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August 31, 2009

A quick Bruce Springsteen Verizon Center question

My colleague, Mary McCauley, is working on a piece about Bruce Springsteen ticket sales. Mary wants to know if you were one of the people who bought tickets to Springsteen's May 18 show at the Verizon Center only to be told last minute that the show was oversold. E-mail her at
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:07 PM | | Comments (3)

Seth Hurwitz and the wasp

seth hurwitz

Yesterday, I grabbed Virgin Mobile FreeFest producer Seth Hurwitz for a quick interview.

I asked him about the difference between Pimlico Race Course and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Merriweather might have a less storied history than Pimlico, but its sprawling grounds suited this year’s scaled-back festival, Hurwitz said.

"[Merriweather] is not an exotic site, but it has its own ambiance," he said.

Just then, a yellow jacket wasp flew onto Hurwitz’s face and stung him on the forehead ...

"Get it off! Get it off!" he howled. I flicked the wasp from his face.

"Is the stinger out?," he asked. I couldn't see a stinger, I told him.

"Make sure it's gone," I said. We looked for it, and realized it was crawling on Hurwitz's leg near his crotch. Hurwitz shooed the bee away.

"We had the Police one year," he quipped. "I thought we were done with sting."

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:25 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff

Concert review: Virgin Mobile FreeFest

virgin mobile freefestI still can't believe it was free.

My goodness: 11 hours of music, 20+ acts, all kinds of wacky stuff on the side (like karaoke, a fortune teller, etc.). It's almost pointless to criticize this year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest because, well, it was free. And free makes everything better.

First, some observations:

The crowd this year was much younger than any of the previous years. That's probably because there weren't any vintage mainstays such as Bob Dylan or The Who on the roster.

Merriweather was a much better home for the Virgin Fest than Pimlico. There's hardly any shade at Pimlico. Merriweather is nice and woodsy.

However, the lines to get into the pavilion were pretty long, and irritated some people (seats were first-come, first-serve, and the pavilion only holds so many people). To the folks who were angry about not getting into the pavilion: Chill. It's a free concert.

The video screens were about a second behind the sound. Was anybody else frustrated with that?

Oh, and before I forget -- here's a photo gallery from the festival, and here's a scene piece I did on it for today's paper.

And now, the music ...

Let's break it up into chunks, so you can skip the reviews of the bands you didn't see/aren't interested in. Also, some of these blurbs were written by Mark Gross of Metromix fame. Thanks a million, Mark! Here goes:

virgin mobile freefestHoly F[lip]

Holy F[lip] isn’t just a four-piece electronic collective from Toronto, Canada -- it's also the reaction one has wandering in front of the band’s live performance. The opening set on the dance stage, two members fiddled with electronic devices while a third played bass and a fourth played drums. The presence of a four-piece act on the dance stage was startling, but the monstrously loud sound was even more surprising.

Big beats and a growing electronic swell got the crowd swaying in time, but the scene was hardly club-like. Compared to the covered dance tents of previous Virgin Festivals, the open stage and wooded lot saw fewer glow sticks and dance circles. Holy F[lip] get props for setting a high bar in terms of volume, but not so much for getting the crowd moving.


Despite previous late-starting hip-hop acts such as Lil Wayne, Wale bounded onstage shortly after his scheduled 2 p.m. start time. With a full live band backing him, the go-go/hip-hop group played a rock-oriented, bass-heavy intro that slipped seamlessly into a funk groove. Wale’s rhymes were as quick and clean as they sound on his mixtapes.

The D.C. rapper’s friendly banter proved he was happy to be playing to a home crowd. When he mentioned playing a recent show at Duke in North Carolina, the crowd booed him. The rapper spent a lot of time between songs giving shout-outs to D.C. At one point, he made it clear he hopes the Redskins have a good season, but he poked fun at Washington’s quarterback when he said, “Oh, look, I’m Jason Campbell” and pretended to get sacked. Wale ended the set by smoking a cigar to D.C.’s success and telling DJ AM to rest in peace.

St. Vincent

Early afternoon on an outdoor stage wasn't the best time and place for this charming Brooklyn songstress. She's a fine singer and a talented guitarist, but the nuances of her quirky, turn-on-a-dime tunes were lost in such a setting. A seated theater would probably be the best place to see her play. A solo cover of The Beatles' "Dig A Pony" was quite nice, though.

virgin mobile freefest

Mates of State

This West Coast duo held the attention of throngs of teens waiting for Taking Back Sunday to go on, which is no small feat. Jason Hammel's thunderous drumming held down the bottom end, while singer/keyboardist Kori Gardner rounded out the sound. Their set had several songs from their latest album Re-Arrange us, which is their strongest yet.

Taking Back Sunday

By the time Taking Back Sunday took the stage at 3 p.m., the lawn was covered with blankets and sweat-drenched festival-goers. Fans stood in line to get under the pavilion and into shaded seats, but security only allowed people in intermittently.

The band said one song was inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s performance in “Titanic,” and dedicated a later one to the Wayans brothers. In addition to celebrity dedications, the pop-punk group delighted in reminding the crowd the festival was free. The band’s call and response, round robin vocals synced with the continuously driving drums and distorted guitars just they way they do on the radio.

the hold steadyThe Hold Steady

Two words: Inevitably awesome. With The Hold Steady, you almost always know what you're getting, and it's almost always great. Singer Craig Finn spat out literary lyrics almost as if he were giving an angry spoken word performance and sweat through his button-down shirt. Lead guitarist Tad Kubler let loose some blistering riffs, and keyboardist Franz Nicolay looked ever-dapper in his driver's cap and suit.

We heard "Sequestered In Memphis," "Navy Sheets," "Lord I'm Discouraged" and "Chips Ahoy," to name a few.

Public Enemy

Chuck D and Flava Flav attracted the largest crowd the West Stage hosted all day. Public Enemy’s old-school hip-hop was filled with just the sort of turntable scratching and monotone, primitive vocals that defined the group in the '80s.

Neither Chuck D nor Flavor Flav seemed to have planned a coherent set. Much of the set was spent in a sort of incoherent monologue mode. Chuck D and Flava Flav recalled all the old-school hip-hop acts they missed. The duo also spent time naming deceased artists whom they revered, including Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Jam-Master Jay and Michael Jackson. A segment of “Billie Jean” was played, in which Flavor Flav’s name replaced Billie Jean’s. Heh.

flavor flavDuring another extended Chuck D monologue, the “Flavor of Love” star interrupted with a self-serving non sequitur. The B-lister wanted everyone to visit iTunes to download his first effort as an R&B singer. At the set’s conclusion, Flavor Flav revealed a self-indulgent side again when he said, “I know we got to go, but I got to get on the drums and play a beat.” Flavor Flav should not hang up his microphone for a pair of drum sticks any time soon.

The National

The National soothed what was left of a hyper-active crowd. Following Public Enemy, the audience  had dwindled significantly. Frontman Matt Berninger joked that The National “do the same sort of thing as Public Enemy,” before he crooned in his mellow baritone. The sun was setting, the heat was fading and the sparkle of a small brass section added to the lullaby effect of The National’s set.

Girl Talk

A lean but dedicated crowd waited for Girl Talk, the Pittsburgh-born master of mashups. The sole member of the group, Greg Gillis, burst onto the stage wearing a blue hoodie and maroon sweatpants and flailed spastically in what looked like Muppet aerobics. Listeners charged toward the stage, and moments later a swarm of young fans poured out of the backstage area to surround Gillis. Gillis is always joined by a massive entourage of dancers selected from the audience, and this year's Virgin FreeFest was no exception.

Girl Talk's set was a sustained 70 minute dance party. Gillis kept dancers interested by working hit after hit into his mashups. Black Sabbath paired with Ludacris. Metallica went up against Lady Gaga. Girl Talk provides a rare opportunity to do the "Stanky Leg" to Guns N' Roses. The snippet that got the biggest reaction was, oddly enough, Kelly Clarkson. Go figure.

Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand brings something to the stage that isn't so apparent on its albums: Rock and roll. The true power of the Scottish band's distorted guitars and power drumming becomes apparent early in its set.

Headliners have it tough at festivals, seeing as their performances occur so many hours after the first bands perform. Eleven hours after the gates opened to Virgin FreeFest, the crowd that gathered to hear Franz Ferdinand still had a lot of dancing to do. Though the 2004 single "Take Me Out" didn't arrive until mid-set, the crowd response was one of mass synchronized jumping.

The band performed in front of a towering massive backdrop depicting members' heads several stories tall, which seemed pretty rock and roll, too.


Best set of the day. Easily.

Weezer sounded amazing. They played a bunch of songs from "The Blue Album," as well as hits like "Hash Pipe," "Pork and Beans" and "Beverly Hills." If you haven't listened to Weezer in a while, it's easy to forget how many hits they had. "Buddy Holly" was epic.

All five guys on stage wore red T-shirts with black pants (they were probably the only band at the festival in matching outfits). Front man Rivers Cuomo is such a lovable dork.


Who needs hype men? The guys in Blink-182 are their own biggest fans. Before, during or after nearly every song, guitarist/singer Tom DeLonge (and, sometimes, singer/bassist Mark Hoppus) would tell the crowd how great the song was.

Some examples:

"This song is going to blow your [bleeping] [bleep] off!"

"[Bleep] yeah that was awesome!"

"I went into that song knowing it was going to be great."

The list goes on. The recently reunited  Blink tossed a lot of tunes from their last, self-titled album. Drummer Travis Barker was absolutely insane. He's one of the most talented drummers out there, hands down. DeLonge, who still acts like a 15-year-old, is a solid rhythm guitarist who needs to stop trying to solo, because it just doesn't work out well for him.

While Blink's set was tight, it just wasn't as good as Weezer's.

But then again, who are we to complain? After all, it was free.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

August 30, 2009

Smaller doesn't mean less energetic

Today's Virgin Mobile FreeFest might be smaller than previous years, but it's every bit as energetic.

Sure, Merriweather Post Pavilion is half the size of Pimlico Race Course, And the festival has been cut from a weekend-long spectacle to a one-day affair. Even the traditionally diverse lineup was focused to include mostly rock bands and DJs. But this year's festival was also free, and free goes a long way ...

There aren't any official attendance figures out yet, but I'd say tens of thousands of concert-goers are here. They've moshed to Jet, bounced to Mates of State, and pumped their fists in the air to The Hold Steady.

And in typical Virgin Fest fashion, there is a ton of other activities for folks who want to take a break from band-watching. You can your picture taken in the free photo booth. You can sing karaoke, or have your fortune texted to you from a psychic.

“There is never a dull moment – and if there is, it’s only because you want it to be,” said Ryan Griffin, an 18-year-old who lives in Columbia.

So far, the only major complaint has been the long lines of fans waiting to get into the pavilion. The seats were first-come, first-served, and the space is only so big. As a result, lines are snaking across the lawn, and some of the people are starting to get impatient. But you can only get so impatient with a free show.

"I don't like standing in it, but at least you've got the chance to get a seat," said Yasmin Karimian, a 19-year-old who lives in Monkton.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

The Virgin Mobile FreeFest is under way

It's breezy and beautiful at Merriweather Post Pavilion -- perfect weather for the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

I'm not going to be blogging as much in years past, but if you're at the festival (or want to keep up on the happenings), Sun scribe Julie Scharper will be tweeting all day. Just follow @juliemore ...

Right now, Sunday's Roulette is playing on the West Stage. Don't know who they are? You're not alone. Same goes for The Birthday Massacre, who won the Book the Band contest. The real action gets underway when St. Vincent plays at 12:45 a.m. 

Sir Richard Branson is going to be popping up all over the place today. He's taking a photo with Free I.P. volunteers at noon, guest bartending with Flava Flav and Tom DeLonge at 4 p.m. to benefit homeless youth organizations, touring the grounds with Washington mayor Adrian Fenty, judging a Chuck Taylor shoe contest ... you get the picture. Wonder if he's gonna get the chance to see some music?

Perhaps the wildest stunt will come at 7:30 p.m., when Red Bull Skydivers are going to (hopefully) land on top the pavilion roof. Branson will be there to greet them (of course) with a glass of bubbly. The rebel billionaire strikes again!

All right. Time to see some music. 


Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:06 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

August 29, 2009

Say hello to Banners, a new Locust Point joint

banners baltimoreHi, Banners!

Welcome to Locust Point. Sorry I took such a crappy cell phone photo of you. I know it doesn't do you justice.

Do you like your new digs at 1401 Decatur Street? Have the locals been kind to ya?

Maybe I'll drop by tonight and say hi.

Maybe I won't. 


(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:17 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 28, 2009

Virgin Mobile FreeFest schedule announced

blink-182Here's the schedule for the Virgin Mobile FreeFest, which comes to Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday:

Pavilion Stage
Mates of State: 1:30-2:25 p.m.
Taking Back Sunday: 2:50-4 p.m.
Jet: 4:20-5:30 p.m.
The Bravery: 6-7:15 p.m.
Weezer: 7:45-8:45 p.m.
Blink-182 : 9:15-10:45 p.m.

West Stage
Sundays Roulette: 11:15-11:45 a.m.
The Birthday Massacre: noon-12:30 p.m.
St. Vincent: 12:45-1:35 p.m.
Wale: 2-3 p.m.
The Hold Steady: 3:35-4:45 p.m.
Public Enemy: 5:15-6:30
The National: 6:50-7:50 p.m.
Girl Talk: 8:10-9:20 p.m.
Franz Ferdinand: 9:50-11 p.m.

