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April 30, 2009

Happy birthday, Mahaffey's

mahaffeysRemember a few weeks ago when I dropped by Mahaffey's but didn't write about it because I didn't have a peg? Wish I'd have known the place just turned 7. Sigh.

At least beer writer Chuck Cook is on top of things. Here are his thoughts on the place:

Canton's neighborhood beer bar, Mahaffey's (2706 Dillon St.), has been open for seven years now.

The pub marked the occasion on Saturday, April 18, to a packed house.

"I opened in February 2002, under the name of the previous bar, Canton Cabana," owner Wayne Mahaffey (pictured, right) said. "I changed the name to Mahaffey’s in April of that year. It’s been a great seven-year run, and I look forward to the next seven!”

It's places like Mahaffey's, Brewer's Art and Max's Taphouse that prompted me to move to Baltimore, after years of living in the suburbs of Raleigh-Durham and Richmond. Nothing beats living within walking-distance of several great beer bars, especially for a beer writer ...

Mahaffey's has one of the best happy hour deals in the city: Three 10-ounce beers for $4.25. The special is available all day on Mondays, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays and noon-7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about rice- or corn-infused brews from the mega-breweries, but beers such as hometown Clipper City Loose Cannon, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Southern Tier IPA and Victory Prima Pils. Some rare and more costly brews are not available as part of the special, but most of the beers among the 18 well-chosen taps at Mahaffey's are typically included.

There is usually a cask-conditioned beer on tap as well, something only seen at a few venues in Charm City. Such dedication to great beer is the mark of someone serious about promoting beer culture: flavor and quality over quantity.

Monday is also $1 chicken and burger sliders night. In the current economy, it’s the kind of deal everyone appreciates. Tuesday is steak night, and Thursdays now feature various special dishes.

I primarily specialize in writing about Belgian beer for a number of beer magazines, so I’m happy to say that Mahaffey's has a solid selection of Belgian brews. Usually there are one or two Belgian or Belgian-style beers on draft (like Chimay Triple and Clipper City Red Sky at Night).

The bottled list is as good as it gets in Canton, with Trappist brews such as Achel Brune 8; Rochefort 6, 8, and 10; Chimay Premiere, Cinq Cents, and Blue/Grand Reserve; Orval; and Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel in 33 cl bottles. Other excellent Belgian brews such as Duchess de Bourgogne, Duvel, McChouffe, and Moortgat 8 and 10 add extra choice.

Belgian-inspired beers such as Allagash White, Brewer’s Art Resurrection, and Ommegang Abbey ale are among the best in their respective styles.

Mahaffey’s is a friendly and welcoming place, as a neighborhood bar should be. With bartenders like Alice and Halena offering up great beers with a smile, you’ll feel right at home.

About the author: Charles D. “Chuck” Cook lives in Canton, and writes for publications such as All About Beer magazine, Ale Street News, Beers of the World magazine, Beer Northwest magazine and Celebrator Beer News, among others. He has visited nearly 90 Belgian breweries during 18 trips to Belgium. E-mail him at, and see his blog at, and photo site at

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What is the proper etiquette for partying with coworkers?


Personally, I make all my coworkers sign a waiver before drinking with me. But Heather, aka BiCoastalChickie, has some interesting questions on the subject:

I don't hang out with my co-workers very often, but when I do, I am prompted to ponder the etiquette of partying with them.

In my opinion, you should never get super drunk and ridiculous in front of a co-worker, because other people at work will find out. Everyone loves office gossip.

We had a college student working with us who had to take a couple of days off because she got into a drunken bar fight with an ex-boyfriend. She gained admiration from me for this, but I don't know if any higher-ups felt the same way.

Puking, drunken wardrobe malfunctions and bar fights are not cool in front of co-workers, right? ...

I also wonder what the invite etiquette is.

I went out with a co-worker for his birthday one weekend, and casually mentioned it to another co-worker the next week. It went like this:

Me: yeah, went out for his birthday Saturday
Co: oh, I thought he didn't have any big birthday plans
Me: umm... I think it was last minute, he just invited me Thursday
Co: yeah, I was talking to him about it on Friday
Me (silently, to self): DOH!!!

Meanwhile, it was open knowledge that another co-worker was having a big 50th b-day party for himself, and I wasn't invited, but other people were. Am I that uncool? I even jokingly offered to jump out of the cake.

So, who gets invited? Should all the singles be invited? All the youngin'? Anyone who has a hilarious story about a barfight with their ex? Just one or two people you actually like or can kinda-sorta put up with?

(Sun archive photo of the World's Largest Office Party, an annual charity event at the Hyatt Regency)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 29, 2009

Happy birthday to meeeeeeeeeeeee!

midnight sun's second bdayTwo years ago today, ladies and gentlemen, I wrote the very first post on Midnight Sun.

At the time, I had no idea that Midnight Sun would eventually consume my life. And I could have never guessed that I would have as much fun writing a blog as writing a story or column for the paper.

Since there are (almost) no rules on Midnight Sun, I have this incredible amount of freedom in terms of style and voice. I've grown so much as a writer since Midnight Sun started.

Anyhow, enough of the boring stuff.

When Midnight Sun first launched, it was supposed to be an outlet for Baltimore Sun LIVE writers and editors. Heh, well, that didn't quite pan out like we planned. And the LIVE section itself ate the dust some months back.

But Midnight Sun continues to grow. Back in the day, I used to average about 1,000 page views a week. These days, it's more like 25,000 page views a week. In two years, I have written more than 1,600 entries and gotten almost 12,000 comments.

I love the community of commenters that has come together over the years. I remember thinking, "Wow, somebody actually reads my stuff." Because before Midnight Sun, I rarely ever got feedback on my writing.

And who could forget some of the wilder threads we've had on here ...

Remember the 'Hard times for Chris Sligh?" post? I think that was the first time GDA commented on Midnight Sun.

Then there was the infamous 'Zero Tolerance Parking' post

I think the post that got the most hits of anything I've ever written was the one about bacon vodka.

And one of the more recent explosive posts was the sign outside Taps entry.

I sometimes wonder what the thread with the most comments is. Anybody know? Tonight, I'm going to toast two years of Midnight Sun. And again, thank you all for making it such a hit.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

"Two Jaeger bombs and a sippy cup, please"


Midnight Sun guest writer Owl Meat takes another look at kids and drinking in this hilarious post:

I think it's illegal for children to sit at a bar in Baltimore.

Nevertheless, I have been afflicted with the progeny of lazy parents who abandon their ill-fitting accessories at a restaurant bar to watch TV and inflict DDT-like buzz-kill on the adults there.

When the parents are particularly obnoxious, I might say to them, "I don't drink at your playground. Don't bring your kids to my bar."

You can't mess with the kids, though. However annoying, they are blameless.

But you can teach them some things that will keep their parents busy later. Here is a starter list of kinder-conversation starters ...

  • When I was a kid, I had a pony.  All my friends had ponies and we rode them to school.
  • Milk is made from white paint and glue.
  • Try to work the phrase "daddy's girlfriend" into dinner conversation as much as possible. It will crack him up.
  • Whenever you do something wrong at school, such as forget to do your homework, here is the phrase that pays: "Mommy drinks." It never gets old.

Parents: Maybe I'm not the best babysitter for your kids. So cough up some sitter cheddar or you might be explaining away some very unsavory behavior of the Easter Bunny at a donkey show in Oaxaca.

(Photo by Getty Images and OMG)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

April 28, 2009

The Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad: From lewd to lovable

dirty marmaduke flute squadOur guest blogging continues with a piece from local musician Ryan Graham:

I’m Ryan Graham, the lead guitarist for The Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad, one of the most offensive bands in Baltimore.

I’m also in The Hilltop Hightops, Baltimore’s only hard-rock children’s band.

Same members, different band.

The same people who sing "I Like Fat Girls" for drunken bar-goers now sing "I Like Kitties" for 4-year-olds.

I think Sam envisioned some evil plan to corrupt American’s youth when he asked me to write about this, but the reality is a little less insidious ...

DMFS has been around since 2005. We love playing for our awesome fans at Baltimore’s amazing venues, but we can’t really afford to give up our jobs and go on tour. When you never venture out of your comfort zone, the music can turn stale and the energy and excitement can die. (I’m looking at you, Sting!)

So, we decided to start a side project. But it had to be different. Jazz quartet? Polka? Milli Vanilli tribute band? Nothing other than original hard rock seemed very appealing. But we wanted to play at different venues to different crowds, places DMFS couldn’t play because of our "adult" content.

hilltop hightopsThen one day my little niece saw a live video of us jumping around on stage like idiots, and she was laughing hysterically. And it hit me that we were already a kids band, but with really filthy lyrics. If we just tweaked our act a bit we might be able to play for large, appreciative (albeit young) audiences at a wide variety of venues!

The best part so far has been coming up with the songs. Like a lot of people our age, we still have one foot stuck in our youth, and fully submerging ourselves in that mindset is fun and refreshing.

But I’d forgotten how hard it is to build a band up from scratch. Rehearsals, photo shoots, promo videos, press kits, postcards, websites. It’s a ton of work with no immediate payback; we haven’t even booked our first gig yet.

I was also bummed that one member of DMFS wanted no part of this. We ended up bringing in an old friend to take his place, but it definitely deflated our morale.

