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Best of Jackson 2021: Nightlife and Music

Photo courtesy Jason Turner

Photo courtesy Jason Turner

Best Bar, Best Pub Quiz/Trivia Night: Fenian's Pub

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Photo courtesy Fenian's Pub

(901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com)

In 2021, Fenian's Pub will celebrate its 25th year in business on East Fortification Street. Named after Finn McCool, a giant of Irish lore who is buried beneath Dublin, the Irish-themed bar serves traditional pub fare such as the scotch egg and fish and chips, but its most popular offerings are its beverages.

Fenian's offers an array of stouts and claims to have one of "the most extensive selections of Irish whiskies in the southeast." Plus, the pub's menu also features specialty drinks like the spiced pear old fashioned, the el diablo noche and the whiskey apple peanut butter, nicknamed the "WAP," a nod to Cardi B's song of the same name.

Patrons who appreciate the pop-culture reference can try their hand at "Pub Quiz," a trivia night offered at 7 p.m. each Wednesday that covers a wide range of topics. Each competing team is permitted six participants, and the winning team has the opportunity to take home prizes from the local Cathead Distillery.

The pub quiz is currently postponed due to high COVID-19 numbers, and Fenian's provides curbside pick-up to locals not yet ready to dine in. Fenian's also honors those who have been vital during the pandemic with "Service Industry Day," which takes place Monday through Thursday after 10 p.m. and offers $1 off every drink to qualifying customers. —Taylor McKay Hathorn

Best Bar Finalists

4th Avenue Lounge (209 S. Lamar St., 601-259-5825, 4thavenuejxn.com) / BB'S LIVE - Bonny Blair's (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-447-5788) / M-Bar Sports Grill (6340 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-398-0999, thembarjxn.com) / Names and Faces Lounge (224 E. Capitol St., 601-955-5285, facebook.com/namesandfaceslounge) / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Pub Quiz/Trivia Night Finalists

Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, facebook.com/fondrenpublic) / Library Lounge at Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, fairviewinn.com) / Lost Pizza Co. (1392 W. Government, Brandon, 601-824-5515; 144 Friendly and Fresh Drive, Flowood, 601-345-8679; 500 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 769-300-31116; lostpizza.com) / Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070, pigandpint.com) / Urban Foxes (826 North St., 769-572-5505, urbanfoxesjxn.com)

Best Local Band: Southern Komfort Brass Band

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Photo courtesy Southern Komfort Brass Band

(601-376-9764, facebook.com/southernkomfort)

Though its style is based in the jazz traditions of New Orleans, the Southern Komfort Brass Brand infuses Mississippi's music history into every song it performs.

"We always want to point to where we are," Lorenzo Gayden says, listing B.B. King and Robert Johnson as influences.

The band formed after playing an event in 2010, and over the past 10 years has assembled a repertoire of over 120 songs, 15 of which are original compositions. Its nine members played jazz and marched with bands in college, and many are alumni of Jackson State University's own Sonic Boom of the South.

While Southern Komfort's unique and improvisational covers are popular requests, many people enjoy their originals, like "Nothing But Love" and their recent Spotify single "D.A.F."

The band largely performs on Facebook Live now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Gayden says they "plan on hitting the ground running, and being better than when we left off" when gigs re-open.

The nine members include Cedric Eubanks on tenor saxophone; Terry Miller, Corey Hannah and Joseph Handy on trumpets; Lorenzo Gayden and Eric James on trombones; Jamie Abrams on sousaphone; Gerard Howard on bass drum; and Timothy Boyd on snare drum. —Kyle Hamrick

Finalists: 601 LIVE (601-735-8778, facebook.com/601liveband) / The Ballard Journeay Show (ballardjourneayshow.com) / Burnham Road (artistecard.com/burnhamroad) / Chad Wesley Band (chadwesley.com) / Hairicane (601-750-9991, facebook.com/Hairicane) / Steele Heart (601-832-5351, facebook.com/Steele-Heart)

Best College Student Hangout: M-Bar Sports Grill

(6340 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-398-0999, facebook.com/TheMbarJxn)

M-Bar Sports Grill off County Line Road sports a number of attractions for those needing a break from their studies. Twenty-two televisions adorn the business' walls, 20 clocking in at 55 inches and the remaining two at an impressive 80 inches. DJs like DJ Kool Laid raise the hype levels with their vibing beats, and the kitchen boasts a varied menu.

The sports bar's culinary fare ranges from appetizers like fried green tomatoes, sliders and "M-Dip," which is a mix of cream cheese, diced green onions and seasoned ground chuck served in a bowl surrounded by chips. Entrees include shrimp po boys, wings and philly cheesesteak sandwiches.