Dance Stage
Holy F*ck: 1-2:30 p.m.
Lee Burridge: 2:45-5:30 p.m.
Danny Howells: 5:30-8:15 p.m.
Pete Tong: 8:15-11 p.m. 

I'll be seeing Mates of State, St. Vincent, The Hold Steady, the second half of Jet's set, Public Enemy, Weezer and Blink.

What about you?

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:03 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

What bar would you miss the most?

With all this news of high-end restaurants like the Brass Elephant closing, it got me thinking: What bar would you miss the most, if it closed today? And why?

A colleague, Jacques Kelly, once encouraged me to patronize my favorite restaurants and bars, because even institutions (like the Brass Elephant and, say, Max's) aren't going to be here forever. And what's that old Cinderella tune about not knowing what you've got until it's gone? Or was that Joni Mitchell? Hee hee.

Seriously though, think about it -- what spot(s) would you miss the most?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:45 AM | | Comments (55)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

And we have a winner ....

Josh is our 16,000th commenter, with his charming remark:

New to Baltimore but it seems like there a lot of crappy bars right around this one. Interested in trying something out that might be a little less "Hooterish".

Hee hee. Josh, shoot me an e-mail at and we'll figure out a way to claim your prize.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:13 AM | | Comments (0)

August 27, 2009

Some Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets are still available

Go here and you can get one with a $10 donation to Virgin's Regeneration charity. Thanks, 600 Block, for the tip!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:55 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Does Weezer get the middle finger or the devil's horns? Depends on the song.

weezerIn today's paper, I profiled alt-rock staple Weezer, who co-headlines Sunday's Virgin Mobile FreeFest with Blink-182.

According to bassist Scott Shriner, Weezer fans are generally split into two camps: Fans of "The Blue Album" and "Pinkerton" and fans of the more recent hit single "Beverly Hills."

"I have fun watching people have a good time listening to ["Beverly Hills"] and be totally confused by something off "Pinkerton," Shriner said.

"But I'm just as happy when I see all the "Pinkerton" fans light up and the "Beverly Hills" fans scratch their heads. That's fine. I think we're going to mix it up even more."

But wait, fans' reactions to various songs can get a bit wilder than that ...

Bringing the rock to such a wide-ranging fan base can have its rocky moments, though, Shriner says. Sometimes, the audience gets split between love and hatred for certain songs.

"I can focus on the guy that's flipping me off the whole show or I can focus on the dude that's throwing metal horns and having a good time," Shriner said. "I tend to go more for the metal horns then the finger - although I'm not scared of the finger."


(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (3)

What city convenience stores have liquor licenses?

rite aid beerThe other day, I happened to be in the snack aisle of the Rite Aid at Baltimore and Calvert streets when I noticed the beer section.

Wait a minute: The beer section?

Yes, the beer section.

That particular Rite Aid happens to have a liquor license. Though the selection isn't amazing, the Rite Aid stocks a pretty comprehensive collection of domestics and standard imports. There is also wine, and I believe, spirits.

I'm sure it's quite convenient for folks who either live in the neighborhood or are passing through on their way home from work or to The Block.

That got me thinking -- what other city convenience stores also happen to have liquor licenses? ...

According to jmgiordano, the Rite Aid at 3133 Greenmount Ave. has a decent selection -- reasonably priced, too.

How did this come to be?

jmgiordano spoke with the folks at the Greenmount Rite Aid who said long ago, the spot used to be a liquor store. When Rite Aid took over a couple decades ago, the liquor license was grandfathered in. They just can't sell booze on Sunday.

Now if I can only get the Lucky's near me to stock Clipper City.

Also, if you know of any other odd spots besides convenience stores that also happen to have liquor licenses, fill us in.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:58 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Approaching 16,000 comments

I got busy and missed the 15,000 comment mark, so I want to make up for it now. Whoever posts the 16,000th comment wins a prize. That mark will be reached either today or tomorrow, depending on the comments.

To give you a comment worth debating, I ask: What is the craziest (but printable) piece of grafitti you've seen scrawled inside a bar/restaurant/club bathroom? Go!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (17)

August 26, 2009

"Using" the sink

using the sinkA couple weeks ago, during the Phish Merriweather show, I needed to use the restroom.

During intermission, I got my chance. Even though Merriweather recently tripled the size of the restrooms, it was a sold-out show, and the line for the men's room was super long.

The "gentleman" in front of me, who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, had his own theory for how to get the line to move faster:


This dude probably shouted this same message a couple dozen times in the 15 minutes it took for us to get inside the bathroom. 

Once we were inside, nobody was using the sink. Even the dude didn't use the sink. 

"There's plenty of sinks open," he lamely said, as he used a urinal.

Do people actually use the sink? 

(Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:29 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

BAR in Fells Point is open again

BAR fells point baltimoreAfter some renovations, BAR in Fells Point is back in business, one of my spies reports.

"New floor, but same smell," the tipster wrote.

Hee hee.

Welcome back, BAR!

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:24 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The oddest urinals I've ever seen

urinals at the reserve baltimoreLongtime readers of Midnight Sun know I've got something of a bathroom fetish.

Maybe "fetish" is too strong a word. Lemme try that again.

Longtime readers of Midnight Sun know I've got a keen interest in bathrooms and bathroom accessories.

The only hand dryers I'll use are the XLerators, which are so strong they almost blow the skin off your hand.

That said, I've never seen something quite like the urinals at The Reserve (1542 Light St.). They're oval-shaped and inset into the wall. But the oddest part is, they don't flush ...

In that respect, they're kind of like the troughs you see at American Legion halls. I assume there's some natural force -- gravity, perhaps? -- that takes care of that for you.

Either way, it kinda freaks me out.

Urinals should flush. That is a rule. Urinals that don't flush -- especially in bar bathrooms -- are asking for trouble.

Do these kind of urinals exist in other Baltimore joints? Is this a trend?

I certainly hope not. Nasty nasty.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:34 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 25, 2009

What is going on at Huckas?

huckas baltimoreIt's a good question. And as of right now, I don't have the answer.

Back when I blogged about Huckas closing late last year, the word on the street was Brian Pettit was trying to open a new joint there called Canton Arts & Entertainment.

I've walked past Canton Arts & Entertainment and seen people doing work inside.

Yes, I know, we should add Canton Arts & Entertainment to the list of Baltimore's Worst Named Bars.

Come to think of it, I don't have an official list going. Let's fix that. I officially nominate Turp's, 13.5% and NcDevin's.

Any others come to mind?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:16 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Did you volunteer for Virgin Fest tickets?

Did you participate in the Summer of Service program in Howard County, or Virgin Mobile's own volunteer for tickets program? If so, shoot me a quick e-mail at


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:53 AM | | Comments (1)

Charm City Roller Girls raise thousands for hate crime victim

charm city roller girlsHow about some good news? 

The Charm City Roller Girls raised more than $2,000 at their bout this past Saturday, through beer sales and private donations. The money will go to James Privott, a 76-year-old victim of a hate crime.

The Roller Girls will also give Privott a $100 gift card to Rusty Scupper and a $250 gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods, which he can use to buy more fishing equipment (Privott had just finished fishing when he was attacked by a group of white men).

If you missed the bout but still want to make a contribution, the Roller Girls have set up a PayPal button on their Web site, which goes directly to the Privott donation fund.

They're going to keep the button up on their site until Friday, according to league member Tara Gebhardt. They hope to hit $3,000 by the end of the week ...

Last week, Gebhardt was watching the news about the hate crime, and imagined herself in Privott's position.

"What if I was packing my skating gear and somebody came up and attacked me?," she said. "This is supposed to be your outlet -- your fun thing in life. We really want to be able to show him our support so he can hopefully get the association of this horrible thing away from fishing as soon as possible."

The Roller Girls felt even worse about the crime when they realized Privott's attackers were young people -- about the same age as many of the Roller Girls.

"We wanted to show him he does have the support of the young people in the community," Gebhardt said.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

A bar owner's responsibility shouldn't stop at the sidewalk

There is a larger, more important issue with the whole Suite Ultralounge saga: It shouldn't have gone this far in the first place.

It shouldn't have come down to the liquor board revoking the license, or a judge ruling over whether or not the liquor board had the proper authority to shutter the club.

Louis V. Wood, Suite's owner, should have stopped this violence as soon as it started -- whether it was inside or outside his bar ...

Legally, a bar owner's responsibility might stop at the sidewalk. But if there are frequent shootings and beatings outside a club, bar owners can't just leave it to the police to clean up the mess. They need to tackle the problem before it begins.

Take Club One, for example. Several months ago, two patrons were shot outside the downtown club. To prevent further violence, the club hired bouncers with bullet-resistant vests and flex cuffs to pat down customers and patrol the area outside the club. They made sure club goers didn't congregate long outside the building, according to a piece by Sun reporter Peter Hermann (read his blog, Baltimore Crime Beat, here).

That's an extreme case of club owners taking things into their own hands. But that sounds like what was necessary at Suite Ultralounge soon after it opened. Instead, we got a spate of violence.

If customers are causing a ruckus inside a bar or club, the owners need to cut them off and threaten to ban them from coming back. If violence happens outside a bar or club, the owners need to hire enough security to keep the peace. It's as simple as that.

Otherwise, the bar or club needs to be firmly and swiftly punished. To that end, it's a shame this hasn't happened with Suite Ultralounge. I hope for the sake of neighborhood residents and the non-violent patrons of this club that Suite Ultralounge is shut down before someone dies.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:29 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Suite Ultralounge will stay open -- for now

suite ultra loungeThe long-awaited ruling from Baltimore Circuit Court judge Kaye A. Allison is in, and the embattled Suite Ultralounge can keep its license -- for now.

The Baltimore liquor board didn't have the proper policies in place when it revoked Suite's license last November, Allison ruled.

The liquor board is holding a hearing Sept. 24 to introduce new regulations which officials hope would solve the problem. But it could be as late as November before the city's only bottle club loses its license.

Many violent episodes have been linked to the bottle club in the basement of the Belvedere. And it's unbelievable the club still has its license.

"What a mess," said Councilman William H. Cole IV, who represents the area. 

"I'm concerned about the delay, but we don't have another choice. Now we just have to hope the liquor board acts swiftly and we'll move from there."

In the meantime, the violence has continued ...

At 1:15 a.m. last Friday, Midnight Sun commenter Ryan97ou was walking home from Brewer's Art when he saw a pack of people on the corner of Chase and Charles streets. Then he heard gunfire. Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said one man chased another during an argument and fired about 12 shots, but no one appeared to be struck. Ryan97ou, whose real name is Ryan Detter, was appalled.

"It's crazy that it's gotten to this point," Detter said. "It proves the ineptitude of this city when it comes to the legal system."

Detter, who has lived in Mount Vernon for four years, is now looking to move elsewhere.

Of course, police couldn't directly link the weapons discharge and Suite Ultralounge. But I would be shocked if the two weren't related. This stretch of Chase Street was relatively quiet before Suite Ultralounge opened.

Last year, officials hastily crafted and passed legislation they hoped would give the liquor board the power to revoke the bottle club's license. But the judge said the legislation wasn't put together properly. So now they've got to go back and write up a new book of rules and regulations they can use to expel Suite Ultralounge. 

The new policies should take effect in late September. But the liquor board may not be able to retroactively apply the new policies to the club's old offenses. The club's license comes up for renewal in November. That's a long time from now, considering the club's history of violence.

On a side note: Sun writer Peter Hermann has written some pieces with excellent perspective on this whole saga. Check out his blog, Baltimore Crime Beat, here.

(Baltimore Sun photo of Suite Ultralounge's Louis Wood, on right by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:10 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 24, 2009

Governor Martin O'Malley drops by J. Patrick's

martin o'malley at j. patrick'sGovernor Martin O'Malley hit up J. Patrick's (1371 Andre St.) for a pint late last week, my spies report.

From the glass, it appears he quaffed Guinness. Heh. Quaffed.

According to my spy:

He was there for a while. It was a pretty decent crowd there last night for the advanced irish jam session, much better than the previous weeks.

Believe it or not, their Irish jams are pretty cool -- especially the advanced ones.

I've heard through the grapevine that J. Patrick's has hit on some hard financial times lately. So if you're in the area, be sure to drop by and have a pint or two. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:01 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Celebrity sightings

Should bars list prices on their fancy cocktail menus?

martiniSun food queen Elizabeth Large tackled an interesting tale of cloaked drink prices and tall glass orders a couple days ago.

If you haven't seen the piece, definitely check it out.

I've always had a problem with bars and restaurants that don't list the price of their drinks. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think I know what their thought process is: If you're coming to such a fancy spot, price shouldn't be a worry. You should just be able to pay for whatever we charge you.

I don't think so.

When I'm at a lounge or a club -- no matter how fancy it is -- and I see their drink menu, I want to know how much stuff costs. To me, price and menu go hand-in-hand.

If I'm really not worried about price, I'll just order something off the cuff, say, a Bombay and tonic or a bottle of Dom Perignon. 

But if I ask to see the drink menu, or if there is one just chilling on the table, I want to know how much things cost ...

And yes, I know, it's not a big deal to ask how much something costs on the menu if the price isn't listed.

On the other hand, how many servers know exactly how much each cocktail costs off the cuff? Usually what happens is, they have to check with the bar manager -- an ordeal that, depending on how busy the place is, can take quite a while.

And yes I know, if you're ordering a martini, chances are it's going to cost somewhere around $10. But what if you unknowingly order a martini that costs $20? That's a pretty big difference. 

Bottom line: Put the prices on the drink menu, please.

