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May 31, 2007

Pro athletes go to Granite

If you had to guess, where do you think pro baseball and football players go out after the games?

The Inner Harbor? Some fancy hotel restaurant? Maybe. 

But a big number of Orioles, Ravens and visiting athletes go to Granite Bar and Grille in Canton Square. I think it's kind of an odd choice for stars like Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter. Granite isn't that high end, and wouldn't be my first choice if I were a multi-millionaire sports player.

Granite's manager Ralph Sussman said the bar/restaurant is a fun spot for players to wind down after a game.

"It's just a casual place," he said. "It’s low key, laid back."

 

 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

May 30, 2007

The Jennifers: Great local summer listening

the jennifersI've had tomorrow's Meet the Band, the Jennifers, in the car CD player for the past few days now. Their new album, Colors From the Future, is a perfect soundtrack for the warm, sunny weather outside.

"Landslide" and "Starfleet Academy" are my two favorite songs so far. They're fun indie pop tracks with clever lyrics and great hooks. What more do you need?

I actually interviewed the guys in the band a couple weeks ago for Baltimore Unsigned. You can listen to the interview and live performance here.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music
        

May 29, 2007

Celeb spotting at a renamed pub

Dominic West, who plays Det. James 'Jimmy' McNulty on The Wire, has good taste in pubs.

My roommate Jeremy ran into West last week at the Dog Pub. The place used to be called the Thirsty Dog Pub until they changed the name recently. General manager Jason Tarazon said they dropped the "Thirsty" because the name was already taken by a brewery.

“It’s a setback,” Tarazon said. “[But] people generally called it 'The Dog' anyway.”  

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:27 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 25, 2007

Ladies night returns

Ladies night is back at the Gin Mill (2300 Boston St., 410-327-6455) and better than ever.

The bar used to have ladies nights on Wednesdays, but then stopped a while back. It's now under new management, which resurrected the event on a different night.

Here's the deal: From 9 p.m. to close every Saturday, women pay $5 to get in and get all rails and domestic beers for free.

"It's doing very well," said manager Sam McCordic. "Better than Saturdays were before."

All you can drink for $5? I'll bet they are.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

May 24, 2007

Tour diary: Pontiak

pontiakI'm collecting good on-tour tales from local bands. If you're in a band or know someone who is, leave a comment, or email me -- sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Today's Meet the Band, Pontiak, just got back from a national tour with a couple great road stories:

Story 1:

When they pulled into Little Rock, Arkansas, the promoter said they would be playing at a pavilion down by the Arkansas River. They ran an extension cord 200 feet to this municipal power outlet, set up a couple lights and a PA and plugged in, said bassist/keyboardist Jennings Carney.

"We literally played a concert at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night on this pavilion overlooking the Arkansas River," Carney said. "It was awesome."

Story 2:

Pontiak also played in Tulsa, Oklaholma the same night Bright Eyes lead singer Conor Oberst was performing at a nearby venue. When Oberst's set ended, more than 1,000 people streamed into the Pontiak show, Carney said.

"Faces were melted," he said. "It was funny -- we got done with our first song, and we thought we were playing loud, but people were like, 'TURN IT UP!' We were like, 'OK ...'" 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music, Tour diaries
        

May 23, 2007

New Lo-Fi location

Last night, Lo-Fi Social Club founder Neil Freebairn finalized plans to move the live music venue to 1825 N. Charles St. That's one block north of the Charles Theatre, on the same side of the street.

The new space will have multiple rooms, just like the old location. It will also have a storefront, which Freebairn hopes to turn into a local band merchandise store.

Freebairn's going to walk me through it tomorrow, and I'll post some pictures soon afterward. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music
        

Georgie James signed

georgie jamesBig news for Washington-based indie rock band Georgie James: The duo of singer/pianist Laura Burhenn and former Q and Not U drummer John Davis recently signed to the Saddle Creek label.

Georgie James marries '70s-style songwriting with a more modern indie rock feel. With lush harmonies and catchy melodies, they're one of the best new bands to come out of Washington. You can get their single Need Your Needs here. The debut album comes out this fall.

I recently interviewed them for Baltimore Unsigned, the local music show I host on 89.7 WTMD. Listen to their performance/interview here. They're also playing the Recher Theatre in August.

