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Best bands, clubs and dating spots

PLUS: Our Readers' Poll results

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Best Cheap Date

Cheaper than a roofie and much easier to find, some good cold beer from The Red Hot will do the trick just fine when it comes to getting your date to pass out.  No need to waste the time and money on a steak dinner and fine wine, a Hilltop Strangler hot dog along with some Filthy Nachos and many beers should do the trick just fine. Why do you need a snobby date anyway? If they can’t hang with the crew and down a few dogs, they’re not worth the 2 a.m trip to Walgreens for rubbers. The Red Hot celebrates one year of tasty dogs, cheap beer, weekly film nights and pinball in August. — Steph DeRosa

[The Red Hot, 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.779.0229]

Best Place to Dump Someone

God forbid that your best bet in 2008 might center around letting loose of that man or woman around your shoulder, but if the dirty deed must be done, do it in a public place with the fewest of complications.

Katie Downs features great pizza and curly fries, but they also lead the way in being the “very very of public places.” Shout in this joint and people notice. Any jilted lover with half a sense knows a scene here plays out like bad street theater. If you feel confident the showdown plays better in a crowd, tell her or him you’d like to see other people while also enjoying the view of Commencement Bay and several lovely ales on tap.

But, heed this warning. If a temper-tantrum remains inevitable, stay home and break up over the phone. At Katie’s, tables bump up to each other as beer swirlers join together in one open room where, if everybody doesn’t know your name now, they will when your ex of two seconds slaps that “it’s not you it’s me” expression right off your dumb-ass face.

Good luck. — SD

[Katie Downs, 3211 Ruston Way, Tacoma, 253.756.0771]

Best Stripper Pole

Being on a stripper pole just got a little less sleezy. The Acme Grub Cage has officially taken away the “grub” and done gotten themselves a liquor license. Even if you’re not there to make any money, get the guys liquored up enough and they’ll throw you some cash if you straddle that pole for an entire chorus of “Back in Black.” They’ve also taken up that old nasty-ass carpet; so minor rug burns as you’re slipping down to the bottom of the pole are no longer a concern. — SD

[Acme Tavern, 1310 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, 253.272.1892]

Best Dockyard Derby Dame

Blonde Amazon is an amazing woman. When she’s not tearing women down on the derby track as one of (if not the absolute) tallest in the league as a member of The Hellbound Homewreckers, she’s taking care of patients as a nurse. She and her husband are both devotedly involved in the Dockyard Derby Dames (, and they uniquely care about the league’s overall success. Her eyes can both soften with tenderness and harden with the ultimate in sportswomanship and athletic determination. I’ll always cheer the loudest for Blonde Amazon. — Natasha Gorbachev

Best Bathroom Make Out

It starts with the line at The Monsoon Room. You are there waiting to remove some of the liquid you have just ingested, playing shadow puppets by light that shines a spot onto the floor with that person you were seeing from across the bar. Your hands brush as you giggle at the shadow creatures you are creating. The line thins, and as the next person enters, it’s just the two of you, back there in the shadows around the corner … waiting, giggling … looking. When the door opens again its like an invitation, so easy to just walk in there together and try a few of the things you know you were both just thinking about trying there in the hall. Once inside there isn’t really much to do but push each other against the wall, unless someone wants to sit on the sink. It wont be long before you hear a knock, and you get caught by god knows who … your spouse? Oops. “I uh, I didn’t know she was in there, and I had to go so bad I didn’t care. I mean, I asked her to leave.” Half of the fun is the Russian roulette of who will be drawn into your triangle of make out intrigue. — Daniel Blue

[The Monsoon Room, 1022 S. J St., Tacoma, 253.722.5075]

Best Bars for Singles

There’s no doubt in my mind that the two best places to be single, especially on the weekends, are the Swiss and Masa. Both establishments are teaming with people. The crowd waiting to get into the Swiss extends around the building when bands including Kry play. Masa turns into Club Masa on the weekends where you’ll experience a packed house and a DJ mixing salsa and reggaeton with all sorts of bodies grooving and spinning. Arriving early is a great idea for both establishments so you can grab a table, and let the people-watching, meeting and partying begin. — NG