M-Bar's drink selection includes domestic and imported beer, wine, and signature drinks such as the hard-hitting "Walk Me Down," made with gin, rum, triple sec, tequila, blue curios, and sweet-and-sour mix. During happy hour, 4 p.m to 7 p.m., M-Bar holds events based on the day of the week. Taco Tuesdays feature $2 steak, seafood and shrimp tacos, while Wing Wednesdays showcase 75-cent Wings. —Julian Mills

Finalists: Bar 3911 (3911 Northview Drive, 601-586-1468, facebook.com/Bar-3911) / Coffee Prose (1619 N. West St.; 769-208-0230; 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 173; 769-237-6153; coffeeprose.com) / F. Jones Corner (303 N. Farish St., Suite 3227, 601-983-1148, fjonescorner.com) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com) / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, facebook.com/fondrenpublic) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Live Music Venue or Place for Live Music: Duling Hall

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Photo courtesy MCE Photography

(622 Duling Ave., 601-292-7121, dulinghall.com)

Duling Hall, a 350-seat event space in the heart of Fondren, is as vibrant today as when the former school hosted elementary-school recitals 50 years ago. It is in use more than 200 times per year for weddings, parties, receptions and concerts.

"It's a good-sounding room with its old, hollow wood stage," owner and manager Arden Barnett says of the venue's popularity. "We've got great lighting, it's comfortable, there are no bad sight lines, and you can easily do a seated or standing-room-only show. There's a bar in the back and lots of restaurants nearby."

Before the pandemic, 85% of bookings were made by band agents requesting the venue for a concert. "We are known by many musicians and managers. (Duling) is a smaller venue than most bands usually play, but they love it," Barnett says.

Despite COVID, Duling hosted a few shows in November and December at about 25% capacity. "We sold only tables of two or four, no individual tickets," Barnett explains. "There's a barrier around the tables, and we ask patrons to wear masks. Every show sold out. We're trying to help local bands stay alive." —Michele D. Baker

Finalists: BB'S LIVE - Bonny Blair's (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-447-5788) / The Iron Horse Grill (320 W. Pearl St., 601-398-0151, theironhorsegrill.com) / Johnny T's Bistro & Blues (538 N. Farish St., 601-954-1323, johnnytsbistroandblues.com) / Martin's Downtown (214 S. State St., 601-3354-9712, martinsdowntownjxn.com) / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Local Cover Band: 601 Live

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Photo courtesy 601 Live

(601-735-8778, facebook.com/601liveband)

The seven-piece cover band known as 601 Live formed in 2016 from a sheer love of music and its musicians' desire to perform. "From church musicians to playing in the (school) band, each one of us has a musical history," co-lead singer Sedric Brinson says.

The cover band features lead singers Brinson, his father Terrell Brinson and John Majors; Tony Reaves is on keyboards; Mike Smith on guitar; and brothers Eric and Greg Richards play drums and bass guitar.

"We cover a wide variety of genres and styles," Brinson says. "We play soul, rhythm and blues, pop, Top 40; you name it. We have a show ready for any occasion."

The band is available for weddings, banquets, family reunions, parties and even casino shows, and a typical set lasts about two hours. "But a casino gig can last four or five hours," Brinson explains. The band's success seems to rest on a winning charisma between its three principal singers. "Dad is old school," Brinson says. "I'm more new school, and John is the hype. He's a master at getting the crowd energized." —Michele D. Baker

Finalists: Acoustic Crossroads (662-822-9856, facebook.com/AcousticXroads) / Hairicane (601-750-9991, facebook.com/Hairicane) / Mississippi Moonlight (facebook.com/MSMoonlightMusic) / Spunk Monkees (spunkmonkees.com) / Steele Heart (facebook.com/Steele-Heart) / Travelin' Jane (601-613-7236, facebook.com/travelinjanebandandduo)

Best Local Musician: Jason Turner

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Photo courtesy Jason Turner

(jasonturnerband.com)

Jason Turner, 42, started playing guitar when he was 12 years old, inspired by his then-favorite band, Pearl Jam.

Born and raised in Jackson, Turner started playing gigs at 16 and recorded his first album at 18 in two hours with the help of Johnny Crocker in 1997.

Twenty-three years later, Turner has recorded and played his original compositions in venues large and small across the southeast. He released his seventh album, called "Reset," in December 2016, and a ninth album titled "The Fire" in 2020.

"Most of my songs are written about things I've been through, or am going through," he reveals. "They're all true stories."

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, Turner started performing concerts on Facebook Live and in friends' driveways and cul-de-sacs. He also moved the lessons he gives through D.C. Guitars to Skype.

Now a father of two teenage girls, Turner doesn't care to be on the road as much as he once did. "At the end of the day, all I want to do is play my music for a living," he says. "I wouldn't have it any other way now."

