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November 30, 2009

Fire Marshal shuts down Fall Massive at Paradox

The Fall Massive, a large-scale techno, house and drum 'n' bass event held at Paradox Saturday, apparently got too big for its own good.

A Baltimore City fire marshal shut down the Fall Massive at about 2:30 a.m., stating the crowd of more than 1,500 was over capacity, according to event promoter Evan Weinstein.

"They did a walk-through, decided it was over capacity and shut it down," Weinstein said. "We were shocked. We didn't expect any problems." ...

Weinstein said Paradox's owner, Wayne Davis, told him 1,500 was a suitable number of people for the club. Weinstein later heard the club's capacity is less than 800. Davis could not be reached for comment.

The Fall Massive, which started at 9 p.m., was supposed to stretch until 6 a.m., Weinstein said. Most of the scheduled DJs got to perform, with the exception of Trace, Reid Speed and Terry Mullan. Weinstein said he is working with Bourbon Street, a much larger venue, to schedule a makeup event Jan. 17, the day before Martin Luther King Day.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:34 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Great music video: "Blow My Mind" by The Cheaters

Brian Morrison, the director who brought you the awesome Lazerbitch music video, is back.

This time, Morrison takes it to the windows, to the walls, with "Blow My Mind" by Baltimore rockers The Cheaters. He has lead singer and guitarist Jason Morton sprinting across the road in the middle of traffic, getting sucker punched by a biker and narrowly avoiding a train. And it's impossible not to mention the dark-haired, alluring Jenn Themelis, who plays the carefree femme fatale to a tee.

"The band definitely looked at me weird when I was pitching the idea, but props to them for letting me do so many crazy ... things!," Morrison wrote in an e-mail. Here's the video ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:49 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Local music
        

Midnight Sun drinks Midnight Sun

midnight sun porterI have tasted the Midnight Sun, and it is good.

Delicious, even.

Last week, Midnight Sunner Alexander D. Mitchell IV told me Max's had a cask of a dark, mysterious porter known as Midnight Sun.

Who could resist the call of the Midnight Sun? I couldn't.

Midnight Sun porter (5.6% apv) is made by Williams Brothers Brewing Company in Scotland.

A pint of the stuff ($6), served at the appropriate temperature (not super freezing cold), proved mild, with faint chocolate notes. In short, it was a quaint, tasty quaff. Nothing mind-blowing, but good.

I called Max's today, and they've still got the stuff on tap. I highly advise you to drink it -- before I do.

(Photo courtesy of the brewery)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:15 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Fire at Banners?

banners fire baltimoreI've heard rumors of a kitchen fire at Banners all weekend, but haven't been able to confirm anything yet.

Midnight Sun commenter LGood sent me this photo of the Locust Point bar.

Have you heard anything about a fire there? I'm going to put some calls out, and I'll let you know what I find out.

(Photo by LGood)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:22 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 29, 2009

Susan Boyle, "As seen on YouTube"

susan boyle, i dreamed a dreamWhen I got my review copy of Susan Boyle's new CD, "I Dreamed a Dream," in the mail the other day, the sticker on the front caught my eye.

Stickers like this one on the cover of CD jewel cases are fairly common. Usually, they list the singles, or maybe a few kind words from a magazine like Rolling Stone.

This one read "As Seen on YouTube."

That's the first time I've seen something like that.

If you're not familiar with Boyle, she's the 48-year-old Scottish singer who became an overnight sensation on "Britain's Got Talent" in April. She is perhaps YouTube's biggest success story, as well.

I plugged Boyle's name into YouTube, and did a quick tally. Boyle-related videos have been watched more than 100 million times.

According to a press release, pre-orders of "I Dreamed a Dream," which was released Tuesday, made her No. 1 on Amazon.com's best-sellers list ...

I don't know if it's possible for anyone's debut album to live up to that kind of hype. But the music on "I Dreamed a Dream" comes close. The song selection ("Daydream Believer," "Who I Was Born to Be," "Proud") suits Boyle's meteoric rise. And the sparse, simple production suits Boyle's classic-sounding voice.

Boyle's singing isn't perfect. At moments, she overreaches herself, and occasionally over-sings. But none of that matters, really. The title track, which was the first number she sang on "Britain's Got Talent," still sends shivers down my spine. "Les Miserables" is one of my favorite plays, and I've never still heard anyone do it better.

At 48, Boyle is finally getting a proper debut. Better late than never, I say.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:48 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Random stuff
        

November 28, 2009

Are Baltimore bums getting more innovative?

parking ticketYou know the old standbys: The scruffy dude on the corner with a wad of newspaper and a bottle of blueish water, offering to wipe your windshield -- or the guy banging on the overturned bucket.

But the other day, I saw something I'd never seen before.

I had parked on Broadway in Fells Point, and was walking up to the automated parking kiosk when a panhandler approached me with an offer:

"Four hours, half price," he said.

At first, I didn't get what he was saying. Then he stuck out his hand, which had a couple crumpled parking slips in it.

Oh, I thought. I firmly but politely declined ...

Who knows if his parking slips were even the right day. He could have fished them out of the trash can the day before.

Still, the incident made me wonder -- has the recession made bums more innovative? That's the first time I've ever had a dude try to sell me parking slips. Have you seen any other examples of stuff like this around?

(Photo of the parking slip I paid full price for by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:17 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Random stuff
        

November 27, 2009

I finally found Ful

fulFor years, I've been trying to find Ful, the city's most exclusive yet elusive club.*

Dreamed up by Midnight Sunner BryaninTowson as an answer to Pur, Ful is high-end underground -- or so I heard. I never knew the secret location. Until now.

I was walking down Calvert Street when I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes. 

By Jove, I thought, I finally found it, after all these years.

Why had Ful been so hard to find? Because Ful wasn't in one place. It changed locations, depending on the night. Genius! Or is it ingenious? I'm never sure ...

As soon as I spotted the sign, I remember BryaninTowson's now-legendary remarks about his club:

As co-owner of FüL, next time I will make sure you get a Baltimore Drizzle on the house. For your roommate, they are normal price of $19. We also have a fine selection of cigars wrapped in pages from a Gutenberg bible.

My goodness, my gracious, my Guinness! 

Thirsting for the legendary $99.95 Unicorn Martini (made with pieces of real unicorn), I sprinted into the garage, trying to find the secret entrance. I couldn't hear anything, until I put my head to the floor. Through seven layers of concrete, I heard the dull thud of an ever-so-soft techno groove. It could have easily been mistaken for the heartbeat of the city.

In a desperate frenzy, I jumped into an elevator, and scanned the buttons. Amidst the usual numbers, there was a button with the letter "F." I pressed it, but nothing happened. Then I realized I needed to swipe a top secret membership card to access Ful. Alas, I didn't have one.

Downtrodden, I returned to my desk and moped. There will be a next time, Ful. Of that, I am certain.

(Photo by me)

*Disclaimer: Ful does not actually exist. If you couldn't tell, this entire post was me having some fun. Happy post-turkey weekend!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff
        

Rolling Stones in Baltimore, part 2

rolling stones baltimoreWith the help of archivist Paul McCardell, here is one more clip about the Rolling Stones' 1969 appearance at the Baltimore Civic Center. This article, published on November 28, 1969, focuses more on the music and less on the violence:

Crowd Devastated by Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones devastated a sellout crowd at the Civic Center Wednesday night with basic, unsophisticated, harder-than-steel rock.

The show started an hour late, and was not helped appreciably by the appearance of Terry Reid, a British singer who looked and sounded like the Artful Dodger of "Oliver Twist."

But the pace quickened with B.B. King and his band, who showed a together audience where Mick and the Stones got some of their roots ...

Rubber-bodied and plastic-faced, Mick Jagger opened the Stones act with "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and "an old, old one," "Carol," an early Chuck Berry thing. 

'Everybody Dance'

I've never been run over by a locomotive, but I know now what it sounds like -- "Midnight Rambler," which with its clean breaks made Terry Reid's blues piece sound like kindergarten singing.

Toward the end, Jagger said he was tired of dancing alone and asked the audience to shake theirs a little too.

"Everybody dance, everybody -- policemen too," Jagger said. He asked the police and audience to respect each other. 

The audience rose and the Stones tore into "Queenie," another Berry tune, "Satisfaction" and "Honky Tonk Women." 

Earlier, King, the blues king, had asked people to get together. By the end, they were.

Each of the Stones was superb. Mick Taylor, who replaced the late Brian Jones, drove good rhythm and lead guitar. Charlie Watts, on drums, Bill Wyman, on bass, and Keith Richards, on guitar, played their usual thing -- great.

(Photo from Baltimore Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:35 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff
        

Rolling Stones in Baltimore -- 40 years later

the rolling stones in 1969This week in 1969, the Rolling Stones performed a sold-out show at the Baltimore Civic Center (now called the 1st Mariner Arena).

Now, 40 years later, here is The Baltimore Sun's recount of the show. There were fistfights and at least one karate chop to the throat, but somehow, no one was arrested. Oh, and the Stones played.

Rolling Stones Rock Civic Center

The shrieks of thousands of young females filled the Civic Center last night as the Rolling Stones, the English rock group, brought their brand of the electric apocalypse to Baltimore.

Mick Jagger, the head Rolling Stone, pranced out on the stage dressed in a red scarf, silver collar and a black costume amid the hysterical roar of the 13,000 persons who filled the Center to capacity ...

Crowd Mostly Orderly

Thousands more had been turned away in what was the Stones' first appearance in Baltimore in two years.

The crowd of youngsters was, for the most part, orderly, although one teen-aged miss leaped into the orchestra pit and nearly climbed up onto the stage before two burly guards carried her bodily to the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Jagger gyrated and leapt across the stage as he sang in an electric atmosphere of light and sound.

His four companions with electric guitars and a set of drums stood expressionless -- or benumbed -- by the giant sound which issued from a series of 9-foot-high speakers.

Swayed With Music

And in the final moments of a thunderous encore, several hundred kids climbed on their seats and began to sway in time with the music.

The Stones' act was preceded by B.B. King, who led a well-received funky blues group, and Terry Reid, who performed with another English group which was also well received.

During the B.B. King recital, a wild fistfight broke out between Civic Center guards and four youths whom they attempted to question in the mezzanine. 

At one point, a youth who attempted to interfere was held over a ramp railing by a guard who karate-chopped him in the throat. 

Councilman Robert C. Marshall (D., 4th) whose detective service works at the Civic Center, said that there were no arrests, but could not explain the incident.

No Arrests Made

About 30 youths had gathered around the struggling guard, screaming "Pig, pig, oink oink." One of the four youths, who had been sprayed with mace and clubbed over the head, managed to escape briefly, but was brought back into custody bleeding profusely from the mouth.

Captain Anton Glover of the Eastern district police said he thought the youths had been disorderly. He said no arrests were made, however.

(AP photo of the Rolling Stones in 1969. Also, special thanks to Sun archivist Paul McCardell for digging up the clip.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:43 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff
        

Checking in with Jah Works

jah worksJah Works is a staple on the local music scene.

The Baltimore-based reggae group has been around for a whopping 15 years -- an eternity in band-life. During that time, they've released 10 albums, and sold about 100,000 copies.

Their latest album, "Rewind," came out in September, and tonight, they'll perform at Rams Head Live.

I wrote this article about Jah Works, which ran in yesterday's Live! section. I talked to lead singer/percussionist Eric Vincent, who told me when Jah Works first started touring, they were one of the only predominately white reggae bands out there.

"We'd go play a hard-core Jamaican dance-hall show and get some really, really hard looks," Vincent said.

(Photo courtesy of the band)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music
        

November 26, 2009

Something I'm thankful for

I'm thankful for having such an awesome crew of readers and commenters on Midnight Sun. Thanks, everybody, and Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble up some turkey and mashed potatoes for me today. Cheers!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:10 AM | | Comments (3)
        

November 25, 2009

Baltimore Taper charged with attempted murder

jeff mewbournJeff Mewbourn, a figure in the local entertainment scene and semi-frequent Midnight Sun commenter, has been arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder.

Mewbourn, 46, is accused of shooting his girlfriend, Joyce Daniels. You can find more information here.

Nicknamed the Baltimore Taper, Mewbourn frequently recorded shows by local bands. I didn't know him well, and the last time I saw him was at this show at the Talking Head Club.

Mewbourn was also a commenter on Midnight Sun, often posting as "Jeff" or "Jeff Mewbourn." I checked the archives, and he has posted about 75 comments on Midnight Sun since early last year.

I'm shocked and saddened by this news, and my heart goes out to Joyce and her two children.

