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July 31, 2007

Coming soon: Fab Five Fridays

Hey everybody -- I need some help. I'm starting up a new weekly feature similar to Sun food empress Elizabeth Large's Top Ten Tuesdays called Fab Five Fridays.

I'm looking for suggestions for the first one, which is the five best places to grab a beer in Fells Point. Got any ideas for me? What are your favorite beer spots in that neighborhood? I'll tell you mine Friday.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:09 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

Miller Chill

Has anybody tried the new Miller Chill? How was it?

I've heard it's not bad, but haven't had any myself yet. It's supposed to be a light beer brewed with lime and salt. I'll get some soon and let you know what I think of it.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:08 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 30, 2007

Tour diary: J-Roddy Walston and the Business

Periodically, I ask local bands to send me stories from the road. This one is by far the weirdest, freakiest yet.

From drummer Steve Colmus of J-Roddy Walston and the Business:

"We were in Little Rock, Ark., on tour and we arrived back at the place we were staying around 2 a.m. after a night about.

"This girl we were staying with told us she and some friends were going to crash an apartment pool and go swimming, and (bassist) Zach and I went along. We got to the complex, found the pool and hadn't been swimming for 10 minutes before this guy came out on his third-floor balcony with a camera with a massive telephoto lens.

"The girl we were staying with instantly got the creeps and told us we had to leave that minute.  We grabbed our stuff and hustled back to the car while the rest of the group continued swimming with this guy taking pictures the whole while.
"After we got back to the car, as we were pulling away, two of the group ran up and said they were getting their car because one of the guys in the group had gotten cut and needed to be taken to the emergency room. They seemed really calm about it, so we thought it wasn't that serious, and we drove off.
"The next day, we find out that minutes after we left, the creep on the third floor came down to the pool-area and started shouting obscenities at the folks still swimming. One of the guys in the group got out of the pool and tried to talk with the guy, but instead the weird guy grabbed one of the metal beach chairs and threatened to hit him.

"Before anyone knew what was going on, the nutbar threw down the chair and picked up a samurai sword he had brought down from his apartment and laid in the grass! Everyone took off running and the guy took a swipe and cut open one of the guys' back, then took off into the night.

"The rest of the crew took the guy to the emergency room where he received 20 stitches and four staples to close the wound! The cops broke down the door to the nut's apartment and found it stocked with ... weapons and cats, but he still hadn't shown back up when we left Little Rock a day later.
"I'm not sure if there's a lesson here.  Maybe it's that sometimes a woman's intuition is all that stands between you and 20 stitches."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music, Tour diaries

July 27, 2007

Three Hot Weekend Tips

I'm starting a new weekly feature called Three Hot Weekend Tips. The name says it all -- these are three of the best nightlife events happening in the area this weekend:


1. Drink 'Til We're Funny at Damon's Grill in Hunt Valley. 9 p.m. Sunday. Free. No drink minimum.

Local comedian and author T. Brad Hudson started this new open mike about a month ago, and he said it's been getting a great response. Anywhere between 45 and 60 people show up for the free event, which has open mike slots, a featured performer and a headliner. This week's headliner is Justin Schlegel, who won the Baltimore's Funniest Person competition in 2004 and has opened for Bob Saget, Dave Attell and others. He's quick, witty and outright hilarious.


2. Freakers Ball at The Ottobar tomorrow night

Jim Lucio dreams up the wildest, weirdest ideas for parties. His newest one is the Freaker's Ball, which features MC and performer Ginger Coyote, a handful of teenage punk bands and more. Doors open at 3 p.m. and this thing goes all day. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show.

3. Can't Hang CD release tonight at the Recher Theatre

This local reggae/rock band's live shows turn into big parties. The new album, Blood Sweat and Beers, really pops. Colouring Lesson opens up. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10 and $13 if you're younger than 21.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:31 PM | | Comments (0)

Q&A with Sarah Borges

In May, I flew to Louisville, Kentucky for the Non-Commvention. It was a gathering of radio stations, complete with workshops and live music showcases. The featured musicians were either just coming onto the scene or trying to re-introduce themselves.