(LA Times photo by Con Keyes)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:24 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Shaq drops by Bourbon Street, Red Star

shaq bourbon street baltimoreBasketball star Shaquille O'Neal hit up Red Star Tavern for dinner and Bourbon Street for "drinks" Friday night.

Shaq was in town to race Michael Phelps for an episode of his TV show "Shaq Vs."

On Friday, Former Roommate Patchen called me and said he spotted Shaq going into Red Star. He said he saw a towering monster of a man chilling outside Red Star. When he looked closer, he realized it was Shaq.

Then, Bourbon Street manager Sam Chaney sent me an e-mail about Shaq's appearance at Bourbon Street's Rooftop Terrace ...

We didn't know he was coming. We offered him his own Cabana but he declined and said he wanted to hang out with the people. He was very cool, he met anyone that wanted to meet him & he took a lot of pics with customers.

He also only drank bottled water and wouldn't take any for free. I said it before but he was very cool ... an all-around nice guy.

Only bottled water, eh? Wow. Shaq must have been prepping for the race. It's cool that he didn't accept free drinks -- even if it was just bottled water.

(Photo courtesy of Sam Chaney)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:22 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Celebrity sightings

August 23, 2009

By the by ...

Merriweather Post Pavilion has a brand new Web site. Dig it.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Micho's brings live jazz and blues to Reisterstown


I can't tell you how many times people have asked me for good spots to see live jazz and blues in the Baltimore area. The truth is, there aren't many.

So I'm glad to announce that Micho's Restaurant in Reisterstown is now regularly hosting regional and national jazz and blues artists.

"There was nothing around the area for jazz or blues," said owner Micho Issa (pictured).

"Everybody had to go to Washington," he said. I figured, 'I'll do this venue to bring in people from around the area." ...

According to Issa, Micho's started offering live music on thier second floor about three months ago. They brought in a grand piano as well as a $75,000 PA system, he said. The room, called Stage 35, comfortably holds about 125 people.

"We put a lot into this place" he said. "It's nice. It's a professionally done place." 

Acts such as renown drummer Dennis Chambers have performed there, Issa said. Cover charges range from $7 to $20, depending on the band.

"Blues Alley's got nothing on us," Issa said.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:34 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

August 22, 2009

Go see the Charm City Roller Girls today and help the victim of a hate crime

charm city roller girlsAt today's bout, the Charm City Roller Girls are raising money to help James Privott, the 76-year-old man who was beaten by three white supremacists while fishing earlier this week.

Five percent of the beer sales from the bout will be donated to Privott, as well as any donations from audience members.

The roller girls are also going to give Privott a gift card for $150 to Dick's Sporting Goods so he can buy new fishing equipment ...

"We want to encourage Mr. Privott to continue his sport and we also want to let him know that he has the support of the youth in his community (the 3 attackers were young men - around the same ages as our girls," the roller girls said in a statement.

The bout is 7 p.m. tonight at Du Burns Arena, 1301 S. Ellwood Ave. Admission is $10.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Christopher T. Assaf)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:17 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Random stuff

August 21, 2009

Alliance Comics coming to Federal Hill

alliance comicsA new comic store called Alliance Comics is opening in Federal Hill Sept. 2.

The store, at 904 Light St., will be the third location for Alliance Comics, which also has stores in Bowie and Silver Spring.

I wasn't able to get a hold of the owner(s) of the store, but according to the Web site, Alliance Comics will offer graphic novels, toys, cards and, of course, comics. The site also lists a number, 410-685-0021, but I called it a couple times today and nobody answered.

The space formerly housed Theodore's Cleaners and Tailors, is about halfway between the Maryland Science Center and the Cross Street Market.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:02 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff

Golden West Fest is this weekend

golden west cafe baltimoreI wonder why more bars don't do this.

When Golden West Cafe server Braegen Carroll wanted to book the bands for a mini music festival at the Hampden eatery, he didn't have to look far.

Most of the Golden West staff were in one band or another.

So instead of sending out emails to every band in town and waiting for responses, Carroll asked his coworkers if they wanted to be a part of the festival. The response was overwhelming.

The festival, which started yesterday and runs through Sunday, features performances from acts such as Ed Schrader, Matrimonials, MacGregor Burns, Mickey Free and more. It's the biggest music event ever held at Golden West, Carroll said.

"I thought it was good to put us all together and make it a collective, cooperative event," he said. "Everybody that works here is doing something for it." ...

When Carroll says "everybody," he means it. Some Golden West employees aren't musically inclined. That's not stopping them from showcasing their talents. There will be a performance from a couple theater students, as well as "chemical reaction of sorts" from an aspiring astrophysicist, Carroll said.

"It's an employee talent show -- a Golden West talent show," he said. "That's how I look at it."

Admission to the the festival is a suggested donation of $8-$10 at the door. The cafe is at 1105 W. 36th St. More info here.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:17 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Local music

A "live" review of Turp's

This is a first for Midnight Sun: Commenter ryan97ou sat inside Turp's last night and reviewed the new Mount Vernon sports bar on the spot. Kids these days with their iPhones and such. If you missed his comments, I have copied them here ...

Ok so I'm live reviewing this joint right now and have to say this place is actually pretty cool. Nice with wood floors and 5 HD tv's with a chalk board with a list of their weekday specials and what beer they have. Ppl seem pretty cool so now I kind of feel bad about making fun of the name.

Thursday night is UB night. Which is basically HH all night which includes half price nachos, bucket of 5 tall boy PBR's for 5.50.

Menu looks ok. Deff will be checkin out this joint on sundays. Nice booths and wider than u would expect from the outside.

Who knew

Posted by: Ryan97ou | August 20, 2009 8:55 PM

Update. Roberts just hit a grand slam and the whole bar got $2 shots to celebrate

Posted by: Ryan97ou | August 20, 2009 8:58 PM

Domestic beers are all 3.25 and imports are all 4.25. Monday is half price wings, tuesday is half price pizza and wed is half price burgers. So even if u don't like sports those are pretty good prices

Posted by: Ryan97ou | August 20, 2009 9:12 PM

Oh and I totally forgot the name is based on the managers last name.

Posted by: Ryan97ou | August 20, 2009 9:16 PM

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:24 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

So I tried the caipirinha ...

caipirinhaIt wasn't as good as I thought it would be.

It wasn't smooth enough! I could still taste too much of the liquor -- even after muddling half a lime and two teaspoons of sugar.

Also, there was something to the liquor that reminded me of tequila. I can't quite put my finger on it. The smell, maybe? Either way, that was kind of a turnoff, too.

Of course, this didn't stop me from drinking my homemade caipirinha.

In hindsight, I should have put more lime in it. That might have helped soften the liquor's bite ...

Amie spent a month in Argentina, where she drank these things all the time. She said they were super tasty and made with lemons -- not limes. I'm sure the ingredients change, depending on the place. 

Maybe if I get my paws on some more of the stuff, I'll try making it with lime. But I'm in no rush, and I'm certainly not going to go out of my way to find more cachaca.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:57 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 20, 2009

Which bands to see at this year's Virgin Free Fest

the hold steadyWith Virgin Mobile FreeFest just about a week away, it's time to start thinking about the bands you don't want to miss at the free one-day festival Aug. 30 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Since it started in 2006, the festival has showcased a wide range of bands. Last year, Bob Dylan, the Foo Fighters, Kanye West and Jack Johnson were all headliners. Talk about diverse.

This year's headliners, Weezer and Blink-182, are both worth seeing. This is the first time Blink-182 has toured since the California pop punk trio split up almost five years ago. And Weezer has long been a staple on the alt-rock scene ...

Besides the headliners, one of the best bands -- guaranteed -- will be The Hold Steady (pictured). Few bands are as dynamic as these guys, live (here's proof).

Girl Talk is definitely going to mix it up, too. Girl Talk (the stage name for Gregg Gillis) strings together snippets of pop, rock and hip-hop songs together to make an irresistibly danceable live show.

Other acts worth catching: Quirky songstress St. Vincent puts on an enchanting live show. Though Franz Ferdinand only had one hit in the U.S. ("Take Me Out"), they're really popular in England, and recently released a fairly funky new album, "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand." And husband and wife duo Mates of State's last album, Re-Arrange Us, is their best yet.

Who are you looking forward to seeing?

For more on Virgin FreeFest, go to

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:15 PM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

My Quiz-A-Ma-Jig story

this is not quiz-a-ma-jigFor some weird reason, I don't think I ever blogged about my awesome experience as a celebrity guest panelist on Quiz-A-Ma-Jig at Max's a couple months ago.

Quiz-A-Ma-Jig is held on Thursdays on the second floor of Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway), a space called the Mobtown Lounge. The next event is tonight.

As you can see, we don't have any photos of Quiz-A-Ma-Jig in our archives. So I found the next best thing.

Ron Furman, who owns the place, usually claims all of the high-backed leather cushioned chairs and sets them around his table in the far corner, where he holds court with his cronies. It's not fair, but he's the boss.

I have only been to one Quiz-A-Ma-Jig before – years ago, and that was by accident. I was looking for a quiet place to chill out and smoke a cigar, and I stumbled upon Quiz-A-Ma-Jig. Before the smoking ban went into effect, a curtain of cigar smoke would hang in the upstairs lounge when it was full. Yuck. Needless to say, I like being able to breathe, so I like the new, smoke-free upstairs lounge.

If you plan on hitting up Quiz-A-Ma-Jig, get there at least 20 minutes before the games begin. My wife Amie, my pal Crazy Joe and I arrived about 15 minutes beforehand and nabbed one of the last remaining tables. ...

Picking a funny team name can be quite perplexing, we found. At first, I thought we should call ourselves the Teabaggers, after the protesters who dumped tea into harbors around the country on Tax Day. But Amie and CJ shot that one down. My next suggestion, Team Hey, That's My Bike was also vetoed.

We eventually settled on Team Om Namha Shivaye (Cover Your Heart, Indy!). Remember that movie quote? “Om Namha Shivaye” (pronounced um-num-shee-vie), is what the sacrifice victim mutters repeatedly in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as the evil priest Mola Ram rips his heart out with his bare hands. Hee hee.

In hindsight, it was probably a bad choice. But we got a kick out of it. And that, dear readers, made it all worthwhile.

Since The Sun is a family newspaper, I can't repeat most of the team names, because they were too lewd. Funny, yes, but too profane to print. Here is one that just makes the cut: Team Quiz-In-My-Pants. Get my drift?

this isn't quiz-a-ma-jig eitherBefore the games began, one of the hosts laid out the rules for everybody. There was really only one important rule: Don't cheat. With all of the wireless Internet devices around these days, it's easier and easier to get answers on the fly. Terrible things would happen to cheaters, one of the hosts promised, and I believed him.

But our table and the table next to ours couldn't help but be suspicious when a member of Team Quiz-In-My-Pants pulled out a laptop and started tapping away on it. We asked her what the deal was, but she swore she wasn't cheating. Hmm.

Quiz-A-Ma-Jig is inherently unfair, because teams can be as large as they want to be. Just as two heads are better than one, the 10 or so heads in Team Quiz-In-My-Pants were better than the three in my team. It's not like Quiz-A-Ma-Jig offers wild and crazy prizes, though. The winners of each round get something small, like a T-shirt with a beer logo on it. Teams play for the love of the game.

Even with people playing for the heck of it, the competition still got pretty fierce. People screamed when they won a round, and cried out in despair when they lost one. It was intense.

The first round was modeled after the Price is Right. We had to guess the price of 10 random items – like a box of Lucky Charms cereal or a pack of Oreo cookies -- purchased at the Safeway in Canton. In Round Two, we had to guess a line of lyrics to 10 songs, from “Get Jiggy With It” by Will Smith to “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes.

You'd think since I write about music and entertainment, we'd ace it. But you try reciting all the verses to “Get Jiggy With It.” I dare you. I double dare you. We only got about half of them right. That would be our theme for the night.

Since things started to run late, the organizers decided to skip round three and go right to round four: The Match Round. My turn. I waltzed up to the bar, and sat down next to Ed Neenan, a local musician who goes by E. Joseph, Furman and John, one of the hosts.

Have you ever seen the Match Game? The host makes a rather lurid question, usually sexual in nature, and leaves a part of it blank. For example: The stable boy was so short, he had to get up on a stool to ___ the cow.

The celebrity panelists and the players jot down their answers, and the team that matches answers wins. As you can imagine, I can't reprint most of the questions (and especially not most of the answers). Trust me though, it was fun.

After the Match Game round ended, it was time for Final Jeopardy. We bet all our points when we heard the subject: sports equipment. The question: What are baseball bats made out of? Crazy Joe came through with the right answer. What was it? I'm not going to tell you. You'll just have to look it up.

In the end, our team fell roundly in the middle of the pack. The winners were – you guessed it – Team Quiz-In-My-Pants. I still say “hmm” about that one.

At the end of the night, the winners and losers didn't matter that much anyway. We had a blast just playing the game. If you're a trivia fan and haven't hit up Quiz-a-Ma-Jig yet, should you go? Yes.

And that's my final answer.

(Photos from the Baltimore Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Sidebar Tavern: Home to the city's strangest happy hour scene

Happy birthday, Sidebar Tavern!

sidebar tavernIf you haven't heard, the Sidebar Tavern (218 E. Lexington St.) turns 11 this month. To celebrate, the basement dive is throwing an indoor/outdoor festival Friday and Saturday. More info here.

In true Sidebar fashion, this is the first time they've ever celebrated a birthday.

