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August 31, 2008

The review: Palma and Dubai

jon hanIn case you missed it, here is a link to my review of the new super clubs Palma and Dubai.

I went to them both on the same night a couple weeks ago, which, in my opinion, was genius.

If you're too lazy/busy to read the review, both clubs were basically empty on a Saturday night.

Owner Jon Han (pictured) didn't do his homework, and he's up the creek right now unless drastic changes are made. 

(Sun photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:24 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 30, 2008

Ringo gets no respect

ringo starrRingo doesn't get enough credit.

He's the funniest looking Beatle (kind of schmoopy-faced, wouldn't you say?), and when it comes to writing songs or singing, he's no Paul McCartney/John Lennon.

Or even George Harrison, for that matter.

But the truth is, Ringo ain't bad. He's a versatile drummer with a great sense of rhythm.

And I want to give him some cred here. The man deserves it.

Want proof? ...

(Photo by Chicago Tribune) 

Listen to his beats in this instrumental version of "Hello Goodbye."

Get it! Get it!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:38 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Random stuff

August 29, 2008


grill time!Got any big Labor Day plans?

I'm doing a nightlife column tonight (top secret of course) but it's gonna be a good one. I'll tell you how it went on Monday or Tuesday.

Also, if you feel like seeing a show and supporting a good cause, go to The 8x10 Sunday.

Here's a link with the skinny.

(Stock photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:14 PM | | Comments (1)

Recapping the soiree

midnight sun minglersMy head hurts.

Last night's soiree was a smashing success! We had a great turnout -- the Idle Hour (201 E. Fort Ave.) was packed.

BA, Jmgiordano, Mobtown Molly, m, Crazy Joe, Roommate Patchen, Jeremy, gidg, Jason and Evan were but a few of the Midnight Sunners who showed up.

This was the first and last soiree that coincides with a Ravens game, by the way. That was a big mistake I shall not repeat. Parking was a nightmare!  

It was also a little awkward when the occasional random bar-goer would saunter in and I would be like "Are you here for the soiree?" and they'd go all deer in headlights on me. After a while, I just started slapping name tags on people.

Jason brought an awesome spread of ribs, crab cakes, chicken kabobs and vegetables. Thanks again, man.

Courtney took a bunch of photos, some of which I will share with you now ...

dr. vodka


Evan brought his glorious bacon vodka, which was better than the shot I tried at Captain Larry's. But bacon vodka sounds better than it actually is.













me with vodka


Here I am, bacon vodka shot in hand, toasting Midnight Sun and Idle Hour and God knows what else.













vodka aftershock


This is me and Evan after the shot. I can still taste it in my mouth, which is really nasty.














Roommate Patchen started dropping shots of bacon vodka into pints of Resurrection and chugging them.

He offered me one. I cringed, respectfully declined and watched from the sidelines. That was probably the best decision I made all night.

sneaky sneaky


I tried to confuse people by swapping name tags with Brendan, the bartender and co-owner. It worked on BA, who did a double take when he came in.

But I eventually gave up the ruse and stuck another sticker on my vest.

In case you're curious, the whole white shirt, vest and jeans is my tribute to Art Garfunkel.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:18 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 28, 2008

A brief, gratuitous tangent

Pardon me while we ever so quickly veer away from nightlife coverage for some exciting family news.

My little cousin Grace is blogging from the Democratic National Convention for the Houston Chronicle. You can read what I believe is her first post here. Hard to believe she's in high school, eh?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:35 PM | | Comments (1)

Tonight's guest list

I came up with a makeshift list of the confirmed guests for tonight's soiree at the Idle Hour.

Here they are ... 

Crazy Joe
Various Baltimore Sun kids
Various WTMD kids

Plus significant others.

Anyone I'm missing? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:49 PM | | Comments (8)

Watermelon beer

watermelonPaging Clipper City Brewery/Brewer's Art/Dog Pub/Oliver Brewery:

Please please please make watermelon beer for next summer.

Amie and I were up in Boston this past weekend visiting friends and we had a pint of delicious watermelon ale at Boston Beer Works.

It was light, sweet but not too sweet and had crisp watermelon flavor. It was even garnished with a small slice of watermelon! 

If this doesn't already exist in Baltimore (and I don't think it does) we need it here.

Peach and blueberry beers are nice. But that's yesterday's news. Watermelon beer is the wave of the future.

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

See Bob Sima for free

bob simaWorried Bay Bridge lane closures might ruin your Labor Day weekend?

Scared of sitting in 10-hour delays?

Sick of all these commercial-sounding questions?

Well, let me sell you on this: A free live taping of Baltimore Unsigned at The 8x10 1 p.m. Saturday.

Our guest is the award-winning Annapolis singer/songwriter Bob Sima. Go to his MySpace site and listen to "Map in my Lap." That's good stuff, man.

Bob's going to play a bunch of songs from his new album and share some stories with us.  

You can reserve your seat by clicking on this link.

So re-plan your weekend, and stop by The 8x10 for a free live show. See ya there.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

August 27, 2008

The soiree is tomorrow!

cocktailAre you ready?

Tomorrow is the first official Midnight Sun soiree, 7 p.m. at the Idle Hour (201 E. Fort Ave.).

Various drink specials will be offered (I remember Jason saying he was going to bring some food too) and Evan will bring his glorious homemade bacon vodka.