I do hope the hard work pays off and The Hilltop Hightops are successful. The market for children’s music doesn’t seem as oversaturated as other genres, and most of the stuff already out there is horribly bland folk-pop that I personally think is insulting to kids. I don’t know how parents stand to listen to that junk; it would drive me nuts.

Some people would say DMFS has sold out, but who cares? We’re playing music we enjoy and having fun with it, and that’s the whole point of being in a band. It's not like we ever had much artistic integrity to begin with, given that our lead singer wears a horse head and sings about necrophilia.

Plus, someone has to teach kids how to throw the goat.

(At top, photo of The Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad. At bottom, photo of The Hilltop Hightops)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music

I'll have the usual

hee hee

Heh, I have totally seen this happen but never thought to write about it. Here is OMG with his take on the "usual:"

In the topsy-turvy, dark-as-wine sea of consumer choices, I am amazed that so many people are rigidly bound to their "usual."

As a famous Clinton said, "Free your mind; your beer will follow."

We all have our favorite drinks, but don't you know people who get exactly the same thing all the time? I know someone who owned a restaurant for most of his life, and he drank nothing but Cutty and water. Blech.

Even funnier: What people order when the bar doesn't have their usual.

A guy asks for a Corona. The bartender says, "We have Sol. It's pretty much the same thing." True dat. His response, "Lemme have a Hennessy and Coke."

Oh, sad slave to advertising. He couldn't order anything that wasn't billboard-approved ...

Here's another situation:

A guy (who looks like a dude) orders a Michelob Ultra.

Bartender: "We don't have Mich Ultra."
Guy: "Uh, well, then I'll have a Diet Coke."

Turn in your dude credentials, guy.

I'll admit that I can be mighty particular when getting my swerve on.  If I ask for a Jameson's and they offer Bushmill's, I might mumble, "[Dastardly] whiskey," if I'm feeling particularly Republican, but I sure as hell am not getting a Diet Coke.

(Photo courtesy of OMG)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 27, 2009

I knew that band back when ...

we are scientistsBiCoastalChickie has officially made the jump from Midnight Sun reader/commenter to Midnight Sun guest poster. Here is her first piece:

When I was in college in SoCal, we had a couple of sweet bands (and sevvvvveral crappy ones) that played campus parties each year.

One student was friends with the jam band Particle, who has since gone on to play Lollapalooza and the New Orleans Jazz Fest and tour with 311.

I still have my Linde Dorm Particle T-shirt from when they played there in 2001 ...

One of the guys in my dorm was the drummer for We Are Scientists (pictured), which developed a decent following here and a bigger one in Europe (yeah, they're kinda emo) ...

I loved that he had a master's degree in Engineering and that his full-time job was touring in a band. He has since left the band, though I had a quick chat with him the last time they all played together at Sonar. I have heard We Are Scientists songs on CSI: NY and The OC, so they must have *arrived*, right?

So, what successful bands did you know back when they were just punks playing a mix of covers and original tunes at the local bars or the dorm parties?

(Photo of We Are Scientists from 2006 courtesy of Virgin Records)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Local music

Kiddie cocktails

girl drink

This, dear readers, is Owl Meat Gravy's second guest post on Midnight Sun. Enjoy:

Apparently they used to sell candy cigarettes years ago (before the liberals ruined the world).

Ah, think about it: Coming home after a hard half-day at kindergarten, putting your little feet up and dragging deep on a candy Pall Mall. Yeah, puffing out a swirl of powdered sugar. That's living.

Recently I saw a gruff older man (reminiscent of the psychotic father from American Beauty) order a root beer at a bar.

Rebuffed, he barked out, "A Shirley Temple then!" I had to look. Standing behind him was a twitchy boy, maybe 13. I could read his mind: "I hate you, Dad, I hate you, Dad, I hate you, Dad."

Why would he do that? Get the poor kid a soda, not an emasculating trip to the 1930s.
So what's the deal with kiddie cocktails?  As far as I can tell they haven't changed in 50 years ...  

There's the Shirley Temple: 7-Up (Sprite) and grenadine. Then there's the Roy Roger: Coke and grenadine.

Can't we come up with something more current?
The idea of feeding your antsy kids super-saturated sugar drinks with extra red sugar seems like pure madness. But why teach your kids that it ain't a party without a cocktail? Sure, they are going to get worse messages from the media. But still.

I think the French have a much better idea: Give the kids some watered-down wine. It teaches them how to drink responsibly and best of all – knocks them out cold. Zut alors!

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

April 26, 2009

Throwback: Club Charles revisited

clubchas1.jpgCheryl from Cleveland read my blog about the Club Charles and sent me a couple cool photos. She writes:

I have a photo in a paper frame from Club Charles of my grandparents. It has an interesting scantily clad woman on the front holding a martini.

It looks like it's 1940's. Pretty risque for those times.

Your article will be printed and kept with the photo. My grandparents did live in Baltimore for a time. 

I've attached a scanned photo if you're interested ...






The woman in the middle is my grandmother, Virginia MacDonald, and the gentleman on the right (her left) is my grandfather, Donald (both gone now).

I don't know who the dark-haired gentleman is.

Thanks for sharing, Cheryl!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 25, 2009

Ice, ice, baby

ice cubesFrom the fingertips of Midnight Sun guest poster Owl Meat Gravy comes the first in a series of off-kilter bar and drink observations.

You may remember Owl Meat from such blogs as Dining@Large, where he is a regular commenter and contributor. In my absence, he'll be regularly writing for Midnight Sun too. Here goes:

I have a problem, and its name is Ice. No, not Rob Van Winkle. We're cool now.

My problem is the American obsession with ice. We love technology so much that we use it fix things that aren't broken. Like beer. Someone even invented a device that will make your beer super-cold in twenty seconds.

I know several people that put ice in their beer. Light beer. Is this a Baltimore thing or some kind of mental pathology?

I don't want to get all judge-y, but drinking Coors Light from a big glass of ice seems like a hate crime ...

I'll take this one step further: I think some beer is too cold. I know that the coldest possible beer is a Holy Grail for some, but enough is enough.

I like Clipper City Loose Cannon, but it is just too cold and then they give me a chilled glass. I like the taste and when beer is too cold you can't taste it fully. I understand why you would want to drink Bud, Coors and Miller beers ice cold – to kill the taste. I think darker beers need to be served at a warmer temperature.
Then there is the issue of diluted cocktails. Why does every drink in the U.S. get served in a glass full of ice? The ice tends to dilute the drink to the point of uselessness unless you drink it fast. I think it's time to rethink ice.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

April 24, 2009

My nightmare

tommygun.JPGAre nightmares contagious?

One day after Sun restaurant critic/blogger Elizabeth Large had a nightmare about being recognized in the Milton Inn, I too had a vivid, terrible nightmare. Mine was much more intense, though.

I was a child, and my friend and I had snuck up to the house of a certain Baltimore nightlife/entertainment/real estate mogul who shall remain nameless. Let's call him Bob for the sake of this story.

So there we are, crouching by Bob's house, trying to see what's going on inside, when we hear someone coming. We scatter into the nearby trees, as Bob comes out of the house with another guy. I run a little ahead of my friend, so that we are separated by about 50 yards.

Here is where it gets wild ...

Bob is carrying a semi-automatic weapon. Suddenly, he spots my friend, and starts shooting at him. He wounds my friend, and then goes absolutely still for a few seconds.

I'm in the forest, he's right by me, and I'm trying to hold my breath. I can't hear or see anything. I"m just hoping he doesn't hear me. I am freaking out, man.

"I thought I heard a rustle," Bob says to his friend. "Just the slightest sound."

Then I woke up. My heart was pounding. Even now, I get the jitters when I think about it.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:27 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

Starting tomorrow, I'm on vacation ...

And believe me, I can't wait. It's been a crazy week.

I took off next week to move into Amie's place and help with the last-minute details for the wedding. Thankfully, a number of Midnight Sun commenters came through with guests posts to cover me while I'm gone.

I'll be back May 6, but will be on vacation again May 18-27 for our honeymoon. So I still need guest posts from people. If you have an idea, e-mail a 300-400 word nightlife-related blog item to me, and I'll toss it up on Midnight Sun. My e-mail is

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:12 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

April 23, 2009

Today's column: The Station North Spring Music Festival

stationnorth.JPGWe decided to mix it up a bit this week, and instead of a bar review, I wrote about this Saturday's Station North Spring Music Festival.

Check it out.

This festival is a big step for the neighborhood -- especially if it's a hit. But the fact that Station North is even attempting a festival of this size is a testament to how far the neighborhood has come in the past few years.

(Sun photo by Monica Lopossay)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:03 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Is this really the golden age of microbreweries?

beer mugsBack when I toured Clipper City Brewery, our guide said this is the golden age of microbreweries.

It made sense, because for decades, all beer drinkers had to choose from were bland domestics like Budweiser and a handful of imports. 

But I want to think back more than a few decades -- back to the time before Prohibition.

I've read that in the 1800s and early 1900s, there were a whole bunch of breweries around town churning out suds ...

Back then, beer drinkers had plenty of options to pick from, and most were brewed right here in Baltimore. Keep in mind -- this was before eating and drinking locally were the trendy thing to do.

