« January 2010 | Main | March 2010 »

February 27, 2010

Remembering Friends, which closes tonight

friendsFriends (1634 Aliceanna St.) has never let me down.

In my five years of drinking and debauchery in Charm City bars, Friends has always been there for me. It's been one of the few places where I've always been able to relax -- to never worry about getting a table, if I want one, or a beer.

As my colleague Jacques Kelly once said, don't hesitate to patronize your favorite restaurants and bars, because no matter how great they are, they're not going to be around forever.

After something like 10 years in Fells Point (this is just a rough estimate), Friends is closing. The last hurrah is tonight, and you can bet it's going to get crazy.

My friend Evan and I stopped by Friends for a nightcap Thursday, to have one last glass of beer and enjoy Friends' lo-fi charm.

If Hampden has always long been a haven for Baltimore's hipsters and art students, Fells Point has had the punks. The real rockers. The old school tattooed set. And for years, Friends has been their hangout ...

In the '90s, when Reptilian Records called Fells Point home, owner Chris X and his crew would be at Friends. Members of The Jennifers and The Payola Reserve hung out there.

I've never seen Friends stuffed to the gills. At most, it was only ever comfortably full.

But no post about Friends can be complete without mentioning the jukebox, which was one of the best in the city. I'm not even going to list all the great tunes on there, but it was almost impossible to go wrong. You could pick something blindfolded and get the whole place going.

When I went out drinking in Fells Point, Friends was my insurance policy. If every other bar was jammed, I could go to Friends. After tonight, I won't be able to, anymore. With Friends closing, we're losing another piece of Baltimore's storied bar scene.

Thanks, Friends, for everything.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:33 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 26, 2010

Concert review: Cage the Elephant at 9:30 Club

cage the elephantIn today's Live section, I profiled the no-frills rock group Cage the Elephant (read the piece here).

The five-piece from Kentucky is known more for their raucous live shows than their smoldering self-titled debut album.

To get a taste of what Cage the Elephant's sold-out show at the Recher Theatre will be like, I saw their sold-out show at the 9:30 Club last night. It was good -- but not great.

Honestly, after watching so many YouTube clips of lead singer Matt Shultz crowd diving and jumping off second-story balconies, I think I set my expectations too high ...

The first half of Cage the Elephant's set was a blend of slow-burning rock with a bit of punk and blues. Though lead guitarist Lincoln Parish cranked out some heavy riffs, the rest of the band could have been tighter.

Shultz, who crowd surfed, screamed and walked on the hands of audience members, was every bit the charismatic front man I'd expected, though it was hard to hear his talk-singing at times.

Live, singles such as "Back Against the Wall," "In One Ear" and "Ain't No Rest For the Wicked" were twice as scorching as the album versions. But the other album cuts were hit-or-miss. I wonder how tonight's show at the Recher will be.

(Photo by Danny Clinch)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Concert reviews

How well did Ticketfly handle the My Morning Jacket Merriweather show?

Tickets for My Morning Jacket's May 1 show at Merriweather Post Pavilion went on sale at 10 a.m. today. This was the first Merriweather show handled by new ticket broker Ticketfly.

So, how did Ticketfly do? Did you have any problems? What did you think of Ticketfly's system? I've heard mixed reports ...

"The My Morning Jacket ticket sale this morning has crushed Ticketfly," reader Zachary Dietrich wrote. "I've been staring at a blank page (loading, loading, loading...) for 20 minutes."

After 30 minutes, Dietrich got all the way to the end, clicked "submit" and got a message which read, "An error occurred."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:52 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Local music

The skinny on Lebanese Taverna's late night happy hour

the bar at lebanese tavernaLast Friday, Amie and I went to Lebanese Tavern to check out their new late night happy hour, which runs from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays.

With its high, curved ceiling and dark tones, Lebanese Taverna's bar area is a sharp, sleek space. It's a place where you can feel comfortable in jeans or a suit.

We took a table by the door, and glanced at the happy hour menu. A server brought us a basket of soft, warm pita bread and a saucer of olive oil mixed with herbs.

DJ Gray (of GoodLove fame) spun some easy house grooves spiced with sitars and other Indian flourishes, at a listenable level -- not too loud, not too quiet ...

Amie ordered a glass of a smooth but full-bodied tempranillo, and I got a mojito. Carlin's mojitos aren't too sweet, because he puts a bit of triple sec in them.

The best part about the happy hour? Both our drinks came to less than $5. Nice!

Before this happy hour started, Lebanese Taverna closed around 11 p.m., Carlin said. But Harbor East was crying out for late night drinks and food, and it's good to see Lebanese Taverna filling that void.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo. That's me in the orange shirt.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:44 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 25, 2010

City Paper's Cosmic Cocktail party is coming up

some delicious looking cocktailsI've never been to City Paper's yearly Cosmic Cocktail Party, but I've heard cool things about it.

This year's shindig is 7 p.m.-10 p.m. March 4 at the American Visionary Art Museum, and features food and beverages from more than 25 local restaurants and bars. There's also live music by DJs Rob Cee and Who. All-inclusive tickets are $50. Call 410-523-2300 for more info.

And no, I'm not just repping this event 'cause Midnight Sun won Best Blog in City Paper's reader's poll. In truth, I don't think City Paper's writers like me much (which is probably why I never actually got the award), but their ad crew puts on some killer events.

Definitely dig the Cosmic Cocktail Party. You won't regret it.

(Photo of a Bikini  Martini (left) and an Orange Mojito made by Alex Bustamante at the late Brass Elephant)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:37 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Captain's Corner: Ear piercings

capt. larry outside his bar, circa 2000

Of all the stories Capt. Larry Gross told me, this one was the most outrageous. Keep in mind -- he's already told us about Joe the Parrot, the in-bar drunk cage and shooting holes in the ceiling.

