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June 30, 2009

The skinny on the remaining Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets

virgin mobile festivalIn case you're just tuning in, there are close to 3,000 tickets left to this year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. (Backstory here).

To get one of 2,400 general admission tickets, you have to volunteer for an act of community service -- giving blood, cleaning up parks, etc. -- through this Web site.

The initiative, called the Summer of Service, is being spearheaded by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

The sign-up for volunteering starts at noon Thursday. Volunteers must be 18 and older. In the coming weeks, the volunteering will be expanded to include other counties throughout the state.

But wait, there's more ...

Virgin Mobile is launching their own volunteering campaign in conjunction with the Summer of Service, called the Free I.P. (it's a play on V.I.P.).

Fans can sign up for 13 hours of volunteer work at a designated youth homeless center in trade for one V.I.P. pass to the festival. There are about 400 V.I.P spots up for grabs, according to Ron Faris, Virgin U.S.A.'s senior director of brand marketing an innovation.

Go here for more information.

I'd like to take a moment and put my two cents in here: This is a smart move by Ulman and Virgin Mobile. These tickets are a hot commodity right now, and I'm surprised they didn't hold onto more than just 3,000. Heck, they're going for as much as $695 on StubHub.

(Baltimore Sun by Patrick Smith

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:20 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Name That Bar, vol. 8

DSC_0520.JPGYou know the drill.

The first person to name this bar wins a prize. Simple as that.


(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:27 PM | | Comments (40)
Categories: Name That Bar

More Michael Jackson tributes planned in Baltimore

michael jacksonThe wave of Michael Jackson tributes isn't over yet.

Last night, radio station 92Q held a Jackson candlelight vigil outside its offices. Hundreds of MJ fans turned out to show their support for the late pop star.

Here are some photos from the vigil.

Thursday, Bourbon Street (316 Guilford Ave.) is throwing a College Night Thriller party, complete with Jackson videos and music.

Anyone that shows up wearing a white glove will be eligible to win door prizes, bar tabs, etc. ...

Instead of a moment of silence to honor Jackson, there will be a moment of noise, said manager Sam Chaney. I like the sound of that. 

The drink specials aren't bad either -- $18 all-you-can-drink (only $12 with military or student ID). 

Also, Fletcher's (701 S. Bond St.) is also hosting an all-Jackson dance party Friday, complete with $2 drinks and no cover charge until 10:30 p.m. The DJs are Mike Mills and Craig Boarman.

Both events are 18+.

(Photo by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:04 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Random stuff

Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets are still available -- for a good deed

Still looking for a ticket to the Virgin Mobile FreeFest? It's going to cost you some community service.

This morning, festival organizers and Howard County officials are expected to unveil the Summer of Service, a program that trades volunteer work like giving blood and cleaning parks for a much-coveted ticket to this year's FreeFest. Nearly 2,500 tickets will be available as part of the initiative.

The festival, which features headliners Blink-182, Weezer and Public Enemy, is being held Aug. 30 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Here's a link to a piece in today's paper with more details about the Summer of Service.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:10 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

June 29, 2009

"Eggs Benedict"

eggs benedict by Emily Uchytil

Take a look at this painting. 

It took me a few seconds to even notice that Jesus is holding a small frying pan with an egg in it.

The name of the piece? "Eggs Benedict." Hee hee.

"Eggs Benedict" was done by a Baltimore-based artist named Emily Uchytil (dig her site).

I first saw Emily's work hanging in the Idle Hour (201 E. Fort Ave.) a couple months ago. I sent her an e-mail asking her more about her work, but never heard back.

Either way, I really like this piece.

Great stuff, Emily.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:48 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Random stuff

Chilling at Clutch

clutch deckMy second stop on yesterday's Sunday afternoon mini-crawl was Clutch, the new sports bar and lounge in Canton.

I had a Victory Pale Ale ($5), one of six beers on tap. The building, which used to house Tiburzi's, has been repainted, and the walls inside were oddly bare of decorations. I hope the owners will fill the place out in time.

I never went upstairs when it was Tiburzi's, but as Clutch, the upstairs has a lounge area with sofas and a brand new roof deck (pictured).

The roof deck is key for sipping cold beverages on a sunny day. But I can also see it getting loud and rowdy out there on a Friday or Saturday night. I'm glad I'm not one of Clutch's neighbors ...


I didn't try any of the wine, but judging from the number of bottles on the bar, Clutch appeared to have a fairly solid selection. The service was friendly, too, though I was one of the only people in the place at the time. 

Tennis was on the flat screen TVs behind the bar, and surprisingly, I wasn't the only one there interested in watching it.

Would I go back? I don't know. Probably not. Clutch didn't appeal to me as a destination bar. But if I lived in the neighborhood, I'd consider it -- at least on a Sunday afternoon.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:08 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Did you buy any Michael Jackson CDs, etc. after his death?

If so, I wanna talk to you for a piece I'm working on. E-mail me at
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:51 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Random stuff

The best form of advertising

temptation.jpgAt first, it seems like another innocent stretch of sidewalk.

But when you hoof it on Fleet Street by the Maryland Athletic Club, the smell suddenly smacks you right in the face: popcorn.

Not just any popcorn, either.

I'm talking about rich, buttery movie theater popcorn -- the kind they serve in big paper bags and charge an arm and a leg for, but if you're a popcorn fanatic like me, you pay it anyway.

The source of this awesome scent is the Landmark Theatre around the corner on President Street. There must be some kind of vent that goes straight from popcorn booth at the concession stand to the sidewalk on Fleet Street ...

Since the theater is open until late night, you can catch a whiff of eau de popcorn all afternoon and evening. It must be hell for people who come out of the gym and are looking for a healthy snack. Few scents are more seductive than real movie theater popcorn. Mmm.

Now all the theater needs to do is run another vent from the popcorn booth to the front of the theater. That way, people who walk by it will be twice as tempted to see a flick.

Writing this post has made me hungry. And I just had some a bag of Pop Secret Homestyle last night. Sigh.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:33 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Inside Green Cilantro

green cilantroYesterday, I went on a bit of a pedestrian adventure, walking from Federal Hill to Canton and back. Along the way, I stopped into a couple new bars (strictly to catch my breath, you see).

The first place I hit up was Green Cilantro, the new bar which replaced the Whistling Oyster on South Broadway. It was a great spot for Sunday afternoon swilling -- the big windows at the front of the building were wide open, which made Green Cilantro look quite inviting.

Green Cilantro's owner(s) have gussied up the place a bit -- new furniture, a new paint job, etc. There aren't any beers on tap yet, but the bottle selection wasn't bad. I ordered a Magic Hat #9 ($4.75), which was, oddly enough, served in a bottle -- even though I was one of four customers in the place.

I wondered if the bartender was new at this, because I paid for the beer with a $20 bill, and she handed me back a ten, a five and a quarter. I had to ask her to break the five so I could give her a tip.

When I asked about the name, the bartender told me they've been getting a lot of friendly criticism for it. And rightfully so. It's probably one of the lamer new bar names I've come across. I like Dave's suggestion of calling it Xtreme Cilantro much better ...

Considering the place is named after a controversial herb, you'd think the owners would incorporate the place's namesake wherever possible.

If I were them, I'd put cilantro on everything that comes out of the kitchen. I'd serve wheat beers garnished with cilantro instead of orange peels. And I'd set up a cilantro cannon (similar to a confetti cannon), which I'd fire off at random inside the bar. But that's just me.

According to the bartender, the only drink that incorporated cilantro was the cilantro martini, made with Absolut Citron vodka, lime juice and (you guessed it) cilantro. It only costs $6.75, and I almost tried it then and there.

But it was 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and I didn't want a cilantro martini to be my first drink. The bartender didn't help convince me either.

"It's an acquired taste," she said.

Rest assured, I will try it the next time I'm there.

There were a good two sips left in my beer when the bartender snatched it and asked me if I wanted another. I thanked her, politely declined and headed for my next destination: Clutch. More on that later.

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 28, 2009

I dig the U.S. Botanical Garden

orchidBefore I became a city slicker, I was a backwoods hick.

And as a backwoods hick, I've always liked plants. It's in my blood. My great-grandfather was a farmer, my grandfather was a farmer, my father was a farmer, and, for a time, I was a farmer too. Spinach, if you care to know.

If you're like me and you dig greenery, I highly recommend checking out the U.S. Botanical Garden in Washington. 

It's free (which, as we all know, makes everything better), and has a ton of wild, beautiful plants.

I think my personal favorite was the pitcher plant, a carnivorous species which grows large pitcher-shaped jugs with a saliva-like substance inside. Flies and other small creatures slip into the jugs and are digested. Yum. In the jungle, these bad boys get so big they catch rats and snakes. Dig it.

I also enjoyed the bull's horn acacia ...

These trees team up with a species of ants to help survive. The plant provides a home for the ants in its hollow, horn-shaped thorns, and makes a sweet nectar that feeds them. In return, the ants protect the plant by stinging anything that threatens it. They even clear the ground around the plant, and stop other plants from getting too close. How wild is that?

Anyhow, if you like plants (or you like taking pictures of plants), you should really check out the Botanical Garden.

(Photo of an orchid courtesy of the Botanical Garden)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:22 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Random stuff

June 27, 2009

I'll miss Ixia

ixia's sex and the city martiniWhen news came last week that Ixia had closed, I can't say I was that surprised.

I went there a few times, and never saw that many people in the place. But their mixed drinks were out of this world. Expensive, yes, but also out of this world.

I remember back in the fall of 2007, when "molecular mixologist" Tom Cusack started working with liquid nitrogen and edible ingredients such as calcium lactate.

Using elements of molecular gastronomy and chemistry, he developed a high-end cocktail list and set up a nitro bar.

You could order a Banana Foster Dippin' Dots, an alcoholic version of the BB-shaped ice cream; shots encased in edible pouches instead of glasses; a sorbet frozen on the spot with liquid nitrogen; and a few other specialty drinks.

When I wrote a nightlife column about it, I called it "one of the wildest, most innovative things I've ever seen in a bar." 

Almost two years later, that still rings true ...

Ixia could empty your wallet pretty quickly. But if you wanted to dress to impress and go out for drinks in a fancy (and somewhat eccentric) setting, Ixia was the place to do it.

I even took my mom there a year or two ago when she came to visit. She was wowed by the nitro bar. 

Even though it wasn't hard to see why Ixia closed, I'll miss it.

(Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Mount Vernon is getting a sports bar


What did I tell you? What did I tell you??!?!?

I said Mount Vernon needs a sports bar. And so many of you laughed at me. Even my editor, Tim Swift, laughed at me.

Well, laugh no more. It's happening. A fancy Mount Vernon restaurant with a fancy name like Neo Viccino is closing and a sports bar is taking its place.


I told ryan97ou about this, since he suggested the topic in the first place, and his face melted.

He immediately started dreaming up ways to combine Mount Vernon's hipster attitude with a sports bar's meathead magnetism.

"I will wear skin tight black jeans, with a football jersey, and ride my single speed bike there with a beer helmet on," Ryan said.

That's genuis ...

But what about the important questions, like, is it possible to snidely chug a Miller Lite? Ryan  thinks so:

"Yes, chug it and yell, "This beer was soooo 10 seconds ago."

Ryan and I made a pact to be the first two people through the doors the first day, bare-chested with face paint on.

What would they call it, I wonder? Fumbles? If they take the idea that jmgiordano and i developed and don't pay us for it, I'm suing them for everything they're worth. I'll take them to the cleaners -- and various other cliches!

So yeah, eat it, haters.*

*Now that I've said all this, you watch this place go under in six months.

(Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 26, 2009

Whartscape lineup announced

With all this Michael Jackson craziness, I forgot to post about this year's Whartscape lineup. This year's festival will be at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Load of Fun and a Maryland Institute College of Art parking lot July 10-12. More details about the location here. And here is the list of the roughly 130 performers ...

