Best of 2016

by Sasha Savinov

Most people would say that 2016 was a pretty awful year. We lost David Bowie and Prince and gained a childish orangutan as President. Speaking of primates – we’ll never forget you, Harambe! Flint had poisoned water, Brexit happened, and that was just the bread on this shit sandwich of a year. We don’t like to dwell on the negative, though, and – at least personally speaking – we had a pretty awesome year. To shine a bit of light on the black hole that was 2016, here’s our “Best Of” list for a year that many thought was the worst ever:

Music Related

As some of you may know, we are pretty heavily biased towards the band Phish. We spend much of our free time and money traversing the country to catch their shows. Hell, we even got engaged at one! As such, we’ve split our best show category up to give other bands a chance.

Nothing beats the Gorge!

Best (Phish) Show: For the third time, we made the pilgrimage up to George, WA to catch our favorite band at our favorite venue. There’s just something special about Phish at the Gorge, and they delivered a stellar performance on July 15th that edges out the other thirteen shows we caught in 2016. Wrigley was great, Lockn’ was solid, and Vegas was out of this world, but you just can’t beat those Gorge sunsets with Phish as the soundtrack!

Sun going down and LCD coming up.

Best (Non-Phish) Show: We finally made it to Lollapalooza this year and shelled out the big bucks for tickets so we could catch Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem. While the famed British rockers put on a great set, the LCD dance party takes the cake as our favorite non-Phish show of the year. Bouncing up and down in the crowd of 70,000 or so to “All My Friends” was a musical high point of the year, if not our lives.

Lazers!!

Best Run of Shows: Having already been out to Vegas for the Widespread Panic run in July, we weren’t planning on making it back there for Phish’s Halloween run. When it was announced that the Disco Biscuits would be playing a run of late-night shows, however, plans changed real fast. Seven shows in five nights was a wild ride, culminating in Phish’s timely cover of “Ziggy Stardust” to honor the late, great David Bowie. Sin City was the perfect host for the occasion, and we’d highly recommend visiting to catch a run of shows some day. Vegas isn’t just for gambling, hookers and blow anymore!

In Garcia’s Forest at Lockn’.

Best Festival: Having missed out on the first three installments of the Lockn’ festival, we knew we had to make it this year. With Phish, My Morning Jacket, Phil Lesh & Friends, Ween, Umphrey’s McGe, and JRAD, it was a dream lineup for us. We were fortunate enough to volunteer with the fine folks at the Work Exchange Team for the first time since 2011, and we had an incredible weekend of music and good friends in Arrington, VA. Read all about our time on the farm in our review of Lockn’ for our friends at Festy Go Nuts.

Rachel’s new boyband crush.

Best New Band(s): From the Bali Spirit Festival, to Lollapalooza, to shows in downtown Asheville, we discovered lots of new music this year. We can’t quite agree on a favorite new band of the year, so we’ll tell you both of ours. Rachel is going with The 1975, who we caught at Lolla and then traveled to Knoxville to see in November. While we were far above the median age at the show – most were 17-year-old girls Snap-Chatting – I’ll admit that they put on a good show. As for me, I’m going with Glass Animals. I’ve listened to both of their albums so many times this year I lost count, and we finally caught them live in Chicago. It was a bit short for my liking, but the music translated well on stage and hopefully we’ll get to see them play a longer set some day.

Travel Related

Just a sampling of what Flores has to offer.

Best Trip: While we did a lot of traveling in 2016, most of it was to familiar places. The year started out with an epic adventure, though – our journey across the island of Flores in Indonesia. Covering most of the rugged, beautiful island in just two weeks, we climbed volcanoes, chilled on pristine beaches, explored unique villages, and got up close and personal with the Komodo dragons.

 

Check out our new video “Top 10 Things to Do in Flores” to get an idea of just how awesome this place is.

Not a bad view!

Best Adventure: Back in 2014, we decided to scrap climbing Mt. Rinjani at the end of our gap year. Running out of energy and money, we decided it would be best to save the trek up a massive volcano for next time. That time finally came in April, as we embarked on a 3-day trip with the fine folks at Green Rinjani. While we didn’t make it all the way to the summit – we were not prepared with proper gear and clothing – we did get some stunning views, camped under the stars, and soaked in a natural hot spring with monkeys running around.

Best Accommodation: Wow this is a tough one! We were spoiled in 2016, as we got to stay in numerous villas in Bali thanks to our abundance of visitors. If you ever make it to the Island of the Gods, do yourself a favor and sign up for Air BNB before you go. There are so many insanely beautiful places available on there, including this place outside of Ubud:

All this for $70/night!

A massive 2-bedroom house with a pool, tucked away in the rice fields outside of one of Bali’s most popular towns, for just $70/night. And people wonder why we want to stay in Asia and not move back to the States. You can’t even get a motel room for that much in a city here!

Hangin’ in Bend.

Best New Place We Visited: Aside from Flores, we really didn’t cross many places off our list this year. We did, however, finally make it out to Bend, OR to visit friends after catching Phish at the Gorge. Our days there were spent hiking, visiting waterfalls, and walking along the Deschutes River, while nights saw us eating delicious Thai food, sipping craft beers, and catching movies or music. This little town ain’t so little anymore, and we don’t plan on moving there anytime soon, but it’s a beautiful place and we can definitely see why so many people are flocking there.

Yes, it was as good as it looks.

Best Food and Drink: Damn did we eat and drink well in 2016! From fresh seafood on the beaches of Bali, to southern comfort food in Asheville, to new stars on the restaurant scene in Detroit, we did some good eatin’ this year. If we had to choose a favorite restaurant, though, we’re going with Bridges in Ubud, Bali. This upscale joint is the perfect place to take visiting family to splash out on a nice dinner, and that’s exactly what we did on two separate occasions.

That squirrel sure knows his beer!

If you know us at all, you know that we fancy a beer or a cocktail from time to time. While we definitely enjoyed throwing back Bintangs on the beach in Bali, we were so sick of it and ready to have a real beer after nine months there. Needless to say, we’ve more than drank our weight in craft beer since returning state-side. The Sierra Nevada brewery in Asheville is impressive, as was the Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes, but our best of 2016 goes to the fine folks at Blind Squirrel. Tucked away in Plumtree, NC, this place not only brews the best beer we’ve had all year, but they also have delicious food, a disc golf course, and tubing. Check them out and grab a few growlers to go – you won’t be disappointed!

 

Dead musicians and awful politicians aside, 2016 wasn’t that bad after all. We woke up this year in Bali and get to end it with the Disco Biscuits in Atlanta. In between, we had a few epic adventures, saw a ton of great music, and spent more time with friends and family than we had in years. That being said, we’re thoroughly looking forward to turning the page and diving into 2017. We’re shaking things up next year, so stay tuned to find out where the road will take us.

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