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September 30, 2008

Angels Rock Bar disses Joel Madden

joel maddenThere's some serious drama bouncing around MySpace about Angels Rock Bar and Good Charlotte lead singer Joel Madden (pictured).

Now, I don't have both sides of this story because Reed Cordish never returned an e-mail I sent to him yesterday.

But I've heard the same story from a couple different people, and it's pretty wild, so I'll share it with all of you.

To celebrate its one-year anniversary, Angels Rock Bar in Power Plant Live booked Madden to DJ there this past Friday night.

However, Madden had to cancel a couple weeks before the gig. I'm not sure how far in advance of the gig or why he canceled.

What kills me is how Angels reacted to the cancellation: According to a couple sources, they printed up T-shirts which read "Joel Madden is a [cuss word often used to describe a cat]." ...

According to my sources, Angels also permanently banned DJs from playing Good Charlotte in the bar. Keep in mind, Good Charlotte is a local band done good that still has area ties and performs around here pretty regularly.

And Madden isn't the first person to cancel on Angels -- Tommy Lee bailed back when they opened.

If this Madden saga is true (and I believe it to be true), Angels just dropped to a new low. Cancellations happen. Get over it. Dragging Madden's name through the dirt like that is wildly uncalled for. And unless I hear that all of this is a lie, I am hereby banning any mention of Angels Rock Bar from Midnight Sun.

I don't support this kind of unnecessary stupidity. 

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:11 PM | | Comments (52)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Is Homer really dead?

Someone named Homer's Ghost left this comment under my 'I'm coming for you Homer' post:

"Too late."

Is it really too late? I need to know, before I leave $10 all willy-nilly at some random coffee shop. It is entirely possible that Homer has perished. The last time we heard from his kidnappers, he was being boiled alive.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:47 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: The Homer Saga

I'm coming for you, Homer

Until now, we at Midnight Sun have held onto a no-tolerance policy for terrorism.

We would not negotiate with the kidnappers of our beloved Homer. But time has passed and our rescue efforts have been to no avail. Today at noon, I will deposit $10 in small, unmarked bills, at the coffee shop across the street from The Sun.

I will wait precisely 24 hours before returning to collect Homer. Bad Guyz, if you're reading this (and you'd better be), make good on your offer.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:23 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: The Homer Saga

September 29, 2008

Beer ain't getting cheaper

brewer's artWell, in light of all the economic mess, I have some more bad news: The price of beer is going up.

I've been hearing doomsday stories for about a year now of how suds are going to cost twice as much in five years.

I don't buy into all that, but I did make a quick call to Brewer's Art (1106 N. Charles St.) co-owner Volker Stewart about it.

When the Mount Vernon brewpub first started selling Resurrection Ale (and you know how I love that stuff) back in 1997, it cost $3 a glass ($1.50 during happy hour*), Stewart said.

These days, it will run you $4.25 a glass ($3 during happy hour). So in 11 years, the price of this beer has gone up by more than 40 percent. Ouch. And it ain't getting any cheaper, either.

"At some point, we may have to pump it up another quarter to offset the impact on our bottom line," Stewart said.

But wait -- there's more ...

I plugged some numbers into this nifty inflation calculator, which told me $3 in 1997 was worth $3.86 in 2007. That means the price of Resurrection has gone up more than inflation.

Stewart said the price of malt has gone up 60 percent, but he can't pass all that onto customers, or they'd beat him to death with his own shoes.

Stewart had a great question, though:

"Where's my $700 billion? ... I would settle for $700,000 ..."

(Photo of inflation zapping beer at Brewer's Art by Monica Lopossay/Sun Photographer. It kind of reminds me of the TV show Highlander, when what's-his-face chopped people's heads off and got shocked by lightening bolts. Quite awesome.) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:38 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Wye Oak's first music video

Baltimore-based indie rock duo Wye Oak just released their first music video, for the song "Please Concrete."

I'm surprised they picked this song, because "Warning" and "Obituary" seem more single-worthy than "Please Concrete." But "Please Concrete" is, in my opinion, one of the best tracks on the album. And I like the video, too (which I believe local Americana musician Caleb Stine helped shoot).

Here is the video ... 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music


bourbon streetNick's benefit was a slam dunk. Thanks to everybody who came out to support him. Frazier's was full and the bands tore it up.

What were you guys up to this weekend? Anybody go to Bourbon Street's (pictured) opening night? 

Also, sorry for not posting this weekend. My seven-year-old home computer started squeaking like a porch swing and stopped working, which makes it hard to post when I'm away from The Sun. I'm working on it, though.

Also also, sorry for not posting comments sooner last week. Operating our ancient blog software is like trying to drive one of these down I-95. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:09 AM | | Comments (8)

September 26, 2008

Bourbon Street to open tomorrow night

bourbon streetJust a friendly reminder, Bourbon Street Live's grand opening party is tomorrow night.

The three-story Mardi Gras-themed club welcomes host "Crazy" Kirk McEwan from 105.7 and special guest Vince "Doughboy" Neil of Motley Crue.

Now here's a way to start a stampede: Free drinks and admission from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and free catered food until 9 p.m. AOOOOGA!

From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., it costs $5 to get in, and from 10 p.m. to close, it's $10.  The party is 21+.

Here is a link to the club's Web site, where you can get more information.  

(Photo courtesy of Bourbon Street) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Hey now!

As I mentioned earlier, I'm headed to Hampden for my buddy Nick's benefit night. It starts at 9 p.m. at Frazier's on the Avenue (919 W. 36th St.). Not sure if I'll be able to make it to the Baltimore Comic-Con or the (free) Street Beat Festival in Federal Hill. We shall see.

How about you, dear readers? 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:02 AM | | Comments (16)

High top fade, courtesy of Oh Snap!

Got this e-mail today from the esteemed DJ Oh Snap!:

Hey Sam!

Have you seen the Bootleg 90's style video for my single, "High Top Fade"?

Check it out home skillet ...

The song's fly, but it's surprisingly funny to watch the "vintage" early 1990s video. Vanilla Ice in the house! I also like the shot of the dude getting some words buzzed into the back of his hair. I always wanted lightening bolts, but mom wouldn't let me get them. Sniffle.  

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:38 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

September 25, 2008

The review: Taps

Early on, I was a proponent of Taps. I believed what co-owner Dave Holter told me he was going to do to the place.

Well, I'm eating my words now. Here we are something like six months after the place opens and they still only have 17 draft beers.  

I think my review is firm but fair. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:33 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


sac au laitIf you're planning on hosting a swinging 20s party anytime soon, I have a recommendation.

Instead of just playing 1920s CDs, why don't you hire Sac Au Lait?

My friend hosted a '20s party this past weekend, and three members of Sac Au Lait dropped by to perform a short set in her kitchen.

The only instruments were a snare drum, trombone and banjo. But oh boy did these guys swing. I gave them bonus points for dressing the part.

If you'd like to see the boys in action, head to Joe Squared (133 W. North Ave.) Oct. 2. I think it's even a free show. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

An unofficial Metropolitan Wine Bar update

metropolitan The Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar could be back in action at the end of next month, I hear.

Ran into a former Metropolitan server at Sobo Cafe, and he shared the good news with us.

If you remember, it was damaged by an electrical fire a few months ago. 

Of course, this kind of stuff rarely runs on time. So I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't reopen until near the end of the year.

(Photo by Lloyd Fox/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:45 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 24, 2008

Little Havana has new tubes

little havanaLittle Havana (1325 Key Highway) recently installed two 42-inch flat screen TVs on the outside of the bar, according to one of my inside sources.

You should be able to see at least one of these TVs from the outside patio.

Better still: Little Havana also has a new massive TV they call "Big Daddy."

I'm not sure exactly how big it is. But it's not small. You can bet on that much.

All this talk of TVs brings up an interesting question ... 

Which bar has the biggest TV in Baltimore? Is it still ESPN Zone* with their massive entertainment room? I think they call it the Command Center or something like that.

I walked by Muggsy's Mug House, which advertised a 120-inch TV on their second floor. I found this a little hard to believe. Kind of like Bigfoot. 

I mean, at 120 inches, it had to be a projection screen, right?

*For some reason, whenever I think of ESPN Zone, I think of this commercial for car parts store Auto Zone. "Get in the zoooone. Auto Zone." 

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:29 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

For Nick

nick pippenEvery once in a while you meet someone who has a heart of gold.

Waaaay back in my freshman year of college, I became good buddies with a guy named Nick Pippen. He listened to the Grateful Dead and loved all kinds of acoustic music.