The Boston-based roots rock/rockabilly group Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles were one of the more notable acts there. Their new album, Diamonds in the Dark, came out last month. Sunday, they’ll perform at Creative Alliance at the Patterson. The show is sponsored by WTMD, which partnered with the Sun to send me to Louisville.

I sat down with Borges and talked about the new album, her songwriting process and the Boston music scene.


You said that it’s hard for you to write music in the van. Where do you write most of your music?

I usually write most of it at home by myself. It’s a tricky thing. The first version words that come out as sort of the foundation of the song often times are just terrible — just plain dumb. You rhyme “dog” with “log” or something — something you’d never want the general public to hear. It takes a few more generations before it becomes something that’s OK for public consumption. I try to do it at home alone and then bring it to the band so that they can kind of elaborate on the basic idea.

Do you know when a song is ready?

It never feels ready until everyone in my band has put their hand to it. When we get to a version where we get done playing the song and we all just feel so excited about it. I think that’s as ready as it’s ever going to be.

Do you keep them in mind when you’re writing it?

I didn’t used to. When I first started writing, I didn’t really have a band in place. On our first record, I got the guys as I was in the process of recording. Now that I know them as musicians and I know their styles of playing and the way they think about music, it’s easier to write songs. If I have a part I’m unsure of, I know that Mike our guitar player will certainly know what to do there. Rob our drummer will be able to arrange it in a different way.

Do you think it makes the music tighter too?

Yes, definitely tighter, but also a more accurate representation of what it’s going to sound like live. It’s something that was born organically from all of us coming together on a song and loving music the way we do.

Boston really didn’t have too much of a rockabilly scene when you were first starting there. Was it hard for you to find your footing?

There are a few bands that have come out of the Boston scene. There’s a lot of other bands that have a rockabilly attitude about them. Inherently, it’s the kind of music that incorporates a lot of different stuff. Buddy Holly was just writing American rock songs. People think of him as a rockabilly idol now, but he wasn’t that in his heyday. I think Boston does have a vibrant roots scene, and we found a place to be in that.

(Photo by Liz Linder)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:56 PM | | Comments (0)

July 26, 2007

The Caddo Kaelin

Crazy Bobby, a faithful reader of the blog, sent in this drink recipe as his nomination for best summer drink. It's called the Caddo Kaelin (named after a College Park street and the actor/OJ Simpson trial witness).

I haven't tried it yet, and don't really know if I plan to, but I am kind of curious. I've never had (or heard of) a drink that successfully combines beer, wine and liquor. If it tastes good, the Caddo Kaelin may be the first.


Pour about 1/4 glass full of cheap white wine into a glass.

Then add double shot of Mango Malibu. Then add in some ginger ale, Tom Collins, and top it off
with some cheap beer (i.e. Bud Ice).


Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:44 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A bartender's secret weapon

Last night, bartender who works at a North Charles Street watering hole told me why you should never get on a bartender's bad side.

This bartender used to work at a coffee shop, where a guy kept being really rude to her. So one day, she brought in a little bottle of Visine and squirted it into his coffee.

I don't know if this really works or not, but she said it makes for one monster case of diarrhea. And she's not afraid of dosing someone else, should she need to.

So, the next time you're getting ready to yell at your bartender, remember: They're in charge of what you're drinking.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:43 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 25, 2007

The ATM of the future

Sometimes when we're out in Federal Hill, we stop by the 7-Eleven on Light Street for a quick snack. Every time, I marvel at this:


On this machine, you can withdrawal money from your bank account, make a phone call, wire money overseas, bake a muffin and launch a nuclear missile strike.

When I walk by it, I imagine it asking, "Shall we play a game?"

Me: Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War?

Machine: Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?

Me: Later. Right now, let's play Global Thermonuclear War.

