Music & Clubs | Local Color
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Music & Clubs 

This is where readers really showed their loyalties. The choice of neighborhood bar was tight—enough so that we picked one in each town (Joe & Jo's in downtown Durham can claim bragging rights as top vote-getter.)

Best Dance club was also a close category. Other examples of loyalty went beyond the people in your neighborhood to the places respected regardless of their location.

Cat's Cradle, a perennial winner as best place to rock and best large venue, Montas International Lounge as the best place for salsa and The Green Room as best place to shoot pool showed they've won over readers from a variety of zip codes.

And, in a near upset, Cary's Regency Park Amphitheatre nearly won out over Alltel Pavilion as best outdoor venue. That Poison show musta been more popular than we thought.

Best Large Club: Cat's Cradle
Honorable Mention: Lincoln Theatre

Best Small Venue: Go! Room 4
Honorable Mention: Kings Barcade, The Cave

Best Outdoor Venue: Alltel Pavilion
Honorable Mention: Amphitheatre at Regency Park, N.C. Museum of Art

Best Place for Rock: Cat's Cradle
Honorable Mention: Kings Barcade, Lincoln Theatre

Best Place for Hip Hop: Limelight Nightclub
Honorable Mention: Five Star, The Office, Hi-5 Sports Bar

Best Place for Salsa: Montas International Lounge
Honorable Mention: Congo, Patio Loco

Best Dance Club: The Office
Honorable Mention: Legends, Aura Lounge

Best Spoken-Word Night: The Cave
Honorable Mention: Charlie Goodnights Comedy Club, Quail Ridge Books & Music

Best Place to Hear Strange Music: Go! Room 4
Honorable Mention: The Cave, Nightlight

Best Place to Shoot Pool: The Green Room
Honorable Mention: Jillian's, Sharkey's Place

Best Place to Hear Classical Music: BTI Center/ Meymandi Concert Hall
Honorable Mention: WCPE 89.7 FM, Regency Park, N.C. Museum of Art

Best Place to Buy Vinyl: Nice Price Books
Honorable Mention: Schoolkids Records, CD Alley

Best Place to Buy CDs: Schoolkids
Honorable Mention: Best Buy, The Record Exchange, CD Alley

Best Place for a Girls' Night Out: Rum Runners
Honorable Mention: The Longbranch Saloon, Jillian's, Five Star

Best Place for a Boys' Night Out: Thee DollHouse
Honorable Mention: Legends, Pure Gold

Best Neighborhood Bar: Joe & Jo's Downtown
Honorable Mention: Tyler's Taproom and Restaurant, The Goat, Champs Restaurant & Bar

Best Juke Box: Hell (The bar in Chapel Hill--not the place of eternal damnation)
Honorable Mention: Orange County Social Club, Joe & Jo's Downtown

Best Place for Karaoke: Playmakers (the sports bar in Raleigh not the theater in Chapel Hill)
Honorable Mention: Bub O'Malley's, Cary Tavern & Grill

Best Neighborhood Bar: Crowley's (Raleigh), Joe & Jo's Downtown (Durham), Tyler's (Carrboro)

Crowley's is real neighborhood place with a huge oval-shaped bar, TVs and video games. It's family-friendly, and it's got satisfying pub food. The original inside-the-beltline spot is the best known, in the small shopping center on Medlin Drive, just off Dixie Trail, but North Raleighites can also check out the Creedmoor Road location.

In just two years, Joe & Jo's pub has become an institution, giving a major boost to efforts to make downtown Durham an urban neighborhood. Christmas lights and storefront windows beckon people inside to enjoy a pint, a burger or a cocktail. Concerts, holiday parties, meetups and public meetings draw people from all points on the city's cultural spectrum, and the friendly crowd that gathers there from lunch time to late night is as emblematically diverse as Durham itself.

Tyler's in Carrboro is a slightly more upscale neighborhood haunt, but it's no less comfortable. A full menu (and excellent dessert specials) make it a good dinner destination, and the great beers on tap make it a good place to hang around in.

Best Place to Buy Vinyl: Nice Price, Schoolkids, CD Alley
Best Place to Buy CDs: Schoolkids, Best Buy, CD Alley, Record Exchange

It's getting more difficult all the time to find a good place to buy music. The recent closings of Lost City and the Record Bar in Chapel Hill, Radio Free Records and Millennium Music in Durham have us hanging our heads: What happened to the local music store? What happened to looking over other people's shoulders as they browse, finding a treasure in the sale bin, or playing stump the hipster with the clerk?

