Best of Jackson 2016: Nightlife & Music | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Best of Jackson 2016: Nightlife & Music

Duling Hall

Duling Hall

Best Cover Band; Best Jazz Band: Southern Komfort Brass Band


Southern Komfort Brass Band Photo courtesy Dane Carney

If there's one thing that the people of Jackson love, it's a good time with an excellent live band. When the weekend rolls around, we just want to pull out our best dance moves, and while the live-music variety is plentiful in the city, voters once again showed their love for Jackson's "instant party" jazz act Southern Komfort Brass Band, delivering its third consecutive wins for both the Best Cover Band and Best Jazz Artist or Band categories.

Since the band formed in 2010, Jacksonians have fallen in love with Southern Komfort's clever takes on cover songs at their performances at festivals, parades and many of the best venues around the city (including leading a second line at last year's Best of Jackson party). While the nine-piece band plays plenty of classic jazz favorites and original tunes, Southern Komfort is also known for applying its signature New Orleans sound to tracks from other genres, such as Pharrell Williams' "Happy," James Brown's "I Feel Good" and Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams."—Jessica Smith

Best Cover Band Finalists: Acoustic Crossroads / Hunter Gibson and the Gators ( / Shadz of Grey / U.S

Best Jazz Band Finalists: Barry Leach ( / Lisa Palmer / Pam Confer / Raphael Semmes / Vibe Doctors Jazz Project

Best Open Mic Night; Best Place to Drink Cheap: Fenian's Pub


Fenian's Pub

901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055,

Voters have delivered a Best of Jackson hat trick with a third back-to-back Best Open Mic Night victory for Fenian's Pub. It's also the beloved bar's second consecutive year to win the Best Place to Drink Cheap, and few categories go together quite as well as those.

With a daily happy hour offering $1 off everything from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m., performers have time to gather a little liquid courage before grabbing some open-mic time on a Tuesday night. While Fenian's attracts plenty of musicians, the bar also welcomes comedians and entertainers of all types to its bar-side stage.

For those who'd rather wait to make their mark on open-mic audiences, Fenian's other drink specials—including discounts on single-liquor drinks and beer, Pint Nights on Thursdays and Fridays, the "Guns and Hoses" discount for Jackson police officers, EMTs, and firemen, and $1 drinks for service-industry employees from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Monday through Thursday—might give you enough incentive to stop by.—Micah Smith

Best Open-Mic Night Finalists: McB's Bar & Grill (815 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-8362) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, / Synergy Nights at Mediterranean Fish and Grill (6550 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-0082)

Best Place to Drink Cheap Finalists: Martin's Restaurant & Lounge (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105,

Best Rock Artist/Band; Best Singer: Jason Turner, Jason Turner Band


Photo courtesy Jason Turner

Singer-songwriter Jason Turner has continually found local and regional success, whether he's playing at concert venues or coffee shops, solo or with a band. After several Best of Jackson wins in consecutive years, Jacksonians selected Turner as this year's Best Rock Artist/Band and Best Singer.

Turner began his career at age 15 after listening to punk and grunge music. He first performed at the Jubilee Jam in 1997 and eventually moved to Nashville to pursue his music in 2004. In 2008, he decided to return home and has been playing music full time ever since.

"I like to travel around the region, just far enough where I can go home if I need to," Turner says. "I'm a musician but a father first. Being able to support (and spend time with) my family is one of the biggest benefits to this career."

Turner plans to release his latest album, "Reset," within the next few months and says this is the most excited he's been about a recording project yet.—Mike McDonald

Best Rock Artist/Band Finalists: Aaron Coker Band ( / Dream Cult ( / Stonewalls / Storage 24 ( / Young Valley

Best Singer Finalists: Aaron Coker ( / Akami Graham ( / Chris Link / Hunter Gibson ( / Jj Thames

Best Live Music Venue; Best Place to Book a Party or Shower: Duling Hall

622 Duling Ave., 601-292-7121,

Walking into an empty Duling Hall, it's possible to get a glimpse of what Jackson's entertainment-seekers see in the space, which is a renovated school from the 1920s. There's about 6,000 square feet of dance floor, which holds about 400 partygoers, a top-of-the-line sound and lighting system, and a bar to keep the beer flowing.

