Best Of 2016

Best "that time of the month"

Since opening its new gallery space just a few doors down from ARTicles last fall, Leslie Curran Gallery has been curating consistently strong monthly shows that conveniently align with the Second Saturday Art Walks. Not only do they feature local artists like James Oleson and Jules Cozine, but they’ve been striving to bring contemporary art from international artists as well. With works ranging from photography to sculpture to painting, this is one “that time of the month” to look forward to. articlesstpete.com. —Caitlin Albritton

Best (new) tribute band

The 12-piece Steely Dan tribute band composed of venerated local musicians and helmed by keysman Phil Magallanes unleashed a few sets of material at their Ringside Café debut this past June. Each rendering proved damn near impeccable and was delivered with no shortage of reverence and musicality; Todd Plant channeled Donald Fagan with ease, Kirsten Joyer and Denise Moore backed him (and occasionally took over lead) with soulful harmonies, and the four-member horn section delivered the classy arrangements that brought the fine production qualities to life. We’re pleased to see Show Biz Kids has become a permanent project. steelydantributeband.com.  —Leilani Polk

Hugh Timoney and Nicole Jeannine Smith in "The Underpants."

I’m jumping the gun here because awards for the professional theater season aren’t usually handed out this early. But I couldn’t resist, because these two productions, opening within days of each other, were as exhilarating a start to a season as I can remember — Jobsite finding both the hilarity and the heart in Steve Martin’s stylish farce, with a terrific ensemble under the direction of moonlighting Stageworks AD Karla Hartley, and Stephanie Gularte launching her first all-chosen-by-her season at American Stage with a riveting rendition of an important, funny and moving play by a Pulitzer Prize winner. Granted, the critics for the Times and CL did not agree with me about Underpants, but I had a helluva good time. —David Warner

Best actor

In freeFall Theatre’s sensationally silly The Pirates of Penzance, Lerew was Frederic, a decent, well-meaning young man who’d been apprenticed to a pirate because his nursemaid misunderstood the word “pilot,” and whose years of indenture were just about over… except for a 40-year technicality. As played by Lerew, Frederic was honest, sincere and profoundly committed to justice, truth, and the love of a certain Mabel. He won our sympathy within moments, and was our ready entrée into the futuristic world of Eric Davis’s comic space-age adaptation. Lerew was equally as good as a sincere Italian Romeo in The Light in the Piazza and as a Britisher with a secret in The Importance of Being Earnest With Zombies. Clearly, St. Petersburg has found its Romantic Lead — and even though, with his tenure up as a member of freeFall’s resident company, Lerew is moving to NYC with equally talented fiançee Maya Handa Naff — see below — we suspect local theaters will be bringing him back often. —Mark Leib

Best actress

As mother Kate in the Stageworks production of Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound, Rosemary Orlando offered an emotionally complex performance that stood out for its surface likability and subterranean sadness. Orlando gave us a Kate who was battered by an unsuccessful marriage, resigned to an uncertain future, and still responsible enough to quietly demand right behavior from the world around her, including her two sons. The serious climax of the play, in which Kate told her boy Eugene about the day she danced with film actor George Raft, was so poignant, it made the comedy that preceded it seem almost unnecessary. Acting this potent is rare — and magical. stageworkstheatre.org. —Mark Leib

Best album

This year’s sophomore outing from Soapbox Soliloquy – the project of multi-instrumental powerhouse Jasmine Deja – is a perfect amalgam of headiness: trippy rock, garage psychedelia and experimental dosed with just the right amount of eye-crossed haze and whirling washes of sound. The result is weird, catchy and mesmerizing all at once, its overall consistent quality of DIY production and expansive creativity making for acid-washed perfection. soapboxsoliloquy.bandcamp.com. —Leilani Polk

Best all-grrrl power trio

We sure do dig this kinda new all-grrl trio that came bubbling up from the grimy depths of the St. Pete underground pushing coarse, pithy garage-punk and dropping a few recordings of cheeky-snotty odes (“fuck yer queso (the customer is always right)” and “i’ll fix yr fucking face” are particular gems). Susan Dickson (of Permanent Make-Up pedigree) keeps the beats with her typical tight ferocity, while Laura Sienkiewicz and Keeli Ayn strum and thrash guitar and bass, respectively, as they trade brashly worded-droned-shouted vocals. pissghost.bandcamp.com. —Leilani Polk

Marks Made at the MFA

In a print show spanning works made over five decades, the MFA featured works from high-profile women artists as well as local favorites. Making a mark, both literally and symbolically, has previously been gender-coded as a male endeavor, but the women here showed how they have made their impact on the art world through various approaches to printmaking. A small etching from Nicole Eisenman, a woodcut from Janet Fish, a Louise Bourgeois lithograph, and a limited edition print from local artist Elisabeth Condon are some samples of what the audience was treated to in a museum filled with top-notch work. mfastpete.org. —Caitlin Albritton

Stranger Things party at The Bends in St. Petersburg, Florida on September 16, 2016.

Being old enough for preschool never looked (or felt) so good. The Bends rang in another year with yet another party packed to the gills (a regular occurrence there, actually) where regulars all convened on the First Avenue dive to get their earholes blasted and livers tickled alongside all of their closest friends, plus the strangers they might be linking up with later. facebook.com/thebendsbar. —Ray Roa

Best art scene bitchfest

Last year’s inaugural SHINE Mural Festival could arguably be seen as a tipping point for St. Pete — the most visible event signifying the period during which the ’Burg began to shift from a killer little town with a killer, low-profile arts scene to (roll your eyes if you must) An Art Town To Watch. And with the higher profile always comes the higher-volume drama, at least behind the scenes: Who didn’t deserve to be included but was. Who deserved to be included but wasn’t. Who among those in charge were out for themselves. Who should’ve been in charge in the first place. Honestly, the bars (and certain Facebook accounts) were full of shit talk. Every scene that suddenly finds itself in the spotlight experiences such growing pains. This year’s version, with its open call and community-friendly curation, is compelling evidence that we’ve grown past them. shineonstpete.com. —Scott Harrell