Everything's coming up roses for the Paramount Theatre (911 Pine, 682-1414). The place where the show always goes on, thanks to


Best of Seattle Readers' Picks



Everything's coming up roses for the Paramount Theatre (911 Pine, 682-1414). The place where the show always goes on, thanks to the efforts of the Seattle Theater Group, this elegant theater keeps the throngs coming for musicals, famous dance companies, family fun, major recording artists, and, yes, even private functions. Breathe in the antiquity, the Old World mustiness against the shiny new paint and ornate jewel-box architecture. Readers, you have arrived. And you knew all along. ACT ran a respectable second place in this category, with enough votes to prove that recent productions like Dinner with Friends are still on readers' minds. Seattle Rep accumulated enough reader support to end up in third.


Three cheers for Allison Narver! The former artistic director of Annex Theatre brought the more imaginative side of fringe consciousness to local theater buffs before leaving for a stint in New York City. But wait! You've obviously heard! Narver's back, now as the artistic director of Empty Space Theatre (3509 Fremont N., 547-7500), which surely signals a welcome infusion of energy into the local theater scene. And you, dear readers, have taken notice. Bully for you. We know it will be a good thing for everyone who cares about arts in this city. Theater Schmeater narrowly missed the first-place slot, but its steady and consistently worthy fare, based around the always-successful Twilight Zone and Money & Run series (the latter is currently enjoying its first mainstage run at the Schmee), draws return audiences and new fans alike. In third, the worthy offerings at ACT's Bullitt Cabaret space, from one-person shows to works-in-progress, have left an impression on readers who appreciate substance over hoopla.


When we asked for "Best art gallery," we meant it. Repeat after us: SAM is not an art gallery. SAM is not an art gallery. The UW's Henry Art Gallery is not, technically, an art gallery either. (We called. We asked. We were reprimanded.) Greg Kucera Gallery (212 Third S., 624-0770), a winner in past readers' polls, has again earned top honors, just edging out Foster/White Gallery. These two worthies are what the gallery category was designed for. Even though they're relatively smaller spaces than those museums, they're always First Thursday must-sees. So you know what you're in for when you pop by for a visit, Greg Kucera's favorite shows of the past year included the recent Text exhibition and the current Debra Butterfield show (which includes some neato large bronze horses!). And, finally, sorry—the Frye is also a museum. (Hello?) Which means it isn't going to be counted here. Skip on down to the next paragraph for the category many of you actually voted for.


We might just as well have titled this category "Best Place with Giant Hammering Man Sculpture Outside," since the overwhelming, unsurprising vote-topper is the Seattle Art Museum (100 University, 654-3255). Yawn. Since no one wants to visit the colossus of First Avenue during summer tourist season, the second-place Frye Art Museum and close third-place Seattle Asian Art Museum are more inviting during the warm weather months. At SAAM, you can first stroll through Volunteer Park, check out Noguchi's Black Sun outside, then pose your kids for photos atop the lions. Indoors, as with the Frye, the virtues of a smaller, less daunting collection are self-evident. Size does count in the arts, but sometimes it's nice to offset SAM's gargantuan holdings with quick trips to more modest, focused institutions. But when we do want to pose our family members for a photo beneath the legs of a giant hammering man, we know just where to go.


Ah, classical music, that multisensory experience that washes over you when you are fortunate enough to take it in as part of a live audience. You can hear it, touch it, taste it, smell it, and, yes, you can see it. You can always tune your radio to classic KING FM, but there's really no substitute for watching music happen before your eyes, to be able to smell the woodsy rosin cloud rising from the violin sections and to clap when everyone else does after all four movements are over. Where else but Benaroya Hall (200 University, 215-4747), that architectural shrine to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, can this be done with such style? Run your hands along the plush mustard seats, watch the rivulets of sweat trickle down Gerry Schwarz's face, and follow along with your packed-with-patrons program. The UW's spartan though resonant and more intimate Meany Hall provides a yearly lineup of impressive pianists and quartets, the likes of which are at the top of the international touring circuit. Selective readers knew this and voted it second.


