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July 31, 2009

Is Club Orpheus closing soon?

club orpheusDoes anybody know what, exactly, is going on at Club Orpheus (pictured) these days?

The scruffy little club on the outskirts of Little Italy has been hosting goth parties for years.

But as of mid-August, two of the club's biggest events won't be there anymore.

Rapture, the alt-electro night, moved to the Depot back in May, according to Bmore Electro. And Ascension is ending Aug. 7.

I posed this same question about a year and a half ago, and an organizer of Ascension assured me that the club was still open.

I'm not so sure about it this time.

Can somebody fill me in?

Thanks to Patrick for the link. And if someone from Bmore Electro happens to read this post, please give me credit if and when you use my photos. Crappy as they are, they are still my photos.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:02 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Reserve looks great

The ReserveIf you ever went to Charlotte's or The Royal, you'd barely recognize the space now.

The new owners of The Reserve have made a ton of improvements to the building at 1542 Light St. -- inside and out.

They opened up the bricked-in windows, added a new sign (pictured) out front, and built a wood facade on the front of the corner building.

But the most striking renovations happened inside. From the looks of it, everything except the floor, rafters and a couple walls is new.

There are two cement-topped bars inside The Reserve -- one long one as you walk in, and another at the back of the building ...

The taps at the main bar are built into the stone wall. 13.5%, the new wine bar in Hampden, has a similar stone wall, and I wonder if that's the new trend in bar interiors. It's a tasteful nod to the Formstone you (still) see on so many of the nearby rowhouses.

Last night, when my buddy CJ and I went, we ordered one of the specials -- a pitcher of Yuengling for $10. Since you get four beers in a pitcher, give or take, that's $2.50 for a draft Yuengling. Not bad.

The service wasn't bad, either -- there were a bunch of bartenders on duty, and they were pretty attentive. 

The one aspect of the decor I didn't like was the floor plan. There is a raised platform by the front bar -- a carryover from the Charlotte's days, I believe -- and if you aren't careful, you will trip on it. There are only a couple pillars at the corners to mark the platform, which is a few inches higher than the floor around it. If people haven't tripped and eaten floor just yet, I'm sure they will.

Back when I first blogged about The Reserve, co-owner Andrew Dunlap said even though the building has a live entertainment license, they weren't going to go crazy with it. Live music has long been a contention with the building's neighbors.

While there wasn't any live music last night, the addition of a DJ booth makes me wonder if they're going to do the Stalking Horse/Nobles thing and hold mini-dance parties on Friday and Saturday nights.

All in all, I'm really impressed with the turnaround. Dunlap and the other owners did a thorough rehab, and I think The Reserve is going to fare much better than Charlotte's.

(Photo by sobojosie)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:57 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Concert review: Green Day at the Verizon Center in Washington

green dayRing Posts blogger Kevin Eck was at Green Day's show at the Verizon Center. Take it away, Kevin:

Green Day violated one of the basic rules of the entertainment business with their show at Verizon Center Wednesday night: They didn’t leave the audience wanting more.

Then again, Green Day are rebels at heart, so conventional rules be damned.

The Grammy Award-winning trio held nothing back. They put on an amazing performance, not only with their musicianship, but also with their nonstop energy and ability to keep the audience on its feet, pumping its fists and singing along for over two and a half hours. Green Day played 28 songs.

With tickets priced at just $49.50, a Green Day concert has to be one of the best bargains on the live music scene as far as big-name bands.

Green Day, which first made an impact in the mid-90s as a punk band with catchy riffs and a sense of humor that celebrated the slacker mentality, has pulled off a difficult balancing act. Over the years, they’ve evolved into a more socially conscious band with a political statement, but they haven’t forgotten that, above all, rock and roll shows are supposed to be fun.

And even though they are now a huge arena act – Verizon Center was nearly filled to capacity – Green Day has not put a barrier, either physical or unspoken, between themselves and the audience. Despite playing on a big stage with a high-tech video screen and pyrotechnics that would make Kiss proud, the concert Wednesday night still had the charm of a club show, complete with fans stage diving and crowd surfing.

green dayAt one point, front man Billie Joe Armstrong left the stage and made his way about 15 rows into my section on the lower concourse, playing his guitar the entire time. Not only did he come to the audience, but he also brought some audience members to him.

In what has become a staple of Green Day shows, Armstrong plucked four fans out of the crowd at various times to join him on stage. Two young men took a turn singing lead on “Longview,” and another played guitar on “Jesus of Suburbia.” They all did a heck of a job, by the way.

Also, a girl named Ellie who looked to be about 7 or 8, was “saved” by Armstrong during his parody of a Southern-style televangelist in the middle of “East Jesus Nowhere.” With his hand on her forehead, he looked into her eyes and sang: “A fire burns today of blasphemy and genocide / The sirens of decay will infiltrate Ellie.” As he said her name, she suddenly dropped to the stage the way someone overcome by the Holy Spirit at a revival meeting would.

Half of the set list consisted of songs from Green Day’s past two albums, American Idiot (2004) and 21st Century Breakdown (2009). The other half included old-school Green Day songs such as the aforementioned “Longview,” “Welcome to Paradise,” “Basket Case,” “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” “Brain Stew” and “Minority.” They also covered the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.”

By the time Green Day left the stage and the lights came on, the audience was spent (at least I was), even if Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool seemed willing and able to play all night.

In retrospect, I want to retract my original statement about Green Day not leaving the audience wanting more. Just like good sex, no matter how much satisfaction you get from a Green Day concert on a given night, you’d definitely come back the next night and do it all over again if you had the opportunity.

(Photos by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Concert reviews

July 30, 2009

Moonlight bike ride tonight

Check this out: Tonight, there is a 20-mile bicycle tour of Baltimore. Cyclists can gather at 8 p.m. at the corner of Mulberry and Cathedral streets. The ride starts at 8:30 p.m. More info here.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:14 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Thievery Corporation to open for Paul McCartney at Fedex Field Saturday

paul mccartneyWashington-based electronic duo Thievery Corporation will open for Paul McCartney at FedEx Field Saturday, organizers announced today.

"We're excited and honored to open for Paul McCartney in our hometown of Washington, D.C.," Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza said in a statement. "Having a chance to play to his audience is unique for us and we're really looking forward to it."

"Unique" is one way to put it. I wonder how the baby boomers are going to react to Thievery Corporation's music. I must admit -- at first, I was puzzled by the announcement.

On second thought, it does make sense: McCartney has been making experimental electronic music under his alter ego, The Fireman, since the early '90s. And according to a New York Times review, he's been performing some of The Fireman's material this tour.

I wonder if he'll join Thievery Corporation on stage, or vice versa.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:37 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Local music

Two-for-one tickets at Rams Head Live

blue octoberHow's this for a recession special: From midnight tonight until 11:59 p.m. tomorrow, you will get two tickets for the price of one to all the August shows at Rams Head Live.

The folks at Rams Head are calling the promotion their Stay-cation Sale, and I don't know if there's been a deal that's quite like this at a Baltimore club since I've been covering local entertainment.

The special is only good for online orders (and, of course, while supplies last). According to promoter Mark Mangold, 50 pairs of tickets per show are being made available through the show ...

"People who aren't going to the beach this summer, we want to remind them that there are things to do in town," Mangold said. "You can go to the club and see a show.

"Hopefully, not too many of them take advantage of it," he added, with a laugh.

Here's a brief list of some of the August performers: Tracy Chapman, Caleb Stine, KC and the Sunshine Band, Blue October (pictured), The Black Crowes, etc.

Here's a link with more info.

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:56 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Boy was I wrong about that Gummy Bacon

sam eating gummy baconOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!

That's the sound of me devouring a long, rubbery piece of gummy bacon.

Turns out, I read the packaging wrong. It's not strawberry gum shaped like bacon -- it's gummy bacon, as in, gummy bears.

For what it was, gummy bacon wasn't half bad.

But I was kind of disappointed to find out it was gummy -- not gum.

Oh well. 

I've got three strips left. Anybody want one?

(Photo by me)

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

Suite 18 replaces Gordon's Nightclub

suite 18 baltimoreA new club called Suite 18 has replaced Gordon's Nightclub (1818 Maryland Ave.).

I wish I could tell you more about Suite 18, but I haven't been able to get a hold of the new owners (or the owner of Gordon's).

I've left phone messages and sent e-mails, but gotten no responses. So if you know anything about Suite 18, fill me in. 

Years ago, this spot used to be home to a live music club called The Rev.

In fact, local indie rockers the Oranges Band wrote a song about it in the song "Gordon's Nightclub." That's on their latest album, Are Invisible.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:04 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray -- a surprisingly awesome interview

mark mcgrathI must admit -- at first, I was a little leery of interviewing Mark McGrath, the lead singer and front man of Sugar Ray.

You remember Sugar Ray, right? With hits like "Fly," "Every Morning" and "Someday," they were huge in the '90s. Even though they just released a new album, these days, people look at them as has-beens and lightweights.

But McGrath is actually a hard core music nerd. He's really unpretentious and modest about the band's success. Here's a link to the centerpiece I did on them, which ran in today's paper.

McGrath talked really, really fast and gave me so many good quotes, I couldn't use them all in the piece. Here are some of the passages I didn't use in the article ...

One time in the '90s, McGrath made an appearance on one of those MTV Spring Break-esque programs. The host of the show brought up a hypnotist, who had hypnotized a girl to say "yes" to anything McGrath asked. But instead of going for the obvious questions about something sexual, McGrath asked the girl the name of the '70s prog rock band fronted by John Anderson.

The answer, of course, was "Yes."

"I ruined the whole thing," McGrath said. "They thought I'd just come in with some ham-fisted sex question. I just remember that [host] went circling the drain when I said that."

McGrath on his music philosophies:

"Music is seven notes. If you waste your time in genres of music or make it lifestyle for yourself, you're going to miss out on a lot of music. When I was in high school all I listened to was the Sex Pistols, Clash and the Damned. You could not speak to me about anything else. I didn't care, I didn't want to hear it. And then life events happened to me. When a girl broke my heart, all the sudden Air Supply songs start sounding good. You're crying along to "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All," and you're like, 'This is good.' The biggest crime for me in music is to limit yourself to certain genres."

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:41 AM | | Comments (47)
Categories: Random stuff

Bacon ... gum?

gummy baconWhen it comes to all things bacon, I'm like that dog in those Beggin Strips commercials.

Well, maybe I should say most things bacon.

So when Former Roommate Patchen brought me a box of Uncle Oinker's Gummy Bacon, I was beside myself.

Bacon gum? I'm kind of morbidly fascinated with it.

Thankfully, this gum doesn't try to taste like bacon -- at least, according to the box, it's strawberry-flavored. I haven't tried it yet (because I'm milking it for two blog entries). 

There are four "slices" of the stuff in the box. It certainly ain't sugar free, either. Each slice has more than 50 calories. But, if Uncle Oinker eats it, so will I ...

I love the panel on the back, which has "Safe Handling Instructions:

"Keep in cool, dry place away from sunlight, high temperatures & humidity (and don't feed after midnight). Do not attempt to fry or microwave!"

I love how the box has to tell you not to microwave it. Frying strawberry-flavored, bacon-shaped gum would definitely be the worst part of waking up. Where was it made? I'll give you one guess. Have you guessed it yet? China, of course.

I'm gonna try this stuff today. Wish me luck.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

July 29, 2009

Sipping Chatham Artillery Punch

Here's a guest post from Garden Variety blogger Susan Reimer: 

My friend and colleague Sam Sessa, the genius behind this blog, was kind enough to write a guest post for me on Garden Variety during my vacation. Imagine Sam writing about petunias, and you will understand his sacrifice.

In return, I am offering Sam this post, garnered from my recent vacation in the South.

My husband and I made a day trip to Savannah, Ga., -- think Midnight in the Garden of Paula Deen and Kevin Spacey -- and visited a wonderful restaurant on the river called, well, The River House.

Among the libations served was something called Chatham Artillery Punch, which was served to the troops during a visit by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. ...

No one is certain how the heady punch originated, but Chatham Artillery members believe that the gentle ladies of Georgia made the first beverage. Then, one by one, officers of the Artillery sneaked in and added this and that, creating Savannah's most famous drink for two centuries.

