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Last week, GO! counted down the Top 20 significant happenings and developments on the area arts and entertainment scene in 2014.

This week, we're here to hand out some kudos and intriguing factoids related to those happenings and/or developments.

Some of the awards are our own picks; most are those from the folks working on the front lines of the area arts and entertainment scene. All are well-earned. The envelopes, please:

Five BCPA events we most attended

1. Bruegala, Aug. 22-23: 4,394 over two days

2. U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note, July 1: 1,159

3. B.B. King, June 3: 1,143

4. Whose Live Anyway?, May 31: 1,093

5. Under the Streetlamp, Oct. 5: 947

Top pop hit you might not expect a symphony music director to groove to

Taylor Swift's “Shake It Off,” reveals Illinois Symphony Orchestra maestro Alastair Willis, with no regrets whatsoever, but a lot of shake, shake, shake, shake, not to mention a dose of play, play, play, play, play and a great deal of break, break, break, break, break.

Five most ticketed flicks at the Galaxy 14 (Dec. 1, 2013-Nov. 30, 2014):

1. "Frozen"

2. "Guardians of the Galaxy"

3. "Gone Girl"

4. "Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" (still playing/making $$)

5. "The LEGO Movie"

Artwork most likely to come after you

“Jack O'Camera,” part of the January “Franken-Camera Project” exhibit at the McLean County Arts Center, featuring IWU School of Art director Kevin Strandberg's mad-lab camera creations, including this hulking behemoth stitched together from a '60s TV antenna, a vintage scissors display case, a VW bug horn, a dozen 70mm bullet casings and other items from your worst retro-photographic nightmare.

Best movin' on up

Illinois State University's University Galleries pulled up stakes from its longtime digs in the Center for the Visual Arts on campus and headed uptown to a spectacular new space in the Uptown Station, with a debut show by renowned artist Walter Robinson. George Jefferson would be proud.

Best local motion at the music store

From the racks of uptown Normal's physical media-loving Waiting Room Records, these area music movers and shakers were the best sellers in '14:

  • Matthew Curry & The Fury: “Electric Religion” (LP/CD)
  • Edward David Anderson: “Lies & Wishes” (LP/CD)
  • Dan Hubbard: “Livin' in the Heartland” (CD)
  • Chicago Farmer: “Backenforth, IL” (CD)
  • Gas Up Yr Hearse!/Coma Regalia: Split Release (7”)
  • Angry Gods: “Greyed Day,” 7"

Best raspberries in the face of Fate

Tie: comedian Tig Nataro (BCPA, Jan 10), still able to laugh in the wake of a past year or two that included a double mastectomy, pneumonia, digestive infection, end of a relationship and death of her mother in a freak fall; and comedian Josh Blue (Laugh Comedy Club, Feb. 6-8), the disabled 2006 “Last Comic Standing” jester whose cerebral palsy is a part of his act.

Wildest gender-related moment

It occurred at the Castle Theatre, where, says owner Rory O'Connor, "staff vote for the wildest moment was the return of the band Against Me. The first time the band was here in 2011 the lead singer (Tom Gabel) was a heartthrob for the girls. This year, after going transgender and changing his name to Laura Jane Grace, that aura was gone." 

Best Evergreen Cemetery Walk character to leave put

“How about we just leave Asahel Gridley where he is?,” says retiring director/founder of the walk, Judy Brown, who celebrated her 20th anniversary this year.

Best Evergreen Cemetery Walk character to meet over coffee at Starbucks

“I have to choose between three women,” says Judy Brown, “all of whom operated without a net.” The are: Effie Henderson (“one of Bloomington's female political pioneers”), Belle Blue Laxton (“fought long and hard for civil rights as a member of the NAACP) and Pantagraph court reporter Elizabeth Irons Folsom (“when she realized she was going blind, she moved to New York City to be a writer and won an O Henry prize after selling the first story she ever wrote … now that takes nerve!”).

Five Braden Auditorium shows we most attended

1. Iggy Azalea, Oct. 18

2. Heart at Home's Moms Night Out with Sally Bauche, March 13

3. Shen Yun, April 13

4. TobyMac, Dec. 11

5. REO Speedwagon, June 27

Friendliest celebrities to pass our way 

Says the BCPA's Tina Salamone, a tie: “Casey Abrams … or any of the guys from 'Whose Live Anyway.'”

Says Braden Auditorium's Barb Dallinger: “He wasn't our top seller, but without a doubt, Gordon Lightfoot. He was such a delightful man. So sweet. I had the best day with him.”

