These shows may not have been the biggest in town, but they were some of the year's best. 

1999 Critics Choice: Lounge Acts

No doubt some of you who read this list will wonder why your favorite show isn't here. Where's that excellent Landmark Theater event? How about that great Friday Cheers or Innsbrook blowout? The Coliseum hosted some good music. The Carpenter Center had well-received shows this year that make no appearance on this rather selective list. I see my share of big-name acts and large-venue events, but here I'm limiting my favorite picks to those small-venue shows where I could hang out close to the band and enjoy the intimacy. The selections are listed chronologically and are admittedly a trifle heavy on a roots-rock style. But I saw some of you at all of these shows and you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those of you who missed any of the shows on this list, keep an eye out for the next appearance of these bands. They are all highly recommended; check them out and see if you don't agree.

April 17, The Asylum Street Spankers at MCV's Larrick Center — The show was originally slated for the Moondance Saloon, but when that venue closed, it was moved to the Larrick Center at the last minute. For comfort and acoustics, the room proved to be a lousy venue, but this Austin band managed to put on a great show despite the drawbacks. Wide-ranging stylistically and topically, the Spankers are flat-out funny and talented and are not to be missed.

May 6, Buckwheat Zydeco, Groovin' in the Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens — What impressed me about this — my first Buckwheat show — was his amazing showmanship and the party spirit that burst from him with every song. The beautiful setting didn't hurt either.

May 7, Sky Chiefs, Main Street Grill — Fronted by Richmonders Stephen McCarthy and Kevin Pittman, this once-in-a-while band played a terrific first-ever show. If your taste leans toward seamless harmonies, fine songwriting and excellent musicianship, check out these guys when they make one of their rare appearances around town.

June 13, Old 97's and Cake, Mayo Island — OK, so this isn't a small venue but Rhett Miller and Old 97's careened their way around the stage and sang great, well-written tunes that really caught my ear.

July 8, Dave Alvin, Jumpin' at the Virginia Museum — Alvin is simply one of the best songwriters and singers around today. His soulful shows are not to be missed.

Aug. 11, Bill Kirchen and Too Much Fun, Poe's Pub — It's not so much that this show was better than his others; it's simply the most recent one I saw and Kirchen amazed everyone one more time with his raucous Telecaster twang. You can't miss with this great band.

Aug. 27, Wayne Hancock, Poe's Pub — Again, Hancock's shows are uniform in their good-timin' quality. This time, he brought two guitar players up from Texas with him and the house rocked with Wayne's blues yodels and country swing.

Oct. 27, Drive-By Truckers, Humphrey J's — This was my favorite show of the year. I'd seen these guys twice before and loved their songs and forthright attitude. Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and the boys always play with inspiring Southern heart and soul, but they brought a tightness and toughness to this show that I particularly enjoyed.

Nov. 20, Johnny Hott's Piedmont SooPrize, Fulton Party 2 — Johnny Hott, Roger Carroll, Charles and Sara Arthur, Stephen McCarthy and Joshua Camp had folks up and dancing here just like they do every Sunday night at Southern Culture. For pure musicianship, wide-ranging repertoire and free-spirited fun, this eclectic group is my favorite in

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