Here's the recipe. Invite LOTS of friends because it makes 100 6-ounce servings, before the addition of the case of champagne.

1 1/2 gallons catawba wine
1/2 gallon run
1 quart gin
1 quart brandy
1/2 pint Benedictine
2 quarts Maraschino cherries
1 1/2 quarts rye whiskey
1 1/2 gallons strong tea
2 1/2 pounds brown sugar
1 1/2 quarts orange juice
1 1/2 quarts lemon juice

Mix 36 to 48 hours before serving. Add one case of champagne when ready to serve.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:28 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Concert review: Neko Case at Rams Head Live last night

neko caseMidnight Sun correspondent Tim Swift (of Swift Picks fame) was at Neko Case's concert last night at Rams Head Live. Here is his report:

Full disclosure: I wouldn't call this a review, per se -- I was mostly busy fumbling and failing with a camera (see above). But here are a few musings from the concert.
Alt-country songtress Neko Case may have been complaining of a toothache last night, but for all the initial banter and mock bellyaching on stage, it sure didn't affect her chilled-out performance at Rams Head Live ...

Presumably because of the toothache, she decided to delegate most of the talking to band mate Kelly Hogan. But Case apparently couldn't help herself and quickly got chatty between songs.

Topics for up discussion: Whether the shrieks from the crowd were a rouge cockatiel or a someone getting a Brazilian, and how the band once slept in van in Fells Point. (The bitter, cynical part of me assumes that anecdote will be reused on the next stop, and Fells Point will be transformed into, say, Adams Morgan).

Sounding crisp and confident, Case doled out a heavy helping of songs from her new album, Middle Cyclone. Normally, I would have preferred more variety, but considering how good Cyclone is, it was a smart move. Case was able to be fresh and please the crowd at the same time, a feat other pop stars would envy.
The show was certainly sleepy and relaxed. You could hear the bartenders commenting about how quiet it was, and several people in the crowd awkwardly tried to dance, but they quickly thought better of it. Yet, as Case delivered lyrics like "don't let this fading summer pass you by," you knew it was just the right vibe for a steamy weeknight.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Tim Swift)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:49 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Concert reviews

And the winner is ...

EKK, who correctly identified our Mystery Bar as the Frisco Grille and Cantina in Columbia. It took EKK a whopping three minutes to guess it, too. I've stopped being surprised at how intensely accurate Midnight Sun commenters are. Congrats, EKK. E-mail me at and we'll coordinate your prize package pickup (ppp).
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Name That Bar

So I mailed the first batch of Midnight Sun magnets ...

wait a minute mr. postman... All 50-some of them.

Each one of them came with a hand-written Post-It note in an official Baltimore Sun envelope. As you can imagine, this process took several hours.

And my handwriting degenerated into a nearly un-readable scrawl by the end of the stack. Sorry, last few letter-getters.

Now comes the cool part: I want you to put your Midnight Sun magnet somewhere funny, and take a picture of it. You don't have to leave it there permanently -- just long enough to snap a photo.

Then, e-mail me the photo ( I'll go through them all, and the funniest one wins a Midnight Sun Prize Pack ...

So if you sent me a magnet request, give it a few days, and keep an eye out for a small white envelope with the Baltimore Sun logo on it. You won't be disappointed.

For some reason, if you e-mailed me and don't get a magnet in a week or less, e-mail me again and I'll send you another one. 

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:02 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

July 28, 2009

Name That Bar, vol. 10


You know the rules: First person to guess the identity of the mystery bar wins a prize. Everybody gets one guess.


(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:46 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Name That Bar

Still waiting on that Frank Zappa statue

frank zappa statueIt's been more than a year since the city accepted a statue of eccentric composer and Baltimore native Frank Zappa, and city officials are still not sure exactly where to put it.

The statue, valued at roughly $50,000, was a gift from a Lithuanian Zappa fan club. And officials are looking to place it in Fells Point.

Fells Point community groups approved a location at Fleet Street and South Broadway, according to Tracy Baskerville, director of communications for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. But the location is being reconsidered, she said.

"We're looking for a place where people will congregate," said Baskerville.

It could be another few months before the statue finds a permanent home in Fells Point, Baskerville said.

(Pictured is a Zappa statue in Lithuania, similiar to the Baltimore statue. AP photo.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:28 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff

Tipsy Tuesday: You know you're a bad bartender when ...

bartender%20goofy%20too.jpgThis week, Owl Meat Gravy tackles one of the saddest (but truest) parts of Baltimore's nightlife scene: the service. I'm actually not surprised that most of these examples are based on real life experiences. Take it away, OMG:

How do you know if you're a bad bartender? Here are 19 examples I have observed:

1. You pick fruit flies out of a drink and then serve it. Extra points if you use your fingers.

2. You hate making frozen drinks, so you put a fork in the blender and destroy it.

3. You badger me to help you study for your biology test. More drinks, fewer flash cards.

4. You ask a customer if he wants to do a shot with you and then charge him for both drinks.

5. You whine about your problems. Hey, I had a tough day; I don't care that your girlfriend did a guy behind the Royal Farms in Highlandtown.

6. When someone asks for a Makers Mark neat you say, "Do you mean straight up?" Extra points for, "What?" ...

7. You knock off shots of Grand Marnier by ducking down behind the bar.

8. They get an Island Oasis machine for frozen drinks. You can't destroy it, because they will bring replacement parts. Your solution? 86 all frozen drinks on the computer for months.

9. You go out for a "smoke" break, come back, and sit down at the bar because you forgot you were working. 

10. You show up for your shift wasted and get sent home. You pass out for a few hours, notice you are dressed for work, and go back. You get sent home again and your new nickname is Bobby Two-Times.

12. You don't care how to make a Singapore Sling, Zombie, Flaming Moe, or Tickle Me Elmo, so you use the same recipe: vodka, pineapple juice and grenadine with a cherry and an orange slice. Your motto is, "Throw some stuff in a glass and make it red."

12. You buy girls shots and tell them it's called a Man Gravy ... after they chug. 

13. You drink so much Sambuca Romana that you have to replace it with a cheap knockoff from the liquor store ... which you drink too.

14. You kill flies around the bar with a fly swatter while people are eating.

15. You think that nobody will notice how drunk you are, because you drink peppermint schnapps.

16. Your friends' tab is five dollars and their credit card slip has a twenty dollar tip. Duh.

17. You try to take a nap on the beer cooler behind the bar. 

18. You serve cocktails on the rocks in a snifter because it's "classy".  

19. You're drunker than your customers.

Some of these are good or bad depending upon whether you are the customer or the owner. Why would I hang in such dysfunctional places? Other people's dysfunction is fun. Plus, you get great stories to put in a bar blog later.
I have to add that none of these examples were observed in places that I currently frequent and almost all of the bartenders have moved on to other careers. All the bartenders I know now are the most excellent people who ever walked the Earth.

(Photos by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:38 AM | | Comments (38)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Hampden's new wine bar, 13.5%, is a hit

13.5% wine bar baltimore"Whoa."

I can't remember if I thought it or said it out loud when I first saw 13.5% (pictured). But that was my reaction.

If you walk along The Avenue, Baltimore's newest wine bar jumps right out at you. There's nothing else quite like it in Hampden. In fact, it feels almost out of place with the rest of the neighborhood -- in a good way.

13.5% is named, I'm told, after the ideal alcohol content in a bottle of wine. It's a mouthful of a name.

Inside, 13.5% is comfortably stylish and thankfully unpretentious. Call it '60s chic. I liked the hardwood floors, stone walls and low-hanging decorative metal lamps.

And based on the scene last Friday night, 13.5% already has a broad appeal. How many times do you see hipsters art, students, young professionals and well-to-do 40- and 50-somethings in the same place at the same time?

At 8 p.m., there was a wait for tables and the bar was almost full. Amie and I grabbed two of the funky, hard plastic barstools, and scanned through the menu.

The wine list, which I'm sure will rotate on a fairly regular basis, was pretty long: 15 whites by the glass, four sparkling whites, two roses, 16 glass reds and one "sweet red." Glasses were listed by price, not name, and ranged from $5 to $22. A $5 glass of wine at a trendy new wine bar? Imagine that.

If you'd rather order a bottle of wine, you can pick one from the huge rack on one of 13.5%'s walls. The bottles are listed with an $8 corkage fee, but you can take them home if you want to -- you just subtract $8 from the price tag.

13.5% also has a short but impressive draft beer list: Clipper City Gold ($4.50), Stone IPA ($6), Clay Pipe Hop-Ocalypse IPA ($7), Mama's Little Yella Pils ($8) and Saison Dupont ($10). The beer list is rounded out by 22 bottled beers. It's good to know 13.5% has something for suds lovers too.

But Amie and I didn't come to 13.5% to drink beer. Or eat food, for that matter. She ordered a surprisingly smooth Bodegas Arrocal ($11), and I got a spicier Nomade malbec ($10).

We were also surprised at the pleasant, professional bartender. Hampden isn't exactly known for its stellar service, which made our trip to 13.5% all the more enjoyable.

I'm leery of making predictions in such a downtrodden economy, but based on our night there, I'd say in time, 13.5% could become a neighborhood staple. It's certainly off to a promising start.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 27, 2009

Photos of the John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan show

willie nelsonI wasn't able to get to Aberdeen for the John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan show, but Sun photographer Chris Alliey was.

Here's a link to some of his photos from the show.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Concert reviews

A look at The Reserve

The ReserveHere's a photo of The Reserve (now with a fancy sign!) on Light Street in South Baltimore, courtesy of Midnight Sun Twitter follower sobojosie.

Thanks, sobojosie!

Did anybody get to The Reserve this weekend for the soft opening? How was it?

I wanted to, but couldn't just yet. But I'll probably be heading there this week.

Amie and I went to 13.5%, the new wine bar in Hampden, on Friday night. More on that later today.

Personally, I hope The Reserve prospers. It would do wonders for that stretch of Light Street ...

It's a shame The Bicycle closed, but The Rowhouse is supposed to open in the near future. If the economy picks up and the landlords ever finish rehabbing that place on the corner of Light Street and Fort Avenue, it would be huge for the neighborhood.

The Reserve. The Rowhouse. The Bicycle. What's with all the "The" bar/restaurant names? I Don't Know. Must be some kind of mini-trend.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:56 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

I love New Bar Smell

You know what I'm talking about: sawdust, fresh paint and polyurethane. I read a piece in Esquire that said the new car smell is a cocktail of various vapors from the new vinyl and carpeting. New Bar Smell is probably the same thing ...

It's the smell of optimism -- of hope that the place will prosper. After a few months of spilled beer, vomit, and depending on the place, urine, New Bar Smell becomes Average Bar Smell. But if you've been in a handful of brand new or recently rehabbed watering holes, you never forget that smell.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:50 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 25, 2009

Definitely check out the Hamilton Street Festival today

The folks up in Hamilton-Lauraville have put together a really sweet little free festival, which runs from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. today. Tons of great local bands are playing, and I hear there will be classic cars and plenty of vendors. For more info and the schedule for both(!) live music stages, go here.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:37 AM | | Comments (1)

Oh snap -- the Midnight Sun magnets are in!

midnight sun magnetsWho's got a spot on their fridge for a lovely little Midnight Sun magnet?

I know you do.

A box of super sweet Midnight Sun magnets landed on my desk today, compliments of the Baltimore Sun marketing department and our crew of community coordinators.

I don't have an exact figure, but there are a ton of these things in this box. I can't count them all. There are just too many.

That's why, if you e-mail me ( your home address, I'll mail you one ASAP. Because, I mean, everybody could use a little Midnight Sun in their kitchen.

I'm going to carry some in my pockets and hand-deliver them to bars around town ...

In fact, all of the Baltimore Sun bloggers got magnets featuring their logos. As you see, I'm trying to collect the whole set.

I'm also trying to get everybody to pitch in to rent a helicopter, hover over Light Street and drop them on unsuspecting commuters during rush hour.

baltimore sun magnetsHow awesome would it be if the sky rained Baltimore Sun magnets, which stuck to all the cars and trucks? I don't have to answer this question, but I will anyway: It would be pretty awesome.