At first, he surprised me. Nick was always upbeat and genuine. If he wasn't already smiling, he was about to. You don't see that often.

Nick also has some of the worst luck of all my friends. I won't go into all of it, but I will say this: His birthday is Sept. 11. And a few months ago, he was diagnosed with a rather nasty case of leukemia. He got a bone marrow transplant, but we're still not sure if it's going to take. 

As you can imagine, it costs a ton of money to treat cancer. So a couple bands and (hopefully) a bunch of people are going to gather at Frazier's on the Avenue (919 W. 36th St.) this Saturday.

Smooth Kentucky's going to play, and people are gonna raise some money for Nick. I hope it's a lot of money. They're asking for a $10 donation at the door. It starts at 9 p.m.

I'll be there. And if any Midnight Sunners show up, your first drink is on me.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:04 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Approaching 6,000 comments

Sit tight, kids. We should hit another Midnight Sun mini-landmark later this week. Early next week at the absolute latest.

As always, the winner gets some flibbity-jibbity from my desk.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:21 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Random stuff

September 23, 2008

Inside Luckie's Tavern

luckie's tavernForgot to blog about the opening of Luckie's Tavern in Power Plant Live last week.

Fortunately, a Metromix photographer was there capture all the action.

The link is to a photo gallery -- not an actual review. So I'm not really sure how they felt about the place. But they did say that a Stella draft was $5.75. Ouch.

From this photo, the new space looks nothing like its predecessor, the Lodge Bar.

At least they still have live music inside. 

(Photo from 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:56 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Drugs ruled out in K-Swift's death

k-swiftA toxicology report revealed a "small amount of alcohol" and no drugs in the body of the late Baltimore Club DJ Khia "K-Swift" Edgerton (pictured), said Dr. David R. Fowler, chief medical examiner.

In July, Edgerton, 29, dove into her swimming pool and did not resurface. Neck injuries were ruled the cause of death.

Here is a link to photos of Edgerton's funeral, which thousands attended.

(Handout photo) 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:54 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

Bin 604 open on Sundays

bin 604As Gastronomic Guru Elizabeth Large pointed out, Bin 604 Wine Sellers is now open seven days a week by the Whole Foods in Harbor East.

General manager Jen Burger had this to say: "We are extremely excited to be opening on Sundays for all our wine-loving neighborhood regulars." 

This is kind of a big deal, because you can count on one hand how many liquor stores are open in Baltimore on Sundays.

Then again, how many people are going to have to rush out and buy a fancy bottle of wine, either?

Most corner bars have packaged goods licenses that let you take out a bottle if you're in a bind. Either way, it's good to have options, and Bin 604 is a big destination for downtown wine drinkers.

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:45 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 22, 2008

That sounds just like ...

led zeppelinYou ever hear a song on the radio and swear up and down it's one of your favorite bands -- until the DJ comes on and says it's somebody else?

There are more than a few bands with big hits that sound exactly like another band. I mean, almost identical.

A couple songs like this immediately come to mind. The first one that always confuses me is "Lonely is the Night" by Billy Squire. This tune -- from the high pitched vocals to the fuzzy guitar riffs and booming drums -- has Led Zeppelin (pictured) written all over it.

I'm a big fan of the Zep. The first time I heard "Lonely is the Night," I was stunned. Was this a Zeppelin song I'd never heard before? Where did it come from? I own all their albums. But did I miss something?

Nope. It was Billy Squire, who I'd never heard of at the time.

But wait, there's more ... 

The second one like this that always drives me nuts is "Baby Come Back" by Player. For a solid year, every time I heard this song I swore it was Hall and Oates*.
The sad thing is, this is one of Player's biggest hits. I think it might have been their biggest hit. And I'll bet thousands of people still think it's Hall and Oates.**
I'm sure I'm not alone in this.
Do you guys have songs that you swear up and down are by one of your favorite bands but actually turn out to be somebody else?
*By the way, this Hall and Oates video is on my Top 10 Most Awesomely Bad Music Videos of All Time. It's hard to pick a favorite part, but I'd have to say the best comes near the end when Oates tries to play the guitar but his coat sleeves are too long. It's symbolic for something. I'm just not sure what.
**I wonder if fans or interviewers have ever confronted either Player or Billy Squire about this phenomenon. That kind of question has the potential to make things really awkward really fast, though.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:01 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Random stuff


taps baltimoreDude, like, I went to Taps, which was, like, sooooooooooo amazing. OMG!


I counted 17 taps, and didn't see any wines on tap. But I wasn't surprised.

You know, I think I would have liked the place a lot more if my expectations had not been set so high.

I also counted 10 flat screen TVs, a couple new video games, new barstools and some new chairs.

A Fordham Copperhead was $6. Ouch. The full review comes out Thursday.

What were y'all up to? 

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:26 AM | | Comments (8)

Inside Pure Aqua

I found this video footage from Pure Aqua's last party of the season, which was Saturday night.

Looks like they had a swinging good time! 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:15 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 21, 2008

Another awesome yet pointless invention

There exists a robot which is part mini-fridge and part beer opener. This is not a legend. This is real.

All you do is put a glass mug in its hand and push a button. The robot does the rest. The downside? It takes freaking forever, and I'm sure it costs a fortune. But it does rank pretty high on the Awesome-O-Meter. It even speaks Japanese! At least I think it's Japanese.

Watch and enjoy ... 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:29 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drink-ology

September 20, 2008

Some thoughts on beer clothing

beer girlMS reader Brad S sent me an intriguing email the other day:

I recently had a discussion with my roommates about bar/beer/alcohol-based merchandise, such as shirts, hats and what have you.

I am of the opinion that unless it's a beer/brand of liquor that you couldn't live without, why flaunt it?

Also, even if bar merch is acceptable to most, is there a point where one could take their booze pride a little too far?

I'm talking Corona wear, here. I've seen people in rocking a Corona hat, tank top and multicolored corona shorts at the same time. To me it's tacky.

Here's what I think ... 

Personally, I think rocking a dirty Budweiser ball cap sends a pretty clear message about who you are and where you're coming from (unless you're wearing it ironically).

Yes, wearing all that Corona gear is tacky and can make for a bad first impression. But wearing a T-Shirt advertising an obscure but delicious beer such as San Miguel is totally acceptable. At least in my opinion.

I see no need to support the alcoholic beverages I imbibe by purchasing T-shirts. I support them buy purchasing the products themselves.

However, I do have a Coors Light T-shirt, because it is made of super thin, super light and soft material.



Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:16 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 19, 2008

A master at work

Oh, to be sitting at this table. Paco de Lucia is simply amazing.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:37 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

I won!

i'm a winner!Great news, Midnight Sunners -- I won a Best of the Best of the Best Award for Most Magnificent Blog of Them All!!!!!!!

How exciting is that?

As you can see, I'm pretty excited.

That's Midnight Sun Commander Meredith to the right, presenting me with the award.

What a surprise!

Well, it's not the only surprise. There are more awards coming in the next week or so. All kinds of awards -- for bars, clubs, commenters, etc.

I really like the template Midnight Sun Technical Director Carrie came up with. I'll post it later.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:38 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Random stuff



I know what I'm doing tomorrow: 

PM Productions Presents: Pure Aqua Closing Party The Last Pool Party of the Summer

Saturday, September 20 beginning at 9:00PM
Merritt Athletic Clubs Canton
Baltimore's Best Dancer 1st Edition

Hosted by Jamile "Jamz" McGee from "So You Think You Can Dance" (season 1). Jamile has appeared in music videos by Nelly Furtado, Chris Brown, Rhianna, and Mariah Carey. Also hosted by Quebueno Productions.

Pure Aqua Resident DJ Lou Koko. Live Percussion by Kamajian

Wait for it ... waaaiiit for it ... 

$6 Premium Drinks All Night
Free Admission 9:00-10:00
Ladies drink free 9:00-10:00

For bottle service/table reservations, call PM at 443.632.6686

I am, like, soooooooooo there. Look at the women. Beautiful women. How about you? 

(Photo of Pure Aqua's predecessor, Aqua, by Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun Photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (18)

Beer on a stick

beer on a stickWhy? Because we can.

And this is America, fool.

That's why.

Here is a link to the official Beer on a Stick site, where you can purchase this incredibly innovative yet strikingly simple accessory. It comes in different colors, too!

I also enjoy Beer on a Stick's motto:

"It's how you hold that keeps it cold."

Truer words are seldom spoken.

Also, if you look to the sidebar on the right side of this site, you'll see a new category called Drink-ology. I'm putting all the posts about weird drinking gizmos there.