Capt. Larry, the namesake of Captain Larry's, retired from the bar business several years ago. But I heard rumors about people getting their ears pierced, and had to ask the Captain. This is what he told me:

SEAL team four's logo was the skull and bones. So I went and had jewelers make me 40 of these little skull-and-bones earrings.

The deal was, if you wanted to get your ear pierced in the bar, it was a neat thing to get a Capt. Larry's skull-and-bones earring ...

The bird, Joe, used to have a pet of his own, which was a little bar mouse that would go in the bird's cage and eat his food. This little mouse would go into the cage and get up on the perch with Joe and stand next to Joe. We took a couple pictures of it because we thought nobody would ever believe it.

I had a dartboard and a couple American darts. After the bar had closed, the little mouse sometimes would run around on the bar, and we would take the darts and throw them at the mouse. Well, we never got the mouse, and the mouse kept going in Joe's cage.

Now, if you wanted your ear pierced, we took the same American darts that we threw at the mouse. The point of this dart went into a shot glass that the earring was inserted into. The shot glass was filled with vodka. We figured the vodka sterilized the dart.

The person who wanted to get the ear piercing would have to drink the shot of vodka and spit the earring out. I would take the dart and ram it through the ear lobe. The back of the earring was a piece of potato.

Naturally, it would bleed. They had to run around the bar five times. They'd come back to me, I'd take a bottle of vodka, pour it over their bloody ear, clean it off, and stick 'em with the ear ring.

Mostly, it was the cops that did it, some SEALs and the special forces guys. There were only two females I allowed to wear the skull and bones, and you can imagine why. And that's about it for the ear piercings. I know it all sounds unbelievable, but it's truer than you can imagine.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:31 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bar stories

February 24, 2010

Concert review: Black Eyed Peas at Verizon Center

black eyed peasMoments before showtime, the lights dimmed at Washington's Verizon Center and a giant green CGI head appeared on a video screen and sternly announced, "This is the beginning of sound."

Then, the Black Eyed Peas rose from the floor, shrouded in fog and illuminated with green laser spotlights, and launched into "Let's Get it Started."

What followed was more spectacle than show -- a dizzying digital love fest, where singer Fergie and rappers Will.i.a.m, and Taboo strutted around the stage in sparkle-tastic outfits and toured through their hits ...

Behind them, screens flashed images of circuit boards, outer space and people talking on their cell phones, while back-up dancers preened and posed in outrageous get-ups. Fergie emerged in a shiny metallic dress, looking like a chrome Barbie; and's suits must have been dipped in a vat of glitter. The glare was intense.

Oh, and there was music, too. The Black Eyed Peas can get a crowd moving when they want to, and there were moments when they shook the nearly sold-out Verizon Center last night.

fergie"Boom Boom Pow" was a hot and heavy Auto-tuned romp, and the distorted surf hooks of "Pump It" got booties shaking. The show's most spontaneous moment came when free styled for a few minutes using text messages audience members sent to the overhead screens before the set.

Fergie can belt it out with the best of them, and she didn't hesitate to prove it on songs like "Big Girls" and "Don't Phunk With My Heart." The five-piece live band was a welcome surprise, though the sound levels -- especially the vocals -- were muddled at times.

Each of the Black Eyed Peas had a solo section in the middle of the show. did "Mare," Fergie sang three of her solo tunes and Taboo rode a neon motorcycle suspended above the crowd (it looked like something out of "Tron").

For his solo set, asked the crowd if he could "transform this arena into a night club," and spun a roughly 15-minute DJ set of pop tracks by Michael Jackson, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Journey. This got old really quickly. Sorry,, but we didn't come to hear you play other people's hits for so long. 

The last song of the night, the party anthem "I've Got a Feeling," got the place jumping. Sirens wailed and confetti cannons shot a bazillion brightly colored bits of paper into the air. It was a fitting way to cap a night of eye-popping excess.

Here is the set list:

1. Let's Get It Started
2. Rock Your Body
3. Meet Me Halfway
4. Don't Phunk With My Heart
5. freestyle
6. Imma Be
7. My Humps
8. Missing You
9. Mare ( solo)
10. Taboo solo rap
11. Fergalicious (Fergie solo)
12. Glamorous (Fergie solo with Ludacris)
13. Big Girls Don't Cry (Fergie solo)
14. DJ set
15. Sweet Dreams (instrumental band jam)
16. Now Generation
17. Pump It
18. Where is the Love?


Boom Boom Pow
I've Got a Feeling

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:39 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Concert reviews

Grand Central's employee show is tonight

grand central style

Midnight Sun guest writer John-John Williams IV has this report:

Don't be surprised if Beyonce, Pink, Lil' Kim and Britney Spears have a hint of stubble and an Adam's apple when they perform in Mount Vernon tonight.

The annual Grand Central Employee Show has become a popular event among patrons at the city's largest gay bars.

For close to a decade employees have painted their faces and perfected strutting their stuff in women's shoes. (Employees are required to dress in drag and perform lip syncing performances.)

"The customers look forward to it every year," said Antoine Preston, head bartender at Grand Central who is also directing this year's show. "It is a chance for us to give back to our customers." ...

A fee employees have been a little apprehensive about getting in touch with their feminine side, Preston said. Surprisingly the bar's heterosexual staff have been more excited than their gay co-workers to participate in the show, he added.

"They already got their jewelry and have already been fitted for their gowns," Preston said.

