« July 2007 | Main | September 2007 »

August 31, 2007

Hookah wars

There are only two real hookah bars in the city: Three Kings of Egypt (pictured top left) and Zeeba Lounge (bottom left).

In case you're wondering, I'm not including Hucka's on Boston Street because it's an odd combination hookah lounge and sports bar, which ends up being the worst of both worlds.

Three Kings and Zeeba are just across the street from each other on Light Street in Federal Hill. The two are so different they barely competed with each other -- until recently.

At Three Kings, the decor is nothing special, but the atmosphere is unpretentious and the hookahs cheap. It has plain metal chairs, fluorescent lighting and a few Egyptian murals painted on the walls.

Zeeba goes for the swanky look, with rugs and booths and cushion seats.

About a year back, hookahs at Three Kings were only $8 each. Then it went up to $9. Then $9.50.

Now, a hookah at Three Kings is a whopping $12. That's how much they've always charged at Zeeba.

I don't know why Three Kings thinks it can get away with $12 a hookah, but for that price, I'd rather go to Zeeba, where at least you're paying for the decor. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:03 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Fab Five Friday

Here's my list of the best places to lounge in the city. Remember -- these aren't just places that call themselves lounges. These are places you can actually relax. 

1. The Living Room Lounge at the Waterfront Hotel, 1710 Thames St.

When I'm in Fells Point and need to chill out, this is where I go. Downstairs gets packed crazy with loud live music. But the upstairs lounge, with its wood paneling, fireplaces and leather furniture you can sink into, is almost always calm and quiet.

2. Red Maple, 930 N. Charles St.

More than five years after it opened, Red Maple is still one of the city's go-to lounges. Though it tries too hard to be like New York City (and I've never been able to get over the $10 cover), Red Maple can be irresistibly hip.   

3. Ixia, 518 N. Charles St. (pictured)

Yes, it's a little stuffy and a little pretentious. But those vintage couches and chairs by the bar are pretty comfy. And, with the awesome new nitrogen bar run by Tom Cusack, Ixia has a drink list you won't find anywhere else.

4. The Den, 3327 St. Paul St.

Here, the decor is sharp and swanky: beds, booths, a cherry wood floor and granite bar. Go there on a Thursday night or early on Friday or Saturday, before the annoying Hopkins frat crowd takes over.

5. The Brewer's Art, 1106 N. Charles St.

I agonized over including this one, because it topped the list of places to take your snobby hipster friend from Washington a couple weeks ago. But the upstairs lounge is a prime place for kicking back. And the beers on tap are awesomely delicious. Plus, it's recently smoke-free.

(Kim Hairston/Sun Photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:36 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

August 30, 2007

Three Hot Weekend Tips


1) Talking Head Club re-opening party Saturday

It's back! Same location, too. And what a lineup: Bow N Arrow (aka Mickey Freeland, pictured above with beer), Ponypants, Dactyl and Frenemies (Mickey's brother Chris of Frenemies pictured above with mustache). Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. $7.

2) Midget wrestling at Della Rose's in Canton tomorrow

Yes, you read that right. Midget wrestling. It's all part of Della Rose's Countdown-to-Kickoff happy hour. Mickey from 98Rock's morning show will host an outdoor pep rally which starts at 4 p.m. The wrestling match, between Baltimore's Smallest Bully and the Cincinnati Kid, starts at 8 p.m. Free.

3) The Wire farewell wrap-up party at Eden's Lounge Saturday night

Andre Royo (Bubbles) hosts this party where you can meet (and buy a few drinks for) the cast and crew of HBO's The Wire. Might be the last chance you get -- this is the last season.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (0)

'The Wire' takes over a downtown bar

At first, I thought the Sidebar Tavern was on fire.

Cops and utility people swarmed outside the place yesterday afternoon, darting inside and back out onto the sidewalk.

Then I saw the green awning where the Sidebar logo should have been and thought a new bar named Kavanagh's had taken its place.

Finally, I realized it was the crew from The Wire setting up for a shoot.

I'm not sure whether they used the Sidebar the first time, but I remember Kavanagh's was the scene of Ray Cole's wake in season three.