Anybody get that awesome '80s reference? Hint: Matthew Broderick.

Also, if there really are Transformers hiding among us as the new movie suggests, this machine has to be one.  

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:24 PM | | Comments (2)

Otakon photos

As promised, here are a couple photos my pal RJ took at Otakon this past weekend.



Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:16 AM | | Comments (0)

July 24, 2007

Otakon recap

In a word, Otakon, the Japanese Anime convention at the Baltimore Convention Center last weekend, was draining. 

I'll post some photos as soon as my buddy RJ sends them to me. 

It was my first time navigating the inside of the sprawling convention center. I hope I never have to do it again. This massive building takes up two whole city blocks and is horribly confusing -- even with a map.

Otakon's volunteer staff made it even trickier by labeling some doors "exit only" and others "entrance only." Several times, we were told to walk all the way around the convention center to get to the "in" door because this was the "out" door and God forbid we walk in through the out door, even though no one is walking out, but rules are rules and rules shouldn't be broken. Gimme a break.

My little sister Emily and I caught a couple decent new anime flicks, munched on some Pocky, bought some merchandise and walked around all afternoon.

As expected, at least a third of the crowd came in costume. My two favorite ones actually weren't anime-related at all. One guy came dressed as Jesus, complete with a giant cross he lugged around all day. People went nuts. Everybody wanted their picture taken with Jesus.

Also saw Santa Claus (real beard!), who posed for photos with an index finger over his lips, saying "SHHH." Guess Mrs. Claus didn't approve of him sneaking away from the North Pole.

Around 4 p.m., we ended up in an almost unbearable How to Write Japanese seminar. It was a classic case of the awkward leading the awkward. Emily summed it up nicely: "I learned how not to teach Japanese."

We left, exhausted, around 5 p.m.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:06 PM | | Comments (2)

Indie bands live: what's the point?

I was trading emails with a local musician who had a pretty pointed opinion of live indie rock bands.

"Most indie bands are just boring ... live," he wrote. "They do nothing on stage, don't talk to the audience. They're too cool for that. It's often like listening to an incredibly low-quality version of their album, with less room to make up stories in your head."

Your thoughts? 

I've seen indie bands who are just like that, but I've also seen indie bands who play album tracks with enough energy to keep the live show interesting.

But the local guy's got a point -- so many indie bands have that disinterested attitude on stage, and the crowd acts all detached, and I want to shake everybody and say "Hello ... you're at a concert ... feel free to at least pretend like you're enjoying yourself."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:57 AM | | Comments (5)

July 20, 2007

Ryan Adams Meyerhoff video

I've had a couple people comment about the Ryan Adams show at the Meyerhoff in June of 2005. It's definitely one of his more memorable appearances.

I didn't go, but a friend of a friend went, and he said Adams talked about needing a Cortisone shot, walked off stage, came back and performed solo for the rest of the night.

I know he also played something like four songs just standing in the middle of the Meyerhoff at some point. Is that right? Can anybody tell me more?

Found this clip of "Winding Wheel" from the show on YouTube:


Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:39 PM | | Comments (0)

Otakon policies

If you're not familiar with Otakon, the three-day Anime fest going on right now at the convention center, it tends to draw an ... interesting ... crowd of very ... enthusiastic fans.

If you're downtown today, tomorrow or Sunday, I'm sure you'll see them (pink hair, leather and various other costumes are dead giveaways). In fact, these fans are so enthusiastic that the festival had to set some rules on its Web site. Here's a sampling:

"NO LIVE STEEL at all will be permitted on the premises of the BCC. Live steel is defined as swords, knives, bayonets, and/or other objects made of metal, which can take an edge. This holds true regardless of whether the object is actually sharp. This includes star knives/shurikens. A sheathed sword is still live steel."

However, "Staves, bo sticks, boken, shinai, and wooden swords will be permitted."