The Depression forced most of these smaller breweries out of business. And in the 1950s and 1960s, the big chains swooped in and took over.

I have always wondered how good beer was pre-Depression. You've got to figure -- with so much competition here in Baltimore alone, a brewery must have had to make good beer if it wanted to survive.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:06 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 22, 2009

Guinness turns 250 Friday, Slainte goes nuts

guinnessMidnight Sun commenter Frenchy (who also appears to work for a certain Fells Point mini-fiefdom), sent me the heads up about a rather delicious-sounding event at Slainte Irish Pub (1700 Thames St.) on Friday.

It seems that Guinness turns 250 years old that day, and to celebrate, Slainte is putting together a lovely little event.

This lovely little event includes live music by Sean Pelan from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Jimmi Sexton from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. 

The Guinness Girls will be there to give out Guinness birthday apparel (as well as pints of the legendary brew), and a St. James Gate locked box.

Apparently, customers can get keys and try to open the box to win the prizes inside.

(Sun archive photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:19 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What's beer for the Earth: Bottled or boxed wine?

wine wine wine!

In honor of Earth Day (and drinking), I thought I might pose a few environmental questions. Yesterday, the consensus seemed to be that Baltimore really didn't have many -- if any -- green bars.

I'm not surprised.

But under the green bar post, Ted said that glass is biodegradable. Heh. That's technically true. I hear it takes more than a few (hundred) years for glass to dissolve, though.

Same thing goes for plastic. 

With that in mind, here is my Earth Day question: What is better for the environment -- bottled or boxed wine? ...

Think about it. Both forms kill trees. Boxed wine, is, well, boxed. And the corks in bottled wines come from, well, the cork oak tree. Here is a potential game-changer: Not only is boxed wine boxed, but it's wrapped in that plastic skin.

It's been a while since I've had boxed wine, but I think bottles and boxes have the same amount of vino in them. Right?

So which one leaves a bigger carbon footprint? Which one kills more trees? 

Since wine can come from so many places, and the distance traveled can make a difference in the carbon footprint, let's assume we're comparing boxed and bottled wine from France. Wait, no, I hate France. Let's make it Italy.


(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:38 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 21, 2009

Justin needs our help!

ohmanmartinitime.JPGGot this email from Midnight Sun reader Justin yesterday:

I'm not sure if you get this a lot, but I need help with something. Friday is my 1 year anniversary with my lady.

I want to do something special, insanely special, but I’m drawing blanks.

For our first date together, we went to Bistro Romano in Philly and dined in the private wine cellar, so it’s been somewhat hard to top that.

What I’m looking for is some place with great food, a modern atmosphere, and somewhat intimate. I know the combination is hard. I want to go somewhere nice, but at the same time up beat. Any help would be great.

So, who has some suggestions for Justin? First off, Justin, I'm going to chide you for setting the bar too high on your first date.

Consider yourself chided.

Now, onto business ...

Expert Sun food blogger Elizbeth Large gives you some great romantic restaurant options in this post on Dining@Large. And here is another post she did with romantic but less expensive options.

Since I'm more of a bar/lounge/club writer than a restaurant critic, I can offer you cocktail/lounge spots for after dinner, if you want. I'd suggest Red Maple (930 N. Charles St.), Mosaic (Power Plant Live), Ixia (518 N. Charles St.) and maybe even the bar/lounge at Pazo (1425 Aliceanna St.).

(Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:38 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A Vodka Movie by Zach Galifianakis, Tim and Eric

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:16 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Random stuff

Does Baltimore have any green bars?

pickles pub baltimoreWith Earth Day less than 24 hours away, Midnight Sun reader Jay e-mailed me asking for a post about green bars in and around the city.

By "green," he meant "environmentally friendly" -- not green-painted bars (like the one pictured). Heh.

Jay, I'm sorry, but I have absolutely no idea if there are any Baltimore bars trying to become eco-friendly.

If there are any, they certainly aren't bragging about it. Or maybe they're just not bragging about it to me.

With all of the bottles and cans bars go through on a Friday and Saturday night, that's a lot of waste. So in theory, bars could make a huge difference in the amount of solid waste put into landfills.

Now, I don't know for sure, but I'll bet a lot of Baltimore bars don't recycle most of those empty bottles and cans. They probably throw them out ...


Well, trash gets picked up twice a week, and recycling gets picked up twice a month. If you generate a full dumpster's worth of trash in a week, you're not going to sit on it for another week waiting for the recycling folks to come. Stale beer (especially in the summertime) smells particularly rank.

Then there's the whole "why do I care" side to green bars. People who go to restaurants might care more about how eco-friendly their restaurant is. And some people might even care if their beer/wine/cocktail is organic.

But would you go to a bar just because it's green? I doubt it.

Hey, I love the environment as much as the next guy, but I'm not driving all the way across the city just to drink at a green bar once a week. All the fumes from my Hummer V-16 (filled with leaded gasoline) would probably cancel out any environment I'd save by drinking there. Hee hee.

I'll tell you how more bars can go eco-friendly, though: Stop serving bottles and cans -- or maybe only serve them on weekends. Less waste that way. It's more work for the dishwashers, but it's less solid waste in the Dumpsters. Just an idea.

If you know of any green bars around town (or if you run one), let us know. I'm curious.

(Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:43 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The trouble with high-test beers

resurrection aleA buddy of mine was recently at the Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.) watching some live music and drinking some Belgian beers. He had about four, when it hit him: He was suddenly, unexpectedly sloshed.

The cause? Each of the beers he had was 9 percent alcohol per volume, which is about twice as much alcohol as the average brew.

Has this ever happened to you?

Bartenders who serve a lot of Resurrection Ale (that's the stuff made at the Brewer's Art), people who haven't drank it before can get quite messy, quite quickly ...

A South Baltimore bartender told me that he has seen people put back four or five Resurrections while seated at the bar, get up to go to the bathroom and eat floor. Ouch!

My friends were out at a North Baltimore watering hole once when a guy got extremely loud and rowdy and had to be thrown out. The bartender apologized, and explained that this guy was drinking Resurrection for the first time.

Is there a moral here? I'm not sure. If anything, I guess it's "know your beer." If you don't, you beer could floor you. Literally.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:30 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 20, 2009

A cover song that's better than the original

I think the best covers give you a new appreciation for the original songs.

I've always liked Blondie's "Heart of Glass," probably because I like disco funk. But I never paid too much attention to the lyrics, until I heard this cover. It's by a Charlottesville-based Americana group called Old School Freight Train.

Take a couple of minutes and watch this music video. The best part comes about 3:40 minutes into it.

I actually went back and re-read the lyrics to "Heart of Glass" after watching the video. Old School Freight Train tweaks them just a bit:

Once I had a love and it was divine
Soon found out I was losing my mind
It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind
So much mistrust, love's gone behind


Lost inside
Adorable illusion and I cannot hide
I'm the one you're using
please don't push me aside

Not bad, Debbie Harry. Not bad.

Old School Freight Train's cover kind of reminds me of Iron and Wine's cover of "Such Great Heights" by the Postal Service. They both slow down and pare down the originals. As a result, the covers have an ethereal, cinematic quality to them.

And I love the video of the Civil War re-enactment. Well done, all around. Thanks to Amywoo for the tip.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:16 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Random stuff

Do you remember your first slow dance?

If I close my eyes and think really hard, I can almost picture my first slow dance.

But since my recollection is still a little hazy, I decided to present it as a half-true, half-embellished play. In short, I dipped the truth in awesomeness. Here, dear readers, is the result ...

discotime.JPGThe scene: Galena Volunteer Fire Department banquet hall, circa 1995. A slowly spinning disco ball sends little specks of light onto the dance floor while a fog machine spits out thick, chemically mist.

The players: Sam Sessa, an awfully awkward 12- or 13-year-old with short brown hair, sporting light-toned jeans and a cheesy '90s sweater. Becky M., a slightly less awkward -- but still shy -- 12- or 13-year-old with red hair wearing jeans and a cheesy '90s shirt.

DJ: All right all right, it's time to slow it down! 

DJ starts playing "I Swear" by All-4-One.

Sam stands to one side of the dance floor, near the wall, shuffling his feet and rubbing his sweaty palms on his jeans. He scans the hall, looking for someone to dance with. He sees Becky, who is sitting in a metal chair by herself on the other side of the hall.

Sam swallows the lump in his throat, which becomes a weight in his stomach. Sam takes a deep breath, slowly lets it out, walks over to where Becky is sitting.

Sam: Hey, uh, Becky! Wouldyouliketodancewithme?

Becky: What? I can't hear you.

Sam: I said, is it cool if we dance? 

Sam silently kicks himself for sounding like a dork.

Becky: Sure.

Sam's little heart, which was already beating at twice its normal speed, almost explodes. He walks with Becky to the dance floor, where he stiffly puts both his arms around her torso. They slowly shuffle around the dance floor while the song plays.

When the song ends, the lights come on and the dance is over. Brimming with joy, Young Sam brags to his friends and hops into his parents' minivan for a ride home. 

Do you remember your first slow dance?

(Photo by the Kansas City Star)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:41 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Brewer's Art leads Esquire's list of America's Best Bars

brewer's art baltimoreRight now, Esquire is doing some kind of online contest where you can vote for the best bar in the country.