I wonder if someone else dies in season five ... 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 29, 2007

Brewer's Art semi-smoke free

Got an email from Volker Stewart of the Brewer's Art a couple of days ago.

He said the upstairs lounge/bar area is now smoke-free. That was a good idea. On a Friday or Saturday night when the place was packed, the smoke would filter into the main dining room.

I believe you can still light up in the downstairs bar.  

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:28 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The next Fab Five Friday

What's the best lounge in Baltimore?

I'm talking everything from high-end places like Red Maple to laid-back bars with comfy lounge areas. And just because a place has the word "lounge" in its name doesn't mean it's really a lounge.

I'll give you my list on Friday. What's yours?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:02 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

August 28, 2007

New Steve Hefter

Steve Hefter, front man for (you guessed it) Steve Hefter and Friends and Friends of Friends, obsesses over the recording process.

When he was mixing A Six-Song Demonstration about a year ago, he told me he was listening to the tracks hundreds of times each. He wanted to get them just right.

Hefter's hard work paid off with the batch of tunes on his new album, Twist and Hold Til' Morning.

The songs are sparsely produced, and center on Hefter and his acoustic guitar.

Hefter's wry lyrics will make you crack a smile: "Don't be my honey when the bees begin to swarm" or "my mind screams no but my body says yes." Should be out soon.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Getting your Baltimore on

Sometimes you go out for a beer and wind up having a wild and crazy time you know could have only happened in this city. I call it getting your Baltimore on.

Last weekend, a couple of friends and I were slurping homemade Jello shots and sucking down $2 Budweiser bottles at a bar so smoky it made my eyes water.

This place didn't even have a sign out front, but it had an old piano inside. And after I had a couple of drinks, I started hammering out some old roadhouse blues tunes on the piano for the regulars, who ate it up.

Later on, a crazy old lady with a piercing cackle came over and told us some hilarious dirty jokes. Now that's getting your Baltimore on.

My question: How do you get your Baltimore on? Does it involve Natty Bohs and dancing on the bar? Or is it something weird and quirky that you could only find in Charm City?

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

August 27, 2007

A record-setting week

The Fab Five Friday dive bar post got almost 20 comments -- breaking the previous record set by the beer pong vs. beirut post from several months ago. Keep 'em coming, guys.

I won't bore you with numbers, but twice as many people read the blog last week as the week before. We're shattering records right and left.

So thanks, and keep reading.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:31 PM | | Comments (0)

August 24, 2007

Fab Five Friday

Here it is -- my list of the five best Baltimore dive bars.

Remember -- I went for places that you won't find in travel books or city guides. These places are the real thing.

1. Rendezvous Lounge, 136 W. 25th St.

The only bar I've ever fought in. A guy I was drinking whiskey with took a swing at me, and we wound up wrestling on that nasty floor. Nobody seemed to care. When the scuffle was over, we went back up to the bar and ordered another shot of whiskey. They make you put a $5 deposit on the cue sticks for the pool table, in case you're thinking of breaking one over somebody's head.

2. BAR, 1718 Lancaster St.

Here, the "wine list" is 1. White and 2. Red. The fan only has two prongs left and the pool league has been dead for years (just like the roses in the vase sitting on the bar), but BAR is still there, by God.

3. The Venice Tavern, 339 S. Conkling St.

A this basement bar, they still serve beer in those tiny 8-ounce glasses you see in black-and-white 1940s movies. The back walls by the pool table are a shrine to old boxers, including Vince DeSantis, who helped run the place back in the day.

4. Muir's Tavern, 36 E. Fort Ave. (pictured)

This place is also a packaged goods store. One time I went in there and asked for a six pack of Yuengling to go. The woman behind the bar grimaced and said, "We don't serve imports." Enough said.

5. Locust Point Tavern, 1515 E. Clement St.

The only bar I've ever been to with a screen door. From the outside, the place looks like a bar/house hybrid. Step inside, and you're hit with a musk that could only come from decades of spilled beer and cigarette smoke.

(Elizabeth Malby/Sun Photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:50 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

August 23, 2007

Sly Fox Pub relocates

Thanks for the heads up -- the Sly Fox Pub has indeed moved to the building where the old Skybox Bar & Grill used to be.