Again Paul Allen's gloriously restored, cost-is-no-object, state-of-the-art Cinerama (2100 Fourth, 441-3080) tops our readers' loyalties, by a whopping two-to-one margin over the down-at-the-heels Egyptian. (And kudos to movie-loving Paul for letting SIFF use his digs.) Third falls to the equally threadbare Neptune, which, like the Egyptian, should presumably benefit from long-delayed upgrades now that their parent Landmark-Seven Gables chain has regained its financial footing. In the meantime, although the Cinerama's management company is still in bankruptcy (endemic to the movie exhibition biz), the floors are clean, the seats comfy, and the sight lines excellent. There's no doubt that when a big-screen flick like Gladiator or Pearl Harbor comes to town, this is where you want to see it; let's just hope that Jurassic Park III and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake also end up on Fourth.


Nothing starts the summer like the Memorial Day weekend Folklife Festival at Seattle Center, a place where food, fun, drumming, acoustic jams, macram鬠and the hippie dance can all be enjoyed at one central location. Of course, nothing ends the summer like Labor Day weekend's Bumbershoot, which garnered second place despite its largely musical bent. Third up was the highlight of summer itself, the never-a-dull-moment Fremont Fair, which kicks off with the lively Solstice Parade and bubbles through Fathers' Day weekend.


Hop on in, grab the microphone, and croon, baby, croon. That's the scene Wednesdays at the Hopvine Pub (507 15th E., 328-3120), a small but warm venue on Capitol Hill's 15th Avenue retail stretch. Music tends toward the acousti-folksy (songwriters, guitars, etc.), but everyone's enthusiastic and the stage is really, well, in the center of everything. What's more, you can still eat while being entertained. It's a supportive gig, if you're lucky enough to make the grade, and audiences are there for you, man—all the way. Rounding out the top three in this populated category were hippie-Harley hangout the Blue Moon and the laff-a-minute Comedy Underground, both of which tied for second place, followed by Ballard's eclectic Mr. Spot's Chai House. Whatcha waiting for? Take your turn in one of these local spotlights—be a star!


Over the past few months, Neighbours Disco (1509 Broadway, 324-5358) has undergone minor renovations—the entranceway's been cleaned up, the stage has been relocated—but on the whole it's still the same dark dance dive it always was. And thank god. The place is distinctly, aggressively gay—young fags frolicking, boys bending over billiard tables, drag shows dragging on. . . . And yet, increasingly, the place attracts a diverse crowd. There is always a gaggle or two of giggling girls snaking their drunken way through the bodies on the dance floor. And for every cluster of homos in a hot and heavy dry hump, there's a guy and a girl dancing in close proximity who could very well be straight. Despite those who insist on smoking in our faces and spilling on our shirts (people, must you drink as you dance?), this place has definite dance-club advantages: The floor is big, the crowd is crazy, and the evening ends long after last call. Re-bar, that dangerously naughty-but-nice romp on Howell, pulled in for second place, while I-Spy, downtown's upstairs/downstairs fun house, took third.


Saturday night's not the night for dancing—not anymore. Fridays are dead and Sundays are sluggish, but who would have ever thought that Thursdays would catch on so well? It doesn't even really matter where, apparently—just Thursdays in general. We tend to think it matters where you go when you go out, but most voters neglected to specify. Every place has a Thursday-night theme, and maybe that's what everyone likes: options. Neighbours does "Rock Lobster," their popular take on '80s dance pop, where DJ Trent Von mixes a campy, crowd-pleasing variety—the Go-Go's, New Order, Dead or Alive—that's both way gay and hetero-friendly. Re-Bar's "Queer Disco" is a little less shiny and obvious about the gay thing—and the crowd is mixed there, too. Also on Thursdays: The Baltic Room does classic and contemporary rock; Art Bar does dance hall reggae; Back Door Ultra Lounge does house; I-Spy does "Bump"; Belltown Billiards does "Club World"; and Century Ballroom does salsa. We should have added a category—Best Day to Call in Sick. That would be Friday.