I did a profile of the Sidebar, which ran in today's paper. This spot has the weirdest happy hour scene in the city.

Since it's close to city hall, they get all these government employees in suits and ties. But since it's also a punk bar, they get a bunch of hardcore kids too. Oddly enough, everybody seems to get along ...

In the piece, I talked to owner Richard Ashburn and promoter Matt Joseph (both pictured), as well as one or two regulars.

Ashburn really doesn't know too much about the punk scene (he leaves that part up to Joseph). In fact, the Sidebar became a punk bar almost by accident.

I don't get out to the Sidebar as much as I'd like to -- especially since it's right up the street from The Sun. But it hosts one of the best dance parties in the city: Reaction! And it's a pretty neat little spot to see a punk/hardcore/throwback rock show.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney, Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:42 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Ever heard of cachaca?

cachacaI must admit -- until recently, I knew nothing about cachaca.

This little blue bottle of the Brazilian sugar cane liquor (pictured) was a wedding favor from one of my friends. It came with a recipe to make a caipirinha, a popular mixed drink made with cachaca.

To make a caipirinha, I'm supposed to muddle half a lime (!) with two teaspoons of sugar or simple syrup, add ice, dump in the cachaca and mix it all together. I like that there's no mint or other such mumbo jumbo -- just lime, sugar and liquor.

Apparently, they drink a ton of cachaca in Brazil -- something like 1.5 billion liters a year, according to Wikipedia. Geez.

Last night, I decided to sneak a sip of the stuff -- just a taste, to see what raw cachaca was all about. Bad decision ...

Remember those cartoons where they drank something and coughed fire? Yeah, it was kinda like that. My eyes popped outta my head, too. This little bottle of cachaca packs a big whallop. I'm sure the alcohol content varies from distiller to distiller. I'd put this particular batch at 70 or 80 proof, easily.

jmgiordano and I are going to be tasting some scotches tonight. Maybe I'll make him try a sip of this caipirinha too. 

I'll keep you posted.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:20 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 19, 2009

Bacon ... beer?

Oh snap! Alexander D. Mitchell IV just threw the glove down. He thinks this new beer from Brooklyn Brewery might be better than all the bacon stuff (gummy bacon, bacon vodka, etc.) I've blogged about.

I actually kind of agree with him -- it just might. We shall see.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:29 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Sipping a cilantro martini at Green Cilantro

cilantroWhen I first heard of the Cilantro Martini at the new Green Cilanto in Fells Point, I knew I had to try it.

Mint makes regular appearances in mixed drinks like the mojito and, of course, the mint julep.

But cilantro? In a cocktail? 

The menu lists the Cilantro Martini at $10, but the two times I've been there, the servers have insisted it's $6.75. That makes it one of the cheaper martinis in the city.

Not being one to knock a discount (I'm pretty sure they didn't know I was reviewing the drink), I didn't quibble about the price.

The martini is made with citron vodka, a splash of gin and cilantro and limes muddled in sugar. It's served in a stemless martini glass -- a non-traditional way to serve a non-traditional drink ...

"We sell quite a few," a bartender named John said when I called. 

How was it? Refreshing. Really refreshing, actually. Mint can have a sharp flavor, and it can be hard to find middle ground when you're using mint. But cilantro sets a much softer tone in a drink.

My only problem with the martini: They didn't strain it well enough. There were chunks of cilantro floating in the top of the drink. And that, gang, is almost unacceptable.

I say 'almost' because I didn't let it stop me from drinking the martini. But it is a potential turnoff. Martinis aren't supposed to have anything floating in them (except, maybe, olives that have somehow escaped the little plastic sword thingy). 

Another potential turnoff: the cilantro. Before reading this Sun piece, I had no idea about the deep-seated hatred some people harbor for cilantro. Geez.

If you're not a cilantro-hater, and you don't mind a few little green bits of the herb bobbing around the rim of your drink, give the Cilantro Martini a shot.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:50 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The new Mount Vernon sports bar has a terrible name

Months ago, ryan97ou and I openly wished for a sports bar in Mount Vernon. When we heard a sports bar was actually going to open there we were overjoyed.

Now, after realizing what the place is going to be called, we're reconsidering. We didn't think it would have such an awful name. 

How awful is it? It's so awful, it might actually discourage people from going. Wanna know what it is? Are you sure you're ready? ...

OK, here it is: The bar is called -- I kid you not -- Turp's.

That's right. Turp's.

You can't see it, but I'm shuddering, writhing and grimacing in my chair, like I just accidentally ate a licorice jellybean. And I despise licorice jellybeans. As Charles Barkley would say, it's a turrible name.

Turp's? Who thought of that? And where did it come from? Is it a play off the Terps? Ryan97ou said when he drives by, the "p" looks more like a "d." Yikes! That's worse than 13.5% or Green Cilantro.

Maybe the house specialty beer will be called Turp's Slurp & Burp. Deeeelightful.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 18, 2009

Drug busts at the Merriweather Phish show

phish merriweather crowd shotCan't say I didn't see this coming.

According to a piece by my coworker Don Markus, cops made 31 arrests at Saturday's Phish show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

Jeffrey S. Tatum of Fort Collins and three of his friends -- Robert Kennamer Duncan, 32, also of Fort Collins; William James Leonard, 29, of Burlington, Vt.. and Jerald Griffin Irving, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y. -- were among 31 people arrested by Howard County police. ...

Tatum's vehicle contained drugs and more than $12,000, police said. The men were charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, possession of marijuana and other drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Don wanted me to ask you guys to e-mail him about what you thought of the police presence at the show. Were they being fair? Aggressive?

E-mail him at

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:04 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

It's Business time

j-roddy walston and the businessTonight, J-Roddy Walston and the Business are  playing a $5 show at The Ottobar (2549 N. Howard St.).

Ever seen these guys before? They are quite possibly the hardest rocking band in Baltimore -- not because they play super loud or super fast or super distorted. I've just never seen another Baltimore band rock quite as hard as them.

J-Roddy Walston and the Business dial up the reckless, rollicking rock 'n' roll of the 1950s, and infuse it with the fist-pumping depth and edge of 1970s rock.

With tons of hair, head-banging and righteous attitude, these guys have a riotous stage presence, too ...

If the Hold Steady is America's best bar band, J-Roddy Walston and the Business is Baltimore's best bar band.

I did a short piece in today's paper about the band. I talked to drummer Steve Colmus, who kind of acts as the band's spokesman. The piece came together last-minute, and I heard back from front man Walston too late to get him in the story.

Walston had some interesting perspective on where the band was coming from musically when they were writing the tunes for their new album, which should be out in the fall.

"You've got a lot of time to listen to music when you're touring," he said. 

Walston got into early Bob Dylan, the Band and Randy Newman. He also said there was a phase when the band submerged themselves in Stax Records and old soul music.

Since the band toured so much this past year, most of the new songs were fleshed out on the road.

"More than any influence as far as a band or record was touring," Walston said. "This isn't like an album of tour songs. It's not about life on the road or anything like that. But it's more of a mindset."

(Photo by Ryan Thomas)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:48 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Local music

Tipsy Tuesdays: 21 signs you're a bad customer

bad customers

I'm glad OMG turned this topic around to confront the customers. It's only fair. And for the record, I've definitely heard of people snapping their fingers at servers. I even had a roommate who didn't mind tapping his own beers. I told him it was a great way to get his wrist broken by an angry bouncer, but he never seemed to get caught. Here's OMG:

We covered signs that you might be a bad bartender. It's only fair that this week we look into signs that you might be a bad customer.

Where to even start?

1. You semi-joke, "Spill some in the glass this time."

2. You try to come behind the bar. Oh, no you di'int.

3. Two words: bachelorette party.

4. You complain that your Long Island Iced Tea isn't strong enough.

5. You snap your fingers to get the bartender's attention.

6. You have made this threat, "Hey, you want a good tip?"

7. When you pay your bill, you say, "Hey, I'm a little short today. I'll tip you next time." No you won't. ...

8. Singing loudly to the radio or jukebox.

9. Singing loudly to a song different than what is on the radio or jukebox.

10. Excessive high-fiving. Enough already. If we win an Olympic relay race, maybe. Because Supertramp comes on the radio? No.

drunk girl 11. Telling me how you are going to be the next Eminem. I do not, repeat, do not want to hear your dope rhymes. Extra points if you read them from tattered scraps of paper you dig out of your Dockers.

12. You want to try four different wines and then decide to have a Diet Coke.

13. Excessive hitting on the bartender.

14. You call the bartender Sport, Cap'n, Big Guy, Skipper, Chief, etc.

15. You tell a woman how hot she would be if she groomed her eyebrows, dyed her hair, wore less makeup or my favorite – smiled more.

16. You look around the bar that has no beer taps and ask what's on tap.

17. You demand an unchilled glass for your Clipper City Loose Cannon (okay, that's me).

18. Making out at the bar

19. "Napping" at the bar

20. Telling someone at a bar how they would benefit from AA.

21. Beergatory


(Photos by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:54 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

August 17, 2009

If you're at tonight's Orioles game ...

... say hi to Tom Moore, who will be singing the national anthem. He's a local singer (who hosts the Antwerpen Tom Moore Show on WCBM) with an album slated for September release.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:24 PM | | Comments (0)

Derek Trucks, Jason Isbell drop by Hightopps for impromptu jam

derek trucksGuitar prodigy Derek Trucks and Southern rock singer/songwriter Jason Isbell joined Baltimore's Old Man Brown and Tom Principato for an impromptu jam Saturday evening at Hightopps Backstage Grille in Timonium.

Trucks and Isbell were in town for the annual Hot August Blues Festival at Oregon Ridge Park Saturday.

After the show, they headed to Hightopps and jammed out for a while.

Head over to WTMD's Radio For Music People Blog for the full recap, courtesy of morning DJ Erik. 

(Handout photo of Trucks by Michael Schmelling)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:24 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Local music

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Finally! Commenter John identified the Mystery Bar in Name That Bar Vol. 10. It was Mustang Alley (1300 Bank St.) in Harbor East.

Geez. It only took two photos and, like four days. I thought you'd all gone soft on me. John, e-mail me at and we'll arrange a prize pack pickup.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:27 PM | | Comments (0)

Name That Bar, vol 11.1

DSC_0590.JPGSince nobody could guess the mystery bar from the last photo, here is another photo from the same spot.

If nobody gets it with this photo, I'm going to be shocked.

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:42 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Name That Bar

The skinny on Splice Today's upcoming 'Baltimore Does Baltimore' mix

celebrationWhen Splice Today's Zach Kaufmann put out the call for Baltimore artists to cover other Baltimore artists, he wasn't sure what kind of response he'd get.

Splice Today's first compilation, "The Old Lonesome Sound," a bunch of covers of traditional tunes, was warmly received. So he had that going for him.

Kaufmann wanted the bands to keep their covers fairly recent -- say, the past five or ten years or so.

Most of the bands were cool with that idea, except for Microkingdom, who asked to cover "It's Too Soon To Know" by The Orioles (the band, not the baseball team) ...

Other bands who responded to Kaufmann's request include Among Wolves, Caleb Stine, Thrushes, Young Sir Jim, Mr. Moccasin and Ari & The Shanks. Producer Mickey Free's remix of Wye Oak's"That I Do" is already available. Kaufmann thinks he'll have about 20 bands on the compilation, give or take.

A few of the bands want to cover songs by the group Celebration, pictured.

"It's still kind of early, but it's shaping up really well," he said. "We'll see where the chips fall."

"Baltimore Does Baltimore" should be up on Splice's site by October for free downloading and streaming, he said.

"I'm not trying to rush anyone," Kaufmann said.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

August 16, 2009

Concert review: Phish at Merriweather Post Pavilion

trey anastasioFrom the start, expectations were high.

When tickets for last night's Phish show at Merriweather Post Pavilion first went on sale, fans snapped them up in minutes -- a record for the Columbia amphitheater. And all along this tour, the band has been sounding reinvigorated and delivering impressive shows.

While last night's performance had its high points, it won't go down as one of the best gigs on the tour. It was a surprisingly mellow show overall -- almost underwhelming at times.

Hours before the concert began, thousands of diehard Phish fans swarmed Merriweather Post Pavilion to set up tents and party in the parking lots.

The sweaty weather had folks swilling extra drinks to keep cool, and come 7:30 p.m., the crowd was pretty riled up and ready for the world's biggest jam band ...

Phish hit the stage at 7:40 p.m, and launched into "Crowd Control," a song from the 2004 album Undermind. Even after 20+ years of playing together and all their fame in fortune, the four guys in the group still look like lovable dorks you might bump into at a music store.

Guitarist/singer Trey Anastasio sported a shirt, jeans and surprisingly, a jacket. In that heat, I'm surprised he didn't suffocate. Bassist Mike Gordon (whose thick mop of hair is increasingly white) wore a black cutoff shirt and dark jeans, keyboardist Page McConnell wore a green shirt and pants and drummer Jon Fishman had on one of his trademark dresses (don't ask).

phish merriweatherBoth sets lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, and the encore was about 10 minutes.

The ambling first set saw the debut of a new Fishman song called "Party Time," whose only lyrics were the words "Party Time." Right before it, they flubbed the start to another Fishman song, "Ha Ha Ha," whose only lyrics were "Ha ha ha ha." Sense a pattern?

The slow-paced "Beauty of a Broken Heart," "Let Me Lie" and "Alaska" were snoozers, but a "46 Days," "Harry Hood" and a super funky "Tweezer," made up for them."Tweezer" has what is possibly my favorite Phish line: "Look who's in the freezer / Uncle Ebeneezer"

Near the end of the first set, the audience started yelling what sounded like "Bruuuuce" or "Snoooop." Turns out, it was a request for the song "Tube," which the band dutifully played.

