Best of Knoxville 2012: Arts & Entertainment

Best Museum

Knoxville Museum of Art
At the Sign of the Giant Eyes, Knoxville Museum of Art has been there for more than 20 years now, but stays fresh with ever-changing exhibits, from the shocking to the simply beautiful. They have one big advantage over other museums, and it's called Alive After 5, the popular music, food, and drink event in the modernist Great Hall, overlooking World's Fair Park. (Most Fridays at 6; check first). Music tends toward jazz and blues, with a combination of local and visiting talent. It's just the sort of thing you can imagine Bruce Wayne attending. If you haven't seen their permanent (but, paradoxically, always changing) exhibit, Higher Ground, which traces 150-plus years of art in the Knoxville area, you probably can't speak very smartly about the subject. (J.N.)
Runners Up: East Tennessee History Center, Frank H. McClung Museum, Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

Best Gallery

Bennett Galleries
Runners Up: The Art Market Gallery, Bliss, The Emporium

Best Artist

Rob St. Clair
Runners Up: Jim Gray, Ammi Knight, Robert Tino

Best Theater Group

Clarence Brown Theatre
We're not sure you they're hoping to reach by calling themselves "Tennessee's only LORT theater," but as hardly anyone outside of show business knows, they're referring to the League of Residence Theaters, a well-respected list of America's best professional theaters. Most LORT members are in big cities, and only a handful are in the South. Endowed by its namesake, the Hollywood Golden-Age film director who happened to be a 1910 UT graduate. The next time a Chattanoogan boasts of their Aquarium, or an Ashevillian brags about their superior drum circles, respond, "Well, you got a LORT theater, pal?" (J.N.)
Runners Up: Children's Theatre of Knoxville, Einstein Simplified, Oak Ridge Playhouse

Best Actor

Bill Landry
The longtime host of the venerable Heartland Series is one of the most recognizable faces in greater East Tennessee, but many don't know that he started his career as an actor—he has a graduate degree in theater—and that he started out in Knoxville as Cap'n Nat, a salty river character at the TVA exhibit at the 1982 World's Fair. He still does a good deal of acting, working hard on his one-man shows. Landry has toured North America as "Einstein the Man," a one-man show about the legendary physicist that has nothing to do with churning butter or homemade dulcimers. (J.N.)
Runners Up: Christian Cox (as Garry Plimpton), Steve Dupree, David Keith

Best Dance Company

Tennessee Children's Dance Ensemble
Runners Up: Appalachian Ballet Co., Circle Modern Dance, Salome Cabaret

Best Rock Band

The Dirty Guv'nahs
See Best Band in Best of the Best
Runners Up: The Black Cadillacs, The Black Lillies, Dishwater Blonde

Best DJ

DJ Slink
Runners Up: DJ 4matiks, DJ Eric B, Rick Murray

Best Hip-Hop Group

Jaystorm Project
Runners Up: Dopplegangsta, Lil Iffy, the Theorizt

Best Americana Band

The Black Lillies
Runners Up: Mic Harrison & The High Score, The Hotshot Freight Train, Brendon James Wright & the Wrongs

Best Jazz Band

Knoxville Jazz Orchestra
Runners Up: Donald Brown, Christabel & the Jons, Robinella

Best Blues Band

John Worley and the Cornbred Blues Band
Runners Up: The Dirty Dougs, Jenna & Her Cool Friends, Labron Lazenby and the LA3

Best Cover Band

The Coveralls
Runners Up: Breakfast Club, The Chillbillies, POP ROX

Best Concert Venue

Tennessee Theatre
Runners Up: Bijou Theatre, The Square Room, Valarium

Best Karaoke

Toot's Little Honky Tonk
Karaoke at Toots is nothing if not compelling. There are the people who can really sing. There are the drunk girls who think they can sing. And then there are the drunk groups of people who aren't even trying as they belt out "Islands in the Stream." But damn, that latter group sure looks like they're having fun. Toots may be disgustingly smoky, but the coldness of the beers offsets the fact that you can't breathe. And who needs to breathe? You're here to sing! To get drunk and sing your heart out! But just make sure to get there early on karaoke nights—too late, and you'll end up waiting all night for your song to play. (C.G.)
Runners Up: Bull Feathers Cafe, Club XYZ, King Tut's Grill

Best Live Comedy Venue

Side Splitters Comedy Club
Runners Up: Old City Entertainment Venue, The Pilot Light, Speakeasy at Preservation Pub

Best Rock Club

Valarium
Runners Up: Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria, Pilot Light, Preservation Pub

Best Gay Club

Club XYZ
Runners Up: The Carousel, Hott Rods

Best Dance Club

Sassy Ann's
Runners Up: Hanna's Old City, Southbound, Valarium

Best Adult Entertainment Club

Mouse's Ear
Runners Up: The Ball Gentleman's Club, Emerald Club, Th'Katch Show Club