Also, if one of you ends up buying Beer on a Stick (Evan, I'm thinking about you), I want you to take a photo of Beer on a Stick in action and send it to me. 

(Photo from Beer on a Stick's site)  

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Drink-ology

September 18, 2008

The review: Hamilton Tavern

hamilton tavernMy official dead-tree review of the new Hamilton Tavern (5517 Harford Road) came out today.

Here's a link.

The folks behind the Hamilton Tavern know how to set the right tone at a neighborhood bar. It's dark, and there are good beers and wines available -- as well as packaged goods.

Definitely one of the year's best new bars.

I didn't try the food, but I hear Sun gastronomic expert Elizabeth Large is all over that. Her review should come out later this month.

(Photo by Algerina Perna/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Signature drinking

moon-tiniQuestion: What is your signature drink?

If you had to pick one drink you love that also says something about you, what would it be? As you can see, my drink is a martini garnished with a slice of moon. I call it a moon-tini.

Actually, I like a Chivas Regal on the rocks. Die hard scotch fans would scoff at me, since you're only supposed to put a dash of water in your scotch (and drink it at room temperature), but I don't care. That's how I like it, and that's my drink.

And I like what it says about me ... 

Chivas is a blended double-malt. It's complex but goes down pretty smoothly -- especially on ice. It's not too salty or smoky, and has a rich history.

Frank Sinatra and the rest of the rat pack drank Chivas. So did my Pop Pop, who, when I was younger, seemed infinitely cooler than Sinatra.

Just last weekend, I enjoyed a fine glass of Chivas 18-year with Pops on the Eastern Shore. Now that's pleasant living. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Quick tips: Getting a bartender's attention

mothers grilleI want to start a new occasional feature on Midnight Sun called Quick Tips.

Every so often, I'll talk to someone who works at or goes to bars regularly and post their replies. Don't thank me -- thank MS reader Jason, who came up with the idea.

First up is Queen Colleen, a longtime bartender who currently works at Mother's Federal Hill Grille.

Here is (in her professional opinion) the best way to get a bartender's attention ...

After the last Purple Patio, I knew I was definitely more prone to waiting on the the people who weren't obnoxiously flailing their arms or waving money around like their pants were on fire. 

I definitely stay away from those yelling at me and "pssting" at me to get my attention. When it's busy, it's hard for both sides of the bar. But my best advice is make eye contact with the bartender if possible (sometimes when I am SLAMMED I don't even look up), have your money or credit card available and know exactly what you want to drink.

I'll totally remember this the next time you come to the bar, which ensures quicker drink delivery to you the second and third time around!

I realize this is more of a "what not to do" in a busy bar. I guess my best advice is to just be patient. We want to make money. That's why we are there. Oh and it never hurts to know us personally.  :)

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:21 AM | | Comments (20)

On stage with Bob Sima

Late last month Baltimore Unsigned threw another free show at The 8x10 with acoustic singer/songwriter Bob Sima.

Two other great pickers, David Glaser and Rob Thorworth, joined him on stage. Here's a video of "Map in My Lap," a song from Sima's latest album, Periphery

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

September 17, 2008

City Paper's Best of Baltimore awards

city paperThe City Paper released its Best of Baltimore awards today. This year's list includes a brand new Nightlife section.

Dig it here.

The CP crew put together a pretty nice list of drink deals (three beers for $3, penny beers), a delicious-sounding specialty drink and the standards like Best Jukebox Best Irish Pub.

I chuckled at the inevitable award for Mount Royal Tavern -- they invented a new category: Best New Bar Smell.

In other B.O.B. news, Ponytail was voted Best Band of 2008. Last year, they won Best Live Band.

Midnight Sun lost out to Adam Meister's Baltimore Politics Examiner in the Best Local Blog category and Baltimore Unsigned lost out to the Internet in the Best Radio Show for Local Music category.

But I'm not peeved. Not in the slightest. Because Midnight Sun technical director Carrie has come up with an awesome design for the Best of the Best of the Best Award. And I am gathering a few hilarious categories of my own.

Load cannon! 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:16 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Random stuff

Ian Astbury trashes Baltimore

ian astburyIs it humanly possible for Ian Astbury to keep his mouth shut?

The Cult's lead singer loves to rant between songs, and last week's show at the 9:30 Club was no exception. The group passed through Baltimore on their way to the gig, and Astbury said Charm City looked bombed out.*

According to one concert-goer, this is what he said: 

"Is [Baltimore] even in the U.S.? Geez. It looks like Sarajevo."

The Middle East was also on Astbury's mind. At one point, he tossed a bunch of tambourines into the crowd and said:

"These are made by the Taliban," another fan recalls.

Tickets to see the hard rock band cost about $40, and the show lasted about roughly 90 minutes. 

OK, Astbury, you took your shots at Baltimore.

Now it's our turn ...

(Stock photo) 

You think we look like Sarajevo? Yeah, well, at least we don't jump on every trend in rock and try to imitate it.

We remember a festival gig in the early '90s when you were wearing flannel and talking about how hot Nirvana and Pearl Jam were and trying to make your music as grungy as possible.

Just a couple years earlier, you were rocking out in a leather jacket and jeans a la Guns N' Roses. Pick a sound/look and stick with it. And quit running your mouth.**

*Yes, some parts of Baltimore look bombed out. But I'll bet you didn't drive through those parts. 

**I was only being half-serious there. I actually kind of like how ridiculous some of your remarks are.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:10 PM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Local music

No, I don't hate clubs

red mapleSince my most recent review of Mosaic and the whole Palma/Dubai debacle, there have been rumblings that Sam Sessa does not like clubs.

Sam Sessa hates clubs and only likes dive bars, they say. Maybe they're right, I thought.

So I went back into the archives and looked at my club reviews from the past three years.

We're talking reviews of Red Maple (pictured), Club X Ultra Lounge, Kamp and The Den, among others.

Here are a few choice snippets. You be the judge ...

On Red Maple (930 N. Charles St.): 

"When it's packed and popping, Red Maple is one of the city's few high-end lounges worth a $10 cover. Fire pits, comfy cushion seating, tasteful dark wood decor and a spot-on sound system make it one of the city's most sharp, impressive destinations. ... Red Maple's biggest downside is that it knows it's good. But when you want to really step out in Baltimore on a Friday or Saturday night, it's always one of the best spots to hit."

On The Den (3327 St. Paul St.):

"Charles Village desperately needed something to help its struggling nightlife scene, and the Den is a big boost."

On the now-defunct Kamp (2314 Boston St.):

"[Manager Warren] Hemenway's got the right atmosphere with Kamp, and if he can draw more young people to fill it, he'll have a hit lounge."

On Club X Ultra Lounge (10 S. Calvert St.), which is now Dubai:

"The place has a solid mix of style, attitude and class. I wouldn't be surprised to see the month-old lounge turn into a regular weekend hangout for the city's high-rolling 30-something set."

On Pur (2322 Boston St.):

"Pur lounge, Canton's crisp new three-story club, has an undeniable appeal.Since opening in mid-January where the GoodLove Bar used to sit, Pur has upped the ante more than any other city club."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:47 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 16, 2008

Rider Strong drops by Max's

rider strongOr maybe I should have titled this blog "Boy Meets Max's." Hee hee.

Actor Rider Strong (of Boy Meets World fame) visited Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway) for three hours last Friday during the bar's first German Beer Fest.

Strong (pictured, as a child, to right) started with German beer and switched to Belgians, according to general manager Gail Furman.

"I was adamant about [people] leaving him alone," she said. "No one bothered him."

The festival was a hit, and will be back for a second round next year, Furman said. 

(Stock photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:03 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Celebrity sightings

Wine cabinets coming to Kooper's

kooper's tavernPlans are in motion to install wine cabinets and update the menu at Kooper's Tavern (1702 Thames St.).

I spoke with owner Patrick Russell (pictured, second from left) briefly today, who said the bar should be renovated and ready for wine tastings and more upscale fare in November.

"We're no longer trying to be a beer and burger joint," he said. 

Here's a link with some more details. 

But the wine-centric renovations may be a couple months too late ...

(Sun archive photo from 1999) 

A new wine store and cafe called V-NO recently opened a couple blocks away at 905 S. Ann St. You can get wine by the glass or bottle at V-NO, which also serves food.

Until I heard about V-NO, I was hard-pressed to come up with many options for big time wine drinkers in Fells Point. Ze Mean Bean Cafe was the best option I could think of. But V-NO changes things.

