The results are in! Here are the winners of Little Village’s 2018 Best of the CRANDIC competition in the Arts & Entertainment category, representing voters’ favorite artists, groups, venues and organizations in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area. Browse the winners in the other four categories here.
Best Drag Performer or Troupe:
“Showmanship at its finest.”
— Sasha A.
“Nice to see the drag queen paradigm turned on its head, as it were.”
— Douglas B.
“Wylie Guyote is a hottie and hilarious at the same time.”
— Chris D.
“They combine activism, comedy, theater and so much more. Iowa City is very lucky to have this drag king troupe. There aren’t many in the country and the ones I’ve seen aren’t as good as the I.C. Kings.”
— Sara T.
Franky D. Lover’s Tips
“We’re just a bunch of weirdos performing with hair stuck to our faces in Iowa City. And that’s really cool,” says I.C. King Franky D. Lover. Beyond a touch of weirdness and fake facial hair, what does it take to be a king? Franky shared some advice.
Find (and dress) your character
“Each performer in the group has their own drag character. Some have very out-there fantastic props, choreography, makeup or costumes; some go for humor, some go for sexy. I got a lot of inspiration from Madonna. She’s one person but she has all these different looks and personas.
“If you’re starting off and want to be a drag king, but don’t often dress in a way that’s masculine, you might go to the thrift store and get a pair of masculine pants or a suit jacket. It actually makes you feel different and that gets you moving differently.”
Pick your song
“What are you performing to? What song? Is it a mix of songs? There are times when you want a pop-y boy band song, or hit up the country music, or choose alternative rock stuff. I like to perform a variety, but there are kings out there that have a niche.”
Plan your performance — sort of
“You have to have a plan, at least the broad strokes of it. The best thing is to come up with an idea, think it through, practice it. Then give it a shot. Don’t plan it all out — there are times when you want some extra breathing room to take a tip or smile at someone. You want to care about what you’re doing but you don’t want to plan every second.
“Nerves happen for brand new people and performance veterans, too. Finding a way to calm your nerves or use that nervous energy in your performance is a big thing. Psych yourself up and go, ‘You can do it, man!’”
Best Musician Overall:
Kevin “B.F.” Burt
“Oh, come on. There is no explanation necessary. He radiates music when breathing.”
— Timothy F.C.
“He appeals to all ages with his beautiful music and personality.”
“Kevin won a major blues award in Memphis last year, and I just love his soulful voice. The musicians who back him are always top-notch.”
— Jennifer R.
“He’s beyond comparison.”
— Chad P.
Best Live Band:
“They’re a fun cover band with a twist all their own.”
— Jenni G.
Flash In A Pan
“They make me proud to live in Iowa City. They are as good as they come, and they are always supporting the local community … but I worry for the day the rest of the world discovers their talent and they’re taken away from here.”
In The Mouth of Radness
“Between their skins-pounder’s acrobatic stick work and bassist’s Tasmanian devil stage presence, Radness is like watching Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem on meth. Is it punk? Is it thrash? Who cares? It’s awesome.”
— Alfred D.M.
“After decades of playing live, David still brings warmth and energy to the stage that one would expect from someone just getting started. His songwriting and piano skills are matched only by his kind and enthusiastic demeanor. He’s got a kick-ass band, too.”
— Brian J.
“Elizabeth Moen never disappoints, from a tiny little stage at the Lincoln Wine Bar to the main stage at RAGBRAI. She has honed her craft and keeps getting better.”
— Katrina S.A.
“They deliver a surreal Dada-ist performance based on sound collages, and backing videos that they create. There is no other local act like them at all.”
— Sean J.
Best Arts Presenter:
221 E Washington St, Iowa City
“What even needs to be said? The festivals, the community partnerships, the creativity. They’re so much more than a stage, they’re a community institution.”
“[Englert Executive Director] Andre Perry is a boss at gathering people from every nook and cranny of the state. He makes those that are out-of-reach reachable and puts them in a light that is so profound and captivating.”
— Lauren H.
“[Englert Development Director] Katie Roche is like the doyenne of arts in Iowa City. From her days with the James Gang to her work with the Englert, she has a wide-open style and an all-embracing arts aesthetic.”