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:11 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music
        

Miss Irene's is closed

miss irene'sI've heard from a couple sources that Miss Irene's in Fells Point has closed.

The bistro at Thames and South Ann streets has signs on it, which say a new spot called "Poe Boys" is coming soon, according to Alexander D. Mitchell IV.

The signs indicate there will be new ownership/management, but there are no liquor board license transfer notices on the windows, he said.

Miss Irene's has only been open for less than a year, according to Dining@Large.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:03 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 24, 2009

Is Adam Lambert the new Chris Sligh?

Discuss.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:19 PM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Random stuff
        

Inside Nadds

naddsI've got to be careful about these headlines. With a name like Nadds, the possibilities for lewd puns are endless (see this previous blog post for more about that).

Last week, I took a tour of New Age Dine and Dance in Mount Vernon, and was shocked at what I saw. 

The building that houses Nadds (227 W. Chase St.) is technically two spots in one. Until recently, the long-running gay bar Leon's was on one end and the dark, dingy Tyson's Place was on the other. A lounge connected the two.

You'd never recognize Tyson's Place now. It's much brighter, for one, and the walls are done in soft sea green tones.

The bar, with its flat screen TVs, is new. So is the stage, with the house piano, PA, guitar, bass and banjo. I can't think of another Baltimore bar with all those instruments just sitting there, waiting to be played.

"Somebody can just walk right in and play," said owner Ron Singer. "It's a lot different than what it was." ...

Singer bought the building after its previous owner, Bob Davies, passed away. Last week, Singer showed me the new couches in the lounge area between Tyson's and Leon's. Aside from a few new bar stools, not much has changed at Leon's -- yet.

Singer has great plans for Leon's, though. He wants to build a dance floor on the ground floor, a game room with a couple pool tables on the second floor, and a rooftop deck by next spring.

Nadds is open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily, and has a packed weekly lineup. There is figure sketching on Mondays (complete with a model), indie film screenings on Tuesdays, spoken word followed by stand up comedy on Wednesdays, open mike on Thursdays, DJs on Fridays, rock 'n' roll on Saturdays and jazz on Sundays.

"Do I think it will work?," Singer said. "Yeah."

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:47 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Why Jackson Browne likes Baltimore

jackson browneA couple weeks ago at the Lyric Opera House, Jackson Browne took a moment to tell the audience why he likes Baltimore.

Is it because he recorded much of his acclaimed 1977 release "Running on Empty" at nearby Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Cross Keys Inn (which is now the Radisson Hotel, I believe)? Is it because he loves crab cakes or Berger cookies?

Nope. Browne likes Baltimore because he watches "The Wire."

"I think it's a good show," he told the crowd (here's a link to my review of that show).

"Do you have an awareness that show was shot here?" he asked.

Sigh ...

In the five years I've lived in Baltimore, I've been asked about "The Wire" too many times to count. At first, I was intrigued by all the questions. Then I got sick of being asked if Baltimore is really as bad as it looks on the HBO series, and started rolling my eyes at the questioner.

These days, I pretty much repeat what I read on the blog Stuff White People Like:

If you need to impress a white person, tell them you are from Baltimore. They will immediately ask you about The Wire and how accurate it is. You should confirm that it is “like a documentary of the streets,” the white person will then slowly shake their head and say “man” or “wow.” You will be seen in an entirely new light.

Don't get me wrong -- I loved watching the show, especially seasons one and four. And though the show's creator (and Baltimore Sun alum) David Simon has gone out of his way to berate me (that's another story), I definitely admire his work.

Apparently, so does Jackson Browne. How's that for random?

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:04 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Random stuff
        

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Outrageous occupations

interesting jobs

When I'm out drinking, I rarely ask strangers what they do for a living, because I don't want them asking me the same thing. I've had too many people turn to the bartender or owner and blow my cover by saying something like, 'Hey, you should meet so and so.'

This week, Owl Meat writes about out-of-the-ordinary folks with out-of-the-ordinary jobs. One of the most interesting people I've ever met out was Kupkake, but I don't know what he did for a living. Here's Owl Meat:

Unless you have an interesting job, leave it at work. We don't want to hear about it at the bar. We have our own jobs that we are trying to forget about.

I used to be that guy. I went out after work to rehash the tedium of the day with co-workers (read, captive employees). I am reformed. You will no longer be able to listen to a scintillating dissertation on business process re-engineering, two stage probit analysis, or why Mark Obitz is a total jerk.

I paid my penance listening to a bazillion jerks burble on and on about real estate. And stocks. And how you were in the weeds tonight and they left you eight on a hundred ...

Look, we all had a rough day. We all think our jobs are important and interesting, but that is rarely so. In America we are told to never talk about politics or religion, but it's ordinary to hear people talk about how much money they make. In Europe it's reverse and much more fun.

Perfunctory segue: So my friend from Europe asked me what jobs were worth discussing. Good question, conveniently manufactured friend.

I have a particular way of getting to know people. I interact with them and never ask material questions, especially about mundane things like age, family, and job. Is there a more insipid question than, "What's your major?" Yes, "What do you do for a living?"

As the Pope of All Things Arbitrary I grant special dispensation to the worthy. That being said, people with interesting jobs who are interesting to talk to never talk about themselves. Conundrum time ... break it down ...

Golf course designer. What are your odds of ever meeting a guy like this again? Zero. Super-nerdy talk of drainage and recycled water.

Any Goth in full gear with a day job. I used to run into a lot of committed Goths over 30 who worked events at Orpheus. What's it like to be Kelly at an auto parts store waiting to be the fabulous Miss Kele De on Friday? Other people treated them poorly, but they are among the kindest, gentlest people I have ever met.

Panama watch seller. There is a restaurant/bar in Panama City, Panama that has Spanish food and interesting people. Okay, every place in Panama has interesting people, but this place has $3 octopus ceviche. One woman sold watches, but that seemed to be a side-line.

Lady of the night. Maria, a middle-aged woman told me about her travels in Singapore, Dubai and the Netherlands. Duh. It never occurred to me that someone my mother's age was a prostitute. And apparently quite successful in her day. I am such a Gomer.

Mariner. There was a guy in Little Italy that I ignored. When I finally made an effort, he turned out to be a gold mine. Joe is a retired merchant seaman with a wealth of knowledge that would put the Discovery Channel to shame.

Have a duplex in Lauraville owned by some spinster that you want to flip? Shut it. Train dolphins to attach bombs to ships? Bring it. My question this week is, who is the most interesting person you have ever met in a bar?

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays
        

November 23, 2009

Mayor Sheila Dixon signs the live entertainment bill

Mayor Sheila Dixon signed the live entertainment bill into law today, making it easier for certain taverns and restaurants to have bands, karaoke, DJs and such.

Though neighborhood associations haven't been big fans of the bill, I think it's a step in the right direction for Baltimore. And I live in South Baltimore, which will be affected by the zoning changes ...

This bill opens up certain zoning districts for live entertainment. Two other measures passed by the city council are intended to make it easier for neighborhood residents to monitor and protest new live entertainment licenses. That way, if their local corner bar gets a live entertainment license and suddenly becomes a major nuisance, they can sort it out. Let's hope the measures work like they're supposed to.

In the past, I've written about the bill objectively as a reporter, and also supported the idea as a blogger. There are a few sides to it, too:

  • Bars say live entertainment will make them more appealing and bring in more customers
  • Bands and DJs say they need more places to play.
  • Neighborhood associations don't want wild and crazy clubs setting up shop in formerly peaceful spots.

Thanks, Mayor Dixon, for signing the bill. And thanks to City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake for working so hard on it over the past few years. Rawlings-Blake didn't rush this bill through -- she hammered it out with input from business owners and community members alike. I think the finished product is the right move for Baltimore.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:40 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music
        

More details about the new Waterstone Grille

waterstoneWhen I first posted about the new Waterstone Bar and Grille, which is taking over from the troubled Coconuts, someone named dispatch posted an insightful comment.

I e-mailed disptach, trying to get more information on the place. Today, dispatch e-mailed me back.

Her name is actually Emily, and though I'm still not quite sure how she knows all this stuff, she sounds like she knows what she's talking about.

Here is Emily's e-mail, which has details about the opening date, as well as the owner's plans for the place:

The original owner of Coconuts took ownership back after it went downhill (basically after the stabbing some months ago). She is launching it as a higher-end lesbian bar (although I believe anyone is allowed to come, not just females) ...

During the day, it will be a bar & grille with happy hour specials, lunch & dinner (catering to the local crowd & hospital).  Friday nights she is having a live band and DJ.  Saturday nights will be a DJ starting around 10ish. 
 
The inside is much nicer than the original, as she basically gutted it and re-did everything.  During the Spring & Summer, she'll be able to open the large bay windows, as well as serve food outside. 
 
I believe she is scheduled to open the week after Thanksgiving, with the Grand Opening being that Sat night (Dec 5th).  The owner is virtually impossible to get a hold of, so hopefully that gives you a good idea of what she's trying to do with the place.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:06 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Local MC Soulstice lands song on 'The Blind Side' soundtrack

soulsticeThis weekend, did you see the new biopic "The Blind Side," about Baltimore Raven Michael Oher?

If you did, you also heard a track from SoulStice, a hip-hop producer and MC based in Columbia. Soulstice teamed up with producer Mighty Wyte to write a song for "The Blind Side" -- a big boost for the on-the-move local artist.

I did a piece on SoulStice, which ran in yesterday's paper. Here's a link.

SoulStice's song on "The Blind Side" is called "That Thang," and is pretty hard-hitting ...

SoulStice runs his own record label, Wandering Soul, and for years was a member of the Recording Academy, which meant he got to vote on the Grammys (and attend the awards ceremony). He's got followings in Japan and Europe, and his latest album, "Beyond Borders," saw him collaborating with hip-hop artists from Europe and Africa.

"We export a lot of U.S. culture - specifically hip-hop," SoulStice said. "I was trying to import some culture on this."

(Photo courtesy of SoulStice)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music
        

Outlaw art: "The Man in the Window"

the man in the windowI'm not a huge art fanatic. But Friday evening, I helped hang one of the best more controversial art exhibits ever to appear in Baltimore.

There is a mysterious dude named John who lives across the street from the Idle Hour. He spends a lot of time peering out of his second-story window, looking down at Fort Avenue. But he never goes in Idle Hour. All we know about him is his name.

This is the part where John Woestendiek comes in. He's an incredible writer, blogger, former Sun staffer and, as it turns out, photographer. Woestendiek was fascinated by Window John, and sneakily took a bunch of photos of him in his window.

In short, Woestendiek went rogue.

Woestendiek had the photos printed and framed, and hung them at Idle Hour when the owners weren't around ...

He writes:

As a practical joke, it went off without a hitch. Both owners walked in to see the previously bare walls covered with Window Guy art. While I was a little worried about how they might react to the unauthorized exhibit, both seemed to get a good laugh out of it.

The exhibit, "John: The Man in the Window," was equally stunning and frightening. Woestendiek said he sold enough photos to almost pay for the expenses. And, he's already planning a follow-up.

Other than knowing his first name, I intentionally didn’t research John's background, or talk to him, because the exhibit was more about mystery, speculations and assumptions than about the reality. But I’m thinking the reality — learning about the man behind the enigma — might make for a good sequel.

Indeed. 

(Photo by John Woestendiek)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:54 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 22, 2009

Recapping yesterday's Movember bar crawl

is sam's mustache real? you decide.For a few hours yesterday, I joined dozens and dozens of mustache-clad revelers for a South Baltimore swill-fest commonly known as ... MOVEMBER!

As you can tell from the photo, it was quite awesome. And money was raised to help fight the fight against prostate cancer.

I met up with the crawlers at the tequila bar Lime (801 E. Fort Ave.), which was clearly not prepared to handle the flood of 50-some wild and crazy kids. It was jammed wall-to-wall.

After about an hour at Lime, we headed down to Hideaways (1400 Key Highway), the new bar across the street from Little Havana, which recently replaced the Tavern on Key ...

Though Hideaways' new co-owner Dave Benton said the place was totally different, I thought it looked largely the same -- just with a new paint job. That's OK though, because the owner had stacked six-packs of Natty Boh as a monument to Movember. All hail Movember.

For the low low fee of $25, the crawlers got a T-shirt, aviators, a fake mustache (if they didn't already have a natural one), raffle drawings and $1 Natty Bohs, among other drink specials. Now that's what I call a deal, folks.