Adventure, Air Waves, AK Slaughter, Alexis Gideon, Allen Cordell, Ami Dang, Andy Abelow, Annex Theater, Art Department, At the End of Infinite Rope, Bad Brilliance, Barky, BDRM PPL, Beast Master, Bedlam Theatre, Big Bear, Bird Names, Black Vatican, Blood Baby, Blue Leader, Booge Border, Butt Stomach, C Spencer Yeh, Cars Will Burn, Celebration, Chandeliers, Charlotte and Joe, Child Bite, Child Bride, Clarissa Gregory, Connor Kizer and Adam Endres, Crazy Dreams Band, Dan Deacon Ensemble, Dan Higgs, DDMMYYYY, Despot, DJ Dog Dick, Dope Body, Double Dagger, Drip House, Eagle Ager, Ear Pwr, Ed Schrader, Eric Hnatow, Funny Clown, Future Islands, Gary War, GDFX, Golden Birthday, Grasslung, Hair Police, Height, Hooliganship, Human Host, Infinity Window, Jana Hunter, Janitor, Jared Paolini, Jason Willett, Jimmy Joe Roche, John Eaton, John Weiss, Justin Frye Meat Wallet Bells Pieces, Killer Whales, Kokomo, Leprechaun Catering, Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez, Little Howlin Wolf, Liturgy, Living Things, Lizz King, Lo Moda, Lonnie Walker, Lord Scrumage, Magnet City Kids, Mark Brown, Married in Berdichev, Mason Ross, Melissa Moore, Meredith Moore, Mickey Free, Microkingdom Milton Melvin Croissant III, Mincemeat or 10speed, MNDR, Narwalz, Nate Boyce, Nautical Almanac, Needle Gun, Nobel Lake, Nuclear Power Pants, Olaf Breuning, Peter Glantz, Pleasant Livers, Plural MC, Polygons, Ponytail, Quiet Hooves, R.M. O'Brien, Rap Dragons, Roto Romo, Rotten Milk Band, Santa Dads, Schwarz, Sewn Leather, Seyjano, Shams Showbeast, Sick Weapons, Silk Flowers, Small Sur, Smartgrowth, Smarts, So Percussion, Soft Pink Truth, Something by Dina Kelberman, Spellcaster, Talk Normal, Team Robespierre, Teen Girl Fantasy, Teeth Mountain, Thank You, The Creepers, The Degenerettes, The New Flesh, The Title Sounded Better in French (Lola/Anna), The Woes, Trockeneisis, Truth Serum, Twin Stumps, Videohippos, Vincent Black Shadow, Weekends, What Cheer Brigade Marching Band, Witch Hat, Wolf Eyes, Wye Oak, Y2KEITH, Yoshi Sodeoka, Zomes, and Bands We Forgot


Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music


michael jackson tribute in london

Sorry about not posting as much as normal today, gang. Michael Jackson's death has thrown all my plans for today out the window.

A little while ago, I finished this roundup of Jackson-related events at bars and clubs around town. If you know of any more stuff like this going on, let me know.

I also just added a few thoughts to a great MJ remembrance by Sun writer Jill Rosen (of OC bar roundup fame), which should be out in print this weekend.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets are back on sale

For some reason, I was under the impression that all the pre-sale tickets for the Virgin Mobile FreeFest sold out. They have not. They are currently up for grabs. Good luck!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:18 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Sand, sun and sips: Five of Ocean City's best beach bars

fager's islandRemember a few weeks ago when I asked for recommendations of great beach bars?

Turns out, your suggestions were a big help. My colleague, Sun writer Jill Rosen, used them to compile a great roundup of five beach bars.

Check it out.

Oh, and there's a photo gallery too. Check it out.

I can't believe I've never been to Fager's Island (pictured). This dock looks really romantic. 

Of course, including Seacrets was inevitable. But I was glad Jill got to Liquid Assets, and a few lower key places too. She did a great job mixing it up. Her piece will appear in Sunday's paper.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

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

June 25, 2009

Did you see Michael Jackson or the Jackson 5 perform in the area?

If so, we'd like to hear from you. What was it like? What are your memories of the show? We're combing through our archives and putting together a piece for tomorrow's paper. Any help you could give us would be much appreciated. E-mail my editor, Tim Swift, at
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:21 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Random stuff

Michael Jackson: A brilliant but bizarre life

mj.jpgMichael Jackson didn't just leave his stamp on pop music -- he irreversibly changed it.

From his early days as the pint-sized, Afro-sporting lead singer of the Jackson 5 to his astronomical success as a solo artist in the 1980s, Michael Jackson undeniably earned his title as the King of Pop.

If you listened to top 40 radio in the '70s, '80s or '90s, Jackson was inescapable. His album sales topped 750 million worldwide, and his 13 No. 1 singles and Grammy awards made him into a global celebrity.

In 1983, Jackson stunned audiences with the moonwalk, which, to this day, remains one of pop culture's most famous and enduring dance moves.

But as Jackson's popularity grew, his eccentric behavior and ever-changing physical appearance began to overshadow his many musical achievements. A chilling 2003 documentary with Martin Bashir titled Living With Michael Jackson foreshadowed a trial for child molestation. Jackson was later found not guilty, but the negative perception would plague him for the rest of his life.

In recent years, Jackson struggled financially, and was said to be on the brink of bankruptcy. His death today at age 50 is an abrupt end to a brilliant but bizarre life.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:08 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Random stuff

Wanna be in a bartending contest tonight?

bartenderstyle.JPGNormally, I don't blog about this kind of stuff, but I'll make an exception here because it sounds fun.

Chris Furst of Power Plant Live sent me this e-mail earlier today:

We are in need of a contestant for our Iron Bartender competition tonight. It’s the second round and this week is supposed to consist of bartenders representing Canton. 

Unfortunately due to a family situation, one of our contestants had to drop out last minute. The basic details are this ...


  • Just like the show, each contestant will be given all the basic tools needed (liquors, mixers, etc)
  • Just before the competitions starts, a secret ingredient will be announced
  • Each bartender will have to create one shot, one martini and one mixed drink using the secret ingredient in some way
  • Contestants will have several minutes to prepare, and then 12 minutes to actually produce the drinks
  • Three judges will use crowd reaction/showmanship, creativity and taste in deciding a winner for this round
  • The winner will go on to the finals to face the other 3 round winners to win $2,000 cash.
Interested bartenders can contact me at


(Baltimore Sun photo of bartender Chris Andrews at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. from 1997)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:55 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Looks like Ticketmaster botched the Virgin Mobile FreeFest presale

ticketmasterTicketmaster's carelessness never ceases to amaze me. 

This morning, Virgin Mobile customers and previous Virgin Mobile Festival-goers were supposed to get first crack at presale tickets for the Aug. 30 Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

This morning, I've heard from more than a few festival-goers and Virgin Mobile customers who were never informed of how to get tickets.

The people who did hear from Virgin Mobile and Ticketmaster got a password they could use to earmark no more than two tickets each for the festival. Was each password different? Nope. Was each password only good for two tickets? Nope. It looks like they used one (maybe a handful) of passwords for everybody. 

When people realized this, they started sharing the password with their friends. And their friends' friends. I talked to a few people who hadn't been to previous festivals and weren't Virgin Mobile customers who got tickets ...

As I was writing this post, Midnight Sunner CantonKate left this comment, which took the words out of my mouth.

I doubt that Ticketmaster had any intention of doling out the tickets in a socially responsible manner. I think they took the capitalist route, which was spend the least amount of money possible to implement a system to distribute the tickets in what appeared to be a fair manner so they can just shrug their shoulders and say they tried their best. They're not going to be making a ton of money off of this, so I doubt they cared enough to implement a system that would really keep people from cheating it.

ticketmaster2.JPGThis morning, I got a call from Ernest Richardson, a Virgin Mobile customer who lives in Baltimore and went to the 2007 Virgin Mobile Festival. He got an email with a code he could use to secure his tickets. Though he tried to get tickets this morning, he couldn't.

"I thought it was a good deal at first, especially the fact that they were looking at Virgin Mobile customers, but it didn't turn out that way," he said. "It seemed like it was a free-for-all. I'm sure I'm not the only Virgin Mobile customer that was disappointed."

For years, Ticketmaster has gotten nothing but hate and negative publicity from concert-goers and the media -- and for good reason. So you would think that for once, when they have some good news -- waiving convenience fees and giving away thousands of tickets to the Virgin Mobile FreeFest, they would want to tell somebody about it.


When I asked for comment from Ticketmaster yesterday, they responded by e-mailing me a statement from festival producer Seth Hurwitz, who I'd already talked to. Nice one, guys.

(AP photos)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:57 PM | | Comments (37)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Here's how Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets work

Yesterday, a few people asked about the ticket situation for Virgin Mobile FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Here's how it's going to work ...

Tickets will be available through Ticketmaster in two waves. Today and Friday, Virgin Mobile customers and concertgoers who attended one or more of the past three Virgin Mobile festivals will get the chance to earmark one of the 35,000 available spots at the Aug. 30 festival.

Ticketmaster will send out e-mails to past Virgin Mobile festival customers offering them the chance to reserve no more than two tickets each.

The remaining tickets will be up for grabs at 10 a.m. Saturday through In a rare gesture, Ticketmaster is waiving its notorious "convenience fees" if customers opt to pick up their tickets at the 9:30 Club in Washington or Merriweather. Otherwise, there will be a $5 fee for ticket delivery.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:56 AM | | Comments (49)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

June 24, 2009

And the winner of the Name That Bar contest is ...

Paul! He guessed our mystery bar -- Bertha's in Fells Point. Congrats, Paul! E-mail me and let's see if we can set up a prize pack pickup. With the flurry of responses yesterday (and all the Virgin Mobile Festival news), I didn't see that Paul had posted his comment only a few hours after the post went up. As always, thanks to everyone for playing!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:21 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Name That Bar

Concert review: Beyonce gives energized performance at 1st Mariner Arena

beyonce.jpgBaltimore Sun reporter John-John Williams IV was at Beyonce's concert at 1st Mariner Arena last night. Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show. And here are John-John's thoughts:

Throngs of buppies dressed in designer dresses and spiked stilettos crowded First Mariner Arena last night in support of the woman they call Diva, Sasha Fierce, B or more commonly, Beyonce.

Whatever moniker you chose, the former Destiny’s Child front-woman delivered an energy-filled two and a half hour performance on this leg of her 'I Am ... Tour' that left her fans thoroughly content.

The minute she appeared on stage in a sparkling mini dress, all eyes were on her. When the stunning singer belted out an a Capella version of her 2006 hit "Deja Vu," the audience hung on every word.

Beyonce is a seasoned pro, and she knows it. Her costume changes -- there were about eight of them -- were perfectly timed and almost seemed seamless. She also plays to her strengths: vocals, dancing and showmanship ...

My only fault with her concert -- if there was one -- was her choice in some of her outfits. (I would have rethought the fluffy wedding dress; the leopard-skin leotard underneath the gold and silver body armor reminded me of a mix of the '80s cartoons She-Ray and ThunderCats.) But aside from that she kept the audience energized and empowered.

Beyonce spent most of the evening channeling historic icons of the past. There was Etta James, when Beyonce sang her rendition of "At Last." (She also sang the song to the Obamas during the inauguration.)

You could feel the energy of Tina Turner when Beyonce performed a series of older Destiny's Child songs in a second stage, located in the middle of the audience, midway through the concert. Beyonce even branched out and put her own spin on Alanis Morissette's angry "You Oughta Know," easily outsinging the Canadian songstress. She also captured the gentleness of Sarah McLachlan when she sang the 90s hit "Angel."

But make no mistake, this concert was very much a Beyonce production. From her unmistakable riffs to her trademark shaking, Beyonce delivered one recognizable hit after another. There was also a sprinkling in of material from her latest album "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," which I have to admit I am not completely crazy about. In fact, other than the mega smash "Single Ladies” and hits "Halo" and "Diva," I was relieved when she finished up the less recognizable, slower ballads from her most current album.

Beyonce's background dancers were pretty impressive and versatile. From the dance that accompanied Beyonce singing "Ava Maria," to the hip-hop dance-off they did to a mix of Destiny’s Child hits, they really kept the crowd entertained.

Getting back to the main attraction, Beyonce connected with her largely female audience when she sang of heartache and independence in the 2003 hit "Me, Myself and I." And she showed she is among the elite songstresses of her time with the power ballad "Listen" from the 2006 movie Dreamgirls.  

In a time when spaghetti-string vocalists who can barely master choreography (hello, Britney Spears) can sell out concerts, and bimbos like Paris Hilton and Heidi Montag can get the green light to record an album, it is refreshing to see Beyonce give you the total package.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Concert reviews

Virgin Mobile FreeFest is a coup

virgin mobile festivalHere's a question: How do you scale back one of the region's biggest music festivals and keep it from being a disappointment?

The answer? You make it free.

That's what Virgin Mobile did with this year's Virgin Festival, renamed the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

The headliners, Blink-182, Weezer, Franz Ferdinand and Public Enemy don't have the star power of previous acts such as the Who, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West and the Police. It's only one day: Aug. 30. And the venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion, holds about half as many people as the infield at Pimlico Race Course.

But all 35,000 tickets for this year's festival will be given away for free. (You can find my piece about the fest, with more details and ticketing info, here) ...

"I suppose people will thing that there must be a catch, but there really isn't," said festival producer Seth Hurwitz. "We just wanted to put on a show that would make people happy."

All I can say is, wow.

Everybody was ready to bash this year's festival. The announcement didn't come until really late in the festival season, after all of the big festival lineups were out. Bloggers and music fans wondered if it was even coming back at all. And the lineup, long rumored to be Blink-182 and Weezer, was less impressive than previous years.

But in previous years, the festival cost nearly $100 a day. This year, it's free. Sir Richard Branson, a brilliant marketer, strikes again! 

"In a time of economic challenges and daily sacrifices, we wanted to throw a fantastic party so people could let loose and have a great time - on us," Branson, founder and president of Virgin Group, said in a statement.