All 14 tables and 290 of the 300 advance tickets have been sold, according to Preston. Tickets at the door are $15. Doors open at 8 p.m. The show starts promptly at 9:30 p.m.

"It's a great show. We have a lot of fun in doing it," Preston said. "It gives us a chance to give something back to our customer base. We like to put on the show to let them know we have a different side."

Preston, who has worked at the bar for the past five years, plans to perform as Pink and Lil' Kim. He will have three outfit changes throughout the course of the night.

The employees have enlisted the services of professional drag queens to help them. Sabrina White, a former Miss Gay America, will be doing all the employee's makeup for the evening. Anita Minute, Shawna Alexander, Nikki Cox, and 2009 Mr. and Mrs. Grand Central, Mirage Cruz and Victoria Blair, will also perform.

"Hopefully it is better than the last," Preston said. "We've had three rehearsals. And we've practiced individually."

Employees gain a new found respect for drag queens after preparing for the show, Preston said.

"It's not the easiest thing to do-- walk around in heels, dance, and lip sync all at the same time," he said with a laugh.

(Photo from Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:31 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 23, 2010

Old school hip-hop at the Ibis Tavern

ibis tavernYesterday and today, I've been tinkering with the nightlife column for Friday's Live section. This week's column is about our recent Harford Road bar crawl.

Turns out, I ended up writing too much, and we had to cut some from the final column. One of the bars we stopped by had to be cut out entirely. Here's what didn't make the column.

The Ibis Tavern is a small space with a decent drink selection; we ended up ordering a round of Rolling Rock bottles for $3 each.

Mirrors lined the walls, sports were playing on the three flat screen TVs and the tempting smell of spicy Caribbean food permeated the place ...

The Ibis Tavern has a wooden DJ booth, which is startling, considering the bar's size. More shocking was the DJ's play list: Mostly hip-hop from the '90s, such as DMX and Notorious BIG.

Old school hip-hop (sadly, yes, '90s hip-hop is now technically old school) is hard to find at bars and clubs, since so many DJs only want to play hot new singles.

And the crowd was loving it – one couple cleared a few square feet and started busting moves in the middle of the bar.

Jmgiordano and I want to go back there sometime and try the Caribbean food. It looked delicious.

(Photo courtesy of Ibis Tavern's Web site)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What, pray tell, is a snot rag?

snot ragsKids these days, blowing their snot into a rag and then wearing it like a hat.


Back in my day, we ain't use no rags -- we blew our snot into our hands, and shook hands with other folks, like gentlemen.

But oh no ... these kids just can't be stopped. It's such a terrible issue, Dead Freddie's went and made a rule about it. It's on their Official Dress Code.

Seriously, does not knowing what a snot rag is make me an old geezer? I feel like one.

To better understand the snot rag culture, I looked up the term on Urban Dictionary (witness). ...

There, a snot rag is defined as "handkerchief; tissue; kleenex"


"Common slang in western militaries for tissue paper or any paper used to wipe a nose. Reflects the fact that tissue paper in the military was often just really crappy quality toliet paper."


So, Dead Freddie's must be having trouble with members of the western military and their poor quality tissues. Yes, I see where that can be troublesome. Ban snot rags first and ask questions later, I say! Better yet, don't even ask, and I won't even tell.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:40 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Seeing red

sake time!And here I just thought some people got embarrassed when they drank. In this week's guest column, Owl Meat examines the red-faced drinking phenomenon. Just like in poker, having a flush can work to one's advantage. Owl Meat? Are you there? Ah, here he is:

I had a Korean friend whose face would flush red when he drank alcohol. Other than being a fun party trick, I never gave it much thought. I knew that it was common with some Asians and not dangerous.

Then I read an interesting article in New Scientist on the topic. It turns out that this phenomenon is, in fact, a very advantageous piece of recently evolved physiology. 

A genetic study shows that the reaction is from a genetic mutation that occurred about 10,000 years ago.

Coincidentally, it occurred at a time when east Asians were learning to cultivate rice and ferment it into alcoholic beverages ...

"The mutation causes alcohol to be metabolised at 100 times the speed that it otherwise would be. As the enzyme removes alcohol so quickly from the blood stream, it protects people from the harmful effects of alcohol, and Su believes it confers an evolutionary advantage: a study in the Han Chinese suggests that those carrying the mutation have the lowest risk of alcoholism."

The red flush is a by-product of the rapid alcohol metabolism. This allows people to metabolize alcohol at 100 times the rate of others? That's amazing.

You can see how this mutation would have benefits and natural selection would favor those with it.

If the alcohol is metabolized that fast, I suppose that one would feel little of the desired effects of it.

Fascinating. I leave you with some vintage Siouxsie Sioux.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:11 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

February 22, 2010

Flipside flops

flipside, flapside, flopside

Flipside Footwear, the summery retail store which replaced The Vineyard Wine and Spirits in South Baltimore, is closing, much to the chagrin of the popped-collar set.

In all seriousness, I've never been one to gloat over the demise of any business -- not even Canton Arts and Entertainment (is it technically closed yet?).

I just never understood how a boutique surf wear shop could generate enough business to stay afloat (pun!) in the neighborhood.

But let's give Flipside the credit it deserves -- the shop survived two summers but just couldn't last through the recession. Oh well.

Goodbye, Flipside. See you ... on the flipside.


(Photo by Midnight Sunner Evan)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:17 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Random stuff

And the winner is ...

I'm a little disappointed that it took an hour for someone to guess our Mystery Bar (Grand Cru). An hour! The lucky someone was Josh Slates. Congrats, Josh! E-mail me at to claim your prize(s).
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:45 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Name That Bar

Cupcakes and Cocktails at Pazo

pazo's new chocolate caramel cupcakeWho can resist the call of a soft, sweet cupcake? Only the soulless.