Check out his latest single and album "The Fire" on Spotify and iTunes. —Kyle Hamrick

Finalists: Coke Bumaye (cokebumaye.bandcamp.com) / TJ Burnham (facebook.com/TjBurnhamMusic) / Dear Silas (dear-silas.com) / Ron Etheridge (facebook.com/ron.etheridge1) / Russell McGuffee (facebook.com/russell.mcguffee) / Gena Steele (facebook.com/Steele-Heart)

Best Local Singer: Eddie Cotton Jr.

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Photo courtesy Jesse Worley

(601-832-4646, facebook.com /eddiecottonblues)

Eddie Cotton Jr. got his musical start more than four decades ago at Christ

Chapel C.O.G.I.C. in Clinton. His father, a preacher, encouraged the congregation and his son to worship with their voices.

"We did a lot of singing," Cotton says, "and it led to a scholarship to Jackson State to play in the jazz band." He was introduced to many other musical styles, "but I always liked Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King," he says.

At Sam's Lounge, Cotton saw Sunny Riddell, and later he met King Edward, who invited Cotton to play with him onstage. A stint working at the Subway Lounge on Pearl Street spurred Cotton to form his own band, the Mississippi Cotton Club. The group played local haunts like George St. Grocery, Joker's Tavern, the Alamo Theater and Poet's, but also spent several years touring overseas in Europe and Canada.

Now with multiple albums and top singles under his belt, Cotton does festivals, plays sets at Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg and performs at his father's church.

"Lots of places are shut down because of the pandemic, but eventually it will be over," Cotton says. "And then we're going to have a party." —Michele D. Baker

Finalists: Laura Leigh Burnham (Burnham Road, facebook.com/TjBurnhamMusic) / Amanda Chappell (Travelin' Jane, facebook.com/travelinjanebandandduo) / Dylan Lovett (instagram.com/dilllydawg) / Gena Steele (Steele Heart, facebook.com/Steele-Heart) / Jason Turner (jasonturnerband.com)

Best Place for Cocktails: 4th Avenue Lounge

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Photo courtesy 4th Avenue Lounge

(209 S. Lamar St., 601-259-5825, 4thavenuejxn.com)

Patrons of 4th Avenue Lounge—a weekend staple for Jackson residents that is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays—could sample a drink during each hour of operation on both nights and still not exhaust the lounge's extensive cocktail menu.

One such libation is "The 4th," a self-titled drink featuring Ketel One vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup, accented with a sugar rim. The fresh beverage is right at home among the lounge's other fruity offerings like the "Reflection," which is spiked with raspberry liqueur, and the "4tharita," which is mixed with both orange and lime juice.

Guests who visit the South Lamar Street fixture in search of a darker drink can try the Hennessy-laced French 125 or the White Russian with its traditional draught of Kahlua. Any beverage can be paired with a "shareable" plate, many of which are slathered in the establishment's signature "bangin'" sauce. —Taylor McKay Hathorn

Finalists: BB'S LIVE - Bonny Blair's (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-251-0692) / The Briar Patch (1150 Old Cedars Lane, Flora, 601-559-8565, facebook.com/The-Briar-Patch) / Library Lounge at Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, fairviewinn.com) / Names and Faces Lounge (224 E. Capitol St., 601-955-5285, facebook.com/namesandfaceslounge) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, tableonehundred.com)

Best Place to Dance: Johnny T's Bistro & Blues

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Photo by Imani Khayyam

(538 N. Farish St., 601-954-1323, johnnytsbistroandblues.com)

The restaurant predicates its name on the legend of "Johnny T," a supposed singer who would arrive at a juke joint in a nice vehicle and play throughout the night, or at least until closing hour, only to leave without a notice, discarding an autographed guitar behind as a musical calling card of sorts.

Johnny T's Bistro and Blues adds to the downtown culinary landscape with blue-plate lunch specials featuring southern staples like red beans and rice, pork chops with gravy and baked chicken. Dinner, however, takes on an aquatic flair as most dishes include shrimp, crab or fish as the centerpiece.

The building's layout lends to a comfortable and intimate atmosphere since dining and musical entertainment go hand-in-hand at this familiar spot. The blending of cuisine and tunes extends to the upstairs private lounge as well.

Johnny T's is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then 4:30 p.m. until close, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 6 p.m. to close. —Mike McDonald

Finalists: Bar 3911 (3911 Northview Drive, 601-586-1468, facebook.com/Bar-3911) / F. Jones Corner (303 N. Farish St., Suite 3227, 601-983-1148, fjonescorner.com) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700, oletavern.com) / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com) / VIBE Jxn (6390 Ridgewood Road, 769-233-8713, vibejxn.com)

Best Virtual Music Performance: Rita Brent

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Photo courtesy Rita Brent

(comedic singing, ritabrent.com)

Rita Brent expresses herself through comedy, music and satirical prayers. "Comedy and music are avenues to share my message," she explains. In 2018, her music video "Can You Rock Me Like a Pothole"—filmed on Mill Street—went viral on social media. "I felt that the potholes were starting to define Jackson, instead of the new Civil Rights Museum. There's lots of things Jackson has going for it." (Mill Street has since been completely repaved.) Her song "Quarantine Shuffle" targeted social distancing.