Will Russell's renovations revolutionize or sink the Fells Point pub? Has V-NO pulled the rug from under Russell's feet? Only time will tell.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:11 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The review: Bad Decisions

bad decisionsTotally forgot to link to my official review of Bad Decisions, the new corner bar at 1928 Fleet St.

It doesn't look like anything special, but it doesn't need to.

You go to a place like Bad Decisions for inexpensive, inventive drinks. And in that department, Bad Decisions won't let you down.

(Photo by Baltimore Metromix) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

In studio with the All Mighty Senators

A couple weeks ago, the All Mighty Senators dropped by WTMD for an interview and live performance on Baltimore Unsigned.

Here is a video of the song "Freaky Style." 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Local music

September 15, 2008

R.I.P. Rick Wright

Rick Wright, founding member and keyboardist for Pink Floyd, died today after briefly battling cancer. He was 65.

Wright was an innovative keyboardist who contributed to some of rock's most memorable songs. Here is a fairly recent video of him singing "Comfortably Numb" with David Gilmour:

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:46 PM | | Comments (9)

O'Malley's shirt

martin o'malleyDear Gov. Martin O'Malley,

It is in poor taste to wear your band's T-shirt to your own gigs.


Midnight Sun

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:51 PM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Local music


cigar styleI chowed down on barbeque and smoked a couple sticks at the charity cigar event Saturday afternoon in Delaware.

I did not go on the definitive Fort Avenue bar crawl, but reading John Woestendiek's piece made me want to do it again soon.

GDA had a good point about updating John's article. Fort Avenue is a good barometer of the gentrification happening around the city.

I might do an updated bar crawl here in the next month or two -- strictly for the blog.

You guys do anything delicious this weekend? 

(Sun archive photo) 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:14 AM | | Comments (9)

Some good club news

martini time!In light of all the negative upscale club news we've been hearing for the past few weeks, at least one city club appears to be doing well.

Mosaic in Power Plant Live has continued to build its weekend crowds.

"It is amazing how great it is doing on the weekends, very unique for a Baltimore nightclub, and a very high end crowd," Reed Cordish wrote in an e-mail.

Me: So if I go back there, will they make me a real martini, or some weird-looking orange concoction again?

Reed: I will personally make it.

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:40 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 14, 2008

Dig these photos

max's taphouseI've been to Max's Taphouse a dozen times.

But I've never seen it like this.

When he's not reading Midnight Sun (which isn't often), Jmgiordano takes photos.

Lately, he's been working on some film noir-like shots of Baltimore City.

I like this one a lot. 

Here is a link to his Flickr page, where you can see some of the other stuff he's working on. Warning: There is some profanity on the site. 

(Photo by J.M. Giordano) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:37 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The definitive Fort Avenue bar crawl

muir's tavernSince today is Sunday, I thought I'd dish a longer bloggy than normal. It's well worth an extended read. Why? because I didn't write it.

A couple years ago, John Woestendiek penned the best Fort Avenue bar crawl story in the history of this newspaper.

I say this because I know for a fact H.L. Mencken did not publish one himself. He was too busy writing about "important" issues and the like to lower himself to write about bar history.

But I digress.

Here, without further adieu, is Woestendiek's bar-by-bar profile of Fort Avenue. Since this story originally ran, Truman's has been reopened as Luca's Cafe and the Vine has been torn down.

Here we go ...

By John Woestendiek 

Fifty years after it opened, the Victory Tavern had become a haunt for the defeated.

Outside, prostitutes paced past a stern, if grammatically incorrect, sign on the once-proud bar's peeling paint exterior. "If Your Not Buying," it warned, "Don't Come In." Inside, drugs were bought and sold, and the patrons were a glum, down-on-their-luck bunch.Everybody didn't know your name at the Victory Tavern, nor did anyone really want to.

That was less than two years ago. Step inside today and you will find well-dressed, wine-sipping young professionals, two flat-panel televisions and lively discussions about mutual funds or the playful impertinence of the zinfandel - a scene so civilized you would think it was an entirely different bar in an entirely different neighborhood.

And, essentially, it is.

The Victory, as it was named after the outbreak of World War II, is now the Vine. The corner it sits on - Fort Avenue at Hanover Street - is changing as well, part of a neighborhood once considered plain old South Baltimore, but now increasingly referred to as "Federal Hill South."

What's going on along Fort Avenue and elsewhere in a changing Baltimore is gentrification: Young, moneyed professionals move in. Prices and taxes go up. Older, working-class residents move out.

idle hourWhat is gained in the transition is immediately visible - from roof decks to day spas, from coffeehouses to condos. What is lost along the road to historic Fort McHenry, first paved in 1852, is less concrete.

As quickly as Formstone gets peeled off rowhouses, old traditions disappear, character diminishes and cohesiveness crumbles. The sidewalks where families once leisurely sat on their front steps are blurred with health-conscious runners on a tight schedule.

Nowhere is the peninsula's change from blue collar to white more obvious than in its bars - the most recurrent feature in Fort Avenue's landscape.

Walk the avenue's two-mile length, through the neighborhoods of Federal Hill South, Riverside and Locust Point, and you will encounter two funeral homes, three dry cleaners, four banks and five pizzerias. In that same stretch you will find about 20 bars - fewer than there once were, but still nearly one every 10th of a mile. Only a handful, however, remain the same places they were just three years ago.

Just as the Victory begot the Vine, what was once a sleepy dive called Mox's Place late last year became Lime, an upscale tequila bar. What was a working-class bar called the End Zone is now the Idle Hour, a stylishly laid-back cocktail lounge with original art for sale on the walls.

Hartlove's, a blue-collar neighborhood bar, last year became Rafters, a sports bar whose new owners spruced up, added a full menu, installed new televisions and painted the bar's unusual interior walls - clad in Formstone, the faux stone finish normally seen on the exterior of buildings.

"I have no clue how it got there," said Elizabeth Hartlove, 61, who owned the bar, and lived upstairs, from 1988 until last year.

The answer lies further back in time, and each of Fort Avenue's bars - no matter how shiny and new it appears - has a history, some of it found in liquor board records, some in the recollections of owners and customers. For the bars left on the street today, more than 100 others have come and gone, their existence covered up like out-of-style wallpaper.

For many years, the transition from one bar to the next was hardly detectable. In the past four years, though, the changes have been more sweeping, and cut more deeply into the old working-class fabric of Fort Avenue.

Suddenly, or so it seems to old-timers, a new crowd, and a new class, has taken over. The beer costs twice as much as it used to, and that place where you met your spouse, unloaded your woes, forged your friendships, or sat and pondered life's questions is no longer your place. It's almost, some say, like having your living room taken over by strangers.

To barhop on Fort Avenue, from "up the hill" to "down the point," as natives say, is to see two faces of Baltimore, to bounce between two cultures - one that's growing, one that's shrinking; one that's moving in, one that's moving out; one that's focused on tomorrow, one that longs for the good old days.

The Vine

Sebastian Sassi is young, urban and professional. But please - don't call him a yuppie; Sassi finds the term divisive and thinks it is tossed about recklessly.

"There are all these reasons people hate each other already - because of race, because of religion. Do we really need to come up with more?" he asked between sips of wine.

Sassi, 31, understands what's behind the resentment some express toward newcomers - how property taxes have as much as tripled, how many people who grew up here have been priced out of the neighborhood.

"It's not a traditional family community anymore," he said. "But it is what it is."

You won't find many longtime residents of South Baltimore frequenting the Vine. Then again, most didn't visit its predecessor, the Victory Tavern, either, noted Vine manager Michael Fishman.

"This was the worst dive bar in South Baltimore," he said. "We didn't exactly take a neighborhood favorite and pull it away from them."

Instead, Shane Mitchell, one of the owners of the Vine, bought the Victory to eradicate a pest.

Mitchell, developer of the Yards at Federal Hill, a complex of half-million-dollar luxury townhouses a block from the bar, spent about $25,000 putting a new face on the tavern. He swept out the crack vials and syringes, had the video poker machines hauled away, installed new flooring and painted the walls wine red before reopening it as the Vine in 2004.

For a while, the new management left up the Victory's old "If Your Not Buying ... " sign - as a nod to the bar's checkered past.

"We ended up taking it down," Fishman said. "I think it was scaring some people off."

muir's tavernMuir's Tavern

On May 9, 1944, Roland and Anna Muir bought a bar called Buck's and renamed it Muir's.

It hasn't changed much since.

Roland Muir Jr. was 12 when his family moved in above the bar, just south of Light Street in a Formstone house with a turret and a neon "Beer Wines Liquors" sign that casts an orange glow onto Fort Avenue at night.