Then there's the whole public display of affection policy:

"Those members wishing to post notices or find other people should use the bulletin boards provided. Please note that signs asking for food, money, hugs, etc. are considered panhandling by the Baltimore Police department, and signs offering to exchange any sort of sexual favor (kisses, hugs, glomps, etc.) are considered solicitation. Signs with offensive content are not allowed regardless of whether they are 'in character.'"

Hope this helps clear up any questions you might have. Have a great weekend! 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:07 PM | | Comments (3)

Cross Street chill

East Cross Street is a few degrees cooler ever since Ryleigh's Oyster re-opened a few months back.

During renovations, owners installed big windows in the front of the building that fold open, allowing for maximum air flow. They also installed a massive HVAC system powerful enough to cool 30 homes, and on Friday and Saturday nights, they crank up the AC something fierce. If you're walking past the place -- even when it's jam packed -- you almost get goosebumps.

A couple days ago, I joked with Marc McFaul, who manages the nearby Stalking Horse, about Ryleigh's BGE bill. It must be a million bucks a month.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Ryan Adams and Kix

Alt-rocker Ryan Adams put a list of his top five favorite hair metal songs on his MySpace site.

Guess what tune topped the list? None other than "Don't Close Your Eyes" by Baltimore rock heroes Kix.

"I think that's great," said Kix member Ronnie Younkins, who now also plays in the band the Blues Vultures.

"I think that is great compliment. That's good to hear. I think that song really touched a lot of people, and it still does, apparently. I remember back when it was a hit, we got a lot of fan mail. A lot of teenagers really related to that song. ... I think that that's part of the reason it was a hit at the time."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

July 19, 2007

Free Femmes

Each summer, Power Plant Live throws a free live concert series. The Violent Femmes, one of the best bands in the series, play tomorrow night.

The average radio listener will know the Femmes for their hit "Blister in the Sun." But there's a lot more to the band, proven by their fun live shows. Local rock act Fools and Horses opens.

The free show, which is 21 and older, starts at 8 p.m. Power Plant Live is at 34 Market Place. The Web site for more info is

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:11 PM | | Comments (0)

The perfect bar

My earlier post about the Harbor Way Inn got me thinking: what would the perfect bar look like?

I have an idea of what my ideal bar would be like, but I want to hear from you first.

When you imagine the perfect bar, what comes to mind? How big would it be? Would it be a sharp new spot or a classic pub with lots of wood and brick? What kind of drinks would it specialize in? Beer? Liquor? Wine?

Would it have outside seating or a deck? Tables? Or just barstools?

And last but not least, what would the crowd be like?


Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

For sale: Harbor Way Inn

I've driven by the Harbor Way Inn 100 times but never gone inside.

The bar/grill, which sits near the corner of Pratt Street and MLK Boulevard, looks like it's been there for decades. Doesn't look like much has been done with the place since before Harborplace was built, either.

I've wanted to do a Meet the Venue on it, but it looks like I'm too late. I passed by a week or so ago and noticed a For Sale sign in the window. I walked over and saw this note posted:


I left a message for Mr. Vito, but he hasn't called me back yet.

My question is, what would you like to see in place of the Harbor Way? Ridgely's Delight already has a newly redone bar -- Quigley's Half-Irish Pub. And the Camden Pub is right up the street. So I think that pretty much rules out pubs.

How about another pre-game spot? A high-end lounge? A tequila bar?

What do you think?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:47 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 18, 2007

Club 347

club 347 baltimoreClub 347 opened in mid-2005 on North Calvert Street and started hosting comedians and live jazz and blues. I reviewed it for LIVE later that year. Since then, it looks as though they've cut out the comedy in favor of live music.

They recently put up a new awning outside, which I hope is a sign they're doing well. I'm all for more outlets for local jazz and blues musicians.

I know Club 347 has regular jazz and blue jam sessions, and Jah Works was actually supposed to play there late last month.

Has anyone been there recently?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music


In last week's nightlife column, I wrote about the Purple Moose in Ocean City. A cover band named Frankie and the Actions (FATAL) were playing that night, and I ribbed them a little.