— Douglas B.
Best Local Theater Company:
213 N Gilbert St, Iowa City
Best Art Gallery:
Public Space One
120 N Dubuque St, Iowa City
Iowa Arts Festival
Iowa City, hosted by Summer of the Arts
“Arts Festival and the year round gallery walks remind us that we live in a unique and vibrant city that supports the arts.”
— Tara M.
“There is always something fun to enjoy for all ages. I love the music, the activities for young children and the community feel to the festival.”
— Mary M.
Mission Creek Festival, Iowa City
“No other festival does as good a job of curating a diverse selection of performers and events as the Mission Creek team. Cutting edge newcomers, legacy acts that haven’t rested on their laurels — Mission Creek cuts a wide swath through through the worlds of music, literature, performance and food. And they pull it all off by using Iowa City’s existing, iconic venues. Few things make me happier than hopping from event to event in downtown Iowa City in early April on the cusp of spring.”
— Mark H.
Camp Euforia, Lone Tree
“A wide variety of musical styles from local, regional and national artists. You can’t beat friends, camping and great music on Jerry’s farm. Euforquestra has been putting on the best party in the area for 15 years!”
— Philip R.
Witching Hour, Iowa City
“Affordable to attend, but the experience carries with you long after the event. I’m always making connections or sharing things learned or inspired from the event months and years after it has passed.”
Best Stand-Up Comic:
“He’s as funny as he is uncomfortable.”
— Seamus D.
Q&A with Spencer Loucks
Newton, Iowa native Spencer Loucks started doing stand-up comedy six years ago.
What’s the first joke you ever told that made someone (other than yourself) laugh?
I remember in kindergarten, I was reading from an ABCs book and was inserting swear words into them. Like, “A is for…” and then a bad word. Pretty lowbrow stuff, but also I was 6 at the time.
Which is your true love: writing or performing?
I prefer writing but they both are quite fun. Performing in front of people gets you an immediate reaction, good or bad, so there’s something to be said for that.
What’s your favorite style of humor to perform?
Self-deprecating humor is probably my favorite to perform. When you’re making fun of yourself you never have to worry about making anyone else feel bad or wonder if you went too far.
How much does a sense of place play into what we find funny?
Certain crowds/places definitely find different jokes funny or unfunny. Not only can it vary from city to city but just even different places around town. A joke might play great at a specific show or mic and then you think it’s amazing and then the next time you do it it can totally bomb. I find that aspect of stand-up really interesting.
What’s your three-point bucket list of career goals as a comedian?
Oh, gosh. I don’t know if I have any. That’s OK, right? Like, even if I did, I’d hate to look back at this article in like 10 years and see my “goals” and not have achieved any of them. I think I’m making this answer way more depressing than your question wanted it to be. I apologize. I guess I’d really love to have my own TV show. Yeah, Let’s go with that.
Best TV Personality
“She is candid, professional and has the best pick ’ems.”
— Katie G.
“I still remember during the flood of 2008 when she and Bruce Aune stayed on air to keep viewers up to date with information — and even humorously commented that she hadn’t showered in awhile! I felt like she was there for her community during that scary situation, which was reassuring.”
— Alex F.
Best Place to Dance
13 S Linn St, Iowa City
“I don’t think you can not dance there.”
— Josh G.
“Every bad night can be remedied by dancing at Studio.”
— Jacqueline B.
“They are so welcoming to everyone. I don’t feel judged no matter what I am wearing or what I weigh.”
— Nicole C.
“Nothing like watching drag queens tear up the stage to prepare for a great night of dancing.”
— Zoe H.
“Not only are the lights and music booming, but the people welcome you in to just be you and dance freely.”
— Taylor C.
Best Radio Personality:
Host, “Talk of Iowa” on Iowa Public Radio
“Charity Nebbe — the sound of Iowa.”
— Bridget W.
“She is delightful, incisive and really contributes to the local discourse.”
— Will S.
Q&A with Charity Nebbe
Charity Nebbe grew up in Cedar Falls listening to Iowa Public Radio and dreaming, she says, of becoming “the next Cokie Roberts.” She has hosted IPR’s Talk of Iowa program since 2010. (Questions for Nebbe were written by Brian McClatchey, the father of Little Village’s managing editor and an avid IPR listener for more than three decades.)