Roland Jr., now 74, still opens the bar every morning at 9. It closes whenever he sees fit. "If there ain't nobody here, I close her up," Muir said, "sometimes in the middle of the afternoon."

Muir's has dill pickles in a giant jar behind the bar, and huge varnished cabinets with glass doors. One side holds photos of Johnny Unitas and Baltimore memorabilia; the other, a collection of knickknacks assembled by his wife, Audrey, who died five years ago.

Muir's, like the two bars closest to it, Fort Charles Pub and the Garden Lounge, makes no effort to appeal to the newer crowd.

"Everybody wants to be a Federal Hill bar. Not me," said Jim Whittman, owner of the Fort Charles Pub. "I'm the last bastion of South Baltimore. I don't see the big attraction of standing in line for a $3 beer. I think two bucks is a good price. Sometimes, though, I honestly think if I just raise my prices, people will come in."

The Fort Charles Pub still draws a big blue-collar crowd, but Muir's - the oldest continuously owned bar on Fort Avenue - seldom fills up, getting by on a shrinking group of aging regulars. In a way, it's a neighborhood bar that has outlived the neighbors.

"It's a different crowd now - a lot of yuppies," Muir said. "They don't come in here much."

Mention of the word "yuppie" prompts comments from the three customers at the bar: The yuppies don't say hello, they act superior, they are only passing through and will move once their children turn school age, they are causing prices to go up and, maybe most insulting of all, they are taking over the bars.

"The yuppies got that one," a customer said, referring to a newly reopened Fort Avenue bar as if it had fallen into enemy hands.

Muir's could be next. "I could sell her tomorrow if I wanted. Almost every day I think, `Man, I could be down at the shore. ... ' But then I change my mind. All my customers say, `Don't sell it; I don't have anywhere else to go.'"

The Idle Hour

It's past midnight at the Idle Hour when a customer turns to the woman on the next barstool. "So," he says, in the flickering light of a red candle, "do you want to come see my renovation?"

Cozy and low-key, the Idle Hour isn't known as a pickup joint. But the odds for that are probably better than they once were. Three years ago, the only scoring regularly done in this bar - known as the End Zone from 1989 to 2003 - was on TV. And when it was known as the Blue Room (1957 to 1989), women weren't even allowed. The Blue Room began as a stag bar.

"Half the bars in South Baltimore were stag bars," said Blue Room owner Joe Ripple. "The customers were mostly married men; it wasn't like gay or anything. It was a tradition."

The Blue Room was known for its ice-cold beers - Ripple said he was the first on Fort Avenue to use frosted mugs - and its camaraderie. Crowds of regulars would gather there before Colts games, wearing cowboy hats and toasting Johnny U before boarding a bus to Memorial Stadium.

Most of all, it was known for being blue. The owner before Ripple painted the inside the same color as the famed B&O Railroad engine called Royal Blue. In fact, Ripple said, it was the same paint - the owner had once worked at the B&O and brought home a few cans to spruce the place up.

Like other South Baltimore bars of its day, the Blue Room opened at 6 a.m. It sponsored a bowling team and a "pleasure club" that threw parties for neighborhood youths, said Ripple, a Navy veteran of World War II and Korea.

Ripple sold the Blue Room in 1979, but continued living across the street from it until two years ago, when he moved to a retirement complex. Today, he visits the neighborhood, but drinks his beers - over ice, in plastic cups - at the VFW Star Spangled Banner Memorial Post, a few blocks down Fort Avenue.

As the Idle Hour, the bar gets few South Baltimore old-timers, but it does draw a mixed crowd - artsy types, young professionals from the neighborhood and workers from other bars and restaurants. It holds monthly wine tastings, and keeps its flat-panel TV hidden away, except for Ravens games, when a chalkboard outside advertises "Meathead-Free Football."

It holds art exhibits that rotate monthly, though one wall is reserved for a picture of President Bush in drag - something that wouldn't have washed in Ripple's day. Back then, the walls carried the names of every neighborhood resident who went to war.

The new owners, Randal Etheridge and Brendan Finnerty, have made at least one nod to the old bar's history. They hadn't decided on a name for the place when they went to get their liquor license. As they thumbed through the bar's records, kept on index cards at the city liquor board, they saw all its incarnations since 1937. On the oldest card, they found its original name, the Idle Hour, and took it as their own.

Southside Saloon

It has been Wenger's, Sud Suckers and the Top Deck and, for a brief while, it was painted all black and known as the Morgue. But for the past six years, it has been the Southside Saloon - a blue-collar corner tavern whose sign features a tough-looking bulldog with a bone in its mouth.
And so it shall stay - at least until Stuart Satosky sells it, something he says he doesn't plan on doing anytime soon.

paul'sThere is probably more money to be made off the upwardly mobile, but Satosky, a 60-year-old real estate agent and longtime bar owner, doesn't see the need to change with the neighborhood. "I think there is room here for this type of bar - one that caters to the older crowd."
Some of Satosky's business comes from former residents who, though they have moved, still come back for a drink.

"A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday and Saturday, people came in and they said the exact same thing: `We came back to the neighborhood ... and went looking for the old bars and this was the only one we could find.'"

Most customers at the Southside, where one-cent drinks are dispensed when the Orioles hit a home run on TV, don't set foot into the newer bars.

"It used to be you could walk into any bar and there were always four or five of your friends," said customer John Hennelly, 52, a boilermaker who was born in the neighborhood and still lives there. He bought his house on Boyle Street in 1990 for $82,000. His father, a boilermaker, too, bought his house on Jackson Street for $5,600 in 1966. Hennelly's plan is to wait until his house is worth $350,000, if it's not already, and then retire to Florida.

His block has turned over almost entirely to new residents. Except for a retired cop and a stevedore, he is surrounded by "yuppies" - a term he admits is relative. "When you get right down to it, a `yuppie' is anybody who makes more money than you."

He has had trouble with some of his new neighbors; one in particular, who has since moved, yelled at Hennelly's wife about their dog being too noisy.

"They're doing away with all the old traditions," he complained. "I mean, dogs can't bark anymore?

"They turn their yards ... beautiful yards ... into parking lots. They rip off their Formstone. They want to turn us into some kind of Williamsburg. Well, I'm keeping the Formstone. There was a reason for the Formstone. That's tradition to me. I grew up in a Formstone house. I will not change my Formstone."

Hogan's Alley

Born and raised in South Baltimore, Sherry "Pinky" Hogan makes her living selling real estate there, so she knows Fort Avenue's transition from blue-collar to white can be both painful and profitable.

"I've sold homes for $200,000 that were not livable," Hogan said. "I've watched 90-year-old women weep when they're selling their houses, people who have lived here all their lives and can't get up and down the steps anymore, or they can't pay the higher property taxes, or they just want to cash out."

In 2004, Hogan was showing a bar called Cox's to some potential buyers from Washington when she realized something: She didn't like them.

"They were from out of state. They wanted to turn it into a nightclub," said Hogan, a grandmother of three. "I love this neighborhood, and I've had so many good times at this bar. ... So I decided I should buy it."

She and her husband, retired Baltimore police officer Gerard Hogan (who used to park his patrol car in the alley behind Cox's when he went in for coffee), paid $750,000 for the tavern, spent another $30,000 adding flat-screen TVs and new doors, and renamed it Hogan's Alley.

While upgrading, they plan to keep it an "old neighborhood place." It's not unusual to find two generations of a family at opposite ends of the dimly lit bar.

The Hogans bought the bar from Ellen Berry, the daughter of Robert Cox, who had owned it between 1975 and 1991. He's responsible for its lack of natural light. Scolded by police for being in the bar after hours, Cox, who lived upstairs with his family, bricked in all the ground-level windows.

Berry had bought the bar in 2000, returning it to the family. In 2004, she sold it and bought a 40-acre farm in Southwestern Virginia.

Captain Larry's

Faith Laarkamp has Captain Larry's old recipe for crab cakes. She has, under the agreement of sale, the right to keep calling her tavern by his name. What she doesn't have, she admits, is the former owner's personality.

"There's a difference between a 60-year-old ex-cop and a 30-year-old girl," she said.

Larry Gross - an ex-Marine, charter boat captain, city police officer, private detective and government agent - sold the bar and retired to a houseboat in Key West, Fla., four years ago, leaving behind his name, his legend and a few bullet holes in the ceiling.

Laarkamp recalls the first time she saw the bar. Her date pointed it out to her. "Under no circumstances," he said, "should you go in there."

