Best of Jackson 2017: Nightlife & Music | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Best of Jackson 2017: Nightlife & Music

Photo courtesy SilaS

Photo courtesy SilaS

Best Open-Mic Night; Best Place to Drink Cheap; Best Service-Industry Hangout: Fenian's Pub

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


This year further cements some Best of Jackson royalty, as voters stayed loyal to some perennial winners that prove themselves year after year. For Fenian's Pub, that means a fourth consecutive win for Best Open Mic Night and a third consecutive win for Best Place to Drink Cheap.

The longtime-favorite watering hole will also be the first business to take home the crown for a new category, Best Service-Industry Hangout.

Fenian's open-mic night, which takes place Tuesdays starting at 9 p.m., has been a local institution for many years, but it's not exactly "same old, same old" with the weekly event. Host Matthew Nooe, guitarist and vocalist for alternative band Risko Danza, took the reins of the open-mic night in 2016, keeping the stage warm between Jackson musicians and other entertainers wanting to try out new material or step in front of an audience for the first time.

As for Fenian's other two awards for 2017, they certainly go hand in hand. A great service-industry hangout requires two important things: late service so you can swing by after work and drink specials to keep you from breaking the bank. Fenian's offers both all week long, but that's especially true on Service Industry Nights on Sundays from 4 p.m. to midnight, where the working crowd can enjoy happy-hour specials all night.—Micah Smith

Best Open-Mic Night finalists: McB's Bar & Grill (815 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-8362, / Offbeat Comedy Open Mic (Offbeat, 151 Wesley Ave., 601-376-9404, / Soul Wired Cafe (111 Millsaps Ave., 601-790-0864, / Synergy Nights at The Med Bar & Grill (1200 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-0082)

Best Service-Industry Hangout finalists: The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517, / Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

Best Place to Drink Cheap finalists: Big Sleepy's (closed) / Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 899-8845, / Martin's Restaurant & Bar (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)

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

622 Duling Ave., 601-292-7121,


Photo courtesy Duling Hall

For a building that opened nearly a century ago, Duling Hall has a lot going on. Often, several nights a week, people pack the former schoolhouse for private parties and cool concerts, with the high-quality sound system, lighting and back-of-the-room bar as some of its biggest draws.

Thanks to efforts of entertainment-booking company Ardenland and property owner Peters Development, Duling Hall has received the most votes for the city's Best Live Music Venue for a third consecutive year, also scooping up a second win in a row for the title of Best Place to Book a Party or Shower.

While some of the biggest names that Arden Barnett and company brought to Jackson last year required equally big venues, there's been no shortage of powerful performers in Duling Hall. In the past year alone, the space hosted acts such as Galactic, Joe Thomas, Indigo Girls, Amanda Shires and Keb' Mo'.

In between wedding showers, fundraisers and other private events, Jacksonians will have plenty of big shows to look forward to at Duling Hall this year, including Isaiah Rashad on Feb. 19, Son Volt on March 7, and on March 10, Experience Hendrix, which features artists such as Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Johnny Lang and Dweezil Zappa. And those are just a couple that we know of so far.—Micah Smith

Best Live Music Venue finalists: Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888, / The Hideaway (5100 Interstate 55 N., 601-291-4759, / Martin's Restaurant & Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, / Thalia Mara Hall (255 E. Pascagoula St., 601-960-1537,

Best Place to Book a Party or Shower finalists: The Cedars (4145 Old Canton Road, 601-981-9606, / Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174; 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 173, 601-398-0623; / The South Warehouse (627 E. Silas Brown St., 601-939-4518) / 
Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202,

Best Musician; Best Rock Artist or Band: Jason Turner, Jason Turner Band


Photo courtesy Jason Turner

When Jacksonians catch singer-songwriter Jason Turner performing around town, they shouldn't be too shocked to hear more than a few unfamiliar tunes.

After all, he just released his seventh album of original music, "Reset," on Dec. 2 through Malaco Records' new imprint, Old Trace Records. "I put out my first album when I was 17, which was just me and an acoustic guitar, but hopefully those have all disappeared off the face of the planet," he says with a laugh. "My voice needed to get a little lower at that age."

Turner has been a full-time musician since returning to Jackson in 2010 after spending four years in Nashville.

With that consistency, it is also not surprising that he garners several Best of Jackson awards each year. For 2017, voters selected him as the Best Rock Artist or Band as well as Best Musician.