Saddle Creek already represents Bright Eyes, Cursive, Now It's Overhead and others. I think it will be a good home for Georgie James too.

(Photo by Shervin Lainez)


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music
        

May 22, 2007

Lo-Fi temporarily closed

lo-fi social club baltimoreJust a quick heads up: The Lo-Fi Social Club is shuttered for the next week or two, said founder Neil Freebairn. People have called in loud noise and underage drinking complaints a couple times in the past month, he said.

Though police have not found evidence of underage drinking, they did have a problem with Freebairn's paperwork, he said. 

Last Thursday, police told Freebairn he needed to shut down temporarily and change the building's intended use if he wants to keep running a local rock club. Now, he's waiting on an inspector to give him the green light to re-open.

All this mess has (understandably) soured Freebairn. Tonight, he plans to finalize a deal to rent space on Charles Street north of the Charles Theatre. The Lo-Fi could have a new home in the near future. I'll post more tomorrow when the deal is done.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music
        

Live from Louisville interviews

All this week, WTMD is airing a series of interviews Erik and I conducted in Louisville at the Non-Commvention. Here's the schedule:

Tomorrow:

7 a.m. -- Martin Sexton 

9 a.m. -- Keller Williams

Thursday:

7 a.m. -- Jason Isbell

9 a.m. -- Paula Cole

Friday:

7 a.m. -- Raul Midon

9 a.m. -- Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) 

You can also go to the station's Web site to hear the interviews.

 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

May 21, 2007

Beer pong or Beirut?

Beer pong, beirutHalf of my friends call it beer pong, and the other half call it Beirut.

What do you call it? I want to take a vote.

Growing up on the Eastern Shore, I always thought the name of the popular college drinking game was beer pong. I went to college at the University of Maryland College Park, and most of my friends from out of state said it was beer pong.

Since I moved to Baltimore, I've heard people call it Beirut more than beer pong. (In the game, you toss ping-pong balls into plastic cups partly filled with beer).

I've had people tell me it's a Baltimore thing. But some Web sites say both names are interchangeable. What do you think?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:20 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Post-Preakness hangovers, anyone?

As it turns out, I was in Maryland during the Kentucky Derby and Louisville during Preakness. So I missed all the action. Anybody got some stories? How was the infield? Leave some comments.

For anybody else who either stayed home or was out of town, here's a Preakness video recap

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:58 AM | | Comments (0)
        

May 20, 2007

Ryan Adams lame in Louisville

Singer/songwriter Ryan Adams headlined a Louisville showcase Saturday night and really let down the crowd.

I saw Adams last year at Sonar, not too long after he released 29. He was energetic on stage and had a talented backup band. The band was still tight at last night's show, but Adams' erratic behavior made for a boring performance. I'll explain in a minute.

Following a warm, solid performance by Suzanne Vega, Adams came out about 11:05 p.m. The lights started out low and never came up. The whole stage stayed cloaked in hues of dark blue and red. You could barely see Adams or the other band members.

Adams hid himself even further. Wearing sunglasses, a hat and a hoodie, he was totally camouflaged. He hunched over a mike and -- get this -- read lyrics from a binder in front of him. Dude can't even remember the words to his own set of new songs!

So I sat there, in the dark, listening to melancholy folk music from musicians I could barely see. I almost fell asleep.

After only 30 minutes, Adams shouted a quick "thank you," -- the first thing he'd said to the crowd the whole night -- and bolted. There was no encore. His set lasted until 11:35 p.m. It was supposed to go until midnight.

I would have rather sat at home and listened to the CD. It's good, and I suggest you buy it. But I'm not so sure about seeing him live this tour. 


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:22 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

May 19, 2007

Randomness

Got into the elevator yesterday and saw Augie March front man Glenn Richards. I said "What's going on?" In a classic case of TMI, he replied, "If you must know, I'm busting. I need to get out of this elevator and onto the toilet. Hey, you asked." Thanks a lot for the update, Glenn.

Hoots and Hellmouth were busking outside of the Brown Theatre, and I walked over to check them out. Not bad at all: Three shaggy-haired guys, two on acoustic guitars and one on mandolin, standing and stomping on a small wooden platform.