Here's two excerpts from the column:

"The four guys in FATAL look like they've been grinding out Guns N' Roses for the past 15 to 20 years. Beer guts and thinning hair be darned, they could still rock."


"The bassist was a little animated, and the drummer was confined to his stool, but the other two just stood there like lumps."

Both the singer and the drummer e-mailed me about the story, and they took my jabs really well. Most bands have really thin skin, and melt down when writers criticize them -- even a little.

Here's some of what the singer wrote:

"I haven't stopped laughing. Brutally honest. ... I really didn't think i just stood there like a lump. I'll have to remedy that. Thanks for pointing some of the good too as well as your honest perception of us. When Mike (Mann, the drummer) sent me the email the subject line said: The Good, The Bad, The Beer Guts. I'm still laughing ( at ourselves ). As they say..... there's no such thing as bad publicity. I guess. ... Loved the article, warts and all.


Michael Mead
Lead Vocals / Rhythm Guitarist
Frankie and the Actions

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

Tiny Tom Cruise

I was out drinking at Mum's last weekend when, for some reason or another, the bartender started discussing Tom Cruise's height.

"The sad thing about Tom Cruise is, he's actually only 17-inches tall," he said. "I could easily hide him behind the ketchup bottle in my fridge."

I've never met Cruise myself, so the bartender could be right. 

Then the bartender told us about this Barbie doll with a fake leg he used to have, and the level of bizarreness in the room doubled. Amused, but also a little weirded out, we skedaddled soon after. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Lo-Fi reopening date

The Lo-Fi Social Club should re-open for shows Sept. 7 in its new location at 1825 N. Charles St. That's a block or two north of the Charles Theatre on the same side of the street.

Owner Neil Freebairn sent me a text message recently with the news. I'll let you know when I hear more.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

July 17, 2007

The Spice Girls

All this Beckham hype has got me thinking about the Spice Girls.
Yes, I bought their debut album when it came out in early 1997. Who didn't? My excuse: I was in middle school at the time.
Not sure what happened to my copy of it, either. Might be back home in a box with my flannel shirt and super-baggy jeans.
I Googled around some and found their MySpace site. As of this morning, they only had 194 friends. Pretty lame, considering they're planning on touring and releasing a greatest hits album later this year.
Anybody gonna see 'em live? Will this be the spark that re-ignites Spice-mania?
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)

July 16, 2007

Tour diary: Victoria Vox


Every so often, I ask local bands to send me a couple of good tour stories. This is from singer/songwriter Victoria Vox:

I was recently on tour in St. Louis. After my show I vaguely remember pulling some fancy parking maneuver and backing into a curb a couple of times!  (I swear I was sober!) 
The next morning, with a six-hour window to get to Chicago, I pulled away and immediately felt my car handling differently. Yup, my front right tire was blown! Of the 120,000 miles I've put on my Honda Civic, I've NEVER had a flat tire ... and unfortunately, I fit into the stereotype of women who can't change a flat. 
I pulled over about 6 blocks away to Truck Sales place. They referred me to a tire place, who quickly came to the rescue and checked out my situation. Since I damaged the tire wall, I needed a new one. After a spare was put on I followed the tow truck to the garage. 
While in the waiting room, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ONLY book on the "reading table" was "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." I've been wanting to read that!
I picked it up, and immediately started getting comments from the men working in their cubicles at the garage. I suggested to one man that he should read it ... but he said that there was no need, since he already had his own abbreviated list of do's and don't with women! 
I read it.  It was pretty accurate, I think :) Then he suggested that I take the book, finish it, and bring it back. I said that I was from out of town, and that I couldn't take it.  But he insisted, and gave me his card with the garages address. He told me that I could mail it back!
I never thought that a tire garage could double as a library! I did get to the gig in Chicago, JUST in time ... though a little frazzled ... but hey, I got some good reading material ... and two new tires ;)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tour diaries

Transformers catastrophe

Semi-nerdy confession: All my life I've loved Transformers.