Post-Hideaways, the crowd had grown too large for one joint, so we split into two factions. One went to Rafters (620 E. Fort Ave.), and the other went to Captain Larry's (601 E. Fort Ave.). I opted for Captain Larry's, because it was the less cramped of the two.

Midnight Sunner Evan, who organized the crawl, was dumbstruck with the sheer awesomeness of his creation. He stumbled about, sipping a Boh and babbling about mustaches. Or wait, maybe that was me.

(Photo by Alex)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:43 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 21, 2009

Concert review: Bruce Springsteen at 1st Mariner Arena

bruce springsteenThat was the concert of a lifetime. I think that was the best show I've ever seen.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made a triumphant return to 1st Mariner Arena last night, playing to a sold-out crowd of more than 14,000.

Here is a link to my full review, which will run in tomorrow's paper.

Wow. Consider me a convert to the Church of Springsteen. Bruce and the boys played 30 songs, and the show lasted almost three and a half hours.

If you were there last night and you want to share your thoughts, leave a comment.

Here is the set list from the show ...

1. Wrecking Ball
2. Prove it All Night
3. Hungry Heart
4. Working on a Dream
5. Thunder Road
6. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
7. Night
8. Backstreets
9. Born to Run
10. She's the One
11. Meeting Across the River
12. Jungleland
13. Waitin' on a Sunny Day
14. Spirit in the Night
15. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (audience request)
16. The E Street Shuffle (audience request)
17. For You (solo piano)
18. Radio Nowhere (audience request)
19. My Love Will Not Let You Down
20. Long Walk Home
21. The Rising
22. Badlands
23. Ramrod
24. Hard Times
25. Land of Hope and Dreams
26. American Land
27. Dancing in the Dark
28. Rosalita
29. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher
30. Glory Days

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:18 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

November 20, 2009

Movember bar crawl!

movemberWhether or not you're a manly man with a manly mustache, I strongly urge you to attend this awesome Movember bar crawl in South Baltimore tomorrow night. You can find all the details, including the registration, by clicking right here, right now. It's for a great cause, and it's run by a great guy -- Midnight Sunner Evan. Happy Movember, everybody!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Checking in with Nils Lofgren

nils lofgrenNils Lofgren might not be a household name, but Lofgren has played with some of the biggest names in rock.

Lofgren was a founding member of Crazy Horse, and has been playing guitar in the E Street band since the '80s. Tonight, he and the rest of the gang will be at 1st Mariner Arena. I talked to Lofgren a few days ago about the show.

Did you know Bruce and company hasn't played here since 1973.

You're kidding. I can't believe that. That's bizarre. ... I can't believe a town that big has been skipped that long. This is a momentous return.

Same venue too.

Is this is the old Civic Center? You're kidding me. 

Have you played there before?

I played there in the '60s or '70s opening up for somebody like Country Joe and the Fish. I can't even remember. Way back in the '60s I went there trying to sneak backstage to see Cream and Jimi Hendrix. I used to go with my Telecaster and try and tell the security that the headline act needed it for the show, and they were expecting me. ...

My band Grin, of course, we cut our teeth in Baltimore and at UMBC. A lot of great memories of Baltimore. I remember seeing Jimi Hendrix in the hallway, walking to the stage, looking awful. He looked like he weight 90 lbs. My band Grin had opened three shows for him on my 19th birthday out in California.

To me, Jimi and Jeff Beck were always the two greatest guitar players. I didn't know him. I just asked him how he was doing, and he said 'Not so great.' I said 'Take care of yourself, we need you. He said, 'Yeah, well, my manager's got me playing 64 cities in 66 days.'

I'll never forget it. He was all alone, walking down the hallway to the stage. I was hiding in a doorway. I was young and naive, but now I get it. He was just a piece of meat for his management and for the booking agents. ... No one was really protecting Jimi. It was ruthless. He had too many hangers-on, and drug dealers and groupies and people that didn't really care about him around him. I was grateful to see him play so often and open shows for him, which was an honor.

Did you hesitate when Springsteen told you he wanted to play all of "The River" and "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" at Madison Square Garden earlier this tour?

We all look at each other, and there's a part of you that rolls your eyes. We're fatigued, we've been on the road for two years and we're in the home stretch. To take on those two records, back to back in New York City with almost no notice is crazy. And you know what? We just knew we were going to be doing homework. I didn't quite make it to college, but for those four or five days, it felt like I was studying for my big college exam.

Look, when Bruce calls a song on stage we've never played before, you know in 30 seconds he's going to count it off. You can sit around for the rest of your life laughing about it and telling stories about how that's not what you wanted to happen. But the bottom line is, it's happening, and it's starting in 30 seconds. So you better figure out what to do to contribute.

It's fun. That's the beauty of playing live. ... The review is instant from the audience, and that's an arena I thrive in. The band does too. We're proud of the fact there's nobody out there challenging themselves to do these kind of improv-inspired shows for their audience. There just isn't.

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:33 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Say hello to the Water Street Tavern

water street tavernA new bar named the Water Street Tavern has appeared on (you guessed it) Water Street, right across from Peter's Pub.

Midnight Sunner F. Pants McFadden sent me this photo of the spot.

Anybody been here yet?

This stretch of Water Street is like a secret cove, tucked away downtown. The best way to get there is to turn left from Light Street -- before Light intersects with Pratt Street. 

I'll try and stop by sometime soon and see what the deal is.

(Photo by F. Pants McFadden)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:14 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Midnight Sun's favorite Bruce Springsteen song

bruce and patty in 1988After much deliberation, Midnight Sun as an announcement to make.

We have officially endorsed  Bruce Springsteen's "She's the One."

It is -- at least temporarily -- Midnight Sun's official anthem.

Why?

Here are five reasons ...

5) It uses Bo Diddley's killer beat. 

4) The killer piano riff.

3) Clarence Clemons' wailing sax solo, which could turn milk into butter.

2) This song (heck, most of the album) is one big ball of hopeless hormones turned loose on a sweaty summer night.

1) It name-checks Midnight Sun. That's right. Witness:

With her long hair falling
And her eyes that shine like a midnight sun
Oh-o she's the one, she's the one

Darn right she is.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney, Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:24 AM | | Comments (9)
        

November 19, 2009

Checking in with Jim Gaffigan

jim gaffigan

Tomorrow night, comedian Jim Gaffigan is going to be in town for two shows at the Lyric Opera House (get tickets here).

It's been a few years since the last time I talked to Gaffigan, but he still plays the whiny, lovable lazy butt like few can. And his bits about food (especially bacon, bologna and Hot Pockets) are still hilarious.

Gaffigan has accepted the notion that, at this point, he's probably The Food Comedian.

"Every time there's a new bacon-scented envelope, I get 50 e-mails or messages or tweets about it," he said. "It's the same whenever there's a new Hot Pocket. ... It's very flattering."

Here is a link to my piece on Gaffigan, which ran in today's paper.

(Handout photo)

 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:04 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Random stuff
        

Meet Bruce Springstone

Craig Hankin & Tom ChalkleyIt started with a simple but spot-on Bruce Springsteen impersonation.

In the spring of 1982, Craig Hankin and a few other members of the local group The Reason were at a party when singer Tom Chalkley started singing TV show theme songs in Bruce Springsteen's voice. It was an instant hit, Hankin recalls.

"Everybody hit the deck laughing," he said. "We thought, 'Oh, this is a funny idea.'"

Hankin hatched an idea to have Chalkley use his Springsteen impression to sing "Meet The Flintstones." They called this knock-off project Bruce Springstone and recruited lead guitarist Tommy Keene and veteran jazz saxophonist Ron Holloway to record with them at Hit and Run studios in Rockville.

They took the recording to Clean Cuts, a local record label then known for its jazz recordings, and played it for label owner Jack Heyrman. (Click on this link to hear the track.)

"[Heyrman] let me know a one-off novelty single was not exactly up his alley, but he was willing to listen," Hankin said. "By the time we got to the end of the tape, he was chuckling. He said, 'I think we may have a novelty record here.'" ...

Clean Cuts wanted to release the Bruce Springstone song, but needed a B-side. Hankin went to a music shop on Liberty Street, where he discovered the original lyrics and sheet music to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," written at the turn of the century. Hankin found the song oddly appealing, he remembers, and they recorded a version of it for the B-side.

"The verses were about this girl Nelly Kelly," he said. "She sounded like a Springsteen character."

The single "Meet the Flintstones" by Bruce Springstone was released in September of 1982 -- the same week the real Bruce Springsteen released his album "Nebraska." Both records were hits.

quarry shootBruce Springstone's parody single sold 100,000 copies, and was spun on hundreds of radio stations in the U.S. and abroad.

"Meet the Flintstones" was reviewed by the Village Voice, the LA Times and the Washington Post. Bruce Springstone made a music video for "Meet the Flintstones," but Hannah Barbera threatened to sue if MTV played it.

"It was the most expensive home video ever made," Hankin said.

Hankin still gets royalties on the single, he said. 

"It wasn't any kind of financial bonanza," he said. "What's nice is we still do get these little ASCAP checks four times a year, which are just about enough to go out to a nice dinner on."

Both "Meet the Flinstones" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by Bruce Springstone are still in print, on various compilation albums released by Rhino. Hankin is now 54, and runs the studio art program at Johns Hopkins University.

Though it's been nearly 30 years since the single was first released, Hankin still looks back on it fondly – and it's still being recognized by the music community.

"I still like it," he said. "It still gives me a laugh, and it's got legs. This is a record that has stood up. Just last year, the "Ballgame" side of the record was included in a CD that accompanied a book called 'Baseball's Greatest Hits: The Story of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'"

Tomorrow, when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform in Baltimore for the first time since 1973, Hankin will be there.

(Photos courtesy of Craig Hankin)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:08 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music
        

Another awesomely bad bar name

nadds baltimoreHas the whole city gone crazy? Or just me?

A new bar has replaced Leon's/Tyson Place in Mount Vernon. Guess what it's called?

Nadds.

Yeah.

Nadds.

If you notice, the "d"s in the sign are actually musical notes. 

But wait, it gets better ...

Nadds is actually an acronym. It's short for (I kid you not) "New Age Dine and Dance."

Sigh.

According to Nadds' menu:

Nadds is a boutique Restaraunt and Bar with a focus on current music, spoken word, independent Film Artist and other forms of live entertainment in the heart of the Cultural District of Baltimore, Maryland.

Double sigh.

I'll post more about Nadds later today.

(Photo by me. Suddenly my cell phone camera is coloring everything blue. I don't know why. Maybe, like Picasso, I'm going through my Blue Period.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:48 AM | | Comments (41)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Banners is a surprisingly great neighborhood bar

banners baltimoreI must admit, I did not have high expectations for Banners (1401 Decatur Street).

Going in, I thought the new Locust Point bar would be another one of those middle-of-the-road neighborhood spots. Boy was I wrong.

When a few friends and I dropped by Banners on a recent Saturday night, it was packed tight with people. I think it must have been somebody's birthday party, which explains the big crowd. 

A middle-aged man who I took to be the owner stood inside near the door, looked us in the eye and shook our hands as we walked in. I don't think I've ever had that happen at a bar before ...

Here's another shocker: Despite all the other people there, the bartenders singled us out and asked us what we wanted right off the bat. They were on their game that night. Well, maybe I should put a little asterisk at the end of that sentence.

When one of my friends ordered a vodka soda, she got a glass filled with vodka and Coke. Hee hee. Rather than protest, she ordered something else.

vodka sodaDraft domestics were only a couple bucks, and came in big glass mugs (the best way to drink beer, methinks).

Inside, Banners looks like your average corner bar. It's long and narrow, with a bar that stretches about halfway back along the left side. A few flat screens are affixed to the wall behind the bar.

There are also some beer signs on the wall, as well as a photo of a young soldier, with, oddly enough, a toilet seat hanging over it. The toilet seat appears to be signed by his family and friends.

Since we were in the middle of a bar crawl, we only stayed for one round. But after seeing how surprisingly welcoming Banners was, I'll definitely be back.

(Top photo by me. Bottom photo by Shankman)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:22 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 18, 2009

Got Bruce Springsteen general admission tickets? Read this.

If you somehow managed to swindle your way into the much-coveted general admission tickets for Friday's Bruce Springsteen show at 1st Mariner Arena, there are a few things you need to know.

Actually, kind of a lot of things you need to know. The show's promoters released a 10-point plan for a lottery among general admission ticketholders. Here it is ...

GENERAL ADMISSION PROCEDURE
 
In an effort to help provide fair and equal opportunity for close access to the stage for general admission customers, a random numbered wristband lottery will be performed the afternoon of the show to determine which patrons will be first to enter the general admission floor area. Patrons may choose to enter the lottery in an attempt to gain closer access to the stage.