I also noticed a guy across the street banging on seven plastic buckets turned upside down. I'm thinking about writing a story on Louisville's street performer scene and Baltimore's lack of a strong street performer scene. So I asked him some questions, and he refused to talk to me unless I paid him first. Since I don't pay for interviews (not even a couple of bucks), he just ignored me and kept banging away. Frustrated, I gave up and walked away.

I was also standing out in front of the hotel when I noticed the cellist and keyboard player from Sea Wolf having a smoke. They recently played the Recher Theatre with the Silversun Pickups. After the show, the drummer finished locking up the trailer, and the rest of the band started to drive away. Then they realized they were short one band member, and stopped to pick him up.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

May 18, 2007

Whiskey by the glass

Before the conference really got started yesterday, we took a trip to Churchill Downs. On the way there, I kept an eye out for the dive bars that ring some race tracks -- the places where broke gamblers can take the edge off after a bad day.

The best one I found had an old neon sign out front that read "Whiskey By the Glass." I didn't have time to snap a photo of the place (or have a glass of whiskey there), but it was tickling just to drive by. Still, I really wanted to walk in and ask: What other way is there to drink it?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:22 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

Sarah Borges

Sarah Borges is another singer to keep an eye on. She brings punk energy and attitude to country/rockabilly music. Her band is called the Broken Singles, and like most of the rest of the artists here, she has a new album on the way.

I sat down with her yesterday, and after the interview, she said she had a funny Baltimore story. Apparently, she used to work for a service that places personal ads in newspapers. And semi-regularly, some dude from Baltimore would call her office responding to one of the ads, and just keep asking: "fast or slow? fast or slow? fast or slow?" I don't think she ever answered him. Creepy ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

More live performances

Despite it being freaking 9 a.m., Jesca Hoop and Augie March both had great sets at a label showcase this morning.

Hoop's voice is hypnotic. Her songs didn't seem to have hooks or choruses, but I didn't notice right away. I'm not sure how this will translate on her album, which comes out this fall, but live, Hoop is enchanting. She picked an acoustic guitar while a vibraphonist gently hammered out shimmering tones alongside her on stage. It was a classic sound.


Australian rock outfit Augie March went on next and played tracks from their new album, which will also be out soon. Lead singer Glenn Richards (an English major in college) writes smart, literary lyrics, and the rest of the group fills out the sound surprisingly well. I was really impressed with the drummer, who knew how to back off and let the songs play themselves.

Jesca Hoop and Augie March. Remember those names. These are both great artists to watch.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

The new Rilo Kiley

I got a sneak peek at the new Rilo Kiley album last night in the van on the way home from dinner. One of the label reps had an advance, advance copy (it doesn't actually come out until August, she said).

We listened to the first four songs on the ride home. Rilo Kiley fans are going to freak. Rilo Kiley is known for its blend of indie rock and alt-country. But on the new album (not sure of the name), they're definitely trying for a pop hit. The fourth song has a disco beat!

I think it's great when a band shakes things up. And Rilo Kiley fans should appreciate the band trying a new direction. But indie kids can be stubborn and might not like what Rilo Kiley is dishing. We'll see this fall.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

Brett Dennen, bourbon and Jessica Who?

brett dennenIf last night was any indication, this weekend is going to be full of action. I'm going to post some photos later today when I can work the bugs out of this computer.

It started with Brett Dennen (who I didn't think drank) having some bourbon around dinnertime with some of the WTMD staff in a bar across the street from the hotel. Dennen actually played about an hourlong set in the bar later last night.

At dinner, I sat next to Jesca Hoop, an up and coming singer songwriter from northern California. I'm actually interviewing Hoop today.

But I didn't know any of this at first. She just introduced herself as Jesca, a musician. I thought she said "Jessica." And since there are so many unknown musicians at this conference, I didn't know she was Jesca Hoop.

So I got the attention of World Cafe host David Dye, who was sitting across from me at the table, and mouthed the words "Jessica Who?" while indiscreetly pointing to Ms. Hoop. Maybe Mr. Dye didn't understand I was trying to keep it quiet. Or maybe he did, and wanted to mess with me. He looked at me, and said, in a booming voice:

JESCA HOOP!