While Turner says he loves performing and writing new songs, it isn't about reaching a new rung on the career ladder but rather getting his music into the hands of people who will enjoy it.

He says: "I guess maybe because I'm older, I don't really go, 'Man, I hope I make it big,' or whatever people say, because who knows what that is in this day and age in the record business anymore? ... Really, I just hope enough people get into it so that I can keep making more of them."—Micah Smith

Best Musician finalists: Andrew Pates / Chad Wesley (Chad Wesley Band, / Hunter Gibson ( / Kerry Thomas

Best Rock Artist or Band finalists: Candybone / Dream Cult / Stonewalls

Best Cover Band: Southern Komfort Brass Band


Photo courtesy Southern Komfort Brass Band

Southern Komfort Brass Band first began performing around Jackson in 2010 and has since solidified itself as one of the premier cover bands in the city. The band has received recognition in many Best of Jackson competitions, this year earning the title of 2017's Best Cover Band, and also appeared on the first season of Mississippi Public Broadcasting's "Amped & Wired."

SKBB can be heard performing in local bars and venues, often with multiple events in a week (and the band has made a few surprise appearances at Best of Jackson), and they show no signs of slowing down as they continue into the year. The musicians' horn-infused covers of popular songs from a wide variety of genres are designed to keep the crowd moving wherever they take the stage. As their theme song, appropriately titled "The SK Theme," says: "When you get a taste of Southern Komfort, it's gonna get live tonight."—Malcolm Morrow

Finalists: Acoustic Crossroads / Burnham Road ( / Diesel 255 ( / Travelin' Jane

Best Gospel Artist or Group: The Mississippi Mass Choir


Photo courtesy The Mississippi Mass Choir

The Mississippi Mass Choir notched its second consecutive win for Best Gospel Artist/Group this year, but—and no offense to us—it's hardly the group's biggest achievement.

Since forming in 1988, the Mississippi Mass Choir has scored two Grammy Award nominations and won more than a dozen Stellar Awards, a Billboard Award and countless other accolades. On the local level, the choir also has its own entry in the "Mississippi Music Experience" museum at The Iron Horse Grill.

The recognition has kept on rolling in recent years, as well. Earlier this month, the choir's music was featured in episodes of both ABC show "Blackish" and ESPN SportsCenter, and a video of hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg rocking out to a MMC song exploded in popularity on Instagram. Being that we're still at the start of the year, it's probably a safe bet that even bigger things are on the way.—Micah Smith

Finalists: Ben Ford ( / Dathan Thigpen / Laurie Walker Hall

Best Hip-Hop Artist or Group: SilaS


Photo courtesy SilaS

Last year was a breakout time for Best Hip-Hop Artist winner SilaS, an unabashed anime fan. His highly acclaimed album, "The Day I Died," earned national attention and was featured in popular entertainment media such as Vibe Magazine. The album dealt with the nostalgia of remembering a carefree childhood in comparison to the hardships of adult life, and its lead single, "Gullah Gullah Island," brought issues of the African American experience to the forefront.

Meanwhile, his live shows have captivated audiences both locally and beyond, and drawn some of the largest crowds yet for an independent artist in Jackson. He also toured extensively and performed at major festivals such as A3C in Atlanta and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Here's hoping that 2017 will see SilaS come even closer to becoming the Hokage of Jackson.—Malcolm Morrow

Finalists: 5th Child ( / Coke Bumaye ( / Hollywood Luck ( / Savvy (savvylildaddy.

Best Bar: Hal & Mal's

200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888,


A longtime Jackson institution, Hal & Mal's is always on a short list of the city's top destinations for drinks and entertainment. Can't-miss parties and special events dot the Hal & Mal's calendar, and both local and touring musicians have carved out their place here over time. Though top-flight musical talent brings the crowd through the door, the food and drink are what keeps folks coming back after all these years.

"For us, we just do our thing, and we've done it a long time," says P.J. Lee, who serves as co-general manager along with his wife, Brandi. "We love being downtown, and we love being a part of the community. So anytime people think about us in contests like this, we always appreciate the love and support."—Alex Thiel

Finalists: The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517, / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, / Martin's Restaurant & Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 853-0105,

Best Jazz Artist or Band: Raphael Semmes


Photo courtesy Raphael Semmes

There's an obvious draw to Raphael Semmes' bass-player faces and his out-of-this-world voice, but those are just starting points in delving into the creative musicianship of this year's Best Jazz Artist/Band winner.