The new address is 823 E. Fort Ave. and the number is still 410-637-3699.

The new location is twice as big, with 10 flat screen TVs. It's still smoke-free, of course. The grand opening party was last night, but you can expect the festivities to overflow into the weekend.

"It was ridiculous," Brian Fox said of last night's party. "It surpassed any expectations we could have ever had. It was jam-packed."

As for the old thuggish Skybox regulars I wrote about yesterday?

Fox has "no interest in that crowd ever coming back."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:59 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Three Hot Weekend Tips

1. Voodoo Blue's final show at the Recher Theatre Saturday

These homegrown alt-rockers tore it up last year with a nationally released album and tons of touring. It's a shame they're calling it quits. If you're a fan, you'll be at this show. If you haven't heard them yet, see 'em before it's too late.

2. Harbor East Fine Arts and Music Festival Saturday

You can't beat free, and this all-day event is full of free stuff. Local acts Laura Brino and June Star open for Gran Bel Fisher, and dozens of artists will display their works in Harbor East. 

3. Carnival night at the Sidebar Tavern, 9 p.m. Monday

I'm still going to count this sideshow as a weekend event because it sounds so weird and fun. They're planning thumb wrestling, Natty Boh can tossing, face painting and other carnival-like events. There's no cover, either.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:51 PM | | Comments (0)

Tour diary: To the Moon

From Chris Schafer, drummer of instrumental drum and bass trio To the Moon:

We had a gig at the Continental. This was two summers ago. We drive up there, and it took us seven hours to get to New York. It was horrible. We rented a van, it was supposed to be a four hour drive.

We were late getting there because of all of the traffic, we got denied going through the Holland Tunnel because it was a rental van and they said that it's a commercial vehicle. We had to turn around and go down to the Lincoln Tunnel. We ended up missing our time slot. The club wouldn't change slots with us. It was a total bummer.

The next day, we're walking around, we see CBGB's. We go in just to take a look at the place. None of us had ever seen it before.

I started telling the people there what happened with us the night before at the Continental. They were like 'Aw, man, that's horrible.'

I said, 'What's the chance of letting us play tonight?' They let us open! It was a sold out show when they were trying to save CBGB's. It was a freaking packed house! It was unbelievable.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music, Tour diaries

August 22, 2007

Awkward moment at the Skybox Bar

About a year ago, a couple of friends and I were doing the Fort Avenue bar crawl.

One of the stops on the way was the Skybox Bar and Grill, which is just west of the shopping center. I'd seen a pretty rough-looking crowd chilling outside the place before, but never been inside.

We opened the door, walked in, and stopped dead in our tracks.

It was like someone had rounded up every trashy young South Baltimore native and stuck them in the Skybox. They looked fierce.

And as soon as we stepped in, just about everybody in the place stopped their conversations and turned and stared at us. It was something straight from a movie. We were not welcome there. We didn't even order a beer. We peaced out. Quick.

I've never been back. I don't plan to. I've been in hundreds of Baltimore bars, and that was the only time that happened to me.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:40 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The next Fab Five Friday

This week, the topic is Best Dive Bar. I'm going to post my list on Friday, but I'm open to suggestions.

It's a tough topic. There are so many awesome little dives scattered around this city that a list of 10 would barely do them justice, and I only have five slots to fill.

I don't want this list to look anything like AOL City Guide's best of Baltimore dive bars, either. These have to be real dives that few people have heard about. I want the local Baltimorean's guide to dive bars, not the tourist's list.

Whatcha got for me? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:05 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

New club coming to Power Plant

Just got word: Angels Rock Bar, an upscale rock lounge, will open in Power Plant Live Sept. 14.

The business owners of the new Angels Rock Bar poured $1,000,000 into the space above the Lodge Bar where the tiki bar and miniature golf course used to be, and also part of the old Have A Nice Day Cafe area.

"I'm really excited about it," said co-owner Patrick Osuna. "This is a great project I've been looking forward to for a while now."

Rather than have bands play live, the club is booking big name rock DJs to spin. Rocker Tommy Lee (of Motley Crue) and DJ Aero will break in the new club Sept. 15.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 21, 2007

A big month for local music

The next few weeks are gonna be huge for Baltimore bands.