Merriweather is being outfitted with multiple stages and a dance tent, and expanded to hold nearly 35,000. If they were charging money for the festival, I doubt they would get 35,000 people. With the festival being free, that won't be a problem at all.

I'm still marveling at the move. A free Virgin Festival? What an awesome idea.

(Sun photo by Patrick Smith)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:54 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

June 23, 2009

Actually, I'd like to change my vote

A little while ago, I nominated the Cat's Eye Pub as Fells Point's Best Neighborhood Bar. After much deliberation, I'd like to change my vote to Bad Decisions ...

To be honest, I had completely forgotten about Bad Decisions. I was thinking more about the bars and clubs around South Broadway. Silly me. But the more I think about it, the less hesitation I have about voting for Bad Decisions ...

The drink list is amazing. Owner John Reusing knows his liquor, inside and out. The decor is charmingly low rent, and I've never gone there without being sucked into an offbeat conversation with a pack of people I'd never met before.

Sorry, Cat's Eye. I've got to go with Bad Decisions. Maybe I'm making a bad decision. But I don't think so.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:16 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

What's the best neighborhood bar in Fells Point?

lulu's off broadwayWe've done Canton. We've done Hampden.

But those were just warm-ups.

Now, it's really time to open Pandora's Box. What, in your humblest of opinions, is the best neighborhood bar in Fells Point? And why?

Only one bar will win.

And there are so, so many low-key bars to choose from. Fells Point has more neighborhood bars than just about any other neighborhood in Baltimore.

So what's it gonna be?

I'll tell you what bar gets my vote ...

I wracked my brain about it. And finally, I decided to go with the Cat's Eye Pub (1730 Thames St.). It's warm, inviting and has a crew of crazy regulars. But it also has some of the best local groups playing live, if roots rock/blues is your thing.

I was so close to picking Friends or Leadbetter's, but opted for the Cat's Eye in the end.

What's your pick?

(Sun photo of Lulu's Off Broadway by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:35 PM | | Comments (141)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

Name That Bar, vol. 7

DSC_0418.JPGThe Name That Bars keep getting harder and harder.

But so far, that hasn't stopped you from guessing them right off the bat.

Now, with the help of photographer Alexander D. Mitchell IV, I'm going to hit you with what is possibly the toughest, most obscure photo we've posted here yet. 

The first person to name this bar wins quite the prize.

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:37 AM | | Comments (60)
Categories: Name That Bar

Weekend recap: Playboy Bunnies at Mosaic, Baltimore Pride in Mount Vernon

candace cassidyIn case you haven't heard, a few Playboy Playmates were at Mosaic in Power Plant Live Saturday night.

The club hosted several of the models, as well as a fashion show featuring Playboy clothes.

Baltimore-based DJ/Playboy model DJ KayJay spun, and Candace Cassidy (Miss June 2009, pictured) made an appearance. Here's a photo gallery with more shots from the event.

On a wildly different note, the annual Baltimore Pride Festival also took place this past weekend. Here are some shots of the festivities from Mount Vernon and Druid Hill Park.

(Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 22, 2009

Madonna, Celine Dion, Beyonce top Forbes' list of highest-earning musicians

madonnaWhat musicians made the most money in the past year?

Forbes just released its annual list of the top-earning musicians (from June 2008 to June 2009), and the top three spots are:

1. Madonna (pictured), $110 million

2. Celine Dion, $100 million

3. Beyonce, $87 million

Forbes estimated the musicians' gross earnings by tallying album sales, publishing rights and endorsements from Billboard, Pollstar and Nielsen SoundScan.

According to Forbes, the top 10 highest-grossing musicians piled up just about $719 million this past year, compared with $500 million the year before.

The reasons for the surge? Ticket prices are up $5 on average, which is the largest price hike in years, Forbes reports.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:54 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Random stuff

Liam's North to open in Station North

guinness!Liam Flynn, who used to run Liam's Pint-Size Pub in Mount Vernon, plans to open a new bar called Liam's North in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District this fall.

Ever since he left the space below Kumari on North Charles Street, Flynn has been scouting for new spots.

Finally, he thinks he's found one -- on West North Avenue by the Windup Space. Renovations still need to be done, and we are months away from seeing anything open. But the wheels are in motion, Flynn told me.

"Everything's coming together," he said.

Ideally, Flynn would like to build a stage and host live music in Liam's North. He'd like to bring in folk, Irish and other such music to the bar ...

That would spice up the neighborhood, for sure. The other bars that have live music near there (Windup, Joe Squared, Metro, Hexagon, etc.) mostly host up-and-coming indie groups from here and around the region. You don't see much traditional Irish music in Station North. Maybe there's a reason for that though. Who knows?

I was surprised to hear that Liam wants to rename the place. Pint-Size Pub is such a great name for a a bar.

"It won't be pint-size anymore," he said.

Good point. And good luck, Liam.

(Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:33 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

To squeeze or not to squeeze?

gin and tonic and limeThat, gang, is the question.

When you order a mixed drink, say a gin and tonic, what is the bartender supposed to do with the lime wedge? One of three things happens:

1) The bartender slices the wedge and sets it on the rim of the cup.

2) The bartender plops it into the drink.

3) The bartender squeezes the lime and then plops it into the drink.

Is there a rule or a code among bartenders for what to do with the lime wedge?

Saturday night, some friends and I went to the Bay Cafe (2809 Boston St.) for a drink after dinner. I hadn't been there in years, and was surprised to find the indoor/outdoor party zone comfortably full (and not jam-packed with people).

I ordered two gin and tonics, which, shockingly, only cost $4.25 each. The bartender squeezed the wedge into the drink ...

Personally, I like that better than just having a lime wedge floating in the top of my gin. You see, I like a little lime juice in my G&T. I don't particularly like to fish around in my drink for the chunk of lime.

But I think the customer should have the right to choose what happens to the lime wedge. That's why, if you ask me, 

Where do you stand on this?

Lime juice can make or break a gin and tonic, depending on your taste. And if you asked for a fancy gin (say, Bombay), are you going to want lime juice squeezed into it by a bartender?

(Photo by Los Angeles Times)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:24 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

I tried (and liked) some Melon Dog beer

melon beerLast night, I decided to cap off a relaxing weekend with a couple mugs of Melon Dog beer at the Pub Dog

If you recall, this is the stuff they ordered made because I blogged about it a year ago. 

For what it was, it was great -- it had a sweet, Jolly Rancher-ish taste and went down smooth and quick. If you like Dog Pub's other fruity beers, you'll like Melon Dog too. I'm sure it will be a summertime hit.

As I walked up to the pub, a woman was hula-hooping outside.

"Free shots if you do a hula-hoop," she said ...

I wasn't in the mood for free shots (or hula-hooping), but I was tempted. On the way there, I wondered if I would have trouble getting a bar stool, but the place was almost empty at 8:45 p.m. When the hula-hooper came back inside and sat down on a stool, one of the bartenders practiced rolling the hula-hoop up the stairs. There wasn't much else for him to do.

The only other patrons (at least the only other ones I saw) were down at the end of the bar. Besides the hula-hooper, there was a guy and a gal. The guy was laying it on thick, trying to impress her with the awards his college TV station had won. Heh.

The Pub Dog's two-for $4 10-ounce mugs of microbrews can be addictive, and I had to pry myself away from the bar after only two mugs. It was Sunday night, after all.

(Photo by LGood) 
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 20, 2009

I (actually) bought the album!

Think back ten years. Heck, maybe 15 years.

Back then, if a new band had a hit single, people went to the record store and bought the CD. That's how I ended up with Tubthumper by Chumbawamba and Fush Yu Mang by Smash Mouth. I probably paid $17.99 each for those CDs. When I realized that both of those albums kind of stunk (except for the singles), I grumbled a bit. But what could I do?

When the Internet blew up, everything was turned upside down ...

Now, since you can illegally download albums for free, you don't have to buy the album. Buying the album has become a badge of honor -- almost a trendy way to say, "I support this band." That boggles my mind a bit.

Think about it -- in 10-odd years, we went from buying albums for almost $20 each without even batting an eye to only buying the album if we really like the group. This is especially prevalent in indie music circles. Music snobs used to brag about having the new album by some unheard of band. Now, they brag about buying the album to support some unheard of band.

But people do the same thing with mainstream acts. I've had people, in casual conversation, mention that they actually bought the new album by U2 or another huge group.

Sure, more people buy mp3s legally then they used to a few years ago. But a ton of people still rip music illegally. Bands -- especially upcoming bands -- have to make money touring and selling merchandise instead of selling albums. It's still hard for me to believe that in a few short years, we went from spending $20 to buy an album without batting an eye to making a thing of buying the album to support the band.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:28 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Random stuff

June 19, 2009

"Inner City Blues"

I read news like this and it reminds me of Marvin Gaye's incredible album What's Going On. Believe it or not, I had never sat down and listened to the entire album in one sitting until a few weeks ago ...

Of all the gems on that record -- from the title track to "God Is Love" -- the one that grabs me the most is "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler). The bass drum starts out pumping like a heartbeat, then gives way to a slogging, chain gang groove. On top of that, you've got those sad, slinking strings and Gaye's soft, teary falsetto. The song smolders but never really explodes.

The craziest part is the sound quality -- it's crystal clear. What a masterpiece. So is this video, by Hughes Brothers.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:02 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

As per your votes, Hampden's best neighborhood bar is ...

holy frijoles baltimoreNone other than Frazier's on the Avenue (919 W. 36th St.)!

I tallied all the votes, and Holy Frijoles (908 W. 36th St. pictured) came in a close second, with Griffith's Tavern placing third.

It was a close one, gang.

I've never been to Griffith's, but I've been to Holy Frijoles and Frazier's more than a few times.

I was a little shocked to see Holy Frijoles get so many votes for being a neighborhood bar ...

Every time I've been there, the service has been terrible and the place has been packed with hipsters -- not exactly the most inviting of crowds, if you ask me.

But hey, I can't argue with the votes -- most came with good reasons why commenters liked the bar they picked.

I'll have to get to Griffith's here soon. 

And, of course, another neighborhood. Look for that next week.

Amazingly, we have very, very few recent photos of Frazier's and Holy Frijoles in our archives. That's surprising, considering how popular both of these places are)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:44 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

Lucy's Irish Pub to close

lucys irish pub baltimoreLucy's Irish Pub, the massive bar/restaurant at 21 N. Eutaw St., will close Sunday evening, a manager confirmed.

The pub, formerly Maggie Moore's, has experienced a drop in business, and could reopen in September, the manager told me.

Personally, I'd be shocked if Lucy's reopens a few months from now -- at least under its current owners.

Usually, when a bar/restaurant says it's closing for an extended period of time, it doesn't reopen. It's either sold or left to languish.

Either way, this is a big blow to the city's struggling West Side ...

Several years ago, after the Hippodrome reopened and anchored the revitalization, a series of bars and restaurants opened around it. The two most prominent spots were Maggie Moore's and Bedrock. Bedrock closed last December.

Lucy's being out of the picture -- even for a few months -- is bad news for the neighborhood. I wonder what will happen there, and also at the old Bedrock space. As far as I know, the Bedrock space is still vacant and in need of a new owner.

(Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 18, 2009

Let's clear up this Eddie Vedder mess once and for all

brian shupe, co-owner of The 8x10I wasn't going to post any more about this. I was more than happy to let it fade on its own accord.  But today, the person who told me Eddie Vedder would be at The 8x10 came forward on his own accord with a comment about the whole situation.

That person is Brian Shupe (pictured), one of the owners of the club. Instead of publishing Brian's response as a comment, I decided to give it its own post. Here it is:

For those of you beating up on Sam, what a shame.

I was Sam's source. I am the co-owner of The 8x10 with my wife, Abigail.

This show was booked from the beginning with the intent of a shared, sit-in situation. This was discussed in-depth with the band. We were told it was 99 percent, with 1 percent being that "It's rock n roll and anything could happen so he might not make it, but he wants to do this."

We sat on that information for a month at least. The day of the show, we were told that Eddie confirmed and it was a go.

I called Sam, because of his unfaltering dedication to the Baltimore music scene. I felt he deserved the exclusive tip that this was happening, because of his efforts to help local music flourish ...

We also send out an email blast. We made sure that we said 100% truthfully what we were told:
"Yes we were told he is coming but we can't guarantee that"

Sam did likewise.

Jerry Hannan did sit in with Eddie Vedder and Eddie Vedder did announce Jerry's show from the stage on the first night.

Don't shoot the messenger on this. It's rock n roll and sometimes things just have to be what they are.

Sam didn't start this rumor, he did what he does best. He reported on it.

By the way ... the show was great, the fans were absolutely into it and respectful and not closed to the talent on stage and only waiting for EV. We did not field any complaints from the audience about the lack of EV.

(Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:44 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

What are Baltimore's best sunset-watching bars?

sunsetElizabeth Large has a great post about the best restaurants and bars at the beach for sunset-watching.

