Highlights from the best of Indy's music scene 

NUVO writers choose winners of wild card categories

Each year, NUVO staff and freelancers choose their editorial picks for the best bands, bars and live music venues in town. This time around, we decided to ask writers to dream up their own imagined “best of” categories, to pay homage to local heroes they admire. Here are our personal wild card picks.

Best local promoters: Erin Mullen and Brooke Klejnot

Booking Blue Cheer and Extreme Noise Terror for small club shows in Indianapolis was a coup.

Best cover band: Soul Bus

Soul Bus is chock-full of amazing musicians: Gordon Bonham, Jeff Chapin, Dave Murray, Jess Richmond and Tad Robinson play everything from folk to blues every Monday night at Après Jacks.

Best bar bathrooms: Radio Radio

The swanky restrooms at Radio Radio were salvaged from the now defunct Planet Hollywood. They are an oasis of deco calm from the craziness of the stage right outside of the bathroom door.

Best lunch counter: Northside News Café

Have lunch and catch up on the latest news either from the television tuned to CNN or the steady stream of neighborhood folks and musicians coming in the door. Where else can you run into Otis Gibbs, Jonee Quest, DJ Rusty Redenbacher of the Mudkids, Vess Ruhtenberg and a guy nicknamed Animal all in the time it takes to eat a Cuban sandwich?

Best harmonica story: Russel Settle

Settle, the owner of the Red Key, plays “Silent Night” on his harmonica every Christmas Eve. There is not a dry eye in the house during this holiday tradition.

Best touring with a chicken story: Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

While on tour in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the band rescued a chicken from a butcher shop and named her Sum Yung Hen. The chicken attended several gigs, rode the trolley and visited the beach. The hen was then adopted by two hippie kids at the corner of Haight and Ashbury as the Big Damn Band headed out of town on Route 66.

Best local musical genius: John Kill

Whether acting as lead singer for Everthus the Deadbeats or going it alone, Kill is a musical mastermind in the vein of Danny Elfman and possesses a similar, dynamic vocal range that can switch from singing simple la-la-las one minute to becoming absurd and theatrical the next minute. His lyrics create worlds that only playwright Samuel Beckett has been able to previously construct with such expertise — amorphous landscapes filled with insanity and characters of questionable reputation. Kill acts as a pied piper, luring Deadbeat fans into those landscapes with melodies that make them want to dance and sing along; then he ensnares them with a maniacal laugh.

Best local fire dancer: Pali from Solluna

She may spin fire and roll cigarettes perfectly, but her personality is much less butane. Pali the fire chick is one of the best fire dancers in town, and you can catch her spinning flames with grace, polished style and panache at the Vogue, Talbott Street or at other special events around town.

Best Indy music blog: Myoldkentuckyblog.com

It continues to be a great source for new local and national music. Dodge Mokh, the site’s owner, also hosts his own radio show on Sirius Radio’s Left of Center, in which he has up-close and personal interviews with many of today’s rising indie rock talents as they come through Indianapolis on tour.

Best up-and-coming Indy music blog: Indiechristoph.com

They may only be 17 years old, but Crawfordsville natives Chris and Alex have an impeccable taste for indie rock and hipster dance jams. Indiechristoph started in February 2006 with a downloadable mixtape featuring bands like Bloc Party, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Hot Chip and Kings of Leon. It has since become a great resource for the latest music that pleases their ears.

Best Indianapolis musical archive: MusicalFamilyTree.com

Whether you’re wanting to dig deeper into Indiana’s rich music history or just find recordings of recent shows in Indy, Musicalfamilytree.com is there to serve the local music fan and artists trying to get exposure.

Best instant success story: DJ Topher Jones

Local DJ Topher Jones hit it big this year with his trance remix of Snow Patrol’s soothing hit “Chasing Cars.” The track has been played by international DJs like Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Gabriel and Dresden and Paul Oakenfold. It was this remix that really enabled Topher to fully appreciate life as a DJ, allowing him to DJ outside of Indianapolis and gain some national exposure. Let’s hope more production work is in his future.

Best dive bar for smokers: Living Room Lounge

Play a round of pool, watch the televisions or chill with friends on the back patio. It’s one of the better places to find yourself on a Monday night in downtown Indy. Plus, the regulars there during Friday night karaoke may welcome you with a drink and a song.

Best daily jazz bar: The Chatterbox

Truly, The Chatterbox has a no-frills, freewheeling ambiance that matches the diverse forms of jazz it offers seven nights a week.

Best club for art and music: Big Car Gallery

While not technically a club, Big Car brings in an eclectic mix of musicians for its First Friday shows, allowing people of all ages to see both old favorites and experience new groups. Throw in the artwork and the cluttered mess of supplies that provides a backdrop for the bands, and Big Car makes an unusual setting for a great night of music for everyone.

Best bumper stickers: LUNA Music

LUNA’s simple block stickers come in multiple colors from green to silver. They even made it onto the refrigerator of a Friends studio set when the show was still aired. Word of Indy’s beloved series of record stores travels. Not only does LUNA offer high-class free in-store performances on a regular basis, it also features some of the most eclectic used albums around. Just explore the bins.

Best new club: Therapy Nightclub & Lounge

It was only one year ago that the old Fusion club was bought and completely renovated into the most comfortable atmosphere you will find in Indy. Therapy is one of Indy’s only venues featuring dance music every night. There’s something for everyone here, including Latin Wednesdays, Hip-Hop Fridays and all forms of electronic dance music on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Best folk/alt-rock venue: Music Mill

Where else can you find the Cowboy Junkies and Over the Rhine at a classy live music venue that also features a restaurant? NUVO filmed the first series of Where Are They Now? music vodcast interviews at the Mill.

Best band you’ve never heard: Pharmakon

Though shy to market themselves, Indy’s Pharmakon crafts emotive darkwave originals with a sultry jazz overlay. Vocalist, keyboardist and violinist Suzan Morris, formerly of Fate of Ashes, concocts musical gems with her bandmates in the vein of Tori Amos.

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