Laarkamp, with help from Tim Whisted, the owner of Little Havana, the Key Highway bar and restaurant where she tended bar, bought Captain Larry's, keeping the nautical theme, but making permanent repairs to spots she says Captain Larry had patched up "like it was a boat."

She left up a few reminders of the previous owner, including a portrait of the captain, who sported a bushy mustache, shaved head and gold earring.

Captain Larry's old customers, however, didn't hang around - with higher prices and no more captain, the bar lost its attraction for them. No longer was it the kind of a place where anything - the more outlandish the better - could happen.

"It wound up being a neighborhood bar, with local people but also a lot of cops and firemen, Navy and Marines, CIA and DEA guys, and a lot of unmentionables we can't talk about," said Gross, who bought the bar, previously Pete's American Cafe, in 1991

Captain Larry's was like a club, with its own rituals and customs, including New Year's Eve parties in which the 200-pound captain appeared in a diaper; head shavings for anyone entering the armed services; and ear-piercings conducted on the premises.

"We had gold earrings made up in a skull and crossbones," Gross said. "You'd take the earring and put it in a shot of vodka, and the customer would drink the vodka and spit the earring back into the glass. That was to sterilize it. Then we'd take a dart, and sterilize it with vodka and pierce the ear."

After 10 years, the captain called it quits, weary of 17-hour days and aware that the neighborhood was becoming a different place. He sold the bar, which he had bought for $125,000, for $325,000.

"The crowd was changing - stockbrokers and insurance guys, things like that. You'd have 30 people in there, and 20 of them would be drinking water. I was feeling like a dinosaur in the business, and I saw that the old way wasn't going to work anymore."

When he visits from Florida, he doesn't go to the bar that bears his name. It looks nice, he said, but seeing the change is painful. "It's like someone killing one of your family members."


There was a time, Elizabeth Hartlove recalls, when it went pretty much like clockwork - she and her husband could wait until factory shifts ended, then watch their bar fill up.

The customers came from working on the railroad or in the shipyards. They came from the grain elevator or the sugar plant. They came from Procter & Gamble, Bethlehem Steel, Allied Signal Chemical, Coca-Cola and Chesapeake Paperboard - none of which remain in the area today.

By the mid-1990s, with the decline of heavy industry in Locust Point, working-class bar crowds weren't what they used to be. Last year, "just worn out from worrying every day," Hartlove, 61, put the bar up for sale. "It's a younger person's business."

Hartlove's is now Rafters, a bar with younger ownership and a younger clientele. Hartlove's old regulars - deeming the music too loud and prices too high - migrated to the few other bars that still cater to the old crowd.

The old interior Formstone is still there, but painted over. It goes back to the days the bar was Leone's, famous for its semi-pro baseball team, which starred a local teenager named Al Kaline.

From 1950 to 1988, the bar was owned by Vince Leone, who opened it with his brother Dominick, a one-time Baltimore City councilman who was shot and killed at the courthouse in 1976. It was Vince Leone, now legally blind and living in Glen Burnie, who opted for the interior Formstone, about the same time he had it put on the exterior.

"What the heck," he said, "I just like the way it looked."


The newest tavern on Fort Avenue is Lime, a sleek, shiny and very green tequila bar whose sign - the 13th to hang at 801 E. Fort Ave. in the 70 years since Prohibition ended - went up in October.

The bar was bought last year by Brendon Smith, an Annapolis bar manager who, with his partners, spent close to $100,000 transforming it into the "hip and trendy" nightspot they envisioned.

Weeks before Lime opened, the old sign - "Mox's Place, Package Goods" - was still leaning against the building, waiting to be hauled away.

Mox's Place drew a blue-collar crowd, as previous bars in that location did for 70 years - among them Riverside Tavern, Driftwood Inn and Stumblin' Inn.

But Mox's Place, it turns out, was never really Mox's place. It was owned and operated for five years by Doris McManus, a former pole dancer and bartender with a soft heart and a vicious right hook. She saved her money, bought her own place and named it after her boyfriend, whose nickname was Mox.

Mox, whom McManus married three months later, never worked at the bar - never worked much at all, she said. After eight months, the marriage, her fifth, broke up, and McManus never bothered to change the bar's name. By then, most people were calling her Mox, anyway.

By 2004, McManus decided to get out of the business. She sold the bar for nearly twice the $100,000 she paid for it in 1999.

One Sunday, McManus confronted the new owner, who she said owed her money. He said he didn't. During the argument, she said, he pushed her twice. McManus started walking away, then turned and decked him.

Not long after, the new owner closed the bar, which remained vacant until it became Lime. McManus, who served a brief community service sentence for the punch, never got the money.

She now works for a delivery company and still lives on Fort Avenue, with two pit bulls, one of which, having grown up in Mox's Place, tries to go in the door at Lime whenever they walk by.


When brothers Troy and Norman Bage bought a bar called Bottoms Up in 2002, they didn't turn things upside down.

Instead, they made gradual changes, and managed to hang on to the old clientele while going after a new one. Truman's, in fast-gentrifying Locust Point, is one of the few places on Fort Avenue where you are likely to find hardhats and suits drinking elbow to elbow and, for the most part, getting along.

Troy and Norman - the bar's name is a combination of their names - kept the video-poker machines, still sell lottery tickets and held the line on beer prices.

At the same time, they hired a chef who turns out fare both basic and trendy, remodeled the upstairs and put in a game room, and aggressively marketed the bar on the Internet and through a local sports club and gym.

"We wanted a place that would be comfortable, but not upscale and pretentious," said Troy Bage, a 35-year-old physical therapist.

"One of the biggest challenges has been hanging on to the crowd that has been here in the past. When they leave, you lose some of that culture. When you get more young professionals moving in, what you'd call yuppies - and I guess I fall into that category - the longtime people feel they lose a little of their identity."

LP Docks

LP Docks is at the end of the road - probably in more ways than one.

The last bar on Fort Avenue before Fort McHenry, it is also the closest to Silo Point, a $200 million conversion of an old grain elevator that looms over Locust Point into luxury housing and retail space.

The project all but guarantees that the days are numbered for LP Docks, a tiny piece of the past on a road drastically changing.

To predict its future, just look back up the avenue.

What used to be Henry's Tavern, which then became Backfinz, soon will be Nasu Blanca, a Japanese-Spanish restaurant in a neighborhood that traditionally has been home to neither. Locust Point, second only to Ellis Island as a U.S. entry point for European immigrants - mostly Greek, Polish and Irish - has always been very white.

What used to be a lead-paint factory is now the Foundry on Fort, which houses a health club, day spa and salon, coffeehouse and the Wine Market, a bar, restaurant and wine store.

At LP Docks, barstool banter is free of pretense, the beer is cheap and the decor is minimal.

The bar has three poker machines, a linoleum floor, paneled walls and perhaps the smallest men's room in town - not much larger than a coffin. A mere 2 feet in width, it used to be the ladies' room, but female employees demanded a switch. "We used to have some larger women working the bar and they had to back in," the bartender said.

On Tuesdays, back at the other end of Fort Avenue, the Vine offers two glasses of wine for $7. LP Docks, which has no wine list - no wine, for that matter - has its own special that day: 25-cent beers for customers 55 and older.

On a recent Tuesday, Frank Haggerty, 68, had gotten there before LP Docks opened at 10 a.m. He was still there at 4 p.m. A retired merchant marine, Haggerty spends most days drinking beer and playing Keno at the few old bars that remain.

"Most of the other bars I can't afford to go in anymore," he said as he swiveled on his stool and beckoned the bartender.

He flashed a smile when she placed a foaming plastic cup in front of him. He took a sip. Then he slid a quarter and a penny across the counter.

"There it is, hon - for a beer and your tip."

(All photos by Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 13, 2008

Counting with Bruce Springsteen

In light of our recent discussion about signs at Bruce Springsteen shows, I want to share this video.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

September 12, 2008

The word on Long John's Pub

mmmmmMS reader (and new Remington resident) Allan has the scoop on Long John's Pub (398 W. 29th St.):

Long John's is ... not bad.

It's def. not winning any bar competitions anytime soon, but for what it is, it's a pretty friendly neighborhood dive bar.

Also they have a bucket of five Bud/Michelob Lights and Yuengling cans for $8.50. Nine ounce rails are 2 for 1, or you can just get a "large" (read: pint glass) for $3.50.

And when I was outside smoking, one of the regulars told me about how he used to "fill this city up with LSD," and then showed me and my friend his brand-new nipple rings.

So yeah, character central.

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


cigar time!Tomorrow, I'm making the great escape to the Eastern Shore.