Her commenters are tossing out suggestions for sunset-watching, but they haven't come up with many in Baltimore.

Do you think that's because there aren't many (or any?) good places to watch the sunset here?

I wracked my brain for a while and few came to mind.

Nick's Fish House, maybe? What about the deck of the Mount Washington Tavern? I've been to the tavern a couple times, but never up on the deck ...

I'm trying to think here: It would have to be a bar that either faced west or had a roof deck where you could chill and look west. I don't even think the 13th Floor at the Belvedere has windows on its west side.

Ooo you know what? I'll bet Bourbon Street's roof deck has a decent view of the sunset. And I'll bet, since the sun is setting later these days, the mega club is open in time to catch it. And you know what, the patio on the third (or is it the fourth?) floor of The Nest might have a solid view, too.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:33 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Recher Theatre has a new outdoor patio

recher theatreThe Recher Theatre (512 York Road in Towson) has a new outdoor patio which seats 45-50, according to cook Damon Poremski.

The patio, which he said is "95 percent covered," also has a fireplace and a 35-foot bar. It officially opened last month, between the the concert hall and the restaurant (where a parking lot used to be).

Last month?!?! Man, I can't believe I didn't hear about this one sooner.

I'm surprised no one else has written about it already. I'm going to try and swing by there after the next Baltimore Unsigned taping and check it out. I'll see if I can bring along my little camera and get some shots, too ...

"It's really well-done, architecturally," Poremski said. "It's pretty spectacular." 

Spectacular may be a strong word to describe an outdoor patio. But you can never have enouh outdoor places to sit and sip in the summertime. The patio is open for lunch and dinner.

Looks like the owners are putting some money into the place this year. If you remember, they replaced the sound system not too long ago.

(Photo courtesy of The Recher)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:31 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Bacon vodka lives!

bakon vodkabakon vodkabakon vodka Midnight Sun and bacon vodka go back. Way back.

And it was only a matter of time before a mainstream (legal) bacon vodka hit the market.

If there ever was a time for bacon vodka, that time was now.

So, without further delay, ladies and gents, I give you: Bakon Vodka.

oooooooooooooooooh SNAP!

As you see, it's not just Bacon Vodka. Oh no. It's Bacon with a "K"! 

Edgy stuff, man. Hee hee.

I seriously am game to try it. Has anybody else tried this particular brand of it? ...

I remember Midnight Sun Mixologist Evan's first batch of bacon vodka, with its globules of bacon fat floating near the top. To borrow a phrase from Dining@Large: Gack!

I browsed the Bakon Vodka site, and to my disappointment, it looks like Bakon Vodka is only available in the Northwest U.S. 

Bah! Double bah!

Thanks to Gerry (of Pickled Parrot fame/hatred), Chris Rinn and Crazy Joe for the tip(s).

(Photo courtesy of Bakon Vodka)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:09 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Drink-ology, Random stuff

June 17, 2009

What if this year's Virgin Mobile Festival were free?

Hayley Williams of Paramore performs at least year's Virgin Mobile FestivalWhat would you say if the 2009 Virgin Mobile Festival was at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Aug. 30 with Blink-182, Weezer and Taking Back Sunday?

Personally, I'd be pretty meh about it.

But what if the 2009 Virgin Mobile Festival was free?

That would be wild. And, according to David Malitz over at Post Rock, it's a possibility. Malitz is hearing rumblings (off the record ones, mind you) from people who know people who are putting the festival together.

Talk show host Elliot (of Elliot in the Morning) thinks the festival might be free, too.

If you're wondering where I'm getting that lineup from, I've heard it off the record for a while now that those groups might be the headliners. Of course, it's been a bad week for tips on Midnight Sun. So take that as you will.

But for the record, just yesterday a member of Taking Back Sunday told Sun reporter Chris Kaltenbach that the pop rock band would be back for Virgin Fest this year ...

(For a few weeks this summer, Taking Back Sunday is 1/3 of the Weezer/Blink-182 package tour.)

As for the free part, I have no idea how that would possibly go down. Even if Merriweather sets up stages in Symphony Woods and a parking lot (like it did for HFStival in 2006), it could still only hold about 27,000 people. And I'm sure there are more than 27,000 people who would see Weezer, a reunited Blink-182 and Taking Back Sunday for free.

So, if admission were free, there would have to be some kind of ticket lottery system. Either way, the bottom line is, this is all still speculation. And when I told my buddy Evan all this, he laughed and said, "Why don't they just book good bands and charge for it?"

I see what Evan's saying. But I think Weezer/Blink/Sunday would be wild if it was free. 

But who would pay for it? Would promoter Seth Hurwitz absorb the booking fees? Would food and beer prices double for the day? Or would corporate sponsorship be enough to pay the bills?


(Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:52 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

So I called the number ...

... listed on the sign out in front of Gossips. It rang for a while before going to one of the most random voicemail messages. I couldn't catch the name of the dude, but in the message, he claimed to be a rep for Sam's Club, and said this was also the official hot line for the Baltimore Christian Warriors. There was no mention of free parties. And, of course, the mailbox was full. Oh well.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

"Free parties" at Gossips

Gossips baltimoreOn my walk to work this morning, I couldn't help but notice this sign on the front window of the Calvert Street club Gossips.

Gossips seems like it's been there forever, but for some reason, I've never been inside.

It's probably the only club downtown that I've never checked out, actually.

Anyway, the sign begs passersby to book "free" parties there.

That begs the question: What, exactly, is a free party? ...

I like the sound of a "free party." As we all know, "Free Makes Everything Better" is one of Midnight Sun's unofficial slogans.

Is the booze free? Not everybody associates booze with partying, but I do. And I know I'm not alone here. So, to me, a free party implies free booze.

A free party would also have free entry, methinks. Cover charges are decidedly un-free.

So, after reading this sign, I'm highly tempted to dial up Biglesproductionsinc at the posted number and find out what his/her/their definition of "free parties" is. In fact, I think I will.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:47 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Evan's winnings

evan.Normally, it takes me a few weeks to hand out prizes for Midnight Sun contests. But Midnight Sunner Evan jumped at his chance to claim a Midnight Sun wicked wicked awesome awesome prize pack for Naming That Bar.

Evan took home a custom Land of the Lost metal lunchbox, with DVDs of the entire TV series inside, as well as William Shatner's autobiography and a book about roommate quarrels called I Lick My Cheese.

As you can see, Evan was quite happy with his winnings. 

He did, however, ride his bike to The Sun, and I'm not sure how the heck he got all that junk home. Then again, Evan does have the skillz to pay the billz.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:17 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Name That Bar

June 16, 2009

It's official -- Eddie Vedder did not show up late night at The 8x10

eddie vedderLike many other Pearl Jam fans, I left The 8x10 around 1 a.m. disappointed that Eddie Vedder didn't make the rumored appearance to sit in with Jerry Hannan.

The show was over around 12:45 a.m. The house music was playing and people were streaming out of the place.

Then I read Lindsey's comment this morning:

Hey- I went to the show at the Lyric last night and it was awesome. One of my friends went to 8x10 and Eddie was there afterwards.... I'm wondering where the mix-up was? He said he saw him play a couple songs, but not many because he showed up late....
were you there last night?

I freaked out. Did I leave too early? Did Vedder show up late night to toss back a few beers and and jam with Hannan? ...

This morning, I called Brian Shupe, one of the owners of The 8x10, and asked him. No, Vedder did not show up last night, he said.

That's really a shame. Hannan's set was good and all, but a guest appearance by Vedder would have been awesome. I overheard a bunch of people talking about how The Baltimore Sun said Vedder would be there. I didn't want to correct them on the spot, but that's not entirely true. I said he "might" be there, and that it was "possible."

The show sold out, and there were people looking for tickets outside. And I saw plenty of Pearl Jam T-shirts inside. My buddy Evan was there with me, and he joked that he'd have to smuggle me out if Vedder didn't show -- to keep me safe from crazed Pearl Jam fans.

At one point, people were chanting someone's name. It sounded like "Jerry" but it could have easily been "Eddie." I'm not sure.

Sorry, everybody, for getting your hopes up. 

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:01 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Eddie Vedder was a no-show


Despite reports that he might, Eddie Vedder did not show up to sit in with Jerry Hannan and the Decades at their show at The 8x10 last night. Hannan left the stage for a few minutes around 11:30 p.m., and when he came back, he broke the bad news.

"I'm pretty sure he's on his bus right now on the way to Nashville," Hannan said.

Sorry for giving all you Pearl Jam fans some false hope. I'll write more about the show after I've had some coffee.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:16 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

June 15, 2009

Eddie Vedder might drop by The 8x10 tonight

eddie vedderI have it on good authority that grunge icon Eddie Vedder will make a guest appearance at The 8x10 tonight to sit in with Jerry Hannan and the Decades.

Vedder is in town as part of his solo tour, and will perform a second night at the Lyric Opera House tonight. He and Hannan recorded the critically acclaimed song "Society" together for Sean Penn's 2007 film Into the Wild.

In fact, I hear that Hannan is going to sit in with Vedder at the Lyric, and then Vedder is headed to South Baltimore for a song or two with Hannan. 

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:40 PM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

What's the best neighborhood bar in Hampden?

hampden drinkingNow that we've voted Mahaffey's the best neighborhood bar in Canton, I'd like to know:

What's the best neighborhood bar in Hampden?

I was considering allowing Remington in this one, but I think I'll tack that onto the best neighborhood bar in Charles Village thread. We'll get to that in a couple weeks.

For now, let's focus on Hampden.

Rocket to Venus (3360 Chesnut Ave.) has an attitude that, in my opinion, makes it the antithesis of a neighborhood bar ...

Same goes for Golden West Cafe (1105 W. 36th St.), Holy Frijoles (908 W. 36th St.), etc. I like the down-home vibe of places like Nutty Pub (3520 Chestnut Ave.) and Frazier's on the Avenue (919 W. 36th St.).

As recently as a few months ago, I would have tossed Kolper's out there as a suggestion, but I'm scared of that place after that violent incident from a little while back.

If you had to pick a Hampden bar that is the warmest, most welcoming spot in the neighborhood (complete with its own crew of regulars), what would it be?

(Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:09 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

"Arlington: The Rap"

All I have to say after spotting this vid on Gutter Magazine is, BWAHAHAHAH!

and we kinda got a mall
yeah you know you can't stop us
got everything but nothing good, man
it's kinda like tapas


Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:42 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

Making the video: "We Are Baltimore"

ellen cherryHi everyone, ellen cherry here. How are you? 

Oh wait, you probably can't answer right away, but I'm hoping you are well and healthy and happy.

Sam asked me to write a little blog about how I happened to make the recent FOX45 promo spot you might have seen on television.

If you haven't seen it and you'd like some reference as to what the heck I'm talking about, click here and then click on our cheesetastic "As Seen On TV" banner. Pause and wait for it to load up (unless you don't have a Dell from 1998, then you don't have to wait) and enjoy!

So, way back in December 2008, Pete Ferraro, a producer from FOX45 Baltimore called me as I was driving home to Texas for the holidays, with an idea to create a jingle-type song for a station promo. It was based on a phrase he had devised, "We Are Baltimore." (Pete was recommended to me by my good friend in music and in life, Caleb Stine.)

Pete's idea was that the song would reflect something upbeat about the city and be inclusive of all the neighborhoods ...

I am a transplant to my beloved Baltimore; living here for nine years. There are many reasons why I stay, but mainly I love that the city is more a web of neighborhoods, each distinct in its own way. The idea of participating in the project instantly appealed to me.

As soon as I got back in January, Pete said, "We want to film a video spot with the song, as well.  Do you think we can knock this out by February? I've got a crew booked for two days the first week."  Sure, no problem.  I'm a professional songwriter!  How hard can it be?  So I got down to work with my friend and fellow composer, Nick Sjostrom (of Clean Cuts).

First task: Have you ever tried to make a list of words that rhyme with "Baltimore"?!

Let's see here, we've got:


I could go on, but I won't.  We wrote a little tune that I liked and I wrote some lyrics that seemed to get at what Pete was looking for. We sent it off and heard back that he liked the lyrics (yay!) but wanted the song to "rock" more, (the first version was very piano heavy.) I knew he was a
Bruce Springsteen fan, so Nick and I tried to find what could be the meeting point between ellen cherry and Springsteen. We settled on R.E.M.

With the help of fellow composer Wall Matthews (also of Clean Cuts), we cranked out the version currently airing on a FOX channel near you.

ec5.jpgI was stoked.  It was my first attempt at a professional work-for-hire songwriting job and I felt it had turned out to be really a fun, upbeat, stuck-in-your-head kind of song. And the best news was that Pete loved it.

Next came filming the video. I know it's currently 80 degrees as I write this, but think back to the two coldest days in Baltimore this winter, February 4 & 5, 2009. Pete had chosen a great location:  Clipper Mill, but he had unintentionally picked two of the coldest days of winter to spend
8 hours shooting outside.