And as of this morning, Brewer's Art (1106 N. Charles St., pictured) is in the lead. Check it out.

I called Brewer's Art's co-owner Volker Stewart for comment, and he was dumbstruck by the news.

"I don't even know what to say," he said. "It's bizarre."

The only other bar on the list from Maryland is, oddly, enough, the Shamrock Inn (6044 Harford Road). And even odder -- the blurb about it appears to be written by John Waters.

He writes: "It's hard to find a corner bar in Baltimore that hasn't been affected by real estate porn, but the Shamrock is still untouched by tapas menus and deejays."

Hmm ... I don't know about that, John. I'd say this city still has a fair number of old-school corner bars ...

In the meantime, Stewart is relishing his bar's new status

"I always like to say these things are rigged, but we don't have the kind of money it would take to rig Esquire," he said with a laugh. 

"I'm sure we'll be displaced. But cake for a day is good."

(Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:32 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Know of any good rain specials?

Usually when it's raining outside, bars offer some pretty tempting specials. Bad weather keeps customers home, so they have to compensate somehow. Remember that $1 domestic draft special at Alexander's Tavern? Do they still do that?

What other bars around town have good weather specials? I recall something about Capt. Larry's running a nice drink special like this too. Anybody know more?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:09 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 18, 2009

Baltimore Chop is closed

baltimore chopBaltimore Chop (pictured), the coffeeshop, bookstore and live music venue in Ridgely's Delight, has closed, according to owner Andy Rubin.

"It's been slower and slower around here over a long period of time now, and on top of that I've been busy on some major projects for Baltimore Glass Works and 31 Tigers Records, the other two things I do in life, and so I took some time to attend to them while kind of having accordioned hours," he wrote in a Facebook message ...

"And I was tired of losing a lot of money ... Sad to leave my neighborhood, although my house is still here."

That's really a shame, because Baltimore Chop showcased some great local authors, as well as up-and-coming musicians in an intimate acoustic setting.

Andy, I wish you all the best in your future projects.

(Sun photo by Lloyd Fox) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:42 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

April 17, 2009

Sign outside Taps draws complaints

easter sunday sign outside tapsThe folks at Taps (1439 S. Charles St.) set this sign outside the South Baltimore corner bar on Easter Sunday.

As you can imagine, more than one neighborhood resident (and a few churchgoers, too, I hear) were irked by the sign.

I would call Taps' co-owner Dave Holter for comment, but he hasn't returned my calls for months, so I won't bother.

I'm all about free speech. But this sign is simply in poor taste and offensive.

Would you agree?

(Photo submitted by an irked neighbor)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:33 PM | | Comments (65)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The review: V-NO

time for wine!I can't believe it took me so long to get to V-NO in Fells Point. This cute little wine bar opened last fall on South Ann Street right by the water.

Here's a link to the review, which ran in yesterday's paper.

Amie and I went with Crazy Joe and lowercase m, and everybody gave the place two thumbs up.

Have you been there? I'll bet now that the weather is warming up, those outside tables are gonna go fast.

In the review, I raised the question: Why didn't somebody think of this sooner? ...

What I like about V-NO is that food comes second to wine. The menu at V-NO is 90 percent wine and 10 percent food, which I love. If you want, you can nibble on cheese and bread or some other small plate.

I just feel like nearly every other wine bar in this city also serves tons of food. That's not a bad thing, but sometimes you just want to sit and drink wine and not have to worry about food.

I'm glad the owners of V-NO realize that.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:51 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Most of the mixed drinks in Baltimore are illegal

pomegranate margarita at holy frijolesGot your attention yet?

It's true. According to city liquor laws:

"No licensee shall serve more than two ounces of liquor to one person at one time for consumption on the premises."

Two ounces! How many ounces are in the average martini? More than two, most likely. How about the average double gin and tonic? Or the average double anything for that matter?

If the city enforced this law, half the bars in Baltimore would be fined or shut down. 

I spoke with Douglas Paige, the spokesman for the Board of Liquor License Commissioners (that's a fancy way of saying the Baltimore Liquor Board) to try and wrap my head around this law ...

Paige said in his 20 years with the liquor board, he has never once heard of a bar being punished for this law. In fact, he implied that it would be absurd for liquor board inspectors and police officers to enforce it.

"It's something that's on the books," Paige said. "Unless a police officer or an inspector is right there real time, how do you catch it?"

Wink, wink.

That's probably the best way to handle the law. Otherwise, it would turn this city's nightlife scene upside down.

(Baltimore Sun photo of the pomegranate margarita at Holy Frijoles by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:11 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What smells worse on a Saturday morning: The harbor or South Broadway?

CAN YOU SMELL THE HARBOR?!?!?!?In Monday's post about Woody's Rum Bar and Island Grill (South Broadway and Thames Street, third floor), I included this little nugget:

I honestly can't think of a better place to have a few frozen cocktails on a hot Saturday afternoon in Fells Point -- especially when there's a soft breeze blowing to help hide the stink of the harbor.

That line went largely unnoticed -- until today. I tacked a blurb about Woody's on today's nightlife column. I was hoping someone would read it an shoot me an e-mail.

Sun reader David Cluster read my mind ... 

He writes:

as any resident of Fells Point, (and I am a former one), or early Saturday or Sunday morning stroller along the "idiot strip" of college bars along Broadway will tell you, the delightful perfumes of vomit and urine on a hot summer day are overpowering, overwhelming, and enough to 'gag a maggot!' as is commonly said in the vernacular.

The occasional days when the combination of heat and low oxygen levels in the water do 'stink to high heaven', cannot compete with the scent of "Weekend in East Baltimore", or the frequent "eau de Backriver" that wafts from the sewers on Broadway that the forever ongoing repairs cannot seem to fix.

Good point, David. Good point indeed. In fact, I wrote about the Cross Street Stench years ago. But I've never thought about what the South Broadway strip smells like on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

But which is worse: Low tide on a summer day in Fells Point or the South Broadway stench? I'm not sure. Between the two of them, it sounds like quite the aromatic cocktail.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 16, 2009

Join me at Max's later tonight

max's taphouseI'll be a celebrity guest judge on the special Match Game edition of Quiz-A-Ma-Jig.

My part starts at 10 p.m., but Quiz-A-Ma-Jig kicks off at 9 p.m.

Oh, and Quiz-A-Ma-Jig is played upstairs at Max's, 737 S. Broadway (pictured). 

There is also a semi-salacious rumor that the actor who played the next door neighbor's son in the film American Beauty will also be a judge.

Will he show? You'll have to come find out for yourself.

(Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:40 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Watch this video of Mustache Bash at The 8x10

You may have missed Mustache Bash last night at The 8x10. But we didn't. In fact, Ace Baltimore Sun Videographer Kenneth K. Lam was on location shooting some pretty funny video of the event. Even better: I'm pretty sure contestant No. 3 in the Mustache Contest is Midnight Sun's very own Evan.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:49 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

It's the glass, not the pour. Or maybe it's the drinker.

pouring wineA while back, my pal Crazy Joe applied for a job at a Baltimore restaurant known for its wine.

At the time, this restaurant (which shall remain nameless) was having some wine-related issues with customers.

The restaurant served traditional pours (5 or 6 ounces) in those large, trendy wine glasses everyone has come to know and love.

Problem was, a lot of their customers owned the very same glasses. And when they had a glass of wine at home, they were used to filling it halfway (that's a lot more than 5 or 6 ounces).

So when they ordered a glass of fancy wine at this fancy restaurant and were served a traditional pour in a large glass, they were more than a little upset.

The customers thought they were getting cheated ...

Now, at this point, the restaurant had two options to appease the customers: Serve larger, less traditional pours, or get smaller wine glasses.

Which one do you think they picked?

Smaller wine glasses, of course. That way, the traditional pours looked bigger.

Problem solved. Or was it?

In the past few decades, everything seems to have gotten bigger in this country (including the people). A "large" soda is several times bigger than it was 30 years ago. Should the same apply to wine servings in restaurants?

Elizabeth Large wrote a post about skimpy pours about a year ago, which spawned an interesting comment thread. She remembers when restaurants that didn't care much about wine would fill the glass all the way to the top. But she didn't think that was right, either.

What do you make of all this?

(Los Angeles Times photo)

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

Bossman, DJ Class making national waves

bossmanA couple of Baltimore-based musicians are stirring up some national buzz, according to Al Shipley over at Government Names.

MySpace Records (bet you didn't know the site had a record label, did ya?) officially releases Bossman's (pictured) single "Break Me Off" this week.

If this song and future tracks do well, Interscope will release a full album.

Pretty cool stuff. Check out Bossman's single here.

But wait, there's more ...

Another local, DJ Class, just made the Billboard charts. His single "I'm the Ish," feat. Lil' John, debuted at No. 25 on the Hot Rap Tracks list.


Now, a little background about the photo of Bossman. This portrait was taken by David Hobby (who now runs the awesome photo-lighting site Strobist). David no longer works at The Sun. But I always enjoyed his sense of humor. Here is a blog entry he wrote about taking the photo.

Hee hee.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:32 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music

Now here are a couple of decent drink specials

The Sly Fox Pub (823 E. Fort Ave.) is running a $3 you-call-it happy hour special 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Fridays.