Thursday, Pazo launches a new special that already has me salivating: Cupcakes and Cocktails. They're pairing cupcakes with specialty cocktails every Thursday. And some of these cupcakes & cocktails sound dee-licious.

Each cupcake sells for $2, and the cocktails range in price. 

Here is a list of the five cupcake and cocktail pairings Pazo will offer ...

Rum Baba Cupcake, made with Crème Fraiche & Candied Mint, paired with Classic Elderflower Mondello Mojito, $9, made with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and fresh lemon

Pazo Chocolate Cupcake (pictured), made with white chocolate mousse & salted caramel, paired with an Espresso Martini, $14, made with Van Gogh Espresso Vodka and chilled espresso

Bacon & Manchego Cupcake, made with Miticrema Mousse, paired with Warm Apple Cider, $11, made with Grey Goose La Poire, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram and Velvet Falernum

Sweet Corn Cupcake, made with Butter Pecan Ice Cream & Caramel Corn, paired with White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Martini, $11, made with Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, Trader Vic Macadamia Nut Liqueur Farretti Biscotti Liqueur

Angel Food Cupcake, made with Crème Anglaise & Rasperry Sorbet, paired with La Vie en Rose, $10, made with Moscato d'Asti, Soho Lychee Liqueur, rose water, fresh rose petal

(Photo courtesy of Pazo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Name That Bar, vol. 17

Of all the photos I've sifted through in all the Name That Bar contests, this one made me laugh the most.

Given how fast you guys normally ID the mystery bar, I'm guessing it will take you all of five minutes to name this one. But I'm going to post it anyway, because I like it so much. Special thanks to Alexander D. Mitchell IV, who snapped the shot.

Oh, and for the uninitiated, whoever names this bar first wins a prize. Good luck! Here's the photo ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Name That Bar

February 21, 2010

Concert review: John Mayer at Verizon Center last night

john mayerMidnight Sun correspondent Patrick Gavin was at John Mayer's show in Washington last night. Here is his concert review:

Given the grief the candid-to-a-fault John Mayer's recent Playboy interview earned him, you might say the tune "My Stupid Mouth" is the most unironic song in hindsight this side of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab."

Googling the lyrics, one might call Mayer prescient, if not for the fact the now famous 32-year-old rocker seems to making the same mistakes – only now in public – that he made when he wrote the song 10 years ago.

But his warranted or unwarranted public perception as a cad/douchebag (his words) aside, musically, mistakes aren't something Mayer makes very often. ...

Sure, Mayer isn't without his share of misfires. When he hit the stage at 9:30 p.m. last night for a near two-hour set at the estrogen-soaked Verizon Center in D.C., almost right out of the chute the audience was subjected to a near techno version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" (not nearly as interesting as it sounds on paper), an error compounded when you consider the vanilla cover also appears on Mayer's latest, "Battle Studies."

Occasionally, Mayer even playfully fessed up to a few minute miscues, such as a flat vocal to close out an otherwise welcome cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" and a "shaky acoustic set" (a slightly out-of-tune guitar during a medley of "Room For Squares" hits, including "Your Body is a Wonderland," "Neon" and the aforementioned "My Stupid Mouth").

But it's not hard to forgive Mayer for his mistakes (just ask his all-star lineup of former celeb gal pals including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Minka Kelly, Jennifer Aniston and, batting clean-up, Jessica Simpson). His winning attitude and banter with the crowd in which he hypothesizes about what sorts of fans occupy which seats or muses over the prospect of commissioning the construction of a heliboat (helicopter + boat) are utterly disarming.

And since Mayer hardly showcases his sick-nasty guitar chops on his pop albums, witnessing him in concert lay his instrument on the stage floor and go to work on it, as he did in Saturday evening’s finale, is impressive to say the least.

Aside from a few deep cuts which brought the camera phones out, Mayer hardly relented with strong "Battle Studies" tracks like "Heartbreak Warfare," "Perfectly Lonely," "Who Says," and perhaps the most radio- and concert-friendly "Assassins" (think "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" -- the song).

It’s easy to see Mayer is in his element on stage. And why wouldn’t he be? If his lyrics, onstage chitchat and blunt magazine interviews tell us anything, it's that he just wants to be liked. With a swooning crowd screaming like he’s Hendrix reincarnated, he's much more than liked. He’s adored.

Here is the set list:

1)   Heartbreak Warfare
2)   Crossroads
3)   No Such Thing
4)   Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
5)   Perfectly Lonely
6)   Medley: 3X5,  Comfortable, My Stupid Mouth, Body is a Wonderland, Neon
7)   Waiting on the World to Change
8)   Belief
9)   Assassins
10) Half of My Heart --> Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams"
11) Bigger than My Body
12) Why Georgia


13) Who Says
14) Gravity --> Martin Sexton's "Glory Bound"

(Photo courtesy of

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Concert reviews

February 20, 2010

All country, all the time

boot, scoot and boogie at cancun cantinaWe've been all about the twang this week -- or so it seems.

Yesterday, we re-launched the Live! entertainment section, and the cover story was a roundup of area country bars by yours truly. Remember back when I asked you for suggestions about cool country bars? Well, this is the result.

In the piece, I profiled three bars: Cancun Cantina, the Friendly Inn and Pop's Tavern. 

But wait, there's more. I also had a Q&A with country star Martina McBride, who performs at the 1st Mariner Arena tonight. (Unfortunately, I'm not able to make it to the show. We're stretched a little thin here this week.) ...

Typically when I interview a semi-famous musician, their publicist calls me (15 minutes late, more often than not) and conferences me through to the star. Country singers don't do this.