General Admission Floor ticketholders who choose not to participate in the lottery are free to enter the show at the opening time of doors: 6:00pm and will have access to the floor area located behind lottery participants. A limited number of lottery "winners" will gain access to a small designated "front GA floor" area closest to the front of the stage. Below are some of the rules and procedures pertaining to the lottery.
 
1. On the day of the show, sequentially numbered wristbands will be distributed beginning at 1PM. This will take place at the Baltimore Street Doors. Wristbands will be distributed until 4PM. **(No more lottery/floor wristbands will be distributed until after doors are open)**
 
2. One wristband per patron, and the patron must be in possession of their GA ticket.

3. After the patron's ticket has been verified as a GA ticket. A wristband will be issued and affixed to the patron's wrist.

4. Wrist banded patrons may leave the premises but must return by 4:30PM.

5. A starting number will be randomly picked at 4:30PM. A patron will draw the starting number. This number will be announced at the gate.

6. The patron wearing the wristband that matches the starting number will be first in line.

7. All other patrons with GA tickets and a wristband should begin lining-up sequentially behind   that patron. This line will then be processed and escorted into the area in front of the stage, when the venue/tour are ready to open doors.

8. Anyone who receives a numbered wristband prior to doors has a chance to be first in line to enter the Front Area, but a wristband does not guarantee a place in the Front Area.

9. A second wristband will be required to enter the Front GA Area.

10. The purpose of the random number distribution is to insure that all GA patrons have the same chance of being first in line, eliminating the need to camp out. This policy also helps to insure customer safety and provides for an effective means of crowd control.
 
ALL WRISTBANDS WILL BE ISSUED AT THE Baltimore Street Doors

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:26 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Owl Meat's (belated) Tipsy Tuesday: Music + movies = awesome

rockinit.jpg_

It might not be Tuesday anymore, but "Owl Meat's Tipsy Wednesdays" just doesn't have the same ring to it. Better late than never, right?

Here, Midnight Sun guest columnist Owl Meat Gravy takes us on a tour through some of the best music movies out there. Are you ready? I am. Let's go:

Movies: great.

Music: great.

Movies about music: awesome.

Below is a baker's dozen of music movies that bubble up in my brain now and then. I'm not saying these are the best movies ever, just some that are stuck in my gray matter ...

"DiG!" (2004) – The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols implode and explode. Documentary of two promising bands, their friendship and rivalry, and their divergent paths.
 
"This Is Spinal Tap" (1984) – It goes to eleven.
 
"Once" (2006) – The story of two musicians who come together for a week in Dublin. It gracefully weaves their music into their story in a compelling, non-contrived manner. Very romantic.
 
"Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" (2004) – This follows Metallica from 2001 to 2003 as they spiral into an anti-rock and roll lifestyle. Their live-in therapist subjects them to a nine-to-five schedule and makes then talk about their feelings. The therapy sessions are priceless and include former member and Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine. Masters of puppets? More like masters of hugs.
 
"The Filth & The Fury" (2000) – The Sex Pistols' great live performances make them seem like wizards of raw power. Johnny Rotten seems possessed by some crazy, clever animal.
 
"Control" (2007) – Grim black-and-white, heart-breaking story of Joy Division. We see a beautiful depiction of bleakest Manchester in the '70s. Knowing that singer Ian Curtis would hang himself just as they broke in America makes the characters' optimism poignant.
 
"Superstar" (1987) – This 43-minute biography of Karen Carpenter by Todd Haynes is acted with Barbie dolls. What could have been silly and gimmicky ends up being a haunting portrait of an American tragedy. The film was pulled from release after Richard Carpenter sued Haynes for failure to get legal clearance for the Carpenters' songs.
 
"Viva Las Vegas" (1964) – Ludicrous Elvis movie. Ann-Margret dancing in black Capri pants and heels leaves an impression on a boy.
 
"Topsy-Turvy" (1999) – Director Mike Leigh makes a great film about a topic I dislike: Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas. I came to mock, but I stayed to rock, well, be fancifully entertained.
 
"The Pawnbroker" (1964) – Quincy Jones' score is so powerful that it becomes almost a narrator in this bleak black-and-white drama.
 
"Fantasia" (1940) – This is so far ahead of its time, both in ambition and as a psychedelic precursor. I saw it at the Baltimore Imax theater. Ka-pow!
 
"West Side Story" (1971) – Finger snapping gang dance-fighting.

"CS Blues" (1972) – Robert Frank's documentary of the Rolling Stones follows them on their 1972 tour that supported "Exile on Main Street". The hedonism and drug use is so unflattering that the band prevented the film's release. The grainy black and white cinéma vérité is a revelation and the music is amazing.
 
Here is a list
of 200 music movies to tickle your memory. I invite you to supply your own lists and throw tomatoes at mine.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:01 AM | | Comments (53)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays
        

November 17, 2009

Bruce Springsteen blowout coverage

bruce springsteen in 1975Since Bruce Springsteen hasn't played in Baltimore since 1973, we're pulling out all the stops and going all Bruce, all the time.

Dig if you will this entire online section devoted to Bruce Springsteen.

It has Springsteen photos.

It has a test-your-Bruce-knowledge pop quiz.

The page also has a ton of Springsteen stories. Sun researcher Paul McCardell and I spent a good deal of time yesterday digging through the vast, dusty archives looking for colorful old Springsteen stories and photos.

You would not believe how many times The Baltimore Sun has gushed about Springsteen.

Former Sun writer Rafael Alvarez called Springsteen "the messiah of rock and roll." Columnist Dan Rodricks wrote a couple columns in the '80s that were blatant ploys to get free Springsteen tickets.

Surprisingly, we could only find one actual interview with Springsteen -- back in 1975 after a show at Painter's Mill (here's a link to the piece) ...

It's over-written, and the author veers off on some weird film noir-ish tangents, but it has some great quotes. This is my favorite:

"Hey, man," he said. "I don't consider myself a writer, like a novel writer or a poetry writer. Writing songs is just something I do. It's a real, natural, basic urge. The only thing I can compare it to is when you get hungry. You feel it and you do something about it."

bruce springsteen in 1988I especially love this piece about a Springsteen impersonator who showed up at a Baltimore disco with a chick and a fake bouncer and ran up this big tab. The bar owner grew suspect and called the cops. 

Here's an excerpt from a review of a 1980 Springsteen show a the Capital Centre (full story here):

Springsteen is one of the heroes left in rock. His songs are simple, sometimes even monotonous in their repetition of highway and working-class themes. Springsteen, however, makes them live. He does not so much sing them as inhabit them.

In 1985, Sun writers Jack Dawson and David Simon (the latter of which you may recognize from a certain HBO TV series) did a great article about fans camping out for Springsteen tickets. Here's a link to the piece. Here's an excerpt:

Fans are limited to a purchase of eight tickets each. The tickets are being dispensed by a computer on a first-come, first served basis from several locations simultaneously, including RFK Stadium, the Capital Centre, the Baltimore Civic Center and Hecht Co.'s Ticketcenter outlets.

All 53,306 seats for the event are reserved and cost $18.50, regardless of whether the buyer is in the nosebleed seats or one of 12,000 on the field. A sell-out is predicted within three hours.

See you Friday, Bruce!

(Photos from Baltimore Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:30 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Random stuff
        

Dispelling the myth about "Cheers"

cheers

Over the years, I've asked plenty of bar owners and bar-goers what the ideal neighborhood joint is like.

One answer that keeps popping up is Cheers. Like, the bar Cheers on the show "Cheers." You know, where everybody knows your name and stuff.

Today, I thought about "Cheers" and something occurred to me: As a bar, Cheers wasn't all that great.

Think about it: Aside from the main characters and maybe a couple random people sitting at a table in the corner, there was never anybody in the place. It was empty pretty much 24/7 ...

Everybody knew your name because "everybody" was, like, seven people.

There was hardly ever any music, either. Cheers was empty and quiet. Well, there was Norm's griping. Remember Norm? He was the portly, unemployed fellow who was always complaining about his wife.

In retrospect, Norm was kind of pathetic. He had his tab he never paid, and there were plenty of yuk yuks over the years, but I don't know if I'd ever like to hang out with a guy like that in real life.

Cheers was a great show. But I don't think it was that great of a bar.

What do you think?

(Photo by Ron Cobb/St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Caption: Formerly called the Bull & Finch Pub, this bar on Boston's Beacon Hill was the inspiration for the  TV show " Cheers." )

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Who has the cheapest Natty Bohs in town?

natty boh bucketFaithful Midnight Sun readers know, I'm not Natty Boh's biggest fan.

I usually only drink the stuff if I'm desperate, broke, on a bender or all three.

Still, I can't deny Natty Boh's rich history here. That's why you can still get the stuff really cheap at local bars. Usually, it's as cheap as -- if not cheaper than -- Miller Lite.

It's been a loooooooooooong time since I last posted about the cheapest Boh in town. That was more than two years ago, which is an eternity on the Interwebs.

Two of the bars people suggested (Cheerleaders and Red House Tavern) on that post have since closed. ...

I still believe Frazier's on The Avenue has $1 Bohs, but I don't know about the Natty Boh Lounge, since it's under new ownership. I looked around online, and there doesn't seem to be a solid list of the best Boh specials in town.

So I ask you, Midnight Sunners, to help me find the best Natty Boh specials in town. Bar owners, feel free to post about your own deals, too.

Whatchagotforme?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 16, 2009

Waterstone Bar and Grille replaces Coconuts

waterstoneA new semi-upscale looking spot named Waterstone Bar and Grille appears to be replacing the lesbian bar Coconuts at 309 W. Madison St.

If you recall, there was a beating and shooting at Coconuts back in March. With Coconuts gone, that means there is only one stand-alone lesbian bar in Baltimore: Port in a Storm. (I'm not counting Sappho's because it's technically part of Grand Central).

Before it was Coconuts, this building used to be Kavanaugh's, the cop bar portrayed on the Wire, I'm told.

I used to live right by Coconuts, and I never went in. I heard that guys weren't allowed inside on Saturday nights, and I didn't want to press my luck.

Google has a number listed for Waterstone, but when I called it, nobody picked up.

Thanks to ryan97ou for the tip.

(Crappy cell phone photo by me)

 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:20 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Concert review: Devo at the 9:30 Club

devoReal encores are hard to come by these days.

Encores used to be spontaneous. Bands would come back out if the crowd refused to leave. But over the years, encores became just another part of the show. I've seen a lot of live music in the past seven years, but I had never seen a real encore -- until last night.

Irreverent new wave (at what point do they become old wave?) mainstays Devo plowed through their landmark debut "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!" in its entirety last night at the 9:30 Club.

It was the first of two shows where the band plays an entire album from start to finish at the club (the second night, featuring "Freedom of Choice" is tonight). Last night's show was sold out, at $45 per ticket.

Devo's entire performance lasted less than an hour. That's being generous. There was only 45 minutes of live music. Before the band took the stage, they played the music videos for "Secret Agent Man" and "Jocko Homo." If that wasn't an effort to soak up time, it sure felt like it.

After a couple of encore songs, the band left the stage, the house lights and music came up and roadies started unplugging the gear. But the audience wasn't about to leave ...

They had seen 45 minutes of music, and that wasn't enough. They chanted "Devo." They clapped. They didn't go anywhere. About ten minutes later, the band came back out.

"You guys are really persistent," guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh said.

You could tell they weren't planning on this second encore. Most of the guys on stage had changed into regular clothes. Apparently, someone in the audience had sent one of the band members a message on his iPhone, telling them to get back on the stage.

"I need everybody to swear an oath you never saw Devo on stage wearing street clothes," Gerald Casale said. "This is the first time. Ever."

Then they jumped into their bouncy 1981 single "Beautiful World." Lead singer Mark Motherbaugh emerged in full costume as Booji boy, a masked character who sings in falsetto. Near the end of the song, he reached into his pants and pulled out fistfuls of bouncy balls, which he hurled and bounced off the stage into the crowd. This second encore saved the night.

The rest of the show was about as tight as it could have been. Mark Mothersbaugh can still hit all the half-sung, half-urgently whooped notes, the band was firing on all cylinders. Sporting their trademark yellow jumpsuits, complete with the word Devo (as if we didn't know who they were already), they jumped up and down in unison on the album (and set) opener "Uncontrollable Urge."

Devo didn't spend much time bantering. They steamrolled from one frantic, jerky song to the next. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was as energetic and persistent as ever. The crowd was just as into the songs as the band was. Near me, a group of kids moshed. Almost everybody seemed to know the words.