The Black Hole (216 German Hill Road) has $10 all-you-can-drink (domestics and rails) on Wednesdays, $12 all-you-can-drink on Thursdays.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:19 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 15, 2009

Wanna meet some Media Mavens tomorrow?

media mavens style

Once a month, us Baltimore Media Mavens get together to kick back a few drinks and complain about the State of Things.

Things ain't so hot in the World of Journalism lately.

Sick of my Unnecessary Capitalization? OK, I'll stop.

Anyhow, us media types take turns throwing happy hours for each other. And the next one is tomorrow (Thursday, April 16) from 5 p.m. until about 7 p.m. at the Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.) ...

I'm not sure about the drink specials, but I hear the beer is going to be served in brown paper bags, which is awesome. This particular Media Mavens Happy Hour is being hosted by the folks at Gutter Magazine.

There will be some Baltimore Sun peeps, as well as writers of Style Magazine, former Baltimore Examiner writers ... the list goes on.

I'm going to be there a little before 6 p.m. and stay for a round or two. I've got to head to Max's (737 S. Broadway) and be a celebrity judge on Quiz-A-Ma-Jig later that night.

See ya there.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:30 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

It's not enough to have a fancy wine list anymore

good beerPicture this: You're at a fancy downtown steakhouse. One of those chain joints.

The waiter brings you the drink list, and on it, you see tons of wine, tons of scotch and tons of post-dinner liqueurs. Lovely stuff.

But what if you want a beer? What if you want a good beer? And not just some standard like Heinekin or even Sierra Nevada.

Chances are, the fancy downtown steakhouse is not going to have a big beer list. 

And that, gang, is not acceptable ...

When I toured Clipper City's brewery, our guide said this is the "golden age of craft breweries."

So shouldn't you be able to choose from a big wine list AND and big beer list at fancy steakhouses? I want to see local options as well as national favorites.

I'll bet more and more guys my age would want a hoppy IPA or a robust stout with our fancy steaks.

Something, dear readers, needs to be done. And quick.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:30 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The best (or worst) form of advertising ...

coburn's... is to get a kid to write on your chalkboard.

I thought this sign, which sat outside Coburn's (2921 O'Donnell St.) last Friday during lunchtime, was pretty cute. 

Did it work? Well, I didn't go in.

But I still crack a smile when I think about the sign. So maybe it did.

Any advertising peeps out there who want to weigh in on this one? Patchen, perhaps?

It got me thinking -- what are some of the best local bar/restaurant ads you've seen? ...

I remember Rub (1843 Light St.) used to have a scandalous slogan about "rubbing your meat" or something like that. But I can't think of many others that really stick out in my mind.

Maybe that's because it's too early in the morning for my brain to function properly. You got any others for me?

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:38 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 14, 2009

Bacon & Beer Happy Hour tonight at Bad Decisions

bacon explosion!These are a few of my favorite things ... Hee hee.

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight, Bad Decisions (1928 Fleet St.) is hosting a Bacon & Beer Happy Hour.

What does it mean?

I called owner John Reusing this afternoon, who was in the middle of frying 60 pounds of bacon as we spoke ...

Tonight and only tonight, all of the items on Bad Decisions' menu will feature bacon in some way or another, Reusing said. To make things even tastier, he will set out bowls of bacon on the bar for patrons to nibble on.

This is the third time Bad Decisions has hosted a Bacon & Beer Happy Hour, Reusing said. He only does it quarterly, he said.

"Otherwise, everyone would be dead of a heart attack by now," he said.

Rock on, John.

(Photo of a bacon explosion by the Newport Daily News)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:10 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Wanna write something for Midnight Sun?

I've put the call out before, and I'm putting it out again: Who out there wants to write for me ... for free?!?!? I'm gettin' hitched next month, and I'm sure as heck not blogging on my honeymoon.

Come on, gang! Elizabeth Large's band of pranksters come up with tons of stuff every week. I'm just trying to be a freeloader here. Holler at me 410-332-6689 or, uh, e-mail at me

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:48 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Random stuff

Touring Clipper City brewery

hugh sisson at clipper city breweryLast month, I toured Clipper City brewery with a bunch of my buddies. And for some reason, I never got around to writing about it.

Until now, that is.

Clipper City offers tours at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. most Saturdays. Tours cost a whopping $5 (sweet!), which gets you a commemorative glass and five beer samples.

That ain't bad at all.

Each "tasting" is about a half glass of beer, depending on the alcohol content of the suds you're drinking. The bartenders pour you less of the Heavy Seas Holy Sheet because it's 9 percent alcohol. YEEE HAW!

The tour itself was fairly interesting ...

I was surprised at how nondescript Clipper City's brewery is from the outside. It's in a nearly unmarked warehouse near the beltway. The tour starts and ends in the lobby area, which has a bar set up. With its drop ceilings, the lobby doesn't look like it's changed much in the past 10 or 15 years.

From the lobby, you head back to the warehouse, where the beer is made. I'm not going to get into all the details, because, well, that's their job.

Our guide did a pretty kicking imitation of the honorable and esteemed Rev. Jesse Jackson. But he did tend to be long-winded when describing each step of the beer-making process. Between stops on the brewery tour, my friends and I would occasionally slip back to the bar for another sample. Sneaky sneaky, you know?

All told, I'd gladly recommend a group outing to Clipper City -- especially if you've never toured a brewery before. It's certainly worth the money, and you get to taste some delicious local brews while you're at it.

(Sun archive photo of Hugh Sisson)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:54 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

"I'm on a Boat"

"I've got my swim trunks and my flippy-floppys. I'm flipping burgers. You're at Kinko's straight flipping copies."

Hee hee.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:53 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Check out War Child


Midnight Sun commenter Allan sent me this e-mail:

This Web site is devoted to sending aid to children affected by war, in various parts of the world. It provides education, food, shelter, and other basic living needs.

As if that wasn't cool enough, they put out an album of covers of some of the biggest acts in the music biz. Now, the neat part is the original artists got to choose who they wanted to cover their songs.

The results are actually pretty cool, and worth a good listen to on youtube. Case in point: The Hold Steady (pictured) covering Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City."

(Getty Images for the Tribeca Film Festival)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:41 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Random stuff

April 13, 2009

Happy belated New Beer's Eve

h.l. mencken celebrates New Beer's EveGang, I've got terrible news: We forgot to celebrate New Beer's Eve -- the day it was once again legal to drink beer with 3.2 percent alcohol content. That day was 12:01 a.m. April 7, 1933. I'll let stellar Sun archivist and reporter Frederick N. Rasmussen take over from here:

Thirty-three days after taking office, Congress fulfilled one of FDR's campaign promises when the "wets" passed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which raised the alcohol allowed in "near beer" from 0.5 percent to 3.2 percent.

Maryland's legislature wasted no time in taking advantage of the new law.

During its 1933 session, the legislature authorized the sale of beer in all counties except Caroline, Carroll and Garrett, "in each of which the same was made subject to a referendum," according to the 1934 Maryland Manual.

On Thursday, April 6, 1933, which had been dubbed "New Beer's Eve," eager crowds gathered all over downtown Baltimore waiting for the moment when the hands of the clock crossed over to 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time - the exact moment when the Cullen-Harrison Act allowed the legal sale and consumption of beer in 19 states and the District of Columbia ...

"Baltimore last night gave beer a gay and noisy welcome," reported The Sun in its editions of April 7. "The downtown section was a Mardi Gras. Hundreds of horns, whistles, guns and small cannon shrieked and roared while the hands of `Big Sam' -- the City Hall clock -- crept past midnight."

At the appointed hour, whistles blew, and 100 beer trucks took to city streets in five minutes to deliver their cargoes of brew to slake the thirst of the faithful, The Sun reported.

Parking was at a premium, reported the newspaper, as crowds headed indoors to avoid heavy rains and enjoy beer that briskly sold for 10 cents a glass:

"Every hotel bar was thronged -- hotel lobbies were jammed for hours before the death knell of Prohibition was sounded at 12:01 a.m. Not a single arrest was reported in the city -- the behavior of the celebrators was uniformly orderly, reported the police."

globe breweryThe first shipment of beer arrived at the Southern Hotel at 12:01, and 20 minutes later, hotel manager A. J. Fink handed the first beer drawn at its bar to Walter H. Hopkins, who "drank it in one draft," reported The Sun.

Across town at the famed Rennert Hotel at the corner of Saratoga and Liberty streets, H.L. Mencken, who had kept up a steady drumbeat against the horror of Prohibition, had arrived at the hotel with several newspaper cronies and friends to await the arrival of the fateful hour.

He had been invited to the hotel by manager Paul Lake to enjoy its first beer, which was handed to Mencken at 12:29 a.m.

"All eyes were on the honest and discerning mogul as he bent his elbow and 'open-throated' the beer in the German manner," observed The Sun.

"Here it goes!" said Mencken.

"There was a moment's apprehension among all present lest the bitter verdict of `Hog wash!' pass his lips. ... The champion of better beer was grinning and his blue Nordic eyes were dancing," reported the newspaper.

Mencken slapped the stein on the bar and exclaimed: "Pretty good. Not bad at all."

"And as he made the proclamation the word went quickly forth into the world - the assurance for which millions were waiting. The new beer was good," the newspaper reported.