The Grenada, Miss., native is a well-respected member of the Jackson music scene, and not just for his own playing abilities. Semmes is a major supporter of the arts in the city and is heavily involved with several big local events, including WellsFest, the Fusion Jazz series at Fusion Coffeehouse in Ridgeland, and the Township Jazz Festival. Those who haven't witnessed Semmes onstage are shortchanging their ears, but they'll have plenty of opportunities in the coming year, as he plays with several jazz ensembles around town.—Jessica Smith

Finalists: Barry Leach ( / Southern Komfort Brass Band / Swing de Paris / Vibe Doctors Jazz Project

Best R&B Artist or Band; Best Singer: Kerry Thomas


Photo courtesy Kerry Thomas

For four years, fans of Jackson R&B artist Kerry Thomas were asking when they would get a follow-up to his successful 2012 debut, "Eye of the Storm."

Much of that time, the Baton Rouge, La., native says he asked himself similar questions: "What should come next? What happens after you've reached what may be the peak of your career?"

His sophomore EP, "After the High," released in June 2016, is his answer to those questions. Thomas, whom Jacksonians voted as this year's Best Singer and Best R&B Artist, says the release takes his music to new heights in many ways, including in how he challenged himself vocally and in the artists he worked with, including Cherita Brent, who co-wrote several songs on the EP, Clinton Babers II, and hip-hop artists such as SilaS and Coke Bumaye.

"I just want to say thanks, sincerely, to anyone who has come out to a show, who actually put down money and bought the album, or who liked a Facebook post or any of the social media," he says. "Honestly, it's overwhelming."—Micah Smith

Best Singer finalists: Akami Graham ( / Amanda Joullian / Chris Link / Doug Hurd

Best R&B Artist finalists: AJC & The Envelope Pushers / Lari

Sexiest Female Bartender: Lauren Hood

Saltine Oyster Bar, 622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 


Photo courtesy Lauren Hood

"I didn't think anybody knew my name!"

That was Lauren Hood's reaction to being named a finalist for 2017's Sexiest Female Bartender. She has been bartending at Saltine Oyster Bar for more than two years now, and says it's a really fun place to work.

Her favorite part of bartending, she says, is making different drinks for people with crazy requests. Some of the craziest requests she has ever had was a pickle-juice martini and a St. Germain with Guinness beer. Her response was simple: "If that's what you want, that's what you get."

Hood prefers whiskey, and her contribution to the fall cocktail menu at Saltine was a drink she called the Grace O'Malley. She wanted to make something fruity with whiskey. The drink includes Jack Daniel's, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, cranberry syrup and allspice on the rocks. Hood proves that creativity, friendliness and alcohol mix well.—Arielle Dreher

Finalists: Ashley Lewis (Green Ghost Tacos, 2801 N. State St., 601-203-2144; Majestic Burger, 1067 Highland Colony Pkwy. Suite B, Ridgeland, / Kirby Coutch (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Kodie Mann (Sam's Lounge, 5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / Kristen Thompson (Lou's Full-Serv, 904B E. Fortification St., 601-487-6359,

Best Karaoke DJ: Angela Pittman

Krazy Karaoke, 601-566-0951


Photo courtesy Angela Pittman

"Karaoke isn't about singing well; it's about having fun while you're doing it," Angela Pittman, this year's winner for Best Karaoke DJ, says.

She became a karaoke deejay about 20 years ago, starting with one set of equipment. Now, her business, Krazy Karaoke, has grown to the point where her team can be at 10 events at once.

She invested in state-of-the-art sound systems and all the latest karaoke tracks so that when participants are on the stage, they feel like rock stars, she says.

Those who sing also get encouragement from the Krazy Karaoke Krewe, a group of regulars who cheers on the performers.

"Everything that Krazy Karaoke is, I owe to my friends who come out and support karaoke," Pittman says.

"I would be nothing without them."—Dawn Dugle

Finalists: Cory Drake / DJ Stache / Matt Collette

Sexiest Male Bartender: Eli Juren

Saltine Oyster Bar, 622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 


Jacksonians have selected Eli Juren as the king of the Sexiest Male Bartender category again, his second consecutive win for the title.