(Photos by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Random stuff

July 24, 2009

A quick interview with Jason Mraz

jason mrazIt just keep getting better for singer/songwriter Jason Mraz.

Each of his three albums has charted higher and sold more copies than the one before it. "I'm Yours," the first single from his latest album, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, is still on the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- 66 weeks after its release.

Only one song has spent more time on the chart: "How Do I Live" by LeAnn Rimes, which stayed on the chart for 69 weeks.

Earlier today, I checked in with Mraz, who performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion tomorrow.

Congrats on this Billboard 100 thing, Jason. You're four weeks away from toppling LeAnn Rimes. That's gotta be big.

Yeah, I understand that that is happening. It's very exciting. I can't believe the world has taken to that song the way they have. I'm really, really stoked.

You think she'll call you and congratulate you if you break her record?

Jewel did. So maybe LeAnn will. Jewel was last week -- I tied with her last week. LeAnn shows up in two weeks. We'll see what happens.

What did Jewel say when she called you?

It was through texting, but we're supposed to speak this weekend. At first she was funny -- she was like, 'Oooh, it seems we're at war.' But now it's like, 'Congrats for doing it.' She was with me right when my career began. She gave me a couple of gigs and was really a big support. It was almost as if she was checking in. ...

You took some time off to write We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, right? Are you going to do that again before the next one?

Yeah, a little bit. I probably won't take as much time. I took a full year last time. I traveled, I got into all kinds of new stuff. This time I'll probably only take a few months. It really isn't about taking time off and laying around on the couch. I still play music on a regular basis. But I just do so away from the big guise of touring in this capacity.

I certainly don't do interviews during that period, because it's a gestation period. It's a period where I'm hunting and gathering and I'm a student and a seeker and I don't have all the answers -- that's why I'm out there and taking time off. I think it's important for not only artists in the music career, but any field. A lot of other countries give employees months off, like, 'OK, it's summer holiday, here's your month off.' The U.S. has this strange way of saying, 'OK, you have 10 days of vacation a year, use it wisely.' That's not very liberating.

jason mrazYou're from Mechanicsville, Virginia. Do you ever go back there?

I do. My whole family's still there. I go back two or three times a year to see my family. I go to the dentist there -- still go to my family dentist. It's my home. It's where I grew up.

Has it changed that much since you left?

Yeah, it has. It's become more homogenized. Instead of celebrating the mom and pop restaurants and hardware stores, we now have T.G.I. Fridays and Lowes and Target and Best Buys. It makes it look like another bland truck stop in America. But it still has down-home people, still has good vibes, still has my grandmom.

Way back when you got started you told the bank that you needed money for studies, but you took that money and used it to move out west and start playing music instead. So basically, your whole career was built on a fib?

Yeah, I basically lied to the bank saying I needed the extra money so that I could not have a day job while I was at school. The loan I first received was only for tuition. I was like, 'Oh God, that's not going to help. I need more.' I kept applying and applying and finally got some more dough. By the time I did, I dropped out of school. So initially, I still had a huge loan I had to pay off. I put $6,000 into college and then I dropped out immediately so I could have the exrta.

It was a good scam, and it worked. It was a great way to get a little cash so I could move to California. But I believed in myself too, though. I honestly didn't feel like I was creating more trouble for myself. I felt like that was what was necessary. It was a unique opportunity and I took it.

Is it true that you don't mind it when people tape your shows?

I do not mind. I encourage it. In fact, I kind of feel sad if I look out and see there's no tapers, because then I realize my shows aren't that interesting anymore.

jason mrazDo you change up your sets that much?

Yeah, we do. There's always a core amount of songs per tour that get played every night. But we change where those songs will appear and how we play them. And there's a fair amount of songs in the show that are always mixed up -- covers, old songs, random bits and improv. I feel like those are the parts that are worth taping. Anything can happen in those moments.

I think taping is a tradition in music that needs to stick around. I fell in love with certain bands through their bootlegs. I think it's a cool thing to have a show taped and generations to come can listen to that tape and feel like they were at that show.

Do you still have an avocado farm?

Heck yeah, man. Growing, eating -- all of it. Mixing, selling, sharing, slicing, spreading, juggling. Avocados are a big part of our lives.

Why avocados?

If I had to choose these days, I would certainly choose avocados. But at the time, they chose me. Where I wanted to move, it just so happened that all the trees in the mountain and valley were avocados. So I moved in and just took it on. I let them keep growing. I let the growers and farmers march through the area and pick them and sell them and share them.

It's a really cool thing to be a part of -- to invest in a piece of the earth that actually gives back and provides for families -- those who pick the avocados -- and then provides nourishment for those who eat 'em. It's pretty awesome.

(Photos by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:23 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

The soft opening for The Reserve is tonight

the reserveIf all goes as planned, The Reserve (1542 Light St., pictured) will have a soft opening around 3 p.m. today, according to co-owner Andrew Dunlap.

You'll only be able to get drinks for now, since the kitchen won't be up and running until next week. And there aren't any outdoor tables just yet (they're still building the furniture, Dunlap said).

But The Reserve will; have 16 beers on tap, as well as seven wines (four white and three reds).

Midnight Sun spy eCommerceConsultant snapped both these pictures of the place, and said people were carrying booze and other supplies into the place this morning.

From the looks of it, Dunlap and the other owners have put a lot of time, money and effort into rehabbing the building. I see a few more flat screen TVs are hanging above the bar now.

Dunlap said they're keeping Charlotte's one-story for the near future ...

The exterior looks so much better than it used to when it was Charlotte's.

"It's the last push," Dunlap said. "Everything's kind of hectic. We want to get the place open but don't want to rush it."

the reserveDunlap said the grand opening is scheduled for next weekend, when the kitchen will be open.

"Everybody's anxious," he said. "Hopefully everything goes smoothly today."

If you're in the area this evening or later tonight, stop by and check the place out.

Thanks to Jason Zink for the tip.

(Photos by eCommerceConsultant)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:01 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

According to your votes, Mount Vernon's best neighborhood bar is ...

mount vernon commenters' choice awardsThe Midtown Yacht Club (15 E. Centre St.), hands down!

None of the other bars were even close. But why Midtown?

Well, the barrel of peanuts, the drink prices and friendly crew of regulars all factored into the many votes for this Mount Vernon drinkery.

Congrats, Midtown, for winning the Midnight Sun Commenters' Choice Award!

And, as always, thanks to everybody for voting.

By posting my highly scientific vote-tallying method (pictured), you can see there are no smoke and mirrors and absolutely no possibility of vote-rigging when it comes to the Commenters' Choice Awards.

Here are the runner-ups ...

Brewer's Art scored second place, and third place was a tie between the Mount Vernon Stable (909 N. Charles St.) and Dionysus (8 E. Preston St.).

What neighborhood should we do next? I'm tempted to do something off-beat, like Dundalk or Hamilton or Sharp-Leadenhall.

(Photo of the highly scientific vote-tallying method by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:51 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Commenters' Choice Awards

Sipping free draft Duvel at Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar

duvel green tastingWednesday night, Amie and I headed over to Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar (902 S. Charles St.) for some post-dinner drinks.

We ran into some friends at a table outside, who told us there was a tasting of the new Duvel Green, a draft beer, going on.

They had lovely beer glasses with the Duvel logo on them (pictured), and told us even though the tasting was technically only supposed to be using small glasses, if you sweet-talked the waitress, she might bring you some Duvel Green in big glasses instead.

We did just that, and our server brought us two Duvel Green "tastings."

Duvel Green is lighter, crisper and has less alcohol per volume than to the Duvel I'm used to drinking out of the bottle. It was good stuff ...

The owner, Bruce Dorsey, also came out with a rubber Duvel coaster thingy. You can see it in the middle of the photo. I'm not sure exactly what the heck it's called. But I see them all the time on top of bars.

I also discovered that I've been pronouncing the name of the beer wrong. According to the Duvel rep, it's pronounced Doo-vle, not Doo-velle.

Either way, I thought it was dee-licious.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:45 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 23, 2009

What's the deal with Chopper's Tavern?

dizzy's trumpetLast fall, we did a piece about efforts to breathe new life into Pennsylvania Avenue. In it, the article had this intriuging little blurb:

For the first time in 40 years, a new entertainment club has opened in the area: Chopper's Tavern on Pennsylvania Avenue. The owner, Raymond Nelson, said he is trying to bring entertainment back to the neighborhood by featuring jazz artists and "giving back to new people."

I found the bar's Web site, which advertised jazz sessions every Tuesday night. So one night last fall (I think it was in October), my pal Crazy Joe and I went there ...

The place was closed. I asked around, and people told me it wasn't open on Tuesday nights. I can't imagine why they would advertise a night that didn't exist.

So I kind of forgot about about it, until today, when I randomly thought of Chopper's for some reason. After a little digging, I re-discovered the Web site (it's not easy to find). It doesn't look like Chopper's has anything to do with jazz anymore (if it ever did).

Instead, Chopper's looks like your average bar. I called the number, hoping to speak with somebody about it, but the phone just rang, and the voicemail was full. Does anybody know what happened to the whole "jazz bar" thing at Chopper's?

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:29 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A few good spots to see tomorrow's AC Milan-Chelsea soccer game

Thanks again for all your suggestions yesterday. Here is a link to the piece I did in today's paper about the best places to watch the AC Milan-Chelsea game. I mentioned Slainte, James Joyce, Pickles Pub and more.

I spoke with a few bar owners, and just about every one said they're trying to get members of the teams to drop by their bars after the game. I wonder if it will happen.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:31 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A chill lounge for the mature set?

red maple baltimoreGot this e-mail from Midnight Sun reader AVT:

Do you have a recommendation for a nightspot for an older couple (I'm
48 and the Mrs. is 47) who look younger than their age, but are looking for a fun night out where we aren't the oldest people in the house to add some needed spark? Not necessarily looking for marital advice, but a place where we can get a good drink, dance to what the "kids" dance to.

I stopped into Red Maple (pictured) one night, liked it, and plan to go there this weekend with my wife.  And yes, I was definitely the oldest guy in the place, even looking like I'm in my late 30s, rather than late 40s. How about the late-night lounge scene at Pazo?

I must admit, I'm kind of at a loss here, AVT ...

I've always said Baltimore doesn't have enough places to dance, and I stand by that statement.

In terms of high-end clubs and lounges, you have Mosaic in Power Plant Live and Lux night club on Calvert Street. Would you be the oldest people there? Depends. Generally, the later it gets, the younger the crowd gets.

The late night scene at Pazo isn't half bad. But I don't know how much dancing you can do there. In fact, the owners got in some trouble when patrons started dancing one night because they don't have a live entertainment license.

Anybody have some suggestions for AVT?

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:12 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Midnight Sun is now award-winning


That's what I said after finding out Midnight Sun won Best Blog in Baltimore Magazine's Best of Baltimore 2009: Reader's Poll. Dining@Large took second place, and came in third. 

I'd like to thank God and my beautiful wife and my parents (Dad, note how I didn't just say 'Mom'), and all of the little people I stepped on to get here. ...

I'm not sure if that means I get a certificate or what. My spies tell me I'll be receiving a package "very soon." Hmm. Wonder what it could be? Free samples, perhaps?

The crazy thing is, I didn't even know this readers' poll was going on. But that's probably a good thing. If I had known, I would have voted for myself and mounted a shameless campaign to get you to vote for me. The fact that I won in a fair competition stuns me.

Thanks so much, everybody, for voting for Midnight Sun. There are days when I want to bang my head against a wall and call it quits. But days like today make it all worthwhile.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:35 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Random stuff

July 22, 2009

Matt's date went well

tapas teatroI heard back from Matt about his first date last Friday.

(This is the one we all pitched in and gave him advice about.)

This was his entire recap of the night:

Thanks so much for this. Everything went great. We went and got Tapas (pictured) then went to Joe Squared after Artscape. She had a really great time. Thanks again!

Not satisfied with this meager description, I demanded something more in-depth.

I sent him this e-mail yesterday:

Oh come now! We need more details, Matt. What did you like about Tapas Teatro? And what did you think of Joe Squared? And are you going out on a second date? ...