Country singers like to call me direct, sometimes a few minutes before our scheduled interview time. In the past few months, both Brad Paisley and Martina McBride have done this. Each time, it's caught me off guard.

They're like, "Hey Sam, it's Martina!," and I have a minor freak-out while I scramble to find my notes.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new Live! We don't cover country music enough in the Baltimore Sun, so I'm glad we got a bunch of it in the first edition. Yeeeeeeeeee HA!

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:33 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 19, 2010

Disco Biscuits, New Deal, Pretty Lights to headline Starscape Festival

the new dealThe Disco Biscuits, The New Deal (pictured), Lotus and Pretty Lights are among the headliners of this year's Starscape Festival, organizers announced today.

The festival, which features nearly 20 bands and DJs in four performance areas, takes place 2 p.m.-6 a.m. Jun 5 in Fort Armistead Park.

"We really stacked it this year," said promoter Evan Weinstein.

Here is the current lineup. More performers will be announced in the coming weeks ...

Main Stage:
The Disco Biscuits
Pretty Lights
The New Deal
Future Rock

Beach Stage:
Trouble & Bass Live
Orchard Lounge

Dance Tent:
DJ Dan
Wolfgang Gartner
Craze & Klever
Reid Speed
Hot Pink Delorean
Computer Club

Drum n Bass Arena:

(Photo courtesy of the New Deal's MySpace site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:17 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Local music

A fond farewell for Elizabeth Large


It is one of the great mysteries of journalism that someone could write about anything -- especially food -- for so long with such insight. There are, after all, only so many ways to describe a crabcake.

Somehow, Elizabeth Large has written about food for the Baltimore Sun for nearly 40 years. Unfortunately for us, today is her last day.

I've been lucky enough to work with Elizabeth Large for the last five years. During that time, I've come to know and admire her conversational but authoritative tone and her wry sense of humor ...

Elizabeth turned Dining@Large into one of The Sun's most successful blogs, proving that despite all the doomsday talk about newspapers, there is hope for journalists in the age of the Internet. Elizabeth has said Dining@Large revitalized her writing, but after years of obsessing over the blog, she was ready to ask for the check (grant me at least one terribly cheesy dining metaphor here).

I can't tell you how much I'll miss reading Elizabeth's reviews, or talking to her about writing, blogging and eating. Thanks for everything, Elizabeth.

After all that mushy stuff, I feel like I need to do something manly, like drink a scotch, eat a steak and smoke a cigar ... all at once.

Bye, Elizabeth!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:32 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

Brannan's Pub is a hidden gem

brannan's pubLast night, me and a posse of Midnight Sons (that's our biker gang name) squealed wheels from downtown up to Hamilton, looking for a little Harford Road bar crawl action.

One of the things I love about Baltimore is, when you start looking for a little craziness, most times you're gonna find it.

We found our craziness at Brannan's Pub (5516 Harford Road).

Sounds Irish, doesn't it? The green sign out front has a four-leaf clover on it, but the Irishness ends at the door. Nothing inside has even the slightest Irish tint. Heck -- Brannan's doesn't even have Guinness on tap. Take that, Lucky! ...

Inside Brannan's, we found a wild smattering of society, from average Joes to same-sex couples and  young and middle-aged white and African-American folks. I can't remember the last time I've seen such a diverse crowd in one spot. It was refreshing.

Brannan's had a big cooler of bottled beers, most -- if not all -- of which were $2, the bartender told me. A few taps offered Yuengling, Budweiser American Ale, Coors Light and such. I was about to order a bottle when the bartender hit me with some knowledge: All the drafts are $1.25. Period. Oh my.

"It's pretty cheap," he said.

The truth never sounded so delicious. I couldn't help but order a draft Yuengling, and my mouth started watering when the bartender whipped out a frozen mug, filled it up and set it on the U-shaped bar in front of me.

I gave the mug a hefty lift, and shockingly, almost splashed beer on my face. The mug was unexpectedly light. Then I realized it was a plastic mug. Brannan's freezes plastic mugs. I love it!

Brannan's is kind of bright inside, due to all the neon lights. Blueish purple neon lights shine down from above the bar, and various neon beer signs adorn the walls. You can get a Dante's pepperoni pizza for $5. There's a full-sized fridge behind the bar (presumably where they keep the pizza), and on it, there's a sticker which reads "If it smells like fish, eat it." No comment.

Perhaps the best part about Brannan's was the karaoke. It was run by Jackie Joyce Glenn, a woman who fronts the hair metal group Scarlet Angel. Jackie can banshee wail with the best of them. What really surprised me was the quality of the other singers. They were great. I mean, really great. I'm not such a bad singer myself, but I wasn't about to go toe-to-toe with some of them. Midnight Son Lieutenant Shankman got up and sang "So Happy Together" by the Turtles, though. It was sweet.

The best part of the best part about Brannan's was when a middle-aged dude in a body-length fur coat, fedora and suit crooned through Engelbert Humperdinck's "After the Loving." He had a wireless mike (why don't more karaoke bars have these?), and strolled around the bar, serenading the crowd. That's what I call a smooooooth operator.

Alas, due to the nature of our expedition, we had to move on to the next spot. But I don't know if any of the other bars we hit lived up to Brannan's. As they might say in "The Big Lebowski":

And they say he ran awaaaaaaay ... BRANNAN'S!

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:31 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

This is where I get my hair did

umbertosI won't settle for anything less than ... THE TOTAL LOOK!