In other news, I received eight (8) bobble head figures from the new movie Tropic Thunder and I will be giving these away to the first eight (8) Midnight Sun commenters through the door.

Queen C. and eCommerce, I'm sad you will not be able to make it, but we'll raise a glass or two for you.

Silly Ravens and their silly football.

Also, if you're worried about missing the game, the Idle Hour does have a TV they bring out specifically for Ravens games, so if you want to watch it, you can.

(Photo by Sun staffer Monica Lopossay) 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:59 PM | | Comments (14)

Boomer's shows the love

Went to Boomer's on the Hill (1749 Belt St.) last night for some Wii action and was shocked to see not one, not two but three copies of my review posted inside.

Three! I think that's a record.

Sounds like I'm a popular guy, right? Untrue.

When I gave the bartender my credit card to start a tab, she read the name, called me Sam and gave it back to me. She didn't put two and two together, even though my reviews are called "Sam Sessa on Nightlife."

Which was fine by me, because I'd rather not have to tell her I can't take a free beer because of The Sun's ethics policy and all that. 

The only time another bar has come close to having three of my reviews posted was Bedrock ...

They enlarged my column until it was about four feet tall and fixed it to the front door of what is now the Sidecar Grill.

You could actually read it sitting in your car on Baltimore Street.

I wonder if having my photo run with the column will actually make more people recognize me. I think it might, but not as much as you'd expect.

I mean, who reads the print version of my nightlife column anyway? I'd say mostly baby boomers who live in the county and like reading about my exploits. They probably won't ever go to most of these bars, but they like reading about them.

Guess we'll find out tomorrow, when the first full body shot (scandalous!) of Sam Sessa hits newsstands everywhere. 

(Photo of Boomer's by moi)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 26, 2008

The bacon vodka is almost ready

bacon vodkaI've been watching Evan's quest to make bacon vodka unfold, and I'm overtaken by a mixture of curiosity and nausea.

He's using cutting edge technology to filter out all of the little blobs of fat for extra pure bacon vodka.

See, I know I'm going to have a shot of it on Thursday at the soiree (yes, it's still on for Idle Hour, 203 E. Fort Ave. at 7 p.m.).

Maybe I'll do it of my own free will, or maybe I'll be suckered into doing a shot. I'm not sure which one.

But I'll have a Resurrection handy to wash the evil taste out of my mouth.

And I better not be the only one drinking this stuff, either.

(Photo courtesy of Evan) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:49 PM | | Comments (4)

Best of the Best of the Best

I have a most excellent idea.

Late summer seems to be the season for awards around here. Baltimore Magazine gave out the Best of Baltimore last month, and the City Paper is going to give out its annual Best Of awards in the coming month or two.

It's time Midnight Sun stepped up to the plate ...

As of this very moment, I am announcing the first annual Midnight Sun Best of the Best of the Best award. Three "Bests" are better than one, you know.

And as we speak (well, technically, as I write and you read), a highly qualified Baltimore Sun designer is ... uhhh ... designing the award itself. I want it to have a classic yet cheesy look.

I'm not sure what categories I'm going to give awards in. But I want them to be funny. Hilarious, even. That's where you come in. Got any ideas? Best what?

I already know who's winning best blog. Hee hee.

I figure I'll make and mail the awards at the end of September. Then we'll have a big Best of the Best of the Best bash (just like Baltimore Magazine and City Paper) at one of the bars.

Lagers, anyone? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:33 PM | | Comments (16)

Another (semi) new opening

claddagh pub Usually when I announce a new bar or expansion, I have a couple quotes from the owner.

Not this time.

I called Claddagh Pub week after week asking about their expansion into the building next door (pictured) and the possibility of the owners opening a second pub in the 'burbs.

For some reason, the owners were really cagey about commenting on this expansion.

I have no idea why, but they wouldn't talk to me about it at all. Which makes no sense, because I'm just trying to offer them a little free publicity.

Instead, I'm writing this peeved post about the Calway Lounge, the pub's new expansion.

Anybody been inside yet?

Will I review it?

No comment. 

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:09 AM | | Comments (9)

August 25, 2008


I was out of town, so I don't have much to report.

What were you guys up to? And are gearing up for the soiree? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:43 AM | | Comments (8)

Is a House of Blues coming?

house of bluesI've heard more than a few rumors about a House of Blues coming somewhere on the Westside.

Exactly where seems to be everyone's guess.

But in my experience, hearing the same rumor from several different sources usually means it's at least semi-true.

So, assuming it is at least half true, this could be a big thing for Baltimore. (In case you don't know, House of Blues is a national live music club chain.)

They could bring in the same caliber of musicians you see now at Rams Head Live. And not only does that make my job more fun, it gives you more choices. So, I say, the more, the merrier.

(Archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:51 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 24, 2008

World Trade piano

pianowire posterI don't normally post show flyers, but this one is just too good to resist.

The show came and went, but the flyer has some staying power.

It's for the local duo Pianowire, as well as a newer group called Snowmen.

I like both the bands, and actually had Pianowire as a guest on Baltimore Unsigned about a year ago.

But I just love this poster. 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

August 23, 2008

Something's cooking at Kamp

warren hemenwayMS poster JM "eagle-eyes" Giordano spotted some renovations in the building which used to house high-end club Kamp (2314 Boston St.).