As always, the light show was spectacular. Phish has one of the best touring lighting rigs in live music, and from the pulsing strobes to the beams of bright colors, last night's light show was just fantastic.

If you're not familiar with Phish, their music is almost as progressive as it is improvisational. No two shows are the same, which is part of the reason why they have such a huge fan base. Some of their songs change tempos on a dime, and many have complex instrumental passages.

phish merriweatherTrey's sharp, searing guitar work was right on point -- as was Fishman's drumming and Gordon's juicy bass. Though the band sounded great, Page's keyboards were too low in the mix, and hard to hear. His solos seemed uninspired, too.

The band looked like they were having a great time, though. A couple times over the course of the night, Trey kicked up his left leg, like a Rockette in training. 

The second set, which got off to a great start, started to lose momentum toward the end. But covers of The Velvet Underground's "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" and "Good Times Bad Times" from Led Zeppelin gave it a boost.

The inevitable "Tweezer Reprise" rounded out the concert, which ended just shy of 11 p.m. Was it a great show? Not quite. But it was definitely a good one.

First set:
Crowd Control
Kill Devil Falls
The Sloth
Beauty Of A Broken Heart
Axilla I
Ha Ha Ha
Party Time
Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan
Strange Design
Time Turns Elastic

Second set:
Let Me Lie
46 Days
Oh! Sweet Nuthin'
Harry Hood

Good Times Bad Times
Tweezer Reprise

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:30 PM | | Comments (41)
Categories: Concert reviews

August 15, 2009

Phish for the first time

Travis and TeresaSince I'm seeing Phish for the first time at Merriweather tonight, I thought it appropriate to share this essay by another first-timer, Teresa O'Keefe. Enjoy:

As a 44-year old attending a Phish concert for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I felt it was going to be a great night. On June 7, with a full moon bathing one of the first balmy nights of summer in silver, my live-music buddy Travis and I drove from Annapolis to the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J., just across from Philadelphia.

I get energized by live music. I see bands two or three times a month, mostly at smaller venues. I recently saw Katy Perry and Lily Allen at the 9:30 Club, Gomez and Josh Ritter at Rams Head Live and the Ting Tings at Sonar in Baltimore.

I’m usually the oldest person at a show, but somehow I missed out on Phish. Most  fans first saw the band in college. Travis is 31. He’s been to 58 Phish concerts.

During my senior year in college, the band was still playing private parties and small venues around the University of Vermont, where the core members met. I was starting on a corporate track and going to graduate school at night for the next three years.

Then when the band started getting national recognition, I was traveling. I wasn’t listening to much music. Something happened after the dot-com implosion, though, and suddenly I felt I was missing out. I needed to experience a Phish concert.

We decided the day before to maybe go, then made a game-time decision. It was a Sunday night, a gorgeous boat day in Annapolis and we had no tickets. That never matters with Travis. We almost never have tickets. We just show up and generally find tickets at face value, no more than $20 over.

We paid $55, near face value, for amphitheater seats but at a Phish concert, according to Travis, the lawn is better. The event was over four hours long. That’s one of the best deals you can get in live music ...

The Camden show was the sixth show (played within eight days) of the summer tour. Phish is known for having one of the most rigorous touring schedules of any large band. They reconvened for the first time in five years for three shows in March in Hampton, Virginia, then started the summer tour of more than 30 shows on May 31 in Boston.

It’s pretty well documented that their hiatus was due to exhaustion and, well, illegal substances. I was looking around for the classic jam band dance move called “noodling”, characterized by flailing arms, but saw only a few older noodlers who looked as if they’d perfected their moves at Grateful Dead concerts.

There were definitely hippies. A group of hippie chicks were in front of us. They looked like college students with dreadlocks and hippie dresses over linen pants, barefoot with face piercings and tats. They knew the words to every song.

They’re the core of the fan base that attends dozens of Phish shows a year when they tour. But I thought to myself, if Phish hasn’t toured in five years, how do they know all the words, being so young?  Did they go to Phish concerts at 15? Do they listen to nothing but Phish?
phish fans

Phish plays alone, no opening band, and does two sets and an encore with a half-hour break between sets, which last almost 90 minutes. They select random songs from a 25-year body of work and play a different list at every show so no two shows are alike. That’s different from most staged shows you see today, where the band plays one set with an encore and the whole show lasts 90 minutes or less.

As Phish played the first few notes of each song, Travis would scream “Oh, I can’t believe they’re playing this!” or “I love this song! This is a great set!!”  Phish has turned the set list into a game for the audience: What will they play next? It’s one reason people go to 15 or more shows during a tour.

Walking to our car afterwards, we met a guy who’d been to every show of the summer tour. He looked too old for college. Did he have a job? Phish fans called the first set “epic.” He agreed it was almost perfect except that Trey Anastasio, the lead guitarist and singer, butchered the lyrics to "Fee."

“Otherwise it would have been epic,” he said.

At a Phish concert, get prepared for songs that last more than 20 minutes – and you don’t want them to end.  Every song sounded familiar. I don’t know where I had heard them but the effect was surreal. Phish carefully constructs its songs. Each has a few quirky lyrics that you find yourself singing along with, not just bobbing your head, which you’re going to do anyway. Phish has a way of making you feel at home, welcoming you into their fabric. During the chorus of each song, a sea of Phans join in. You can’t not sing along.

Travis said he’d never seen a fight at a Phish concert. Also, Phish fans wear T-shirts and jeans, there are no “dig me” fashion wars going on except with high-school kids. Coming from Annapolis, it looked like a convention for students and alumni from St. Johns College -- Mensas on marijuana.

Early in the show, Trey screwed up the lyrics at one point he had to stop. He was giggling and Travis shouted, “Trey is having so much fun! Look at him!” Of course he was. Over our shoulders rose a full moon on a clear, soft night. You could see the band looking beyond the venue, watching it come up. It was amazing to find this enclave with a view of Philly, an immense green lawn and a little city of alcohol vendors tucked away in the middle of a rough industrial area.

So Phish is alive and thriving with everyone from Generation Z to 40-somethings. Even through the five-year hiatus, the following has grown.  The summer series is sold out but they are coming to Meriweather-Post Pavilion tonight. Travis and I will be there, cruising for lawn tickets.

(Photos courtesy of Teresa)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:40 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Local music

August 14, 2009

Sometimes I write about food, too ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:03 PM | | Comments (0)

Inside the B&O American Brasserie

B&O American Brasserie

I haven't had the chance to check out the new B&O American Brasserie, but thankfully Midnight Sun poster Paul got there. Here are his thoughts on the Wednesday night half-priced drink specials:

Turns out happy hour isn't half-price drinks across the board. 

Instead, one beer, a couple wines and one house cocktail are on special. Everything else is regular price, which for most drinks means double digit prices.

My friend and I sat in the little lounge area because the bar was full, and I was afraid we were in no man's land. But the service was excellent. Alison, who used to work at Ixia, was our waitress and knew everything about the menu, despite the place being so new ...

(She also knew lots about the hotel because Kimpton "pounded it into us," which I thought was pretty funny.) She also told us that "probably 90 percent" of the staff came from Ixia.

The Hobo's Bourbon and cola was the specialty drink last night, and it's pretty excellent, even if the brandied cherries are hard to dig out of that Collins glass. Also had a Sazerac, and it was the first time I'd ever seen one served up. I was expecting a little more from the food--we ordered the steak tartare and the pork croquettes--but they were priced right.

Bottom line, it's pretty nice, the drinks are great and though I thought the food would be better.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:22 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A look at brewer Steve Jones' new tattoo

steve jones getting a tattooUnfortunately, I wasn't able to make it to the happy hour/tattoo party at the Pratt Street Ale House Wednesday night (I was at WTMD taping an episode of Baltimore Unsigned until late).

So I missed seeing brewer Steve Jones get his 3 Lions tattoo.

Thankfully, Jones was able to send me a couple photos, and a short recap of the event:

The tattoo is everything I'd hoped it would be. I can't wait to see it when it's fully healed ... as I said before I'll wear it with pride ...

it links my English heritage to my work as a brewer and my place in the Baltimore beer scene. I'm extremely proud of my beer, especially the 3 Lions so it's a very personal tattoo for me!

I'm thankful that a great crowd showed up to support the event so it was a very special night for me. If you get a chance come by and try the Oak Aged 3 Lions on cask .. it's a wonderful, bold beer!

Here are a couple photos of the tattoo, courtesy of Steve ...


the finished product3 lions tattoo

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

I need more Midnight Sun magnet photos

midnight sun magnetsAt this point, I've mailed out, like, 50-some Midnight Sun magnets. And I have another dozen or so that I need to send out soon.

But I've only gotten a handful of funny photos of Midnight Sun magnets in action.

Come on, people! Surprise me! Tickle my funny bone!

The place to email photos is

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:25 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff

August 13, 2009

As per your votes, the best neighborhood bar in Baltimore County is ...

Racers Cafe (7722 Harford Road, Parkville)!

Congrats, Racers! 

I tallied all the votes, which took some time, considering how many different places were nominated. That only makes sense -- Baltimore County was by far the biggest territory we've covered in the Commenter's Choice Awards. Just wait until we get to the entire state of Delaware.* ...

The runner up was The Barn (9527 Harford Road in Parkville). Thanks again, everybody, for voting.

*I'm kidding.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Commenters' Choice Awards

Name That Bar, vol. 11

name this barBy now, you should know the rules.

But for posterity's sake, I'll give them out one more time: The first person to name this bar wins a Midnight Sun Prize Pack.

Everybody gets one guess.


(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:41 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Name That Bar

Let's pick a date for the Midnight Sun Social

ooooo i like these beersOOOOOOOOOOK ladies and gents, I'd say it's about time to settle on a date for the Midnight Sun Social.

In the past, many of you have lobbied to hold the event on a Friday night. Believe me, considering how my head has felt the days after the Midnight Sun Shindig and Soiree, I agree with you.

But throwing a social on a Friday night means most of the Midnight Sunners who work in the service industry won't be able to make it. And I'd really like to get as many of them out partying as possible.

That's part of what makes these events so fun -- average joes like and you get to mingle with royalty like Queen Colleen (also known as QC -- but not to be confused with QVC).

I'm looking at some Thursdays in September and October. Let me hit you with some dates: Sept. 10 or 17 or Oct. 8, 15 or 22?

What works best for ya? Talk to me. 

Oh, and I'm working on picking a venue -- either in Fells Point, Canton or Hampden. I figured we should mix it up a bit, seeing as how we've already done Federal Hill and Mount Vernon. Got any suggestions? ...

Also, I'm going to have Midnight Sun Commenter's Choice Awards made up especially for the Social. Speaking of which, it's high time I tallied the votes from the Baltimore County Best Neighborhood Bar contest. I probably should have done that last week. Oops.

I think the Social will be the last Midnight Sun event that starts with an "S." After that, I'm going to have to try out another letter. Unless, of course, we decide to call a future get-together the Midnight Sun Super Wicked Awesome Showdown or something crazy like that. 

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:57 AM | | Comments (18)

Derek Trucks, Burn Tha Mic

I've got two stories in today's paper -- one profiling guitar prodigy Derek Trucks and the other about a hip-hop, R&B and gospel showcase called Burn Tha Mic.

This is the second time I've intereviewed Trucks, who performs at the Hot August Blues Festival on Saturday. He just turned 30, and like most 30-year-olds do, he is having a period of reflection on his past and a reconsideration of his future.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:46 AM | | Comments (2)

August 12, 2009

Why Bruce Springsteen? Why 1st Mariner Arena? Why now? Here's the backstory.

bruce springsteenIt's a concert that was six years in the making.

That's how long Frank Remesch, the general manager of 1st Mariner Arena, has been fighting to get Bruce Springsteen to play here. He came close a couple times, but Bruuuce always ended up playing Verizon Center or another arena.

Recently, when promoters and booking agents were plotting Springsteen's 31-date tour, there was a vague possibility The Boss might come to 1st Mariner.

But Remesch didn't tell anyone -- not even the 1st Mariner staff. He didn't want to get anybody's hopes up, and he thought if he told someone, that might jinx it.

"It's bad luck," Remesch said. "It's like baseball when you don't walk on the foul line."

Springsteen has played around the region in the past. He performed at Painters Mill in Owings Mills in 1975. And he played at Towson University (back when it was Towson State) in 1977.

But believe it or not, Springsteen has never headlined 1st Mariner Arena. He and the rest of the E Street Band opened for Chicago in June 1973, but according to Remesch and a thorough search of the Baltimore Sun archives, Springsteen has never headlined the arena.

In fact, Springsteen hasn't performed in the city since the Chicago show in 1973 ...

"I've been trying to get him for so long," Remesch said. "He's an icon and he's never played the arena."

As of yesterday, Remesch still hadn't told anybody else at the arena about booking the Springsteen gig. He was planning on holding a big press conference and announcing it to the whole city. Then yesterday, when Remesch was on vacation, Springsteen's camp beat him to the punch.

Though Remesch is a little disappointed he didn't get to break the news, he's still pumped about the show. He puts Springsteen right up there with the Rolling Stones, who, coincidentally, played 1st Mariner in 2006. After 36 years, the Boss is finally coming back to Baltimore.

"That's the one I was going for," Remesch said. "That's the walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Now what do I do? How many big boys are left out there?"