Don't judge me.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:55 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Random stuff

February 18, 2010

Merriweather drops Ticketmaster, signs with Ticketfly


Severing its final ties with the recently merged Ticketmaster/Live Nation conglomerate, Merriweather Post Pavilion operator I.M.P. has signed with independent ticket distributor and marketer Ticketfly, officials announced today.

Starting this season, Ticketfly will handle all of the Columbia amphitheater's ticket sales, according to I.M.P. chairman Seth Hurwitz. Hurwitz, an outspoken opponent of Live Nation, began using Ticketfly for shows at the 9:30 Club, which I.M.P. also runs, near the end of last year.

"This is obviously a major venue for (Ticketfly), but we've had a great time with them," Hurwitz said. "They seem to be able to handle anything."

Through Ticketfly, customers will not have to pay a fee to print tickets at home, and service charges will drop as much as 30 percent, Hurwitz said. ...

The first two shows offered through Ticketfly, My Morning Jacket's May 1 performance and the May 16 Sugarland concert, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 26. 

"I know people hate service charges, but they're a fact of life," Hurwitz said. "We wanted to get them as low as we could."

Last year, Hurwitz filed suit against Live Nation, claiming the company acquired a monopoly on the national touring market and used its leverage to "entice and coerce artists to appear only at amphitheatres and other venues it owns, operates or at which it controls the booking." The lawsuit is pending.

"We're like the Goldman family in the O.J. trial," Hurwitz said. "The government didn't help, so we're taking matters into our own hands."

Ticketfly was launched by the co-founder of pionering online ticketing company TicketWeb, and uses social media to help promote its shows. It currently sells tickets for the Knitting Factory, Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco, Brooklyn Bowl in New York and Troubadour in Los Angeles.

Merriweather's contract with Ticketmaster expired in 2008, and I.M.P. was using Ticketmaster at will since then, Hurwitz said. He hopes his decision will prompt other independent venue owners to sign with smaller ticket sellers such as Ticketfly.

"Hopefully this move will demonstrate to people it's possible to have a choice," he said. "We wanted to make that choice -- rather than sitting around whining about it."

(Baltimore Sun photo of Merriweather by Christopher T. Assaf)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:00 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Where should we hold the next Midnight Sun throwdown?

midnight sun social at bad decisionsIt's time.

Time, methinks, for all of us to carelessly cast off our inhibitions and drink until someone somewhere does something silly. That someone will probably be me.

What I'm saying is, I'm itching for another Midnight Sun swill-fest. But where should we hold it? We've done South Baltimore, Mount Vernon and Fells Point. To me, that says we should be eying Canton or -- gasp -- somewhere in the 'burbs.

Thoughts? ...

And let's not forget the just-as-important task of naming it. We've had the Midnight Sun Social (pictured), Shindig and Soiree. I'm running out of S-words that mean party.

I put "party" into and was given this list of adjectives:

affair, amusement, at-home, ball, banquet, barbecue, bash, blowout, carousal, carousing, celebration, cocktails, coffee klatch, coming-out, dinner, diversion, do, entertainment, feast, festive occasion, festivity, fete, fun, function, gala, get-together, luncheon, movable feast, orgy, prom, reception, riot, shindig, social, soiree, splurge, spree, tea 

I think "orgy" and "tea" are probably not the best idea, and I have no idea what a "coffee clatch" is. Ideally, I'd like the event to be something like this.


(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:02 AM | | Comments (77)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What beers would you like to see on tap at Don't Know?

is this glass 1/4 full or 3/4 empty? you decide.Jason Zink and the rest of the crew at Don't Know Tavern are almost finished adding another draft tower at the South Baltimore bar. (A draft tower is a rack of taps.)

The new taps will bring Don't Know's grand total to 18 draft beers -- possibly making it the bar with the most taps in the neighborhood (sorry, Taps).

Zink has three of the six new spots filled already, and he's up in the air about the other three. That's why he e-mailed me, asking for your suggestions.

What beers would you like to see on tap at Don't Know? Here is the current draft list ...

Now on tap:

1. Miller Lite
2. Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat
3. Peroni
4. Pilsner Urquell
5. Sam Adams Seasonal
6. Guinness
7. Harp
8. Magic Hat Seasonal
9. Dogfish
10. Newcastle
11. Sierra Nevada
12. Blue Moon Seasonal

Beers Zink wants to add:

13. Heineken
14. Amstel Light
15. Dos Equis Amber
16. ?
17. ?
18. ?

"I would love to add Resurrection but I am still on Brewer's Art's waiting list after 5 years, unless Volker wants to take pity on my soul and allow me to carry his beers," he wrote.

Personally, I'd lobby for Clipper City Loose Cannon, or another beer in the Heavy Seas line.

Any ideas, gang?

(Photo by Mary Hartney)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:07 AM | | Comments (59)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 17, 2010

Vino Rosina is still a few months away

wineglassohyeahbaby.jpgI'm not sure whether it was all the wine I drank in Buenos Aires or not, but something reminded me of Vino Rosina, the new wine bar coming to Harbor East.

Vino Rosina, owned by the same folks who brought you the stellar sandwich shop Rosina Gourmet, was originally planning to open at 705 Exeter St. later this month.

But when I talked to owner Jim Lancaster a few moments ago, he said they're still 10 or 12 weeks away from opening ...

"We have a lot more to do," Lancaster said. "We should be ready in a couple months." 

That's not surprising. After covering nightlife for so long, I usually add an extra couple months onto the owner's original planned opening date. Construction started about a week ago, Lancaster said. Now, he's shooting for late April/early May.

"It'll be ready," he said.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Green Cilantro is back to being the Whistling Oyster

The more things change ...

Green Cilantro, the Fells Point Bar which replaced the Whistling Oyster has itself been replaced ... by the Whistling Oyster. Shame. I'll miss those cilantro martinis.