I haven't heard back from him. I think my e-mail may have scared him off. Heh.


Anyhow, thanks again for all your input on this one.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Where are you going to watch the AC Milan-Chelsea soccer game?

ac milan-chelseaI'm working on a nightlife column for tomorrow's paper about where to watch the AC Milan-Chelsea game at M&T Bank Stadium Friday.

So far, I've talked to Slainte, Claddagh, James Joyce and Pickles. You got any other suggestions for me?

Slainte seems to have the best drink specials. But Pickles Pub might have the craziest pre-game party.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:02 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A few new bells and whistles

I took a little time yesterday and tried my darndest to sort out some of the digital mess that is Midnight Sun. Was I successful? Meh. But hopefully I made things a little easier to find ...

Because we're all working with Stone Age blog software, it took some time. But I've been able to round up some of our recent features and give them their own categories. For example, there is now a category for the Commenters' Choice Awards, which has all of the 'What's the best neighborhood bar' surveys in it.

There's also a new category with all of Owl Meat's blogs in it. I called it Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays, but it also has all of the guest posts he did while I was away.

And I'm in the process of putting all Virgin Mobile Festival-related posts under the new Virgin Mobile Festival category.

Anything else you'd like to see on here?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:31 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

July 21, 2009

Wye Oak

wye oakIn today's paper, I profiled the Baltimore indie rock duo Wye Oak.

Their brand new album, The Knot, came out on Merge Records today. And their CD release show is tonight at The Ottobar.

Here's a link to the piece.

(Photo by Dan Stack)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:05 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Local music

Introducing Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

lemon + truck + beerLadies and gentlemen, I'd like you to give a warm round of applause to Owl Meat Gravy, who, for the forseeable future, will be writing a weekly column called Tipsy Tuesdays.

You may remember him from such columns as Funtastic Thursdays and various guest blogs while I was away. Now, please put your hands together, for OMG!

I don't like fruit in my beer. I don't want to taste a raspberry wheat beer, a peach ale or a prune IPA. Of course a lemon slice in a good wheat beer is fine, so I'm not exactly a purist. That brings us to today's topic – shandies.

A shandy is beer with ginger ale, ginger beer, lemonade, or other soft drink. It was originally called a shandygaff in England. There is a long tradition of mixing beer with fruit and other things there ...

A Lamb's Wool is made with hot ale, apple pulp, and spices whipped to give it a frothy pulpy head. Did I mention that it was hot? Shakespeare alluded to it in Midsummer Night's Dream.

A shandy sounds like something that might be refreshing in summer, so I decided to experiment. I used Clipper City Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale (pictured), which is very hoppy, heavy, and high in alcohol (7.25 percent).  A good shandy would have to retain the complex flavor but lighten up the body and lower the alcohol. I mixed the soft drinks half and half with the beer. 
Lemonade – Very good. Retains a lot of the hop taste. Complex and refreshing.
Sour mix and water (fake-anade) – Sour mix dominates in a bad way.
clipper city loose cannonGinger ale – Very good. The hot herbal scent and taste of the ginger combines with
the hops to create something like ginger beer.
Red Bull – The smell is nauseating. Tastes horrible. Followed by nausea and sneezing.
White Zinfandel – Smells like nothing. Tastes like bitter bad wine.
Coke – Smells like Coke. Tastes like very hoppy coke, which isn't a bad thing.
The following were 3:1 mixtures.
Sloe gin – Smells like Jolly Rancher candy. Tastes neither like sloe gin nor beer. It lingers in the back of your throat like cleaning fluid. It has a vile woody taste, like hoppy drain cleaner or varnish remover. Possibly the most disgusting flavor ever.
Sweet vermouth – Smells like hoppy vermouth. Tastes weird but intriguing. The herbs in Vermouth complement the hops. Leaves a nice bitter herb aftertaste like grilled arugula or radicchio.
Cranberry juice – Smells like fruity hoppy beer. The 1:1 mixture tastes like cranberry juice. The 3:1 mixture tastes like bad beer. Total failure.
Anisette – Smells like anisette. Tastes like beery anisette. Disgusting.
I took notes as I tasted these and I'm glad that I did. Tasting a variety of experiments even in small quantities leads to a bleary kind of drunkenness that isn't conducive to memory. Even still, the memory of the beer and sloe gin is seared into my brain like some kind of prison camp abuse.
To summarize: The lemonade, ginger ale and Coke were all good. The sweet vermouth was also excellent, but it's not a shandy. Try your own as the summer slinks into August. If your friends mock you, tell them T-Pain drinks beaucoup shandies when he's on a boat
Have you tried anything like this? Come on, you can tell us. I won't mock you. After one experiment, I said to Misha the bartender, "Oh God, sloe gin and beer is disgusting."  A complete stranger sitting near me said, "Well that's because you're an idiot." 

Yes I am.

(Top photo by Getty Images. Bottom photo courtesy of Clipper City)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:44 AM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Digging Artscape


Sorry it took me a few days to get to blogging about Artscape. 

These days, I'm kind of the de facto music/nightlife/local entertainment reporter, which means I've been writing up a storm lately. And that, unfortunately, has kept me from blogging as much as I'd like.

Last Friday afternoon, I took a few hours and strolled around the sprawling Artscape festival grounds.

For me, some of the most interesting, innovative stuff was on Charles Street between Mount Royal Avenue and Lanvale Street ...

loveparticleaccelerator.jpgI poked my head inside the abikus tiny rave (pictured, top), which was just just that -- a miniature tent dance party.

A little bubble machine sat out front, and you could hear the pulsing techno beats down the street. Inside, it was almost pitch black, with laser lights. Sweeeeeet.

I also ran into Baltimore-based photographer Jim Lucio, who told me I had to check out the Love Particle Accelerator (pictured, bottom). The Love Particle Accelerator (or, LPA, as I like to call it) consisted of a suggestion box and a giant heart with a gong in the middle of it.

To operate the LPA, you write down something you love on a piece of paper (with a crayon, of course), and put it in the box. Then you think about whatever it was you wrote as you hit the gong. The vibrations from the gong accelerate the love.

And lemme tell ya -- if there is one thing this world needs, it's amplified love.

What did I write? I'm not telling. But it was powerful, man.

I didn't get out to see Cake or Robert Randolph, but I heard the security was pretty cool during Randolph's set. I heard that they let some kid get up on stage and bust a move during one of the Michael Jackson covers, and they let a bunch of women up there to dance, too.

I also heard Cake had the biggest crowd of the weekend, which isn't surprising. If you were there, tell me whatcha thought.

(Photos by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:14 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff

July 20, 2009

How about another Midnight Sun get-together?

It's been a while since we did the Midnight Sun Shindig. I feel like it's time for another get-together. How does August or early September look for you, maybe on a Friday night? We could hand out the Midnight Sun Commenter's Choice Awards (best neighborhood bar, etc.) ...

What should we call this get-together? The Midnight Sun Social? Each event has to have its own name, you know.

And where should we do it? I think we should probably invade one of the bars that won a Midnight Sun Commenter's Choice Award. But maybe we should do it on neutral ground.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:01 AM | | Comments (41)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Baltimore's only hard rock children's band?

hilltop hightopsLate last year, members of Baltimore's Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad were looking for new gigs and trying to reach a new audience.

But Baltimore is only so big, and DMFS was pretty lewd, which was pretty limiting.

So, in a stroke of genius/madness, the guys in DMFS decided to start moonlighting as Baltimore's only hard rock children's band. They called themselves the Hilltop Hightops (pictured), recorded an album of children's music and started booking gigs.

Here's a piece I did on them which ran in yesterday's paper.

It's a hilarious little saga. In fact, if you remember, DMFS guitarist Ryan Graham wrote a little about it a few months ago ... 


DFMS wears these bizarre costumes (like a horse head, or a mad scientist getup) when they play live. They decided to use the same outfits for the Hilltop Hightops. They kept the same songs, too. The only things they changed were their lyrics.

For example, the tune "You're Too Skinny" became "I Like Kitties."

Hee hee. 

(Photo courtesy of the Hilltop Hightops)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:17 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Local music

July 18, 2009

Concert review: John Legend and India.Arie at Merriweather last night

john legendSun writer John-John Williams IV was at Merriweather last night to see John Legend and India.Arie. Here are his thoughts:

Let’s be honest for a second: Modern day R&B singers are basically garbage. They lack the soul and vocal skills that popularized the genre.

These days, we have 'artists" who have abandoned their roots in favor of synthesized, auto-tuned studio sounds that have been poorly plated with trite lyrics and spaghetti thin vocals.

Thank God for John Legend (pictured) and India.Arie who brought down the house last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The two have a crisp, classic, yet modern sound. And they know how to entertain a crowd.

Legend, a multi-Grammy award winner in his own right, can loosen inhibitions better than a bottle of booze. Couples most definitely sealed the deal after hearing Legend perform last night. ...

Unlike Arie, whose focus was more of an inspirational, Legend delivered one hot, steamy sexual ballad after another. There was no need to gyrate on stage, or flash a lot of skin. And unlike crooners such as R. Kelly, Legend brought an unmatched sophistication to his ballads.

Legend also moved with more confidence than I've seen him do in the past. With "Satisfaction," he ripped off his dark sunglasses and focused his eyes on his cheering fans. He pulled back some of the swagger when he sang "It’s Over" off of his 2008 album Evolver and "Heaven" from his 2006 album Once Again. He also delivered a memorable performance with "Good Morning," which he sang as a duet with Arie. The pair really played off one another, and together, had the confidence of a couple in a long-term relationship.

Legend’s hit "Green Light" off of his album Evolver was essentially the climax of the show. Legend had crowd members out of their seats, keeping step with the energetic beat of the song. He got the crowd in the mood for romance without shoveling out a series of tawdry lyrics. It was the perfect how to for a genre that has gone flat.

Arie was a treat as an opening act. The multi Grammy award winning songstress just makes you feel good inside. Her lyrics are upbeat, positive and empowering. You also can't help but feel proud when she struts on stage with her white head wrap, sparkling beaded bracelets, gold hoop earrings, and Afro-centric purple dress with green strip and fuchsia trim.

She wowed the crowd with her powerful vocals the belted out familiar hits such as "There’s Hope" from her 2006 album Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship and "Brown Skin" from her 2001 album Acoustic Soul.

(Photo by Vincent Peters)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:47 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Concert reviews

July 17, 2009

Baltimore needs a speakeasy

speakeasyYes, I know, Baltimore already has a spot called Speakeasy (pictured).

I'm talking about the real thing.

Speakeasies are all the rage in New York and a few other major cities.

I saw a TV show about one speakeasy in New York where you walk into a phonebooth in a hot dog shop, pick up the phone and a hostess from the speakeasy opens a secret door on the inside of the phone booth to let you in.

That. Is. Awesome. ...

You know, the 13th Floor might make a good Speakeasy. They could put a bellman by the elevator, and you'd have to tell him to buzz you up to the 13th Floor. Then, once you got up there, they could have the entrance more enclosed, with another host waiting by the elevator to let you in.

I think Mark Twain and I talked about that possibility some months ago.

Either way, I'd love to see a speakeasy in Baltimore, and I'm wondering what other bars could be converted into Speakeasies, or have rooms that could be made into speakeasies.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:31 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Wine Source to be open seven days

The Wine Source (3601 Elm Ave.) has been approved for a seven-day liquor license, according to wine manager Matt Wood. There is still some red tape to clear up, but Wood thinks the Hampden liquor store will introduce its new hours sometime around Labor Day.

"That's what we're shooting for," he said.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:18 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 16, 2009

Help Matt plan his first date

iggie's pizza baltimoreEarlier today, I got this e-mail from a reader named Matt:

I'm sure you get tons of email but I'm hoping(if you have time) you could give me a some ideas for tomorrow night.  I would really like to show the girl a good time and I'm pretty new to the Baltimore nightlife scene.

I heard that the Brass Elephant on Charles Street was pretty good for dinner and I figured we'd check out Artscape afterwards since it is nearby.  Being that Artscape ends at 10, I am having trouble thinking of ideas for what to do afterwards.  Any ideas you could give me would be a huge help. 