I smacked my face with my hand and shrunk in my chair. I'm sure she noticed, but politely ignored our little exchange. Thanks, David.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

May 17, 2007

Live from Louisville

louisville.jpg

I'm in Kentucky for the next few days for the annual Non-Commvention, a long weekend of live music and interviews with established and up-and-coming musicians. It's a four-day stretch where major labels meet with AAA radio stations such as 89.7-FM WTMD and showcase their new talent.

Brett Dennen, Ryan Adams, Paula ColeKeller Williams and many others will be here. I'm sitting down with as many as I can, and I'll be posting my progress daily.

 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Non-Commvention
        

May 16, 2007

The Clydesdales are coming

A few of the giant, famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses are coming to Canton Square 5 p.m.-7 p.m. tonight.

If you've never seen them before, this is what they look like. If you're in the area, they're worth checking out.

No word on whether they're giving out free rides. Or Budweiser for that matter. I'm hoping for both.

I remember being a kid and seeing them pull the wooden Budweiser wagon somewhere near the Inner Harbor. The horses are definitely cool. Budweiser, not so much.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:01 AM | | Comments (0)
        

May 15, 2007

Cross Street stink

Federal Hill needs to hire one of the local fire departments to hose down both East and West Cross Streets by the market every Saturday and Sunday morning.

The sour stink from the night before is usually so strong that pinching your nose does nothing. Ever tried to walk to one of the boutiques there and been turned away by the smell?

Maybe if that section of Federal Hill wasn’t such a magnet for meatheads and immature drinkers, it wouldn’t have that problem. But every time I walk down those stretches of Cross Street on weekends, the smell persists. It gets even worse in the hot, sticky summer months.

It really shouldn’t be up to the fire department, but I can’t think of a more realistic solution. That crowd should be able to hold its beer and liquor, or not drink until they get sick in the street. But that’s like asking the sun to set in the east.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Craft Beer Festival

Heads up, beer lovers — Max’s American Craft Beer Festival is now under way.

The seven-day suds showcase started yesterday and runs 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily through May 20 at Max’s Taphouse. Reps from local breweries will be selling obscure brews they normally save for private events and showcases.

“It’s stuff no one’s seen, especially drafts that are very hard to find,” said Max’s cellarman Casey Hard.

Anywhere from 30 to 35 beers will be on tap at any given time, he said. There will also be a different special each day.
    

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:33 AM | | Comments (0)
        

May 14, 2007

On a mojito search

For the past week or so, I’ve been sampling mojito cocktails at bars and clubs around town, looking for the perfect mix of spearmint, rum, sugar and lime.

Sometime in the coming weeks, I’m going to write a nightlife column comparing all the ones I’ve tried — from the freshness of the mint to the price tags.

Have any suggestions? Leave a comment.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:31 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

May 11, 2007

2 straitjackets, 1 crane

How's this for a grand opening:

At 9 p.m. tonight, Spencer Horsman, the son of Illusions Magic Bar owner Ken Horsman, will hang upside down from a crane on South Charles Street and try to escape from two straitjackets at once. 

Though only 21, Spencer already has a robust resume: He's traveled the world and appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman.

Illusions is at 1025 S. Charles St. Spencer will be suspended 50 feet above that address.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:38 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 10, 2007

Mini-golf letdown

Do yourself a favor: no matter how cool it sounds, stay away from the Putting Zone Glow Golf Arena in Owings Mills Mall.

Last weekend, Amie and I drove all the way out there based on how cool the place looked in photos on its Web site. Bad idea. Not only was the golf course run down, the holes themselves didn't have much more decoration than a few weird shapes that glowed in the dark. I was hoping for crazy dinosaurs, glow-in-the-dark monsters and such. Great concept, lame execution.

However, now that it's warm outside, I do plan to indulge my inner kid and hit up one or two mini-golf courses for a future nightlife column. Any suggestions?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:34 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Seidel's closing

Heard a sad rumor last night and had it confirmed this morning: Seidel's Bowling Center is shutting down for good in about a week or so. This place is a Baltimore institution. It's been open for more than 75 years. It's gonna be hard to see it go.

A small consolation: There will be one last Roots Cafe live show there 8 p.m. May 18. Caleb Stine and the Brakemen, the Grandsons and Monsters From the Surf will play live. $10 gets you in and bowling.