Saturday is the best night to visit DV8 (131 Taylor N., 448-0888), when as many as 1,400 kids crowd the dance floor. The place looks a lot like Neighbours—black, silver, spare—except the dance floor here's bigger, the crowd's younger, and the "bar" only sells soda, Red Bull, and glow sticks. We visited recently to check out their new Wednesday night scene, "Euphoria," featuring DJ Victor Menegaux of C-89 and Kiss 106—and, well, Wednesdays haven't caught on yet, but they will. The music was a nice mix—first Euro club trance, then hip-hop— accentuated with acid trip-like imagery projected onto a large, semitransparent screen. They do try mightily to prevent literal acid trips here: They frisk you at the door, they prop the bathroom doors ajar, they monitor dark corridors with motion-sensitive lights. But DV8 is hardly commercial, cute, or family-friendly. It's the kind of place the 18-plus set deserves: dark, urban, and edgy. Paradox landed in second in this category, and just missing out on a tie was local fave Graceland, where even ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic can be found spinning now and again.


Riz Rollins and John Richards, both of KEXP (formerly KCMU) 90.3, share first-place honors this year. Together, they have our sound scene covered: the Riz crowd grooving to funk, house, hip-hop, and soul, the Richards fans rocking to emo/alt/space/pysch/pop/punk—or whatever name they're using this week for indie rock. Riz has set the Friday night mood at Pioneer Square's Back Door Ultra Lounge for as long as we can remember; his beats keep a steady stream of Eastsiders in the westbound lanes. He also does four radio shows a week: a variety mix on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9 p.m., and "Expansions" on Saturdays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. But of the two of them, John Richards has the stronger radio following—he's certainly responsible for what a lot of younger people in this town listen to and what they buy. Not only does he wake this city in the wee hours of the morning (6 to 10 a.m. every weekday), scores of music maniacs from all over the world listen in live over the Internet. (Sure beats downloading porn at that hour.) Fourteen-year veteran and local favorite Donald Glaude came in second, with DJ Kinetic in third.


Hanuman's style is "acoustic free folk funk"—this according to their Web site, www.hanumanmusic.com. Frankly, we've never heard of that, nor of them, but apparently they're on the jam-band bandwagon which, according to Paul De Barros of The Seattle Times, is focused on "organic development and human scale venues" and is "the soundtrack for the Green Party and the anti-globalization crowd." OK, we're not sure what that means, either. (What is a "human scale venue"?) But we downloaded some MP3s from Hanuman's site, and we gotta admit, their stuff's kinda catchy. Let's call it bluegrass-meets-jazz-meets-country-twang . . . meets African. It's complex. Folksy. Fun. Check it out. Also making the grade with local listeners and groupies is Guarneri Underground, for second place, and Willow, for third.


Dolly wrote and performed it first, then Whitney took it and performed it better, but no one—we mean, no one—has yet to sing "I Will Always Love You" the way Sarah did the other night at Ozzie's Restaurant & Lounge (105 W. Mercer, 284-4618). Sarah made it real, she made it human, and—with a finger pointed to the ceiling—she hit that high note, damn it. She felt it. We felt it. The guy on the microphone went nuts: "Oh my goodness, Ozzie's! Did you hear that? Did you hear that!?" Sarah's friends puffed on their cigarettes and guzzled their beers and cheered her back to the table. The light in the room—which included rainbow colors shooting from a spinning ball in the corner—spilled out of the panoramic windows onto a quiet block on Mercer. We heard Elvis, Puffy, the Beach Boys, Jewel. . . . We sat against the window and watched people walk by. We ordered another drink. We got teary, we were so happy. Other places where you, too, can be a star, as voted by y'all, include Bush Gardens in the I.D. and Sunset Bowl (tied for second place), and Rockaraoke at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard (third).


Is there anything better than hearing "no cover charge"? We didn't think so. And the Folklife Festival is our readers' favorite place to load up on free tuneage, whether on the performing arts stages or at various spots around Seattle Center where musicians meet to share a song or two. The Seattle Center itself took second place in this category, based on its many free musical events, including the ever-popular Pain in the Grass summer rock showcases at the Mural Amphitheater. Third place goes to the Pike Place Market, which is always crowded (especially during summer months) with acoustic musicians and other street performers.