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:29 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Local music

Tonight: Watch a brewer get tatooed, drink cheap beer

pratt street ale houseTo celebrate the re-branding of its in-house brews, the Pratt Street Ale House (pictured) is throwing a 3 Lions Tattoo Party tonight.

On or about 8 p.m., Oliver Ales brewer Steve Jones will unveil a kilderkin (a 21.6 gallon cask) of oak-aged 3 Lions Strong Brown Ale.

To show his support for the ale, and the symbol of the three lions, Jones is having the logo tattooed on his right forearm tonight at the bar, courtesy of Art With a Pulse.

"I shall be wearing it with pride," Jones said ...

Jones has a few other tattoos, including a dragon and some Chinese birth year symbols. The 3 Lions tattoo won't be huge, but it will be "sizable," Jones told me. Now that's dedication. I hear they're even going to be video-taping the tattooing. I'll see if I can post a photo of the finished product later this week.

Of course, there will also be some drink specials at tonight's event, including $3 pints of Oliver Ales, giveaways of Oliver Brewery pint glasses and 3 Lions T-shirts, and a $50 gift certificate to Art With A Pulse.


(Photo courtesy of the Pratt Street Ale House)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 11, 2009

Splice Today organizes second compilation, releases Wye Oak remix

caleb stineThe Baltimore-based online magazine Splice Today has been orchestrating some pretty cool projects lately.

They just released a remix of the Wye Oak track "That I Do" by Baltimore hip-hop artist Mickey Free (dig it here).

And they just announced their second compilation album, "Baltimore Does Baltimore." In it, Baltimore musicians will cover songs by other Baltimore musicians.

Last week, I spoke with Americana singer/songwriter Caleb Stine (pictured), who is covering a song by the group Small Sur ...

I'm waiting to hear back from Splice Today's Zach Kaufmann, who will be able to tell me more about the compilation, including its release date.

Kaufmann put together a striking compilation in February called "The Old Lonesome Sound." On it, bands from the region and beyond covered traditional tracks such as "Sign of the Judgment" and "Down in the Valley."

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:25 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

Organizers: Bruce Springsteen to play 1st Mariner Arena Nov. 20

bruce springsteenRock legend Bruce Springsteen will perform at 1st Mariner Arena Nov. 20, organizers announced today.

This is apparently Springsteen's first Baltimore show since opening for Chicago at the Baltimore Civic Center in June 1973.

Officials at 1st Mariner Arena had heard nothing about the show, which comes near the end of Springsteen's 31-date tour.

Tickets for the show will go on sale Sept. 25, according to a press release sent out from Shore Fire Media, Springsteen's publicity company. The same day, tickets will go on sale for Springsteen's Nov. 2 gig at the Verizon Center in Washington.

1st Mariner, which seats between 13,000 and 15,000 depending on the staging and seating, would be one of the smaller venues on Springsteen's current itenerary.

(Photo by Rafa Rivas/AFP/Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (47)
Categories: Local music

Tipsy Tuesdays: Breaking the seal

popping the cork, breaking the sealMy, my, I've certainly regretted breaking the seal too early. Take it away, Owl Meat:

Here at Tipsy Tuesdays, we strive to enlighten and elevate, so I bring you today's topic: Breaking the seal.

This is the idea that after you relieve yourself for the first time while drinking alcohol you have to do it frequently.

Bartender Kyle at Chiaparelli's reminded me of the concept, but I knew it to be intuitively true, as I have often strategically suppressed my micturition urges. This is no trivial matter for anyone doing a mental cost-benefit analysis at a ball game, concert, or other public event.
While sipping an avocatini I went all caveman and considered whether there was some evolutionary benefit to this behavior. If this is a real biological process, why would it be rewarded? ...

Imagine that you are out all day drinking water, eating berries, and tracking beasts with ribs big enough to tip over your foot-powered car. But what if the hunter becomes the hunted?

Sabertooth creatures stalk the tender meat of the puny cave-painting Neanderthals by scent. If you periodically stop to relieve yourself in the jungle, the cats could track you more easily. My theory is that prehistoric hunters were more likely to survive and pass on their genes if they didn't break the seal. Of course that could just be the 'tini talking.
There is some science to both support and refute the concept. It has to do with the rising level of alcohol in your blood stream.
Alcohol inhibits a hormone that helps your body retain water (Anti-diuretic Hormone or ADH). Urine output increases disproportionately to the volume of liquid when you consume alcohol, and your bladder fills more rapidly. So the higher your blood alcohol level, the faster you make urine. This explains why you wake up dehydrated after drinking all that delicious liquid at Brewer's Art the night before. It does not explain why you have a tattoo of Hello Kitty on your neck.
Unless Fred and Barney are drinking Rolling Rocks or Keystone Lights on their hunting trips, my theory holds no water. Nothing good ever comes of avocatinis. Still ... Mastodon McRibs? Ba da ba ba ba ... I'm lovin' it!
Now that I have uncorked the subject, I will leave it you to comment freely.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:33 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

A note about comments

angry samEverybody's entitled to their own opinion, of course. And regular commenters are gonna disagree pretty regularly.

But both Elizabeth Large and I have seen more and more pointlessly negative comments in the past month or so, and we're getting tired of it.

If you're sniping at another commenter or me, that's fine -- as long as you're making a point. I rarely refuse to publish comments, and only edit comments for profanity.

But from now on out, pointless, nasty attacks on other posters or myself aren't going to get published.



Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:37 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Random stuff

I think I have Restaurant/Bar Stockholm Syndrome

sigmund freud

I think I have Restaurant/Bar Stockholm Syndrome -- if there is such a thing.

In yesterday's post about the service horror story to end all service horror stories, I mentioned how I keep going back to the restaurant that treated us so poorly. It's like I'm in an abusive relationship.

Sure, the restaurant treats me bad -- but I love it. It means to do better, it really does.

You just don't understand.

Hee hee.

I ran this by a coworker, Maryann, who said she too has Restaurant/Bar Stockholm Syndrome with a spot near her house ...

She writes:

after a particularly bad experience, I won’t go back for a few months, but then they’re the only place open on a day when I want this particular sushi roll or drink or whatever, and I shamefully return. it’s like an abusive relationship: "maybe they’ll be better this time."

Why do we keep going back? Is it convenience? Is it the fact that this particular spot fills a particular void like none of the other restaurants around it?

Or is it all of the above?

I know we're not alone here.

We can't be alone.

(Baltimore Sun file photo of Sigmund Freud)

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

August 10, 2009

Concert review: Van Morrison at DAR Constitution Hall

van morrison

Midnight Sun commenter AmyWoo saw Van Morrison perform at DAR Constitution Hall this past weekend. Here are her thoughts:

Having read several less than stellar reviews of Van Morrison’s recent performances, I have to admit I went in to Friday night's concert at DAR Constitution Hall expecting the worst. And for the first hour and 45 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised.
In spite of the fact that none of his "big hits" appeared on his set list that night, I thoroughly enjoyed the music Morrison played.

One of the greatest things about seeing an established artist like Morrison is the incredible musicians that make up the band. Morrison didn't disappoint in that respect – I don't think I've ever heard someone wail on the viola quite like Tony Fitzgibbon.

Of course, the caliber of musicians playing with Morrison didn't stop him from the occasional barking demand to play "long notes" or switch to the "tom-tom or whatever." ...

The crowd was loving it. Every other song was getting a standing ovation and people were even dancing in the hallways. But Morrison didn’t seem too pleased. While I didn’t notice any glaring issues, Morrison was clearly unhappy with the sound. And around 9:45 p.m., it seemed he’d had enough.

As the band played out the end of "On Hyndford Street," Morrison unceremoniously walked off stage. Someone muttered a quick "Van Morrison" into a mic and the crowd leaped to their feet in appreciation. With the crowd still standing, the band members looked at each other and almost sheepishly left the stage.
The applause continued for a few minutes, everyone clearly expecting an encore. But the house lights came on and the stage hands quickly began breaking down the equipment.
Never before have I seen an audience turn so quickly from thunderous applause to audible displeasure. Fans who had paid between $100 and $400 a ticket for the evening’s performance were slowly realizing that not even two hours in, the night was over.

The concert was one I’ll definitely remember and for the most part, think upon fondly. But nothing can sour a memory like exiting a venue to the boos and hisses of a disgruntled crowd.
Set List (from Van Morrison News)
Northern Muse (Solid Ground)
Fair Play
The Mystery
Foreign Window
Streets Of Arklow/You Don't Pull No Punches (snippet)
In The Garden
Astral Weeks
Beside You
Slim Slow Slider
Sweet Thing/Burning Ground
Cyprus Avenue
The Way Young Lovers Do
Madame George
On Hyndford Street

(Photo of Van Morrison performing at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:00 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Concert reviews

Baltimore Magazine's 2009 list of award-winning watering holes

prime rib baltimoreFor a couple weeks now, I've been meaning to post a list of the bars and clubs that won awards in Baltimore Magazine's Best of Baltimore 2009 issue. Sorry it's taken so long. Let me know if I missed any.

Here goes the link fest:

For libations: Pazo won Best Scene, The Wine Market won Best Wine List, V-NO won Wino Heaven, Annabel Lee Tavern won Best Bar For Grown-Ups, Max's Taphouse (obviously) won Best Beer Selection (I mean, what other Baltimore bar can compete?).

The Metro Gallery took home Best New Bar, the Cat's Eye Pub won Best Live Music Bar, City Cafe won Best Happy Hour (hmm ...) and City Limits won Best Sports Bar ...

Also: Taylors Stoneleigh Bowling Alley won Best Bowling Alley (after reading about it, I've got to get to this place), Victoria Gastro Pub won Best 'Burbs Bar, the Kitty Kat Bar won Best Dive Bar (read this), Don't Know Tavern won Best Game Night, Zodiac's DJ John Eaton won Best Dance Party, Club Charles (rightfully) won Best Jukebox, Classic Animal Hipster Karaoke won Best Karaoke.

And I think it's worth noting: The Jewel of Russia, which, at $18.50, might just be the most expensive martini in Baltimore, won a Splurge! award. Served at the Prime Rib (pictured), the martini was described by B-Mag as "the most seamless tasting vodka you'll ever sip." At almost $20, I'd certainly hope so.

(Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh/P3 Imaging Inc.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:03 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The service horror story to end all service horror stories

a glass of orange juiceFrom time to time, I'll get grumpy and blog about how terrible service can be in this city.

But this story, I think, takes the cake.

I'm not naming names. And I think enough time has passed since it happened. So without further adieu, here it is -- the service horror story to end all service horror stories.

It was New Year's Day 2007, and we wanted to get some brunch. Amie, me and our two friends from out of town decided to head to a restaurant (which shall remain nameless).

When we got there, the place was slammed, and a bunch of people were waiting for tables. We decided to stick it out.

One of our friends from out of town has type 1 diabetes. While we stood there waiting for a table, his hands began to shake. It looked like he was going into diabetic shock, which can be prevented by a quick infusion of sugar, from, say, a glass of orange juice (pictured) ...

So one of us (I believe it was Amie), frantically asked one of the servers behind the bar for a glass of orange juice. Our friend is diabetic, she told him, and needs some orange juice ASAP.

The server looked at our friend's shaking hands, looked at her, and said:

"Nice act."

Take a second and think about that response.

Here was a customer, visibly shaking, in the middle of a medical emergency, who needed a glass of orange juice. Instead of trying to help him, the server actively denied him. Looking back, I still find this absolutely unbelievable. The server actually thought that someone would fake a diabetic attack to get a glass of orange juice.

What happened next? Well, our friend went into shock. He shook uncontrollably and collapsed on the floor. We called an ambulance. The paramedics came, took him outside and helped him get his blood sugar level back to normal.

The best decision would have been to leave this particular restaurant and go somewhere else. But our whole ordeal had scared away all the customers in line, and there was at least one empty table inside. So we decided to stay. We wanted breakfast, by God, and we had not come this far to go home hungry.

I ordered steak and eggs. When the plate arrived, I noticed that a big chunk of the steak was stained dark blue. I'd never seen anything like it. Was it mold?

I flagged down our server (thankfully not the same server who denied us the orange juice), and asked the server why my steak was blue. 

"Oh, that's the Angus stamp," she said.

The Angus stamp?

Yes, the server said, that's how you know it's certified Angus meat -- it has a blue dye. 

I had never heard of the Angus stamp. In fact, to this day, I've never heard anything about a blue Angus stamp -- and believe me, I've asked around. Even if there is such a thing, I don't care if it's certified USDA Prime filet mignon -- I don't eat blue steak, period. I sent it back. And I believe they comped me my plate. 

After all this, you'd think we would never, ever go back to this place. But we still go there pretty regularly. And the service has been frequently terrible since then, but never as bad as that time. The location and the food and drink menu is pretty darn good, though, and we love the atmosphere.

Occasionally, we run into the server who denied us that glass of orange juice. But we've never brought it up in conversation. I wonder if the server remembers the incident. I know I'll never forget it.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:08 PM | | Comments (53)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Help Edie plan her friend's bachelorette party

strutting along the power plant live plazaEdie needs your help.

She's waaay out on the west coast, and trying to plan her friend's bachelorette party in Baltimore. She writes:

Can you suggest any hotels that are centrally located in Baltimore I can book as a main camp?  Also, any really good/cool night club suggestions?  Her last night as a free women needs to be a good one

Edie, I can't help you too much on the hotel part, but maybe some of my commenters can.

