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Best Of 1999

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BEST BOXER

When the 106-pound Grigsby captured the vacant IBF junior flyweight title in December, the St. Paul native also became the first Minnesotan to win an internationally recognized belt since World War I, when St. Paul's Mike "The Harp" O'Dowd held the middleweight crown. That alone would certainly put Grigsby in the running as the state's best boxer. Then, this past March, Grigsby supplied the cherry on top, as he successfully defended his title at the University of Minnesota. It was the first championship bout held in the state since Larry Holmes KO'd heavyweight contender (and Minnesota native son) Scott LeDoux back in 1980. Grigsby's title defense--a 12-round unanimous decision--may have disappointed some fans. His opponent--an obscure Filipino, Carmel Caceres--was brought in at the last minute because a more highly regarded fighter had visa troubles in Thailand (at least according to promoter Don King). The 29-year-old Grigsby, a counterpuncher, still displayed plenty of ring mastery, as he flecked away at the cautious Caceres with a stiff jab. And despite an injured hand, Grigsby showed flashes of power, too, dropping Caceres in the 12th round with a rugged body shot. A former Golden Gloves champ, Grigsby has followed a wobbly, but, in the fight world, not unusual career trajectory: signs of early promise, an extended layoff, scraps with the law, beefs with managers, and, in the end, an impressive return to the ring. Oh, did we mention that he has sustained just a single loss as a pro? With a stable management team and money in the bank ($55,000 from the February bout), Grigsby looks to remain on the scene for a good long spell--a welcome bit of good news for a Twin Cities boxing community still reeling from the death of "Jumping" Johnny Montantes, the popular St. Paul lightweight who suffered a fatal brain injury in a Vegas fight two years ago.

BEST ACOUSTIC PERFORMER

If you think traditional American folk music is all about frogs and mama, go out and buy the American Anthology of Folk Music. Sex and violence are at the heart of our folk tradition, folks. But if the '60s revival did occasionally glance down at these darker roots, it more often set its sights on contemporary social struggles, forever associating the acoustic guitar with peace and justice. Three decades later the local acoustic scene has produced a number of ("post-")folk stars who mess with our ideas of what strumming sans amplifier should be about, including the Mason Jennings Band and Brenda Weiler. (Both, with any luck, will become giant pop stars in a few minutes.) Still, only singer-songwriter Pablo revives folk's first-person-narrative tradition of sex and violence, and he manages to do so without sounding either exhibitionist or boastful. He has a remarkable vocal range with a throat affectation that's in Dylan's tradition, not his style. Pablo's melodies sound like they've been thrown down a flight of stairs, jumping scores of notes, sometimes in a single syllable. "Goddamn the agile sexless dreams of imperfect history," he quavers at one point on his agile, sexful 1998 album, Vulgar Modalities. You tell it, brother.

BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS

Last fall when rumor began spreading that there was a 23-year-old drum 'n' bass artist working out of his parents' Edina basement, many local insiders assumed the music he made would be a fraction as interesting as that exotic home life. Well, we were wrong. The willfully elusive anti-beats and ductile, melodic structures found on Mandell's import debut Parallel Processes have made for the most innovative, if not just plain best, music this town has produced since the Jayhawks' heyday. Mandell's classically influenced "techno etc." is simultaneously as challengingly rich and accessibly hooky as that of his U.K. post-rave contemporaries Autechre. And even if it could stand an inflection of the wistful cutesiness evinced by his compositional hero Aphex Twin, Mandell's seriousness has an admirable integrity that's sorely lacking in the cheap ironists who parody techno's cheesy lineage in disposable disco. As music, Parallel Processes updates Schoenberg for the Twenty-First Century, making love to your ear hole just as passionately as it plays with your mind's eye.

BEST ALL-AGES VENUE

It comes as little surprise that as the nation's latest baby boom passes into adolescence, all-ages venues such as the Whole Music Club on the University of Minnesota campus, Bon Appétit in Dinkytown, and the Coffee Shock in St. Paul are experiencing a late-'90s boom. But the Foxfire Coffee Lounge has managed to do something more than merely cash in demographic trends. The downtown Minneapolis club has remained both forward-looking and inclusive during its first year of existence, with early band bookings including little-known but highly acclaimed national acts such as indie-rockers Creeper Lagoon and punk-funkers the Make Up. The coffee-and-sandwich shop also gives its high-ceilinged, wood-floored space over to weekly teen Bible-study meetings, DJ nights, periodic hip-hop get-togethers, and hardcore punk shows. Chances are you'll find the widest age range of punk fans in the Cities here, sometimes scrunched into the same deep-cushioned couches.

BEST BAD TIMING

The day after the Vikings' dismal loss in the NFC title game, McCombs's lieutenants met with state officials to begin pressing their case for a new stadium. It's only a matter of time until Vegas posts odds on how much longer the team will stay in town.

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