The only noticeably absent was the band's biggest commercial hit, "Whip It." They'll play that one tonight. Their first encore, "Smart Patrol/Mr. D.N.A." and "Gates of Steel" was solid. But the second encore turned an otherwise good show into a great one.

(Photo by Andrew Boyle, courtesy of Devo's MySpace site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:38 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

Are you getting ready for Bruce Springsteen?

bruce springsteenIt might feel like Monday morning right now, but Friday night is fast approaching. And this isn't any ordinary Friday night, either.

This is the first time Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have performed in Baltimore City in more than 36 years.

I wrote a piece for yesterday's paper about what makes Bruce The Boss. Read it here.

Even among A-list musicians such as Billy Joel, Elton John and Paul McCartney, few performers have a magnetism and mystique quite like Springsteen. 

That's pretty much the gist of the piece.

Also, this week, we're going to be compiling all kinds of online Springsteen stuff ...

I'm talking about photo galleries, as well as concert reviews and interviews the Baltimore Sun did with The Boss back in the day. I'll let everybody know when it's finished.

This morning I glanced at StubHub to see how expensive Springsteen tickets for the 1st Mariner show are. Turns out, they're going for anywhere from $150 to $2,000. Yikes.

Here's something folks who have general admission tickets should know: There are no floor seats. The floor is standing general admission (it's what they used to call a "dance show," my dad tells me). They're going to be letting people into certain sections based on a lottery. I'll post more details about that later today.

(Photo by Rafa Rivas/AFP/Getty Images) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:12 AM | | Comments (21)
        

November 14, 2009

Paul Vivari's list of awesomely bad bar concepts

midnight stunnedLadies and gentlemen, give a warm round of applause to guest columnist Paul Vivari, who has delivered a rousing column about awesomely bad bar concepts. And you know how we love awesomely bad bar concepts around here. Take it away, Paul:

Comrade

At Comrade, the Communist bar, you become a part of the bar the moment you walk through the door. There are no bartenders, who are viewed here as bourgeoisie doppelgangers, oppressively controlling the distribution of alcohol to the proletariat; instead, all patrons get one beer at the top of every hour, to ensure that everyone is given equal amounts.

Although the beer served is usually warm and flavorless, customers are consistently told over a crackling loudspeaker how delicious and satisfying it is and how lucky they are to be there. While this occasionally leads to moments of unrest from some of the patrons, these ‘defectors’ are aptly dealt with by head bouncer Klaus Glostsky-Brenovich, who strong-arms them into the basement’s exclusive Club Siberia, where they stay for a period ranging from a few minutes to several decades. ... 

 

Hooligan's

Hooligan’s attempts to bring the passion and fervor of soccer hooligans from the UK to the US, in a sports bar that focuses very little on actual sports and more on smashing someone’s face in. Be careful wearing your favorite team’s jersey here, as it will most likely result in the rival team’s fans beating you senseless, although this can be tricky since wearing a jersey is mandatory. Ordering at the bar can also be difficult, as drinks aren’t so much served as much as violently hurled at your head at random, but as your reaction time improves you’ll catch one eventually.

If you’ve never been in a sports-related confrontation before, the World’s Goriest Soccer Riots DVD that plays continuously on a loop on the bar television should give you a few pointers, but if you can’t see the TV through your freshly fractured retinas, just remember the hooligan’s motto: ‘When In Doubt, Gouge, Gouge, Gouge’.

Prohibition Tavern

Prohibition Tavern markets itself as a place with all the comforts of a regular bar, but without the alcohol. Not surprisingly, it blows. However, it’s maintained a small but loyal customer base, consisting mainly of dorks and nuns. They offer the usual assortment of non-alcoholic drinks, but aside from the variety of juices and teas, you can also try their house non-fermented beer, which is just a pint glass of barley and yeast filled with tap water. On second though, don’t.

The place maintains a nice 1920’s-era décor, with the parquet flooring and potentially fatal electrical wiring, but it’s not enough of a draw in itself. Most newcomers inevitably wind up next door at Hooch, the speakeasy-themed bar, where every half-hour a portly, comically-mustachioed Irishman in a constable uniform bursts through the front door and bellows “WHAT’S GOING ON IN HERE?” to raucous cheers and applause.

Leper’s

Depressed lighting, morbidly graphic murals and wheelbarrows of mannequin corpses await you at Leper’s, the area’s only Black Death themed bar. Although business has been spotty at best, Leper’s has been consistently lauded for sparing no detail in its devotion to the bubonic plague, right down to the staff, which consists only of cheerless amputees and acne-scarred bartenders.

Although the soundtrack of coughing, heaving, and pleas for the sweet mercy of death is a bit much, it’s worth it to stick around and check out the specialty cocktail list, where you can get an Abscess-tini, Tumor and Tonic, or house favorite Big Bottle o’ Puss, or as it’s commonly known, Busch Light. Also, don’t miss the live salsa music on Saturday’s with the peppery Senõr Loco’s Mariachi All-Stars.  

Shank

At the only bar modeled after the hit HBO prison drama "Oz," customers can delight in the culture of prison life without having to go to the trouble of stabbing someone in public. From the moment they enter the door, patrons are assigned a gang and are required to mingle only with fellow gang members. Those who disobey are sent to ‘the Hole’ for an hour, a series of dimly lit closets where you are only allowed to drink amaretto sours. Few re-offend.

Even if you’ve never seen "Oz," it’s easy to appreciate the effort that went into the theme, from the metal toilets to the heavily armed security to the almost suffocating sense of homoeroticism. Also, don’t miss Adebisi Thursdays, where all psychotic, homicidal Nigerians drink half off. 

(Photo by Sam Sessa)

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

November 13, 2009

Liquor board shutters Club 410

Club 410 is finished.

The troubled bar on the 4500 block of Belair Road, which had already been padlocked by police, had its license indefinitely suspended by the liquor board yesterday. The board returned the license to the creditor and ordered the creditor to move the license out of the neighborhood, chairman Stephan Fogleman said.

"People have to have a little safety and peace when they have a beer," Fogleman said.

They certainly didn't get much of either when Club 410 was open ...

Remember this laundry list of violations brought against the club?

Half the charges were dismissed, Fogleman said. But in yesterday's hearing, it was revealed that a convicted felon named Vernon Harris had a financial stake in the club. That's a big no-no, which made the board's decision to shutter the club even easier.

Here are some more details, courtesy of this piece by Sun reporter Brent Jones:

The club's licensees, Andrea Huff and Scott Brooks, testified that they were not the ones running the day-to-day operations of the club, but Commissioner Stephan Fogleman said, "When you have no administration and you allow for gross negligence, you will be held responsible."

Huff works in the city's 311 call center, and Brooks is a city schools employee. The former manager of the club, Tomeka Harris, was part of a federal indictment that included 24 people who authorities believe are leaders or associates of the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang. Authorities claimed the club was a gang hangout.

Yikes.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:53 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Concert review: The Cranberries at Rams Head Live

It's been almost seven years since the Cranberries last hit the road.

Last night, the Irish rockers officially ended their hiatus with a 90-minute sold-out show at Rams Head Live. The concert kicked off an international tour which stretches through late March. What have they been up to in the meantime?

"I can't believe it's been six and a half years," said singer Dolores O'Riordan. "Babies were born. We had fun in the bedroom."

Aha ...

That's not all, though. O'Riordan recorded two solo albums, the most recent being "No Baggage," which came out in August. Last night's show was heavy on classic Cranberries material, but also included some of O'Riordan's solo work. 

The band emerged at 9 p.m. sharp, and started with "How" a mellow track from their debut album, "Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?" Early on, it was clear the concert would succeed or fail on the strength of the songs and O'Riordan's voice.

The four other musicians in the band (guitar, bass, keyboard and drums) had a few miscues, and several songs ended up sounding flat. I'm sure the band will find their footing in the coming weeks.

On the whole, the show was a fairly strong showing, especially considering how long it's been since the last time they toured.

O'Riordan has lost none of her spunk. Dressed in a tight, sparkly black dress and black leggings, her dark hair cut short, O'Riordan cut a fierce and captivating figure. Her impressive range and vocal acrobatics were on full display, too. O'Riordan's singing can switch from gentle to savage in a heartbeat, and her warbling and cracking can be polarizing.

The pace picked up with "Wanted," and shifted gears with "When You're Gone," an ambling, '50s inspired ballad. O'Riordan had the crowd in her corner all night. Fans sang and clapped along with her, and one audience member gave her a bouquet of flowers.

The first encore, "No Baggage" featured just O'Riordan and the keyboardist, which showcased the softer side of O'Riordan's singing. The inevitable closer, "Dreams," suffered from some disappointing guitar work, but O'Riordan carried the song -- as she did most of the night.

Welcome back, Cranberries. Don't make it so long next time around.

Here is the setlist:

1) How
2) Animal Instinct
3) Linger
4) Ordinary Day
5) Wanted
6) Just My Imagination
7) Dreaming My Dreams
8) When You're Gone
9) Daffodil Lament
10) new song?
11) I Can't Be With You
12) Ode to My Family
13) Free to Decide
14) Waltzing Back
15) Insomnia
16) Salvation
17) Ridiculous Thoughts
18) Zombie

Encore
No Baggage
Empty
The Journey
Dreams

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

November 12, 2009

Who is Chip Weinman? Funny you should ask ...

chip weinmanI don't know if you've seen them or not, but there are something like 20 billboards in an around Baltimore, all bearing the cryptic question "Who is Chip Weinman?"

Turns out, Chip Weinman is a dude with a pretty interesting story.

He's a 62-year-old aspiring pop crooner who has never released an album or played a gig. Saturday is his debut, and what a debut it is: He is headlining the Hippodrome Theatre, backed by a 47-piece orchestra, six backup singers and special guest Sheena Easton. The show is being taped for a PBS special.

Here's a link to the piece I did about Weinman, which ran in today's paper ...

I talked to Weinman, who recently had his thyroid removed (which meant he couldn't sing for months) and lost about 100 pounds. It's one of the more bizarre and interesting pieces I've done in a while.

Weinman seems determined to get his shot, but when I interviewed him, he didn't come off as conceited or overbearing.

"Who does this and gets away with this?" he said. "If I can pull this off, it will be pretty interesting. ... I hope they'll like me, because I can't be anybody but who I am."

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:29 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music
        

Let's talk Jell-O shots

Kevin's comment about the lewdly named Jell-O shots at Lil' Phil's got me thinking. We've never really discussed Jell-O shots on Midnight Sun. Why is that?

If I remember correctly (and I don't always remember correctly when Jell-O shots are involved), the only time I've ever had Jell-O shots at a Baltimore bar was the Light Street Station episode. That's when the pregnant bartender offered my friends and me Jell-O shots. She even told us the proper way to consume them:

"All you do is lick, slurp and suck," she said ...

Jell-O shots are exotic. That's part of their appeal. Also, they are almost always a surprise. You rarely suspect Jell-O shots, until a server brings around a big tray of them. How many other drinks are randomly delivered?

Bars benefit bigtime from Jell-O shots, too. There is no way for the customers to know how much liquor is in the shots, which means the bartenders really don't have to put much in there. Jell-O itself is so cheap and easy to make that it can't cost that much. And yet, Jell-O shots are always like $1 a piece, right? By my calculations, that's a pretty large profit margin.

Depending on how many you have (and how potent they are), Jell-O shots can be disastrous. They're so tasty, which means it's easy to knock back a few at once. All of the sudden, the room is wobbling like a big plate of --- well, you know.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:23 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

A look at Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse

sam seltzer's steakhouseMidnight Sun commenter (and liquor board commish) LiquorBoarding (aka Stephan Fogleman) was in Florida the other day, when he spotted a Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse.

He writes:

I'm running late to the airport, and what do I see on Route 41 but Sam Seltzers Steakhouse. I had to take one quick pic for you. P.S. Kids, if you were trying to find Nemo, you can stop now. He's at Sam Seltzers.

Thanks for the photo, Mr. LiquorBoarding, sir!

I love how he's got the badge out there. I imagine a cheesy commercial, where LiquorBoarding is "arresting" the restaurant.

"At Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse, you have the right to a thick and juicy steak, rich mashed potatoes and delicious sea scallops."

Hee hee!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Random stuff
        

November 11, 2009

Queen Colleen's charity fundraiser is tonight at the Rowhouse

the rowhouse baltimoreLongtime Midnight Sun commenter Queen Colleen is hosting a charity even tonight at the Row House Grille in South Baltimore. It's for a great cause, and I hope you stop by.