If anybody knows more, fill me in. It's hard to track down a new club owner unless somebody knows him/her already. Lord knows, they never come to me first.

I always have to sniff them out. But if this were New York City and I wrote for the New York Times, they'd be all up in my grill about coverage. 

Warren Hemenway (pictured) helped open the first Kamp in spring 2006. It closed at the end of last year.

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 22, 2008

Hamilton Tavern renovated and reopen

hamilton tavernLadies and gentlemen, I give you ... the brand new Hamilton Tavern, at 5517 Harford Road.

Tom Creegan (who co-owns Brewer's Art) oversaw the project. He owns the building, and and his wife, local jazz singer Felicia Carter, is one of the business owners.

The bar was closed for five months while Creegan and the crew installed new HVAC, ripped up the carpets to reveal the old flooring and built a new bar.

Like Brewer's Art, there are no TVs inside.

And in classical Smalltimore fashion, not only did Creegan buy the building from Richard DeSantis, he grew up in Chestertown, and my aunt Linda was one of his babysitters back in the day.


The tavern is open 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesdays-Mondays.

Its website,, should be up soon, Creegan said.

(Graphic courtesy of Creegan) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:06 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I'm going to be out of town, so I've got no crazy plans. But I'm sure you do.

Whatcha up to, gang? Any particular pre-gaming plans? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:00 AM | | Comments (12)

August 21, 2008

The review: Spirits Tavern

Here's a link to my review of Spirits Tavern in Fells Point.

It's haunted with ghosts from the Civil War, and some pretty freaky stuff goes on there. But my pal Crazy Joe and I didn't see anything odd when we went -- just cheap beer and friendly, unpretentious service. Delicious!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:27 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

All Time Low hits all time high?

so wrong it's rightSpotted local pop rock band All Time Low's album So Wrong, It's Right on a shelf in Best Buy a couple weeks ago.

Whether or not you like the music they play, you've gotta hand it to these guys.

They've been on TRL and they've sold about 115,000 copies of this album, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The songs on their MySpace site have more than 18 million plays, and they have close to 300,000 friends. 

They sell out clubs like the Recher Theatre, and still have a strong local following.

So cheers, fellas. Keep it up.

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

Does Taps look better?

taps baltimoreLooks like the Taps crowd is trying to clean up the outside of the South Baltimore bar at Charles Street and Fort Avenue.

There's a fresh coat of brown paint, which kind of looks better than it used to.

I dunno though. I'm kind of on the fence about the color.

Brown? Coconuts are brown. So are ... other things.


(Photo by me) 



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

August 20, 2008

Midnight Sun's new look

Dig the new 'do?

Midnight Sun got a makeover, a la Dining@Large and some of The Sun's other bloggys. Now that you're staring at the new Midnight Sun, I'll bet you don't remember what the old one looked like.

I do, and I like this one better. It's less cluttered, and my posts aren't being squeezed by sidebars. We're movin' up!  

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:40 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Random stuff

What do DJs actually do these days?

cdjBack in the day, DJs used to spin records.

You could groove down on the dance floor, look up and see the DJ picking through records, pulling one out of its sleeve and slapping it on the turntable.

Then came the switch to CDs. Same deal, except the CDs were harder to see, and the turntables were digital ones like the CDJ-1000 (pictured, at right).

Now, a lot of DJs use mp3 files, load them onto a laptop and "spin" through that.

I've never been a DJ, so I don't know for sure, but it sounds to me like that's a piece of cake. You synch up the beats (or maybe the comp even does it for you), twist a couple knobs, push a button and the music plays.


I'll bet if you had a camera pointed at the DJ table when Moby came to the Virgin Mobile festival, you would have been bored out of your gourd. It looked like he had the music on autopilot. 

He would push a button, jump up on the table, throw his hands in the air and groove for a while. Then he'd jump back down, twist a knob and groove some more ...

Armin Van Buuren would step back from the table for a minute at a time and clap or make the devil's horn sign with his hands.

With all the advances in technology, do DJs actually do anything anymore? It doesn't look like it from the crowd.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not hating on house music. I like dancing to techno and trance and love some electronica. But I'm not enamored with DJs unless they actually do something (or look like they're doing something).

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:23 PM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Local music

Hops Inn: A Dundalk gem

beerIf you're planning on doing a Dundalk bar tour, make Hops Inn (7002 Railway Ave.) one of your stops.

I went there a couple months ago and wrote about the family-owned bar. Here's a link to the story.

In it, I talked about the ridiculously cheap $3 shots of Johnny Walker Blue Label.

Mmmmm ... 

Sorry, lost myself there for a second. 

Anyway, MS reader Lorraine went there last night and has some semi-sad news to report ...

Alas, they substituted JW Black for Blue. Lee's rationale is that the regulars couldn't see the sense of paying 3 bucks a shot for 'a shot of whiskey.' I ended up spending a mere 2 dollars for what had to be at least 2 jiggers worth of Jameson.

However the selection of brews on tap were superb. I had a Ying Ling Lager and a Killian's Red and their pepperoni pizza was better than many I've had at many a gen-u-ine parlor.

Oh well. Hops still ranks pretty high on my list of Dundalk bars.