AND then Pete said, "This is going to air in April, so if you can wear something that doesn't look like it's cold outside, that would be great!" The crew was professional and hilarious, and the time went fast, so I can't complain. I was treated like a rock star, with a professional makeup person (Leah Bassett) and an assistant (Jenny Furbay at FOX) who ushered me inside every time we weren't shooting.

Pete was a great director -- very focused. At one point the first day, he said "The problem is:  we can see your breath when you are singing along to the track." So he devised several solutions:  breathing in while singing (didn't look realistic); not breathing at all while lip syncing to the
track (looked even less realistic); or, (my personal favorite) sucking on ice cubes for a minute before each take in an effort to cool my breath to the same temperature as the outside (didn't work, but it took us five takes to discover this.)

Amazingly, when I see the footage now, they shot it in such a way, that you can't tell it was 13 degrees outside.  I think it looks great.

ec6.jpgThe crew worked for extra days, getting man-on-the-street shout-outs for each neighborhood and time-lapsed shots of our fair city. I saw the final product near the end of March. Right before I was to leave on tour in early April, Pete called to tell me they were launching the campaign. I was
bummed that I wouldn't be here to see its maiden voyage into TV land, but when I got home from tour, two days ago, it was -- I'm not joking -- the very first thing I saw when I turned on the tube. I think that's a good omen.

So now, it's out there in the world and I've gotten a few emails from people who have seen it, which feels really great (thanks to everyone who has written)! I had intended the words of the song to create a feeling of possibility, to be inclusive of the city and to highlight positive things that are happening in Baltimore.

Two years ago, I was seriously considering moving away from Baltimore, back to the South. I was feeling lost and disconnected.  But then something started happening: I went out into the
city. I started making some real connections with other artists in the city and I realized how much I was missing by not truly interacting with the city and its amazingly diverse artists. There's just something about Baltimore: I feel it's got everything I need right now. So I want to stay for a while

And so as the spring changes into my absolute favorite season, summer, I plan on wandering down the streets, singing a tune -- I'll sing to you, if you'll sing to me, Baltimore. Deal?

(Photos by Rich Riggins)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:52 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Local music

June 13, 2009

Overheard at the Beastie Boys show at Rams Head Live

This is a much less funny version of the Overhead section* of Mobtown Shank. If you've never read the Shank's roundup of wacky Overheards, you should.

The setting: Rams Head Live, about an hour before the Beastie Boys are to take the stage. 

The players: A blonde woman walks up to a security staffer at Rams Head Live

Woman: Hey, what's the deal with seating here?

Security staffer: We don't have seating.

Woman, in a Legally Blonde voice: Seriously?!?!?!?

*Careful, there is some profanity in the Overheard section. Just a heads up.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff

Bad Luck 13: Better bring a helmet

bad luck 13 riot extravaganzaWhen Midnight Sun reader Allan first told me about Bad Luck 13, I was shocked, appalled and wildly interested in the group.

DISCLAIMER: I, Allan, do not endorse, nor condone, some of the things I’m about to write about.

That said, let me introduce you to the Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza. It’s a name that strikes terror and salivation into avid hardcore fans and sends bar and club owners scrambling for better property insurance.

If, for some crazy reason, you found yourself at show with these guys and didn’t know what was coming, you might as well write your last will and testament on the nearest bar napkin.

To start it off, Bad Luck 13, is a hardcore/metal act from Philly, comprised of 13 members. They’re notorious for having the most absurd, brutal, and dangerous stage shows in recent history. Violence, pyrotechnics, and sometimes unwilling audience participation are often the norm.

And before you go thinking to yourself, "I saw Metallica/Seether/Papa Roach at Hammerjacks, and I was fine," think again. These shows are absolute war zones. Words can barely describe them, but I’ll try ...

Here’s a list of regular some of the regular things you might see (compiled from memory and YouTube):

  • Fluorescent light bulbs being used as swords, and then being broken (sometimes on people) in the middle of the pit.
  • The band beating the absolute crap out of each other. I’m not kidding. Full on fistfights between members.
  • Audience members are welcome to join in on the above-mentioned brawl. However, once you start it, you’d better finish it, as I’ve seen more than a few people leave the front of the stage either bleeding, or well on their way.
  • Did I mention baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire?
  • Massive property destruction. If there’s a chair or table within reach, it better be bolted down and made of titanium. If not, it WILL be thrown.
  • Fireworks/fire breathing going anywhere. More often than not, roman candles pointed at audience members, with a few M80’s tossed in for flavor.
  • Full on nudity, if the situation calls for it.

bad luck 13Those are just the basics you could expect to see at any given show. However, there have been a couple times they decided to up the ante.

(These are all either eye witness accounts, or documented somewhere on video)

From my friend George: "I saw them at the HXC Super Bowl at Nation (in DC) a long time ago, fluorescent light bulbs breaking, blood, drunk guys in over coats, girls running around with bloody diapers, ridiculousness" 

From my buddy Ted: "Fireworks, gasoline, pig heads, fluorescent light bulbs, one guy pushed off a stage with a colostomy bag that they all [filled] before the show, did I say fireworks and florescent lights?

Let me elaborate, about the pig head. One of the last bigger shows they played was at Hellfest 2004.

Four or five days beforehand, they had gotten a hold of a severed pigs head from a local butcher, and left it to rot until the day they played.

When the time came for them to start their set, the pig head was immediately tossed into the audience, and proceeded to be tossed around for the remainder of the show (this is actually on the DVD footage they sell of that show). After the set was done (read: shut down) they took the head with them to dispose of it, and one of those kids, who was trying waaaay too hard to be cool, actually took a piece of it, and ate it. I’ve never vomited in my mouth before, but I came close when I saw that.

My last story about them, I truthfully can’t verify. I’ve heard it from so many people though, that it’s either true, or just one of those stories that follows a band.

The story goes that they were playing down in Texas, during a resurgence of one of the killer bee scares. The day before the show, they went to a beekeeper, bought about 50 or so (regular) bees, and put them in a glass jar. Halfway through their set, they held up the jar, proclaimed that they caught killer bees, and then smashed the jar in the middle of the pit in front of them. Needless to say, panic ensued, and the show was shut down.

bad luck 13Before ending this, I’d like to clarify a few things. First off, even though they’re a hardcore band (music genre, not a description), they absolutely DO NOT represent the HXC scene at all, just a sub-faction of it.

I had a great time growing up with bands like Bane, 7 Seconds, Shutdown, Youth of Today and xLooking Forwardx. Those guys exemplified the ideals of unity, finding strength in your friends and family, and a generally positive outlook on life. Bad Luck 13, arguably represented one or two of those things, but for the most part, were just a ridiculous stage show and a badge of honor if you saw it.

Also, I’d like to point out that, while everything I’ve told you is true (or as close to true as I can get), these guys weren't hurricanes of senseless carnage and destruction.

If the venue was way too small to be lighting off fireworks or anything else, they usually toned it back a bit, for the sake of the audience. Case in point: I saw them at Cafe Tattoo, in Overlea, and it was one of the more mild shows they played, due to the horrendously small amount of space.

If you came to the show, you had to know what you were getting into. If you were there, (hopefully) you knew why, and made that decision yourself, with a full understanding of what you were getting into.

As to my knowledge, currently, they're broken up. However, every now and then I hear rumors from people that they're getting ready to tour again, or do one last show.

One thing's for sure: If you see anything remotely resembling Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza on the bill at a show you’re at, you better bring a helmet.

(Photos from Bad Luck 13's MySpace site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

June 12, 2009

Several Inner Harbor bar/restaurants caught serving liquor to underage patrons

hard rock cafe baltimoreA string of Inner Harbor and downtown bars and restaurants have been charged with serving alcoholic beverages to underage patrons in the past couple months.

From the looks of it, a couple underage Maryland State Police Cadets made the rounds on March 31, and were (allegedly) served alcoholic beverages at the following spots: Hooters, M&S Grill, James Joyce Irish Bar, Roy's and Hard Rock Cafe (pictured).

All of these places have hearings at the liquor board for these violations on June 18.

Bourbon Street is also scheduled for a hearing that day, but their list of violations is a little bit longer ...

According to a liquor board docket, on Jan. 3, a police officer was assaulted outside the Guilford Ave. mega-club and seven females were arrested. Yikes.

Then there are the nine-odd counts of underage drinking violations, all from the same night (March 12). Looks like inspectors had a field day in there that night.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:22 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner

One Mini Egg Too Many posted the 33rd comment under the Approaching 13,000 comments entry, and thus wins the grand prize! OMETM, email me with your contact info and we'll see if we can set up a time/date for you to pick up your swag.

Also, I have a question for Poops McGoops ...

What did you mean by this comment:

Sam, for the 13,000 comment, I think a 2010 topic should be a makeover for our favorite bsun blogger...

Are you saying I need a makeover? Hmm?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:39 PM | | Comments (4)

Approaching 13,000 comments

Since we're getting close to hitting the 13,000 comment mark, I will award a wickedly awesome prize to the person who posts the 33rd comment right here, right now. Here is a topic: What is your favorite song of the moment, and why?

I won't publish any comments until I get the 33rd comment. That way everybody has a fair shot of winning. Ready? GO!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:46 AM | | Comments (36)

As per your votes, Canton's best neighborhood bar is ...

mahaffeys pub baltimoreMahaffey's!

The bar with the neighborhood's biggest beer selection wins. Bartenders comes in second and the Baltimore Taphouse takes third place.

Gecko's and Canton Station tied for fourth place.

After re-reading all 80-some responses, I was intrigued by the heated debates over the owners of Mahaffey's and the Pickled Parrot. Man, some of you guys really took the Pickled Parrot to town.

But I was pleased to see the owners of the Parrot and Bartenders responding to questions and complaints about their establishments ...

It's cool to have everybody reading and responding ...

I'm planning on doing a Best Neighborhood Bar award for a few more neighborhoods in the coming weeks. I'll file away the winners and give them Best of the Best of the Best awards at a later date.

What neighborhood do you wanna tackle next?

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:59 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

Midnight Sun's special of the week: J.A. Murphy's Tavern

j.a. murphy's tavernMaybe that's what I'll call it. I'm still not sure.

Either way, this week, J.A. Murphy's Tavern (1703 Aliceanna St.) gets the Sam Sessa stamp of approval.

Their original Happiness hour was quite delicious indeed: $1 shots, $3 mixed drinks and half-priced drafts. That still runs 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

But now, J.A. Murphy's has extended the special to weekends. They're in effect 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Not bad, guys. Not bad at all.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:50 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 11, 2009

Y'all remember this one?

Hard to believe it was almost 20 years ago, eh?
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:49 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

And the winner is ...

Midnight Sun mixologist Evan! The bar in question was Mum's in South Baltimore. Congrats, Evan. Shoot me an e-mail and we'll figure out how you pick up your prize(s). And thanks, everyone, for playing!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Name That Bar

Name That Bar, vol. 6

Today's Name That Bar contest is an easy one for regulars of this bar.

I'm not giving any hints about where it is or what it's called. But if you've been in this bar, you've seen this sign. First person to name this mystery bar wins a prize. Here's the photo ...

DSC_0400.JPG(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Name That Bar

Concert review: Fleetwood Mac at 1st Mariner Arena

lindsay buckinghamMy esteemed colleague Chris Kaltenbach was also at last night's Fleetwood Mac show at 1st Mariner Arena. Here are his thoughts:

Fleetwood Mac played an energetic two-hour-plus set of their greatest hits at the 1st Mariner Arena Wednesday night, clearly revelling in their status as elder rock statesmen with a boatload of crowd-pleasing standards to play for their fans.
With Lindsay Buckingham playing the role of guitar god to the hilt and Stevie Nicks basking in her role as spiritual muse, the band relied almost exclusively on songs from their monster-selling Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977) albums.

The result was an evening that seemed strangely stuck in time, but in the best of ways. The fans ate it up, and didn't even seem to mind it when the band dragged out two of the hoariest '70s concert cliches, the extended (and defiantly excessive) guitar and drum solos.
Opening with "Monday Morning," from Fleetwood Mac, the band quickly set the evening's tone. Buckingham played shamelessly to the crowd, pointing, cajoling, jumping up and down, making like a whirling dervish able to lay down some fairly vicious guitar licks, yet never removing the leather jacket, no matter how much the sweat came pouring down ...

