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2008CriticsEntertainment

Best 'If You See the Lights on, Come on In'
Victory Grill

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Dropping by to hear a sizzling set of blues at this legendary club can be a hit-or-miss prospect these days. Sometimes it's open, sometimes it's not, or sometimes just for special events. Though a new mural – honoring Lavelle White, Austin's own queen of soul, and Johnny Holmes, who founded the Victory Grill in 1945 – has recently appeared on the west wall, the Victory seems threatened by development all around it. So catching it open can be rare – like finding a diamond glittering in the sand.

Victory Grill, 1104 E. 11th, 512/291-6211, atxhistoricvictorygrill.org/

Best DJ to Rally the Rumpshakers
DJ Orion

Between beat-boy dance-offs to "Can We Kick It" and sweaty group sing-alongs of "Baby Got Back," this little trickster rallied the rumpshakers to the sounds of cumbias and vallenatos. Homegrown DJ Orion, resident DJ at Creekside Lounge this summer, opened up our sonic palates, inciting one and all to grab a partner and infuse moves with some fiery Latin passion. Admittedly, there were some awkward hip motions to dodge and an increased risk of spinning bodies colliding, but there was laughter! Smiles and giggles! Unabashed people moving their feet outside of their comfort patterns and having a good time. DJ Orion, who spent the better part of last year touring with Yo Majesty, has ratcheted up the dance scene here in the ATX. No more "Dancing With Myself" – let's get a little closer, swerve those hips, and spin, baby, spin.

DJ Orion, www.djorion.com

Best Freak Show
999 Eyes Freakshow

photo by Shelley Hiam

The last, or maybe just the newest, traditional touring freak show in America. What’s that you say? "Freak" is a bad word? Then how about weird, marvelous, awesome, inspiring, educational, historic, entertaining, and even a little risqué? A glorious rebellion of biomorphic diversity in a world of physical orthodoxy.

999 Eyes Freakshow, www.999eyes.com

Best Hot-Rod King
Mercury Charlie

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

In the metal-flake and lacquer world of cars, Mercury Charlie reigns as one of the hot-rod monarchs, having won the John D'Agostino Kustom D'Elegance Award at the 2008 Sacramento Autorama. He was also profiled in the book Hot Rod Kings, has been featured in six car magazines, and interviewed on the Travel Channel. Since opening his North Austin shop last year with Nadine, his award-winning '51 Mercury showpiece, he's welded his status as a legend with stellar work and a down-to-earth attitude.

Mercury Charlie, 6819 McNeil Dr., 512/552-2425, www.mercurycharlie.com

Best Intersection of Health Food & Cocktails
Daily Juice Meets the Belmont

"Healthy" and "cocktail" are two words that rarely find themselves in the same sentence – until now, that is. So what do you get when you muddle one part juice expert, one part fresh-squeezed fruit juice, and a dash or two of exotic superfoods (Himalayan crystal salt, fresh coconut water, goji berries, raw cacao) and shake it all together with premium liquors? Tasty, refreshing, healthy cocktails handmade by local juice-master Matt Shook of the Daily Juice, that’s what. Shook prepares delectably indulgent libations such as Coco Love on a Beach, Pineapple Popeye, and Rambling Rose at the Belmont from time to time by special invitation, and it’s worth your time to be there when he does.

JuiceLand, 1625 Barton Springs Rd., 512/480-9501, www.juicelandaustin.com

The Belmont, 305 W. Sixth, 512/476-2100, www.thebelmontaustin.com

JuiceLand, 2307 Lake Austin Blvd., 512/628-0782, www.juicelandaustin.com

13 more locations

Best Local Champions of the Lush Life
Lovey and Lovey

When ColdTowne Theater's Tami Nelson and Michael Jastroch get to channeling the likes of Nick and Nora Charles in their tipple-happy sketch comedy Lovey and Lovey, even teetotalers in the audience get a little drunk on the brash badinage and gin-soaked barbs the hilarious couple unleashes. Hell, if they could just get Arthur Simone's Buddy to dress up as a wirehaired fox terrier, they'd be even better than the originals.