(Photo by Mary Hartney) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:25 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Evan is making bacon vodka

MS poster Evan is making bacon vodka for the Aug. 28 soiree at Idle Hour. Remember bacon vodka?

He's writing about the process on his blog. Keep us updated, Evan. I can't wait to try it.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:38 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 19, 2008

Bad Decisions is open

fancy drinkOK, so here's the (live, local and late-breaking) news:

There's a new bar at 1928 Fleet Street in Fells Point called Bad Decisions. It opened Friday June 13 in the space formerly occupied by Island II Bar & Grill (right across from Ale Mary's), and features a number of hand-crafted specialty drinks.

John Reusing, formerly a bartender at Chiapparelli's and Sammy's Trattoria, is the man behind Bad Decisions.

"I've been pouring drinks for more than a couple years at this point," Reusing said. "I do all kinds of fun drinks, depending on what kind of mood I'm in."

We're talking, S'mores martinis with marshmallow-infused vodka, Godiva Liqueur and graham cracker crumbs around the rim. We're talking martinis with little edible beads in 'em (modeled after Orbitz soda).

Bad Decisions is open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. The Web site, which should be up in a couple days, is 

"I'm envisioning a relaxed neighborhood bar, with a very unique drink menu," Reusing said.

(Photo by Mary Hartney) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:49 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Lager's Pub responds to the letter!

Sigh of relief.

I'll admit -- I was a little worried the folks at Lager's Pub would read the letter and book I sent them, freak out and sue us.

Thankfully, they have a sense of humor, and took it well. (If you're not familiar with this mini-saga, it starts here and continues here and here.)

Here's the letter I received from Lager's, which was actually posted as a comment ...

Dear Sam,

As a former patron, neighbor and new owner of Lagers in Canton, I appreciate the material and cover letter your recently sent us. Thank you!

In the likes of Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton, we at Lagers love being notorious for our sexiness. This of course includes our lascivious customers which after a few too many, will do just about anything (and yes, I'm speaking from experience). Maybe that comment you reference in your letter was about me? Cool.

Now if our sexiness makes the un-date-able hate us, hate on hater!

On another note, to those that love pro-football, Lagers is without a doubt the best place to watch all your favorite NFL teams on any given Sunday.

This is a proud Ravens bar, but as a Steelers Fan, I personally love to challenge my neighbors and colleagues on their knowledge of the game. I am always disappointed with the lack of basic football knowledge and fan fickleness displayed by our Ravens enthusiasts.

Finally, I believe to truly understand something you need to experience it first hand. So, for those of you that have not yet frequented Lagers on a weekend, just one thing to tell you- "WARNING- IT GETS SEXY IN HERE!"


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:17 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Some news is coming

Sorry I haven't posted anything this morning ... I've got some juicy nightlife news on the way though ... stay tuned.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:36 AM | | Comments (6)

August 18, 2008

Mercy Mercy Mercy!

I own a Fender Rhodes electric piano, and love the sound.

But I'm not as soulful as this guy ... 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:44 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff


mojitoHappy Monday morning, everybody!

How is everyone feeling? Go anywhere/do anything fancy/fun this weekend?

Friday night at Little Havana, I learned just how much quicker it is to get a mojito (pictured) when you're sitting at a table vs. standing at the bar. Quicker and less stressful. I highly recommend it.

I also ran into two MS commenters, lowercase m and Evan.

Saturday, I blew the lid off the Baltimore club scene by going to Palma and Dubai back to back.

They were both nearly empty.


I'm almost finished writing that nightlife column, which, by the way, should be my first ever nightlife column/full body shot combo. It comes out Thursday Aug. 28.

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (17)

Num nums!

club347.jpgI blew the dust off a few nightlife columns from back in the day, and part of this one still tickles me.

It's the only time the phrase "num nums" has made it into the paper since at least 1991.

It's probably the only time "num nums" has been used in the history of the paper.

Here's the excerpt, from my review of Club 347 (347 N. Calvert St.), circa 2005 ... 



Oh, and for the record, the club looks significantly better now. Here goes:

By no means is 347 a trashy club --it's quite clean and modern -- but you can tell it was designed under a tight budget. With their black vinyl cushions and metal legs, the seats and bar chairs could be on loan from a local American Legion basement. Some of the bricks in the exposed brick wall are oddly placed and appear to plug holes.

And then there's the buffet. Now, I didn't expect gourmet -- wings or nachos would've been fine.

The cook brought out two big trays: one of salad and the other filled with meatballs drowned in a dark sauce.

Num nums!

Hee hee. Num nums! 

Elizabeth Large, please please please read this post and use "num nums" in one of your reviews.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:15 AM | | Comments (1)

August 17, 2008

Lost in the shuffle

All around the country, newspapers (and TV stations) are pumping up their local coverage. Local, local, local, ya know.

Well, a lot of times, lesser known nationally touring bands get lost in the shuffle. I mean, unless they're superhugepopular bands like U2 or the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus or (you get the picture) ...

And local bands are getting plenty of play these days -- be it here on Midnight Sun or shows like Baltimore Unsigned or (you get the picture).

So when I get a press release for Party of Helicopters from Ohio coming to Baltimore, I'm probably not going to have anywhere to put a feature or Q&A on them, unless they're supersuperawesomeawesome. Maybe a blurb.