Juren, who was gallivanting around Asia when we were writing Best of Jackson blurbs, works at Saltine Oyster Bar alongside this year's Sexiest Female Bartender, Lauren Hood, and gave us an interview last year.

Juren told the JFP then that he was surprised to even be nominated. Bartending is fun for him because he is able to get out of his shell, socializing with customers, and because of the relaxed nature of his job, he said..

Apparently, Juren has kept up the charm and swagger throughout 2016. Congrats to the now-veteran Saltine barkeep for starting a winning streak. We hope you're home in time for the party!—Arielle Dreher

Finalists: Andrew Booth Luckett (WonderLust, 3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003) / Jamie Moss (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Simon Kazery (Ole Tavern on George Street, 416 George St., 601-960-2700) / Ty Duncan (Cinco de Mayo, 880 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-957-1882,

Best College-Student Hangout: Fondren Public

2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589,


Photo courtesy Fondren Public

Voters have given Fondren Public several different distinctions in Best of Jackson over the years, but it has taken the Best College Student Hangout title nearly every year since opening in fall 2013.

General Manager Brad Dreher says he wants Fondren Public to have an atmosphere that encourages people to actually talk and interact with each other. With shuffleboard, cornhole, bocce ball, life-size Jenga, a large patio space and more, Fondren Public is an ideal place to hang out.

In addition to 24 types of beer on tap, including from local Lucky Town Brewing Company, Fondren Public has a full menu including four types of sliders, salads, fried chicken and waffle tacos, Cajun corndogs, BLTs and boiled peanuts, among other items, to keep college students well-fed while they're having fun.—Tyler Edwards

Finalists: Cups Espresso Cafe Fondren (2757 Old Canton Road, 601-362-7422, / Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174; 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 173, 601-398-0623; / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700, / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349)

Best Club DJ: DJ Cadillac


Photo courtesy DJ Cadillac

With his first win for Best Club DJ, Bo Trebotich, better known as DJ Cadillac, continues to solidify himself as one of the most popular deejays in Jackson. While he wasn't as active performing live last year, he was hard at work in the studio and collaborated with other deejays in the area. He performed alongside DJ Uri, DJ Tam and Taboo at every Fondren's First Thursday in 2016 and helped form a new company of turntable technicians called The Collective.

In addition to his party rocking, Trebotich is involved in the Jackson-based outreach ministry Heart of David, which provides mentorship for inner-city youth and hosts the Ignite Sports Camp each year, which former WWE stars Ted Dibiase and Ted Dibiase Jr. head.

DJ Cadillac will perform at Kemistry Hookah Bar & Lounge on Jan. 28 along with Louisiana-based deejay Quickie Mart, and locals The Nasty Sho and DJ Uri.—Malcolm Morrow

Finalists: DJ Phingaprint / DJ T.Lewis / DJ T Money ( / DJ Taboo ( / DJ Young Venom (

Best Blues Artist or Band: Bobby Rush


Photo courtesy Erika Goldring

As Mississippi is the birthplace of blues music, you can bet that Best Blues Artist/Band is always a competitive category. Voters' choice for the winner this year is no stranger to awards, though, and we don't just mean Best of Jackson titles.

In addition to earning his third consecutive BOJ win for Best Blues Artist/Band, 83-year-old bluesman Bobby Rush has received plenty of national attention in recent months following his fourth Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album.

The album in question is 2016's "Porcupine Meat," his first release on Rounder Records, for which he teamed with fellow Mississippi blues icon Vasti Jackson and Grammy-winning producer Scott Billington. While the Blues Hall of Famer certainly doesn't need a Grammy Award to prove his impact on the music industry, it would be a worthy addition to his Best of Jackson certificates.—Micah Smith

Finalists: Chris Gill ( / Jarekus Singleton ( / Scott Albert Johnson ( / Sherman Lee Dillon

Best Country Artist or Band: Jason Miller Band


Photo courtesy Jason Miller Band

The Jason Miller Band had a big year in 2016, playing at packed venues across the South and scoring its first Best of Jackson win for Best Country Artist/Band, a title the group took again for 2017.

The musicians also released a new original single, "Dirt on Me," to the elation of their supporters—who number more than 8,100 if Facebook likes are any indication, but hey, who's counting?