Matt, my first suggestion is not to go to the Brass Elephant. It's too formal -- especially if you're planning on strolling down to Artscape later tomorrow night. Plus, you're setting the bar really high for a first date with the Brass Elephant.

I'd say if you're set on Mount Vernon, then go to someplace like Iggie's Pizza (818 N. Calvert St., pictured). or maybe Akbar (if your date likes Indian food). I think Akbar has the best Indian food in the city, and my wife is Indian, so I've had a lot of Indian food.

Both those spots have great food and are casual enough that you can walk down to Artscape afterward and not be out of place (or sweating buckets from wearing dress pants).

After Artscape, I'd say hit up Joe Squared Pizza and Bar (133 W. North Ave.). They've got the best rum selection in the city, and this great turn-of-the-century New Orleans swing band Sac Au Lait is playing there for free. I believe their set starts at 11:30 p.m.

Keep in mind that, due to Artscape, traffic is going to be tied in a knot and restaurants are going to fill up quick.

Anybody have some other suggestions for Matt?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:24 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Leftover Cake is kind of depressing

cakeIn case you (gasp!) didn't see today's print edition, it featured my centerpiece on alt-rock group Cake. Here's a link.

It was, perhaps, one of the more depressing -- but open -- interviews I've done recently. I spoke with front man and lead singer John McCrea (pictured, second from the left), who founded the band back in the early '90s.

McCrea sounded really downbeat and grumpy for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe that's just how he is. I played devil's advocate a bit and he got pretty riled up. Here are a couple quotes that didn't end up in the article.

"It wouldn't take much to push us off the edge, just the edge of being able to exist, being able to continue to exist as a band. ... It's getting easier and easier to be a big star on YouTube. But in terms of being able to eat food, that's getting almost impossible for all but a very, very few bands."

(The band sold out the 4,200-capacity Pier Six Pavilion in 2007 and sold out a two-night stand at the 9:30 Club in late May) ...

McCrea on starting their own label, Upbeat Records:

"We're not involved with the machinery anymore. It's certainly interesting to watch us disappear because of that. ... I think being culturally irrelevant is not the worst thing."

On not being a part of a major label anymore:

"I don't think you're going to see us on late night talk shows anymore. That whole thing's rigged."

On where he was coming from when he released the first Cake album, Motorcade of Generosity, in 1994:

"For me, it was always trying to prove something to myself -- that I could do it. I was always very angry. I hated the music that was going on that the time when I released [Motorcade of Generosity]. It was just a big, huge, [expletive] you to the wide load, big, dumb American rock."

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:37 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Random stuff

What's the best neighborhood bar in Mount Vernon?

mick o'shea'sWe've done Fells Point. We've done Canton. We've done Federal Hill. We've done Hampden.

I love how long this paragraph is getting.

Now comes a real challenge: What, in your opinion, is the best neighborhood bar in Mount Vernon? And why? Everybody gets one vote.

For the purposes of this contest, I'm defining Mount Vernon with these boundaries in mind: Guilford Avenue to the East, Fayette Street to the South, Howard Street to the West and Mount Royal Avenue to the north ...

This is a tough one, because Mount Vernon doesn't have nearly as many neighborhood bars as Fells Point or Federal Hill. A couple years ago, my vote would have been an easy one: Liam's Pint-Sized Pub. Alas, Liam's is no more. At least not for a while.

I'm going to have to cast my vote for Mick O'Shea's (328 N. Charles St., pictured). I've had some not-so-wonderful experiences with servers there. But when I think of a great neighborhood bar in Mount Vernon, Mick O'Shea's is the first place that comes to mind.

Plus, you can't beat their Monday night burger special ($6.99 for a burger, fries and a beer). I order Resurrection as my beer. Booyah!

What makes a neighborhood bar a neighborhood bar? Dig it.

Now, what do you think is the best neighborhood bar in Mount Vernon?

(Baltimore sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:00 AM | | Comments (61)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

All Time Low debuts at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200

all time low

All Time Low just hit an all time high.

The local pop rock group debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200.

The four-piece, based in Lutherville/Timonium, sold almost 63,000 copies of their new album, Nothing Personal.

That's huge.

When their debut full length album, So Wrong, It's Right, came out in 2007, it was ranked No. 62 on the Billboard Top 200.

Jumping from a No. 62 debut to a No. 4 debut in a couple years is quite the feat.

This isn't just a first for All Time Low. This is also the first time their label, Hopeless Records, has charted this high ...

More big things are in stores for the band, too.

Later this season, MTV will unveil it's acoustic session with All Time Low. And starting July 19, the band will join the Warped Tour for some Main Stage performances.

All Time Low's success comes after years of hard work. These guys decided not to go to college, and worked on their music instead. They've been grinding it out for a few years now, and it's great to see their efforts start to pay off.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:07 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Local music

July 15, 2009

9:30 Club, Rams Head Live rank high on Pollstar's Top 100 Club list

seth hurwitz, 9:30 ClubTwo area clubs ranks high on music industry trade magazine Pollstar's list of the top 100 clubs around the world for the first half of this year.

The list is based on the number of tickets sold.

The No. 1 spot is, unsurprisingly, the 9:30 Club, with more than 135,000 tickets sold in six months. That's quite a bit more over the No. 2 spot, the Belgian club Ancienne Belgique, which sold 98,215.

Rams Head Live in Power Plant Live ranked sixth with 75.460 tickets sold, the Birchmere in Alexandria was 37th with 39,755 tickets sold, Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis was 43rd with 36,736.

But wait, there's more ...

The Recher Theatre in Towson was 85th 19.074 tickets sold and Main Stage @ Sonar was 96th with 16,034 tickets sold.

Some interesting facts: Rams Head On Stage holds about half as many people as Sonar's main stage. The 9:30 Club, which holds fewer people than Rams Head Live, has topped this list for the past couple years at least, if not more.

Here is a link where you can download the whole list. 

(Baltimore Sun archive photo of 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:03 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Dancing on The Block: The video for "Keep Good Time" by Tommy Tucker

This is one of the wilder Baltimore music videos I've seen in a while. And though it starts to get  a little monotonous after a while, the first few minutes are pretty funny.

Last night, when Tommy Tucker and the Supernaturals were in studio for a Baltimore Unsigned taping, Tucker told me he stripped naked in an abandoned countryside house to record the song. So it makes sense that he would head to The Block for the music video. Dig it:

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:43 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Random stuff

July 14, 2009

A look at "real" Romulan Ale

romulan aleAfter I wrote about Romulan Ale last week, Alexander D. Mitchell IV sent me this shot of "real" Romulan Ale.

No, not a "shot" as in a shot of liquor -- a "shot" as in a photograph.


From the way he describes it, Romulan Ale seems like pale ale dyed blue. And eventually, the dye stained the glass blue. Wonder what your stomach would look like if you drank it.


Apparently, this stuff was made in El Salvador. If I wrote a book called Drinks That Never Should Have Been, this would be in it.

Any other nominees?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:24 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Random stuff

The beginning of this year's Dundalk Bar Crawl: Gattus, Gray Manor Inn, Manny's

gattus barLast year, we eased into the Dundalk Bar Crawl by starting at the Hard Yacht Cafe (neutral ground).

This time, there was no holding back.

We plunged headfirst into Dundalk's rich dive bar scene, starting with Gattus Bar (617 S. North Point Road, Dundalk). Gattus is straight-up old school -- wood paneling lines the walls inside, and the sign out front still has Baltimore Colts horseshoes on it.

Same goes for the prices: Five Budweiser bottles cost $7.50. These weren't happy hour prices, either -- this was at 9 p.m. on a Friday.

The bartender asked us all for our IDs, which would be a recurring theme for the night. Just about everywhere we went, the bartenders thought we were a pack of police cadets looking to bust them for serving alcohol to minors. Being 25 (and one of the youngest guys in the group), I couldn't help but chuckle ...

Another recurring theme: At just about all our stops, the regulars were warm and welcoming. A few times, they came over, shook our hands, introduced themselves and struck up conversations with us. Still, yet another recurring theme: Just about every bar had a horseshoe-shaped bar, which I love. So much more inviting than a long, narrow rowhouse bar.

Our second stop was the Gray Manor Inn -- perhaps the least welcoming spot on our tour. It wasn't like a record scratched and everybody stopped what they were doing to look at us when we walked in. But we just got the feeling that we weren't welcome there.

shuffleboard at the gray manor innWe asked for two pitchers of beer, and again, the bartender asked us all for our IDs. Then he served us two of the smallest pitchers I've ever seen.

Each pitcher came with a few 8-ounce beer glasses, like you see in black-and-white movies. The only other place I've seen such small cups is at the Venice Tavern in Highlandtown.

Sure, each "pitcher" only cost $4. But when we looked around the room, we were the only suckers with small glasses. Everybody else had normal-sized pint glasses. Hmph.

The DJ was all over the place, from Fleetwood Mac to Santana to George Michael to some 1950s tune. The Gray Manor has one of the largest shuffleboard tables I've ever seen (pictured). It looked old but was well-maintained.

In order to get the pucks, we had to give an ID to the bartender as a deposit. We did, but we weren't there long. After downing our two tiny pitchers (it didn't take long), we were outta there.

Next up was Manny's. I'd love to give you the address, but I can't even find this place on Google. But it's right across the street from the Left Field Pub (3813 N. Point Blvd., Dundalk). Manny's was a ghost bar.

Nobody was there. It was us and the bartender, a middle-aged woman. Manny's had Formstone on the outside and inside. The only other place I've seen that is Rafter's (620 E. Fort Ave.). Manny's had this Tom Waits meets Charles Bukowski, kinda ominous vibe. A big photo collage with a drawing of an older gentleman smoking a stoagie (Manny, I presume), hung on a wall.

When the bartender shut the front door, we thought it was going to be a scene out of From Dust Til Dawn. The six of us finished our bottles of beer ($2 each) and bounced ASAP.

Stay tuned for part two, when we witness a true blue country bar and one of the best food and drink deals ever ...

(Photos by Andy Shankman)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:38 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 13, 2009

Photos from yesterday's Rock the Bells at Merriweather Post Pavilion

the roots at rock the bellsRock the Bells, the annual star-studded hip-hop festival tour, came to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia yesterday.

Baltimore Sun photographer Shantel Mitchell was there to capture the action, from Nas to Big Boi (who I interviewed last week) to the Roots (pictured).

Here's a link to more photos from the show.

I wasn't able to make it to Merriweather to review the concert, but if you were there and you want to tell us how it went, go for it.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Shantel Mitchell)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:15 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Concert reviews

Dr. Doom drops by the Golden West

Oh. My. Goodness.

A little while back, a dude dropped by the monthly Bar Bacon open mike comedy night at the Golden West Cafe (1105 W. 36th St.) dressed in full Dr. Doom costume. (Dr. Doom is the villain from the Fantastic Four). His routine was a stroke of genius: He told these corny "man walks into a bar" type jokes, but inserted members of the Fantastic Four into them ...

I'm not going to transcribe one of his jokes here. You've just got to see it. Just be warned -- the video has some vulgar, obscene material in it. These aren't PG-13 jokes, ladies and gentlemen. But the video seems to be catching on -- since it was posted in late June, it's gotten almost 22,000 views.

Here's a link to the vid.

Thanks to jmgiordano for the tip.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

What's a good local billiards spot?

billiardsA little while back (almost a month ago, I'm ashamed to say), reader Margaret sent me an e-mail asking if, since Edgar's closed, there is another billiards club where a middle aged couple can rent a table for a night.

I thought about it for a bit, and I have to say, I'm at a bit of a loss here.

I went back and found a Fab Five Friday I did in November of 2007, but it wasn't that helpful ...

The only lead there is Sports 2000 in Dundalk. A commenter said the place was really smokey, but I'll bet that's changed since the ban went into effect.

I'll bet the Dave and Busters in Arundel Mills still has pool tables, but I don't know if that's the best place for a middle aged couple. Seems to rowdy. What do you think?

Do you know of any good billiards spots in or around Baltimore where a middle aged couple can hang out for a night?

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:46 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

111 Cyclists to converge on Artscape

111cyclists.jpgSince January 2008, Erik Spangler and Brian Sacawa have been organizing off-kilter shows as part of the Contemporary Museum's Mobtown Modern concert series.