[The Swiss, 1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma, 253.572.2821]

[Masa, 2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.254.0560]

Best Headshop

No one likes visiting two, three or even four headshops just to find a decent glass pipe — for smoking, um, you know, tobacco and whatnot. Nobody likes it when pipe shops charge ridiculous prices for chintzy pieces of junk that probably took some deadhead burnout four and a half minutes to make. I like a headshop with a serious selection, competent staff, reasonable prices and a focus on just one vice — you know, smoking, um, tobacco and stuff. For my money (which is actually already spent on, um, well, tobacco and stuff) the best headshop in Tacoma is the Greenroom at 6413 Sixth Ave. In the back of an empty strip mall, behind a storefront façade of darkened glass — the Greenroom has a healthy selection of anything you could be looking for. And if you’ve got a piss test to take, they know what you need — and they have it. Scales, pipes, bongs, potions that make your pee clean — most things you could need when it comes to smoking, well, um, tobacco and stuff, you’ll find at the Greenroom. — Matt Driscoll

[Greenroom, 6413 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.566.6436]

Best Place To Get A Hooker

Where is the best place in Tacoma to find a hooker? Seems like a reasonable question. While in the good ol’ days the choices would have listed like a tour brochure for Grit City rough spots — Puyallup Avenue, Tacoma Avenue, South Tacoma Way — these days a sophisticated gentleman in search of a sophisticated BJ for under a hundred dollars need look no farther than the Internet. Craigslist provides hooker shopping 24 hours a day, and you don’t even need to burn gas money driving around until you see one with all her teeth. If you’re hard up enough to hire sex, the Internet has finally made it easy. And just to be fair, Craigslist also has ads for gigolos, gay boy toys, transgenders for hire, and pretty much anything else you could possibly desire. Thank God for technology. — MD 

Best Costume Karaoke

Every Thursday night is karaoke night at the Tempest Lounge on Hilltop Tacoma, and it’s like no other sing-along party in the city. There are thousands of songs, with all the usual suspects, and performers range from the fun (a polished duet of “Girl You Know It’s True”) to the truly awful. So far, so good. Except the young woman who’s belting out Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is wearing a child’s hooded Winnie the Pooh costume, complete with little yellow ears. It’s the kind of costume you might take your elementary schooler trick-or-treating in. When Slash’s epic guitar solo comes around, she begins miming away on an inflatable Flying V guitar. A little later, another 20-something woman takes the stage wearing an old wedding dress and pink fright wig to perform a decent version of — what else? — “Like a Virgin.” It’s Dress-A-Roake with Tacoma’s favorite karaoke host Colin. It’s freakin’ fun. — Suzy Stump

[Tempest Lounge, 8-11 p.m. Thursdays, 913 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 253.272.4904]


Best Female Singer/Songwriter

Vicci Martinez’s style has evolved from folk to rock to blues, and now it sounds a little bit country; but one thing remains the same: her lyrics and melodies are uplifting, endearing and intimate. To know her heart, you need only sit down with some headphones and listen to what she is singing. From her earliest songwriting she used her words to bring a sense of comfort and joy to her listeners. It wasn’t enough to have that amazing voice of hers and the spotlight; she wanted to give something back to the audience. It’s obvious to me every time she’s on the stage — she puts every ounce of her being into her performance, and that’s the reason people go to see her again and again. She may be considered young by some (she’s 21 now) but she’s been writing songs and charming audiences since she was 13 years old and even then she was better at it than almost any adult performer I’ve seen since. — Angela Jossy

Best Male Singer/Songwriter

Evan Purcell could write a song about a paper bag, and it would make you cry. Purcell is the king of nostalgia. A performance by Purcell is like a patchwork portrait of real life characters and their poignant real life stories. Some songs feel like letters to people he has known. All are touched with understanding and sympathy for humanity. Everyday items become special as they are draped in memories. What makes his songs so important is the connection they make with people when they hear them. It’s almost as though Purcell is a novelist who happens to write songs. — Angela Jossy

Best Hip-Hop Group

OK, so we’re going non-traditional on this one. The best hip-hop crew in Tacoma doesn’t just rap. It’s a collective of people known as Fab 5 that have done what many others have failed to do — it’s continued across several generations and incarnations and has consistently produced successful events for years. And Fab 5 consistently represents the many heads of hip-hop — writers, DJs, b-boys, emcees and more. No other organization in Tacoma brings as many heads to the table.