As for the bars and clubs? I'd say the most popular spot for Baltimore bachelorette parties seems to be Power Plant Live (they did, after all, win the Best of the Best of the Best award for "Best Place To Get Molested By A Bachelorette Party" ...

Power Plant Live has a lot of bars and clubs in close proximity. Since it's an inclusive entertainment zone, you can carry your drinks with you on the plaza. And I'll bet if you call ahead to the bars you want to hit, they just might give you a discount on your drinks. Check out Mosaic, Luckie's Tavern, MEX, and Babalu Grill.

O'Donnell Square in Canton is another good option. Put the intersection of O'Donnell Street and South Linwood Avenue into Google Maps, and use the Google Maps street view to take a look at the square. Some highlights: Claddagh Pub, Looney's, etc.

Those two spots, I think, are among the best in the city for bachelorette partying. Federal Hill is not bad, either. Check out MaGerk's, Mad River, Ryleighs, The 8x10, etc.

And for a great upscale lounge that won't let you down: Red Maple.

Who else has some suggestions for Edie?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:58 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A look at the week ahead

How was everyone's weekend? I made the rounds Friday, sampling some drinks for a piece about cocktails with weird herbs in them. More on that later. Then I hit up the Beach House/Celebration show at the Metro Gallery (review here) and closed out the night at the Idle Hour (201 E. Fort Ave.). Busy night ...

Classic Hipster Animal Karaoke, which involves hipsters but not animals, has moved from Joe Squared to The Ottobar and Fletcher's. The Ottobar is hosting it on Friday, and the drink specials ain't bad: No cover charge and $2 drinks until 10 p.m. After that, the cover is only $3 for people 21+ and $5 for the 18-20 crowd.

Saturday, Phish comes to Merriweather Post Pavilion. This was the fastest sellout in the history of Merriweather, officials say. All the tickets went in a mere two minutes. Wow. I wonder if the band is going to note that in their set.

Also, Elizabeth Large is looking for some good sangria suggestions, and Jess Blumberg dug the new Blue Hill Tavern.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:43 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

August 8, 2009

Concert review: Beach House and Celebration at the Metro Gallery

It's a good thing they started late.

At 10 p.m. -- the time the music was supposed to start -- the line stretched south on Charles Street and spilled around the corner onto West Lanvale Street. The show was held in the parking lot a couple doors down from the Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.), the same space where they threw Rufustival not too long ago. And last night, that parking lot was packed full of people ...

The sights: Hipsters, art students, indie kids, oh my.

The smells: Cigarette smoke and the sharp musk of body odor. At one point, I swear I caught a whiff of insect repellent, too.

Both Beach House and Celebration are staples on the local music scene. Beach House has a larger following, but since their music is more ambient, it made sense for them to go first. They took the stage at 10:20 p.m.

Officially, Beach House is the duo of guitarist Alex Scally and singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand, but last night, they were also joined by a percussionist. On their albums, they use a drum machine, but the addition of the percussionist added some weight to the beats.

Legrand wore what appeared to be a black and white jumpsuit, topped by a black jacket with shoulder pads and white polka dots. Her haunting voice was drenched in echo and reverb, which gave the plodding psychedelic songs an otherworldly quality. It seemed almost fitting that when they started, the sky was pitch black, except for one star.

In addition to favorites such as "Gila" and "Heart of Chambers," Beach House played a bunch of new tunes. I'd say close to half their nine-song set was new material. Scally said they just cut a record, which I hope sees the light of day later this year. I was a little disappointed they didn't play the single "Used To Be," but hopefully that's on the forthcoming album.

Beach House's nine-song set (at least, I counted nine songs -- I could be off by one or two) was a good length. Any more, and the songs would have began to blend together and my eyes would have glazed over.

At 11:25 p.m., singer Katrina Ford and the rest of Celebration took the stage.

"It's such an awesome summer night," Ford said. She was right, it was cool with a wisp of a breeze -- a perfect night for an outdoor show.

The show's organizers built a large white pyramid-shaped projection screen at the back of the stage, onto which they projected images of hot air balloons. But I thought the handful of telephone poles back behind the stage were just as appropriate.

On paper, Celebration is the trio of Ford, drummer David Bergander and keyboardist/guitarist/pedal bassist Sean Antanaitis. But last night, the group doubled in size -- they were joined by another keyboardist, bassist and percussionist.

All together, they unleashed a mix of swirling synths and pounding drums. Sporting a white dress, Ford strutted around the stage, whooping, crooning and charming her way through their set. We heard "Evergreen" and a few of the other tracks from their full length, "The Modern Tribe," but Celebration also stuffed their set with new material.

It's clear the folks in Celebration want you to dance. But often, instead of settling into a straight-forward groove, they play complex beats that are pretty tricky to dance to. That was my only complaint with their set.

When Celebration finished, Ford told the crowd to stick around for something surprising, and sure enough, at 12:25, both Beach House and Celebration took the stage and played "Billie Jean." It was an awesome send-off from a stellar night of live music on an enchanting summer evening.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:39 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Concert reviews

August 7, 2009

Here's a show worth catching

beach houseHow's this for a hot ticket: Indie favorites Beach House (pictured) and Celebration will perform an outdoor show near the Metro Gallery  (1700 N. Charles St.) tonight.

The music starts at 10 p.m. with a set from Beach House. Then the members of Beach House and Celebration will collaborate on some tunes together. Then Celebration takes the stage.

Metro Gallery owner Sarah Williams stresses that this is not a show to miss.

"We're making this crazy projection pyramid," she said. "It's going to look cool. We have some tricks up our sleeves."

The show will be held in the parking lot, where Williams through Rufustival earlier this year. It's an all ages concert.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:08 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music

Leprechaun Entrance

ropewalk tavern and mcfaul's leprechaun entranceI've probably walked past this a hundred times, but only noticed it for the first time this morning.

On the front of McFaul's Pub (the Ropewalk Tavern expansion), there is a knee-high door labeled "Leprechaun Entrance." 

There's even a little lantern light by it. 

Is it gimmicky? Cheesy? Tacky? 

All of the above. And I couldn't help but chuckle at its cheesygimimickytacky awesomeness.

(Photo by me)

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

Suds and surf

suds and surfHappy Drinker Rob had a nice piece the paper about Delaware breweries, including Dogfish Head, Evolution and 16 Mile Brewing Co.

Check it out.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

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

August 6, 2009

Alizee, Brightons, Cafe Hon win Crab Soup Stakes

the judges, hard at work, sacrificing their waistlines for the good of societyThe results are in: Alizee (4 W. University Pkwy) and Brightons (550 Light St. in the Intercontinental Harbor Court Hotel) won the judge's award for best Maryland crab soup and best cream of crab soup, respectively, at the Crab Soup Stakes.

The winners of the people's choice awards were: Cafe Hon (for Maryland crab) and Brightons (for cream of crab).

Way to go, Brightons!

Held in the Inner Harbor amphitheater, the Crab Soup Stakes featured soups from 10 local restaurants (five had Maryland crab soups and five had cream of crab soups).

Three "celebrity" judges (pictured) -- WJZ weekend sports anchor Stan Saunders, Porkchop from 92Q and yours truly -- sampled all 10 soups, and picked the winners based on taste, consistency and presentation ...

The crazy part: When all the scores were tallied, there was a tie between Brightons and Eden West and Alizee and Ryliegh's. That launched us into a sudden death round (Porkchop demanded more samples), where Alizee and Brightons emerged victorious. Man, it was crazy.

free crab soup?!?! as you can imagine, there was a long lineA pretty decent-sized crowd had gathered to watch the proceedings. Halfway through the judging, the crowd was allowed to get free samples from the restaurants and vote for their favorites.

Thanks to the Downtown Partnership for hosting the event and inviting me to judge it.

Also, thanks to Elizabeth Large, the stellar Sun blogger who nominated me as a judge. Congrats to the winners!

(Photos courtesy of the Downtown Partnership)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:37 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Random stuff

I'm judging a crab soup contest today

Guess who one of the "celebrity" judges at the Crab Soup Stakes at the Harborplace Amphitheater is?

I'll bet I don't even have to tell you. (It's me.)

That's right, folks. From 11 a.m.-1 p.m. today, I'll be judging crab soup made from several Baltimore restaurants. The event celebrates the official kickoff of Baltimore Restaurant Week ...

As an Eastern Shore native, I'm pumped -- I love crab soup. I hope they don't make me use a spoon, because where I'm from, we just dip our hands in the pot and slurp it, straight-up. 

If you're around, come and say hi. I'll be the judge wearing the charcoal ribbed shirt with the greasy hair and permanently crossed arms. Hee hee.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:58 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Concert review: American Idols Live tour 2009

idolgroup.jpg  Before we get rolling, I have a couple guilty confessions to make. First, even though I have interviewed Adam Lambert, I have never seen a complete episode of "American Idol" since it started in 2002. I've caught snippets here and there, but I've never seen a whole episode. I know, I know, shame on me.

Even worse: Due to a Baltimore Unsigned taping with Caleb Stine, I missed pretty much the entire first set of the show.

Why send me in the first place? Reality TV expert Sarah Kelber was indisposed, and editor Tim Swift was desperate, I guess. So they sent the wide-eyed pop music writer (me) instead.

All that said, the American Idols Live tour, which came to 1st Mariner Arena last night, was quite the treat, if you dig that sort of thing. The show features performances by the top 10 contestants on the 2009 season of "American Idol." It was, in a sense, a souped-up, flashy, extravagant karaoke show. And what a show it was ...

I got there in time to catch the second half of Matt Giraud singing "Georgia on My Mind." Sporting a fedora and sitting at a piano, he tore through a rendition of The Fray's "You Found Me." Then, a handful of other Idols joined him on stage to sing a medly of old school numbers like "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Tell Her About It." I liked how there was no down time between tunes. When one song ended, they just barreled right into the next one.

A 20-minute intermission came after the medly. The bottom six contestants perform during the first half of the show, and the top four sing during the second. Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show.

Looking around, I realized I was one of only a few guys in a sea of women. There were little girls, big girls, moms -- even grandmoms. My informal poll put the ratio at two or three women for every man in the arena. 

I also realized the star power of runner-up Adam Lambert (pictured). He hadn't even performed yet, but every time his picture popped up on the big screen, the crowd screamed. It was wild. I should have brought ear plugs.

During intermission, I asked my neighbor, Doris Ditzler, what I'd missed.

"You missed Megan Joy's first outfit," said Ditzler, who made the 90-minute drive from Carlisle, Pa., for the show. "Megan must have had a shoe horn to get it on. It was very tight; very short."

adam lambertAnything else I missed?

"They all sounded better than they did on the show."

Sweet. Thanks, Doris!

The first performer after the break was Allison Iraheta, a spunky singer dressed in black leather. Her hair was dyed red with purple points at the end of it. She started with Pink's "So What," and proceeded to wail her way through "Cry Baby" by Janis Joplin and "Barracuda" by Heart.

Next up was Idol No. 3, Danny Gokey. Gokey has a surprisingly soulful voice, but not much of a stage presence. He did Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," Santana's "Maria Maria" and closed with two Rascal Flatts tunes -- "What Hurts the Most" and "My Wish." Good stuff, good stuff.

After Gokey left, it was time to get Lambertized. Everybody knew it. Before he even came out, the screams were deafening. There was an explosion of light and sound, strobe lights and then -- BAM! -- there he was, singing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."

Lambert Law #1: If you've got it, flaunt it. 

Wow. I've never seen a man scream like that before. Robert Plant could hit some high notes, but Lambert launched into the stratosphere. And if you think Plant's screaming sounded feminine, wait until you hear Lambert. It was like Geddy Lee on steroids. And boy oh boy did he have a stage presence. That crowd ate out of his gloved hand. Even when he was sitting on a stool singing "Mad World" by Tears for Fears, he commanded the crowd's attention. Of all the performers, he seemed the most at ease on stage.

Lambert Law #2: Black is beautiful.

Black hair, black guyliner, black fingernails, black fingerless gloves, a black jacket (which he ripped off to still, yet more screams), black pants, a black sequined vest. His belt buckle was massive and sparkled fiercely. (In case you're wondering, this photo of him was taken during the encore, after he had changed into a new outfit.)

After "Mad World," Iraheta joined Lambert on stage to sing a duet of "Slow Ride" by Foghat. During the song, someone in the audience tossed a large hot pink bra onto the stage (someone must have been "in the mood"). Iraheta tossed it to Lambert, who tried to chuck it back into the crowd. But the bra fell short and landed on the stage instead. Hee hee.

Lambert wrapped up his set with a David Bowie medly. He definitely left the crowd wanting more.

That left one man. And that man was this year's American Idol: Kris Allen. To be honest, I wasn't bowled over by Allen. He's a good-looking dude, sure. And he's got a good voice. It's not a great voice, but it's a good voice, and he knows how to use it. I just wasn't that impressed with him. 

The high point of Allen's set was "Heartless" by Kanye West. It was refreshing to hear someone actually sing the song -- not just West's auto-tuned original. Hearing Allen sing it gave me new respect for West's songwriting. It really is a great track, and Allen sounded great on it.

Allen closed his set with the singalong to end all singalongs: "Hey Jude" by the Beatles.

For the encore, the cast regrouped and sang the '80s anthem "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. For a few more minutes, the crowd sang along to this one last number with the contestants they'd come to know and love in the past few months. Then the house lights came on and it was time to go home.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Gene Sweeney, Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (98)
Categories: Concert reviews

August 5, 2009

The skinny on Suite 18

image8.jpg After wondering about the new Suite 18, I heard from marketing coordinator Danielle Lewis, who had the scoop on the new lounge.