But this Saturday, they're going to take it to a new level.

Spangler and Sacawa have put together a performance of Mauricio Kagel's "Eine Brise (A Breeze)," a performance art piece that involves no less than 111 cyclists whooshing, whistling and ringing bells as they ride by.

They're not disclosing the route they'll take, but they're gathering outside the Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.) at 3 p.m. Saturday. 

Here's a link to a piece I wrote about the event, with more details.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

July 12, 2009

Concert review: Billy Joel and Elton John Face to Face at Nationals Park

elton john and billy joelSun staffer Lori Sears was at last night's Elton John and Billy Joel show in Washington. Here is her play-by-play:

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I'm a big fan of both Elton John and Billy Joel.

So, naturally, there was no question that I'd be anywhere but Nationals Park in Washington last night to see the two piano rock 'n' rollers play "Face to Face." The guys have perfected this "F2F" gig, having played these "in tandem" concerts off and on since 1994.
Oh, what a night it was: a rocking, drama-filled evening with two music legends. The concert began much like the piano guys' past shows.

As the opening theme music boomed throughout the open-air baseball stadium, the two grand pianos emerged from underground, raising up to stage level and laying out 18 feet of pure piano. Soon after, Billy emerged, then Elton. A warm hug, kindly greetings to the capacity crowd, and they were on their way ...

The boys opened with "Your Song," with Billy starting the verses. An appropriate opener indeed. Next came "Just the Way You Are," which Elton kicked off. But not long into the song, Elton stopped playing the piano ... a curious and worrisome sight to any who've seen Elton in concert. It was clear that something was wrong.

Elton dove into the next number, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." But just a couple measures in he abruptly stopped the song. Turned out there were technical difficulties: The sustain pedal on his piano was sticking. Not good. Elton was growing increasingly upset. And Billy tried to calm the situation. He even whipped his suit jacket off and got down on his back under Elton's piano to help what looked like four technicians frantically trying to fix the glitch.
It didn't quite work. But Billy tried. And he quickly ran over to his own piano to play some "filler" music -- "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy," to the delight of the crowd. Billy's cute quips calmed the tension a bit. He said at one point: "This is an authentic rock-and-roll [screw-up]! At least you know it's not on tape!"
The piano guys decided to shelve their normal format of performing a few songs together at the beginning, and rather just let Billy go ahead and do his set, which was clear to see was not the original plan. Elton was supposed to do his set first this night. But Billy pulled it off like a pro, and after Elton departed the stage while his piano was being lowered underground and operated on,

Billy dove headfirst into "Angry Young Man." And went full-steam ahead: "Movin' Out," "Allentown," "Zanzibar" (a terrific treat), "Don't Ask Me Why," "She's Always a Woman" (with some cute comments about his current divorce -- No. 3, it is) and then the masterful "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," followed by "River of Dreams," "We Didn't Start the Fire" (with cute visual of Elton on the display screen during the lyric "England's got a new queen"), "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me" (with Elvis gyrations) and "Only the Good Die Young."
Throughout Billy's set, the crowd was engaged and clearly having a grand time with an old friend. The words, everyone knew. The melodies, everyone adored. Billy was still relevant to this crowd, which spanned the ages. Billy, despite his fame and fortune, is an everyman. The easy-going way, the observational sense of humor, he's the guy next door (who also happens to be ridiculously talented, rich and famous).
After Billy wrapped "Only the Good Die Young," he departed the stage, ending his solo portion of the show. Elton's recuperating piano was soon elevated to stage level again, and the crowd held its collective breath that the piano's surgery was a success. And it was. The haunting intro to "Funeral for a Friend" began, and Elton soon emerged with warm waves to the crowd. As he ventured into his piano intro in the song, it appeared there were still a few (new) issues. But he played through the dreamy song, which morphs so brilliantly and wonderfully into "Love Lies Bleeding."
Elton rolled into the rollicking "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," and because of the sound issues he was still detecting, his tech quickly resolved things with a couple quick switcheroos of equipment. (Whew!) After "Saturday," Elton, to the crowd, explained the earlier pedal problem and how the notes had been running together. He then thanked Billy and his band for coming to his rescue and playing his set out of order.
Elton barrelled into "Burn Down the Mission," then played an extended version of "Madman Across the Water," which I got the feeling most of the crowd didn't know very well (shame, shame). Next, he played the crowd-pleasing "Tiny Dancer," and then the melancholy "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," which, I admit, is my favorite tune. Elton can't sing the falsetto in the chorus any longer, but makes up for it by having his band sing those parts, while he harmonizes in his lower register. Nice. Very, very nice.

Afterward, Elton stayed in the early '70s with "Daniel" and then a super-extended (14-minute!) version of "Rocket Man," which the crowd seemed to eat up. While not one of my favorite tunes, "Rocket Man" featured several new, beautiful and inventive piano licks.
"Philadelphia Freedom" was next, as everyone, including two ushers, bopped and sang along. Elton was in his groove. He then slid into the percussive "I'm Still Standing" (a brief venture, this evening, into the '80s), then the rousing, playful "Crocodile Rock," which included requisite sing-along. The crowd was fully engaged. And just in time for Billy's re-emergence.
The two men could now pick up where they left off earlier in the night -- with "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." They shared the singing and shared the piano-playing for the rest of the show. The duo ventured into a spirited version of "My Life," with Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as intro. Then went for "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," "The Bitch Is Back," "You May Be Right" (with Billy "smashing" his sweat-filled towel against his piano to the sound of the breaking glass at the beginning of the song) and "Bennie and the Jets" (quite the crowd favorite).
The fellows slowed it down with "Candle in the Wind" (which they swapped vocals on) and finally, of course, "Piano Man." One sweet note: If I'm not mistaken, I could swear that the crowd (and the guys themselves) sang the words "Sing us a song, you're the Piano Men." Very sweet. Very true. And that they both did.

(Photo by Diane Williams)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:11 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Concert reviews

July 11, 2009

A brief recollection of last night's events

Oh man. What a night.

I won't get into the details right now, since I just woke up and have barely had my coffee yet. But I do want to mention some of the more awesome and shocking things we witnessed last night on the Epic Dundalk Bar Crawl, Part Deux. First off, let me say that I was concerned at the number of pregnant women I saw in the bars we went to ...

But that was none of my business. We met all kinds of characters, from country loving, hip-swaying senior citizens at Pop's Tavern to a server who twice told us if she played the hook-and-ring game too much and didn't win it, she might commit suicide. But those were just the stand-out characters.

On a quick side note, I know I've written about the hook and ring game before. But I couldn't find the post I did, where I asked what it's called. Can you help me? Or am I hallucinating?

I'm always surprised at how welcoming the people are in Dundalk dive bars. We struck up friendly conversations with strangers at just about every place we went. And it was so refreshing to see bartenders who actually wanted to serve us, as soon as we walked through the door -- no matter how packed the place was. After being ignored by countless Baltimore bartenders, it was almost shocking.

Our fellow barcrawler Tom got plenty of flack for sporting a black T-shirt which read "Nickelback Sucks." But we expected that.

The biggest surprise were the jaw-droppingly low prices.

At a bar called the New White Swan, the six of us gorged ourselves on 30-odd massive buffalo wings, a plate of fries and two pitchers of beer. It cost $28 dollars. Yeah, you read that right. $28.

Man oh man. 

I'll be dropping the details from our tour like bombs all week. So just get ready. But for now, let me lift a mug of Bud and say, Dundalk, you have never let us down.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:46 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 10, 2009

The return of Whatchadointhisweekend?

wye oakIt may be a temporary thing. But Midnight Sun reader Greg S asked me if I could resurrect Whatchadointhisweekend? -- if only for a day.

Why does Greg S want me to do that, you ask? Well, because he wants me to link to the awesome Whartscape features on his blog, Aural States.

Whartscape is the hot ticket this weekend. I'm sure thousands of people will enjoy performances by the 100+ acts on the roster (including Wye Oak, pictured). That's not to mention the oodles of shenanigans that are sure to ensue.

Tonight, I'm up to some shenanigans myself ...

Jmgiordano, Crazy Joe, Shankman and a couple other guys are headed on The Epic Dundalk Bar Crawl, Part Deux.

Do you remember the first part? It involved $3 shots of Johnny Walker Blue, old people endlessly sucking face, a bar so stinky we had to leave half-drunk beers behind, and many more awesome and awesomely terrible things.

My only worry is that we set the bar too high, based on the last trip. Who knows? In Dundalk, anything is possible. Life ain't nuttin butta funnay funnay riddle out der.

Anything. Is. Possible.

(Handout photo by Dan Stack)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:33 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

And the winner of the Name That Bar vol. 9 contest is ...

j patrick's irish pubKAZ!

Man, I figured I was tossing you guys an easy homerun with this photo, but I didn't think somebody would get it right off the bat. (No more baseball metaphors, I promise.)

That lovely sign is indeed located at J. Patrick's Irish Pub (1731 Andre St.).

KAZ, e-mail me and we'll coordinate the prize pickup.

And as always, thanks for playing, everybody!

(Baltimore sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:34 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Name That Bar

Name That Bar, vol. 9

Can you believe we're on the 9th installment of Name That Bar?

Actually, I think it might technically be the 8th. I dug back through the archives and realized we may have skipped number two or three. I'm not entirely sure. But it doesn't surprise me -- I've never been good at math ...

DSC_0522.JPGThis is all beside the point. Since nobody guessed the last Name That Bar (guess it was too hard for you ... chumps ... hee hee), the prize for naming this bar is twice as wickedly awesome as normal.

That reminds, me, I have to upload some photos of the past couple Name That Bar winners today.

Are you ready? I said ARE YOU READY?

Well then, go, I guess.

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:11 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Name That Bar

Big Boi, All Time Low, etc.

I'd like to take a moment and humbly steer your attention to two music stories I wrote this week. I talked to Big Boi of rap duo OutKast about his solo album (it still doesn't have a release date), and local pop rockers All Time Low about their new album (which was released on Tuesday). Both stories are, in my opinion, quite diggable.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:11 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff

July 9, 2009

Concert review: Wilco at Wolf Trap last night

jeff tweedyBaltimore Sun social networking guru Mary Hartney was at last night's Wilco show at Wolf Trap in Virginia. Here are her thoughts:

My favorite band (Wilco) at my favorite venue (Wolf Trap) on a gorgeous summer night: What could possibly go wrong?

Traffic and lawn seats, that's what.

We arrived at Wolf Trap about an hour before the show, which Conor Oberst opened, and the lawn was blanket-to-blanket packed. We wound up sitting on the farthest, highest hill, with no view of the stage.

But that's my problem, not yours, right? I can at least tell you how Wilco sounded. In a word: Incredible. ...

Wolf Trap's acoustics and sound system are unparalleled. The band was tight, polished and energetic just a week after the release of their eighth (depending on which ones you count) album, Wilco (The Album), and they appropriately opened the show with "Wilco (The Song)."

I also saw "Wilco (the shirt)" and "Wilco (the tote)," and one audience member with a shirt that read "Wilco (the fan)." It's so roll-your-eyes cute. I love it.

The band played several songs before we heard a word from Jeff Tweedy, the singer, who typically banters a good bit with the crowd. "I can smell you having a good time," he said between songs. "Good times smell weird."

wilco (the band)The set list was a mix of new songs -- I counted five off the new album -- and older material. One highlight for me was "How to Fight Loneliness," which Jeff said is the most-requested song via the band's Web site, with 36 votes. I don't think I've heard it live before, and it's a lovely song.

The "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" songs seemed to be crowd favorites, including "I'm the Man who Loves You," which began with a long feedback intro. Maybe everyone else also re-watched the concert/documentary DVD "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" earlier this week; either way, that album holds up better than any other.

I've always loved Wilco albums more after I've seen them performed live, when something clicks.  This was particularly true with the spaced-out "A Ghost Is Born," and I realized it again last night during a meandering "Spiders/Kidsmoke." The new album is no exception. Last night's performance of "One Wing" proved that audiences will pay attention to quiet songs, and "You Never Know" was strangely uplifting.