It's a shame for the nationally touring acts, but a boon for Baltimore bands. Shame we can't have both, though. But I'd rather pump Baltimore than Ohio. No offense, Ohio, but we are The Baltimore Sun.

(Fantastic photo by Patrick Smith/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:53 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

August 16, 2008

Post Rock vs. Virgin Fest's Book the Band

Washington Post music writer David Malitz was hilariously on point when he slammed Virgin Mobile Festival organizers for the Book the Band idea.

If you remember, West Coast rock group Hollywood Undead won the online contest, and played their first show ever last weekend at Pimlico Race Course. ...

Before that, Hollywood Undead was an Internet-only band. I didn't get a chance to see the show, but I heard it was horrible.

"Bands have "devoted Internet followings" for a reason," Malitz noted on the Post Rock blog. "Namely, the band is beyond terrible and it must harbor some sort of community to make itself relevant."

David, I'm with you. If you're going to have some kind of contest, make it for a local band. Tie the festival into the region. Anything but this.

But, if you scroll down to the comments section, Virgin Fest promoter/producer Seth Hurwitz made a good counter-point:

"Got me a story didn't it" 

Heh. Yes, but if you'd done this contest with Baltimore and Washington bands, you would have probably gotten a bigger media splash. Think about it for next year.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

August 15, 2008

Attendance down at this year's Virgin Mobile Festival

virgin festivalSlightly more than 60,000 people attended the 2008 Virgin Mobile Festival, organizers announced today.

That's down from roughly 70,000 last year. But the Virgin Fest folks are happy, publicist Audrey Schaefer wrote in an e-mail.

"This number met our expectations and we're thrilled with the amazing response we've gotten to the festival, the memorable performances, and the entire experience," she wrote.

"To see tens of thousands of people enjoy the show made it a blast for all of us."

Held at Pimlico Race Course, this year's two-day festival featured an eclectic lineup of more than 40 performers, including Bob Dylan, Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails and the Foo Fighters.

(Sun photo by Patrick Smith) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:18 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

The Nest replaces DSX

Item: Starting tonight, The Nest will replace the Downtown Sports Exchange at 200 W. Pratt St.

I haven't been, but the three-story Nest reportedly boasts 22 flat screen TVs, hardwood floors, a deck and an outdoor grill and beer shack.

If someone goes this weekend, please lemme know whatcha think of it. 

I reviewed it when Art Masoero renovated and reopened it in late 2006.

For the review, I talked to Jim Stankovic, who ran DSX for 10 years with his son Phillip and daughter Sharon.

"I give them credit," the elder Stankovic said at the time. "It looks like it's coming back pretty strong." 

Guess that didn't last.

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:53 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Baltimore's best bar name?

Ladies and gents, I give you:

Shirley's Honey Hole
2300 E. Oliver St.
Baltimore, MD 21213


Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:56 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I'm going out on a (top secret) nightlife column that will blow open this city's club scene once and for all. And I'm going to watch the Ravens pre-season game.

Heh. I'll share more with y'all on Monday.

What about you? Doing anything fun this weekend? Talk to me!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:43 AM | | Comments (19)

August 14, 2008

My review: Boomer's on the Hill

Here's a link to my official dead-tree review of Boomer's on the Hill.

It came out today.

One of the things I talk about in the piece is the appearance of recently rehabbed bars.

Remember Charlotte's on Light Street, or The Vine or even Taps now?

It seems as though new bar owners focus on the interior of their bar much more than the exterior. But if it doesn't look friendly from the outside, people probably aren't going to come in. 

Also, I'd like to thank my fiance Amie for recommending the word "meh" in the lead. I think it makes the story.

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:49 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

So I mailed the book ...

Hee hee.

Here's a photo of me putting it in the envelope.

Look out Lager's Pub!

I wonder if I'll get a response.

I enclosed the following letter ... 






Dear Sir/Madam,


So, I'll bet you're wondering what the deal is with the book. Well, I have this blog on The Baltimore Sun's website. It's called Midnight Sun, and it covers nightlife and entertainment in and around Baltimore.

Last week I held a little contest to see which bars people loved to hate on. I told my readers I'd mail the winner a copy of this book.

I got about 60 comments for different places. MaGerk's, Nevin's, Mad River and more all got nominated. But you won! Lucky you, huh?

Here's what on person had to say:

"When they do get a crowd, the women that show up look overly desperate -- very strange."

All in good fun, ya know? Thanks for being a good sport. And enjoy the book!

-Sam Sessa

Midnight Sun 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:48 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Are new bars really better?

Think about it.

A gentrified, revitalized, renovated bar has a bigger selection. Flat screen TVs, too. Everything inside is new, new, new.

But drinks at new bars can cost you more than drinks at old school joints. And, in my experience, the service at most of this city's renovated bars is not that good.

Yes, that's a generalization, but I'd say I get out to my fair share of bars.

And for the most part, service in this city is atrocious ...

When you walk into most old school corner bars, you don't have many beers to choose from. Same goes for wine and liquor.

But you usually get served in less than a minute by a friendly bartender. Now, not all old school bars are welcoming places. I realize that.

But the more I get out to bars around town, the more I dig those old-time joints. The people are friendlier, the beer's cheaper and the service is quicker.

