World-class international performing arts festival? Check. Major metropolitan symphony orchestra? Check. Thriving local rock scene? Roger that. Full-time professional dance company? Yup. Professional and community theatre out the wazoo? You betcha. Sprawling cineplexes and indie-loving arthouse cinemas? Oh, yeah. Liberal arts college-sponsored cultural offerings every night of the week? Damn straight. Anarchistic underground arts scene? Sure, as far as you know. Charleston’s year-round arts and entertainment profile is worthy of a city twice our size. If you’re spending every night growing roots from your butt into the sofa, watching bad reality TV and shoveling popcorn into your mouth, you should be ashamed of yourself. There’s an entire world of stuff happening out there seven nights a week, 365 days a year: comedy, live music, dance, theatre, film, lectures, exhibits, and more. Get out there. Live a little, for crying out loud.

Best Cultural Event
Spoleto Festival USA

Various locations downtown. 722-2764
Last spring’s 29th Spoleto Festival included three American premieres, the world premiere of a new orchestral work from John Kennedy, and two jazz artists’ American debuts. It saw the return, for the third time in as many years, of Chinese music theatre to the festival. It also marked the first ever presentation of an opera (albeit in concert form) for Piccolo Spoleto, the first festival whose Opening Ceremony didn’t take place at City Hall, and the first Spoleto Festival ever without critic Robert T. Jones. It was also one of the rainiest festivals on record, though the weather dried out just in time to provide a perfect finale setting at Middleton Place. Spoleto Festival USA and its City-produced sibling, Piccolo Spoleto, once again completely took over our city for 17 days, just as they do each May and June, turning it into a carnival, a stage, an exhibition, a party, an open-air market, a pageant, and a celebration of ourselves, creating in the process a shared sense of community like no other place in the world. The change is temporary, but the effect it has on our lives lasts forever. —Patrick Sharbaugh

Best Local Actor or Actress (Tie)
Johnny Ali Heyward and David Mandel

It’s not altogether surprising that Johnny Ali Heyward and David Mandel would split the Readers’ Pick award for Best Actor: the pair knew each other during high school, and both are Charleston natives who returned after extended forays out of town. In January, they shared a stage at PURE Theatre, where they co-starred (with actress Biz Lyon) in Neil LaBute’s searing contemporary drama This Is How It Goes. Heyward’s recent TV and film work includes a Target commercial and a spot on NBC’s Surface, with theatre gigs with the Village Rep, Charleston Stage Company, and last spring’s What Comes Around at PURE Theatre. Mandel is a longtime PURE Ensemble member, where, in just the past year, he’s appeared with the company in A Number, American Buffalo, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Perfect Ten, Polish Joke, True West, and Jesus Hopped the “A” Train (which snagged a Critics’ Pick for Best Play in last year’s BOC). Mandel’s also got an extensive background of professional theatre work outside of Charleston that includes nine years in Los Angeles at venues including The MET Theatre, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles Theatre Center, and the Egyptian Arena Theatre. Given that PURE only seats about 65 people, it’s remarkable that enough readers saw Heyward and Mandel to sway the vote in their favor. On the other hand, these boys sure make a hell of an impression. —Patrick Sharbaugh

Best Local Band
The Blue Dogs

With their warm, strummy, harmonious sound, guitarist/lead vocalist Bobby Houck and his crew — lead guitarist David Stewart, upright/electric bassist Hank Futch, and drummer Greg Walker — are an easy Charleston favorite. They’ve stayed especially busy in recent years, touring behind their most recent album, Halos & Good Buys, and their new DVD, Live at the House of Blues (shot at the Myrtle Beach venue). Capable of cranking out original ballads, acoustic anthems, bluegrass traditionals, folk-rock standards, and twangy renditions of modern rock and pop songs, they earned the Readers’ Pick for best local original rock band. —T. Ballard Lesemann

Best House Band
Best Cover Band

Plane Jane
Yeah, yeah, yeah … they’ve worn the ribbon as “one of the Carolinas’ best party bands” for years and years, but the Charleston-based ensemble earn the damn thing, playing almost nightly at various bars, outdoor events, and private get-togethers across the Lowcountry. Guitarist/bandleader Scott Sain and his crew can handle any reasonable request, pulling from an ever-growing set list of Motown and ’60s classics, A.M. hits from the ’70s, disco and funk tunes, and modern rock and pop songs. They’re the house band at all three Wild Wing Cafés, with gigs on Tuesdays in N. Charleston, Thursdays in Mt. Pleasant, and Sundays downtown. Their secret weapon: the high-power trumpet work of musician Charlton Singleton. —T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Art Gallery
Redux Contemporary Art Center

136 St. Philip St. Downtown 722-0697
It would take a fool or a shameless optimist to suggest with a straight face that Charleston is a bustling hive of progressive contemporary art. Of the more than 100 art galleries in town, all but the tiniest handful look to traditional figurative and landscape works as their bread and butter. But of those few that dabble in more adventurous (read “difficult or impossible to sell”) stuff — you can literally count them on a single hand — Redux Contemporary Art Center has developed influence beyond its years. Although all of Redux’s three founding members have moved on to other projects (i.e., grad school) since they took over Print Studio South four years ago and opened up shop at 136 St. Philip St., it’s a testament to their original inclusive vision that the barrier-busting institution is not only surviving without their leadership but thriving. With 14 private studios that rent for peanuts to eager young artists, two galleries, a performance stage, a darkroom, and a full print studio, the 5,900-square-foot facility is much more than a building: it’s Charleston’s best hope (together with a newly invigorated Halsey Institute) for an arts scene with teeth. —Patrick Sharbaugh

Best Local Theatre Company
Theatre 99
280 Meeting St. Downtown 853-6687

Best Play of 2005
A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas
Charleston Stage Company
The Dock Street Theatre, Dec. 1-18, 2005
135 Church St. Downtown 577-7183

Best Movie Theatre
Palmetto Grande
1319 Theater Dr. (Hwy 17 N.) Towne Centre, Mt. Pleasant 216-8696

Best Local Comic
Timmy Finch of The Have Nots!

Best Local Author
Pat Conroywww.patconroy.com

Best Museum
Gibbes Museum of Art135 Meeting St. Downtown 722-2706

Best Art Gallery Show
Redux Contemporary Art Center, Oct. 27-Nov. 5, 2005
136 St. Philip St. Downtown 722-0697

Best Local Visual Artist
Julio Cotto

Best Music Concert of 2005
Jack Johnson
Joe Riley Stadium, Sept. 4, 2005
360 Fishburne St. Downtown

Best Rock Music Club
Music Farm
32 Ann St. Downtown 853-FARM (3276)

Best Jazz & Blues Club
Trio Club
139 Calhoun St., Downtown. 965-5333

Best Female Musician/Vocalist
Cary Ann Hearst

Best Male Musician/Vocalist
Quentin Baxter

Best Club DJ
DJ Moo Moo