Wilco ended the set with "Heavy Metal Drummer," then came back out for a three-song encore that began with "Misunderstood." There's really nothing like listening to Jeff Tweedy exhaust himself by screaming "nothing! nothing! nothing!" as part of the line, "I'd like to thank you all for nothing at all."

You don't even need a stage view to follow along.

Set list:
Wilco (the Song)
Shot in the Arm
At Least That's What You Said
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
One Wing
How to Fight Loneliness
Impossible Germany
Deeper Down
Jesus, etc.
Sonny Feeling
Handshake Drugs
Hate it Here
I'm the Man who Loves You
You Don't Know
Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm a Wheel

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:20 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Concert reviews

Video: Monkee Micky Dolenz performs at the Dundalk Heritage Fair

Micky Dolenz of the Monkees was in the area recently for a show at the Dundalk Hertiage Fair. Ring Posts blogger Kevin Eck was right -- Mick's voice is still really strong. Check out this medly of tunes from the show, courtesy of Kevin's friend Chris ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Concert reviews

Big Kidz Sports Bar

springy thingsYou've already heard about Fumbles: The Sports Bar for Losers. Now, witness my latest wickedly awesome bar concept: Big Kidz Sports Bar.

It's like Dave and Busters. But not lame. Or, maybe, awesomely lame -- like, lame dipped in chocolate.

Basically this bar would take everything we enjoyed as kids (and possibly early teens*) and bring them into a bar setting.

I'm talking about a giant indoor dodgeball court. A swing set. Those springy things (pictured). Monkey bars. A big slide (wax paper costs $.50 a sheet). An Activity Zone. Possibly mini-golf. Possibly.

There would be a sandbox, complete with miniature John Deere tractors and an adult-sized, semi-mechanized digger (like this).

And then of course, standard games like corn hole, beer pong, shuffleboard and the like.

I realize Big Kidz Sports Bar would probably never work economically, because it would take up so much space. But there are tons of big enough buildings in this city currently sitting vacant.

Yes, there would be a liability involved with drinking and playing contact sports. But not much more of a liability than what already happens at neighborhood intramural sports gatherings that involve a children's game like kickball and kegs of beer. (I'm not naming names here.)

What, you may ask, am I smoking? Well, what happens when 20-somethings drink too much? They revert to a simpler version of their sober selves. They don't act their age -- they act like big kids. So why not give them a place where it's OK to be a big kid?

That place, gang, is Big Kidz Spots Bar.


*OK fine, I admit it, I'm 25 and I still enjoy swinging on a swing set. Gotta problem with that?

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:27 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

The recipe for Romulan Ale, a la Landmark Theatres

moviedrinks.jpgOne of the best parts about the fancy new(ish) Landmark Theatres Harbor East is its liquor license.

Not only can you order a drink (wine, beer, liquor) at the lobby bar, you can actually take the drink into the theater with you.

Yesterday, the paper had a great piece by John-John Williams IV about the bar's snazzy mixed drink menu, which is updated as the movies change. We're talking a drink for each of the four main characters of Sex and the City. We're talking James Bond martinis.

And, most importantly, we're talking Romulan Ale. Yes, the theater did make its own (legal) version of the highly illegal liquor featured on the Star Trek movie series. Set phasers to stun ...

I mean, in the movie series, a small amount of this stuff is potent enough to rock Capt. James T. Kirk. It's like ... a photon torpedo to the liver.

But since there is no such thing as real Romulan Ale (Star Trek is, regrettably, fiction), Landmark Theatres has to make do with what they have. Here is their recipe for the stuff:

Romulan Ale, from the Star Trek menu

1.2 ounces Svedka Citron vodka

.6 ounces Svedka Clementine vodka

white cranberry juice


splash of Blue Curacao

(Baltimore Sun photo of various Landmark Theatre mixed drinks by Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 8, 2009

Owner: Iguana Cantina will reopen as upscale rum bar

mojitoIguana Cantina isn't going away -- it's just getting a facelift, according to owner Tim Bennett.

Bennett, who closed the large club at 124 Market Place this week, said he plans to turn it into an upscale rum bar in the next three to four months.

Tentatively called Mojito's Rum Bar, the 10,000-square foot building would be split into two spaces, which would give it a more intimate feel. Right now, a crowd smaller than 500 people makes the place look empty, Bennett said.

Five years ago, when Bennett opened Iguana Cantina in the space formerly occupied by the Culture Club, crowds flocked to the spot. But business has died off in the past four to six months, Bennett said. ...

Several weeks ago, he called his landlords and told them of his plans to redo the place. Iguana Cantina had run its course, he said.

"Nightclubs like this don't last forever," he said. "Four to five years is a lifetime for a club."

Bennett cut his teeth at Hammerjack's, which he ran on Howard Street from 1991-1997 and helped reopen on Guilford Avenue in 2000. With Mojito's Rum Bar, he said he plans to drop college night specials and appeal to a 21+ crowd. Bennett said he has a 20-year lease on the spot -- an initial 10-year agreement with two five-year options.

"It's tough for me," he said. "I had my life in [Iguana Cantina]. It's not an easy decision to make, but was the right decision."

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:29 PM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Iguana Cantina is closed

iguanacantinabaltimore.jpgIguana Cantina, the giant club at 124 Market Place, is closed, according to security coordinator Dave Adams.

Adams said the party zone will be shut down for the next couple months to reorganize and reconcept the place.

"It's been five years and a good run," Adams told Sun reporter Justin Fenton.

Adams said the closing was not violence-related.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo of patrons standing outside Iguana Cantina)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:20 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The mark of death for new bars and clubs

When a new bar or club opens in this city, the worst way they can advertise themselves is with this catchphrase:

"We're bringing Miami/D.C./New York/L.A. to Baltimore!"

I don't know about you, but when I go out to a bar or club, the last thing I think is, 'Gee, this place could use a little Miami.' ...

This tagline about bringing some other city to Baltimore almost guarantees failure. I'm not saying the line is bad luck. It's not. But the line means the owners have a mindset that, most times, just doesn't jive here.

The only time it works is if the patrons -- not the bar owners -- say a place has a New York feel, or something like that.

I talked to Elizabeth Large about this, and she agreed with me.

"It's OK if it's Baltimoreans saying it," she said.

Otherwise, the bar is probably doomed. Probably. Doomed.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:41 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 7, 2009

Recap: Michael Jackson dance party at Bourbon Street

michael jacksonLast week, Bourbon Street hosted a Michael Jackson tribute dance party.

When general manager Sam Chaney sent me a recap of the night, he didn't think I would publish it. He just wanted me to know how the night went. But I think Chaney's account of the night is well-written and worth reading. Check it out:

At first, I was worried that the night wouldn't be what I had hoped for. The staff had fun with it and wore gloves, hats, mirrored sun glasses, sequenced pants & socks.

But the vibe was off for the first half of the night.

Not many customers wore the glove, my dancers weren't there and we didn't play a lot of Michael (I had never met most of the dancers and didn't know what they planned to dance to so I didn't want to replay music) ...

At 11:30 p.m., the dancers showed, the room was full and people were starting to ask for Michael's music. Around 12:20, I took the stage with the dancers and had the DJ lower the music. I talked to the crowd for and minute then asked the crowd to raise their cups, saying there will never be a moment of silence for Michael at Bourbon Street -- instead we are raising our glasses and and having a moment of as much bleeping noise as we can.

It's never been so loud at Bourbon Street.

Next, we went into "Thriller." The dancers started a freestyle circle inspired by Michael's moves while I asked anyone in the crowd who knew Michael's moves and wanted to join in to come to the stage. 

We did about a 25-minute medley from the Jackson 5 through all of his hits while AV Club mixed videos, live footage, Jackson 5 cartoons and moments of Michael's life. We ended it with one more moment of noise and went into various current music. The night ended on dirty Dianna mixed into "Man in the Mirror."

I don't mean to be so long-winded, but I am pretty excited with how the night turned out. More than 1,500 people had a great time -- without coming across cheesy or disrespectful.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:56 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Wow. Nobody guessed the mystery bar.

Ha! Alexander D. Mitchell IV and I finally stumped ya.

Despite multiple clues and several days of guessing time, nobody could figure out the identity of the mystery bar in the latest Name That Bar contest. 

So, you wanna know what it was? ...

teavolveThe photo is of the bar at Teavolve (1401 Aliceanna St., pictured) in Harbor East.


I am actually surprised that no one guessed it, because I know more than a few of you have been to Teavolve. I even wrote a nightlife column on the place not too long ago.

I'm waiting for someone to grumble about Teavolve not being a bar and blah blah blah. But, dear readers, Teavolve has a liquor license and serves fancy martinis infused with tea.

So there.

Thanks again for playing, everybody.

Maybe you'll get it next time around. Hee hee.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:17 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Name That Bar

Big Poppa's replaces Horsefeathers Pub near Patterson Park

rico ameroA new spot named Big Poppa's Bar & Grill has replaced the old dive Horsefeathers Pub at 40 N. Streeper St. near Patterson Park.

While the new owners, Shannon Lanier and Rico Amero (pictured), are following a familiar blueprint, the renovation process is surprisingly transparent.

Lanier and Amero, who are leasing the building, have uploaded floor plans and a detailed business plan to the bar's Web site. Check 'em out. You don't see behind-the-scenes stuff like this too often.

Their reasoning seems to be two-fold. First, they want investors. Second, they want the community to know what they're about.

"It's probably not the normal mode of business," Lanier said. "It gives everyone the idea that we're not just some corporation coming in."

Even though the wave of renovations and development in Patterson Park seems to have abated, they think they are enough young professionals to keep this place afloat.

Lanier and Amero have a six-month plan for the space. Already, renovations are underway ...

They added draft beer lines (Blue Moon, Dogfish Head, etc.) and flat screen TVs and are in the process of moving the bar from the side of the building to the rear. That way, they can have a seating area right as you walk in.

"For years, it's been a neighborhood watering hole," Lanier said. "We want to make it a bar and grill."

Right now, they're about halfway finished putting in new wood flooring. Soon, the building will have a new coat of paint. The color? Lime green. Yikes! That should make it stand out some. Amero is working on bringing in some low key live music, too, Lanier said.

"We're trying to clean it up and make it more inviting," he said.

The name seems kind of random. But once you see Lanier and Amero in person, you get it.

"Rico's a 350-pound dude and I'm about 280," Lanier said. "We're big guys."

Thanks to Cardwell for the tip.

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

Thoughts on ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz's Dundalk show

Micky Dolenz

Kevin Eck (of Ring Posts fame) was at the Dundalk Heritage Fair Sunday for Monkee Micky Dolenz's show. Here's what Kevin thought of it:

I'm sure there are a lot of people who consider The Monkees to be a guilty pleasure, but I’m not one of them.

Despite plenty of ribbing from friends and co-workers over the years, I have never felt guilty about being a fan of the 1960s made-for-TV band.

So what if The Monkees did not write the lyrics or play the instruments on their early hits? The undeniable fact is that The Monkees have an extensive catalog of great pop songs that have stood the test of time.

That's why I was so excited to see my favorite Monkee, Micky Dolenz (pictured), play Sunday night at the Dundalk Heritage Fair.

Dolenz is now 64, so I didn’t know what to expect, but he and his band performed with verve and put on a fun show.

Remarkably, Dolenz’s voice didn’t sound much different than it did during The Monkees' heyday more than 40 years ago. ...

The 19-song set list included Monkees classics such as I'm A Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville," "Daydream Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," as well as a handful of cover tunes. Dolenz's sister, Coco, who sings background vocals, took center stage to perform "Different Drum," the Linda Rondstadt song that was written by former Monkee Mike Nesmith, and The Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic hit, "White Rabbit."

In an interview that I did with Dolenz last week, he said that he tries to remain faithful to the original songs when performing them live, and that was the case.

He opened with "That Was Then, This Is Now," which was the hit single from The Monkees' big 1986 reunion. It's hard to believe that The Monkees' comeback single is now older than the original Monkees songs were at the time of that revival.

One of the highlights of Sunday's show was "Goin' Down," a high-energy, scat-style song that Dolenz performed while sashaying back and forth across the stage. After the song was over, Dolenz jokingly said, "Now I gotta go get some CPR."

