Best Of 2018

Best (literal) lights out show
Amy Kate Anderson

Lindsey Jordan and her band Snail Mail are well on their way (how many of us can say we’re BFFs with Liz Phair, after all?). Still, for one night in April, fans got to see indie-rock’s 19-year-old next big thing (and quite honestly, one who’ll be around for a while) literally punch the lights out at Crowbar as she opened for Japanese Breakfast. To be fair, it was some kind of collision with a transformer outside, but the symbolism was lost on no one. —RR

Best actor in an American classic
Désireé Fantal

Averill-Snell has long been one of the Bay area’s best actors, but in Tampa Rep’s A View From the Bridge, he topped every other performance he’s ever given. This splendid performer’s Eddie Carbone was a man at war with himself, with his wife, with his cousins, even with the niece he secretly loved and strove to shackle. Such a character might have come off as a self-serving brute, but Averill-Snell demonstrated the terrific burden of all his misunderstandings, so we had no choice but to sympathize, even to notice his good intentions. Paradoxes, contradictions, projection, denial – Averill-Snell showed it all and the result was nothing short of breathtaking. —Mark Leib

Best actress encouraged to misbehave onstage
Drunk Camera Guy

Talk about letting it all hang out: At American Stage, Jenny Lester played the part of Daphna in Joshua Harmon’s stunning drama, Bad Jews, as if instructed to shed all decency and let her shadow side run free. So this was an obnoxious, offensive, self-righteous bad girl, convinced not only that she alone had possession of the truth, but that her verbal fluency could get her through any disaster, especially the ones she herself created. Lester’s Daphna was a woman seriously in need of Xanax, as well as six months of training in basic etiquette. Which all meant, of course, that, like most stage villains, she was delightful to watch. —Mark Leib

Becca McCoy is damn talented, and also pretty damn versatile. When she played Sue in Sheila Cowley’s southeastern premiere of Flying, she more than did this fine script justice — she gave audiences a window into a soul she built from those words, and she did it in a way that made me not only remember why I love theater, but made me think that if I ever wrote a play, she’s the actress I would demand play the lead. Probably even if the lead was a guy. She’s that good. —Cathy Salustri

Sure, it was nice of Career to bring its own PA and set up an art show inside of the event space affixed to CL’s Ybor City offices, but this release show for Structures would’ve taken the cake no matter where it was held. The effort clocks in at just 28 minutes long, and the live iteration shook the walls while inviting listeners into the mind of frontman Ryan Fouche, who aggressively explored themes of isolation, race/class structures, and hope as his band unleashed waves of nuanced — and at times chest-rattlingly loud — sound. Best release show, surely, but Structures might’ve been the best release of the last year, too. —RR

It started with an acclaimed indie darling’s Tampa debut at a 10,000-seat arena and ended with members of the band rallying for Florida voters’ rights in the 300-capacity confines of an Ybor City live music stronghold. If the nearly two-hour spectacle Arcade Fire put on at the USF Sun Dome (renamed Yuengling Center nine months later) wasn’t enough to put a smile on your face, then you certainly had one on thereafter, literally bumping elbows with DJ Windows 98 (Win Butler), Will Butler, violinist Sarah Neufeld and drummer Jeremy Gara at Crowbar. —RR

Best art show about identity and relationships
via DFAC

We had a lot of great art shows about relationships this year (the St. Pete Pride shows come to mind), but the one with the largest scope, for me, was the Catherine Bergmann-curated I + Thou. I + Thou explored identity and relationships in a way that I had never seen before, inspired by the Martin Buber 1923 philosophy text that goes by the same name. Bergmann loves themes that lend themselves to diverse interpretations, and this was quite obvious with the various artistic representations of identity and relationships seen in I + Thou. It was a feast for the eyes and the mind. —Jennifer Ring

Billy Summer almost changed Luxury Mane’s name to “Florida.” It would’ve been in conjunction with the St. Petersburg rock band’s new album, The Secret Empire of Florida UK. Thankfully, it just wasn’t in the cards. “Our whole plan was to change our name to Florida. But some jerk from Manilla has been recording electronic music under that name, so we took the route of the UK Subs or the Charlatans UK, hence Florida UK,” Summer told CL. “However, when we booked the shows, Jack [Spatafora, promoter] thought nobody would come out if we changed the name from Luxury Mane, and he’s probably right, so we didn’t! Cracks me up.” We’re glad it didn’t happen, and we’ve got one hell of an album to soundtrack the celebration. —RR

The NHL All-Star Game’s intermission entertainment was Kid Rock (WTF?), but at least the event’s local liaisons got it right by helping the league tap a host of Bay area talent to play inside and around the arena that weekend. Tribal Style, Have Gun, Will Travel, UNRB and Ella Jet all played great sets, and pop singer Joshua Cruz even got to spend lots of onscreen time in front of a a national television audience during Saturday’s skills compeition. —RR

Best book by a local author
Leigh Clifton

Take a mythical town that smells a lot like Gulfport, add in scads of animal lovers and dogs, then swirl in a healthy dose of near-future dystopia society, and you have Arin Greenwood’s newest YA fiction that doesn’t feel that YA at all. This book, which is all at once heartbreaking and witty, should be required reading for anyone who a) doesn’t think climate change is a thing, b) loves dogs, c) loves Gulfport, d) moves to Florida or e) any combination of the above. Greenwood’s not a native, but damn, Florida, aren’t we lucky to have her? —Cathy Salustri