best of wny

Spree staff and writers began work on this issue in January, as we tweaked last year’s categories (next year we will change them more radically) and prepared the public poll. In March, we assembled three separate groups of panelists, choosing largely from Spree writers as well as some guest panelists. In April the panels met, and in May editor Elizabeth Licata reconciled the panel choices with the poll results. The brief write-ups for the winners were written by William Altreuter, Catherine Berlin, Ron Ehmke, and Elizabeth Licata. We also asked other Spree writers for their descriptions of some of the winners, alternate choices, and categories we did not use (“none of the above”). Producing a “Best Of” is quite a process, but we enjoyed it and hope you’ll enjoy the results, whether you agree or not.

Please email us with any suggestions for next year.

Graphic design intern Elizabeth Halliday provided illustrations and some last minute photos, as well as artist J.P. Thimot. The remaining photos were supplied by subjects, from Angel Art Photography, or from Spree photographer Jim Bush.


The panelists for this section were Bruce Adams, Ron Ehmke, Jana Eisenberg, Cynnie Gaasch, Elizabeth Licata, Amy Maxwell, Darwin McPherson, Gerald Mead, Joe Sweeney, Susan Tanner, and Catherine Young. Panel results were combined with poll results to arrive at the winners. When the public poll did not have anything approaching a clear majority, panel results only were used. Panelists who had connections to any of the finalists (this was rare) recused themselves from those discussions.

Remix the Collection at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
By resurrecting seldom-seen works, offering first glimpses at new acquisitions, and proposing fresh juxtapositions of old favorites, the Albright-Knox has pulled from its regular collection a better show than many of their traveling ones.
Second place:
24/12 series at Burchfield-Penney Art Center
(Baffling picks from the reader poll: “snow,” “Taste of Buffalo,” “the Erie County Fair.”)
best of wny

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
(1285 Elmwood Ave., 882-8700,
Our panelists and readers agree: throughout a difficult year, this world-class institution remained true to its mission and continued to find new ways to keep itself relevant and useful to the community.

(617 Main St., 856-2717,
best of wny
Consistently thoughtful shows with an international scope and expert curation, supplemented with hands-on workshops.
Second place:
Carnegie Art Center
(240 Goundry St., North Tonawanda; 694-4400,
The programming here gets more ambitious every season, and more and more city-dwellers are making the trip to NT to check it out.

Buffalo Arts Studio
(2495 Main St., Ste. 500, 833-4450,
The gallery shop is a great place to find everything from paintings to vases to jewelry, all by local artists.
Second place:
The Allentown Art Festival
(held the second weekend in June every year)
Our readers’ top pick.

-Bruce Adams
Place to buy high-end art

This spring, the place to purchase exquisite museum-caliber art and artifacts had to be Sotheby’s, the legendary auction house where items recently deaccessioned from the collection of the Albright Knox were sold. Let’s face it; where else could you pick up a nice limestone wall fragment for a cool $1.06 million? Of course, if $8.1 million for a late Shang Dynasty bronze wine vessel was a bit steep for your budget, well, you weren’t alone. None of Buffalo’s millionaires or philanthropic foundations came forward to pony up the loot to preserve “Buffalo’s heritage” either. But hey, you can’t say you didn’t know about the sale. It was kind-of, uh, well-publicized, making it one very successful fundraiser.

Nina Freudenheim Gallery
(140 North St., 882-5777,
This well-known commercial gallery has been showcasing work from both outside and inside WNY for over thirty years with consistently excellent results.
Second place:
Meibohm Fine Arts
(478 Main St., East Aurora;
A thoughtful rotation of local artists, along with some historic figures, at a great location near the Roycroft Campus.

(Daemen College campus, 839-8540,
From Sammy and Me in January 2006 to this very moment, this long-established company has delivered consistently entertaining, high-quality, technically proficient productions that celebrate every aspect of live performance.
Second place:
None of the above
-Jeffrey Levine
Best resurrection

Like the mythical phoenix that rises from its own ashes, Buffalonians witnessed the miraculous second coming of the Tralf last fall. Having spent two years in the hands of an inexperienced manager, the Tralf had accumulated a shameful roster of canceled shows, unpaid vendors, non-existent permits, and over-capacity-crowd brawls—all of which led to the closing of the business.

It has now reopened as the New Tralf under Peter Goretti. Goretti and fellow wise man Anthony Marfione have breathed new life into the Main Street mainstay, revitalizing Ed Lawson’s original vision by booking the patron saints of song, strings, keys, and skins that first made the Tralf famous. Continuing the work started by saxophone guru and former manager Bobby Militello, Goretti and Marfione are zealously rebuilding the Tralf, helping it to ascend back to its rightful place as a jazz Mecca for all the road-weary pilgrims of the downbeat.
The Kavinoky Theatre
(320 Porter Ave., 829-7668, or
The fare may not always be the most challenging, but the company’s still-appealing work is exceptionally well-produced, well-performed, and appealing on all levels—and has been for many years.