Not in the buy-every-toy, watch-every-cartoon, quote-them-in-daily-life obsession sense. Yeah, I owned a bunch of the action figures as a kid and actually have the DVD of the awesome 1984 cartoon movie. And yeah, Amie did get me a vintage Optimus Prime as a gift last year.

I wasn't first in line to see the new movie, either. But I really wanted to go Saturday night. So I called up Evan and convinced him to see the 7:20 p.m. showing at the Mall in Columbia.

Of course, we get there and it's sold out.

After much wrangling, I convinced Evan to see the 9:30 p.m. show with me. So we had a beer or two at the nearby Champps Americana, which, for a chain sports bar, isn't as lame as I thought it would be.

We walked over to the cinema at about 8:30 p.m. and realized we needed to kill a little more time before going in. So we went back to Champps for a shot. What must have happened was, I took out my wallet to pay for the shot, and my ticket and the receipt both fell out onto the floor. I didn't notice.

We strolled back over to the theater, I fished around in my pockets for the ticket, couldn't find it, and panicked. This showing had also sold out.

I ran back to Champps, found the receipt on the floor below the barstool but couldn't find the ticket itself. Someone had stolen it!

I was devastated. Absolutely devastated. Evan later said I looked like someone had shot my dog.

We ended up going to the Greene Turtle in Columbia earlier than planned for a nightlife column. Then we went back to Baltimore for more beer to wash away the bitter taste of defeat.  

I finally ended up seeing a matinée yesterday. And yeah, it was awesome. But I'm still peeved at what happened Saturday night.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:09 AM | | Comments (0)

July 13, 2007


DJs Craig Boarman and Matt Walter are back with a new indie rock/electro pop dance party called Automat!c at the Ottobar. The next one is tonight.

Boarman and Walter were the guys behind Underground, the years-old dance party that recently ended. Automat!c starts at 10 p.m. and features a live performance by the Sugar Report at 10:30 p.m. Doors open at 9 p.m.

Has anyone been to Automat!c yet? How is it? Aside from the live band, is it much different from Underground? 

Automat!c sounds a lot like Reaction!, the monthly mod dance party at Sidebar. They both have exclamation points in their names, too. Coincidence?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

July 11, 2007

Bingo nights?

Does anyone under the age of 50 go to these giant Bingo spots I drive past? They're whole buildings dedicated just to Bingo.

I saw a billboard for one near Brooklyn with a bunch of 20-somethings on it, but I don't know if that's really what Baltimore's serious bingo crowd looks like.

I kind of want to go to one of these Bingo nights as a nightlife column. But I'm curious. Have any of you guys been to one of these places? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:46 AM | | Comments (3)

July 10, 2007

King of Kong?

This is almost too good to be true:

I've gotta see it when it comes out, which I think will be in August. Serious points to JMG, who first showed me this.  

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:47 PM | | Comments (0)

The city's cheapest carbombs?

About a year ago, I wrote a scene story for LIVE on specialty drinks. In it, I mentioned Crazy Lil's $3 carbombs.

A carbomb is Jameson Irish Whiskey and Bailey's Irish Cream mixed into a shot glass, dropped into a glass of Guinness and chugged straight down. They run anywhere from $6-$9, depending on where you order them.

Crazy Lil's deal is, you get a carbomb anytime for $3.

Granted, the glass is only two-thirds full of Guinness, and the shot is probably more Bailey's than Jameson, but still -- $3 for a carbomb?!?! 

When I'm out in Federal Hill, I'll drop in there sometimes for a quick carbomb or two. If it's a Friday or Saturday night, I usually have to muscle my way through packs of meatheads to get to the bar. But carbombs can be a delicious boost to a night out.

Seen a better carbomb special? Lemme know about it, and I'll try it. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:23 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 9, 2007

Southside suggestions?