Nicks, meanwhile, swayed gently on the other side of the stage, adding harmonies and putting out the same mystical hippie aesthetic that made her a charming anomaly even 30 years ago. When Nicks took over the lead vocals for her "Dreams," the crowd greeted her like an old friend.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood, meanwhile, hammered-away with his bat-size drumsticks. Melodically, the sound they made was a little heavy sometimes, but Fleetwood's never been known for his subtlety. Bassist John McVie, meanwhile, unobtrusively went about his business, rarely calling attention to himself, content simply to drive the evening's beat like nobody's business.
stevie nicksThe set included a fascinating take on "Tusk," with Fleetwood's incessantly propulsive downbeat making up for the USC marching band that wasn't there. Although she also wasn't there, Christine McVie was hardly absent, thanks to hard-edged renditions (maybe harder-edged than McVie would have liked) of two of her best songs, "Say You Love Me" and the encore of the challengingly optimistic "Don't Stop."
Buckingham, meanwhile, tore through a version of "Go Your Own Way" (from Rumours) that suggested the hurt feelings in the song haven't entirely gone away -- one reason why it was no nice to see him and Nicks embrace so warmly at one point. Maybe, like the band members said in interviews leading up to the current tour, these shows really are all about celebrating a legacy, and leaving past frictions behind.
Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham admitted during one of the show's many spoken introductions, has had a "complex and convoluted emotional history. But in the long run, it worked to our benefit."
The band's miscues were few, and easily overlooked. As befits performers moving past 60, the energy level wavered at times.

Fleetwood couldn't keep up the same manic beat that fueled "Go Your Own Way" on record -- even though Buckingham's guitar didn't seem to notice its absence. That made the song sound peculiarly schizophrenic, as though it didn't really know which pace to follow. And Nicks started off slowly, rarely even attempting the sustained pitch that once punctuated her best songs. Still, her voice warmed as the evening proceeded, and when, toward the end of the set, she finally appeared wearing her trademark black top hat, the evening's welcome nostalgia trip was complete.

(Photos by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:21 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Concert reviews, Local music

$8 Buds at 1st Mariner Arena

beer prices at 1st mariner arenaIf I'm at a concert (and I'm not reviewing it), I like to have a beer. Maybe two beers. Never any more than that, though.

I roll my eyes at people who get so smashed they can't remember the show. What's the point of going if you're that drunk?

Last night, I saw Fleetwood Mac at 1st Mariner Arena. Side note: So did Sun reporter Chris Kaltenbach, who has a live music review I'll post in a bit. 

At one point, I wanted a cold beer. I was stunned by the prices. If I'm not mistaken (and I've been mistaken a lot, you know), beers cost more at 1st Mariner Arena then they do at Oriole Park at Camden Yards ...

Look at these prices! $8 for a can of Budweiser! Granted, this is a 16 oz. can. But still ...

I was repulsed at first. But I did want to have one light, cold beer while I watched the show. I ended up buying a Stella Artois (for a mere $7), which I nursed for the rest of the evening. It was good, but not $7 good.

Those prices didn't seem to stop people from drinking beer, though. I saw plenty of folks double-fisting Buds on their way back to their seats. 

Yes, I know, it's a stadium, and stadiums can charge what they want for beer. But that doesn't make me any less shocked. I thought Baltimore was supposed to be fairly inexpensive. As far as arenas go, 1st Mariner is sadly outdated. I wish their drink prices were, too.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:17 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

June 10, 2009

Biz Markie: Awesomely bad

biz markieAs promised, I wanted to tell you about Biz Markie's opening set at last night's Beastie Boys concert at Rams Head Live.

In short, it was so bad it was good. 

Biz Markie rolled out onto the stage (when you're as large as he is, you don't walk, you know*) around 8:15 p.m. His mouth hung open the entire time he was on stage.

Maybe he was dumbstruck by the crowd's energy. Or maybe he just needed the oxygen.

Fans of reality TV will remember Markie from his stint on the weight-loss show Celebrity Fit Club. I never saw that season, but I've been told Markie lost a fair amount of weight during his time on the show. I don't know how fat he was before the show, but he's not exactly Mr. Slim these days.

Markie started playing 30-second snippets of songs from the past couple decades. We heard from Bob Marley, Kriss Kross and Suzanne Vega, among others. Between snippets, he would ask, "Ya'll remember that?" He kept saying this over and over.

After a few minutes, Markie had a question for the crowd ...

"Can I play the guitar for y'all?"

Uhh ... yes?

Markie rolled out to the edge of the stage and played air guitar while the bass guitar intro to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" played in the background. It was bizarre.

Finally, near the end of his set, Markie played his hit, "Just a Friend." Or some of it. We got about a minute of Markie singing over the song. Then it was onto another snippet.

I don't know whether technical troubles kept Markie from doing his normal show or if that was his normal show. Some people in the crowd dug it. Others ignored him. I kept giggling at the ridiculousness of it.

Markie redeemed himself later that night with an awesome rendition of "Benny and the Jets" by Elton John. It rocked the house.

*Biz, if you read this, I'm just kidding. We're still buddies, right? (Nervous chuckle.)

(Sun photo by Sarah Kickler Kelber)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:02 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Concert reviews, Local music

Green Cilantro replaces the Whistling Oyster in Fells Point

green cilantroA bar called Green Cilantro has opened where the Whistling Oyster used to be on South Broadway in Fells Point, according to Midnight Sun commenter jmgiordano.

He spotted the redundantly named new bar yesterday afternoon.

I mean, Green Cilantro? Really? 

Isn't that like naming your bar the Orange Carrot? Or are there other kinds of cilantro?

Either way, I'm not too pumped about the name.

(Photo courtesy of Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:48 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Last night's Beastie Boys show at Rams Head Live


The Beastie Boys may be best known for their brand of sharp, stinging hip-hop, but the Brooklyn trio has a surprisingly diverse discography.

Last night's choppy, spontaneous performance at Rams Head Live was a tour through the group's 30-odd years together, from the early hardcore punk to the more recent instrumental funk jams to the inevitable rap hits.

The surprise show, a warm-up for the group's Bonnaroo performance next week, had plenty of rough spots. There were false starts, missed cues and whiffed lines. But all of that came secondary to the fact that one of the biggest rap acts of all time was playing to a club that holds a mere 2,000 people, give or take. Here's a link to some more pictures from the show.

At one point, a guy standing on the first level turned to a gal next to him and said, "Can you believe it? We're, like, 10 rows from the Beastie Boys!" My thoughts exactly.

Mix Master Mike warmed things up for a couple minutes by spinning a few bars of "Misty Mountain Hop" by Led Zeppelin. Then the three Beasties hit the stage, and the 90-minute set officially started with a super smooth rendition of "Root Down."

Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock -- all still scrawny, pale faced and spunky -- wore short-sleeve button-down shirts and rapped into hand-held mikes. Mike D and Ad-Rock were really animated, at times, running through some choreographed dance moves. But MCA looked removed, and at times, disinterested, in the set.

"We are the Beastie Boys from New York City," they announced after a couple songs. Like they needed an introduction.

Four metal stands wrapped in string lights were set up on stage. During the show, the lights flashed intricate, colorful patterns in time with the music.

After about 30 minutes of hits such as "Skills to Pay the Bills," and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," the Beasties launched into a couple punk tunes before grooving out on instrumental jams like "B is For My Name."

When MCA missed his cue on "Ch-Check it Out," Mix Master Mike stopped the song and MCA apologized, drawing boos from the crowd. They started to do the track over again, but stopped it after less than a minute. Whoops!

The Beasties kept the momentum going pretty well over the course of the night by mixing up the funk, punk and hip-hop. A mosh pit formed during punk tracks such as "Tough Guy," and most of the crowd on the lower level was going nuts during the encore of "Intergalactic" and "Sabotage."

Sure, the set had its fits and starts, but all in all, the Beasties put on a dynamic performance. It was definitely a show to remember.

(Photo by Sarah Kickler Kelber)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:47 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Concert reviews, Local music

June 9, 2009

Going to see the Beastie Boys tonight?

rams head live entranceGet there early.

Doors open at 7 p.m., and I'm not sure if there is an opening act.

But it doesn't really matter -- there are going to be something like 1,500 people waiting in the Will Call line.

So get there early. You definitely don't want to miss their set.

(Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:26 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Local music

Zack Morris drops by Fallon's show

This has absolutely nothing to do with nightlife (except that it was on a late night TV show), but I just had to post it. I was never a huge Saved By the Bell fan, and I had no idea Late Night with Jimmy Fallon had mounted a campaign for a Bell reunion. But this guest appearance by Mark Paul Gosselaar -- I mean, Zack Morris -- is hilarious.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:11 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

What's the best neighborhood bar in Canton?

wild mushroomI'd like to kick off a little series where all of us vote for our favorite neighborhood bar, one neighborhood at a time.

I'm not going to get to tiny little neighborhoods like Sharp-Leadenhall, but I'd like to cover the big neighborhoods.

Let's start with Canton.

What, in your humble opinion, is Canton's best neighborhood bar? And what, for that matter, makes a bar a good neighborhood bar?

I think it's a few things ...

First, the place has to have a crew of regulars -- but it can't be exclusive or clicky. Newcomers must feel welcome. It can't be a wild and crazy party zone. MEX in Power Plant Live is not a neighborhood bar.

Coziness is also a factor. Neighborhood bars have to be warm and inviting -- not cold.

A really good neighborhood bar doesn't necessarily have to have good beers on tap, or a big wine or martini list. Heck, I've been in good neighborhood bars that don't have any beers on tap.

So what are your suggestions for Canton's best neighborhood bar?

I'd have to nominate Mahaffey's and the Baltimore Taphouse (which used to be called Growler's).

(I dug up this 15-year-old photo, of the Wild Mushroom, from the Sun archives. Anybody know more about this place?)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:45 AM | | Comments (89)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

My growler

sam's growlerFor years, I've been meaning to post a photo of my growler. I don't know why it's taken me this long, but here it is.

Ain't she a beauty? Heh.

Honestly, I don't care too much what it looks like, as long as it holds beer. 

I picked up this growler a couple years ago at DuClaw Brewing Co. in Fells Point. If I remember corretly, it cost $15.

I had the option of paying an additional $10 to fill it with DuClaw beer, but I'm not a huge fan of DuClaw's stuff. 

This made for a rather awkward moment when I bought the growler ...

DuClaw bartender: So, what do you want to fill it with?

Me: Oh, I'm good, thanks.

DuClaw bartender: It's only $10 to fill it with our beer.

Me: (Laughing nervously) Heh, yes, well, I'm good, thanks. (Snatches growler, beelines for door)

The only downside to this particular growler is that it's hard to fill. Maybe all growlers are hard to fill. I don't know, since I've only had this one. But I've seen bartenders struggle for quite some time to fill my growler. It tends to foam up really quickly -- especially with Resurrection. And I pretty much exclusively fill this baby with Resurrection.

When it's full, I always keep a hand underneath it. I don't trust the tiny little loop near the top to hold all of the jug's weight, and I have this fear of it snapping off and showering the sidewalk with suds and shards of glass.

A number of Baltimore bars will fill your growler. I believe Brewer's Art doesn't mind filling them. Just make sure to go during off hours. I don't think any of the bartenders want to bother with a growler at midnight on a Friday.

I think you'd be surprised at the number of bars willing to fill your growler (even though it is technically illegal). Just ask 'em. I'll bet they're more than happy to.

Mmm. I'm thirsty. Are you thirsty? Oh wait, it's 7 a.m.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:26 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

June 8, 2009

CantonKate's winnings

CantonKateI finally caught up with CantonKate today to give her her winnings.

And by "caught up with" I mean "made her come pick up."

If you remember, Kate posted the 12,000th comment.

As you see, Kate scored a sweet water pistol, as well as a couple CDs and a book. As always it was nice meeting a Midnight Sunner face to face.

At one point, Kate told me she's going to be moving to a new neighborhood in the near future. And what did Sam "sharp-as-nails" Sessa ask?

"Oh, really? Where do you live now?"


Anyhow, Kate said she's probably going to keep posting under the same name so we know it's her.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:19 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

My thoughts on the scalp-proof system at Rams Head

rams head liveSince the booking and sale of tomorrow's surprise Beastie Boys show at Rams Head Live (pictured) generated so much interest/controversy, I thought I'd add my opinion to the pile.

First off, I want to give credit where credit is due: Landing a surprise Beastie Boys show was huge for Rams Head Live.

The Beasties are only playing two of these club shows (the other one is in Asheville, N.C.) before Bonnaroo. It's a score for Rams Head -- the Beasties are one of the biggest groups to have ever played there.

Now, a little criticism: It's obvious the club's Web site was totally unprepared to handle the volume of traffic it received when Beastie Boys tickets went on sale.

I'm sure there are ways to avoid this (Midnight Sun commenter Abject Disaster had a good point about renting space on outside servers to insure smooth ticket buying)

I'm intruiged by the "scalp-proof" ticket system Rams Head Live instituted for this show ...

Here's how it works: Concertgoers could only buy up to two tickets per order. Considering how fast tickets went, it was highly unlikely the same person had time to buy more than two tickets.

Tickets could only be bought online -- not over the phone or at the ticket window.

More importantly, tickets could only be picked up at the will call window the night of the show. At Rams Head, the will call window is inside the club -- and the night of this show, there is no re-entry.