Being out of the country for the past couple weeks, I'm not sure when this happened. I noticed the change a few days ago. I called Green Cilantro's number but it kept ringing. If anyone knows more, e-mail me at

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:26 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Lebanese Taverna's late night happy hour sounds tempting

lebanese taverna's late night happy hourA couple years ago, I wrote about Harbor East's lack of options for late night dining and drinks.

Since then, we've seen spots like Mustang Alley's open, and, allegedly, a wine bar is on the way. But Harbor East's late night scene is still lacking, compared with other neighborhoods like Fells Point, Canton and Federal Hill.

Yesterday, as I was sifting through all my unread emails, I came across a message from Alexander Carlin, the manager of Lebanese Taverna.

For some time now, Lebanese Taverna has been hosting a late night happy hour from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays, with food and drink specials.

"We like it so much that we want to bring it to the masses," Carlin wrote.

We, the masses, thank you, Alexander. 

Here's the breakdown on the deals ...

During happy hour, beers are $3 and some specialty cocktails are $5 (not bad, not bad). DJ Gray is providing the live entertainment. You may remember him from such venues as Pazo and GoodLove.

That's not all, though. All industry folks (bartenders, servers, etc.) get a 25 percent discount from non-happy hour prices.

I haven't been to Lebanese Taverna in at least a year, but this sounds like a good reason to make a return visit.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:17 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 16, 2010

I'm baaack ... and boy do I miss Argentina

I could live in Buenos Aires. And after spending a week in the warm, sunny South American city (dodging not one but two back-to-back Baltimore blizzards), I want to go back. Now.

Returning to 30-some inches of snow was a shock to the system. Two things flashed across my mind as we pulled into Baltimore:

'Are the roads really that bad?' (they were), and 'Is that mound of snow really our car?' (It was) ...

Weather aside, I'm incredibly thankful for all the folks who stepped up last minute and wrote enough guest blogs to cover me while I was on vacation. They didn't just come up with good stuff -- they did it for free. To all the guest posters, I can't thank you enough.

Without getting into many details, Amie and I had some of the best meals of our lives in Buenos Aires. I'm planning on blogging about a couple of the bars we hit up, including the Buller Brewing Company, which is one of the few brewpubs in Buenos Aires.

How was the beer in Argentina? Well, let's just say I savored the Clipper City Loose Cannon I had when we got back to Baltimore. But the wine ... oh my, the wine.

OK, first thing's first -- I've got to tend to the 1,500 unread emails in my inbox (I'm not kidding) and the 10 voicemails. I don't know if you've heard or not, but we're bringing back the Live! weekend section as a tabloid on Fridays. That means my nightlife column, now called Midnight Sun, will be back in full force.

Thanks for sticking around while I was gone, gang. All jokes aside, it's good to be back.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:32 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Odd drinking accessories

the beer blaster

The funny thing is, Amie bought me whiskey rocks for my birthday a couple months ago. I've used them a couple times. They're not bad, although the first couple times I used them, they lent an odd smell to the scotch.

Here's Owl Meat with a guest column about a few zany drinking accessories: 

Here is an interesting collection of goofy bar accessories, including molds to make ice in a variety of shapes. The most intriguing and silly product is whiskey stones. They are little cubes of soapstone that you put in your drink to keep it cold without diluting it.

I don't think I would like drinking whiskey literally on the rocks and neither would my dentist.

The skull and crossbones ice cube trays are essential if you want to drink like a pirate. Arrrr. ...

Still not as dumb as the Smoker's Umbrella.

My pet peeve is the lack of proper whiskey-sipping glasses. Do not serve my whiskey in a brandy snifter, especially if it's on ice. It seems that bars choose their glassware to please themselves rather than the customer. They like glasses that can hang from a rack or stack on top of each other.

Here is my ideal whiskey glass: perfectly cylindrical, clear smooth glass, and a heavy bottom. That's all.

While we're on the subject of glasses, can we stop with the stemless wine glasses? They just don't work for me.

(Photos by
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

February 15, 2010

The inevitable D.C. bar post

I admit it -- at times, Midnight Sun can seem too Baltimore-centric. That's why I'm happy to have this guest column from Midnight Sun reader Everett Kimball, about drinking in D.C.:

As a Baltimore native, who now works in DC, it's been a blast getting to explore certain areas of the town during the hours after closing time.

Dupont Circle is always a winner, Adams Morgan guarantees a wild time, but an area I've taken a particular fondness to is the H Street Corridor. Also known as the Atlas District, this northeast DC neighborhood was a casualty of the 1968 riots, that seemingly recovered more slowly than others.

While the area is still a ways away from becoming a major hub on par with those mentioned above, the H Street Corridor boasts a nightlife and set of restaurants that are already augmenting the perception of the area.

For a laid-back - but by no means low-key - neighborhood favorite, be sure to stop into The Pug (1234 H Street NE). Citizens of Charm City will be comforted by The Pug's offerings, which include $3 cans of National Bohemian and (complimentary) UTZ cheeseballs.  Be sure to follow the rules which adorn the bar-side wall: "No idiots. No specials. No shooters. No politics. No bombs. Relax. Be cool. Drink. Behave."

The speakers are cranked to 11 most nights over at the Rock and Roll Hotel (1353 H St NE), just one block east.  The first floor of this venue offers up space to indie bands, both local and national, while the upstairs rocks out with guitars hanging from the ceiling walls and provides private rooms for those looking to book an even more intimate setting.