However, if you step into one of the many energy-filled events from Ardenland owner Arden Barnett, who rents the property, you'll find out why Jacksonians chose Duling Hall as the Best Live Music Venue and Best Place to Book a Party or Shower for the second year running. Barnett is known for bringing in all types of nationally known entertainers, from comedian W. Kamau Bell to folk favorite Iron & Wine, and he says patrons can expect even bigger events in 2016. He also had a few thoughts on why locals honor the venue regularly.

"One, we don't book sh*t bands, and two, the bands love coming to play Duling. They keep coming back, and they tell other bands," he says. "People in Jackson know good music."—Micah Smith

Best Live Music Venue Finalists: Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888, / Martin's Restaurant & Lounge (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, / South Street Live (110 E. South St.) / The Hideaway (5100 Interstate 55 N., 769-208-8283) / 
Underground 119 (now closed,

Best Place to Book a Party or Shower Finalists: Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, / Pump It Up (1576 Old Fannin Road, Suite P, Brandon, 601-992-5866, / The Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502, / The Cedars (4145 Old Canton Road, 601-366-5552) / The South Warehouse (627 E. Silas Brown St., 601-939-4518)

Best Bar: Fondren Public


Trip Burns/File Photo

Fondren Public

2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589

To be good, a bar should have a couple of things—chief among them, a great drink selection and good people. Fondren Public, Jacksonians' choice for 2016's Best Bar, certainly has both. In addition to its heavier options, the bar has 24 beers on tap, with selections from breweries such as Southern Prohibition Brewing, New Belgium Brewing Company and Lucky Town Brewing Co.

Fondren Public also has a fully stocked food menu that features dishes such as Public Chips, which have pulled pork, melted queso, pickled okra and red onions. If the drinks and food aren't enough, the outdoor deck offers cornhole, shuffleboard and bocce ball, a game similar to lawn bowling. Most nights of the week, though, you'll find a crowd enjoying all of the above.—Amber Helsel

Finalists: Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Martin's Restaurant & Lounge (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Dulng Ave., 769-257-3517,

Best Club DJ: DJ Young Venom


DJ Young Venom

Growing up, this year's Best Club DJ, Phillip Rollins, known to fans as DJ Young Venom, knew that he wanted to pursue deejaying at an early age. As a student at Madison Central High School, he would often see its influence firsthand at school functions.

"Going to school dances and being able to see how the deejay could control the crowd kind of set the tone for me," he says. "It wasn't really a power thing. I just enjoyed seeing how the music made people happy."

These days, when he isn't working the ones and twos at a party, Rollins is at his business, Offbeat—though he's often on the turntables there, too. Rollins expects to do a lot more traveling this year and hopes to pass the torch down to an up-and-coming deejay.

"I can DJ forever, but if I don't give anyone else the opportunity to come up and shine, then that defeats the whole purpose," he says.—Danie Matthews

Finalists: DJ Phingaprint / DJ Rozz ( / DJ Taboo ( / DJ URI

Best Blues Artist/Band: Bobby Rush


Photo courtesy Bobby Rush

Most anyone who follows the local blues scene knows that the Best Blues Artist or Band category is as competitive as ever. Mississippi is the birthplace of music, and blues is its chief export. For a second year running, voters let it be known that Bobby Rush is Jackson's bluesman of choice.

While he's a native of Homer, La., Rush is a lover of the capital city and has played all over Jackson. The "Year of Bobby Rush" began in 2014 with his Grammy nomination for best blues album and kept rolling through 2015, when he performed on "The Tonight Show" and was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. When the harmonica-playing, guitar-picking icon isn't performing, he's sharing his knowledge with the next generation of Jackson blues artists.—Jessica Smith

Finalists: Chris Gill ( / Jarekus Singleton ( / Jesse Robinson ( / Scott Albert Johnson (scottalbert

Best Country Artist/Band: Jason Miller Band


Photo courtesy Jason Miller Band

A Best Country Artist or Band win has been a long time coming for the Jason Miller Band. Miller, the group's jovial vocalist, performed for local fans for more than a decade with various bands, including Crossin' Dixon, even before forming his eponymous band in 2012. Now, the Jason Miller Band, which features drummer Nathan Spears, keyboardist Topher Brown, and guitarists John Andy Bowen and Jamie Bright, performs covers and original music all across the Southeast. The group is also preparing to record its first album.