Got all that?

beastie boysIn theory, this makes it pretty close to impossible to scalp tickets. The downside is, if you bought tickets for this show but then something came up and you couldn't go, you couldn't scalp them on Craigslist. You'd have to suck up the cost of the tickets.

The scalp-free policy gives loyal Beastie Boys fans a chance of seeing one of their favorite bands at a reasonable price (tickets were about $40 each). Ticket scalping sites such as StubHub couldn't swoop in, snatch up tons of tickets and re-sell them for three times face value.

Of course, other loyal fans who couldn't get tickets don't have the option of buying a scalped ticket -- even for three times the original face value. And as you can see, more than a few fans are looking for tickets. 

I think this is an interesting little experiment. I have no problem with scalpers (I've bought my share of scalped tickets in the past), but scalping sites like StubHub have gotten out of hand.

Rams Head's scalp-free system seems a little extreme -- especially for the average show. But for special shows like this one, I understand it.

I'm going to the show tomorrow, and I'm interested to see how the ticketing system goes. I'll check back in on this topic Wednesday.

(At top, Sun photo by Christopher T. Assaf. Bottom photo by Getty Images.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:04 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Kansas City's Power & Light District kicks DJ Jazzy Jeff off stage

dj jazzy jeffAcclaimed DJ/producer/performer DJ Jazzy Jeff (pictured) was kicked off stage less than 30 minutes into his Saturday night performance at the Power & Light District in Kansas City due to a dispute over his music.

Jeff said Power & Light management cut his set short because he was playing hip-hop, according to this piece by Jenee Osterheldt of the Kansas City Star.

In the article, Power & Light officials said they pulled the plug on Jeff's set because the volume level threatened to blow out their speakers and Jeff's people refused to turn it down.

Power & Light is owned by the Cordish Company, which also owns Power Plant Live. In the past year or so, Power & Light has caused quite a stir among Kansas City's African-American community, who accuse the entertainment zone of having racist policies.

True or not, this little scandal is only going to make that perception worse ...

This one quote in Osterheldt's piece really made me cringe:

"My road manager walked up to me and said they were having problems with the music I was playing," Jazzy Jeff told me. "I played three more songs and he comes back. I knew something was wrong. They said I had to kick [MC] Skillz off the stage, change the format of the music I was playing or quit. They said if I continued playing they had 30 cops ready to come escort me offstage. So I stopped."

That's insane!

Together, Jeff and Will Smith won the first Grammy award for hip-hop. I can't believe Power & Light officials would book him there and then kick him off stage for playing hip-hop. But I don't buy the volume excuse either. I seriously doubt that Jeff was playing too loud.

Towards the end of Osterheldt's piece, she writers that venue officials (who aren't named) say Jeff's set attracted "the wrong element."

The wrong element, eh?


(Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:34 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

But seriously folks ...

this, dear readers, is a martiniThree word review aside, The Hill (1017 S. Charles St.) is a pretty sweet new South Baltimore spot. 

And for a bar/restaurant that just opened a few weeks ago, it certainly wasn't under the radar. The bar area was full and most of the tables occupied when we went last week. And that was on a Thursday night.

The gals in my group split a bottle of malbec, and the guys each ordered Clipper City Loose Cannon Hop3 drafts, which cost $5 each.

The Hill has a big martini list, and I was tempted to try one. But instead of detailing what each martini was made of, the menu had these ambiguous descriptions.

For example, if I remember correctly, the menu described the Apple Pie Martini as "fresh-baked" ...

A fresh-baked drink? What does that mean?

Does it have chunks of apple and crust floating in it? 

At first, I brushed off this blog post as being nit-picky. But I was actually considering a martini, until I read the drink descriptions. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe that a drink list should, to some extent, list the ingredients of its drinks.

Otherwise, I had no complaints about the place. The food was good (I'll leave food descriptions to Mrs. Large), and the service was decent.

With plenty of wood and brick (but thankfully not too many TVs), The Hill looks like your average American bar/restaurant.

(Sun photo of a random martini by Doug Kapustin)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:57 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 6, 2009

My three word review of The Hill

What would you guys do if I started reviewing bars in three words or less? Let's say I'm talking about the new Federal Hill bar and restaurant The Hill.

"It was great."

I mean, if you stopped me on the street and asked me what I thought about it, that's probably what I'd say. 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:40 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 5, 2009

Happy drinker Rob needs your help

My old pal Rob Kasper (of Kasper on Tap fame) is headed on vacation and would loooove some guest posts from Midnight Sunners. Anybody game? Shoot him an email at
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:26 PM | | Comments (8)

A look at Wednesday's Drive By Truckers & J-Roddy Walston show

drive by truckersBaltimore's nightlife scene is too big for me to cover every corner. Fortunately, my legion of spies has my back. Josh Fink was at Bourbon Street Wednesday night for the free Drive By Truckers and J-Roddy Walston and the Business show sponsored by Jim Beam. Here is his report:

I feared that this new venue my feel hollow, too big, and lacking character, but it was actually a great time. Two separate aspects particularly piqued my interest during the night: a) The venue, and b) The actual show.

The Venue: Not that the place is officially a new force to be reckoned with, but overall, it surpassed my expectations. 

I'd been to the general Bourbon Street facility only once before (Ben Lee a few weeks back), but that show was limited to "The Quarter" section, which is only 1/3 of the total square footage.

For this show however, they had the whole building opened up, which gave us the opportunity to explore the large "Ballroom" venue side, the second floor which has a huge square bar in the middle, a dance floor, and then the railing viewing area to peer down onto the Ballroom stage (somewhat similar to Rams Head, 9:30, 8x10).

There's also a pool table on the front side of the 2nd floor, which seemed out of place considering the venue only holds concerts and heavy dancing/club nights ...

Continuing our exploration, we moved up to the rooftop deck. It's huge, with many areas covered, private VIP cozy areas/lounges, and again a square bar in the middle offering $8 frozen drinks (seems pricey).

I was pretty impressed with the actual facility. For the most part, by its sheer usable space, above average bathrooms for a club (no attendant!), wealth of bars, and bits of the warehouse feel maintained.

On the downside (these are a bit nitpicky), the acoustics are bit awkward due to the brick walls, the steps were all quite slippery and badly needed some of those sandpaper strips, there were very few beers on tap (if any), and a lack of access to the rooftop except while the club is in full effect. Also the roof leaked, causing a few inches of flooding in some (non-show interrupting) areas.

I’m not sure this place will become the Clarendon Ballroom it would love to be, but it’s got a good shot at continuing to build the "Under the JFX" music scene in that area.

And now, the music: The Drive By Truckers (DBT) continue to impress in their live shows. I’m not huge fan -- I only celebrate about 2 albums of the collection. However, they put out some great raw energy, Southern rock/twang style. Add a bunch of bourbon and free entry to that formula and you’ve got yourself a good time.

I honestly think DBT should just contract with Jim Beam to be sponsored all the time. Guitarist Mike Cooley was drank straight from the bottle on stage, puffed on his performer’s cigarette, and let loose a few face-melting solos. One lackluster part of the music was the completely inaudible bassist. "Chick" bassists are hot and she appeared talented, but the instrument was almost  completely muted. 

j-roddy walston and the businessNot to be overlooked, the opener J-Roddy & the Business put on a pretty lively show themselves.

The highlight was the bass player (pictured, bottom right) who clearly knew every lyric as he head banged through the show. If it weren't for his singing, I’d assume he was recently plucked out of the crowd at the recent Metal Fest in town. Love this guy!

I can honestly say it was one of the best frees show I’ve been to, probably ever. Artscape has had it’s great moments, but I'm very partial to indoor venues (with the exception of massive festivals like Virgin Mobile, Bonaroo, etc).

J-Roddy played for at least 45 min, then DBT played for close to two hours I think, closing with Jim Carroll’s "People Who Died." They also brought up local badass Rodney Henry of Dangerously Delicious Pies and the Glenmont Popes fame to play some guitar. I think only a small portion of the crowd recognized who he was, but it gave it that extra kick every show needs.

(Top photo from Getty Images. Bottom photo courtesy of J-Roddy Walston and the Business.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:26 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Local music

Melon beer is here!

melon beerOodelally!

From the looks of it, Pub Dog (20 E. Cross St.) finally has that melon beer I blogged about last year.

Midnight Sunner LGood sent me this photo -- undeniable evidence of melon beer's existence.

Has anybody tried it yet? I'm going to see if I can get some this weekend.

Hopefully it will be hot outside, because melon beer was meant to be sipped in hot weather.

(Photo by LGood)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:12 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 4, 2009

Tonight's 1st Thursday Concert in the Park canceled due to rain

mount vernon placeWTMD's 1st Thursday Concert in the Park, originally scheduled for 5:30 p.m. tonight in Mount Vernon Place, has been canceled due to rain.

"Mother nature hates good music," said Amy Wielunski, membership director for the station.

Philadelphia-based acoustic rockers Good Old War and indie rock group Company of Thieves were scheduled to co-headline tonight's show.

So far this year, there have been no 1st Thursday concerts. The first, scheduled for May 7, was scrubbed due to landscaping concerns.

(Sun archive photo)

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

"Total Eclipse of the Heart:" the literal video version

I cracked up when I watched this video. It's a hilarious description of what's going on in the music video of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," sung to the song's original melody. I can't believe the original video was this bizarre. "Mullet with headlights!" Dig it:
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:01 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Two specials worth noting

ropewalk tavern

I still need to come up with a name for this weekly feature about happy hour and other such specials.

Any suggestions?

At the request of Midnight Sunner Linnea, here are not one but two notable specials. Both, it turns out, are in South Baltimore.

I've been known to suck down the occasional cigar, and when it rains, I head to the Ropewalk Tavern's Smoke Easy Cigar Lounge (1209 S. Charles St.).

I wrote about this third-floor smoking den when it opened a little while back. With the plush leather furniture and all the wood and brick, it's a cozy spot for cigar smoking.

Now, I've got even more reason to go. Every night until 10 p.m., you can get a pint and a cigar for $6. I don't know how good their cigar selection is, but their tap selection is pretty impressive.

Also, single malt scotches are $5, draft pints are $2.50 and Amstel Lights are two-for-one. Nice.

And now, the second special ...

In the past, I've poked fun at Mad River's (1110 S. Charles St.) clientele, but this special is pretty darn good: $1 Rolling Rock and Bud Light drafts from 9 p.m. until close on Thursday nights. 

Granted, most people don't rage it on a Thursday night. But since summertime is near and people are going to start slipping downy ocean on Fridays, perhaps its not such a bad idea to close out Mad River on a Thursday night. Perhaps. If you do, it certainly won't drain your wallet.

(Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:06 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Surprise! A Beastie Boys show at Rams Head next week

beastie.JPGThe folks at Rams Head Live (20 Market Place in Power Plant Live) just dropped a sweet little surprise: Rappers the Beastie Boys will be performing at the club on Tuesday.

Tickets for the show go on sale at 4 p.m. today, and cost $40.

That's not bad, considering that if you go, you get to see a great act in a much more intimate setting than they're used to playing.

There is a two-ticket limit per person, and you can only get tickets online.

Interested? Go here.

I have a feeling this is going to be a really great show ...

The Beasties rocked the Virgin Mobile Festival a couple years ago. It's hard to believe these guys are in their 40s now.

If I remember correctly, they performed a mixtape of their hits from the '80s and '90s as well as some of their newer instrumental funk jams at the festival. But I'll bet we can expect full versions of the older tunes at the Rams Head show, simply because they'll have a longer set.

Be sure to get your tickets at 4 p.m. sharp -- this show is going to sell out quick.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:12 AM | | Comments (40)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

I'll have the margarita. Super-sized, please.

the hubcap margarita at nacho mama'sMetromix has a mouth-watering roundup of six massive drinks from various bars and restaurants around town.

A couple years ago, I tried the bucket cocktail at Howl at the Moon, and remember it tasting like grain alcohol mixed with a pound of sugar. I think I coughed fire (cartoon-style) after a few sips.

I've always wanted to order one of the hubcap margaritas at Nacho Mama's (pictured) on a hot summer day and plop my face in it.

That thought raises the question: Do people ever bob for apples in giant vats of jungle juice? I would. But I'd probably regret when my face melted ...

I like how the Metromix piece breaks the cost down per ounce. At first, I was surprised to see that Ra Sushi's tsunami punch was the cheapest mixed drink by the ounce. But I doubt it has the same amount of liquor as some of the others.

Big drinks like these were made for sharing, of course. But being a shameless, wasteful, overindulgent American (and an example of my spoiled generation, I'm told), I am tempted to order one just for myself and sip on it all night. Probably a bad move, though. Hiccup.

(Photo courtesy of Baltimore Metromix)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:26 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 3, 2009

Revisiting my thoughts on standing up at shows

crowd shotSince posting my uncharacteristically snarky bit about standing up during a slow song at a Billy Joel concert, I've thought a lot about what I wrote and how I feel about standing up at shows.

A lot of you frowned on what I said, and after re-reading it, you're right -- I come off as a jerk.

