270 Broadway, Providence | columbustheatre.com | “All music is folk music,“ Louis Armstrong famously said. “I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.” We’ll use the big umbrella that is “folk” to honor the Columbus, which has become a beloved space for unique and inspired musicmakers, from mega-string bands (Mother Falcon) to deep-voiced savants (Bill Callahan) to soul shouters (Charles Bradley). They also present comedians — Fred Armisen, Tig Notaro (September 28) and films (catch the world premiere of the Haven Bros. documentary on June 7). The space was built in 1926, has a very lively history, and was lovingly restored and reopened in 2012 by the Columbus Cooperative (including Ben and Jeff of the Low Anthem). Folks think it’s The Best.
BEST HIP-HOP VENUE: FÊTE
103 Dike St, Providence | 401.383.1112 | fetemusic.com | Many clubgoers were skeptical when Fête opened its doors a few years back — a beautiful ballroom (and side lounge) in the heart of Olneyville? Well, it worked —magnificently. Fête takes this hotly contested category thanks to a rich parade of local and national rap acts coming through (from THR33 Piece Suit to Kool Keith), the PizzaBoyz and DJ Born Casual’s steady Saturday night jumpoff (21+ and free of charge), and the “Church of Providence” residency hosted by Strange Famous Records (held on the final Thursday of each month). The lineups Sage Francis and B. Dolan assemble are downright insane (where else can you see Olneyville Sound System and accordionist Cory Pesaturo share a stage?), complemented by burlesque dancers and a full-sized wrestling ring in the middle of the ballroom.
BEST HOOKAH LOUNGE: OPA
230 Atwells Ave, Providence | 401.351.8282 | opaprovidence.com | The Mediterranean-themed Opa carries on the tradition of Phoenician culture through traditional cuisine and hookah smoking. The knowledgeable staff will bring you a drink and then recommend one of their many flavors of hookah for your lung-filling pleasure. An extensive menu features some of the city’s best Middle Eastern offerings and, believe it or not, the smoke doesn’t linger and mess with the flavor of your food. And if smoking’s not your thing, sit back and take in some live music or a bellydancing show three nights a week.
BEST JAZZ VENUE: CHAN’S
267 Main St, Woonsocket | 401.765.1900 | chanseggrollsandjazz.com | It takes lots of faith and more than a little TLC to sustain jazz bookings these days — especially in out-of-the-way venues. The Woonsocket institution has made improvised music one of its cornerstone elements since 1977 and, because the menu at John Chan’s place is just as sumptuous as their programming, audiences abound. Said musical menu is also brimming with blues, so let’s proclaim Chan’s Best Blues Venue, too.
BEST KARAOKE SPOT: THE HOT CLUB
575 South Water St, Providence | 401.861.9007 | hotclubprov.com | Are you a karaoke pro, ready to dazzle fellow imbibers with your song? Are you an occasional participant, who can be prodded into joining the fun? Or do you just like to listen and watch? Whatever your inclination is to join the rotation, the Best place to get your karaoke on is the Hot Club on Mondays at 9 pm. Here’s an idea: to celebrate the victory, they should devote a night to songs with “Best” in the title! We’re signing up for Ben Folds Five’s “Best Imitation of Myself” . . . .