Top tens are bullshit. I said it! (don’t @ me) You know what happens when you’re looking at one of these lists, you skim it for stuff you already know about. If #1 or #2 is something not on your radar, MAYBE you’ll give those a shot but it’s not a guarantee. I aim to break that pattern and make you a list of ten NUMBER ONES! These are the things people were creating in the world this year that were the top of their respective categories — and THEN I’m going to tell you why they make me excited for 2019! Just try and stop me.
BEST BATHROOM GRAFFITI OF 2018:
The most coveted of titles! I do have to say, the best collection is at Charlie’s Kitchen in Harvard Square. I’m a big sucker for graffiti conversations between different authors and Charlies Kitchen seems to have a ton of stall discourse BUT the award for best single piece of graffiti goes to The Corner Pub which has the following piece:
Who is Kristina Gulati? Why did she need to make this sticker to let us know she was in the class of 2006? Did she just save this sticker from graduation and wait 12 years to put it up in a bathroom wall? Was it from a 10 year reunion that she waited 2 years to put up in a bathroom stall? Why was she claiming her ownership above this specific urinal? Whatever the answers, the sticker was absolutely pristine in a very un-pristine setting and it raised more questions than it answered. Shout out to you Kristina, wherever or whoever you are.
WHY THIS MAKE ME EXCITED FOR 2019: I use bathrooms. I love the things people write in them.
BEST BOSTON SHOW OF 2018:
Rong / Nice Guys / Maneka / Kal Marks at the Great Scott. I’ve seen some great shows this year, but this one was the best from top to bottom. It had a diversity of sound, a great audience, a cool space, and every band brought their A-game. When a bill is stacked like this with different bands that all match up with each other well, it’s a special thing. You can read more about why I liked this show so much in my previous review!
Kal Marks on point
WHY THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: As far as I know, all these bands will continue to keep murdering stages in New England next year. I’m especially excited about what’s to come out of the Rong folks.
Runner up: Guerilla Toss / Mdou Moctar at ONCE on NYE. It was a late entry so it didn’t win, but holy hell, what a fun show!
BEST ART EXHIBIT OF 2018:
Our Sweet, Secret Language was a collection of female artists examining the topic of love by recognizing that it’s a topic we’ve all been inundated with our entire lives and then using that recognition as a starting point to re-examine it. If that sounds bad ass, it’s because it was. The test of a good art show is whether it sticks with you over a long period of time, and this one has stayed with me. I also wrote up a review of this show in an earlier article!
WHY THAT MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: Our Sweet, Secret Language was a well-curated show of young artists making diverse work and kicking ass. There was a lot of great art, and I’m super excited to see what all of them are working on in 2019. MY GUESS? Big thangs.
THE BEST PODCAST OF 2018:
Serial really changed the game of podcasting.There were plenty of other true crime podcasts before it, but it brought professional, in-depth reporting to true crime that channeled people’s voyeuristic nature into an examination of larger problems. Its format and its ensuing popularity changed the game, and there’s plenty of podcasts and documentaries that followed suit with better or worse results. (In the Dark, Slow Burn and Dr. Death were all fantastic examples from last year)
2018’s Season 3 of Serial completely switched things up. They spent years immersed in Ohio courts reporting on the institutions themselves and shining a light on how our justice system is ACTUALLY working. After years of bureaucratic decision making, it’s a jarring and important image that’s presented. It illuminates a system where ideas are handed down from above without any idea of the repercussions of how they’ll actually be carried out and no one checking to see if they’re working. Arbitrators desensitized to the struggles of the other people they’re dealing with and people in power that treat their little bit of land like a fiefdom without any oversight will have you pulling your hair out even in 2018, a year of constant hair pulling.
WHY THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: Serial 1 changed the game and brought on a ton of podcasts influenced by it but in order to suck an audience in, they had to present the single case of Adnan Syed. That format is effective in keeping people’s attention however it’s easier to explain those failings away as the fault of one bad lawyer, one bad judge, one bad jury. When you examine a whole system that’s miscarried, it’s harder to excuse it all. By getting people to be informed about how our systems are actually working, you force people to recognize that it’s fucked, it’s classist, it’s racist and that we can do better.
THE BEST DIY ORGANIZATION OF 2018:
Disclaimer: I write articles for Boston Hassle and I rent a studio at the Dorchester Art Project.
THAT BEING SAID, BRAIN Arts absolutely killed it in 2018. To make a city a cultural hub, it takes a lot of work and sacrifice from passionate people. It doesn’t just magically sprout up where there’s a lot of talented people making shit. It’s a lot like a garden — if you have people putting in the sweat as gardeners, then you don’t just have a couple of cool things sprouting randomly in the woods but a system in place to make sure that when cool things are created, they can thrive. BRAIN Arts spent their 2018 making the city of Boston so much better, and they deserve all the accolades in the world for fighting the good fight for Boston.
WHY THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: There are always great art exhibitions and music shows going on at the Dorchester Art Project, Hasslefest 10 was amazing, the Telethon was great, the Compass and Hassle blog are highlighting all the great things happening in this city. I’m sure twice as much will be going down in 2019, and I’m excited to be here for it!