First, we've got the Baltimore Music Conference coming this weekend, which means four days of live music, seminars and workshops at a handful of local venues such as Sonar and Club One.

Then, the Talking Head Club reopens Sept. 1 in its old location with a show by Ponytail, Bow N Arrow and others.

And finally, the newly relocated Lo-Fi Social Club opens Sept. 7 on North Charles St.

Both of these clubs will be platforms for Baltimore bands. The Lo-Fi might even have a volunteer-run storefront selling local band merchandise.

Does this mean the city's local music scene is finally starting to come around? Are the once-isolated pockets of musicians talking to one another more than they used to? Wham City is making waves for Baltimore. Are people in New York City paying attention?

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

The power of an iPhone

In my earlier post today, I promised more on Sonar's new sound system. I won't bore you with all the technical specs, but the bottom line is, the place is supposed to sound a whole lot louder and clearer.

"You're definitely going to be able to hear the difference," said marketing director Evan Weinstein. "It's really stepping up the sound in the room."

But the coolest part: Sound man Matt Bitton rigged the system so he can run the sound boards through his iPhone!

I tried to get a hold of Bitton, but he never called or e-mailed me back. I'm dying to know: What happens when the phone rings?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:26 PM | | Comments (1)

Some local bar updates

Here's some quick local nightlife news:

  • Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis plans to remove its in-house brewery in the coming weeks, which will allow it to expand its seating area.
  • The Dog Pub's new Columbia location should be open next month, if everything goes as planned.
  • Sonar recently installed a louder, clearer sound system. More on that later today.
  • Booking agent Dave Tieff (of the local band Laughing Colors) left The Whiskey 1803 after disagreements with the owners. Not sure whether the venue, at 1803 West St., is still hosting live music.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 20, 2007

Wild night at Ixia

When it comes to wild drinks, this takes the cake.

Heard about this crazy chemistry major/mixologist at Ixia, and went to check him out last Saturday. The dude, named Tom, uses liquid nitrogen and various other potions to create these outrageous/delicious/expensive drinks. I had a glassless shot, Amie had a mojito made with cotton candy and liquid nitrogen.

Has anybody else been there yet? You've gotta check it out. Tom is there after 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Thanks to Maryann for the tip.

Read more about it in my review in Thursday's LIVE.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 17, 2007

Fab Five Friday

Here is my list of the five bars you can use to impress your snobby hipster friends from Washington:

1. The Brewer's Art, 1106 N. Charles St.

The best of both worlds: the upstairs parlor where your friends can mingle with other hipster friends and argue about the similarities between Interpol and Joy Division, and the dungeon-like downstairs lounge where you can all drink delicious beer together.

2. The Dog Pub, 20 E. Cross St.

Formerly the Thirsty Dog, this is a place where you can wow your friends with two glass mugs of microbrew for $3.50 and tasty, cheap personal pizzas. It's got the classic Baltimore look, too -- long and narrow with plenty of wood and brick.

3. Ixia, 518 N. Charles St.

Go here if you want to say, 'Look! Baltimore has hip/classy/semi-pretentious restaurant/bars with fancy martinis too! And here, you don't even have to pay a ridiculous $10 cover like you would back in Washington!"

4. The 13th Floor, The Belvedere, 1 E. Chase St. (pictured)

Just as Patchen said in his comment, the view is something your D.C. compadres will never get back home. Grab a drink, wow em, and head somewhere else -- the 13th Floor should be a stop on a bar tour, not a destination. 

5. Leadbetter's, 1639 Thames St.

If your friends are the let's-drink-Natty Boh-because-it's-cool type, take them here. Do it on a Friday or Saturday night when a few bikers are in there and the guy who looks like Dee Snider is serving drinks. That's how you get your Baltimore on.

(Karl Merton Ferron/Sun Photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:34 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

August 16, 2007

Mustang Alley's: Ouch!

I heard scary rumors about how much it costs to bowl at the brand-new Mustang Alley's in Harbor East, and I just had them confirmed.

Ready for this?

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it costs $55 to rent a lane for an hour. Lanes are limited to parties of five or less people. Mondays through Thursdays, it costs $35. Shoes are $1.50 all the time. I think my wallet just screamed.