"We were all really honored by (the Best of Jackson nomination) because, to us, that means a lot," Miller says. "That means we're doing our job. The cool thing is that we get paid for doing something we love. Any time you can be paid for something you love, that's a bonus."—Micah Smith

Finalists: Burnham Road ( / Jason Turner Band ( / South of 20 / Young Valley

Best Gospel Artist/Group: The Mississippi Mass Choir


Photo courtesy Mississippi Mass Choir

The Mississippi Mass Choir, this year's "Best Gospel Artist/Group," has ministered to people in more than 40 states and six different countries through music since forming in 1988. The choir has won numerous awards over the past two decades, including four 1989 Stellar Awards—Choir of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Gospel Video—and Billboard's Gospel Artist of the Year in 1992. 
 Hit songs such as "It's Good to Know Jesus" and "Call Him Up" also opened doors for the Mississippi Mass Choir to make a history in 1996 as the first gospel group to perform at the Acropolis of Athens, an ancient citadel located in Greece. With the group's latest album, "Declaration of Dependence," which hit stores in June 2014, the Mississippi Mass Choir may be approaching even more milestones in the near future.—Danie Matthews

Finalists: Ben Ford / Dathan Thigpen / Laurie Walker Hall

Best Karaoke DJ: Casey Hardigree (DJ Stache)


Photo courtesy Casey Hardigree

For Casey Hardigree, known to fans as DJ Stache, karaoke is all about a love of music. He began hosting karaoke nights at Ole Tavern on George Street in 2010, where he can still be found every Wednesday. He has since built a loyal following, leading to Jackson voting him as this year's Best Karaoke DJ.

"Music is a common interest with everyone, so people will hear a song, and it will mean something different to them," he says. "It may be the same song every week, but it's always a different emotion behind it."

Hardigree says one thing that makes him unique is his interest in showmanship and commitment to making a good time.

"It can be the worst song in the world—but as long as at least one person is getting into it, (it works)," he says.—Danie Matthews

Finalists: Angela Pittman (Krazy Karaoke) / Cory Drake / Matt Collette

Best Jukebox: Ole Tavern on George Street


Trip Burns/File Photo

The Jukebox at Ole Tavern on George Street

416 George St., 601-960-2700

Most nights of the week, the Ole Tavern on George Street offers plenty of entertainment: pub quizzes, karaoke, deejays, live music and a ladies night. But in those rare instances when patrons have dead air on their hands, they turn to the two-story bar's own unsung hero—the jukebox.

For a second year, voters chose Ole Tavern's Internet music player as Jackson's Best Jukebox. Whether they're craving recent hip-hop hits or would rather put their dollars toward some old-faithful classic rock, the bar's upstairs jukebox can instantly jolt some life into the party and fill the dance floor. If you aren't sure what tune to turn on, no need to worry. The jukebox's online features keep you informed on its latest additions.—Micah Smith

Finalists: CS's (1359 West St., 601-969-9482) / JC's Construction (425 N. Mart Plaza, 601-362-3108) / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

Best Hip-Hop Artist/Group: SilaS


Photo courtesy SilaS

Jackson native Silas Stapleton III, this year's Best Hip-Hop Artist/Group, wants his music, which he releases as "SilaS," to be both situational and timeless, helping people now or 20 years in the future. In part, music is also how he copes, he says.

Even changing his name from his original stage moniker, Trey Parker, was a way to deal with years of doubt and insecurity . Friends and colleagues expected him to act contrary to the image he wanted for his music, including his upcoming album, "The Day I Die," which comes out Feb. 16.

"Telling the truth and being yourself are very important," Stapleton says. "For a while, I tried comedy and, after receiving much needed advice from a friend, (I) quit telling jokes on stage, focused more on music and changed my image to fit my style. The music has always stayed the same."—Mike McDonald

Finalists: 5th Child ( / Coke Bumaye ( / Hollywood Luck ( / Skipp Coon (

Best LGBT Hangout: WonderLust

3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003

If you're looking for the most "Vegas" bar in Jackson, this year's Best LGBT Hangout, is a great contender. WonderLust, an 18-and-over club, is open on Friday and Saturday nights and is what owner Jesse Pandolfo calls a combination of sleek, sexy vibes and cleanliness.