Here's Colleen with the details:

I'm raising money for The Allen Senior Center in Federal Hill.  I've been raising $ for them for the last 5 plus years. Ryta, who runs the Allen Center is an amazing lady and I love helping her and the seniors out. 

It will be from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. at the Rowhouse, 1400 Light Street. I have a plethora of awesome raffle prizes from various restaurants in the Hill.  Maybe you could stop by! 

(Photo by Samuel F. Sessa III)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:26 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Are you a big time Bruce Springsteen fan?

Calling all Bruce Springsteen fanatics -- I'm working on a piece to preview The Boss's Baltimore show, and I want to hear from you. E-mail me at sam.sessa@baltsun.com or call me at 410.332.6689.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:27 PM | | Comments (9)
        

Canton Arts and Entertainment is big and bizarre

canton arts and entertainment

When restaurants and bars try to do too many things at once, they often overreach themselves.

I think that's what is happening at the new Canton Arts and Entertainment.

It's a bar named My Generation, an oyster bar named the Black Pearl and a fancy restaurant named Gutman's, all under one roof.

After seeing the place last Saturday night, it looks like the Boston Street spot is having a bit of an identity crisis.

The outside of Canton Arts and Entertainment is painted gold, which is awesomely tacky, or, as I like to call it, Baltimore chic ...

When you walk in, a mini-directory greets you, with arrows pointing to the restaurant, oyster bar and bar. Our group was there for the bar. Even with the building split into distinct spaces, the bar area is still big.

The room itself has exposed brick, a long bar and high ceilings. The black leather couches and chairs in the middle of the bar appear to be the same ones that have been there since Huckas opened several years ago. Heck, they might even pre-date Huckas.

Odder still: The men's bathroom was small and shabby -- strange, considering how spacious the building is.

Oh, and there is a fountain. In the middle of the bar. Don't ask me what place a fountain has in the middle of a bar, but it was there.

The only other bar I can think of with a fountain is Carlos O'Charlies in Highlandtown, an equally bizarre (but more popular) spot.

Though it's been open for about a month, Canton Arts and Entertainment doesn't seem to have caught on yet. At 10:30 p.m. last Saturday, when our party of six rolled into My Generation, we immediately doubled the number of people there. That's including the staff.

Even with the noise from the flat screen TVs behind the bar, we could hear the fountain gurgling in the background. That's not a good sign. It's also kind of a shame, because Canton Arts and Entertainment had a decent drink selection.

The bar itself looked fully stocked with cold and hot drinks, and I counted at least 25 bottled beers and several quality drafts. I ordered a Magic Hat, which cost about $5 and tasted fresh.

The six of us sipped our beers and watched an MMA match on one of the TVs. When we finished our round, we split.

At this point, I wonder how long such a big restaurant and bar can sustain itself when it's that empty on a Saturday night. I don't like to make projections, but at this rate, I will be shocked if Canton Arts and Entertainment is still open a year from now.

(Photo by Shankman)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:54 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

What's with all the annoying 'Open' signs?

led open signHas anybody else noticed these tacky, flashy LED 'Open' signs that have been popping up all over town?

In the past year or two, it seems like they've appeared in the windows of half the restaurants, bars and carryout stores in Baltimore. Some signs just say 'Open.' These signs beat you over the head with it.

"HEY, DID YOU SEE?!?! WE'RE OPEN HERE! THAT'S RIGHT, FOLKS! OH YEAH BABY, WE'RE OPEN!"

Was there some kind of Kmart special on these things a little while back?

Or did half of Baltimore's restaurant/bar owners make a secret pact to pester passersby with intense 'Open' signs? ...

The other night, some friends and I were walking past Meridian 54 in Canton when, suddenly, we were visually assaulted by one of these intensely flashing OPEN signs (pictured).

Blinded by the sign, we accidentally staggered onto Boston Street and were almost run over by the Skittles car.

OK, so that last part didn't actually happen. But it just goes to show you how dangerous these things can be.

I'd like to start an online petition to have these signs removed. Hey, Department of General Services -- now that Flamingogate is settled, can you start fining businesses for this?

(I tried to take a picture of one of these signs, but it melted my camera phone. So I used a photo from this Web site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:06 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

The Midtown Lounge replaces the Spy Club

The Spy Club, a Russian-themed space upstairs from the Midtown Yacht Club (15 E. Centre St.), is being converted into a dance lounge called the Midtown Lounge, according to co-owner Greg Serio.

The Midtown Lounge will host informal '80s and '90s dance parties on Friday nights until the first of the year, when the lounge will officially reopen, Serio said. He has already started to update the decor.

"The Russian theme is pretty much gone, the second floor is totally redone and the third floor is being worked on," he said. ...

Except for private parties, the Spy Club has been dormant for about a year and a half now, Serio said. I remember blogging that the Spy Club was closed a few months ago, and being reprimanded for it by several commenters. Take that, naysayers.

I'm going to check out the Midtown Lounge in a couple months after the renovations are complete. Serio is putting a lot of attention into the lounge, hoping it will be a hit.

"We decided to go full-tilt," Serio said.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 10, 2009

Concert review: Jackson Browne at the Lyric Opera House

jackson browneIt's safe to say that nearly every rock song starts out the same way: An artist gets an idea and sits down with a guitar or keyboard to flesh it out.

The drums, bass and background singers all come later on, when the songs grow into sweeping ballads, bar anthems and the like. Every once in a while, you wonder what they sounded like when they were first written.

Last night, Jackson Browne pared back his songs for an all-acoustic solo show at the Lyric Opera House. The nearly two-and-a-half hour performance was a revealing showcase of the heralded singer/songwriter's sizable catalog.

Alone on stage for all but the encore, Browne effortlessly carried the crowd through a mix of his old and new material ...

This was a no-frills show, from the music to the lighting and stage setup. Aside from a table, a couple stools, a rack of at least 15 gorgeous acoustic guitars and a keyboard (and, of course, Browne) the stage was empty. All of the focus was on the music.

Age and perspective have added new depth to Browne's music, and his melancholy, nostalgic narratives seem more poignant than ever.

It's remarkable how little Browne has changed in the past few decades. He may be 60, but aside from some wrinkles on his face and streaks of gray in his hair, Browne looks nearly the same as he did when he debuted as a lanky, clean-shaven rock and folk singer in the early '70s. His voice is more frayed now, but last night, he was belting out the high notes on "Running on Empty" like it was 1978.

After opening with a few of his own songs, Browne played a pair from his old pal Warren Zevon -- the somber "Don't Let Us Get Sick" and the foot-stomping "Lawyers, Guns and Money."

The audience would shout requests between songs, and occasionally, Browne would play one. He broke into what he referred to as the "rehab" version of "Cocaine," complete with a few spontaneous-sounding verses about missing brain cells and such.

From "The Pretender" to "Somebody's Baby," Browne played most of his hits, as well as several lesser known songs such as "Black and White" (from 1986's "Lives in the Balance"), "Looking Into You" (from his self-titled 1972 debut) and "Giving That Heaven Away," off his most recent album, 2008's "Time the Conqueror."

During the encore, Browne brought out a guitarist he introduced as Albert his guitar tech, Manny Alvarez for "Our Lady of the Well" and "Take it Easy" -- an upbeat finish to an impressive evening.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:57 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Dos and don'ts of being a regular

regularsIf I had to guess, I'd say I'm a regular at a couple South Baltimore bars, just because I live in the neighborhood. I'm not a fixture -- I'm a firefly, as Owl Meat would put it.

Here, Owl Meat reveals the ways to be the best bar regular:

I am guilty of extreme bar monogamy.

I tend to stay in relationships long after it's time to pay the tab and move on.

There is a slippery slope where the bar regular slides from rock star to family, lickety-split. "Family" sounds great. Wrong. It means short tempers, grudges, and drunken shouting matches, well, at least in my experience.

As one who has committed the bar sin of being too regular, I offer some humble advice on being an awesome bar regular ...

It's good to have a home base, just don't be a fixture. Get out of the neighborhood, change it up.
 
If you want to maximize your bar awesomeness, move around. Flit about the scene like a firefly. Now here, now there. Be an enigma; don't be too well known. You're not that interesting.
 
If you pop into a place every two or three weeks and don't stay too long, they will be happy to see you every time. Less is more. Come up with a signature cocktail. Bartenders remember people by what they drink. Don't be Bud Light Guy. You're him at your home base. Be Bushmill's neat with an olive on the side guy.

For some reason, I get different things when I go to different places. I might not visit a bar for months, but the bartender will remember that I had a Jack and Coke the last time and then I'm Jack and Coke Guy. Better than at my home base, where I'm annoying guy with laptop who tells the same stories over and over. Nope, I'm Jack and Coke Guy tonight.
 
Whatever you do, don't be these guys (or girls):

1) The hit-on-the-bartender regular – flirting is okay, but don't be the guy who doesn't get the message day after day. You are amusing in a pathetic way, but it is the bartender's workplace, not a brothel.
2) The entitled regular – Gimme gimme, me me me. You're still a guest. If you want to play your music, watch your TV shows, and monopolize the atmosphere, buy your own bar.
3) The special needs regular – The bartender doesn't mind getting some jalapeño juice from the kitchen for your Mexitini when it's slow, but don't be a pest when he's slammed.
 
If you want to be a well-loved casual regular, avoid these topics in addition to religion and politics:
1) Your job. No one cares. Replaying all your stress as Whine Theater just makes everyone else stressed. Your boss is a jerk. Let it go.
2) Your house, your mortgage, blah blah. Shut up.
3) Fantasy football. We get it; you don't have a girlfriend.
4) Medical stuff. No one wants to hear the details of your splenectomy or root canal. Zip it.

If you do become bar-family, don't be the man-child who lives in the basement. Be the well-traveled cousin who plays "Santa Lucia" on the concertina, cage fights monkeys, and drops in just now and then. Be the Dos Equis guy, not Norm from "Cheers."

Yo DJ, drop a beat for my exit. How about "Here Comes a Regular" by the Replacements? I like this version by John Doe.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:47 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays
        

Lil' Phil's replaces La Marsa

lil' phil'sThis is so awesomely Baltimore.

Signs?

Who needs signs?

Just scribble something on this piece of paper, tape it in the front window and we'll be fine for now.

Hee hee.

A bunch of us dropped by the new Lil' Phil's around midnight last Saturday night. As you can see from the photo, Lil' Phil's used to be the hookah bar La Marsa.

Honestly, not too much has changed, decor-wise. They have a pool table in the back now. That's new ...

The building is a small, narrow space with a bar on one side. The pool table is in the back. As of Saturday, the walls were mostly bare, and the bar was less than half full. I sunk into the new-looking leather couch near the front of the building and sipped a draft Yuengling.

Since Lil' Phil's just opened, it's too early to properly pass judgment on the place. With time it could grow into a low key Fells Point bar with character, or a tiny, rowdy fun zone. For now, it looks and feels pretty generic.

(Photo by Shankman)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:52 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 9, 2009

Concert review: A Cool Stick at Rams Head Live

a cool stickSince I've become the de factor music writer here, I haven't had the chance to see as much local music as I'd like to. Midnight Sun guest poster Katherine McNaboe was at Rams Head Live last week to catch the local group A Cool Stick. Here are her thoughts:

If I had to choose one word to describe local hip-hop group A Cool Stick, it would be energetic. As the fourth of five bands at a Rams Head show Thursday night, the band performed an incredibly lively hour-long set of hip-hop, rap, reggae and rock, a balanced mix of covers and their own stuff.

Singer Luke O'Brien and singer/keyboardist John Fitch looked like they've been doing this for years the way they engaged the audience with their goofy smiles, fresh lyrics and smooth moves -- particularly O'Brien’s moon-walking ...

 

The guys' genuine excitement about playing a venue like Rams Head -- and celebrating the release of their first CD -- really came through in the performance.

"I won't be celebrating Christmas this year," O'Brien said in the middle of the set. "This is Christmas for me."

Guitarist James Hughes did a mean Jimi Hendrix during their "Purple Haze" cover, bassist Brendan "Fuzz" Floyd belted out some impressive notes when he and Hughes switched guitars for "Lemon Song," and drummer Brian Aranda sang a slow version of T-Pain's "I'm Sprung," which drove the ladies in the crowd wild.

A Cool Stick didn't play to a packed house, but the house was definitely packed with energy. The audience especially loved "I Love Knowledge," a parody of Asher Roth's "I Love College," "Turn Me Up," "Guns Drawn" and "All Day Long," which ended the show with nearly everyone singing along.