Last September, Brent released "Kamala" ahead of the November election. She sings, "When Joe Biden selected her, I saw attempts to disregard or belittle her, and I was triggered. I saw myself in her."

The comedienne traveled back from Brooklyn to Jackson to record the song. "I wanted people to be serious about voting. It's a song with a purpose," she says.

Recently, Brent and her wife moved to Atlanta, but Brent is still a Mississippi girl at heart. "When I perform around the world, I represent Mississippi. I hope that I shine a positive light on my city and state." —Michele D. Baker

Finalists: Hunter Gibson (huntergibson.com) / Dylan Lovett (instagram.com/dilllydawg) / Lovin' Ledbetter (lovinledbetter.com) / Stephanie Luckett (stefuniemusic.com) / Travelin' Jane (601-613-7236, facebook.com/travelinjanebandandduo) / Jason Turner (jasonturnerband.com)

Best Place to Play Pool: The Green Room

(444 Bounds St., 601-718-7665, facebook.com/The-Green-Room)

The Green Room, a long-time pool hall in Jackson, returns to win this category once again. Open for more than 20 years, the business boasts 18 pool tables as well as a bar and grill that serves ribs, T-bones, wings, burgers, fries, fried okra, potato salad, baked beans and salad, as well as beverages.

While visitors regularly stop by the tavern to share a drink or grab a cue, those with competitive spirit can opt to up the ante by participating in one of its monthly nine-ball pool tournaments, which usually attract people from across the southeast.

The Green Room also offers catering services, providing family meal packs and hosting small parties. Daytime sharks and night owls alike can shoot pool from noon to 2 a.m. seven days a week. —Julian Mills

Finalists: Dockery Grill (6791 S. Siwell Road, Byram, 601-665-4758, facebook.com/Dockery-Grill) / Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700, lastcallsportsgrill.com) / The "Little" Pub in Ridgeland (387 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-898-2225, facebook.com/TheLittlePubRidgelandMS) / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-983-2526) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Service Industry Hangout: Capitol Grill

(5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, capitolgrillofjackson.com)

Capitol Grill owner Robert "Corky" Elliott describes it as a "laid back sports bar" with a family-friendly atmosphere and numerous regulars who have cheerfully walked through the business' doors time and time again since it opened in 2013.

The restaurant/bar provides enough televisions to allow nearly everyone to watch their

favorite SEC team, and the kitchen makes all of its food from scratch, down to its barbecue sauce. The menu includes salads, pizzas with toppings such as mushrooms and caramelized onions, red beans and rice, catfish, ribeye steaks, and appetizers like fried pickles, tamales and jumbo wings.

At the bar, in addition to beer and wine, patrons can order specialty cocktails like The Capitol Mojito, mint-infused Shellback rum mixed with agave nectar, fresh lime juice and soda. —Julian Mills

Finalists: Bar 3911 (3911 Northview Drive, 601-586-1468, facebook.com/Bar-3911) / BB'S LIVE - Bonny Blair's (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-447-5788) / F. Jones Corner (303 N. Farish St., Suite 3227, 601-983-1148, fjonescorner.com) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-983-2526) / Urban Foxes (826 North St., 769-572-5505, urbanfoxesjxn.com)

Best Place to Drink Cheap: Last Call Sports Grill

(1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700, lastcallsportsgrill.com)

Since opening Last Call Sports Grill in 2004, Rahul Chaddha credits the business' reputation as a great place to drink cheap to the restaurant's happy hour, which attracts a number of regulars.

"We've got a strong base of loyal customers who come in for both the drinks and our small-plate food specials," Chaddha says.

Last Call's happy hour runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and features 2-for-1 specials on all mixed drinks. Last Call also offers a loyalty card that rewards 10% back on every dollar spent, on top of other drink specials that run throughout the week.

"I want to give a special thanks to all the regulars who supported us during the pandemic," Chaddha says. "Thanks to the people of Jackson who gave us that support, we're back at full strength. They made the right call by choosing Last Call." —Dustin Cardon

Finalists: Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, capitolgrillofjackson.com) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com) / Martin's Downtown (214 S. State St., 601-3354-9712, martinsdowntownjxn.com) / Pelican Cove (3999A Harbor Walk Drive, Ridgeland, 601-605-1865, pelicancovegrill.net) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-983-2526) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

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