From there, Pops and I are traveling to the great state of Delaware (heh) where we will participate in the Big Smoke at Delaware Park.  

How about all of you?

Does everybody have a hole in their Sunday evening now that the Ravens game is on Monday?

(Photo by Christopher T. Assaf/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:35 PM | | Comments (12)

I want that

Just stumbled across this video of what is perhaps one of the most American inventions ever ... uh ... invented.

This machine costs $1,500 but is worth every penny. I mean, would you, dear reader, want to get off your couch to fetch another beer if you didn't have to? The answer is no.

Watch and learn ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:44 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drink-ology

September 11, 2008

Comment pending

type type typeSince Midnight Sun is powered by dusty old blog software, things normally tend to run a bit sluggish.

Lately, they've been running slower than ever -- especially in the Comments Department.

When you enter a comment and hit "Post," the gears start turning. But for the past month or so, it can take up to 60 seconds for the comment to actually go through. But they do go through. It just takes time.

So try not to get frustrated and close the window. Just give it a minute.

We apologize for the wait.

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

Options are good ...

... such as, the option to sip or chug (hassle free!) from either end of the same mug.

And the illustration of how not to walk downstairs is key.

This product gets Midnight Sun's official stamp of approval. 

For the record, I first saw the photo of this mug here. And I'm not sure where it originally comes from. But it doesn't look like you can order it from this site.

I'm sure you can find it elsewhere, if you're really interested. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drink-ology

Down the Hatch

beer me!

Want a cheap, cold beer in Locust Point?

Well, I have a suggestion for you: Down the Hatch (1157 Haubert St.) I went there several weeks ago, and it could easily become my favorite Locust Point hideout.

Down the Hatch doesn't look like much from the outside. Or inside, for that matter.

But draft beers come in frosty mugs, and boy are they cheap. My buddy Justin and I each had four, and our total was just shy of $13. I was drinking Yuengling and he had Miller Lite.

Down the Hatch actually won a City Paper award for having one of the coldest beers in the city. And according to the bartender, they didn't even have the mugs in the freezer yet when the City Paper tester showed up. That 32.7-degree beer was served in a room-temperature mug.

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:01 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 10, 2008

A pressing question

So, has the Large Hadron Collider destroyed the world yet?

This web site has the answer. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:02 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Random stuff

McCracken's is now the Tavern on Key

tavern on keyThis is probably the worst photo I've taken in a while. But it was necessary.

Remember McCracken's on Key (1400 Key Highway)? Well, as I understand, it's under new ownership.

And with that new ownership comes ... gasp ... a sign. Yes, a real street sign.

I haven't been in side, but from the sidewalk, it looks like the new owner hasn't changed the place much. I'll bet beer prices have gone up some, but that was inevitable.

I mean, someone's gotta pay for the sign, right?

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:03 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

ASCAP vs. the Hexagon

hexagonLast week, a representative from the American Society of Composers, Artists and Composers (ASCAP) emailed the owners of The Hexagon (the new live music space where the Lo-Fi Social Club used to be, pictured).

In case you're not familiar with ASCAP, this organization represents hundreds of thousands of musicians/songwriters/etc. from all corners of the music world. From the ASCAP web site:

"ASCAP protects the rights of its members by licensing and distributing royalties for the non-dramatic public performances of their copyrighted works."

Most people don't realize that whenever a copyrighted song is performed in public, a (small) royalty is owed to the person who wrote the tune. "Happy Birthday" brings in a lot of money, I hear. Seriously.

Since it's impossible for ASCAP to monitor how many times a cover song is played in every club and cafe in every city, they make most live music venues pay an annual licensing fee.

I'll bet you know where this is going ...  

In the email, an ASCAP representative demanded the Hexagon pay $3,000 or be sued. Since the Hexagon is a small, low-budget club (most of the money they do make goes into venue improvements), they don't exactly have three grand lying around.

When they first got the e-mail, club management freaked out and canceled last Saturday's show, co-owner Josh Atkins said.

Atkins and the other owners are trying to negotiate a lesser licensing fee. In the meantime, the shows will go on, he said.

"I think we're going to continue as usual," Atkins said. "I'm talking to this guy. We're not going to cancel any [more] events."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:41 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Local music

Baltimore Music Conference is almost here

baltimore music conferenceHere we are, just about a week away from the next Baltimore Music Conference.

The four-day event features performances from local and national bands, panels, discussions and much more music-related stuff.

I'm actually going to be on a panel about marketing and blogging.

Here is a link to the BMC's web site, where you can get tickets and find out more information about the event.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

September 9, 2008

Get into any club free

I wonder if anybody has done this at clubs. I mean, there's no reason why it wouldn't work.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Are signs at shows cool or annoying?

Picture this: You're standing a dozen rows deep at a Bruce Springsteen show. You paid $100 a seat, and you're standing up, grooving to Rosalita* or some such.

Just then, the chick in front of you whips out a massive "I Love you BRUUUUUCE" sign" and starts waving it around.

Suddenly, your $100 view of the stage is obstructed.

What do you do?

Do you tap the gal on the shoulder and ask her to put the sign down?

Or is holding a sign just like standing up -- something you have to deal with? ...

Personally, I draw the line at signs. Yeah sure, let 'em wave it for a song. They took time and made the thing, blah blah blah.

bruce springsteenBut any more than one song and that sign has to come down. That's my opinion.  

I have a different opinion about standing vs. sitting.

Amie and I were at a Billy Joel show in Washington a couple years ago, towards the back of the Verizon Center.

We stood up and danced to one of the songs, and the middle aged man behind me asked me to sit down.

I turned to face him, and gave him the Evil Eye. Out of courtesy, I sat down for a bit a couple songs later. 

But everybody's got legs, and unless you're going to see something like this live, you had better be prepared to use those legs -- especially if you're rocking out to Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen.

*I picked Rosalita because that's my personal favorite Springsteen song. I hear he recently tore it up at Hershey Park. 

(AP photos) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:49 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Local music

Palma shuttered

In case you missed it, MS reader LoveGrove posted this comment yesterday under the Jon Han is o-u-t post:

Landlord changed the locks this weekend. They owe lots of back rent.

Looks like our weird little saga is over -- at least for now.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 8, 2008

In Soviet Russia ...

This is who they should have gotten to host the MTV awards.

And now, the maestro himself ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:29 PM | | Comments (1)


guinnessSorry I haven't posted about my weekend sooner. I would have, but the blog-posting software was busted all morning.

So how was your weekend? Did you see the Ravens bash the Bengals? What gloriousness.

Because of cable TV malfunctions, I watched the action at Idle Hour.

Friday night I went to Arlington, Va., for my buddy Evan's birthday. A Guinness at Ri Ra Irish Pub (a chain) was $5.50. That ain't bad.

Its bartenders were on point, too. I never waited long for a beer.

(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:55 PM | | Comments (3)

The review: Two psychics in one night

Here is a link to my review of two psychics in one night. They were both within walking distance of an entertainment district. But one was expensive ($20) and one was cheap ($5). Enjoy!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:29 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Get thee to the Hamilton Tavern

hamilton tavernThe new Hamilton Tavern (5517 Harford Road) is a smashing success.

At 11 p.m. last Thursday there was not an empty seat inside the place -- a testament to owner Tom Creegan.

Creegan's one of the co-owners of Brewer's Art. And the Brewer's Art crew knows how to run a bar. Just look at the Annabel Lee Tavern.

The Hamilton Tavern has a turn-of-the-century farm feel. A wooden scythe handle is bolted to the door, and saws, rakes and even an old-fashioned oyster digger are inside.

There were two beers on tap the other night -- Resurrection and Troegs. Mmmm. But I especially liked the bathrooms ...

There are pages from old books torn out and lacquered onto the walls! Gives you something to look at, ya know. Creegan said his wife Felicia Carter came up with the idea.

The Hamilton Tavern has high ceilings and smells like freshly lacquered wood. It's dark inside -- as most bars should be -- and has plenty of character.

Even though the Hamilton Tavern has only been open for a couple weeks, it's easy to see that Creegan has a hit on his hands.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 5, 2008

The Dizz is open

the dizzDropped by The Dizz last night. It just opened up where Dizzy Issie's used to be, at 300 W. 30th St. in Remington.

It looks less cluttered than Dizzy Issie's, but plenty of the old tchotchkes are still on the walls.

I had the naive idea of reviewing the Dizz, but quickly scrapped that plan when I realized last night must have been someone's birthday or the bar's grand opening party.

I never, ever review bars on their grand opening nights -- or even their grand opening weekends.