She opened the club Sept. 19, 2015, and worried that only a small group of friends would show on opening night. She was wrong. More than 400 people attended its launch party. "We ended up having a huge party, and it really took off," she says.

The club plays a variety of music, from EDM music to hip-hop, and there's a drag show every Saturday. Pandolfo says she wants WonderLust to be a place where people can be free to talk to whomever and dance however they please.

"We are like the Planet Fitness of nightclubs," Pandolfo says. "No judgment."—Arielle Dreher

Finalists: Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / JC's Construction (425 N. Mart Plaza, 601-362-3108) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562)

Best Place to Play Pool: The Green Room

444 Bounds St., 601-713-3444

If you walk into The Green Room on any given day, the look on patrons' faces positioned over pool tables and the laughter filling the hall might tell you why Jacksonians selected it as the Best Place to Play Pool for more than five years running. Since 1997, The Green Room has remained one of the premier pool halls in the Jackson metro area.

The Green Room, which is adorned with unique decor, including its signature animal heads, serves up bar-favorite food and drinks and conducts regular tournaments for pool enthusiasts with the opportunity to win cash prizes. For manager Dwight Anderson, it's the overall atmosphere, from its top-of-the-line equipment to its friendly staff, that keeps customers coming back to The 
Green Room.—Danie Matthews

Finalists: One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Reed Pierce's (6791 Siwell Road, Byram, 601-376-0777, / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105,

Best New Bar: South Street Live


Photo courtesy South Street Live

110 E. South St.

Countless Jacksonians have already partied in the green, yellow, and blue lights of South Street Live, their choice for 2016's Best New Bar. Formerly called Club 110, South Street Live rebranded and changed management in May 2015 and sought to deliver a wider array of features, from beverages to entertainment offerings. Thus far, the venue has brought in performers such as Flo Rida, Natalie La Rose and Plies. Not only does South Street have a full kitchen and state-of-the-art sound and light systems, but it's also one of the largest bars in Jackson, holding up to 2,500 people. Drink options include from "anything and everything," bartender Luke Greenlee says, and specials include Fireball Fridays and Ladies Night every Saturday, where women enjoy free drinks until 11 p.m. Owner Colten Pigott says one of South Street Live's main focuses is to ensure that visitors have an upscale nightlife experience each time they walk through the door.—Danie Matthews

Finalists: Big Sleepy's (208 W. Capitol St., 601-863-9516) / ISH Grill & Bar (5105 Interstate 55 N., 769-257-5204) / Johnny T's Bistro & Bar (538 N. Farish St., 601-954-1323) / WonderLust (3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003)

Best Place to Dance: Shucker's Oyster Bar

116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105,

After two consecutive years as a finalist in the category, Shucker's Oyster Bar in Ridgeland nabbed the award for the Best Place to Dance in 2016. While Jackson has a strong stable of other dancing destinations, Shucker's pushed ahead of the herd this year with its commitment to promoting fresh and fun live music.

Throughout the week, Shucker's brings in full bands and solo acts to perform everything from current country chart-toppers to tried-and-true '80s classics. Perhaps best of all, most of the musical offerings are cover-free and take place on the restaurant's deck. Even if your two feet are of the left variety, you can still catch local acts from around the Jackson metro area, such as Jason Turner, Hairicane, Bikini Frankenstein and Acoustic Crossroads.—Micah Smith

Finalists: F. Jones Corner (303 N. Farish St., 601-983-1148, / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / The Hideaway (5100 Interstate 55 N., 769-208-8283) / WonderLust (3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003)

Best Musician: Hunter Gibson


Photo courtesy Hunter Gibson

If there's one thing Jackson has no shortage of, it's talented musical entertainers, but each year, voters have to narrow it down to the best musician. Luckily, with longtime favorites such as pianist Hunter Gibson in the mix, the task gets a little easier.

Gibson has performed for Mississippi audiences since 1982, and his band, Hunter & the Gators, has played together since 1991. Thus far, he has released three original albums and two live albums, but Jacksonians know him best for cover sets at venues such as Kathryn's Steakhouse and Fitzgerald's, where he mixes renditions of classic songs and recent hits from artists such as Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5.

