Windsor Independent’s Best of 2013 – Sights & Sounds Edition

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We asked, and you answered – here are the winners of our Best of 2013 Awards, as voted by Windsor Independent readers. Below, you’ll find all of the best places to do and hear all of the coolest things Windsor has to offer.

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BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE: PHOG LOUNGE

Best Live Music Venue goes to Phog Lounge for their hard work and support of live music. Located in the heart of downtown Windsor, Phog has proven itself over the years to be the best destination for local, national & international talent. Not new to winning awards, this is their eighth award over the years for Best Live Music Venue, including winning the incredible CBC Radio 3 Searchlight Award for best in Canada and CJAM’s Jammy award 6 times. Phog opens it’s doors to help be the platform to all types of film makers, artists and musicians just wanted to get their vision out there. Back in 2008, they created Phog Fest, which over the last five years has turned into a must-attend event. Last year alone featured over 30 bands, on four stages over two days. Need a night of awesome live music? Phog has shown that they are the place to be.

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BEST PLACE TO DANCE: THE LOOP

If you haven’t been to The Loop on a Saturday night, then you’re missing one of downtown Windsor’s best parties, happening regularily week after week. With an atmosphere that is welcoming to anybody and everybody, and music that strays from the typical dance club offering, it isn’t hard to see why the Loop won this category in an almost unanimous landslide. Their signature “Double Mud” drink is a teetotaller’s worst nightmare, with enough punch to have even the most uptight out on the dance floor within two songs.

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BEST THRIFT SHOP: VALUE VILLAGE

It’s quite a unique feeling when you’re able to find that perfect item between the racks at a thrift shop. Kanye West had a popular song about it last year… something about 99 cent items, and him being bigger than God. Okay, maybe we’re getting that wrong – but the best part of thrift shopping is finding the unexpected. Taking first place for Best Thrift Shop is Value Village, the king of second-hand items and hipster fashion. While Halloween and ugly Christmas sweater season may bring out the most patrons, Value Village has wicked deals year round.

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BEST KARAOKE: VILLAINS BEASTRO

One of the most interesting venues in Windsor, Villains Beastro hosts P.U.K.E. (People Using Karaoke Equipment) on Wednesday nights. It’s hard not to love getting drunk with your friends and embarassing yourself with a microphone, and Villains lets you do it in style. Take in their impressive ambiance, with artwork of iconic pop culture evildoers (drawn by graphic artist Dave Houle) lining the walls. The Barrel House in Windsor’s west side, hosted by local karaoke legend Pat Ryan, brought in second place with a respectable amount of votes.

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BEST BOOKSTORE: JUNIPER

In a landslide win, Juniper Books on Ottawa St. captured the Best Bookstore votes, against top rivals Biblioasis and The Bookroom. Selling used and rare books, as well as local publishings, Juniper has many treasures waiting to be discovered. The friendly staff creates an environment of comfort, allowing you to become lost between the shelves or pages. Their collection has grown since their opening in 2006 to contain over 50,000 titles, filling nearly every nook of the store. If you are looking to unload a few volumes, Juniper purchases non-fiction and trade fiction to add to their impressive selection.

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BEST TRIVIA: THE MANCHESTER

Every Wednesday people have been flocking downtown for Trivia night. Edging out Rock Bottom to win Best Trivia Night, the Manchester Pub has Francois Jacques to thank. Starting in April 2011, Francois came to the pub asking for a chance that has now turned into a sensation. Each Wednesday he puts together 3 rounds, each consisting of 10 questions and a 15 question speed round of intellectual fun by incorporating video, music and his own witty charm. To be a little cliché, this fun-for-all-ages game is free to play with chances of winning food (for round victories), exclusive Manchester Dollars and gifts donated by beer companies including local Walkerville Brewery. Francois’s Mack Flash Entertainment business now includes fundraising events, private parties and even other venues like Villains’ Spectacular Night of Trivia (SNOT, which took third place) and Shooter’s in Amherstburg. Join Francois at the Manchester Pub every Wednesday starting at 7pm to see what all the fuss is about.

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BEST HAIRCUT: POP

Hair salon/tattoo shop by day and art gallery by night.  Located in “Little Italy” on the east side of Erie street, POP Hair Gallery boasts some rad stylists with some serious talent.  The salon supplies clients with top shelf products by Unite, Kevin Murphy, DevaCurl and Alcove.  With four in-house industry educators, you’re sure to leave a happy customer. An impressive facade makes POP one of the coolest looking buildings on the block. Special mention to stylist Nikki Antic, who personally drew in numerous nods in the nominations.

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BEST DIVE BAR: COACH & HORSES

The finest heavy metal/hardcore venue that our city has to offer, The Coach & Horses took home the top spot in the Best Dive Bar category. Located in the basement of the Loop complex, The Coach is a brutal hole of a bar that isn’t about cheap frills, but good company and loud music. A first time visitor stumbling down the steps might be taken aback, but after a few visits you get used to the smell and learn to enjoy the charm that the bar exudes. Many of the shows are free, and those that have cover are worth the money.