BEST FEST OF 2018:
There’s a sweet spot for DIY fests where they haven’t gotten so big that they’re impersonal or only focused on the biggest acts they can get, but they’re big enough to make some really cool stuff happen with bands that might not usually play together. In 2018, I’m going to go with a tie for best fest between Hasslefest in Boston and PRFBBQ in Chicago. Hasslefest was amazing and had the diversity of talent so that you could just show up and trust that whatever you were going to see would be awesome. (spoiler: it was). The strength of a good fest is good curation, and all of the bands were so well chosen across many different genres, with highlights from (New England) Patriots, Mini Dresses, Mini Beast, Abdu Ali and Leya. PRFBBQ was extremely well-curated, although it was also more focused on one style of music. BUT they did a fantastic job of bringing bands from all over the country in that style under one roof. On top of the great music, PRFBBQ also had free beer and BBQ which made the whole thing feel like one of the most welcoming events I’ve ever been to. Both had great vibes but PRFBBQ felt like a party where everyone there just happened to be in a band. Highlights from the fest were the Austerity Program, SEMINARS, the Gary and Maple Stave. Ties are lame but this one was too close to call.
The Austerity Program at PRFBBQ
(New England) Patriots at Hasslefest
WHY THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: I love a good fest and I plan on going back to both! They both were absolutely killer. Now that Totalfest and Fun Fun Fun are dead and Rat City Recon is too far away, it’s good to have some thriving DIY fests going on as opposed to the less fun but more mainstream offerings.
BEST TRIP WITHOUT THE ACID OF 2018:
When my partner in life Brandi and I stumbled upon Fiesta in Gloucester when we moved to town, we really had no clue what we were getting into (something about a greasy pole and St. Peter) but we had a couple unencumbered days so we decided to travel an hour up the coast and check it out. What followed exceeded all of our expectations. Fishermen in drag sprinting down crisco covered poles, spectacular 30 foot drops into the sea, large swaths of costumed folk with all sorts of entertaining rituals, people watching of an epic caliber, house shows, parades, carnival food, rides and games, BASICALLY, more than I can even list.
A man sprinting down that greasy pole as he chugs an unknown substance
So, was it any of that that made me feel like I had added shroom batter to my fried foods? Nope! It was the musical lineup. Just look at this makeshift stage / cathedral they constructed!
I stepped to that area and immediately prayed to Hunter S. Thompson that I would survive the night. There were a series of crooners singing the old lounge standards as if Frank Sinatra was right there in front of you and selling it in that old Las Vegas style. Besides this set up and the pack of grandmas all dressed to the nines who would periodically stand up and sway or sing along, the headlining performer that night was from (I will guess) Italy, so in between his renditions of Mac the Knife there was some of the most surreal broken English stage banter that I’ve witnessed. It made just enough sense so that you questioned your own sanity. I was transfixed for the entire set.
WHY THAT MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: This was a crazy fun party with people of all sorts having a great time. We only popped in for part of it this year, but hopefully next year we’ll get to be there for the whole thing.
BEST BOSTON DIVE BAR OF 2018:
What makes a good dive? Well, there are many things you can point to: cheap drinks, local flavor, conversational bartenders (whether it be friendly conversation or not), lack of TVs or an internet jukebox, dark corners and sleaze. However, much like art and pornography, a dive is more of a “I know it when I see it” situation. While places like the Brendan Behan and Wally’s were really strong contenders, in my mind they’re more neighborhood bars than dives for varying reasons.
Boston has a ton of contenders, but I don’t think I had a better time than in the Glass Slipper. It’s one of Boston’s only strip clubs, but if you’re hanging out in there before any girls are on stage, it’s just a dive bar! None of that strip club awkwardness — and I know because I did it on Christmas this year! The drinks are NOT cheap but the bartenders are amazing, and the patrons are a cast of character. There are no TVs, no Internet Jukeboxes, nothing but good conversations and life happening in there.
WHY THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: With the Tam getting “remodeled” by new owners (never a good sign), the Glass Slipper means that the Combat Zone still had a place to meet up for drinks when guests are in town and switching from the blue to the orange line. It’s for SURE better than Cheers. (take that Claven!)
BEST MUSIC CITY OF 2018:
I’ve gotta give it to Charm City this year. It’s not just the quality of music coming out of Baltimore but the diversity of that good music. JPEGMAFIA, OVERCALC. Abdu Ali and Elgabalus had some of my favorite releases/performances of the year and they’re all over the place genre wise. None of the best bands sounded like anything else, including their contemporaries in town. That’s not even counting the awesome bands that didn’t put out new music this year and just played great sets. There’s something in the water down there, and whether it be because of affordable living, a cultural explosion, or the fact that John Waters is around, great music is being birthed in the town of Cal Ripken.
WHY THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: Charm City is not that far away! I plan to get down there for some crabs and a show at Sidebar or Ottobar this year! You should too.
HEAR THEM AND MORE ON AN ALL 2018 MIX I MADE
BEST HANGOVER FOOD OF 2018:
This one will START with the WHY THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR 2019: Because I’ll probably be hung over on Jan 1st after the amazing Guerilla Toss show that I’m heading to at ONCE. I’ll need this one STAT in 2019. *update: I survived
Alex Chimis. A bad hangover needs to be battled by greasy food, proteins, starches, and sugars. Getting a hot plate of dominican roasted chicken, plantains and maybe some chicharones does the job amazingly. Depending on the severity of the hangover, you may also require the option to just point at what you want in case you just can’t get the words out. On top of all that, Alex Chimis always has a small line that will allow you to get your thoughts in order, and prices low enough to make up for all that money you spent last night.