Anybody got some good Seidel's stories? Share them -- post a comment here.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:11 AM | | Comments (3)
        

May 9, 2007

Starbucks: The Therapy for Fools and Horses

Heads up, Starbucks patrons: Tomorrow morning when you go to get your fix, check the CD rack for Off the Clock Vol. 1: Up and Coming Artists From Starbucks.

Rock band Fools and Horses — a talented Baltimore group with a sizable local fan base — has a track on Starbucks’ newest compilation album.

Here’s the back story: Last fall, Starbucks asked its employees to send in music from their own bands to be considered for a new CD. Fools and Horses singer/guitarist Steve Herrera, who works at the Starbucks at 31 York Road in Towson University, entered the contest. 

Starbucks then whittled down the more than 800 submissions to the 15 that appear on Off the Clock Vol. 1. “The Therapy” by Fools and Horses was one of them. The CD is available at American and Canadian Starbucks cafes, and gives the group a taste of the exposure they deserve.

If you’re not a Starbucks regular, you can also download the track on iTunes.   

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:22 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 8, 2007

Slammer's shuttered

Slammer’s run on South Broadway was a short one.

The Fells Point sports bar, which took over the space where Tex-Mex eatery Armadillo’s used to sit, closed a couple months ago. Guess Scott Springer and managing partner Michael Johnson couldn’t bring in the numbers they needed to keep the place afloat. But they did go through three or four paint jobs in the year it was open. I can’t remember the exact order, but I know Slammer’s was in turns orange, purple and white. Looks like the chameleon strategy didn’t pay off in the end.

I’ll let you know what takes its place in the next month or two.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:46 PM | | Comments (1)
        

May 6, 2007

Jeff "The Drunk" at No Idea

Guest blogger Justin Fenton was out in Federal Hill yesterday to catch a special appearance by Howard Stern regular Jeff "The Drunk" Curro:

Just days after donning a pink bikini, smashing open a pinata full of beer and getting a heinous boil on his backside checked out, Curro was greeting bargoers at the No Idea Tavern -- a dual celebration of his 40th birthday and the bar's two-year anniversary.

"40th birthday?" bargoer Kelly Cunningham asked me. That's because Curro looks like he's pushing 60. It's called alcoholism, kids.

Curro, who has been appearing on the Stern show since 1998, told me he'd never been to "the state of Baltimore" but said it was a "boomin' town." Apparently, he was set up at the downtown Marriott and promised to follow through on another appearance. Niiiice.

Though owner Jason Zink said Stern's faithful audience pounded No Idea's phone lines when the appearance was mentioned on the Sirius airwaves, it translated into what appeared to be only a solid crowd. But that provided a good atmosphere to sidle up to Curro, buy him a Budweiser and get your picture taken. He also peddled some CDs -- recordings of him singing covers in his trademark garbled delivery.

Zink said he's been a Stern fan since he was 18, and booking another Stern regular seemed like the perfect idea to celebrate No Idea's anniversary.

There could be more on the way, too. Zink received a call last week from a certain high-pitched member of Stern's Wack Pack, who wanted to guest bartend when Zink opens up his second bar, to be called Don't Know Tavern, on Light Street later this month. It's in the spot Singlefins used to occupy. We can only hope Beetlejuice has the weekend open as well.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Have a Nice Day

The disco floor is dark at Have a Nice Day Cafe.

The '70s and '80s retro lounge, known for its dance parties and college nights closed around the beginning of the year. Though the business owners (who also have a stake in the Lodge Bar) couldn't be reached for comment, LG Concannon, managing partner of the neighboring Mosaic, said the cafe closed soon after Power Plant Live discontinued its 18 and older nights.

I only went to the cafe once or twice, but I'll miss not having the chance to go back again. It was a semi-trashy but fun place to drink and dance.

In the coming weeks, I'll let you know what's going to replace the cafe. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:11 AM | | Comments (2)
        

May 5, 2007

Last minute Cinco de Mayo option

If you still haven't locked down your Cinco de Mayo plans, here's a pretty tempting option: Kamp Lounge is offering free drinks to ladies until 11 p.m.

Other drink specials include $2 Miller Lite bottles (not Mexican, but cheap), $3 Coronas and $5 margaritas and Jager bombs.