On the other hand, you can't get delicious Brewer's Art Resurrection Ale in a place like Muir's (pictured). And I'm actually not a big fan of Muir's in particular. I just like this picture. But Muir's is an example of the kind of bar I'm talking about.

What do you guys think?

(Photo by Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer) 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:32 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Get ready ...

I'm going to mail that book out today. Stay posted.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:37 AM | | Comments (3)

August 13, 2008

We're all set for the soiree

I just got off the phone with Brendan from Idle Hour, who said it's cool to have the soiree at his place.

I mean, I was going to have it there whether he wanted to or not, because I play by my own rules, but I was just being courteous, ya know.

He said drinks are free between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.* So get there early.

I'm getting name badges ("Hello my name is") and a Sharpie. That way we know who is who.

I'm hoping the soiree will devolve into something like this.

*Brendan didn't actually say this. He implied it.**

**Ok, ok, he didn't imply it either. I just made it up. But he did say something about knocking a buck off beers and Chartreuse shots.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:53 PM | | Comments (9)

Trent Reznor chills with the plebes

trent reznorPardon me for getting my Perez on, but I wanted to point out a semi-famous figure in this photograph.

Not only is Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor a fan of Iggy Pop and the Stooges, he's not afraid of wading out into the great unwashed to watch Pop play.

I dig that.

Props to Rezzy.

And I'm not sure who took this photo, but whoever you are, good spot.



Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:06 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Celebrity sightings

Das boot?

Mmmmmm ... 

This is from Casey Hard, cellar master at Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway): 

DATE: Sept. 12-14
TIME: Open to close-11am -2am each day
COST: Cash Bar- Sample size , full size , 1 liter steins and 1 Liter Boots.
Max's German fest will feature over 50 Authentic German Beers on draft and over 75 Authentic German Beers in bottles.

We will also be serving a German inspired food menu.We will have at least 50 German beers on draft at the start of the day on Friday Sept 12th.

Num nums! 

(Photo by Algerina Perna/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:20 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 12, 2008

Details on the soiree

Here's the skinny for the first Midnight Sun soiree:

7 p.m. Thursday Aug. 28
Idle Hour
201 E. Fort Ave.

Roll call!

How many of you are cool with this?

It's one of my favorite bars, and it's neutral ground.

The last time I was there I told Randall (one of the owners) I was interested in bringing a few friends on Aug. 28 and he was cool with it.

Now, I understand not all of you can make this one. Heck, I'd be happy if 10 people showed up.

For those of you who can't come, don't worry -- we'll do another one 4-6 months from now.

If this one goes smoothly, maybe even sooner. 

(Photo by Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:03 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Smoker's Helmet, etc.

Elizabeth Large forwarded me this comment from Owl Meat Genius:

I always thought smoking should be allowed anywhere as long as it didn't bother anyone. Solution: The Smoker's Helmet.

It's a clear bubble helmet that keeps all the smoke inside until your lungs naturally filter it out. It never caught on as an idea.

Similarly, I would propose the soundproof baby bubble, which is a lot like a hamster ball. I'm still working out the kinks in my Toddler in a Bag device.

Less philosophically similar is the Frat Boy Harness. This gives an electric shock of various strengths for high fiving, yelling woo-hoo for any reasons, saying bro-ham, or using beer in any time announcement, as in in "Its beer-thirty, man." Extra shock for adding "man" to the ending of any sentence.

OMG, if you invented either of these things, I'd gladly be your guinea pig. 

(AP photo)

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

Laura Burhenn live

Singer/songwriter Laura Burhenn is my guest on tonight's edition of Baltimore Unsigned.

She's going to preview songs from an album she's currently writing. Here's a video from the session. It's a song called "Not Your Fault."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

August 11, 2008


Fill me in.

I was at Virgin Mobile Festival. Need proof? Read this and this and this and this and this.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:40 AM | | Comments (10)

More on Dubai and Palma

palma baltimoreI've been talking to people who work for/spin at Dubai and Palma, and I'm not hearing good things.

I won't get into the details, but if I were a betting man, I'd give them less than six months.

Or, as one affiliate said, "It would be a crazy straight-from-God miracle if they survive."

That's a shame, because if owner Jon Han fails miserably, it could  dissuade people from opening large clubs here in the future.

By the way, promoter Heidi Klotzman, who helped open Dubai this past Saturday, is no longer working with them. Guess one weekend was enough.

Wondering why I haven't reviewed them yet?

I'm waiting for the buzz to die down a little, then I'm going to both the same night. 

And I'll post on MS before I write the official review for the paper.

(Photo from Sun archives) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:23 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 10, 2008

When I interview people

this is what it looks like. Thanks to JMGiordano for the link.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:43 AM | | Comments (1)

August 8, 2008

And the award(s) go to ...

Don't Know Tavern!

Heh, just kidding.

But seriously folks, the top three Bars You Most Love to Hate are ...

1) Lagers

This one caught me by surprise. I expected an outpouring of hate for MaGerk's. But Lagers? Anyhow, they got six votes.

2) MaGerk's

Five votes.

3) Coburn's Tavern

Baltimoreans hate covers. That's no secret. Three votes. 

I'll start mailing stuff Tuesday. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:20 PM | | Comments (3)


SlashThis was a hit last week. But I don't know if you guys were able to coordinate anything.

Ideally, Whatchagonnadothisweekend should be a springboard into (gasp!) a night of Midnight Sun mingling.