Shea’s Performing
Arts Center

(646 Main St., 847-1410, or
Oh, the grandeur! Even if you’re bored by the show, the sheer experience is still a treat.
Second place:
Studio Arena Theatre
(710 Main St., 856-5650,
The sight lines take every audience member into account, the space is intimate and accessible—and the seats are comfortable enough to sleep in, as some of our panelists could attest. (Our readers were in complete agreement on both winners.)

Louis Colaiacovo
The panel singled him out for his work in The Last Five Years and tick … tick … BOOM, noting that it’s always a pleasure to watch a talented supporting performer evolve into an outstanding leading man.
Second place:
Brian Riggs
(The reader who said “nobody here” needs to get out more.)

best of wny
Loraine O’Donnell
A wonderfully versatile performer capable of both comedy and drama—to say nothing of her incredible singing voice.
Second place:
Josephine Hogan
This perennial audience favorite was a smash with our readers.

Brother Augustine Towey
“Bro” has been a Western New York treasure
for decades; he continues to impress us.
best of wny
Second place:
Randall Kramer, MusicalFare


Terminus, Torn Space
This astoundingly ambitious original production showcased the Central Terminal with rust-belt surrealism.
Second place:
Juno and the Paycock at Irish Classical

Tie: Babik/Chu Nero
A huge favorite with the readers and our panelists alike, Babik’s music fits every location and occasion, with a repertoire that goes well
best of wny
beyond the standards. As for Nero, whether
he’s playing in a jazz trio or in Tommy Z’s
blues band, he’s always tasteful with a really deep spiritual undertone.
Second place:
Dee Adams

Knife Crazy
These guys smack indie rock upside its mopey, humorless head, unleashing a brand of unadulterated, schizophrenic rock that has the insanity of Mr. Bungle, the ambition of early Genesis, and the dark beauty of Tool.
Second place:
The Old Sweethearts
(The readers kept going on about somebody called the “Goo Goo Dolls,” but we figured the name was made up and decided to stick with acts that might have some staying power.)

The Skiffle Minstrels
These moonlighting theater folk always look like they’re having a great time, and so do their audiences.
Second place:
Strictly Hip
Our readers can’t get enough of these Hip replacements.

None of the above
-Susan Tanner
Best alternative to radio

I don’t have a CD player or a tape deck in my car. If I can’t find a radio station that I can tolerate, I’ll look for NPR, or turn it off and sing to myself. Built-in entertainment!

I also don’t own an iPod. I’ll get around to catching up with technology one day. But for now, at work, I usually put a CD on and listen through my computer.

However, WHEN I DISCOVERED INTERNET RADIO—THEN PODCASTS, THEN PANDORA, THEN LAST.FM— everything changed! Who needs terrestrial radio?

I feel like I’m in Austin long past South by Southwest when I stream KGSR or KUT. I moan about how great commercial radio can be when I check out the music on WXRT in Chicago. I listen to Nic Harcourt’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” show on KCRW from Los Angeles.

And I program my own station on ( Started by three music-obsessed men in London, England, and recently purchased by CBS, has become one of the major music/social networking sites on the Internet. By using your iPod or music player on your computer, will keep track of what you play and create a playlist of your music. You can share your playlists with other subscribers, who can in turn, subscribe and listen to your radio station. By looking at others’ profiles, you can also learn more about bands you might never have heard about before.

Pandora ( is similar in that it also streams music based upon your tastes. Type in an artist and it makes recommendations through what they call the Music Genome Project—sort of the DNA of music—based upon the style of music, lyrics, similar artists, etc. You give feedback to a recommendation, either letting the player know you like the artist or song and asking it to play more, or telling it to not to play anything of the sort. In that way, you customize your radio. Pandora is especially good at turning me on to new artists.

I still listen to the radio, but now, I have an entirely new world of music—one where I love every song that’s played—and it’s available with just a few keystrokes.

DJ Anthony
We deferred to our readers on this KISS-98 mainstay whose personal appearances always draw a crowd.
Second place:
DJ Cutler

Brian Wheat
We can easily envision a national following for this relative newcomer’s elegant, quiet compositions and the quirky deconstructions of unusual covers that are a highlight of his live shows.
Second place:
Noa Bursie
This Nietzsche’s staple writes songs that merge several different styles (R&B, country, gospel, and more) and delivers them with a strong, unique voice. (“Does saying ‘Ani’ still count?” asked one reader—and a whole bunch of others went right ahead and said it without asking—but we wanted to salute some up-and-comers in this category.)