At various points in the concert, Dolenz told stories before playing covers that were related to them. For example, he played "Purple Haze" when talking about the opening act for The Monkees' first tour – an up-and-coming guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. He also performed Johnny B. Goode, which is the song he did when he auditioned for The Monkees television show, and "Oh Darling," a Beatles song that he watched the Fab Four record in a London studio.

Dolenz ended the 70-minute set with The Monkees' signature hit, "I’m a Believer." When introducing the song, Dolenz said he had a message for the little kids in the audience. "I was singing this song long before Shrek."

Set list:

That Was Then, This is Now

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You



Sometime in the Morning

Last Train to Clarksville

Johnny B. Goode

Purple Haze

The Girl That I Knew Somewhere

Different Drum

(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone

Goin’ Down

White Rabbit

Oh Darling

D.W. Washburn

Daydream Believer

Pleasant Valley Sunday

Gimme Some Lovin'

I'm a Believer

(Stock photo)

Posted by at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Concert reviews

July 6, 2009

Resurrecting Merriweather Post Pavilion

mpp.JPGI had a piece in yesterday's paper about the remarkable turnaround at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

This is an amphitheater that was on its last legs a few years ago.

Since then, promoter Seth Hurwitz has led a remarkable comeback, topped by the Virgin Mobile FreeFest, which Merriweather hosts Aug. 30.

Check out the piece.

Besides the bit about the turnaround, it has some interesting history about the venue ...

My parents were actually at the Jackson Browne show there in the mid-70s that was taped for Running On Empty. They have reminded me of this several times in a vain attempt to prove that music was better in the '70s then it is now.

I'm still not buying it.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Tasha Treadwell)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:15 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

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

captain larry'sCaptain Larry's (601 E. Fort Ave.)!

Ivars and the gang beat out a bunch of other South Baltimore bars to win the Midnight Sun Commenters' Choice Award for Federal Hill's Best Neighborhood Bar.

People seemed to gloss over (or dispute) my description of the physical boundaries of Federal Hill as defined by this contest.

To them, I say: Pbth.

Here are the runner-ups ...

Second place: Mum's (1132 S. Hanover St.). It was nice to see a shout out to Sinclair.

Third place is a tie between Muggsy's Mug House (1236 Light St.) and Pub Dog (20 E. Cross St.).

People made some good points about Idle Hour not having a neighborhood bar feel. But I'm not changing my vote again. I'm sticking by it this time.

The next Commenter's Choice award will be announced soon. I'm going to drop them like bombs all month. So get ready.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:07 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

The Blue Hill Tavern is open

Last week, I people started e-mailing me about the Blue Hill Tavern in Brewer's Hill (938 S. Conkling St.). They wanted to know if I'd been there yet. I e-mailed them back, and they told me it hadn't opened yet. I guess I'm supposed to be able to walk through walls.

Anyhow, my pal Evan and I made the trip out there last Thursday. My jaw dropped as we drove by. If I'm not mistaken, this building used to be a scruffy-looking little lesbian bar called Gallagher's. These days, you'd never know ...

The Blue Hill Tavern's owners must have invested a boatload of money into the space. It's one of the sharpest new restaurant/bars I've seen in a while. Wood beams stretch up the front of the building, and the stone bar back had its own little waterfall.

We weren't able to stay and have drinks, because it was friends and family night (as in, friends and family of the owners). But I'm definitely going to have to go back soon. I want to see more of that place.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:17 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 4, 2009

Another place to watch the fireworks tonight

When I compiled the list of the best places to watch the fireworks tonight, outside of the crowded Inner Harbor pavilion scene, I left one great spot out: Tabrizi's, (500 Harborview Dr.). I don't know why I didn't include Tabrizi's in the list ...

Thankfully, owner Michael Tabrizi saw the list and e-mailed me about my omission.

"I wonder why such a gem is being missed by you!," he wrote.

I wonder too, Michael. Sorry about that.

Happy 4th everybody!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:28 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Random stuff

July 3, 2009

Why would I possibly care?

As a journalist, I get all sorts of weird e-mails from attention-seeking press agents. But I think this has to be one of the most random ones I've gotten in a while:

Issued Today, Isle Of Man's Eight-Stamp Set Salutes Hitmaking Native Sons

Umm ... OK ...

What am I supposed to do with that?

I ask that very question when PR people send me e-mails about bands with obscene names. They're like, Hey Sam, how about a profile on this great new band, [Expletive] Eaters from Manchester! They've got a hot new album on the college circuit, and guess what -- they're coming to Baltimore!

I'm like, Uhh, this is a family newspaper, guys. And they're like, well, what about a listing?


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:59 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff

July 2, 2009

My list of offbeat Inner Harbor spots to watch the 4th of July fireworks

baltimore fireworksThanks again for posting your suggestions for offbeat places to catch Saturday's downtown fireworks display.

I came up with about a dozen options outside of the Inner Harbor.

They include (but aren't limited to) Bo Brooks, Tide Point Waterfront Park, Canton Waterfront Park, Shuckers, the Bay Cafe and more.

Here's a link to the piece, which ran in today's paper.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Random stuff

You still haven't guessed the latest Name That Bar

I already gave one hint:

Here's another: The first letter of the name of this one-word spot is in the second half of the alphabet. The prize for guessing the Mystery Bar is getting better and better by the day. I can't believe it's taken you guys so long. I know more than a few of you have been here.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:12 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Name That Bar

Federales to open in Federal Hill

mexicanhatstyle.JPGA new upscale Mexican eatery named Federales is coming to Federal Hill, a source told me.

If all goes as planned, Billabong, the Australian themed pub on East Cross Street, will close, and the liquor license will be transfered to the building at 1100 S. Charles St. (where Dinner at Your Door once was).

The new owners are going to build an outdoor terrace in the adjacent parking lot.

According to my source, Federales is going to be a cross between Rosa Mexicano and Don Pablo's. It will serve tacos and burritos to go at the Charles Street entrance ...

Why is this on Midnight Sun? Well, Elizabeth Large is on vacation, so I thought I'd pass it along before anybody else does.

The chef will be Francisco Lopez, who is currently the sous chef at Ryleigh's Oyster.

I'd say it's a shame Billabong has to close for Federales to open, but I was never sold on the place. It was OK -- certainly not great.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:05 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Let's talk about Lady Gaga for a second

ladygaga.JPGWhy? Because it's my blog and I'll write about Lady Gaga if I want to.

Lady Gaga makes me giggle.

She's saturated with sexuality. Her wardrobes are so over the top. Her image is pure plastic.

But I can't imagine that she takes herself seriously. She's got to be in on the joke. Right?

Look at this photo of her. She's wearing some kind of cyborg spacesuit dress, she's got what appears to be a cutesy blonde wig draped over one eye, and then the kicker: She's rocking a keytar.


Unfamiliar with the keytar? Witness this.



I listened to (and enjoyed) "Just Dance" when it came out. And I liked "Poker Face" too. She's got a serious set of pipes (here's proof), which are hidden with computerized effects on her singles. Gaga's got talent.

And today, I've been listening to instrumental versions of her hits, like "Poker Face," "Just Dance" and "Love Game," among others.

I think of those three songs, the only one where Gaga slips up is "Love Game." Listen to the instrumental track. Gaga isn't lying when she says, on the version with lyrics, "This beat is sick." It's a banger.

The weakest thing about the song is her melody. She's got some outrageous lyrics ("I wanna take a ride on your disco stick"), as usual. But her melodies just aren't strong on this one. She spoiled a great track.

But overall, Gaga still makes me chuckle. Keep it real fake, L.G.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:41 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Random stuff

July 1, 2009

What's the best neighborhood bar in Federal Hill?

the idle hourWe've done Canton. We've done Hampden. We've done Fells Point (and what a doozy that was).

Now, let's tackle Federal Hill.

What is the best neighborhood bar in Federal Hill? And why?

The "why" is crucial.

Oh, and by the way, I've come up with a name for this little series: the Midnight Sun Commenters' Choice Awards. I might even make awards for the winning bars, and give them out at the next Shindig.

To jog everyone's memories, this is what I mean by neighborhood bar ...

First, the place has to have a crew of regulars -- but it can't be exclusive or cliquish. 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.

I'm defining Federal Hill as everything south of the Science Center to the Hanover Street bridge, west to the stadiums and east to Lawrence Street.

Now, outside of the crazy party zones in the Cross Street Corridor, there are quite a few great neighborhood bars in Federal Hill. Mum's, the Tavern on Key, Captain Larry's, etc.

But my vote goes for the Idle Hour (201 E. Fort Ave.). I love the vibe there. The art work on the walls is always good, the DJs are top-notch and the drinks are quite nice indeed. So is the service, for that matter.

What's your pick, and why?

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:10 PM | | Comments (104)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

The best neighborhood bar in Fells Point is ...

midnight sun's commenter's choice award for best neighborhood bar in Fells Point Bad Decisions!

Big surprise, eh? Hee hee.

Sorry it took me so long to post this -- it took quite a while to go back through all 135ish comments and tally the votes.

But as you can see from this highly scientific chart, Bad Decisions was the clear winner, with 45ish votes.

Hey, I'm a journalist, not a mathematician!

Thankfully, parachuting marine soldier toy was there to keep watch over the vote tallying. Fairness is most important when it comes to such a prestigious award.

Here are the runners up ...

Second place: the Wharf Rat (801 S. Ann St.), with six votes

Third place: Ale Mary's (1939 Fleet St.), with five votes

It's pretty crazy just how much of a lead Bad Decisions had -- and pretty much from the get-go. Then there was the controversial vote change on my part, when I realized I had forgotten about Bad Decisions. 

Pot = stirred.

Sam = satisfied.

I'll unveil the next neighborhood in the Midnight Sun Commenter's Choice Awards later today.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:29 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Commenters' Choice Awards

Offbeat places to watch the fireworks?

I'm writing a nightlife column about some spots to watch the fireworks -- outside of the sure-to-be-swamped Harborplace. Right now, I've got Tide Point Waterfront Park, Bond Street Wharf, Bay Cafe, Bo Brooks and Shucker's. Got any other ones for me?
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:29 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Random stuff

Some news, some notes, some whatnots

sometimes sam has bloodshot eyes in the morning. or maybe he's really Cyclops. your call.You know, most days when you see the 7 a.m. time stamp on a post, I'm actually up that early blogging.

But I won't touch Midnight Sun without a large cup of hot, tasty coffee. That's my only prerequisite (a big word for 7 a.m., I know).

A brief tangent: Anybody know a local spot or distributor that carries really good coffee? Like, this stuff? I'd love to get some without paying an arm and a leg for shipping from Costa Rica.

If you notice, Midnight Sun (and the rest of the Sun blogs) got a minor face lift earlier this week.

I lobbied hard to have the blog search bar bumped up from the very bottom of the sidebar almost all the way to the top. That way, it's easier to find previous posts. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

I also created a Name That Bar category, which will (soon) have all the previous Name That Bar contests and winners, just for kicks. And I'm going to add a category titled All the Essentials (or something like that), and put some background posts about me and Midnight Sun in it ...

BD left a comment last night under the Best Fells Point Neighborhood Bar post wanting to know when a winner will be declared.

Truth is, I've been putting it off because I don't feel like sitting down and tallying 130-some votes. I mean, Bad Decisions won, but I'd like to know who came in second and such. Hopefully I can get to that today.

Last night, I had the Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad (also known as the Hilltop Hightopps) in for a Baltimore Unsigned taping. At one point, guitarist Ryan Graham and I were talking about Midnight Sun, and how I'll write a post that I expect will be a hit but goes nowhere. And then, I'll write a post as a one-off and it will catch fire.

"Then why don't you write more posts like that?", he said. 


My response: "That's just like saying, 'Hey, Billy Joel, why haven't you written any hits lately?'"

Better yet -- my colleague Chris Kaltenbach was on the red carpet back in '98, standing next to a member of the foreign press. Up walks one of actor Michael Douglas' brothers. In what is probably the most tactless question possible, the foreign journo walks up to the Douglas bro and asks:

"Hey [random Douglas brother], why aren't you as famous as your father or brother?"
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:20 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music, Random stuff
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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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