"When I started out, I was basically just playing songs I wanted to play. Now, we're catering to what the audience wants to hear," Gibson says. "... You can come in and expect to hear anything from Frank Sinatra to Usher and everything in between."—Micah Smith

Finalists: Adam Williams / Andrew Pates / Jason Turner ( / Kerry Thomas / Scott Albert Johnson (

Best Pub Quiz/Trivia Night: Hal & Mal's


Hal and Mal's Trip Burns/File Photo

200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888,

If you've been to Tuesday night pub quiz at Hal & Mal's recently, you've probably noticed a few changes. For one, former host Erin Bronson left the quiz game last spring, and Jonathan Webb and Taylor White took over. The pub quiz was renamed Bar Smarts last fall, and John Lindsey and Thomas Zuga began hosting. As of Dec. 8, comedian Jimmy Quinn is the new host.

Regardless of the changes, Hal & Mal's long-running pub quiz, which is this year's Best Pub Quiz, remains a fun weeknight activity. Teams pay $2 per person and answer questions on topics such as movies, music, history, sports and holidays. The competition can get heated at times, but it's all in good fun. Occasionally, you may even catch the Jackson Free Press staff playing.—Amber Helsel

Finalists: Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Library Lounge (Fairview Inn, 734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700) / The Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070,

Best R&B Artist/Band: Time to Move Band


Photo courtesy Time to Move

Jacksonians selected perennial party-bringers Time to Move Band as this year's Best R&B Artist or Band. Since bassist John Parker formed the group in 2004, Time to Move has performed at nearly every variety of venue and event throughout the South—clubs, casinos, festivals, private functions, and, of course, plenty of JFP Chick Balls.

While primarily an R&B outfit, Time to Move, which also features keyboardist Benjamin Bradley, drummer Eric Cager, guitarist CJ Robson, Jr., and vocalists Mary Jackson and Tim Jackson, prides itself on flexibility. The band also plays funk, dance, pop and blues covers.

"We've spent a lot of time rehearsing to put together a fine set, and we appreciate everyone that voted for us," Bradley says. "We look forward to continuing to provide good music."—Shameka Hayes

Finalists: Akami Graham / AJC / Jj Thames / Kerry Thomas

Sexiest Female Bartender: Ashley Lewis


Ashley Lewis Trip Burns/File Photo

The Bulldog, 6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502,

Jackson has plenty of bartenders whose attentiveness merits a handsome gratuity. But The Bulldog bartender Ashley Lewis, winner of Sexiest Female Bartender for three years running, is on a whole other level of customer-service appreciation. In December, for example, one of her customers threw a private party at a local bar on one of its closed days to celebrate Lewis' 32nd birthday.

"All my customers are awesome and try to do things to let me know," Lewis says.

Her own awesomeness—and reasons for her enthusiastic fan base—is evident from the shenanigans she engages in, such as summertime water-gun fights and her decision once to affix googly eyes to random items around the restaurant.

"We definitely put on a show," she says. She thinks she's at her best when the north Jackson bar is busiest, but she likes to unwind with a beer and a shot with members of her local service-industry family.

"We're a tight-knit group," Lewis says.—R.L. Nave

Finalists: Angie Grace Weed (Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, 970 Highland Colony Parkway, 601-354-6600) / Emylee A. Ingram (The Hideaway, 5100 Interstate 55 N., 769-208-8283) / Hali Sappington (Local 463 Urban Kitchen, 121 Colony Crossing Way, Suite A, Madison, 601-707-7684) / Kodie Mann (Sam's Lounge, 5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

Sexiest Male Bartender: Eli Juren


Eli Juren

Saltine Oyster Bar, 622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899

Eli Juren's alter ego comes to life behind the counter at Saltine Oyster Bar. The 22-year-old bartender says he's a low-key and extremely quiet person outside of work, but while serving drinks, he is free to socialize and embrace his outgoing side. His friendliness might be the key to his win this year as Jackson's Sexiest Male Bartender. His shy smile and cool tattoos don't hurt, either.

Juren, an Austin, Texas native, has been in Jackson for more than two years and said he prefers Jackson to his bigger Texas hometown. "It is a nice little change of pace moving here," he says. He started as a server at Saltine a year ago, but eventually, he moved to bar staff, which he says fits his relaxed personality better.—Arielle Dreher

Finalists: Blake MacDonald (The Bulldog, 6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502) / Jamie Moss (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Luke Greenlee (South Street Live, 110 E. South St.) / Perry Davis (Downtown Marriott, 200 E. Amite St., 601-969-5100)

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