the right place.
Best Local Documentary: With Impunity
Violence against women is so engrained in American culture that we hardly notice it. Which is why tptMN, in co-production with the Education for Critical Thinking, created With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence, an unflinching documentary that explores the roots of gender-based violence in American culture, particularly in African American and Native American communities.
Best Old School Active Family Fun: Roller Garden
It's just as fun to skate to "Thriller" today as it was in 1982, and a cushioned floor means only egos are bruised if—make that when—you fall. rollergarden.com
Best New School Active Family Fun: Zero Gravity Trampoline Park
Burn 1,000 calories while throwing balls at kids in a way that is socially acceptable, even encouraged. zerogravitymn.com
Best Live Radio Show: Wits
Minnesota Public Radio's Wits is an ingenious concept: pair interesting combinations of comedians and musicians—Dave FOley and Mike Doughty, Sandra Bernhard and Roseanne Cash, Maria Bamford and Brandi Carlile—and let them bounce riffs, songs, jokes, and ideas off each other and in response to the whimsical promptings o host Jon Moe and bandleader John Munson. Miraculously, the show consistently lives up to its name. thecurrent.org/programs/wits
Best New Bookstore: Common Good Books
Garrison Keillor has been losing money on bookstores for years, and yet he opened Common Good Books near Macalester College in St. Paul. A good independent bookstore is a treasure, and this one offers a goldmine of discoveries for lovers of great writing, interesting ideas, and places where you can just hang out with a cup of coffee and escape the glowing maw of the internet.
Best Vintage Bookstore: Midway Used and Rare Books
The closest thing to a time machine in the Twin Cities is an hour spent browsing Midway's extraordinary collection of rare books, first editions, out-of-print novels, vintage comics, old magazines, and thousands of other artifacts from the era of paper and print. midwaybook.com
Best Cheap Movies: Riverview Theater
Adults are $3, children are $2, and the added bonus is a lobby tricked out in glorious 1950s art deco, popcorn covered with real butter, vintage candy, and way more than your money's worth in movie memories. riverviewtheater.com
Best Movie Theater in Uptown: Uptown Theatre
The spectacular $2 million theater makeover is so gorgeous that we're not feeling nostalgic at all. Huge seats, state-of-the-art digital projection, a giant screen, a full bar, and great snacks make seeing an art flick more enjoyable than ever. landmarktheatres.com
Best Movie Night: New Hope Cinema Grill
It may not have stadium seating or all the bells and whistles of the new plexes, but Cinema Grill has Surly on tap. You can kick back, put your feet on a seat, and tuck into a plate of wings or a fat BLT as you watch Batman for the 10th time, and no one will give you a second look. newhopecinemagrill.com
Best New Pool: Como Regional Park Pool
Como Park, Como Town, Como Lake, Como Zoo, Como Conservatory, Como Golf Course, Como Ski Center: What else could St. Paul want from this fun-filled corner of the city? How about a brand-new, state-of-the-art aquatic facility complete with a lazy river, a zipline, and lots of other splashy attractions in an easy-to-navigate space? Done. 1151 Como Ave., St. Paul, 651-489-0378
Best Parade: Holidazzle
Now that this nightly romp down Nicollet Avenue has been around for 20 years, it's earned our love and devotion—the colder, glitzier, and longer the better. holidazzle.com