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Best Of 1999

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Best Of :: People & Places

BEST POOL HALL

If you're going to shoot stick, shoot stick with the best. Shoot stick where old-timers spin tall tales for the wide-eyed, eager youngsters. Where the waft of Marlboro reds keeps hustlers buzzing until the doors lock at 4:00 a.m., and where seasoned journeymen stop for some action on their way through town. Shoot stick where there's no booze to bleed your bank account or cloud your judgment. Shoot stick where it's all about the game. Old school. At this cavernous, well-kept suburban haunt--owned and operated by 31-year-old World Champion Jimmy "The Kid" Wetch--the sure-shot regulars always sport a wad, often wrapped in a worn rubber band. They don't carry the cash to pay for table time, which is only two bucks an hour per player during the day and $6.50 an hour per player at night. (From midnight to 4:00 a.m., $7 will buy a player unlimited time.) These guys (and plenty of gals, we'll have you know) carry a stake just in case someone is ready to make it interesting, ready to flex his nerves. Meanwhile, novices and wannabes can hack to their heart's content. No one will judge, as long as you respect the tradition. Wetch, who likes to pace the carpet when he's not practicing at one of his joint's 26 tables, will even give you a few tips. A master at position play, he'll drop knowledge on angles, percentages, and technique. If you can talk the talk, you might even convince him to bust up a rack. Then, as the schooling commences, you can take time to fiddle with the arrow-straight house cue, chalk away at the finely manicured tip, and marvel as the polished balls float across the carefully calibrated table, only to drop with a soft, seductive thud. And if Wetch isn't in the house, don't fret: You'll still leave feeling like a player.

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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