General manager Jay Teramani tried to calm me down.

"You've gotta come in here and see what we're doing," he said.

Maybe during the week, Jay. I don't know if The Sun will pay for me to go on the weekend.

Just for kicks, I called the Patterson Bowling Center, which is .7 miles away. They have a special for parties of 10 or more, where two hours of bowling plus shoes is $13 per person. Their regular rates are $4 per person per game and $2 for shoes. That's a little more in my price range.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:42 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Three Hot Weekend Tips

1. Hot August Blues Fest at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville Saturday.

What a month for live music: First there was Virgin Fest, then the PAETEC Jazz Festival, and now there's the Hot August Blues Festival.

Allman Brothers guitarist/singer Dickey Betts and Joan Osborne headline, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charles "Big Daddy" Stallings and Eric Lindell (pictured at left) round it out.



2. J-Roddy Walston and the Business at The Ottobar tomorrow

Baltimore has been a rock town for a long time, and there are few local bands who dish out high-octane rock 'n' roll like J-Roddy Walston and the Business.

Tomorrow, they'll be just getting back to the area from a national tour that lasted several weeks. Check these guys out before they get a little too big for this town.

3. The Seldon Plan at the Walters Art Gallery's Free Fridays tomorrow

I'm really impressed with the Walters Art Gallery's Free Fridays concert series. You can see some of the area's best bands and art at no cost.

Local indie rockers the Seldon Plan plays tomorrow. Their new album, The Collective Now, is warmer, more focused and accessible than their previous effort, Making Circles. Definitely check them out.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:09 PM | | Comments (1)

August 15, 2007

New Fools and Horses

Local rockers Fools and Horses have three new songs up on their MySpace site.

Check out the new stuff here.

My favorite of the three is "We Have Arrived." Keep 'em coming, guys.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:52 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

The next Fab Five Friday

This one comes from my roommate Patchen: The five best Baltimore bars to impress your snobby hipster friend from Washington.

I'm looking for places that are not just cheap, but have a great atmosphere and solid service. Baltimore seems to get a bad rep or no rep at all when it comes to bars. What people don't realize is that we've got some pretty cool spots here.

I'll give you my list on Friday. What's yours? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:26 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

August 14, 2007

Tank top bans

A co-worker sent me an interesting e-mail this morning after reading my post about Mustang Alley's.

She writes:

is the tank top ban a common occurrence? i saw that mustang alley's has one ... i'm assuming this ban only applies to men.

Recently, I watched as a bouncer at Greene Turtle in Columbia kicked a man out for wearing a sleeveless T-shirt. I think it depends on the place. Banning tank tops would be suicide for a Dundalk bar.

Have you guys run into this elsewhere? Your thoughts? Is it just a guy thing?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:07 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 13, 2007

Mustang Alley's open in Harbor East

Just got word -- Mustang Alley's, a new bowling alley and bar, just opened at 1300 Bank St. in Harbor East. Here is their Web site.

Anybody been there yet?

According to the site, there is a dress code(!) that bans headgear, sports jerseys and construction boots. Two questions:

1) What is headgear?

2) Can I still bring my construction hat? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:58 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Boston Red Sox and Sarah Borges

In light of the recent Orioles/Boston Red Sox series, I thought I'd share this: In Louisville, Ken., a couple of months ago, Boston rocker Sarah Borges sat down with WTMD's Erik Deatherage and told him why she loves coming to Baltimore to see the Sox.

Sarah Borges: Your tickets are so cheap, your ballpark’s nice, you’ve got great hospitality, and the crabs are sooo good.

ED: You have a perfectly nice ball park [in Boston]!

SB: We do, but you can’t get a good ticket there. For the entire cost flights, dinner hotel, food, everything, it was less than we would have spent on a pair of tickets at Fenway for the same seats. We sat right behind home plate.  

ED: You guys totally eclipse the Oriole fans. 

SB: I know, and it’s really fun to be in your hometown and be saying really horrible things to your baseball team. 

ED: Yeah, but you know what? We say horrible things about our baseball team.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:43 AM | | Comments (0)

August 10, 2007

Talking Head Club is back!