Says the U.S. Cellular Coliseum's Jenna Fecht: “The staff really enjoyed working with Theresa Caputo (the Long Island Medium). She had an explosive personality … she liked to talk a lot and was very funny … very down-to-earth and easy to work with. She was dressed down most of the day in her tennis shoes and spandex pants, cracking jokes during sound check and just being present in the front of the house area (which is not common).”

Fewest minutes used in a Heartland Theatre 10-Min. play offering

Says Heartland's Gail Dobbins of 2014's “Fowl Plays”-themed crop, “The Decoy” by Joe Strupek “was the shortest on paper (8 pages) but the longest in performance (12 minutes). Another play, 'Polly,' may have been the shortest in performance at about 9 minutes.” Shortest ever in the history of Heartland's annual festival: “Probably 'The Final Episode of Intergalactic Warrior Journeymen,” which came in at about 6½ min. in performance.”

Top movie grub for beyond the usual suspects (popcorn/soda)

At Bloomington's Galaxy 14, these were the biggest sellers:

  • Candies: Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers, Reese's Pieces
  • "Other” items: Pretzel Bites, Pretzels, nachos w/cheese, Dippin' Dots
  • Restaurant items: chicken strips w/fries, Samplers CheeseSticks, cheeseburgers w/fries

Five U.S. Cellular Coliseum shows we most attended

1. Jason Aldean/Florida Georgia Line/Parmalee/Tyler Farr, Feb. 21-22: 14,687 (two shows)

2. Cirque du Soleil's Dralion, Nov. 13-16: 7,241 (five shows)

3. Brantley Gilbert/Thomas Rett/Eric Paslay, March 28: 7,157

4. Chicago, Jan. 29: 6,680

5. Theresa Caputo Live, April 17: 4,434

Best intersection of art and life, genus “Nutcracker”

“As a Party Parent,” says Twin Cities Ballet parent Jim Plath, “I'm only onstage for the first scene and spend most of the show in the dressing room. But it never fails to uplift me when that curtain goes up and the girls, wearing handmade one-of-a-kind period dresses and using their American Girl dolls as props, begin dancing the March. I get so caught up in being at this annual Christmas party that I often momentarily forget which dance it is that the parents are supposed to do, when it's our turn.”

Best reasons to have gotten your tickets early at the Castle

These Castle Theatre shows in 2014 all began with no more room at the inn, says owner Rory O'Connor of the year's sellouts: Yellow Card, Jan. 25; Mayday Parade, May 4; Jason Isbell, June 12; Andrew McMahon, July 17; Wonder Years, Oct. 1; Jimmy Eat World, Oct. 11; and MGK, Oct. 26.

Most out-of-body moment on a podium

“The Mahler Symphony No. 5,” says Illinois Symphony Orchestra maestro Alastair Willis of the May performance. “The commitment, passion, determination with which the orchestra played one of my all-time favorite pieces was really incredible.”

Best sleeper hits at the bijou

Surprisingly fit at the Galaxy 14 box office, says Wehrenberg's Kelly Hoskins were the comedy “22 Jump Street,” the Indian import “Dhoom 3” (“we only had this film for two weeks … the Indian market, although waning a bit lately, has been good for us”) and the indie release “God's Not Dead” (“we had it exclusively").

Top 5 National Record Store Day sellers

At Waiting Room Records in Normal, the greatest vinyl hits were:

1. Creedence Clearwater Revival: "1969 Singles," 10"

2. Frightened Rabbit: "Live From Criminal Records," 12"

3. David Bowie: "1984," 7"

4. Various Artists: "Space Project," 7" box set/LP

5. Death Cab for Cutie & Magik Magik Orchestra: "Live 2012," LP

Most unusual backstage request, wearable:

At Braden, a last-minute wardrobe request from Aussie superstar Iggy Azalea, who needed a dress shortened before curtain time, entailing an emergency search for sewing machine and capable seamstress. No one one was left hanging by a thread, as it turned out.

Most unusual backstage request, recreational

At the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, “returning artists remember the Pepsi Ice Center,” says marketing/communications manager Jenna Fecht, “and request to skate in advance.” Among this and past years' singing blade runners: Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes “and many, many others.”

Most unusual backstage request ... never mind

“It's amazing how healthy most of the requests are. Requests for fresh and organic are quite common,” says the Castle Theatre's Rory O'Connor. “This year, for the first time, there was a request for a fresh whole watermelon, not sliced. We wondered to ourselves, are they going to slice it in the green room? Do we need to provide them with an extra large knife? What kind of mess will be left behind? In the end the band didn’t even touch it and left it in the green room.”

Most unusual backstage request, eee-uuwww

“Greg Proops asked to be rubbed down in lemon Jell-O,” says the BCPA's Tina Salamone. “But he was just joking. I think.”


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