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BEST LOCAL BAND: GYPSY CHIEF GOLIATH

This year’s Best Local Band have been making a huge buzz with their patented brand of stoner metal and southern rock, and with the release of their new album New Machines of the Night, these local boys are ready to melt faces across the country and beyond. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them live, you’re really missing out – prepare to immerse yourself in one of the loudest shows you’ll ever see, featuring a powerful rhythm section, genre-defying vocals and a melee of sweat and facial hair. Oh, and one hell of a harmonica player. Gypsy Chief Goliath are taking the world of heavy music by storm, and we’re proud to see them rise through the smoke to become our ambassadors to the world. Give ‘em hell, boys.

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BEST FEMALE SOLO ARTIST: TARA WATTS

Picking a favourite out of the enormous pool of talented female singer-songwriters in the city of Windsor is like pulling out our own teeth – so, we left the decision up to you, and you chose wisely. This year’s winner is one of Windsor’s most recognizable voices who has spent the past several years making a name for herself as a solo musician, open mic host and member of local supergroup The Locusts Have No King. Tara Watts’ smoke-singed voice rings through crowded bars, taking cues from Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin while still carving out a distinct place in even the haziest of your drunken memories. It’s an enjoyable haunting if there ever was one, and while we haven’t heard new music from the roots-rock songstress in a few years, the city waits with baited breath to hear where she’ll go next.

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BEST MALE SOLO ARTIST: DAVE RUSSELL

Being a local solo musician is hard work these days, and the number of singer-songwriters living the working musician’s dream seems to be getting larger despite all of the obstacles stacked in their way. This year’s winner for Best Local Solo Male Musician is a testament to the amount of work it takes to keep your head above the water in this business while still staying true to yourself and your music. Dave Russell has been pounding the pavement for more than ten years in Windsor, playing everything from open mics to cover gigs; branching out as a member of Fake Low, Inoke Errati and many more projects along the way; and touring across the country with a guitar strapped to his back. With the formation of his band, The Precious Stones, as well as the release of their brand-new album, Deep Talk In Shallow Water, the past year has helped make Russell a household name in Windsor – and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2014.

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BEST TATTOO ARTIST: DAVE KANT

Tattooing out of Advanced Tattoo on Ouellette Ave., Dave Kant has been in the profession for over eight years, creating some of the most mind-blowing designs that our city has to offer. His passion for the art form bleeds into every piece that he creates. First suggested to the profession by a friend, once Kant put the needle to skin, it clicked and he knew what he was meant to do.  His inspirations range from comic book artists, to the Group of Seven and Van Gogh, as well as fellow tattoo artists Chris Garber and Shawn Barber.  Kant enjoys the challenge behind each design, and the ability to always be learning something new. Check out his work at Advanced if you are looking to get a truly unique design.

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BEST GRAFFITI ARTIST: DENIAL

To call Denial our Best Local Graffiti Artist is a bit of an understatement on the complex animal that is subversive art. If you have your eyes open as you walk around Windsor, you’ll see his signature D3N!@L stickers on almost every surface – an experience you can repeat in cities around the world. Since his worldwide sticker-art campaign started in 2000, he’s become a force to be reckoned with, diving headfirst into the world of mixed-media art while changing the way we look at graffiti and public space. His art parodies the absurdity of corporate ownership of public space, and challenges the messages that modern advertising sends about politics and media – and it all started right here in Windsor. This year, we recognize Denial not only for his ground-breaking graffiti work, but also for taking the initiative to challenge convention and force people to see the world through an alternative lens. Head on over to his website to pick up some stickers and be a part of the movement.

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BEST LOCAL SHOP: DR. DISC

A staple in our community since 1982, Dr. Disc is one of the last few of a dying breed. With record shops  dissapearing quicker than you can count, the Dr. must be doing something right to maintain its loyal customer base. With a huge selection of new and used CD’s, as well as vinyl records and in store performances, its easy to see why Dr. Disc came in as Best Local Shop. Bringing up a close second place was Pete’s Pipes, a head shop with enough hand blown glass and unique pieces to suit any needs and desires. Find both stores downtown on Ouellette Ave.

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BEST STRIP CLUB: LEOPARD’S

For those among us with the urge to rid their pockets and wallets of their one dollar bills (not to mention twenties, fifties, and hundo’s), there is a perfect destination. The public has spoken and voted Leopard’s Lounge as the best strip club in Windsor.  In a city that is often referred to as the “Sin City of the North”, this is a high honour to bestow.  Taking this poll by a landslide, ‘Uncle Leo’s” boasts that they have the hottest and friendliest companions around. If nudity isn’t your thing, they’re also known for having one hell of a lunch.

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BEST RADIO STATION: CJAM FM

Windsor has spoken once again, and their choice was a no-brainer – CJAM is this year’s Best Radio Station in town. For the last thirty years, they’ve been filling the local airwaves with all of the sweet sounds you won’t find anywhere else. Fans of independent music find themselves drawn to the diversity of genres showcased, and local independent musicians rely on the station’s support to keep people humming their songs and seeing their shows. The station gives a platform to voices that have long been kept from the airwaves, tackling taboo topics and supporting grassroots movements that reflect the cultural and social diversity of our great city. At it’s core, CJAM is a living, breathing extension of our community and all that it has to offer, thanks to the hard work and intrepid spirit of the volunteers that keep the station plugging away. Anyone can contribute to the shape and direction of CJAM, so it only makes sense that a radio station for the people, by the people would take the cake.

So there you have it, folks – the best places to spend those dollars and hours in Windsor. Support local, and party on.