Terry Sullivan, THEErthMoovsaroundTHESun
One of Buffalo’s all-time greatest rock performers creates a “microspective” built around his magical voice, using inventive production to evoke his high-intensity stage presence.
Second place:
Babik, Live at Sessions

best of wny
David Moore
Second place:

Rob Lynch
Unsurprisingly for such a musical town, our panel had no trouble picking nominees and a lot of trouble deciding on just two winners. In order to represent the full range of talent, they picked one player best known for a single instrument and band (Moore, bagpiper for Jackdaw) and a multi-instrumentalist (that would be Lynch) who happily backs up anyone and everyone at the spur of the moment.

best of wny
(248 Allen St., 886-8539,
Our readers had trouble spelling it, while our panelists applauded its longstanding support of the community.
Second place:
Mohawk Place
(47 E. Mohawk, 855-3931,

Best patrons of the arts:
Albright-Knox board of directors

-Bruce Adams

So you’re doing your job. You’re carrying out an important fiduciary responsibility, a role you take very seriously, requiring of you considerable personal time and cash. You step outside one day and there’s an angry mob wielding torches and pitchforks lobbing bad metaphors and spurious logic your way. This could get ugly.

That’s how it must have felt to the board of the Albright-Knox after they announced the planned deaccession of seldom-exhibited works from the museum’s collection, works which some folks around these parts didn’t want to see sold. Media attacks, lawsuits, personal attacks, public meetings, even death threats followed. The self-importantly named “Buffalo Art Keepers” led the throng in an endless assault that lasted far longer than the credibility of their arguments, until their last-ditch ill-conceived lawsuit against the gallery was thrown out of court.

So how did the folks at the AKAG handle the commotion? Remarkably: with patience, diplomacy, and poise. They observed laws, followed policies, and treated the “Art Keepers” and others against the sale with respect. The hoopla culminated with a membership meeting and vote at which all sides were treated with uncommon civility. When the final torches were extinguished, the board (and staff) of the AKAG retained their dignity. Local politicians and city school representatives, take note. (The board’s decision received financial vindication. The sales brought in $67 million.—editor)

The board of directors of the Albright-Knox
They’ve stood by the museum’s mission when the organization needed them most. We can’t wait to see what they’re planning for the future.
Second place:
best of wny
David Kennedy
The pater familias of avant-garde jazz, this passionate music-lover has been quietly sharing the wealth for years.

(341 Delaware Ave., 854-1694,
If it’s innovation and experimentation you want—created by international as well as local performers, sometimes in collaboration—this is the spot to frequent.
Second place:
The Colored Musicians Club
(145 Broadway, 855-9383)
The vibe here is intimate, the programming is both reliable and consistent, and the guest cameos always exciting.

(450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston; 754-4375,
Love the eclectic range of offerings, the many free shows, the annual BPO concerts. Hate the traffic.
Second place:
Gateway Park
(Along the Erie Canal, North Tonawanda):
You can’t beat that view, or the free shows three nights a week, and the Saturday night lineup ( often outshines similar series around WNY.
(Thursday at the Square was the clear public pick, with Artpark a close second, but once again we want to encourage folks to think outside the Square, which, let’s face it, can be a fairly unpleasant venue if you’re actually interested in the music.)

E. B. Green’s Steakhouse
(Hyatt Regency, 2 Fountain Plaza, 855-4870)
Both our readers and our panelists found the artistry of Jackie Jocko an easy choice.
Second place:
The Park Lane
Gone, but not forgotten.

best of wny
Essex Street Pub
(530 Rhode island St., 883-2150)
This one has a little bit of everything, it’s up to date, and it’s not afraid to move outside the mainstream.
Second place:
Frizzy’s Bar & Grill
(140 Allen St., 883-5077)
A reader fave.

Kleinhans Music Hall
(Symphony Circle)
A no-brainer for both the readers and the panel, this local landmark was recently restored, but it was already almost perfect.
Second place:
Town Ballroom
(681 Main St., 852-3900)

best of wny
Dipson’s North Park
(1428 Hertel Ave.,
Our panel balked at the “hideously uncomfortable seats reminiscent of your grandfather’s barcalounger” but praised the architecture, the majestic marquee, the conveniently located snack bar, and—all nostalgia aside—the movie choices themselves.
Second place:
Dipson’s Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre
(639 Main St.,
We’re overlooking the readers’ preference for the Regal chain to salute this multiplex’s ongoing support of local productions and to shed a tear for the now-defunct Emerging Cinema experiment.

best of wny
(341 Delaware Ave., 854-1694,
This literary stalwart makes a comfy home for the Gray Hair reading series plus numerous events cosponsored by Talking Leaves and/or Just Buffalo.
Second place:
Rust Belt Books
(202 Allen St., 885-9535)
(We also liked the reader vote for “any press conference involving a local politician,” though those generally entail far more fiction than poetry.)


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