So share your plans with me. Mine are as follows: 24 hours spent covering both days of the Virgin Mobile Festival.

You can read about it on our shiny new Virgin Fest blog

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:51 AM | | Comments (16)

And the winner is ...


See kids, carpet-bombing MS with comments is always welcome. MB, email me to claim your prize(s). 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:50 AM | | Comments (0)

Approaching 5,000 comments

Yeah, you read that right.

5,000 comments in a year and a couple months.

That's something like 83 comments per week, or 7.57 comments per day, or .312 comments per hour.

But I could be wrong. Numbers have never been my forte. I'm a Word Muncher -- not a Number Muncher.

But lemme tell ya: Who so ever posteth the 5,000th comment will winneth a glorious prizeth.

And I do mean glorious.

I've got tons of cool books & CDS, a Wheaties box with Will Ferrell on it, a floppy cloth chef's hat, various energy drinks, a whoopee cushion, two mini footballs and more.

So good luck, commenters.

Let the games begin! 

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:19 AM | | Comments (9)

August 7, 2008

Luckie's Tavern is coming

Elizabeth Large beat me to the punch by a matter of hours. Here's a link to her insightful, informative post.

Luckie's is coming to the space formerly occupied by the Lodge Bar in Power Plant Live.

Opening day is Sept. 19.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:58 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Here I am!


Ain't I good lookin'?

And all the ladies swoon.

But seriously folks, if ya wanna see my real mug, all you do is click on the following link.

But if you don't want to see what I really look like, don't click on it.

And don't pick up a paper or come to the soiree. Ever again. Because I'm gonna be there. In person.

So for the curious, here I am ... 

(AP photo) 






Who's this sexy man?

Hee hee.

I actually think I look kind of schmoopy in this picture.

But I'm certainly not going to blame Baltimore Sun Photographer Lloyd Fox.

Maybe I'm just a Schmoopy Guy.

S.G., if you will. 

Or at least, S.G. when I'm in the office. When I'm out and about, I put on my party face. Scroll down and you will see what I'm talkin' 'bout.

(Hint: This is what tiger was talking about yesterday.)















Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:01 PM | | Comments (11)

Dubai ruminations

dubaiDubai, the sister club to Palma, opened this past Saturday (Aug. 2). Sorry -- I forgot to blog about the opening.

But as of yet, it doesn't look like you're missing much.

As you can see from this Metromix photo, the new owners haven't changed much -- at least on the outside.

The Xs are still there from when it was Club X Ultra Lounge and Xanadu. They did change the digital sign to read Dubai.

There are a couple display cases but no posters inside. They're just blank. 

And ya gotta love the white party tent set up in front of the door. Looks like it belongs in your backyard on the 4th of July. Come get some hamburgers, kids!

(Thanks for the photo, Metromix) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

I was so wrong

Earlier this week, I dug back through some of my first nightlife columns, and I want to apologize for one of them.

It was a review of the now defunct Clayton's Tavern in Federal Hill. Clayton's was replaced by Muggsy's a few months ago.

Critics make mistakes. Especially new critics, which I was at the time.

My biggest mistake was assuming that Clayton's would be a beer bar, much its predecessor Sean Bolan's. Owner Matt Daneker told me they planned to offer a wider selection of bottles, and I jumped to conclusions.

They didn't have a big selection at the time, and I was just going on his word.

I learned an important lesson -- don't judge a bar just by its plans. Every bar owner has big plans. Not all of them follow through.

Also, the original review, which I've copied and pasted here for all of you, is painfully overwritten.

Read on if you dare, and feel free to pick it apart ...

Fret not, brew gurus -- you've still got a haunt on Light Street.

When Sean Bolan's Irish Pub in Federal Hill announced its closing late last year, shockwaves went through the local beer-loving circles.

The building was reopened as Clayton's Tavern, but Bolan's had been home to tastings and a long rotating list of microbrews, and patrons feared the selections would be lost with new ownership.

But while business partners Amy Wright and Matt Daneker (pictured) toned down the Irish element when they reopened the site two months ago, they left the beer selection fairly intact.

They also gave the menu a more American flair.The new management cut Bolan's original lineup of about 21 taps down to 16. A dozen choices, including Harp, Guinness and Yuengling, are offered year-round. The remaining four rotate, depending on the season, Daneker said.

Prices hover around $4 for drafts, though an imperial pint of Guinness (20 ounces) is a dollar more. Last Monday, drafts of Yuengling and Clipper City's McHenry lager were both $2 until 10 p.m. -- a decent deal. On weekday evenings, Clayton's knocks $2 off all drafts until 7 p.m.

One of the most noticeable changes is the absence of old peanut shells on the floor. Though the wooden tables and chairs are still a little worn and pitted, Daneker and Wright cleaned the place up. Daneker is proud of the upstairs bar and dining room and rightfully so -- grab a table there and you could be in a polished restaurant, not a tavern.

You're not bombarded with Irish memorabilia when you walk in -- it's tastefully spaced across the walls, and there aren't a thousand flags hanging from the ceiling.

There's also more American bar fare on the menu, like buffalo wings ("on fire" is not that hot), chicken tenders (ask for the buffalo sauce coating) and burgers (thick, juicy and peppery).

Daneker said he sees beer and wine tastings returning in the near future but needs some time to work up to them.