How did you develop your radio persona?
I have worked extremely hard to be able to broadcast on the air as if I’m just talking to you. It was my goal to be able to be myself or at least the best version of myself I could be on the air, but that’s a lot harder than it sounds, so it took a long time.
Do you have a favorite interview from the last year?
One that stands out is, I interviewed Gideon Kidd from Cedar Falls. He was 9 when I talked to him. He has a Twitter handle, I’ve Pet That Dog. Two of my three dogs — the two with manners — came to work that day so Gideon could pet them. It was such a fun Iowa story and he’s such a bright, open-hearted kid, it was a real thrill to have that moment on the air.
How do you keep coming up with ideas for the show?
I think that once you become a talk show producer or a talk show host, you can’t actually turn that part of your brain off … The problem isn’t having enough ideas, it’s having too many and needing to distill them down. I think we are all doing that all the time.
How do you stay neutral in the current political environment?
That’s the hardest part of my job. And I don’t cover politics, which in some ways makes it even harder. I mean, I have a lot of strong opinions but I can’t voice them and I can’t participate, other than voting. That’s difficult, yes. That almost led me to leave journalism when I was younger.
Is covering food your first love?
It is not! That was sort of an accident. I grew up in a family where cooking was a hated chore, but I’ve developed an appreciation for it. I think the best part about it for me is just how innovative people are being in Iowa in the local food system. They are all such interesting, committed, idealistic individuals that it’s really fun to tell their stories. The fact I host a cooking show on public television [IPTV’s Iowa Ingredient] people assume I must be like the Martha Stewart of Iowa, and that could not be further from the truth. I’m good at standing next to people and asking them questions. That’s my skill set.
Is there anything else you think would surprise people about you?
As far as my Talk of Iowa listeners, I feel like they know me well. The person I am on the radio is an authentic version of myself. Of course, there are parts of me I do not share on the radio, but I think anyone who listened to me and met me in person would think, “Yeah, I know her.” I don’t have many secrets. [laughs]
Best Musical Memory:
Kishi Bashi at Mission Creek Festival 2017
In music festivals you can hardly hope to please all people even some of the time, but Kishi Bashi’s performance at the 2017 Mission Creek Festival was one of those rare shows. When the band unplugged their instruments and left the stage to perform an encore from the middle of the theater, the house lights went up and everybody gathered around, including dozens of children looking up to the musicians with awestruck faces. It was a great musical memory for all of us and something those kids will never forget.
Best Movie Theater:
118 E College St, Ste. 101, Iowa City
“I love this place. They have the best selection of new and indie and artistic films, plus all of the kitschy, silly, guilty-pleasure oldies mixed in. Also, where else can you grab a beer or wine and watch a film on the big screen?!”
— Will S.
“The place just makes you feel part of the community. They go the extra mile.”
— Josh G.
“They always are playing the best of the best. Nothing like getting some Trumpet Blossom trail mix or coconut oil popcorn and seeing a movie that will change my perspective.”
— Bridget W.
“Sure, they show great movies, but they’re also engaging patrons in movies: kids learning animation, directors talking about their documentaries and Mr. Rogers bringing neighbors together.”
— Nick B.
Best Public Art:
By Sayuri Sasaki Hemann and teens with United Action for Youth
220 E Washington St, Iowa City
One cold day in December 2017, Thomas Agran (a.k.a. sous chef) reached out to UAY to partner on the biggest, happiest, most dreamy mural of all time with their youth artists. He then recruited Sayuri be the captain of this dreamship. Sayuri and youth collected many, many ideas to contribute to the IDEA BANK (#ideabank), to be used for creating the design of Coexist. She then formed a dream team, a.k.a. #muraldreamteam, with 11 amazing youth artists, and the rest, my dearest friends, is history.
— Ined the Storyteller Bird (far right of mural), via Sayuri
Weirdest Public Art:
By John Cerney
Located along I-80 E in Iowa City, on the property of Harvest Farm and Preserve
“The more bedraggled they become, the more WTF they are.”
— Bruce B.
“More of this large-scale oddness, please.”
— Colleen K.