Here are our picks for the very best in Utah's arts and entertainment for 2015.
Check out our other Best of the Beehive categories, including family, dining and outdoors, by clicking here.
Best out-of-nowhere club
The Loading Dock began life as a warehouse loading dock. Climb the stairs, tell the bouncer who you’re there to see and find yourself in front of a hole-in-the-wall stage. Behind you is an enclosure that uncannily resembles a garage door. 445 S. 400 West, SLC, 385-229-4493
Best place to buy a Cayuse
Owner Diane Stewart’s longtime interest and expertise as an art collector has resulted in one of Utah’s best galleries. Modern West Fine Art is a celebration of the art of the purple sage—painting, sculpture and crafts that embody the spirit of the West—past, present and future. Besides established artists and Indian artisans, the gallery shows contemporary artists like self-taught John Vehar, whose work ranges from realist oils to abstracts. 177 E. 200 South, SLC, 801-355-3383
Best spot for music in the heart of SLC
The Gallivan Center is a green and gracious “living room” for downtown. The venue hosts a series of rousing concerts, bringing together audiences of all ages. The folks at Excellence in the Community are key players in bringing prominent Utah artists to the venue year-round. This past holiday season, for instance, Gallivan hosted the likes of jazz quintet Blue Haiku, Lark & Spur, and the Utah Symphony. 239 S. Main St., SLC, 801-535-6110
Best venue to discover local punk acts
The Shred Shed has hosted Night Verses and Miniature Tigers, but also maintains a reputation as a welcome spot for local bands, most notably of the punk variety. Come check out young artists on the verge at Salt Lake’s only downtown all-ages music venue and art gallery. 60 Exchange Place, SLC, 801-410-0661
Best Symphony Performance
Gustav Mahler’s symphonies have been at the core of the Utah Symphony’s repertoire for many decades. Thierry Fischer is continuing the tradition with performances of Mahler’s nine complete symphonies. The Third Symphony showcased Fischer’s perceptive direction and the orchestra’s virtuosic playing. 123 W. South Temple, 385-468-1010
Best culture deal for knuckle draggers
Utah Symphony’s and Utah Opera’s Après-ski discount. With a lift ticket and a non-Utah driver license, snowboarders can plop into the Capitol Theatre’s best seats for $35. No, the Capitol doesn’t serve Jägermeister shots, but they do sell beer. And the plot of most operas—bros divided by the love of a betty—resonates with shredders.
Best Sundance Outreach
Sundance Film Festival is known for edgy and artistic films, not family fare. That changed in 2014 when the fest teamed with Utah Film Center’s Tumbleweeds to create the first-ever Sundance Kids program. This year’s Sundance Kids lineup included adventures Operation Arctic and The Games Maker, along with stop-motion animated fave Shaun the Sheep.
Best stand-up comedy
Every Tuesday night, Utah’s wittiest up-and-coming comedians take front and center at Mo’s American Diner. The open mic is welcoming to newbies, so try your hand at stand-up—or just come for the laughs and cheese fries. 1280 S. 300 West, 801-359-0586
Best open mics
Cowpokes plugged in
Telling poems winsome or worrisome, somber or slapstick, cowboy poets put the wax on the mustache of verse. Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering, celebrating its 21st anniversary, is preserving the cowboy way of life in the Intermountain West. Cowperson poetry is just part of the fun. Oct. 28–Nov. 1. Heber City, 435-654-3666
Best Urban Poetry Joint
Past Mestizo Coffeehouse’s cafe is an acoustic-friendly gallery that becomes an open-mic joint on Wednesday nights, hosted by Kurt Cochran. Mestizo’s Open Mics feature predominantly local musicians and poets. Check out the talent before they follow their dreams. 631 W. North Temple, SLC, 801-596-0500
Best Place to See a Quilt that Breaks the Rules
Every July and August, the Brigham City Museum exhibits the International Quilt Invitational, featuring the most cutting-edge quilts in the world. The designs will blow Aunt Dottie’s mind and give her a glimpse of the sublime. Forest Street and 300 West, Brigham City, 435-226-1439
Best Sundance celeb
At the red carpet premiere of I Am Michael, star James Franco turned the camera on the paparazzi, including Salt Lake mag photographer Natalie Simpson, and hammed it up. It confirmed him as our favorite star of the 2015 fest. Franco and director Justin Kelly were game for video interviews, goofy selfies, ugly sweaters and just enjoying the Sundance scene with the working stiffs.
Best New Age experience
If Nancy Holt’s epic earth art Sun Tunnels looks to you like four pieces of concrete culvert abandoned on a wind-swept cattle range, you’ve clearly never been there on a solstice. On the longest day of summer, June 20 or 21, and the shortest day of winter, Dec. 21 or 22, the first rays of the rising sun and last beams of the setting sun shoot like red fire through the concrete tubes, giving those willing to brave the elements a Stonehenge-like reconnection with the solar system and their naked ape ancestors. Five bumpy miles south of Lucin, GPS coordinates: 41.303501, -113.863831
Best reason to rent a tux
Dress to the nines for Salt Lake Symphony’s annual fundraiser the Vienna Ball. Waltz as the symphony plays three sets of dance music, then break for dinner. Try not to spill anything on the tux—it’s got to be returned sans stains in the morning. 877-425-1537
Best summer chamber music series
For more than 30 years, Beethoven Festival Park City codirectors Leslie and Russell Harlow have brought some of the best chamber musicians from around the country to the mountain resort in July and August for a series that defines excellence in chamber music.
Best place for dinner and a show
It’s the perfect combo for a night on the town. Recently selected a Salt Lake magazine Top 25 Restaurant, Rye is a modern diner that fuses standard Americana and Asian dishes. Once you’ve satiated your appetite, head next door to Urban Lounge to tend to your inner music nerd. It’s arguably the best underground music venue, where you can get close enough to your favorite artists to smell their sweat. 239 S. 500 East, SLC, 801-364-4655
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