Fab 5 has been holding it down for years now, and has achieved a great deal to further the cause of hip-hop in Tacoma. There are performers in Tacoma that are better than the best artists affiliated with the group. There are probably DJs out there that could give resident DJ Reign a run for his money. I don’t think any crews in Tacoma could take Dance Broomz. Collectively, Fab 5 represents hip-hop successfully and with style. — Paul Schrag

Best Versatile Talent And Ability

Watching Matt Coughlin’s growth as an artist over the last five years has been amazing. Coughlin ‘s songwriting talent is on par with Martin Sexton, Ryan Adams and the like. His focus and drive to learn different instruments and different styles of playing is inspiring. From folk to hard rock, Coughlin covers the spread while maintaining an approachable personality, his good humor and warm heart. — Jennifer Johnson

Best Rock Venue

This category just got much more competitive than it has been in a long time. Since 2002, with little challenge, Hell’s Kitchen has been far and away the best rock venue in town. All things considered, Hell’s Kitchen still reigns supreme. Flash’s club has the best sound and the best bookings of anywhere in the entire South Sound, and there may not be a better venue in the state for punk rock and metal. As time goes on, the Kitchen’s reputation only grows — among bands and fans. There doesn’t look to be an end to the Kitchen’s reign in sight.

However, this year things get interesting thanks to Bob’s Java Jive and Tacoma’s blossoming hipster/rocker/artist community. The kids with tight jeans and ironic hair have claimed every Friday and Saturday as their own, and on a weekly basis some of the best indie bands Tacoma has to offer grace the Java Jive stage. Team Unicorn. The Elephants. Umber Sleeping. The Drug Purse. Waves and Radiation. You’ve probably been hearing about Tacoma’s talented indie set — the Jive is where you find them most of the time. — MD

[Hell’s Kitchen, 3829 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.759.6003]

[Bob’s Java Jive, 2102 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253.475.9843]

Best Rock Band

I hate picking the best band categories. There’s just so much pressure. And musical tastes are so subjective. What do I know, after all? But for the sake of our Best Of issue, I do my best. The best new rock band I’ve seen in quite some time is the Joshua Cain Band. Laying down a bluesed-up, fuzzed-out rock that recalls dusty ideals from the past and a time when music fought oppression and had meaning, the gentleman of the Joshua Cain Band have quickly established themselves as one of Tacoma’s most exciting musical attractions. Or, for the sake of our Best Of issue, let’s say the most exciting. The Joshua Cain Band — swampy, gospel coated Grit City rock at its best — certainly has the sound. And the band’s ’60s civil rights bent is certainly one of a kind. That’s good enough for me. — MD

Best Indie Band

First of all, let it be pointed out how blessed Tacoma is to have a need for this category. There were plenty (see: too many) years in Tacoma’s past where naming a best indie rock band just would have been silly. But not now. Tacoma is an indie hub. While there are so many first rate indie bands worth consideration for this category, like the Elephants, Paris Spleen, Blanco Bronco, Umber Sleeping, Waves and Radiation, or Friskey, I’m going with the new blood. I’m going with Sons of Ivan, if for no other reason than to point out the enormous potential this aptly named Tacoma indie five-piece possesses. Sons of Ivan cash in on that potential a little more with every show — which is why they’re this year’s best.  — MD







BEST WEDDING SITE: Pagoda at Point Defiance Park

BEST ROCK BAND: The F***ing Eagles

BEST JAZZ BAND: Kareem Kandi Band

BEST BLUES BAND: Randy Oxford Band



BEST OPEN MIKE IN TACOMA: Victory Music at the Antique Sandwich Company


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