Revelers at the New Howard Hotel on Howard Street erected a tombstone in the hotel's dining room which they inscribed: "Here lies Andrew Snoop, borne January 17, 1920, drowned April 7, 1933, in a wave of public sentiment."

Full-page ads with foaming glasses of beer were published in the city's newspapers. Advertising copywriters spared no adjectives in describing the glories of their product.

"The people spoke!" proclaimed an ad for Arrow Beer and Arrow Bock Beer brewed by Baltimore's Globe Brewery.

""Happy days are here again! Here's Arrow Beer as you used to enjoy it - Arrow Beer as you always wanted it. Bury your face in its full-bodied richness. Treat your parched palate to the tang of its choicest hops and finest malt. Then let its new glow tease down to the place where good drinks go. Arrow hits the spot!"

The newspaper made no attempt at disguising its jubilation over the historic event, and in addition to printing a picture of "Big Sam," showing the sainted hour, also included pictures of two bartenders pouring beer.

repeal dayStripped across the top of the page were lyrics from the beer lover's ancient anthem: Take me down, down, down, where the Wurzburger flows, flows - It goes down, down, down, but nobody knows.

The man who had made it all possible - President Roosevelt - was asleep in his White House bed when the first truck arrived delivering beer bound for the executive mansion's pantry.

"Turkey" Joe Trabert, former Fells Point saloonkeeper and beer lover extraordinaire, went out to Jerry D's tavern in Parkville the other night, hoping to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the return of beer with other historically minded revelers.

He was instantly disappointed.

"None of those kids or anyone else there knew what the hell I was talking about when I mentioned Repeal. I might as well have been talking about something in German or French," said the good-natured Trabert.

He grew nostalgic when he recalled going in the late 1950s to Herman & Morris' Stag Tavern on Liberty Street, when he was working in the collection department at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., to enjoy a few beers.

"They had Arrow on draft. That was a great beer. I used to have the beer along with some cheese and crackers and two hot dogs," he said.

Baltimore brewer Hugh Sisson explained he was too busy to do anything special for the anniversary.

"I can say one thing: Thank God for Repeal; otherwise I wouldn't have a job," Sisson said, with a laugh.

Prohibition finally vanished from the land Dec. 5, 1933, when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

Three hours later a bill regulating the sale of liquor in Maryland reached Ritchie's desk; he quickly signed it into law at 8:26 p.m.

(Top photos from Sun archives. Bottom photo of April 7, 1933 in New York City by AP)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:39 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Did anybody see Blaqstarr at Sonar last night?

blaqstarrI want to know how the show was.

I heard international superstar M.I.A. was supposed to make a surprise appearance.

Did that happen?

And how was Blaqstarr's set?

Fill me in, please. 

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:06 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Local music

$3 cask pints at the Pratt Street Ale House

wharf rat 1993Now here's a special worth savoring: According to, The Pratt Street Ale House (formerly the Wharf Rat, 206 W. Pratt St.) is now offering $3 pints of cask ale after 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Better still: Brewer Stephen Jones will be hanging out at the bar between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., gulping down the benefits of his hard work and answering any questions you might have about the brewing process.

Quite nice. Quite nice, indeed.

(This Sun archive photo from 1993 is of Harold Faircloth, formerly a brewer at the Wharf Rat)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Woody's Rum Bar and Island Grill is open for the season


Woody's Rum Bar and Island Grill (at the corner of Thames Street and Broadway, pictured) is open for the season.

At least that's what owner Patrick Russell told me a couple days ago. The third-story wooden deck/patio lounge above Slainte in Fells Point opens at 11 a.m. daily. Web site here.

"The best place to get day drunk is now open," Russell said today. If you go there, be sure to look for the Best of the Best of the Best award I gave 'em. If you don't see it, you have my permission to raise a ruckus ...

I firmly stand behind the Best of the Best of the Best Award I gave Woody's. I honestly can't think of a better place to have a few frozen cocktails on a hot Saturday afternoon in Fells Point -- especially when there's a soft breeze blowing to help hide the stink of the harbor.

I've never had bad service there, either. Here's a question for you: Since Woody's is only partially enclosed, does that mean you can legally smoke cigarettes up there?

(Photo courtesy of Woody's)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:17 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 11, 2009

A good show for a good cause

If you're free this evening, head to Santa Fe Cafe (4410 Knox Road, College Park). Here is the lineup:

Jimkata - 9 p.m.-10 p.m.
Telepath - 10:15 p.m.-11:25 p.m.
Codename - 11:40 p.m.-close

Proceeds from tonight's show benefit the Mockingbird Foundation, which helps enable music education for children.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

I don't like chains, but this is a nice drink special

brown cow meltdownbrown cow meltdownCheck it out: form 9 p.m. until close, T.G.I. Fridays is serving $2 domestic beers, $3 imports and $4 cocktails. The kitchen is open late, too.

I'm not a big fan of chains (in fact, I avoid them whenever possible), but if I lived in the suburbs and wanted to wet my whistle without draining my wallet, I'd hit up T.G.I. Fridays.

Pictured is the Brown Cow Meltdown, a delicious-looking concoction that T.G.I. Fridays serves.

At least, they served it back in 2000 when this photo was taken. I read the article that ran with the photo and was shocked to discover the Brown Cow Meltdown is a non-alcoholic drink ...

Here's how to make it:

Swirl a Collins glass with chocolate syrup and add cubed ice.

Fill glass with 1 part milk and 2 parts Coca-Cola.

Spear 2 cherries onto a sword pick, hang on glass rim and drizzle chocolate over the cherries into the drink.


(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:24 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Did You Know?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:50 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

April 10, 2009

Cazbar's new iLounge has its grand opening this weekend

cazbarI've always meant to review Cazbar (316 N. Charles St.) but never gotten around to it. Now I've got something new to write about:

In January, the Charles Street restaurant/lounge opened a new lounge on its second floor, according to the hostess who picked up the phone when I called today.

The lounge is (rather creatively) called the iLounge, and has its grand opening this weekend ...

The iLounge is open from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Cover charge is $5 on Fridays and $10 on Saturdays. DJ UG spins on Fridays and DJ WHO spins on Saturdays. And, parking is complimentary, which is quite nice.

There is no cover charge for the iLounge if you make a reservation for bottle service. Bottles will run you anywhere from $70 to $200+, the hostess said.

Downstairs, you can smoke hookahs and enjoy belly dancers on Friday and Saturday nights. There is no cover charge downstairs.

(Sorry, but this is the best photo we had in our archive. Pictured is Cazbar's chef/owner Alec Kantar)

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

Know of any cool bars near Merriweather Post Pavilion?

greene turtle columbiaI know, I know -- asking if there are any cool bars in Columbia is like asking if there are freeze pops in hell.

However, I thought I'd toss it out there, because a friendly (I assume) gentleman (I assume) named Todd Willis sent me this e-mail yesterday:

I was wondering if you know of any good bars or lounges(the divier the better) close to Merriweather that don’t include the likes of P.F. Changs or Clydes. I live in DC and will be heading there for a concert in August and we will be staying the night in a hotel about 5 miles from there. I am trying to figure out something do after the show.

I do have one or two suggestions ...

The Pub Dog  (8865 Stanford Blvd.) is probably the best bet. Two icy mugs of locally brewed draft beer for $4 is quite the deal. And the atmosphere ain't bad, either. Best spot in Columbia for beer drinkers, me think(ers).

Second to the Pub Dog, I would recommend the Greene Turtle (8872 McGaw Road). It's a local chain sports bar, but at least it's locally owned and has a party vibe.

Just make sure you bring a GPS or some really good directions. If you're not careful, you will get lost in the labyrinth of shopping plazas and cookie cutter houses that is Columbia.

Anybody else got ideas for Toddy?

(Sun photo of the Greene Turtle in Columbia by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:15 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Possibly the best version of "Stand by Me"

Midnight Sun reader Bob BBS sent me a link to this awesome video. Members of this organization called Playing For Change went all over the world and recorded street musicians singing the classic "Stand by Me." Then they put it all together for this video. If you even remotely like the song, you should really check it out.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:19 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

April 9, 2009

The best lyrics of 2009?

black eyed peasLast year's best single was Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" according to Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten.

Why? The phrase "shouldaputa."

I'll second that.

And though it's still too early to tell, I think this year's best phrase could very well be "steppin' on leprechauns" from "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas (pictured).

Think about it: Steppin' on leprechauns!

I love it! It just rolls right off your tongue.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:40 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Random stuff

Kooper's Tavern to unveil new "wine preservation system"

wine at kooper's tavernwine at kooper's tavernThe reason why "wine preservation system" is in quotes is because it's not really a system. But it is notable.

In a mere two weeks time, Kooper's Tavern (1702 Thames St.) will introduce a new menu and wine list. They will also start using a new "wine preservation system," according to operations manager Bill Irvin.

Basically, the "system" involves spraying a product called Winelife into the top of every open wine bottle before re-corking it.

WineLife is some kind of heavier-than-air gas that is clinically proven to preserve opened bottles of wine ...

"If you open a bottle of wine and put the cork back in, it changes daily," Irvin said. "By the third day it's bad. This gas keeps oxygen away from the wine."

Funky stuff.

I'm interested to see the new wine list. I hope it includes a few malbecs, which have become a favorite for Amie and me.