Just got word: The Talking Head Club, which closed Dec. 31, 2006, will re-open Sept. 1 in the same location.

The lineup: Ponypants, Bow 'n' Arrow and Dactyl. 

There may even be some semi-secret soft-opening shows in the coming weeks. I'll keep you posted as soon as I hear more.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Fab Five Fridays

As promised, here's my list of the five best pre-gaming spots:

1. The Wharf Rat Pub and Restaurant, 206 W. Pratt St.

This was an easy choice. Not only does the Wharf Rat have an authentic 1800s feel, it also has some of the best locally brewed beer you'll find around town. The service is friendly and down to earth, and before games, it usually doesn't get too slammed.

2. Pickles Pub, 520 Washington Blvd.

Since expanding into the neighboring building earlier this year, Pickles has gotten even more wild and crazy before games. In addition to the tents outside, there is now a beer pong table, a larger dining room and that game where you toss bean sacks into holes in a board. And who can resist a deep-fried pickle or two?

3. Mother's Federal Hill Grille, 1113 S. Charles St. 

The polar opposite of the Wharf Rat, this restaurant and bar is party central, especially during football season. They set up a tent out back on the Purple Patio to accommodate all the extra mayhem, and people slam back drinks before streaming down to the stadiums.

4. Downtown Sports Exchange, 200 W. Pratt St.

Since new owners took over this place last summer, they've really cleaned it up. The service has really improved, as has the number of beers on tap and flat screen TVs. The DSX used to be a decent place to pre-game. Now it's a great one.

5. Quigley's Half-Irish Pub, 633 Portland St.

I know, I know, they don't serve food at Quigley's. Yet. But on game days, owner Jim Quigley sets up a grill outside and cooks hot dogs and hamburgers. Quigley did a great job rehabbing the turn-of-the-century building, and the fold-open windows allow for maximum airflow, which is always key. And though there are only a couple beers on tap, they're priced cheap and served quick.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:48 AM | | Comments (4)

August 9, 2007

Three Hot Weekend Tips

   1. Georgie James at the Recher Theatre Saturday (opening for Ted Leo).

If you like seeing indie rock bands before they get too popular, you need to go to this show. Georgie James just signed to Saddle Creek Records, and their debut comes out in September. Headliner Ted Leo, a veteran rocker, is fantastic live, and Georgie James is going to explode soon. 




2. Julian Velard at Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis with Eva Castillo tonight.

I saw this same lineup at WTMD's 1st Thursday Concert in the Park a couple months ago and was really impressed. Velard writes some great piano tunes, and Castillo is a rising local talent with a soulful voice and jazzy acoustic songs.



3. Three Olives Vodka promotion at Pickles Pub and Sliders Bar & Grill 2 pm.-4 p.m. tomorrow.

The Red Sox are in town, and so are some models/reps from Three Olives Vodka. They'll be hanging out in front of both bars, giving out merchandise and free samples. There will also be some drink specials.

"Cute girls handing out free stuff is always a plus," said Pickles manager Tom Leonard. I agree.

(Georgie James photo by Shervin Lainez, Julian Velard photo by Eric Townsend)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:15 PM | | Comments (0)

Fab Five Friday suggestions

Come on, people -- I need some suggestions for this week's Fab Five Friday. What are your favorite spots to pre-game? Remember, they have to be within walking distance of one of the stadiums.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:28 AM | | Comments (3)

New Della Rose's

Has anyone been to the new Della Rose's Tavern the 1st Mariner Building on Boston Street?

Seems like an odd location for a bar. I'm thinking about checking it out in the next week or two.

I've seen ads in the City Paper with this guy chugging two beer bottles at once, and I'm thinking of re-creating that ad in person.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:27 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 8, 2007

The next Fab Five Friday topic

What are the best places to pre-game? 

I'll give you my top five favorite spots this Friday.

Inner Harbor bars count, Ridgely's Delight bars count and so do Federal Hill spots -- as long as they're in walking distance from Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium. Leave me a comment with your favorites.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

August 7, 2007

Spoon's special guest at Virgin Fest

So Dan Deacon wasn't the only Baltimore performer at Virgin Festival after all.