Those music stores that remain are finding new ways to survive. At Nice Price, the small Triangle-wide chain that sells books and CDs, expert buyers find vinyl so collectible, they sell much of it on eBay. Another locally owned small chain, Schoolkids, is an oasis of eclectic tastes. Its Chapel Hill store is one of the few things keeping the east side of Franklin Street from looking like a mall. All three Triangle locations proudly stock local releases, some of which they sell for the bands (no middle man), and they're still the place to go for concert tickets.

CD Alley came in a close third in both categories. This locally owned shop is holding down the fort at the West End section of Franklin Street, and it's got a proud tradition of supporting the local music scene. There's not much room inside, because the place is piled high with affordable music--though there is a comfy couch next to the counter, so you can sit and listen before you buy. CD Alley is a browser's paradise.

The Record Exchange also came in with a lot of votes despite paring a location in Chapel Hill.

Triangle music consumers aren't completely indie-minded, however. The corporate chain Best Buy came in second.

Best local record hunter's captured prey: Th'Cigaretz' Crawl Right Outta My Skin

Th'Cigaretz, the storied Raleigh band that first marked the punk influence in this state with wild shows in which they baited audiences by confronting them verbally and even throwing old food at them, made only one album, Crawl Right Outta My Skin, released in 1979. The covers were hand-screened, so each cover was unique. The songs, all recorded at live gigs in the area, were bracing and venomous, and never re-released (yet...anyone?), so this is a holy grail for fans looking for the roots of underground music in the Triangle. Many have heard the story of Th'Cigaretz moving to NYC, (followed by the emergence of the hardcore scene here led by Corrosion of Conformity, via a Cigz/Bad Brains connection). Members Jerry Williams and Scott Jarvis were involved in the early Beastie Boys records. On a trip to a local second-hand store (think I'm gonna tell which?), I was a second from walking out empty-handed when the glimmer of the silkscreen hit my eye. In a cosmic coincidence, I had the measly amount in credit at the store, and walked out with a toothy grin. It don't get no better'n this.

Best Place for Salsa: Montas International Lounge

Fostering the salsa community is a labor of love for Pilar and Roberto Montas. The couple got Montas International Lounge off the ground four years ago based on the strength of word-of-mouth, elbow grease, and their vision to give Latin dancing in a sophisticated, relaxed atmosphere a permanent home in the Triangle.

Since then, they've expanded their Highway 54 digs, doubled the dance floor and put in a new sound system and stage, but the same mom-and-pop vibe prevails, drawing an integrated mix of patrons Thursday through Sunday for salsa, merengue, bachata, cha cha cha, swing, reggaeton, Latin pop and R&B. Montas supports the music scene by hosting occasional live bands, and boosts the region's dance I.Q. by hosting workshops and performances by dance pros from as far a way as New York and the West Coast. Local instructors have a foothold here too, offering classes in salsa, mambo and bachata every week for fresh-faced beginners, as well as initiates who want to up their game.

Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Colombian Night parties sometimes add their particular flavor to Fridays, and Montas really jumps on Saturday nights, when they play their widest range of popular dance music from all over Latin America. The normally elegant dress code is eased on Salsa Sundays, when you can see folks in sweats or jeans doing some fancy spinning to the classic sounds of Tito Puente and the Fania All Stars. See the Web site for full class and club schedule, along with directions to this centrally located RTP nightspot, at

Best Breath of Fresh Air: Cat's Cradle

The banning of smoking in public places started in California and took hold in New York City. But, this is Tobacco Road. And while North Carolina was ranked last by the CDC for smoking prevention efforts and regulations, Cat's Cradle Owner Frank Heath recently made his venue "No Smoking" (If you must, there's a place set aside out back). The brave decision is worth celebrating. Environmental tobacco smoke contains a higher quantity of dangerous carcinogens than smoking itself, as the tobacco is burned a lower temperature than occurs when a smoker inhales. Add to this the fact that smoke can linger in a ventilated room for up to eight hours and the result is frightening. While most bars are still blue with smoke, the Cradle is starting to clear the air.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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