I'm a native Marylander who's lived in Baltimore for two years now and have never tried a Southside.

This week, I plan to change all that. But I need your help.

Who makes the best mixer? What liquor should I put in it? How much liquor?

Please post your suggestions. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Exciting Darkroom Productions news


(Elizabeth Malby / Sun Photographer) 

Local duo Jamal Roberts and Juan Donovan Bell, aka Darkroom Productions, recently remixed the R. Kelly song "Real Talk," which will be the B-side of Kelly's new single. It comes out in a couple weeks, but you can preview it on their myspace site. (FYI: There are some cuss words in the song.)

Bell and Roberts also produced a track on Chamillionaire's upcoming album, Ultimate Victory. That's two Grammy-winning artists in one year. Keep 'em coming, boys. 

In other news, Darkroom Productions has independently sold almost 30,000 copies of its now  six-month-old album Hamsterdam 2: Stash to the Strip.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

July 6, 2007

The Hippo's 35th birthday

Tomorrow, local gay bar the Hippo turns a whopping 35 years old. I believe that makes it one of the oldest continuously owned gay bars in the country.

As a thank you gift to his customers, owner Chuck Bowers will be giving away $250 every hour on the hour, as well as a trip to Napa Valley. Renown New York City DJ Junior Vasquez will be spinning all night, and there will be no cover charge. As the club's motto states, "Everyone's Welcome."

Doors open at 9 p.m. The Hippo is at 1 W. Eager St. Call 410-547-0069.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:20 PM | | Comments (0)

Threat of thunder cancels 1st Thursday

The folks at WTMD decided to call off last night's free show in West Mount Vernon Park due to the threat of incoming thunderstorms.

The concert, which was supposed to feature Jesse Harris and openers Caleb Stine and the Brakemen, was officially canceled at 4:45 p.m., said program director Mike "Matthews" Vasilikos.

"We felt it was in everybody's best safety, including both bands, the sound company listeners and audience showing up based on what we knew from the weather systems that were coming into to cancel the show last night, regretfully," Vasilikos said. "We hope to bring Jesse back to town for another gig, and we hope everybody supports Caleb Stine and the Brakemen as they play around town."

I think this was the first Concert in the Park canceled for rain. Unfortunately, the rain didn't come until hours later than everyone originally thought.

Caleb Stine and the Brakemen played an acoustic set on the grass to keep listeners entertained.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

July 5, 2007

Q&A with Jesse Harris, playing West Mount Vernon Park tonight

jesse harrisYou most likely know the music, but not the man.

Singer/songwriter Jesse Harris wrote Norah Jones' smash hit "Don't Know Why," which won him a Grammy. A host of other artists have covered his music and co-written with him.

Harris' new album Feel comes out Tuesday. He also scored the new Ethan Hawke movie The Hottest State, which is scheduled to come out in August. For the movie's soundtrack, a number of other musicians including Feist, Willie Nelson and Cat Power interpret Harris' songs.

Tonight, Harris plays a free show in West Mount Vernon Park. The music starts at 5:30 p.m. We recently spoke with Harris about his songwriting process and the new projects.