Oranges Band front man Roman Kuebler sat in with Spoon for a couple songs during their set Sunday. He sang backup for "Lines in the Suit" and "Fitted Shirt."

Kuebler was Spoon's touring bassist and backup singer for more than two years after their album Girls Can Tell came out in 2001. He played a little on their 2002 album Kill the Moonlight too, and left when their old bass player re-joined the band.

"It's a cool band to play with," he said. "Musically, they're very down to business. ... But within the context of that there's a lot of room on stage to have fun."

Kuebler said he had a blast touring with Spoon and still keeps in touch with the band.

"It's funny because it takes the music out of the equation," he said. "It's like, you're friends with the people at work, but you never talk about the work that you do. You just do the work, but within the context of that work you have a really good relationship."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music, Virgin Mobile Festival

Virgin Festival hangovers?

What did you guys think of Virgin Festival?

Who was your favorite act? What do you think could have been done better?

In today's story, promoter Seth Hurwitz said the festival was a success, and he hopes to bring it back for another year. I couldn't get a hold of rebel billionaire Richard Branson yesterday, but he reportedly said "See you next year" before leaving Sunday. So it looks like we might get Virgin Fest 2008.

As far as festivals go, I think the Virgin Fest was excellently run. Most bands went on within minutes of their scheduled start time, the sound quality was as good as you're gonna get for a festival, and the shade tents and free water refilling station were nice touches. If possible, I'd like to see more shade tents and another water tanker there next year.

Overall, Hurwitz, Branson and the rest of the festival staff deserve a big round of applause. Great job, guys. Let's do it again.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Shorty's update

Talked to Shorty's Martini Bar and Lounge manager Scott White yesterday about the rumors of the bar's closing going around.

According to White, owner Charles "DJ Feelgood" Fields put the place up for sale a couple months ago.

"We're not going to close until someone decides they want to buy Shorty's," he said. "We're still there, we're still doing business." 

Fields recently moved to California, and didn't return an e-mail I sent yesterday. White said while there has been some interest, no viable offers have been made yet.

"There's a few people sniffing around," he said.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 6, 2007

New KT Tunstall single

kt tunstall"Hold On" is the new single by KT Tunstall, off her forthcoming album Drastic Fantastic. You can hear it on her MySpace site.

It's good, but not great. There is a lot of buildup but not much payoff.

What do you think? 

Tunstall's debut album, Eye to the Telescope, went platinum in the U.S. and multi-platinum in the U.K. I interviewed her in January or February of last year, when she was still relatively unknown in the States. When she talked about writing music, this one quote really stuck out:

"The good stuff sticks. My theory is, if I have to write something down to remember it, then it's probably not good enough."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:29 PM | | Comments (0)

Shorty's closing?

Talked to a former DJ at Shorty's Martini Bar & Lounge (3301 Foster Ave., 410-327-8696) Saturday night who said the bar is either closed or on its last leg.

I know the owner, Charles "DJ Feelgood" Fields, moved to Los Angeles a little while back. But he told me he planned to keep the place open. I'm going to make some calls and see what I can find. Any Shorty's patrons out there who can tell me more?

This was one of the few places in the city where you could see local house DJs spin nightly.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Tour diary: Dan Deacon


On his first national tour in early 2005, the car Dan Deacon was riding in broke down.

Deacon, an electronica/rock performer and composer, was determined to keep going. He packed up his equipment and spent the next 30 days riding Greyhound buses between shows.

In Seattle, bus officials wouldn't let Deacon board because they thought his instruments were explosives.

From Deacon:

After pleading with them and telling them they were musical devices I got on the bus. It was a pretty empty bus.

Then some guy came and sat right next to me and he was like 'Don't ever let anyone tell you what you can't bring on the bus.' He opened up his jacket and he had like 15 knives on one side and 15 knives on the other and a bunch on his belt. And he opened up his carry-on and it was full of knives and he told me he had two suitcases under the bus that were full of knives. It was really insane.

Every time we stopped at a rest stop he would buy another insane decorative knife where the blade was encased within a shark or something like that.

Then there was the heart attack story:

The craziest thing was probably when the guy had the heart attack in the Cheyenne bus station.