While Kamp can draw a pretentious crowd at times, the place looks sharp and parties hard. And free drinks are hard to turn down. Just be sure to dress accordingly. I've been hassled by bartenders over wearing sandals with nice jeans and a decent shirt.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:05 AM | | Comments (1)
        

See Play Radio Play

From Sun intern Carrie Peirce ...

Don't let the long hair fool you. Daniel Hunter isn't your typical head-banging rocker. The 17-year-old is a devout Christian from Fort Worth, Texas, who started playing music just to make people happy.

His blend of indie, power pop and electronica has been compared to the stylings of Death Cab for Cutie, and even though his name is not so recognizable, his talent is. The rising musician finished high school three weeks ago by taking extra classes online and now has time to tour. Tuesday, he’ll be at Ottobar.

Under the name Play Radio Play, Hunter joined Island Records last November and released his self-written album, The Frequency EP. The solo project is a tribute to the artist’s mellow outlook on life. After one song, you'll be flashing the peace sign and declaring love for all.

Hunter's stealth approach into the music scene, started with a fan base on his MySpace page, where the young artist ranks close to big band names, attracting many listeners each day. With little formal training, Hunter taught himself how to play the bass and drums when he was a freshman in high school. Soon after, he experimented with drum programming and other electronic techniques, which define his current sound.

"I have a fresh take on combining electronic music with regular rock and pop,” Hunter said, “A few people have done it, but it hasn’t taken off yet.” For now, the singer is paving the way to electropop popularity and hopes to eventually go to college to study music production.

Play Radio Play is at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St., Tuesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. $12. Call 410-662-0069 or go to theottobar.com or missiontix.com.

 

Posted by Sarah Kickler Kelber at 10:00 AM | | Comments (1)
        

May 4, 2007

Method Man sighting

Rapper and former Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man showed up at ESPN Zone last night to munch on cheese fries and watch NBA playoff games with three special lady friends.

I don't think he had a concert in town. He just strolled in around 7 p.m. and stayed for a couple hours, said ESPN Zone's regional marketing manager Leigh Friedman.

“That caused a bit of a stir,” she said.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:12 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Celebrity sightings
        

Also at First Thursday

There were plenty of people walking or carrying dogs, but I have to say, the weirdest one was the woman who brought her ferret. She disappeared before I could get a shot of her, but did anybody else see her or take a picture? I'd love to post a shot. Ferret lady, are you out there?

Another sighting:

Aidan Gillen (who plays politician Tommy Carcetti on The Wire) was at Brewer's Art last night.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)
        

WTMD's First Thursday Concert in the Park show

eva castillo, wtmd, first thursdayAnybody catch WTMD's first Thursday concert in Mount Vernon Park yesterday? Perfect weather, tons of people, good wine and beer and solid bands. The park was packed -- the crowd filled the grass and spilled into the streets on either side.

The Eva Castillo Ensemble started the show with some acoustic R&B — an excellent soundtrack for a warm, sunny spring evening.

Castillo added Basshound keyboardist Blake Mobley to the lineup, and I was interested to see if he would mesh well with her sound.

Mobley takes a lead role in Basshound, hammering out funky electric clavinet, piano and organ riffs. But yesterday, he knew to lay back and help fill in Castillo's songs with chords and the occasional run or two. It worked well ...

I'm surprised that Sony or Warner hasn't snapped up Castillo yet. She's got great songs and a sweet set of pipes. With the right producer, she could really go places.

The headliner was Julian Velard, a Brooklyn-based pianist and singer/songwriter who delivered solid, upbeat pop tunes. His song "Joni" is getting a lot of play on WTMD right now, and live, Velard didn't disappoint. Even sitting on a stool in front of a keyboard, the quirky, fun singer had a big stage presence. Definitely keep an eye on him -- you'll want to see this guy live. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:19 AM | | Comments (1)
        

May 3, 2007

'Vin at the Vine

The Vine was packed last night, due to the last Five Wines for $5 with the illustrious bartender Kevin Diesel.

I showed up late, but there were still at least a dozen women sitting near the bar drooling over this guy. They kept pulling him aside and snapping photos with him, and loudly whispering about how hot he was. I'll bet over the course of the night, there were 20-25 women who showed up just to make goo-goo eyes at him. Diesel, in turn, rewarded them with free shots.