    Is it a little bittersweet to have other musicians play your songs and have such great success with them?
    No, not at all. I love to hear other people do tunes of mine. The only part of it that’s bittersweet is when someone does a tune of mine and I do my own gig and people who are fans of that person and expect me to sound like that.
    If I were to go to Baltimore and a lot of Norah fans came thinking I might sound like Norah, that would create an awkward situation. I don’t think my own music when I’m singing sounds like Norah at all. That’s the only time that it creates weirdness.
    Otherwise, I get a lot of pleasure from people singing my songs. I’ve been writing songs for a long time with the idea of having other people sing them by writing material that I thought wasn’t too personal or idiosyncratic.
    I always wanted to write songs that I felt would be universal. Or at least some of them to be that way. Other times I give myself the license to be abstract or not worry about it and write whatever I want.
    Do the musicians who cover your songs come to you, or do you go to them?
    It really depends. In some cases, people come to me when they want to co-write. Other times I’ve had people come ask for a song.
    It’s very difficult to go to an artist and say, ‘Hey, I have a song. I’d like you to sing it.’ That almost 100 percent of the time doesn’t work out. You can’t every make a singer sing a song. I learned that a long time ago. You can certainly show someone a song. Most cases, I don’t think I’ve had much success pitching a song to someone.
    In the case of the new project, The Hottest State — Ethan Hawke’s film — it was a little different. We set out with this project saying to everybody ‘Hey, we’re doing an album of Jesse Harris songs, and we’d like you to do this one. Are you interested?’
    It’s sort of a no-commitment situation for an artist. When an artist does a song on their record, they’re kind of taking it on in their lives. They have to then go out and perform it possibly on television, in concerts. Whereas if they do something for a soundtrack like this, they can do it and then they’re free from it. I think that’s part of what excited them about it. They got to do a song but not marry it, so to speak.
    Out of that, I think we got such amazing performances. Everybody felt liberated. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t their record, so they could do whatever they wanted to. And they’re all such great artists. So we got such great music. That’s my theory, at least.
    Have you had people come to you and say, ‘write a song for me?’
    Usually when someone says that, they say, ‘Let's co-write it together.’ People usually want to co-write. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes not.
    Usually people don’t come and say, ‘Write me a song.’ I wish they did. But it usually doesn’t go that way.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (3)

July 3, 2007

Morrissey show postponed

This just in: Tonight's Morrissey show at Rams Head Live has been shelved due to the singer's recent vocal illness. He recently came down with a viral infection that left his voice too fatigued to perform in Philadelphia, Northampton and New York City.

My friend Evan Haga went to Morrissey's show last night at Wolf Trap and said Morrissey sounded fine. The set was short, though -- only about an hour and 15 minutes.

They haven't scheduled a makeup date for the Rams Head Live show yet. But tonight, the Morrissey/Smiths tribute band Girlfriend in a Coma will perform a free show starting at 8:30 p.m. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:33 PM | | Comments (0)

Red Sox fan limit

porters pub baltimoreThis is posted above the door to Porters Pub in Federal Hill:

Your thoughts?

As an Orioles fan, I'm all for it. Can we also institute this policy for Yankee fans?

How many other bars have rules like this?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:44 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 2, 2007

Gatsby goes green, van revolts

Local pop rockers Gatsby Gets the Green Light had the best intentions. But what started as a good idea turned into a royal pain in the you know what and some canceled tour dates.

The band recently bought a tour van from Baltimore-based rock band Voodoo Blue and converted it to run on an eco-friendly mix of diesel and vegetable oil. Then they set out on a several-week tour.

The band made it as far as Delaware, where the van broke down. They had to cancel some dates and tow the van back home for repairs. When I talked to singer/guitarist Trevor Simpson last week, they were planning on heading back out on tour this week.

So was going green worth the frustration?

"I don't know yet," Simpson said. "That's something we have to do some soul searching for."


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Ocean City action

Just got back from a weekend downy ocean.

Friday night a bunch of us went to the Purple Moose Saloon. I'm thinking about writing a nightlife column on it for the LIVE section in the next couple of weeks. You guys ever been there? It's a trip. Outside it may have been 2007, but it's always 1995 in the Purple Moose. Wooooo!

We didn't go to my favorite OC bar, though. And of course, I can't remember the name right now. But it kind of reminds me of Baltimore: narrow, deep and a little dirty. It has cheap beer and one of the best drinking games I've ever played.

Near the back wall, a metal ring hangs down from the ceiling on a string. There is a metal hook on the wall a few feet away. You swing the ring and try to get it on the hook.

It sounds kind of boring, but it's easy enough that anyone can play, and if you've had a couple drinks, it can keep you entertained for quite some time.

Has anyone else been to this place? What's its name? Help me remember. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:37 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
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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 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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