Ever heard of a malbec? It's a red wine that comes from Mendoza, Argentina. If you like smoother, drier red wines with a touch of spice, you ought to try a malbec.

(Sun photo of a wine tasting at Kooper's back in 1999)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:23 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Merriweather Post Pavilion may be expanding

merriweather post pavilionYesterday, I got a tip that Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia (pictured) is undergoing some renovations.

According to the tipster:

the whole west side of the property is being expanded with brand new restrooms, a pinball lounge, and new concessions stands as well as leveled out

I e-mailed Merriweather's general manager, Jean Parker, who called me back and left an obscure message ...

"We're working on some pretty cool fun stuff, but we're not ready to disclose the details yet," she said. "So stay tuned."

I wonder if these changes will increase the venue's capacity. Anybody know more about this?

Also, I wonder if these renovations could be underway to help accommodating the Virgin Mobile Festival, should it move to Merriweather. I have to admit -- I was surprised at the number of Midnight Sunners who think holding Virgin Fest at Merriweather is a bad idea.

(Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:19 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music


beerbeerbeerbeer.JPGHey everybody, say hello to

It's a new site about Baltimore beer by Brad Klipner of Perry Hall.

Hello and welcome, Brad!

According to Brad, the goal of the site is to "find the establishments which do respect beer and offer more than just flavored water from the 'big beer' companies."

Sounds like a good plan to me ...

Brad went into even further detail with me about the site's mission in an e-mail:
All in all, is dedicated to the celebration, review and general thoughts of the beer scene in Baltimore's ‘burbs; as well as the occasional update on exciting beer news in all of Baltimore. 

The site will also benefit from Twitter feedback.  Tweet us ("beerinbaltimore") beer updates/news from in & around town and we'll re-post 'em to everyone.  Looking forward to interacting with you all.  Cheers!

(Sun photo by Kim Hairston)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:23 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Michael Phelps spotted at Sullivan's Steakhouse on opening day

michael phelpsWorld champion swimmer and local hero Michael Phelps dropped by Sullivan's Steakhouse (1 E. Pratt St.) Monday, according to Andrea Kunicky, the restaurant's publicist.

Phelps chowed down on the seafood sampler and the New York strip, Kunicky said.

He was accompanied by about a dozen of his friends.

Phelps, it seems, rolls deep.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Celebrity sightings

April 8, 2009

And the winner is ...

ohsodeliciousbeerJason! At long last, after years of commenting on Midnight Sun contests, Jason has finally won a prize. Jason, e-mail me your physical address, please.

I was surprised to see so many quotes from the movie Old School. I think my favorite must have been the one from Blue Velvet, courtesy of Patchen. Thanks for making it work-safe, Patchen.

Thanks again to everybody for playing!

(Sun photo by Christopher T. Assaf)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:43 PM | | Comments (13)

Approaching 11,000 comments

humphrey Since we are exactly 20 comments away from the 11,000 mark, the person who posts the 20th comment on this blog wins a prize!

Maybe two prizes!

Maybe ... three prizes!

So that you're not randomly commenting about sweet nothings, here is something to talk about:

What is the best movie line involving beer/liquor?

As always, I won't post any comments until we hit No. 20. That way everybody gets a fair shot.

(Handout photo of Mr. Bogart himself)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:41 PM | | Comments (54)

Bloodbath and Beyond

That's what Editor Sarah calls the retail chain store Bed Bath and Beyond. I mentioned this to Midnight Sun commenter Allan, who said Bloodbath and Beyond would be a great name for a metal band.

Looks like someone had the very same thought. and as far as metal bands go, these guys aren't half bad, either. Weird.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:03 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff

The frustrations of being a nightlife critic

coburn's tavernLet me tell you about last Friday night.

I had heard that Club Phantom (2314 Boston St.) was finally open for business, so my pal Crazy Joe and I went to check it out.

We put on semi-nice clothes (from the outside, Club Phantom looks like it might have a dress code) and hit up the club.

It was closed. Nobody was there and the place was dark.

Then I remembered Coburn's Tavern (2921 O'Donnell St., pictured) had recently closed and reopened under new management. So Crazy Joe and I went to check it out.

Nothing had changed.

At least, nothing significant ...

Then I remembered a new bar/lounge called Clutch was supposed to be replacing Tiburzi's. So Crazy Joe and I went to check it out.

It wasn't open yet.

beer in handBelieve it or not, this happens on a fairly regular basis in the world of Baltimore bars and clubs. For whatever reason, it is infinitely easier to get a hold of restaurant owners than bar owners.

Restaurants usually have Web sites/regular hours/a listed phone number. Bars and clubs increasingly do not, which makes me increasingly annoyed.

We ended up at Mahaffey's Pub (2706 Dillon St.), where we had a great time. But I can't just publish a review for the sake of publishing a review. There has to be something new or at least different about the place. In journo-speak, it's called a "peg."

As far as I could tell, there was no peg for a Mahaffey's review. And that, dear readers, is why there will be no nightlife column this week.

(Top photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun. Bottom photo from Sun archives.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:28 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 7, 2009

Something I never thought I'd hear from Elizabeth Large

Sun Food Empress Elizabeth Large, who sits near me at work, just asked,

"Sam, do you know what Snoop Dogg calls himself these days?"

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:04 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Clearing Mondo Bondo Bistro's name

mondo bondo bistroThis weekend, I published a post stating that Mondo Bondo Bistro and Mex in Power Plant Live were shut down Friday night by the Health Department due to a mice infestation.

That's what Olivia Farrow, the city's interim health commissioner, told me.

She also said Mosaic was closed for serving food without a license.

Farrow called me back later Saturday afternoon to correct herself ...

Mondo Bondo Bistro was already closed for the night when the inspectors got there. It was never closed due to rodents ...

I updated the original post, but thought writing another one couldn't hurt. I called Mondo Bondo Bistro yesterday to try and speak to the manager, but the phone just kept ringing.

(Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:33 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Where are the best after-hours hangouts?

paradox baltimoreEvan Serpick posed this very question over on Baltimore Magazine's much maligned On the Town blog.

Though some of you love giving B-Mag guff, I will have you know that this is a good question. And good questions deserve good answers.

In his post, Evan mentioned Club 1722, as well as the now-shuttered Funk's Democratic Coffee Spot and Steak and Egg.

I don't know of many (or any, really) coffeehouses open 24/7 around town.

Do you? ...

As far as after-hours clubs go, I'll add The Dox (pictured) to the list.

There was Lunar, but I think that closed.

What else do you guys have for Evan?

(Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:27 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 6, 2009

Wild Light, Matt Duke to headline WTMD's First Thursday Concert in May

wild light Two bands from the Northeast will perform at WTMD's First Thursday Concert in the Park May 7.

Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Matt Duke and New Hampshire-based indie rockers Wild Light (pictured) will headline the show, which starts around 5:30 p.m. in Mount Vernon Place.

As always, the show is free. And from the looks of it, this is going to be a solid kick-off to a great season of free live music.

For more information, go here.

(Photo by Ryan Nicholson)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:25 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Local music

Virgin Mobile Festival could move to Merriweather Post Pavilion

merriweather post pavilionVirgin Mobile Festival organizers are considering moving the annual festival to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia (pictured).

Festival promoter Seth Hurwitz is eying the pavilion, which he currently books, as a new home for the festival, according to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

"We'd be thrilled to host it in Howard County," Ulman said.

"Seth has done a wonderful job resurrecting Merriweather over the last few years. We're really pleased with the work he's done there."

A move to Merriweather could mean big changes for the festival ...

First off, Merriweather is a much smaller venue than Pimlico Race Course, where the festival is currently held. Pimlico's infield holds about 60,000, give or take. Big stages and vendor tents like the ones you'll find at Virgin Fest reduce that capacity. But Pimlico can still pack in a lot of people.

Merriweather holds close to 20,000 people. But in May 2006, when it hosted the HFStival, it added stages in Symphony Woods and a pavilion parking lot. That upped the capacity to 27,500, The Sun reported at the time.

With this setup, Merriweather could potentially hold almost 60,000 in two days. That's not far off from the kind of numbers Virgin Fest has pulled in recent years. So it's certainly feasible.

But if the festival were to move to Merriweather, it would most likely have fewer massive A-list headliners (Kanye West and Jack Johnson, etc.) and more semi-A-list acts (Bob Dylan, Wilco, etc.).

Also, the Baltimore Business Journal did a thorough piece about the possibility of a Merriweather move a couple days ago. BBJ writer Ryan Sharrow even spoke with the Maryland Jockey Club and area hotels to see what kind of impact the festival has on the local economy. Check it out.

(Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Some news, some notes, some whatnots

cirque du soleilMonday mornings are terrible things.

Late last night I drove by Cirque du Soleil as roadies were breaking down the tents. The show ended its run yesterday.

Cirque is one of those events I've kind of wanted to see but never wanted to pay for. It's expensive, man. I wonder how it did in this economy. Anybody know?

News flash: A bar/lounge called Clutch is coming to the space formerly occupied by Tiburzi's in Canton.

Looks like Midnight Sun commenter Mike W. was spot on. I'll try and get out there to snap a photo today ...

Also, over at Metromix, Mike wonders if sweet tea vodka could become Most Awesomest Drink 2009. It's a good question. And I like the sound of the sweet tea mojito he came up with. Mmm.