We were in transfer and it was quiet, and this guy stood up and screamed 'HEART ATTACK' and then fell on the ground. While the EMTs were still there, over the loudspeaker they just broadcasted 'The heart attack will not delay the buses.' So we got on the bus and left.

(Photo by Frank Hamilton) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music, Tour diaries

August 3, 2007

Fab Five Friday

As promised, here's my list of the five best places to get a beer in Fells Point. Feel free to debate them.

1. Max's Taphouse, 737 S. Broadway.

Max's is heaven for beer geeks -- the biggest selection in the state, I believe. Cellar master Casey Hard is constantly on the prowl for delicious new brews. It's also the only place I've been to where the bar staff can pair just about any cigar with the right beer. And yes, a wild and crazy crowd comes to Max's on Friday and Saturday nights, but you can usually escape them by heading upstairs to the Mobtown Lounge.

2. Friends, 1634 Aliceanna St.

Friends has never let me down. I can always get a table there -- even on Friday and Saturday nights. The list of beers on tap is fairly long, the music selection is always solid and the crowd is, well, friendly.

3. Cat's Eye Pub, 1730 Thames St. 

Great local music always makes the beer taste better. At the Cat's Eye, you can soak in some of the area's best local talent -- usually for free. Sometimes I go there just to sip a beer and stare at all the junk on the walls. I always find something new. 

4. The Wharf Rat, 801 S. Ann St.

Knock back a few locally brewed Oliver Ales and soak in the classic atmosphere. What more do you need out of a bar?

5. The Dead End Saloon, 935 Fell St.

I'd forgotten about this place until someone commented on it recently. If you want to get away from the fuss and foot traffic of Broadway and Thames Street, head to the Dead End. You won't be disappointed.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:47 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Fab Five Fridays

August 2, 2007

Three Hot Weekend Tips

1. Virgin Fest at Pimlico Race Course

The list of roughly 40 performers includes the Police, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, Amy Winehouse, Dan Deacon (pictured above) and so many more. If you ask me, Saturday has the strongest lineup. Grab a ticket and get to Pimlico.

2. Lafayette Gilchrest at the Saturday Sunsets at the Top jazz series, 27th floor of Baltimore's World Trade Center, 401 E. Pratt St. $10. 410-837-8439,

If you've never been to Top of the World at the World Trade Center, go for this. The view there is even more dizzying than from the top of the Washington Monument, and it has air conditioning. Plus, you'll get to see one of the city's most exciting jazz pianists.


3. Baltimore Improv Fest, tonight through Sunday at the Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St. It's about time Baltimore had an annual improv comedy festival. There's no one better to sponsor it than the Baltimore Improv Group (BIG). The list of performers includes the Upright Citizens Brigade, Comedy Pigs, Washington Improv and of course, BIG. Tickets are $5-$15 for performances and $30-$35 for workshops.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:15 PM | | Comments (0)

A great summer drink special

Last week, a couple friends and I were out in Fells Point, and we ended up at Woody's Rum Bar & Island Grill on the third floor of 832 S. Broadway. All summer, bottles of Corona are $2. Toss in one of the best deck views in Fells Point, and you've got a great way to spend an evening.

We were there around midnight on a Thursday, and there were still open tables. But I've been there on a Friday or Saturday, and it's a lot harder to find seating. 

To find the place (it's not well marked), start at Broadway and Thames Street by Maggie Moo's Ice Cream Treatery and walk north a few steps. The entrance will be between Maggie Moo's and the clothing store. You have to walk up two flights of stairs to get to the top.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 1, 2007

Virgin Festival poll

With the massive two-day Virgin Fest coming to town this weekend, I'd like to take an informal poll.

Who are you looking forward to seeing the most? Are you going both days, or just one? Anybody you haven't seen you're really looking forward to seeing?

I'll be blogging from there all day Saturday. I'm wondering if Amy Winehouse is going to cancel the date last minute, or if she'll actually show up. I'd like to see her, the Police, Paolo Nutini, Modest Mouse, the Beastie Boys and Ben Harper.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival
Keep reading
Recent entries
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.

Most Recent Comments
Recent tweets
Sign up for FREE nightlife alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Photo galleries
Stay connected