The Black Cat Orchestra (www.blackcatorchestra.com) is one of the most creative, cerebral, and critically celebrated jazz ensembles currently working in the Northwest. Under the leadership of Lori Goldston (cellist, formerly of Nirvana) and Kyle Hanson (on accordion), this seven-member set has been playing at concerts, clubs, and parties since 1991. Their original score to the silent film Dante's Inferno is, perhaps, the centerpiece of their renown—having been performed at least five times at major venues since 1993. Their second CD, Mysteries Explained, contains pieces from their new original scores to Germaine Dulac's surrealist piece "The Seashell and the Clergyman" (1928) and Hans Richter's obscure "Ghosts Before Breakfast" (1927). Their inventive contributions to contemporary jazz have had national exposure, most prominently on NPR's "This American Life" and on David Byrne's experimental and eccentric 1997 album Feelings. Scatting into second was Living Daylights, closely followed by Garfield High School's prodigious jazz band.


Even though the place has been severed—literally—by urban development (half of the store was razed in February to make room for a fancy-schmancy condo complex) Hi Score (612 E. Pine, 860-8839) continues to cultivate our collective nostalgia for the good old days, back when "scoring" had everything to do with defeating dragons and swallowing magic fruit. Yes, kids, they have it all here— at least, some of the best of what you remember. The pinball machines sit against one wall (Star Wars, Medieval Madness, Cactus Canyon), the video games against the other (Frogger, Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, Centipede, Araknoid, Burger Time, Terminator 2). And don't throw a tantrum if you can't find the game you've come for; there's more stored off site that they rotate in. The place has been overhauled, yes, but the spirit remains intact: The blue Pac-Man maze painted onto the floor hasn't rubbed away yet. A jukebox croons in the corner—old music, new stuff, everything. The songs, like the games and the stickers and the gumballs, cost a quarter. Everything's a quarter, that won't change—if it ever did, the place would be ruined. GameWorks, that warehouse o' corporate fun, wriggled into second, while Shorty's Coney Island in Belltown held fast to third place.


What's sexier than leaning over a pool table's velvety felt surface, cracking that cue against a triangle of balls, and watching those stripes and solids roll? Your boyfriend might have some ideas, but who asked him? If he doesn't support your serious billiards hobby, you can dismiss him as the eight ball that he is and invite a real winner the next time you visit the Garage (1130 Broadway, 322-2296), Seattle's hippest pool hall. If you can't find a date as cute or as skilled as Tom Cruise in The Color of Money, no worries: In this massive, classy space that's got tons of tables, a full bar, and plenty of sharply dressed young singles, it's easy to click with a partner. If there's no room to park your body in the packed Garage, hit Seattle's second- and third-favorite establishments, Belltown Billiards and Jillian's Billiard Club.


Sunset Bowl (1420 N.W. Market, 782-7310) is Seattle's premier place to knock over the pins, so don't get disgruntled when you have to wait for a lane. Sunset's higher-ups will help. Keeping in mind that this giant Ballard joint is bustling all week long, they've arranged for a few extra amenities to satiate those eager to bowl: refreshments, an arcade, karaoke, and, best of all, a full bar. Don't overdo it on the booze, though; while they want to please their patrons, Sunset's managers don't want the machines picking up soused bowlers along with the pins. If you just can't show your face after that atrocious karaoke act, try second-place Leilani Lanes, or West Seattle Bowl, which made this year's third spot.


Claiming to host the "funniest and most famous comedians from around the country," Giggles Comedy Nite Club (5220 Roosevelt Way N.E., 526-5653)— a delectably dark and smoky U District dive joint—is serious about its mission statement. In the recent past, Margaret Cho, Margaret Smith, Richard Lewis, and Lewis Black have made the house explode with guffaws. Giggles also allows local amateurs to joke: Sunday night is open mike, and while Seattle's hopeful funny people are about as hilarious as someone swan-diving off the Space Needle, the sheer awfulness of the comedic attempts is worth some smiles. If you want to fill your belly with more than laughter, try Giggles' good ol' greasy American food; an insider says the fries are awesome. Also wracking Seattle's ribs with laughter are the Comedy Underground, which landed in second, and Pike Place Market's improv troupe, Theatresports, in third.

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