"[It's] definitely something we're interested in doing," Daneker said. "We're eight weeks old at this point, so we've been trying to walk before we run. ... Down the road, I think beer tastings, wine tastings, maybe even some scotch dinners -- something along those lines -- would be a lot of fun and something we'd be really interested in doing."

Both the food and the decor are a step up from most bars around town, and though the beer list is slightly shorter, it's a fair trade for the end result.

(Photos by Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:53 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 6, 2008

My chinny chin chin

Evan's been doing a really good job putting the pieces together.

In the winter, I grow a beard. It keeps me warm and satisfies my nervous habit of tugging on my face.

When I have no beard, my nervous habit is rubbing my eyebrows.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:16 PM | | Comments (1)

My mouth

Chomp chomp!

This is the part of my face that gets me into the most trouble.

This is also the part that consumes beer and cocktails. 

Unlike George Washington and my late pop pop, I don't have false teeth. At least not yet.

But who knows what could happen?


Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:48 PM | | Comments (9)

Playing the Baltimore Sun card

As a reporter, I've got this ID badge that lets people know I'm legit.

But in my line of work, I've got to be careful when I use it.

I'm not allowed to use it for personal benefit, of course, or to call people out when I'm reviewing a bar.

I don't even wear it when I'm reviewing a bar, because I go in anonymously.

But I've been temped to use it a few times ...

  • Standing at the empty indoor bar at MEX with money in my hand while five bartenders stood at the opposite end, stared at me and ignored me.

Each time I've really wanted to whip out this card and be like, DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU'RE TALKING TO? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I'M KIND OF A BIG DEAL. BOOYA!

But I'm afraid if I did that, not only would I get fired, but something like this would happen.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:46 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff

My nose

Today, I have decided to slowly release pieces of my profile picture.

This, as you can see, is my nose. And my upper lip.

It's a twofer!

Stay tuned.

You could collect the whole set!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:05 AM | | Comments (0)

August 5, 2008

More on the Midnight Sun soiree

Sorry, sorry, everyone is long overdue for an update on the soiree.

I'm tempted to blame Virgin Mobile Festival but my own personal shortcomings are really to blame.

My identity will be officially revealed the day after tomorrow in the LIVE section and online.

But since this is Virgin Fest weekend, I'm certainly not doing the soiree this weekend.

I'm thinking about doing it at like 7 p.m. on a Thursday or Friday.

Maybe Aug. 28-29? Or Sept. 4-5?  

Which date works best for ya'll?



Oh, and come Thursday, there will be celebrating.

Also, we're approaching 5,000 comment territory. That's gonna be huge.

(Photo by Algerina Perna) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:13 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Georgie James disbands

Critically acclaimed Washington-based indie rock duo Georgie James has broken up.

I spoke with singer/songwriter Laura Burhenn about this last week during her solo Baltimore Unsigned taping. At the time, she didn't want to go on the record about it.

But since they posted it on their Web site, I figured no harm done by announcing it here.

Their debut record Places was my favorite local album of 2007 and one of the best albums to come out last year. I think it will be largely influential for future artists. I just don't think it sold well.

So, goodbye Georgie James, and thanks for one heck of a show at The Ottobar a few months back and a great debut. Maybe we'll see you again someday down the road.

(Photo by Shervin Lainez) 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:57 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Local music

August 4, 2008

I'm swamped ...

Sorry I haven't posted more today. Totally snowed in with Virgin Mobile Festival preview pieces.

This video of James Brown is getting me through the day. Keep in mind -- he was 41 when this video was filmed.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:28 PM | | Comments (1)

What bar do you love to hate?

Devilish question: If you could mail this book to any local bar, which one would it be?

What is the most poorly run Baltimore bar? Or the bar you love to hate? 

Cast your votes.

Whichever bar wins, I'll mail them this book along with a hand-written letter explaining why they're getting the book.

Hee hee.

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:48 AM | | Comments (65)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Consider this the new Monday Morning Roll Call -- the follow up to Friday's Whatchadothisweekend? post.

Report in! 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:15 AM | | Comments (12)

August 1, 2008

My weekend plans

Wanna know what I'm doing this weekend? Well, my band and I have a gig. Here's a clip from our last show:
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:11 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Random stuff

Trent Reznor's career

So a few days ago, I did this centerpiece about essential listening to prep for the Virgin Mobile Festival.

Pop music critic Rashod Ollison and I went back and re-listened to 10 albums for the article.

One of them was The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. (That's the one with "Closer" and "Hurt" on it.) At the end of my little review of it, I slipped this snarky little line in:

Ironically, though The Downward Spiral introduced Reznor to a mainstream audience, its title is indicative of Reznor's career after its release. 

Hee hee. It went to press, and I sat back and waited to see if anyone would notice. Finally, I got this email:

your an idiot!     Trent is better than ever      i can believe i just read that !!

Mission accomplished!

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:14 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Random stuff


Ask and ye shall receive. Let's see if this mini-feature has legs.

Share your weekend plans with Midnight Sun. Maybe -- just maybe -- you guys might discover you're going to the same thing. And just like that, a new friendship is born.

"Midnight Sun: Where the movers and shakers meet." 

(I know, I know, I should have gone into advertising.)


Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:23 AM | | Comments (21)
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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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