Here's why ...

First off, it wouldn't be fair to the bartenders. I stood at the Dizz's bar for 10 minutes and wasn't even acknowledged by the server. But I can't put too much blame on her -- she was swamped. The Dizz was stuffed with people and she couldn't get to them all in time.

You can't judge a place's popularity on a grand opening, either. Of course it's going to be packed. If it's not on the opening week and weekend, something is horribly wrong.

I like to give a bar or club a week or two for the buzz to die down some. Then you can get a real gauge for how good the service is and how popular the place is going to be.

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


dolla dolla billTonight, I'm on my way into Washington, aka Expensive Drink Central. But hey, it's my buddy Evan's birthday and he wants to throw down. So, we'll throw down.

I want to take a moment here and veer off on a tangent.

Evan and I studied together at the University of Maryland, College Park. Ever been out to a bar in College Park? Well, there are only four or five of 'em. That's one bar for every 5,00-6,000 students.

College Park is one of the most under-served college towns in the country.

Any city with such a huge college smack in the middle of it should have a movie theater, dozens of bars, clubs, cafes, non-chain restaurants and a bowling alley all within walking distance. But does College Park? Nope. What a disappointing city.

Tangent over. What are you guys up to this weekend?

(AP photo of a mere fraction of the money I'll spend tonight) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:26 PM | | Comments (21)

Jon Han is o-u-t

jon hanJon Han, who opened the high-end club Palma in the Redwood Trust building, has left town, sources say.

The investors met and voted him off the island, I'm told. He's now headed for Philly, where he plans to open a similar club, according to the rumor mill.

Here's another juicy little tidbit: I hear they never even made a full rent payment. Ouch! Dubai is already closed. Looks like Palma is next. 

What a weird little saga. 

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:43 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

September 4, 2008

Make some Bad Decisions

bad decisionsLast night I got out to Bad Decisions, the new bar run by John Reusing across Fleet Street from Ale Mary's.

Great name for a bar, isn't it? The awning says "Bad Decisions" on the side and "Make Some" in the middle.

Bad Decisions used to be the lo-fi restaurant/bar Island II Bar & Grill.

It doesn't look like Reusing has changed much with the building.

I'm working on the review today, but in a nutshell, Bad Decisions puts substance over style ...

The place ain't fancy but the drinks are, and that's what's going to hook people.

I had a Bee Sting, which was mead mixed with Woodpecker Cider and a Captain Morgan and coconut water. Both were delicious.

If you can't wait for my review, read Metromix's review here. Wonder where they heard about Bad Decisions? 

(Photo courtesy of Metromix)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:57 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The skinny on Bourbon Street

bourbon streetFor starters, it's just Bourbon Street -- not Bourbon Street Live. Here's a link to the official web site.

Owner Jim Temple said the Cordish Company objected to his original name, so he dropped the "Live."

Bourbon Street will have a soft opening Sept. 14 with a concert by O'Malley's March. It officially opens the weekend of Sept. 26-27.

Temple is a lawyer who represented the original Hammerjack's and helped run Iguana Cantina for about three years. He said Bourbon Street will start having music regularly in about two or three months.

"We feel very confident about what we're going to do," Temple said.

"Like any club, it's going to take some time. But we're familiar with Baltimore. We're not coming from another jurisdiction and starting here. You have to know Baltimore."

I like the new wood floor and the hanging lamps. But I think one of the biggest aces up Bourbon Street's sleeve is the roof deck. Check this out ...

bourbon streetBam!

Looks pretty darn cool, doesn't it? Since it's open, you'll be able to smoke up there (that's huge) and admire the view.  

"We spent a lot of money in decorations," Temple said. "It's become its own advertisement. People see it from I-83, and it really catches their eye."

All told, renovations cost about $1 million, Temple said. He doesn't own the building and wouldn't comment on the details of the lease. Capacity is 2,500.

Bourbon Street's address is 316 Guilford Ave., and the number is 410-528-8377.

(Photos courtesy of Bourbon Street) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Creative Capitalism: Bill Gates vs. Peter Quinn

bill gatesWaaaaaay back in 2003, local musician and artist Peter Quinn and his friend Todd Meyers founded the Baltimore label Creative Capitalism.

They were the ones who released the innovative Noble Lake album I noted a few months back.

As far as Quinn knows, he coined the term "creative capitalism."

But in the past few years, billionaire computer wizard Bill Gates (pictured) has started using "creative capitalism" in his many philanthropic endeavors ...

Now, Gates is credited as the author of the phrase.

Quinn is less than impressed.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is incredible,'" Quinn said. "What weird histrionics. It doesn't matter if it's true or not -- the more people that believe it creates it."

It's proof that in the Internet age, it doesn't matter who comes first. It's who has the most clout that matters. 

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:25 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

September 3, 2008

Bourbon Street Live is coming along

bourbon street liveBourbon Street Live, the new music club coming to the old Hammerjack's space (316 Guilford Ave.), looks like it's ready to open -- at least from the outside.

See that fancy sign? And the fancy palm trees? Fancy that!

I'm trying to get a hold of one of the owners and see if they have a date locked in for the grand opening.

School's back in session, which means the timing is right to open soon.

I don't know this for sure, but I've heard that the owner of Iguana Cantina is one of the people behind Bourbon Street Live. I hear this guy has a running feud with Power Plant Live.

Word through the rumor mill is, the name Bourbon Street Live is a poke at Rams Head Live/Power Plant Live. I emailed Reed Cordish for comment but he hasn't emailed me back yet.

(Photo by me) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:55 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Obama vs. McCain: Who would you rather drink with?

obamaThis is an important question, methinks. America loves a good all-night throw down.

And all politics aside, I personally think presidential hopeful John McCain would be more fun to close out a corner bar with.

But Roommate Patchen brings up a couple interesting points when it comes to Barack Obama:

McCain would be more fun one-on-one in a bar crawl.

But Obama would get me into much better clubs (ones that had real dancing instead of square dancing) and would make sure the ladies paid equal attention to me.  After all, Obama was the one who called a journalist to apologize for ruining his game in front of a cute intern.  Obama looks out for his bros, and would make good if he botched it.

McCain, on the other hand, would be the type to play practical jokes with your drink while you were in the bathroom.


(AP photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:40 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Midnight Sun continues to dominate

Watch, as the competition folds before me.

Soon, this blog will be the only Midnight Sun in the world! With that pesky book out of the way, all that's left is the brewery, tannery, solar race car team, and west coast gay bar.

Soon, the world will be mine. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:08 AM | | Comments (12)

September 2, 2008

Two closings

edgar'sGot word of two closures over the holiday weekend.

Edgar's (pictured), the billiards club at Pratt and Light streets, is closed, a MS tipster said.

Word on the street is they couldn't settle on a new lease and their landlord kicked 'em out.

Also, I heard that Dubai, the new club managed by Palma owner Jon Han was closed this weekend. It will be reopening under new management in the near future, I understand.

I can't say I'm surprised either of these spots shut down. Edgar's was hard to find from the street, which meant little foot traffic. And I called Dubai's closure a couple weeks ago. It opened in early August. Talk about a short run.

(Photo by Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:18 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Welcome back, dudes and dudettes!

Hope you had a gnarly weekend. Did you kick it old school?

OK I'll stop with the stupid slang.

Friday, I went to two psychics in the same night, which in my opinion, was genius.

I'm writing it up right now. Feel free to distract me with comments about your weekend. 

(Photo of a psychic by the Charlotte Observer) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:26 AM | | Comments (5)


OK I've gotta get semi-serious here for a hot minute.

People curse in real life. And people curse even more on blogs. But Midnight Sun is a family-friendly blog. That means, I can't publish posts or comments with dirty nasty words in them. 

For a while, I've been replacing the dirty nasty words in your comments with funny ones. But it's starting to get old. So, please self-edit a little bit. Get creative. Have fun with it! Just don't curse.



Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:57 AM | | Comments (10)

September 1, 2008

What exactly do music producers do?

It's a good question. You hear about super producers like Timbaland all the time. But do you know what they actually do?

Lemme tell ya ... 

Producers are kind of like editors. A band will have a song written, take it to the producer, and the producer will help them record it. The producer might add a new beat or make suggestions for what part should go where in the song.

The producer often adds orchestration (maybe a string arrangement here, a touch of cowbell there) and helps put everything together.

Bands bounce ideas off the producer, and the result is what you hear on the radio/iTunes.

"Apologize" by One Republic is a great example. They wrote the song, and then Timbaland remixed it.

Here is their original version: 

and here is Timbaland's take: 

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