(Photo courtesy of the band's MySpace site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:37 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

Club 410 sets the bar for liquor license violations

police cruiserToday, I was skimming the schedule for Thursday's liquor board hearings when I almost spat my Coke Zero all over my computer screen.

Club 410 (4507-09 Belair Road) has an absolutely epic list of offenses. Except for Suite Ultralounge, I can't remember the last time I saw a bar get in trouble for so many violations all at once. Of course, this is nothing new. But still, it's shocking to read them all, one by one.

I went through and hand-picked the best offenses to post on Midnight Sun. I skipped the relatively mundane ones, like serving alcohol to minors and not framing their license.

Are you ready for Club 410's four worst offenses? Here goes ...

4. Violation of Rule 4.16 “No licensee shall allow his premises to be used for the purpose of possession, transfer or use of any narcotic drug” on January 11, 2009 (Re:  During investigation, police found three pink ziplock bags with plant substance, suspected marijuana);

3. Violation of Rule 4.02 “No licensee shall sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to any person under the influence of alcohol or narcotic drugs or who is disorderly in manner or to any person known to be a habitual drunkard or user of narcotic drugs” on January 11, 2009 (Re:  Two patrons appeared to be intoxicated) and on January 25, 2009 (Re: Police witnessed intoxicated patron leave establishment and stumble across the street to his vehicle)

2. Violation of Rule 3.06 “Licensees shall operate their establishments at all times in accordance with the requirements of the Health Department of Baltimore City, the Building Code of Baltimore City, and the rules and regulations of the Fire Department of Baltimore City” on January 9, 2009 and on January 11, 2009 (Re:  Coolers holding alcohol were filthy, wet, moldy and no proper washing stations were set up for washing glassware) and on February 5, 2009 (Re:  Establishment was over posted capacity)

1. Violation of Rule 3.12 “Licensees shall operate their establishments in such a manner as to avoid disturbing the peace, safety, health, quiet, and general welfare of the community” on August 26, 2008 (Re:  Patrons involved in dispute inside establishment, one patron left on a motorcycle and was chased and struck by another person in a truck), on December 6, 2008 (Re:  Man shot just as he left establishment), on December 12, 2008 (Re:  Patron shot as she left establishment) on January 11, 2009 (Re:  Two patrons refused to cooperate with lawful order from police officer and were verbally combative) and on January 25, 2009 (Re:  Police responded for fight outside club) and on January 27, 2009 (Re:  Bloodied patron forced outside club by bouncers) 

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:41 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

BAR may be renovated, but it's still BAR

BAR baltimoreThe more things change ...

Earlier this year, BAR (1718 Lancaster St.) closed for several months for renovations. I was worried that when the longtime Fells Point dive reopened, it would be a totally different place.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

BAR is back in action, and you can hardly tell it was closed at all. The floor is new, there are some new beers on tap, but those are the only noticable differences. 

The ceiling fan still only has two prongs, the wine list is still only two options (white and red), and, most importantly, the owner, Carol, is still atop her favorite stool at the far end of the bar ...

Carol is the heart and soul of BAR. If you removed her from the equation -- even with the same decor and everything -- BAR wouldn't be the same.

Of course, the (kind of) sad part about BAR is, no matter when you go, chances are you're going to be one of the only people there. That's one of the reasons I like BAR -- it's a great hideout. But it is a shame to think such a great little dive is going unnoticed.  

(Photo by Shankman)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:35 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Let's talk mugs for a minute

mugsI'd like to take a minute and talk about mugs, gang.

You might not agree with me, but I'm gonna put it out there: Glassware can make or break your bar experience.

If you get a chipped glass, it's over. If you get a mug, it's on!

Mugs up the ante -- especially when you're not expecting them. There is no better way to drink a cold beer than in a big, frosty mug. The giant glasses at Don't Know/No Idea come in second. But mugs still dominate the glassware family.

Think about it. When you walk into a new bar, the first things you notice are the decor and the crowd. Both those things are important. So is the service. But the glassware is huge ...

When I talk about certain bars -- like Down the Hatch -- one of the first things I mention is how they serve beer in frozen mugs. Mmm.

Recently, some friends and I dropped by the new Banners in Locust Point. I'll write more about that place later. I do want to mention this, though: Banners serves beer in mugs. Big mugs. Mugs that you can clink against other mugs. Mugs that you can slam down on the bar with manly might. Manly mugs.

I can only think of a few other places off the top of my head that have mugs: Down the Hatch is one. Muggsy's Mug House (the owners felt so strongly about mugs they named their place after it) is one.

What are some others?

(Photo by Shankman)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:50 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 7, 2009

"Jason Dove Diaries" season two teaser

A couple years ago, local rocker Jason Dove started filming short re-enactments of funny episodes from his life and uploading them to YouTube. He called the series the "Jason Dove Diaries."

My personal favorite was this one, which is so absurd it's funny. I also like this one.

Dove has spent the last few months putting together season two -- a series of 10 videos. This time around, they're based on a (semi) fictitious story about Dove's band performing with actor Adrian Grenier's band, and the drama that ensues.

Dove even made a trailer for season two. Here it is:

 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music
        

Where to find Spanish coffee

Tio Pepe baltimoreA few months ago, Amie and I were at a restaurant in Costa Rica when we first spotted a waiter making Spanish coffee for a neighboring table. 

Watching him prepare the Spanish coffee was pretty wild -- it involved flames and liquor and heavy cream and general craziness. It's traditionally made table side, and is quite the show. Here is a Web site with all the ingredients and directions on how to make Spanish coffee.

The drink itself is super sweet and heavy, which, after a large dinner, almost made my stomach explode.

I had forgotten about Spanish coffee until Midnight Sunner Sarah asked me where she could get it in Baltimore ...

Tio Pepe (10 E. Franklin St.) claims to have the best one in town, and I don't doubt it. I tremble to think what it costs, but if you're eating at Tio Pepe, you're probably not worried about the bill.

And Patrick's (550 Cranbrook Road in Cockeysville) also does Spanish coffee, depending on who is working on a particular night. The woman who answered the phone said it's best to call ahead and ask before going. Their number is 410-683-0604.

So there are two options for you, Sarah. 

Any other places she should know about?

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:32 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

November 6, 2009

Hideaways replaces Tavern on Key

It's been a hectic three weeks for Dave Benton.

Benton is one of the new owners of Hideaways, which replaced the Tavern on Key (1400 Key Highway) less than a month ago. As soon as Benton and his business partner took over the space, they set about fixing it up, he said.

"We've made a ton of changes," he said. "Just cleaning the place up and painting was a challenge. When you come in here, it looks completely diff than it did before."

Hideaways has its grand opening tonight ...

They're going to serve hors d'oeurves from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., the Budweiser girls will be around from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and drink specials will be available all night. According to a bartender named Jen, the beer prices are as follows: $1.75 domestics, $3 imports and $3.50 microbrews.

Benton said they're working on getting the kitchen up and running and have hired two chefs. Neither Benton or his partner have worked in the bar business before, but there's a first for everything.

"We've been looking to do it for a long time," he said. "This was the right opportunity at the right time."

Thanks to Evan for the tip. 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Let's help out Ben, too

baltimore skylineI promise this will be the last one of these for a little while. But considering how helpful everybody was with Brad's predicament the other day, I want to throw one more at you.

This one's from Midnight Sun reader Ben:

I've got a girlfriend coming to visit from out of town this weekend.  I'd like to impress her by taking her to a nice, classy lounge/bar in Baltimore that would hopefully have a nice view of the city.  I thought of the 13th Floor but read some reviews that indicated it wasn't that great a spot.  If it isn't an imposition, could you make a suggestion? ...

Ben, the 13th Floor doesn't live up to its potential (for reasons why, see this), but if you want to impress someone with a view of Baltimore City, that's probably the best place to go. The view is pretty awesome -- even if the service and decor are rough around the edges.

Though I've never had a drink there, I've heard good things about the Explorer's Lounge in the Intercontinental Harbor Court Hotel. It's worth looking into.

I think this exposes a much larger issue: Baltimore doesn't have enough bars in tall buildings. Why is that? 

Also, are there any spots I'm missing here? Help out Ben!

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:43 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

So I got a sample of Usher's new cologne ...

usherR&B star Usher recently released a new cologne called VIP. And guess what? I got a sample of it!!! OMG!!!

Heh.

I've read that wearing this new fragrance is supposed to empower you to be your own VIP. This weekend, I'm going to put that theory to the test.

Either tonight or tomorrow night, I'm going to drench myself in Usher's VIP and try to breeze past the bouncers at one of Baltimore's high-end clubs.

What do you think will happen? 

There's only one way to find out.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:17 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff
        

How to open a bottle of wine with your shoe

This could have come in handy in college, when corkscrews were hard to come by. I can't tell you how many times we ended up jamming the cork down into the wine, which almost always meant tiny bits of cork bobbing in your glass.

Not only does this shoe method look like a fun party trick (or an ace in the hole, if you don't have a corkscrew), it seems like even tipsy Frenchmen can do it. And if tipsy Frenchmen can do it, so can we. Thanks to Owl Meat for sharing the vid:

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff
        

November 5, 2009

Some details on Canton Arts and Entertainment

this person is poking an oyster with a knife. ouch!I got a peculiar call today from a woman named Dawn Carey, who is promoting the new Canton Arts and Entertainment, which replaced Huckas on Boston Street last month.

Canton Arts and Entertainment (whew, that's tough to type, let alone say aloud) is split into three spaces: A restaurant named Gutman's, an oyster bar called the Black Pearl and a bar, My Generation.

Does Canton Arts and Entertainment have a Web site?

"They're in the process of getting the Web site," Carey said.

When's the grand opening?

"They're trying to get that together for a grand opening," she said.

I see ...

Remember, Dawn is the same woman who didn't know the number to Canton Arts and Entertainment when Elizabeth Large called her. She told me though. It's 410-982-0088.

When I asked Dawn about how the neighborhood was receiving Canton Arts and Entertainment, she sounded hopeful.

"So far, they're getting a fairly good response," she said. "It's a little slow in taking off, but we figured it would be, especially with the economy the way it is."

Dawn didn't have many details about My Generation, though.

"It's more of a retro bar," she said. "They are trying to do a big thing with football. They do have the NFL package. There's a bar, with barstools, leather sofas, love seats and coffee tables where you can kick back, enjoy the game and stuff."

I'll have to check it out sometime soon.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:20 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Let's help out Brad

willie don and his sudsBrad of Beer in Baltimore sent me this plea for help:

I've got a chef from a popular DE brewery/brewpub coming into town tomorrow afternoon and evening for a show at Ram's Head.  He's asking me to suggest places "besides Max's, Wharf Rat/Pratt St., Brewers Art, Cat's Eye for some great beer and food."

I'm the beer guy and can name a few more great beer spots like Mahaffey's.... but he's also asking about good food. Care to help?!

I've got a few suggestions, but I'd appreciate some help with this one, too ...

Don't be fooled by its crappy Web site -- the Abbey Burger Bistro (1041 Marshall St.) has upscale pub fare (I like the build your own burger menu), as well as a fairly extensive beer list. It can get pricey, but then again, so can Max's. It all depends on what you order.

The Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar (902 S. Charles St.) also does food and beer well. Their beer selection tends to be better than Abbey's, but the Metro's service leaves a lot to be desired.

Don't rule out DuClaw (901 S. Bond St.), either. I'm not a huge fan of their beers, but I do enjoy sampling their latest brews, and their food is solid.

What other options can you think of, gang?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:10 AM | | Comments (46)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Checking in with Stephen Lynch

stephen lynchI was surprised to learn that comedic singer/songwriter Stephen Lynch isn't a big fan of comedy.

In fact, the 38-year-old Pennsylvania native, who performs at the Lyric Opera House tomorrow, was wanted to be a professional musician since college.

Instead, Lynch has made a name for himself by combining a little music and a little comedy.

The result? Some raunchy, dirty, nasty (but funny) songs ...

Here's a link to my piece on Lynch, which ran in today's weekend section.

"I didn't set out to become a comedian," he said. "I still don't think I have a real knack for it. I just happen to have found this really small window of opportunity that allows me to play music and use whatever skills I have at being funny."

In 2006, Lynch starred in the Broadway adaptation of "The Wedding Singer." He liked the show, but not the schedule, which had him performing eight (8) times a week. Given the chance, he wouldn't do it again, he said.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said. "The schedule's too brutal for my delicate sensibilities. ... Toward the end, I was secretly wishing for its demise so I could get back to doing what I like to do."