Mike is taking suggestions on the name of his creation. The Debutante ain't a bad name. But I figure since it's a mojito with a sweet tea twist, it should have some kind of half-Southern, half-Latin name. I'm open to suggestions.

(Sun photo of Cirque du Soleil's KOOZA by Chiaki Kawajiri)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:30 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 5, 2009

Local art, music, photography inspired by the recession

recession artI'm particularly proud of this piece in today's paper.

Several Baltimore-based artists, musicians and photographers have started using the economic downturn as inspiration for their art.

They've made some really interesting stuff. The article is worth a read, if I do say so myself.

Pictured is Andres Zapata, a Web designer who chopped up his old credit cards to make this sinister-looking piece called Plastic. Check out the project he started, called Recession Nation.

(Sun photo by Chiaki Kawajiri)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:37 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff

April 4, 2009

Health inspectors close bars at Power Plant Live

Power Plant Live!

City health inspectors closed Mex in Power Plant Live last night because of mice infestation, officials said Saturday.

Mosaic, another Power Plant Live property, was also closed, for serving food without a license. Mex and Mosaic have applied for a general after-hours inspection from city health department this afternoon, and if they pass, they could reopen this evening. The fee for after hours inspections is $300.

Mondo Bondo Bistro, also at Power Plant, was closed by its management, for reasons that aren't clear at the time.

"If people feel like they can clean up their facility and do whatever is required in the violations notice, we get back out there and open them back up," said Olivia Farrow, the city's interim health commissioner.

Chris Furst, spokesman for Power Plant Live said Mosiac and Mex will be open tonight.

Officials from Power Plant Live did not return several calls. Thanks to Midnight Sun commenter The Truth for the tip.

(Above: Sun file photo of Power Plant Live by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:53 AM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 3, 2009

Yes, the Virgin Mobile Festival will be back. But where?

virgin mobile festival baltimoreThis just in: The Virgin Mobile Festival will return for a fourth year.

Now the big question is, where?

"Nothing in life is definite," said Jayne Wallace, director of corporate communications for Virgin Mobile.

"But for all intents and purposes, we fully expect to hold another festival. We have some exciting ideas we're looking at." 

Here is a short piece I just wrote, with more details about the festival. 

Actually, the piece is more about what we don't know than what we do. We don't know who's on the roster or when or where it will be.

I wonder if they're taking suggestions? I mean, who would you want to see, and where would you want the festival to be?

If I had my way ...

I'd want the festival to be in September, when it's not so hot. I like Pimlico as the location, because it's spread out enough to allow for a real festival atmosphere. If they move it to a stadium, it will lose that feel.

dave grohl foo fightersI'd like to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as one of the headliners -- even if he had to shorten his set for the festival crowd. I'd be happy with two hours of Bruce as opposed to the usual four. 

Phish might not be a bad choice, either. They're one of this year's biggest draws. But another big summer festival has already booked them and the Boss, so I doubt we'll see this lineup at Virgin Mobile Festival.

Somebody posted a rumor about Metallica possibly headlining the festival. That's not a bad choice. Their new album, Death Magnetic, was the best thing they've done in years. And I'm sure their live show is wild. 

Would they be wilder than the Foo Fighters (pictured), who headlined last year's festival? I dunno.

Merriweather wouldn't be an awful location for the festival. It just doesn't hold as many people, and might limit the caliber of bands they book.


(Sun photos by Patrick Smith)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:15 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Will the Virgin Mobile Festival return this year?

virgin mobile festivalIt's a good question. And as of right now, I don't know the answer.

In fact, the future of Pimlico and the Preakness is up in the air.

Yesterday, I e-mailed Virgin Mobile Festival publicist Audrey Fix Schaefer, who said there is "no news to report."

That doesn't bode well for the festival ...

By now, pretty much all of the other major summer music festivals have announced their lineups. Even the roster for the V Festival in England has gone public, and tickets are on sale.

But Virgin Mobile Festival promoter Seth Hurwitz has kept mum about the future of the annual Baltimore event. And I can't say I blame him. Who books a festival at a venue that could be torn down in six months?

If it were to happen, this would be the Virgin Mobile Festival's fourth year at Pimlico. And though attendance has slumped the past couple of years, Hurwitz has been happy with the festival.

Still, the longer we wait for an announcement, the less likely the festival will come back to Baltimore.

(Sun photo by Patrick Smith)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Bar Voice

If you didn't read yesterday's review of Looney's South, you missed (what I think is) a pretty funny passage about Bar Voice.

Here it is:

Ever heard someone talk in bar voice? It's a (pretty lame) term I use to describe the obnoxiously loud, often raspy voice that post-college guys use when they have had a few drinks. Looney's was abuzz with bar voice that night ...

This particular young fellow outside the place noticed a friend of his, and said, in bar voice, "HEY! WHAT'S UP, DUDE?" His friend, for some unfathomable reason, must not have heard him, and kept walking.

Mr. Bar Voice didn't give up trying. "HEY! HE'S GONNA WALK RIGHT BY ME. LOOK! HEY MAN! HEY!"

Finally, his friend realized what was going on, stopped and said hello. Whew. For a second there, I thought a fight was about to break out. Ignoring anybody who speaks in bar voice is a dangerous idea. You never know what might happen.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:58 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 2, 2009

No Idea Tavern's April Fool's Day joke

no idea tavern's april fool's day jokeJason Zink, who owns No Idea Tavern (1649 S. Hanover St.), posted this sign outside his South Baltimore bar yesterday.

Hee hee.

Anybody else know of any good bar/club April Fool's Day pranks?

(Photo courtesy of Mr. Zink)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:31 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What do you think of the Electric Factory in Philadelphia?

A reader e-mailed me today asking what I thought about the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. I've seen a few shows in the warehouse concert venue, but not for years. Since it's been so long, I don't feel comfortable offering my take on it.

Any of you guys been there semi-recently?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:20 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The review: Looney's South

Here is a link to my official review of the new Looney's South in Fulton. I think Looney's is going to do really well there. In the piece, I also define the term Bar Voice. Hee hee.

Also in today's paper: A profile of the group The Everlove

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:04 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 1, 2009

Recher Theatre upgrades sound system

recher theatreThe Recher Theatre in Towson has a brand new, state-of-the-art sound system, co-owner Brian Recher said yesterday.

Recher isn't sure of the exact brand or specs (he thinks it's a Yamaha Nexo and that it's got about 25,000 watts), but that's OK. What matters is it sounds better, he said.

"It's an amazing system," he said. "It's so crystal clear, it's unbelievable." ...

Better still: The new speakers are smaller, which gives fans a better view of the band. The former system was the same one used at the old Hammerjack's, Recher said. I always thought the sound quality could be better, and I'm interested to hear the new system.

"It was time to upgrade," Recher said. "You have to keep up with the Joneses. The music business in Baltimore has been getting more and more competitive every year."

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:54 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Local music

Recession makes smokers, drinkers cut back

wine sourceRemember way back when I asked you if you were drinking or smoking more or less since the recession started?

Well, Commander Meredith's piece about it came out in today's paper.

Here is the gist of Meredith's article:

Data show that many people are taming their vices rather than drowning their sorrows these days - behavior that national researchers say is consistent with past recessions.

The desire to drink and smoke may grow with financial pressures, but sales of some alcohol and cigarettes are dipping with disposable income.

Makes sense to me. But it also gets me thinking ...

I've talked to a lot of bar owners, who say business is booming compared with this time last year. I wonder if that's just a pocket of the city's drinking scene, and not indicative of the whole thing.

Maybe when people do go out, they drink more than they used to, which accounts for the rise. I also think the Ravens having such a great season helped the bars significantly.

Oh, and if you read all the way to the bottom of Meredith's piece, you'll find a quote from Midnight Sun's very own Ryan Graham of the Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad.

Photo: At The Wine Source in Hampden, Matt McOsker selects less expensive vintages, checking his iPhone for reviews of offerings while trying to keep the average under $10 a bottle. (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna / March 12, 2009)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:08 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Max's owner to open high-end lounge in Fells Point

NOTE: As many of you have guessed, this is indeed an April Fool's Day joke. I was going to let it go on all day, but decided three hours was enough. Happy April Fool's Day, everybody!

Here's one from left field: Ron Furman, the owner of Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway), is planning to open a high-end lounge called G&T in the old Crabby Dick's building. G&T (short for gin and tonic) is still a working name, and Furman is open to suggestions, he said.

"Ever since Max's at Camden Yards closed a few years ago, I've been itching to open another bar," Furman said yesterday. "I see places like Power Plant Live doing really well, and I think I could do that."

G&T -- or whatever it ends up being called -- will have a $10-$15 cover, depending on the night, Furman said ...

Furman wants G&T to have an upscale feel, with leather couches, a large martini list and, of course, a gourmet beer selection. True to its name, G&T will have an extensive gin list, with spirits imported from England and Africa.

For G&T's, grand opening, which will be in late summer, Furman wants to bring in a large ice luge shaped like the statue of liberty.

"We're going to go all out," he said. "We're going to have some fun."

NOTE: As many of you have guessed, this is indeed an April Fool's Day joke. I was going to let it go on all day, but decided three hours was enough. Happy April Fool's Day, everybody!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:34 AM | | Comments (45)
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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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