ColdTowne Theater, 4803-B Airport, 512/814-8696, www.coldtownetheater.com

Best Place to See WMD (Wigs of Mass Destruction)
United Court of Austin's Annual Coronation

photo by Seabrook Jones

If it's true that "the higher the hair, the closer to heaven," then the cross-dressing participants in the United Court of Austin's annual coronation festivities are virtual goddesses. Once a year, the tall gals whip out their most elegant finery, most exotic make-up, and highest heels and top the ensemble off with hair. That's Hair with a capital "H." Hair like cumulus clouds; hair like sparkling waterfalls; colored hair; ratted hair; hair that is bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghetti. Must-see hair.

The United Court of Austin, PO Box 2567, 512/689-5609, www.unitedcourtofaustin.org

Best Remixing Renaissance Man
Francis Preve

Taking another's work and restructuring it can be a dicey proposition, but when remixer Francis Preve takes on electronica, he handles the task deftly and with thrilling results. But is that all that Preve does? No way. In addition to remixing and sound designing, he's also a teacher, journalist, author, and editor. Preve may not become a household name, but in the world of DJs and remixers, he's a maestro of the mixing board, a sultan of the CD, and one of the best things about Austin.

Francis Preve, www.fap7.com

Best Secret Place to Party
The Beast House

Did you guys know that there is a slammin' place to party above Emo's Lounge on Sixth? It's true. The Beast House is only open for special events a few times a month and is sponsored by Camel, but the parties are always free, with killer DJs, live entertainment, and free grub. As if that weren't enough, the phat decor, free Pac-Man, and gorgeous pool table will make you feel like that video audition you sent to the Real World production office really did pay off.

The Beast House, 604 E. Sixth, second floor

Best Street-Party Fundraiser
KLRU's Block Party

KLRU's annual fundraising Block Party is one of the biggest, splashiest, and most far-reaching events in Central Texas. The party really began about 20 years ago as the Austin City Limits Gala but has morphed into the Block Party, with more than 800 attendees and top-name entertainment such as Robert Randolph, Los Lonely Boys, and Brad Paisley. As a fundraiser to manifest the planned ACL Studio Theatre in the Block 21 development across from City Hall, its success goes without saying … but as a party, it is immaculately conceived and executed.

KLRU, 2504-B Whitis, 512/471-4811, www.klru.org

Best Sunshine on a Stage
Jill Blackwood

"Radiant." "Lustrous." "Luminous." "Resplendent." Writers have worn out their thesauri coming up with words to describe Jill Blackwood on stage. The willowy, winsome actress is just so, well, sunny that a comparison to Sol invites itself. Blackwood is naturally that way – lively, cheerful, perpetually flashing that million-watt smile – but in a show, it's magnified a thousandfold so that she seems to be giving off more light than the ones beaming down on her. That's not to diminish the other qualities that make her such an invaluable performer on the local scene: a dazzling voice, a shining sense of comedy, brilliant comic timing, incandescence … see, there we go again. Suffice it to say that dark clouds and gloom don't stand a chance when this Jill hits the boards.

Jill Blackwood, www.colliertalent.com

Cheapest Way to Get Your Bond On
$3 Martini Mondays at Parkside

Plunked almost improbably in the epicenter of the circus that is Sixth Street, Parkside is a calming, classy oasis of oysters, ingenious apps, and perfectly grownup drinks (no Flaming Dr Peppers here, thank you very much). They've got all kinds of $3 drink specials to soften the blow of the beginning of another work week, but we love the Dirty Tito's martini the best. Classy and cheap? Another round, please.

parkside, 301 E. Sixth, 512/474-9898, www.parkside-austin.com

Most Beloved Burlesque Performer
Cardinal Cyn

Austin’s burlesque scene is filled with glittering starlets like a sky full of sequins, all of whom rallied around Cardinal Cyn when she broke her leg earlier this year. That scarlet hair. That alabaster skin. A dash of Tempest Storm, a splash of Rita Hayworth, and possibly the only woman alive that can sashay on crutches. Like the fundraising T-shirts say, "Cardinal Cyn shall shake again."

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food
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