Many fans even predate the band itself, having followed Miller since he sang for country act Crossin' Dixon. The Jason Miller Band, which now includes guitarists Jamie Bright and John Andy Bowen, keyboardist Topher Brown, bassist Anthony Daniels and drummer Nathan Spears, has been his main musical endeavor since 2012.

Jacksonians can expect plenty of new tunes when the group performs locally in 2017. Miller says he and his band mates are preparing tons of fresh cover material and originals for an upcoming EP, which they plan to release later this year.—Micah Smith

Finalists: Burnham Road ( / Chasin' Dixie / Miles Flatt ( / Young Valley (

Best Local Place to Watch the Game: Burgers & Blues

1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038,


Photo courtesy Burgers and Blues

Jacksonians and area residents have a lot of places to watch sports around the metro area, but this year's winner for Best Place to Watch the Game, Burgers & Blues, makes it an experience.

The restaurant has wall-mounted TVs all around it, but the patio is the best place to go for football, basketball or whatever your athletic interest. During colder months, the outdoor heaters will keep you warm as you watch the many overhead-hanging TVs that are tuned into the big games. The patio also has activities such as Jenga, ring toss and corn hole to keep the kids (or adults) happy.

Of course, you'll need food to celebrate your fandom. The restaurant's revamped menu has classics such as the Sonic Boom and BNB burgers, and loaded ranch-dip fries or tots, as well as new offerings across the board such as the fried bologna sandwich and pork tacos.—Dawn Dugle

Finalists: 4th & Goal Sports Cafe (5100 Interstate 55 N., 769-208-8283, / Alumni House Sports Bar & Grill (110 Bass Pro Drive, Pearl, 601-939-5238, / The Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502, / Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589,

Best Place to Dance: Shucker's Oyster Bar

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


Photo courtesy Shucker’s Oyster Bar

As 2017 revs up and warmer weather looms, Jacksonians have voted to say that Shucker's Oyster Bar is the Best Place to Dance in the metro area. On weekends, Shucker's often boasts not one, not two, but three different musical acts over the course of a single night, ensuring that all manner of rugs can—and will—be cut.

"We have a live band to dance to, and when the band goes on break, we have a deejay to dance to," manager Tony Terranova says. "So there's something high-energy going on at all times."

If those performers aren't exactly your speed, or you just want a change of scene, there's usually a second more laid-back act playing on Shucker's deck (so really, even wallflowers have no excuse).—Alex Thiel

Finalists: F. Jones Corner (303 N. Farish St., 601-983-1148, / The Hideaway (5100 Interstate 55 N., 601-291-4759, / 
WonderLust (3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700)

Best LGBT Hangout: WonderLust

3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003,


Photo courtesy Wonderlust

WonderLust owner Jesse Pandolfo says that after Jackson's previous LGBT club, Bottoms Up, closed at the end of 2014, people just needed somewhere to go, and she knew that she could help.

She opened the WonderLust in September 2015 and has now won Best LGBT Hangout two years running. The 18-and-up club is open Wednesday through Saturday and features a weekly karaoke night and drag show. Over the past year, the club also began bringing in star drag performers such as Jaidynn Diore Fierce and DiDa Ritz from reality show "RuPaul's Drag Race."

"We have been booking bigger and bigger talent, and the acts are only going to get more famous," Pandolfo says.

The club plays a wide range of music, including hip-hop, EDM and Top-40 remixes. Pandolfo says that when people ask what the best club in Jackson is, she wants the first thought to be "the gay bar, WonderLust."—Tyler Edwards

Finalists: Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, / Cups Espresso Cafe (Multiple locations; / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / 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


Trip Burns/File Photo

The Green Room has a healthy dynasty on its shoulders when it comes to Best of Jackson wins. For more than seven years, the combination restaurant, bar and billiards room has received the most votes for Best Place to Play Pool, but like all the best pool players, it's not as easy as The Green Room makes it look.

There are tons of great bars in the metro area to put your cue to work, but The Green Room's drink and food selections, and its commitment to the game keep Jacksonians coming back. One of the bar's biggest draws is its pool league, which takes place Monday through Friday every week.

However, The Green Room isn't just for the billiards elite—all levels of skill are welcome to play, and the bar even has instructors to up your game.—Micah Smith

Finalists: Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700, / One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Reed Pierce's Eat, Drink & Play (6791 S. Siwell Road, Byram, 601-376-0777, / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

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