(Photo courtesy of Stephenlynch.com)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:17 AM | | Comments (4)
        

November 4, 2009

Sonar is still open, but the Talking Head is being phased out

sonar baltimoreSun writer Mark Gross and I made some calls this morning and found out more information about Sonar's line being disconnected and rumors of the Talking Head closing.

Though its Web site survived and its Twitter account continued to be updated, the direct line to Sonar, 410-783-7888, was disconnected.

Surely, this must be an ominous sign, right?

Manager Lauren Friant cleared the air. Friant says the disconnected number was an "accident." Apparently, someone forgot to pay the bill ...

That said, the line should be reconnected today, says Friant, and all scheduled shows are a go for both Sonar and the Talking Head.

Soon after Mark spoke to Friant, talent buyer Adam Savage called me with some details about the Talking Head. The powers that be at Sonar are interested in turning the Talking Head room into a lounge again, potentially with food, Savage said. The space will still host shows -- just sporadically, Savage said.

"I didn't want to make some big thing about it closing, because I don't want it to close," he said. "But I'm not actively booking it."

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:43 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music
        

What's going on at Sonar?

Anybody know what's going on at Sonar? The main number is disconnected, and the manager hasn't returned a message I left more than a week ago. I've been hearing rumors that the Talking Head Club is teetering on the brink of closure, but haven't been able to confirm them. If you've got some info for me, the e-mail is: sam.sessa@baltsun.com
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:25 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Local music
        

The best Halloween costume of the year?

yip yip aliensBwaaaaahahahahah!

For Halloween this year, ryan97ou and a couple of his buddies went as the Yip Yip Aliens (from "Sesame Street").

This is quite possibly the best possible Halloween costume of the year.

Unsurprisingly, they had their photo taken hundreds of times, ryan97ou said. Next year, he wants to organize an army of Yip Yips -- not necessarily for Halloween. Just for kicks.

Should this idea get the Midnight Sun stamp of approval? Yip yip yip yipyipyipyipyipyipyip!

Also, bonus points if you guess what Midnight Sunner HottieMcSexyPants went as ...

halloweencostume2.jpg
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (14)
        

November 3, 2009

What makes Baltimore's nightlife scene so special?

Hoffman'sAll day, I've been exchanging Twitter messages with a Baltimore nightlife pessimist.

This pessimist doesn't believe Baltimore's bar and club scene has anything -- besides an excellent local music community -- that you couldn't get in other cities.

But Baltimore is cheap, I wrote, and though Baltimore doesn't have many high-end lounges, it has plenty of charming, quirky corner bars.

Corner bars are in every city, the pessimist shot back. This irritated me, but also got me thinking. What, after all, is so special about Baltimore's bar scene? ...

I think it's not just one thing, it's many things. I love how, when you go out looking for an adventure in this city, you usually find one. Does that happen in other cities? Probably, but I don't how regularly.

I haven't lived in many cities, and I haven't drank in enough bars nationwide to make any broad generalizations. But I will say this: There are some awesomely bizarre (and genuinely awesome) bars in Baltimore. And the strangers you meet and friends you make here can be incredibly colorful. 

Does any of this make sense? Am I on the right track here? Or is Baltimore's bar scene just like everywhere else?

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:48 PM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Sipping cocktails at the new Azul 17

a mojito and margarita at azul 17

When I first heard a high-end Mexican restaurant and lounge named Azul 17 had opened in Columbia, I couldn't help but scratch my head.

A fancy lounge? In a strip mall? In Columbia?

Yes. And guess what? It's a hit. 

When Amie and I paid Azul 17 a visit on a recent Saturday night, there was barely a seat left in the place. The line for tables was nearly out the door at 8:30 p.m. We bee-lined for the bar area, and snagged the last two open seats.

Azul 17 is split into two sections -- a long, semi-narrow dining room and a square-shaped adjacent bar.

Owners Julio and Lily Soto must have pulled out all the stops: The chairs in the bar appeared to be made of white leather and the back-lit bar glowed different colors over the course of the night, while Latin house music pumped through the speakers. I don't think I've ever seen a trendier spot in Columbia.

Azul 17's only stumble decor-wise were the long white drapes, which covered the windows and looked tacky from the outside.

As stylish as a high-end lounge might be, substance is always going to win out in the end. Snazzy decor and fancy furniture don't trump good service and well-made drinks. And Azul 17 came through ...

Azul 17's drink menu is a whopping six pages, complete with a page-long introduction which dispels tequila myths and describes the proper way to drink tequila.

There are plenty to practice on, too: I counted more than 100 different tequilas on their list. Add to that the 17 signature cocktails, 17 signature margaritas, 38 wines and 30-some beers and you've got oodles of options.

I opted for La Raspa ($11), a fiery margarita made with Milagro Silver tequila and lulo nectar and garnished with a Serrano pepper boat and fresh lime with a Chile pequin rim.

Believe it or not, the margarita wasn't that peppery -- until I got greedy and nibbled at the end of the Serrano pepper. That set the drink (and my mouth) ablaze. I kept sipping to cool down my mouth, but the margarita only made it hotter. Yowsa!

Amie ordered a Latin-American classic: The mojito ($9). Served in a tall, thin glass with plenty of fresh lime and Bacardi rum, Azul 17's mojito was crisp and citrusy -- but not worth $9.

It's good to see a high-end lounge prospering in a recession, in a strip mall, in the suburbs. It's clear the Sotos know their market well. Azul 17 has a bright future ahead of it. 

(Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis) 

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

Christopher Walken reads Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"

Hahahahaha! That's all I'm going to say. Thanks, Allan, for the link.

Watch this:

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:02 AM | | Comments (8)
        

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: What famous figure would you drink with?

Owl Meat Gravy has come up with a great bar discussion topic. Personally, I'd love to have a beer with George Martin or David Bowie. Take it away, Owlie:

I have a test that I call the Tony Danza test. It basically divides people into whether or not you would like to have a beer with them.

Tony Danza? Sure. Do I imagine that I would have a lot to talk to him about? No, but he he seems beer-worthy. It doesn't have to be a beer. It could be anything.
 
Hillary Clinton? Pass. Bill Clinton? Hell yeah. Keith Richards? You bet. Charlie Watts? No.
 
Today's game goes like this: Name someone alive or dead that you would like to hang out with and what you would do. I think dead people are the more interesting choice, but it's up to you.

Here are some examples that I collected from random people, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime ...

Bob Marley: – Hang out with him, listen to him play, and hear his perspective on things now.
 
Leonardo da Vinci – So ahead of his time. Would like to pick his mind.
 
Bumper cars and cotton candy on the boardwalk with Mandy Moore.
 
Go back in time and tell an inventor such as Ben Franklin or da Vinci what was coming up.
 
Churchill for lunch, good speaker. Can hold his liquor.
 
Anna Nicole Smith for various carnal and pharmaceutical pleasures.
 
Sean Taylor, dead Redskins player, and go [pick up women].
 
Go back in time and hang with King Leonidas and kill huge tigers.
 
Golf with Bernie Mack.
 
I would like to run around Italy with Keats, the Shelleys, and Byron. Marvelous picnics in Arcadia.
 
Wine Pong with Jesus.
 
Have tea with Sherlock Holmes and help him solve mysteries.
 
Lee Harvey Oswald – So what really happened?
 
Lunch with Kim Jong Il, maybe take in a movie. Hey, there are very few crazy dictators left.
 
People always surprise me with this sort of thing, in a good way. The formula quickly deviated into time travel and consorting with fictional beings. Who am I to control your fantasy? Hitler, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Leonardo da Vinci were mentioned multiple times.

So Midnight Sunners, who would you like to hang with and what would you do?

(Photos by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:05 AM | | Comments (50)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays
        

November 2, 2009

10 dishes made with beer

boh battered o'sThis assignment looks like a real gut-buster: Find, photograph and consume 10 local dishes made with beer.

Thankfully, Sun correspondent Lisa Wiseman was up to the task. Here's a link where you can see all 10 meals.

This photo is of the Boh battered O's at Hamilton Tavern. Man, those look good.

Wiseman writes:

All onion rings are edible straight out of the fryer, but when they are still crispy and crunchy after they have cooled off, that is a sign of a quality o-ring. Such is the case with the rings at Hamilton Tavern.

I'll have to try those the next time I'm up on Harford Road.

(Photo by Lisa Wiseman)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:11 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

"The Recession Nation Project" is released

andres zapata recession nationWay back in April, I did this piece about local artists, photographers and musicians who were using the recession as inspiration.

One of the people I spoke with was Andres Zapata (pictured), who was working on a project called Recession Nation.

Zapata collected photos, short stories, visual art and poems from Baltimore and abroad, and recently published them in the book "The Recession Nation Project."

You can preview and buy a copy here.

I flipped through the book online and was pleasantly surprised at how well it came out ...

"The Recession Nation Project" covers a lot of ground in a few pages. 

Zapata's own piece, a collection of chopped-up credit cards which form a spindly, sinister arm and hand, is one of the book's most striking images. Chris Thurston's photo of a down-on-his-luck man holding a folded sign and hat filled with coins could have easily been taken during the Great Depression. And then there's Mike Greenville's photo of the long line outside a Louis Vuitton store, aptly titled "What Recession?"

One of the book's biggest strengths is that it comes at the recession from all sides. There's plenty of gloom and doom. But there are glimmers of hope, too.

In "Stories for the Grandkids," Kit Pollard writes:

"When the status quo isn't worth preserving, exciting things start to happen. Story-for-the-grandkids-worthy things. What are those things? Well, I don't know yet. But in a year or two, they'll be apparent. And in five years, commonplace."

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff
        

Your funny photo of the day

restaraurantChris Furst of Power Plant Live spotted this awesomely bad sign in Fells Point.

Since the recession started, we've seen a lot of restaraunts on the chopping block.

But it's not every day you get the chance to rent a restaraurant. They're a rare breed.

I wonder how much it costs to rent a restaraurant? Do they charge by the letter?

Hee hee.

(Thanks for the photo, Chris)

 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:22 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

How was everybody's Halloween?

Don't you love the first couple days of fall daylight saving? I think we all deserve this extra hour -- especially after such a wild and crazy Halloween weekend.

How was everybody's Halloween? What was your costume? Feel free to send me pictures (sam.sessa@baltsun.com) and I'll post the best outfits. I slapped on an old suit, parted my hair down the middle, popped a cigar in my mouth and -- presto chango! -- H.L. Mencken.

Station North was definitely the place to be for offbeat Halloween partying ...

I think, after watching people making passersby step in horse droppings in Fells Point a couple years ago, I'm done with that Halloween scene. That was a class-less night. Here's a link to a post I did about it.

Yeah. No thanks.

Saturday night, I hit up a few spots in Station North. Gutter Magazine's Dead Celebrity Ball was a blast at the Metro Gallery. They had a tarot card reader, Halloween movies projected onto the walls, and plenty other awesome Halloween whatnots. My favorite dead celebrities were Julia Child, Freddie Mercury and Bonnie and Clyde.

I also dropped by the Windup Space and the Hexagon, which I hadn't been to in a long, long time. The best part? All these parties were free.

Good times, all around.

What did you do Saturday night?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:16 AM | | Comments (14)
        

November 1, 2009

Cheerleaders (finally) loses its license

This one's been a long time coming: Last week, the liquor board revoked the license of the shady Fells Point bar Cheerleaders. This piece says it best:

Liquor commissioners said they stripped the bar of its license after a series of attacks inside the club. On May 15, police were called to Cheerleaders for a fight that spilled into the street and left two women hospitalized, according to a Southwestern District officer who testified during Thursday's hearing. The next night, another fight broke out at the bar that required the entire Fells Point police sector, about 40 officers, to bring it under control, according to testimony.

I never wrote about Cheerleaders, because the management threatened my life ...

I first stopped by Cheerleaders several years ago when they were rehabbing the place. The manager was a fellow named Francis Lee, who at the time had recently been released from prison. He used to run the nearby Ritz Cabaret, before he was convicted of laundering purported drug money and hiring illegal immigrants as dancers.

Lee and I talked about what he planned to do with the place. But when I told him I'd have to use his name in the piece, he didn't like that. In fact, he told me he would have me killed if I mentioned his name. Then he gave a nervous laugh, as if to imply that he was joking. But he didn't blink.

I'm not someone who takes death threats lightly -- especially from convicts. So I didn't write about Cheerleaders. In fact, I'd forgotten about the place until all the violence erupted there. 

I have to say, I'm glad Cheerleaders is gone. I certainly won't miss it.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:49 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        
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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. 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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