Darius Rucker

University of South Carolina alumnus Darius Rucker performs a free concert for Gamecock fans and students, Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Keeping Rucker's promise that he’d play a free concert if the Gamecocks won six football games during the 2016-17 season. John A. Carlos II

Best Concert

Darius Rucker at Colonial Life Arena

Runner-up: Red Hot Chili Peppers at Colonial Life Arena

Like most of Columbia’s non-college population, we, the editorial staff of Free Times, didn’t attend this concert, the fulfillment of a promise to the student body by the country singer and Hootie & the Blowfish frontman that he would play a free show for students if the Gamecock football team made a bowl last season. But we admire him for keeping his word.

Honorable mentions: Pearl Jam at Colonial Life Arena, Maroon 5 at Colonial Life Arena

Best Music Venue

Music Farm

Runner-up: Colonial Life Arena

Columbia’s Music Farm is really stepping into its own of late as a marquee rock club. Just check the venue’s ridiculous October lineup, which includes popular rock bands (Spoon; Manchester Orchestra; Jump, Little Children), a cultishly beloved indie artist (Thundercat), a famously adventurous emcee (Matisyahu) and a pair of ’90s/early-2000s legacy acts that will keep the nostalgia flowing (Third Eye Blind, New Found Glory). Are you not entertained?

Honorable mentions: New Brookland Tavern, Township Auditorium

Music Farm Girls Rock

Music Farm, pictured here hosting this year’s Girls Rock Columbia camp showcase, wins Best Bar to See Live Music and Best Music Venue. Photo by Thomas Hammond

Best Bar to See Live Music

Music Farm

Runner-up: New Brookland Tavern

Next time you’re heading out to the Music Farm to check out one of the often impressive rock, hip-hop or country artists they bring through, take a look through the venue’s surprisingly robust tap selection. And then maybe take that beer out onto the spacious patio in between sets. Good place to see a show. Good place to enjoy a brew.

Honorable mentions: Art Bar, Tin Roof

Best Karaoke

New Brookland Tavern

Runner-up: PT’s 1109 (DJ Kevin Snow)

Blake Arambula, one of the musical minds behind Glass Mansions’ slick and emotive electro-pop, also makes regular appearances at New Brookland Tavern to lead the bar’s karaoke nights. In both cases, he’s an expert at starting a party.

Honorable mentions: Linda’s Carraoke 

Best Local Band

Tokyo Joe

Runner-up: Villanova

Tokyo Joe is Columbia’s musical Swiss army knife. They continue to churn out their own versatile alt-rock originals, while playing enough multi-hour, cover-heavy gigs that it’s physically exhausting to even think about. Oh, and there’s still that annual — or sometimes more than annual — Rocketman charity tribute, wherein the band convincingly evokes the sound and extravagant antics of Elton John. Tokyo Joe does a lot.

Honorable mentions: Prettier than Matt, The Restoration

Best Local Solo Artist

Brent Lundy

Runner-up: Shelby Raye

Brent Lundy, whether plying his own gritty Americana tunes or offering one of his wide-ranging covers, has been gigging in bars around Columbia for what seems like forever. His stage presence — an authority of voice and performance that grabs even the most apathetic crowd — is what sets him apart from other such artists.

Honorable mentions: Brandon Hooker, Jon Rooks

Fat Rat at Hip-Hop Family Day 2017

Fat Rat Da Czar is Best Local Hip-Hop Artist. Photo by John Carlos

Best Local Hip-Hop Artist

Fat Rat da Czar

Runner-up: Preach Jacobs

He’s Columbia’s hip-hop papa — a mentor to the young guns and a studio maestro at the Jam Room’s Boom Room. He also puts on Columbia’s Love, Peace & Hip-Hop Festival, which has brought greats like KRS-One and Kid ‘n Play to town. Recently, he threw together some crabcakes and served them up as part of EdVenture’s 100 Men Who Cook For Kids. He’s doing more than just bringing hip-hop to the Soda City, and he still spits a hard verse. Simply put, Fat Rat is the soul of hip-hop in Columbia.

Honorable mentions: H3RO, Cole Connor

Best Local Jazz or Blues Artist

Reggie Sullivan Band

Runner-up: Skipp Pearson

One of Columbia’s most accessible, reliable acts, the Reggie Sullivan Band has heavy leanings toward jazz, but has proven reliable at delivering across a host of genres, including funk, pop, soul and rock. The crew recently put out a new album, the versatile and slick Supernatural.

Honorable mentions: Drink Small, Mark Rapp

Best CD Store

Papa Jazz

Runner-up: Manifest

Sure, you can now load your phone with more songs than you could ever hope to listen to. But what’s the fun in that? There’s an undeniable romance in being able to settle in at this cozy Greene Street icon and spend an afternoon treasure hunting through the CDs, LPs, movies and more. It’s a near certainty that you’ll leave with a bag full of goodies.

Honorable mentions: Scratch N’ Spin

Best Store For Vinyl

Papa Jazz

Runner-up: Manifest

Go flipping through the stacks at this Five Points institution and you’ll find all manner of rock, jazz, indie, punk, metal and more — both new and used — and you’ll also find a crack team of music fanatics raring to steer you in the right direction (or just enjoy a pleasantly nerdy chat about records). In the modern era, listening to vinyl is about embracing the physical ritual of dropping the needle, and about forging a community with those who value the experience. At Papa Jazz, this community thrives.

Honorable mentions: Scratch N’ Spin

Best Musical Instrument Store

Sims Music

Runner-up: Pecknel Music

Their selection can’t be argued with. They’ve got a lock on Gibson and Fender gear. And their studio gear makes Sims an amazing place to test then buy. They’re basically a catalog you can drive to, and where you can talk out your equipment ideas with real live people. That’s what makes the place great: the humans inside.

Honorable mentions: Musicians Supply, Guitar Center

Best Recording Studio

The Jam Room

Runner-up: Archer Avenue

Having recorded lauded names from Antischism to Baroness, the heavy music pedigree of Rosewood’s Jam Room recording studio is unimpeachable, continuing to draw such bands from near and far to cut tunes there. But it also continues to produce high-quality records in the realms of pop, hip-hop, rock and beyond. Whatever your chosen style, the Jam Room is a top-notch recording option.

Honorable mentions: High Fidelity Recordings, Seaboard Recording Studio


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