We paid for those seats, and if we wanted to stand, we were going to stand whenever we wanted. Is that rude? Maybe. But I don't care.

That's a rude exaggeration of how I really feel, and I'm sorry I wrote it like that. What I should have written was this ...

I see both sides to the stand up/sit down argument. We paid for those seats, and if we wanted to stand, we were going to stand whenever we wanted. On the other hand, they paid for their seats, and deserve a clear view of the stage.

Each situation is different, depending on who the act is and what the venue is. But standing up for one slow song and swaying romantically with your date isn't so bad. Waving a big sign and/or standing up through every slow song of the night when everybody around you is seated? That's rude.

So again, I'm sorry for coming off so self-centered. As longtime readers of Midnight Sun know, I'm not a malicious or self-serving person, even though that one paragraph made me sound like it. 

Oh, and if you're wondering about the black and white photo above, it's from the Beatles' show at the Baltimore Civic Center in 1964.


(Photo from Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:44 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Dionne Warwick, Cake, Robin Thicke to headline Artscape

dionne warwickAlt-rockers Cake, R&B diva Dionne Warwick and acclaimed singer/songwriter Robin Thicke will headline this year's Artscape Festival, organizers announced this morning.

The free arts and music festival is scheduled for July 17-19 in the Bolton Hill and Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band, a funk and soul group fronted by a pedal steel guitar prodigy, will also perform at this year's festival. 

The rest of the roster, along with performance times, should be announced later today.

(Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:06 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Local music

Here's a great 4th of July deal

inner harbor fireworksCan you believe we're only a month away from Independence Day?

I haven't thought much about what I'm doing for the holiday. If you haven't either, you should look into this party on the rooftop of the Maryland Science Center (601 Light St.).

It's called 4th of July in the Sky, and features a four-hour open bar, dinner buffet, DJ, dancing, and an awesome view of the Inner Harbor.

As of this morning, advance tickets were $65 a pop. That ain't bad, gang.

You can get your tickets here ...

I've never been up there, but I can only assume that the Science Center would be one of the best places to watch the fireworks. I hear the rooftop only holds about 200 people, so if you're thinking about going, you should probably make a decision one way or another soon. It will probably fill up quick.

The press release the promotions agency sent me said it has a "premium open bar featuring Miller Lite and Bacardi." Heh.

I mean, "premium" isn't the first word that comes to mind when I think of those two brands. But whatever, it's still a good deal.

(Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:35 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

One of my favorite musician quotes

robbie williamsBy way of popdirt:

Robbie Williams (pictured) says he's still embarrassed about a drugged-out chat he had with U2 frontman Bono a while back.

"I was at this party and completely and totally off my face -- mushrooms, Ecstasy ... And I was staring at this painting for ages," Williams tells Stuff magazine.

"I was just mesmerized by it. And Bono comes up and asks, 'Robbie, what are you doing?' And I said, 'Bono, man, this [bleeping] painting is incredible.'

And he went, 'Robbie, that’s the window.'"

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:29 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

June 2, 2009

What are some great Ocean City bars?

seacretsIt's hot and heavy out, and I'm hoping to get downy ocean here soon.

I only get to Ocean City once a year -- sometimes even less than that. And every year, I wonder what bars I should be hitting up.

I went to Seacrets. Once.

After a few drinks, I got lost inside the sprawling, sandy party zone and spent a good chunk of the night trying to find my friends.

I did run into a dude wearing a T-shirt with the words "Suck it" on it, with an arrow pointing to his crotch. Tactful.

I've also stopped by the Purple Moose Saloon, which was a little worn around the edges, but still fun ...

And I've hung out at the Greene Turtle, another classic OC party spot.

But I wanna know: Where are the non-touristy (or just plain cool) OC bars? I know they exist. Where are they?

I need names, people, and quick -- my coworker Jill wants to do an article on OC nightlife. She's headed down there this weekend for just that very reason.

Rehobeth, Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach count too.

So fill us in.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:09 PM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Recapping the Bacon and Beer Happy Hour at Bad Decisions

barcrowdMuch to my chagrin, I couldn't make it to the fourth Bacon and Beer Happy Hour last night at Bad Decisions. Midnight Sun spy Evan was there, though. I salivated at the thought of eating beer and bacon all night. But by the time I got to the end of Evan's recap, I was kind of nauseous. Enjoy:

The Bacon and Beer Happy Hour IV has come and gone and it was a pretty great time indeed. For a bar that has essentially made a name for itself solely through Tweeting frequently, Bad Decisions has really done a fine job of generating a ton of interest in their events and establishment in general, this particular event especially.

The place was packed by 7 p.m. and it was still packed when I left, having a grande olde time eating entirely too much bacon and drinking cheap beer.

And when I say entirely too much bacon, I mean entirely too much bacon; instead of pretzels in baskets, they put out baskets of bacon as snacks ...

Each and every menu item had bacon in it (a lot of bacon). I played it safe with a grilled cheese and bacon but other sandwiches, such as the GBLT (a BLT with Guacamole) were piled enormously high with the smokey goodness.

the gutbusterAnd no evening featuring all things bacon would be complete without a star, a bright shining star that eclipses all other food items, a truly epic piece of food destined to destroy us all in a white hot supernova.

That food item is known as The Gutbuster (pictured), and it is truly horrifying. The Gutbuster is a double bacon cheeseburger with -- are you ready for this -- two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches as a bun (no lettuce or tomato, that stuff's for wimps).


This thing was like a Hollywood star on the red carpet when it came out of the kitchen: Pictures being shot left and right, ooohs and aaahs and gags all around.

Upon taking his first bite, one guy stated "it's like I've been slimed!" as grease and butter covered his chin. But he ate the whole thing, and then ate a plate of nachos. Unreal. (I also submitted it to This Is Why You're Fat)

People were met, beer and bacon vodka were consumed, it was great. Can't wait for the next one!

(Photo of the crowd and the Gutbuster by Evan)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:23 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Is Tommy Tucker brilliant or bad? You decide.

tommy tuckerThere's no in between with Baltimore singer/songwriter Tommy Tucker.

You'll love him, or you'll hate him.

Go here and listen to "Keep Good Time."

I love it. The beat smokes and his wailing falsetto makes me giggle. It sounds like he's singing in a bathroom.

Hee hee.

You know what this song needs? A sweet music video. Tommy, if you happen upon this blog, get on that, please.

I first came across Tommy's stuff about a year ago, and played a song or two on Baltimore Unsigned ...

Tommy kind of fell off the map for a while, until resurfacing with a sick cover of "Sign of the Judgement" on The Old Lonesome Sound, a wonderful compilation of traditional tribute songs put together by Splice Today magazine.
"Keep Good Time" is off Tommy's new album, which should see the light of day in the near future, I hear.
(Photo courtesy of Tommy Tucker's MySpace site)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:52 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

The Merriweather chicken statue

merriweather chickenHere's a look at that chicken I was telling you about. It's about 15 feet tall and weighs 7,500 lbs.

It's called the Great Key West Chicken, and was made by Maryland artist Derek Arnold. 

This is one chicken you don't wanna mess with.

What does it have to do with music? Not much, really. But it certainly helps spruce up Merriweather. 

I got a peak at Merriweather's new Music Pinball Hall of Fame yesterday, which is also pretty cool ...

There are nine machines, and each one only costs a quarter to play. A quarter! It's been a while since I hit up an arcade, but I vaguely remember some pinball machines charging $1 per play.

They're vintage-looking machines, too -- Dolly Parton, Elvis, Guns 'N' Roses and the like. I didn't get the chance to play one (all the other journalists and politicos were hogging the machines when I was there) but I'm sure I will the next time I'm at the amphitheater.

I also hope those pinball machines have got spill-guards. Beer + pinball can make for a messy time.

(Sun photo by Amy Davis) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:46 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music, Random stuff

Organizers: Yes, there will still be a Virgin Mobile Festival

Despite the fact that it's June and we've heard no announcements about this year's Virgin Mobile Festival, organizers are assuring me that it's still on.

Here's proof, they say.

I'm still a little skeptical.

I wonder how good it could be, considering how late in the season it is to announce a summer festival. We shall see.

Yesterday, at a press conference about Merriweather Post Pavilion's recent renovations, promoter Seth Hurwitz declined to comment about the festival's potential move to Merriweather ...

Hurwitz said when he has an announcement, he'll make it, and sit tight until then. 

Also, I'd like to note that it's 6:30 a.m. -- a terrible hour for a nightlife blogger to be awake.

(Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:35 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Virgin Mobile Festival

June 1, 2009

Wanna buy a bar?

Looks like Rayzer's is for sale. At least, I think that's Razyer's. Wonder how much they want for it? Hey Jason Zink, how about it?
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:12 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Speaking of moonshine ...

moonshiningRead Street Dave's timely, tasty comment about drinking moonshine got me thinking about the backyard brew I scored in college. I think it may have saved my life. Or almost killed me. I'm still not sure.

My freshman year, I went to the Sunshine Daydream Festival in Terra Alta, West Virginia.

Ever been up that way? It's good country. But I was totally unprepared. I brought one blanket and one change of clothes. It snowed.

I vividly remember huddling around a fire at 4:30 a.m. in the mountains as snow fell, afraid I might freeze if I fell asleep.

Someone was selling Mason jars full of fruit-flavored moonshine, and my buddy bought a whole bunch of it and passed it around. Each jar had little chunks of fruit floating near the top.

We could tell it was good stuff because even though it was freezing outside, none of the moonshine froze. That was probably the only good thing about it ...

You know how in those old Western movies, they call liquor "fire water?" After my first sip of Appalachian moonshine, I knew why. To this day, I think those jars of moonshine are the reason I have such a hairy chest.

Each jar had different fruit in it. I got one with strawberries and blueberries and another with peaches. It didn't really matter, though -- the liquor was so strong, it brass knuckled the fruit. I remember popping a blueberry in my mouth and biting down on it. It was like I'd swallowed a hand grenade.

Boom in my belly!

So how did this stuff save my life? It kept me feeling warm on a cold, cold night. I think this is actually incredibly bad for you, and can actually increase your chances of hypothermia. So I definitely don't recommend it. 

But I will never forget my frigid weekend in the mountains, sipping moonshine and praying for the snow to stop. 

(Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:34 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Random stuff

Homemade "Appalachian" limoncello at Taverna Corvino

taverna corvinoI like limoncello. A lot.

So when I saw that the new Taverna Corvino (1117 S. Charles St.) has its own house-made limoncello, I was eager to try it. But first, I wanted to see if it was any good.

I pulled our server aside and asked him what he thought of the limoncello. He hesitated. My hopes fell.

Whenever a server hesitates, I expect the worst. If a server doesn't like the stuff, chances are, I'm probably not going to like it. I mean, servers get to sample it for free, and as we all know, free makes everything better. Our server got free limoncello and still hesitated. Uh oh.

"It's better than it used to be," he said.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I pressed him for an explanation.

If you haven't had much limoncello, you'd probably think Taverna's stuff was OK, he said. If you've had really good limoncello, you're not going to like it.

As it turns out, I've had some really good limoncello ...

A couple years ago, I was in Italy visiting relatives and doing the tourist thing. A friend of my family there makes his own limoncello, and I had a few shots. It was amazing.

And about a year ago, an acquaintance introduced me to cream limoncello, which, served chilled, is divine on a hot summer day.

I told our server that I'd tried some really good limoncello in Italy. 

"If you've had real Italian limoncello," he said, "this is more like Appalachian limoncello."


We passed on the limoncello, and opted to stick with ice cold Peroni drafts all night. Taverna is one of the few places in town with the light Italian beer on tap. It was deeelicious. 

The Gin Mill is the only other place I can remember where I saw Peroni on tap, and it was warm, flat and all-around disappointing. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it at Taverna.

Hopefully, Taverna's limoncello will continue to get better. Maybe I'll see how it's shaping up the next time I'm there.

(Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:20 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The way to find Baltimore's best happy hours

A few days back, Midnight Sunner Linnea sent me this e-mail:

Can you do a blog about good happy hour spots around town? Every Friday after work I try (usually in vain) to find a bar with good happy hour specials. This could even bee a running feature in the blog because different people want different happy hour experiences. For instance happy hours with 20–somethings, 30-somethings... , happy hours with live music, happy hours with excellent food specials, happy hours with drink specials, by city /county neighborhood.  I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the idea.  So help all us repressed cubicle-dwellers let loose after work.

Linnea, I would love to do a feature like this. But I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass the buck on this one ...

Since happy hour specials change so often, it takes a ton of phone calling every week just to keep up on this kind of stuff. And there are already a bunch of Web sites that keep track of Baltimore happy hours.

Check out Localist, Metromix, Baltimore Specials, and 600Block.

Although, as I'm typing this, I'm starting to reconsider. What if, every week, I featured one happy hour? Is there enough interest in that? Or would that be a waste of my time, considering all of the other happy hour/event Web sites? Thoughts?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:05 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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