It took 10 minutes for me and my buddy Justin just to get a drink order in, because Diesel was too busy catering to his fan club. I must admit, the resemblance is uncanny. Sharing nearly the same name? Downright freaky.

This is a picture my girlfriend Amie took of him last fall. 

KevinDiesel.jpg

Now, Here's a shot of the real Vin Diesel, courtesy of IMDB. 

What do you think? 

I think it actually might be the real Diesel. His career has fallen off so far it's feasible he could be pouring drinks at a Baltimore bar.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:53 PM | | Comments (2)
        

You got served ... eventually

Someone needs to light a fire under half the bartenders in this city. Pretty much every time I go out in Baltimore, I run into the same problem: lackluster service.

Unless I’m the only person in the place, and I have the bartender’s undivided attention, I usually stand there with money in my hand while the bartender chats up a friend or fellow server or flat out ignores customers instead of taking drink orders. Some bartenders have this attitude where they think it’s your privilege to be served by them.  

Sure, it can get stressful when the bar’s packed and people are shouting drink orders. But when I go out in Washington, Philadelphia or New York City, the bartenders seem to be twice as efficient. I’ve rarely waited long in those cities.

Yeah, I know, the beer’s much cheaper in Baltimore. And the bartenders are friendlier here, on the whole. That’s all well and good. But when I need a refill, I’d like to have one without a whole lot of wrangling.

What has your experience been with service in city bars? Feel free to leave a comment. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
        

May 2, 2007

Turn it down, it's too loud!

I hate hitting up ATMs right before the bar.

Not because of the hassle. It’s the noise.

Almost every ATM I go to (especially the Bank of America ones) make these loud “BOOP, BOOPs” when I hit the buttons to withdrawal cash.

I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, because the ATM is announcing my transaction to the whole freaking block.

It’s saying: “HEY BUMS AND MUGGERS! THIS GUY OVER HERE IS ABOUT TO HAVE SOME CASH IN HIS HAND! HEY! OVER HERE!”

A couple nights ago at a Fells Point ATM, some random dude came up to my friends and me and tried to sell us a doll and some collector’s coins — because he heard the BOOPs.

So, bank reps, if you’re reading, please re-program these machines to stop BOOPing, because right now, they’re serious bum magnets.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:35 AM | | Comments (0)
        

Local folk music

I’m consistently surprised by the local folk scene, whether its experimental artists like Shelly Blake or pop folk like Page France. Who are some of your favorite folk and acoustic artists in the area?

Country/folk rockers Caleb Stine and the Brakemen are featured in tomorrow's Meet the Band section of LIVE. They have a new two-song disc titled Come Back Home, and the title track is one of the most poignant new indie folk songs to come out of Baltimore.

Stine and Monarch singer Jenn Wasner trade lead vocals in the tune, which is about a man who did wrong, and a woman who forgives him.

Stine explains: "It could be any relationship. It could be God singing to a person. It could be a parent singing to a child. The one character feels like hes just failing at what hes done. Then Jenn, who is the lover but in a way is the lover or God or the other person, is saying 'come back home, my love is unconditional.'"

It's worth a listen just to hear Wasner’s voice. Here’s a clip.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:10 AM | | Comments (0)
        

May 1, 2007

Heard it through the Vine

Treat yourself to a mid-week wine tasting tomorrow night — before it’s too late.

The Vine, the city’s least pretentious wine bar, is hosting one of its last Five Wines for $5 nights tomorrow before it closes for four months of renovations. There might be one or two more, depending on how long it takes the permits to get approved.

Owner Shane Mitchell wants to add windows, a kitchen and second floor and outside seating. He also might make the inside a little nicer but promises not to jack up the prices. And, of course, wine night will stay wine night when the place opens back up again.

“I’m not trying to make it more expensive,” Mitchell said. “I’m going to keep it reasonable.”

For the most part, I like how the place looks now, and hope they don’t dress it up too much. But it could definitely use better ventilation.

Also, ladies: This is your last chance to fawn over bartender Kevin Diesel, who looks just like actor Vin Diesel. He’s leaving for South Carolina and won’t be back anytime soon.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:32 AM | | Comments (1)
        
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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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