It opened June 20 in the space that was formerly Gordon's Nightclub. The new management made a few cosmetic changes, but left the place largely the same, she said.

"It's geared towards young professionals who want to hang out," she said.

Suite 18 is 21+. Here are the specials, broken down by day, according to Lewis ...

On Wednesdays, they have Ste. Expressions, a live music event which showcases local and independent artists. There is a two-for-one happy hour from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. and BYOB wine all night. Hours are 5 p.m.-midnight.

Thursdays are Urban Hang Suite, a spoken word show. The two-for-one happy hour is 5pm-8pm and the show starts at 9pm. Hours are 5pm- 12am.

Fridays are Ste. Escape, which features drink specials all night beginning at 5 p.m. Hours are 5 p.m.-2 a.m.

On Saturdays, Suite teams up with local promoters to host events. Hours are usually 9 p.m.-2 a.m.

On Sundays, they have a happy hour from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

(Photo courtesy of Suite 18)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:41 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Police: Co-owner of Taps and bouncers from Mother's involved in back alley brawl

A co-owner of the South Baltimore bar Taps was hospitalized and charged with assault after allegedly scuffling with several bouncers from the nearby Mother's Federal Hill Grille, according to a police report. A bouncer from Mother's was also charged with assault.

Here is the play-by-play, according to the report: At 1:30 a.m. June 27, police responded to a report of an assault at Mother's. There, they found David Holter, a co-owner of Taps, with a "busted eye" and a cut on the back of his head, and Holter's friend Luke Litchenberger, as well as several Mother's bouncers ...

Litchenberger told police he and Holter were kicked out of Mother's for unknown reasons, and they were jumped by five bouncers in the Patapsco Street alley. In the report, police said Litchenberger had blood smeared on his right forearm and knuckles, but no visible cuts.

Bouncer Matthew Sauers had a different story. He told police that Holter and Litchenberger tried to leave Mother's through the wrong door. Sauers told Holter and Litchenberger they were not allowed to go out that door, but they tried to exit through it anyway. Sauers put a hand on them and escorted them out onto Patapsco Street. There, Sauers was joined by fellow bouncers Jason Ferris, Diallo Walcott and K. Hodge.

Sauers said Litchenberger threw a punch, which started a fight. Holter drew a folding box cutter knife, and Litchenberger punched Hodge in the back of the head and tried to put him in a choke hold. Hodge said he disarmed Holter.

Police arrested Holter and Walcott for assault. Walcott had a knot on his head, according to police, but refused medical treatment. Holter was transported to Harbor Hospital and treated there.

Mother's owner Dave Rather was on vacation when the scuffle occurred, but was quick to defend his employees when he heard about the altercation.

"They're all really professional guys," he said. "They're not your typical $10-an-hour meatheads that want to fight. These guys take security very seriously." 

Holter declined comment.

Rather said he met Holter when Taps opened, but otherwise has had little interaction with him. The two bars are only a couple blocks apart on Charles Street, which makes them practically neighbors, he said.

"It's obviously not good for us and not good for the neighborhood," Rather said. "Why would you be fighting at all, and why would you be using a weapon? I don't get it. ... I hope they drop the charges and it goes away. It's not the reputation we want to have."


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:08 AM | | Comments (43)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Clipper City's Beer & Bacon Fest

kevin baconI love the sound of this.

Check it: From noon-4 p.m. Saturday Sept. 19, the Clipper City Brewery is throwing a Beer & Bacon Fest, complete with "Pyrates, Pigs & Pints."

We're talking more than 15 kinds of bacon, more than 10 kinds of beer, more than 10 restaurants and even some live music. All you can eat and drink is only $40. Details here.

These are a few of my favorite things ...

Clipper City beers are some of the best locally brewed beers around. And bacon needs no introduction. But I did scratch my head a little about the "15+ bacons" bit. Are there really more than 15 different kinds of bacon out there?

I guess there are, if you count bacon from different kinds of animals, like pig bacon and ostrich bacon. But I've always thought of bacon as coming from a pig. I guess it's just another example of my narrow-mindedness.

What does Kevin Bacon have to do with it? Absolutely nothing. But I thought you'd get a kick out of seeing his photo with a post about his namesake. Even if Bacon isn't named after the food, he should be. Or he should at least publicly recognize its awesomeness.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 4, 2009

A quick chat with Snoop Dogg

snoop doggOne of the smoothest gangsta rappers on the planet, Snoop Dogg comes to Merriweather Post Pavilion tomorrow on the Blazed and Confused Tour.

Midnight Sun and Baltimore Metromix contributor Mark Gross e-mailed Snoop some questions.

Snoop, why do you only do e-mail interviews?
Because generally reporters ask tha same questions, manage to piss me off with a smartass remark and I'm in tha studio wrappin up "Malice In Wonderland" when I'm not on tour. 

Where's your mind? Where's your money?
Example A of what I was jus talkn about. Jus jokin. U know I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

The Snoop Dogg iFizzle iPhone app features several of your most iconic phrases. If you could record common phrases from your every day life, which ones would be most useful for you?

Recently, Pope Benedict signed to Geffen Records. If you produced an album for the pontiff, what would his gangsta name be and what's his first single?
"Is There Heaven for a Gangsta?" - and his name would be Chuuuuch! ...

Is there anyone left that you haven't collaborated with, but still hope to?
Tha Rolling Stones

How should fans reconcile your public association with the Nation of Islam and your gangster rap lyrics that promote sex, weed and liquor?

Do you, like the Nation of Islam, believe intermarriage or race mixing should be prohibited?

Any surprises so far on the Blazed and Confused tour? Any favorite moments?
plenty of surprises fo yo ass! Each night is gettin bigger and better. This is definitely tha tour of tha summer.

If you were not touring, whose tour would you try to catch this summer?
Rock The Bells would be dope!!!

(Photo by Getty Images) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:01 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Random stuff

What's the best neighborhood bar in Baltimore County?

We've done Hampden, Canton, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon and Fells Point (am I missing any?).

Now, I'd like to show a little county love. What, in your humblest of opinions, is the best neighborhood bar in Baltimore County? And why? Remember, you only get one vote each ...

If you recall, I define a neighborhood bar as follows:

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

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

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

Whatcha got for me?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:34 AM | | Comments (55)
Categories: Commenters' Choice Awards

Tipsy Tuesdays: Pukes and Staggers

pukes and staggersI've played (and won, of course) my fair share of drinking games. But I've never heard of Pukes and Staggers. That's probably a good thing. Owl Meat has all the details:

Invent cool drinking game ... check. Create prototype .. check. Come up with an awesome name ... not so much.

I get it. It almost rhymes with Chutes and Ladders, a game that my grandfather may have played. I think if you need a board game to get your drink on, you may have an imagination problem.
Here is the manufacturer's blurb:

Have you ever tried to drink a beer upside-down, reveal an embarrassing story about yourself, or mix together every drink in the room? With Pukes and Staggers you can be entertained while you drink. Perform several tasks, drink in the most unusual ways, and have the most fun you've ever had playing a drinking game ...

The password is ... LAME. Just like another product whose sole purpose is to get you messed up bad, Pocket Shots, they have a campaign to promote responsible drinking called "STAY HOME TONIGHT!" That seems hypocritical in the extreme. If you are drinking a beer upside-down, responsibility is just a river in Egypt.
When I was in college, quarters was king of the drinking games. People had their own styles; mine was the free style bounce. Some people, almost always girls, rolled it off their noses. That annoyed me. The dumbest game of quarters I ever witnessed was two friends getting hammered on Carlsberg Elephants in the afternoon. It didn't end well.
According to a 900-word article in Wikipedia, quarters is played in the United States, Canada, Germany, and South Africa. There is also a variation call Moose that involves an ice cube tray. I've never heard of that one.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of drinking games. Beer pong seems to be very big now. I don't know too much about it. I don't know when it happened, but at some point the idea of chugging cheap beer with my friends lost its appeal. I think it would be funny to see a group of people over 30 playing quarters in a nice restaurant with an expensive bottle of wine.
Does anybody know of any other interesting games?

(Photo courtesy of Pukes & Staggers)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

August 3, 2009

Illusions Magic Bar recognized by CNN

magician spencer horsman

I thought I'd blogged about this already, but when I went back and looked, I realized I hadn't.

Illusions Magic Bar (1025 S. Charles St.), the swanky South Baltimore lounge with regular live magic shows by Spencer Horsman (pictured), was recently recognized by

The news Web site listed Illusions as one of nine  places to "party like it's 1929."

Here's a link to the list. And here's the blurb CNN did on Illusions:

With custom-made chandeliers above the cherry wood bar and jazz and swing played on the piano, Illusions gives the impression of being like any other roaring '20s-themed jazz club. Not so on Friday and Saturday evenings, when the stage -- cut into the middle of the bar -- hosts a one-hour vaudeville-style magic show ($5 cover). House magician Spencer Horsman escapes from a straitjacket while hanging upside down from the ceiling, a feat best appreciated while sipping a multilayered "magic" martini of Hpnotiq liqueur, Stoli raspberry vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord ($12). The low-key second-floor lounge has leather sofas and retro magician posters that go nicely with Magic Hat beers ($3).

I must confess, I haven't been back to Illusions since I first reviewed it in April 2007 ...

Back then, I marveled at the giant, cherry wood bar, iron chandeliers, burgundy carpet, high-backed leather chairs and glass-topped tables. I also wondered how such an elegant place -- which obviously represented a huge investment from owner Ken Horsman -- could sustain itself in Baltimore.

Well here we are, two years later, and Illusions seems to be still going strong.

Congrats, Ken and Spencer!

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Beer Me!

beer bellyA couple days ago, Former Roommate Patchen sent me a link to this massive list of suds, courtesy of a Web site called Beer Me!.

The list has almost 25,000 beers, from almost 11,000 breweries. The cool part is, you can sort them by brewery, beer, style, location and score.

According to the list, "20" is a perfect score. 

If you sort by score, the worst beers aren't even scored -- the merciful folks behind the site seem to have stopped scoring any beer below a "3".

Patchen had a good idea:

for a fun exercise, sort by score, then use your computer's find command to find the maryland beers.  Some interesting ones come up high.

The list is also a good resource if you're looking for brews from a specific region.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:54 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

August 2, 2009

Concert review: Paul McCartney at FedEx Field last night

paul mccartneySimply put, this was one of the best shows I've ever seen.

I didn't want Paul McCartney's show at FedEx Field last night to end.

But when it did -- after a two-hour set and a 30-minute encore -- I think I speak for the rest of the audience when I said I left the stadium satisfied.

Backed by a lean, four-piece band, McCartney led a tour through his unparalleled body of work, from his days as a Beatle to some of the more recent material he released under his alter ego, The Fireman.

The crowd happily clapped and sang along to the former, and amicably tolerated the latter ...

McCartney emerged looking dapper in a black suit. After four songs, he shed his coat, revealing a white button-down shirt and thin, red suspenders. 

"That's the big wardrobe change," he quipped. 

At 67, McCartney sounds and looks great. From the primal wailing on "Helter Skelter" to the poignant lines of "Here Today," McCartney showed he still has a remarkable range.

Age be damned, McCartney still has the boyish charm that won him legions of fans in the '60s. He bowed deeply and held up his bass guitar after nearly every song -- something that would seem gratuitous coming from most other musicians. But seeing McCartney do it, you couldn't help but smile. He's just so likable

paul mccartneyAt one point in the set, McCartney noted that Washington was the first place the Beatles played after coming to the U.S. 

"Is that someone who was there?," he asked, looking out into the crowd. "I remember you! ... You couldn't hear yourself 'cause of all the girls screaming."

Right on cue, all the women in the audience screamed.

"Yeah," he said. "That was the noise."

Smoking renditions of "Paperback Writer" and "Band on the Run" were among the evening's high points. He dedicated "Michelle" to Barack Obama, ("we think Barack might want to sing [it] to someone in his house").

At one point, McCartney brought out a four-string ukulele, which, he said. was a gift from George Harrison. Then he eased into an upbeat, acoustic version of the Abbey Road single "Something." After a couple verses, the rest of the band joined in.

I was surprised to see McCartney strap on a guitar and riff through a brief instrumental jam of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady."

A couple quibbles: McCartney's voice and piano were overpowered by the synthesized strings on "The Long And Winging Road." It was a bit cheesy to see the keyboardist covering the saxophone part on "Lady Madonna" through some kind of electronic wind adapter on the synthesizer. Can't McCartney hire a couple horns and strings? Those were my only real complaints with the show, and they were small ones.

Fittingly, the final encore was "The End," a pleasant cap to an electrifying show.

Here is the set list:

1. Drive My Car
2. Jet
3. Only Mama Knows
4. Flaming Pie
5. Got to Get You Into My Life
6. Let Me Roll It
7. Foxy Lady (instrumental jam)
8. Highway
9. The Long and Winding Road
10. My Love
11. Blackbird
12. Here Today
13. Dance Tonight
14. Calico Skies
15. Michelle
16. Mrs. Vandebilt
17. Eleanor Rigby
18. Sing the Changes
19. Band On the Run
20. Back in the U.S.S.R.
21. I'm Down
22. Something
23. I've Got a Feeling
24. Paperback Writer
25. A Day in the Life
26. Let It Be
27. Live And Let Die
28. Hey Jude


Day Tripper
Lady Madonna
I Saw Her Standing There
Helter Skelter
Get Back
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)
The End

(AP photos)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:34 PM | | Comments (61)
Categories: Concert reviews
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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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