While I'd likely be content to scarf down an over-sized slice of artery clogging pizza at 2am, direct yourself towards H Street's newest addition: Taylor Gourmet Deli (1116 H St NE). Serving their full menu until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights, you may find yourself overwhelmed with decisions you weren't prepared to make at the witching hour, like whether to indulge with the 9th Street Italian (salami, capicola, prosciutto, and aged provolone) or the Vine Street Expressway (chicken cutlet, prosciutto, pesto, aged provolone). Either way, the risotto balls are a must.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The infinity rotation

the white stripesI can't tell you how many times I've heard a song for the first time, liked it and played it to death. Here is Midnight Sunner Duffster with a guest column about what he calls the Infinity Rotation:

Do you ever hear a song that is so unbelievably awesome that you play it over and over and over again and you can never get sick of it? I mean ever.

That doesn't mean that you can listen to it incessantly for a week or two and then discard it because it's old. These are lifetime-adders. Songs that you will look to play and will have no problem playing years from now. Songs that you know exactly where they are on your iPod and probably go there first before you play anything else, unless there's some hot new album you've got to hear first, but you know once you get sick of that album you'll just go back to your old standards.

That seems to happen to me about once every three months. I'll add a new song to the lifetime list. I call it my "Infinity Rotation." ...

I had a recent Infinity song with Yeasayer's new single, "Ambling Alp," which is on their yet-to-be-released "Odd Blood." But you can't put that song in that upper echelon until some time has passed. Are you still going to one particular track first? Still, after a month? You need more listens, I think.

In my maybe 15 years of seriously listening to music that is not the stuff my dad listened to in the car – and from there about eight years of being a complete music nazi – I don't know how many songs I can say bear the "Infinity Rotation" standard.  I can name a few for your enjoyment. In no particular order:

Talking Heads, "Nothing But Flowers"

311, "Taiyed"

Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road"

My Morning Jacket, "One Big Holiday"

The White Stripes (pictured), "My Doorbell"

Van Morrison, "Tupelo Honey" and "Caravan"

The Band, “The Weight”

The Strokes, "Reptilia"

Pearl Jam, "Release Me"

Smashing Pumpkins, "Snail"

James Taylor, "Carolina in My Mind"

Sublime, "Greatest Hits"

There are many others. I could go on.

So, I encourage you to post what would be on your Infinity Rotation in the comments. And, of course, disparage my taste in Infinity songs. Love them or hate them, I won’t ever stop listening.

(Photo courtesy of Press Here Publicity)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

February 14, 2010

How to approach Belgian beer

belgian ale and beerSelf-professed beer guru (read: geek) and frequent Midnight Sun contributor Alexander D. Mitchell IV describes beer with such words as "mouthfeel." I'm still not sure what that means. But I don't know many other people with as much beer knowledge as Mr. Mitchell. Here, the good professor discusses Belgian beers:

Feb. 12 marks the first of three days of what has now become an annual event in the Baltimore and Eastern craft beer scene, the annual Max's Taphouse Belgian Beer Festival.

For three days, Max's Taphouse clears their 70+ draft lines of their usual selection of beers --ranging from Miller Lite to some of the world's most esoteric brews -- to put on a full selection of Belgian beers, supplemented by over a hundred bottled Belgian beers and a succession of different Belgian drafts to replace the first ones to run out.

So what is all the hubbub about Belgian beer? Is that like Belgian chocolate? Isn't Stella Artois Belgian? Heck, isn't Budweiser technically owned by a multi-national conglomerate based in Belgium?

Yes and yes, but that's not what beer snobs and aficionados refer to when they talk about "Belgian beer." ...

Traditionally, Belgian beers are brewed with spontaneous fermentation, meaning that instead of adding a particular strain of yeast to a malt-and-hops soup to ferment it, they left it out in the open, to allow naturally occurring "wild" yeasts to fall in and do their stuff -- eat up sugars and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. Well, that's what they used to do.

Nowadays, commercial breweries in Belgium typically cultivate a "house" strain of brewing yeast with the same characteristics for the sake of consistency. Think of Belgian beer as being like the legendary sourdough breads of San Francisco and elsewhere; the exact same yeasts are responsible.

The result is the same: A beer with unusual and often complex "funky" flavors, as different from most North American industrially-produced lagers as a Greek gyro is from an hot dog or sushi is from fish sticks.

In addition, the beers can vary from pale and very strong to black as Guinness and stronger, and from candy-sweet beers with fruit infusions (see framboise for raspberry, cassis for blackcurrant, or kriek for cherry) to excruciatingly sour and tart. If you know you hate hoppy bitterness, you are in luck: Belgian beers are, as a rule, very low on hop character.

Beer drinkers in Baltimore are probably most familiar with The Brewer's Art brewpub in Mount Vernon and its flagship Resurrection Ale and other products, which are produced with Belgian-style yeasts. Other breweries in North America use similar yeasts and techniques, including New York's
Ommegang, Maine's Allagash, and Quebec's Unibroue.

But Belgium is where it's truly at, and for the past several years, Max's Taphouse has livened up the post-football, pre-baseball doldrums doing what it does best, bringing the best Belgium has to offer (at least commercially available in Maryland) to enthusiastic followers of Belgian beers.

Unlike, say, the beer festivals at the Timonium fairgrounds or elsewhere, this "festival" has no cover charge or admission, and you pay as you go with beers. Any of the draft beers will be available in small 4-ounce sample glasses, as well as in full servings (which varies from a wine glass to a goblet to a pint glass, depending on beer style and alcohol content). A selection of Belgian food will also be available, although pub food without quite the grand eloquence of The Brewer's Art's fine kitchen and chef.

If you are a newcomer looking for guidance, look around. Most likely, one can find a few hard core Belgian beer fans who may have traveled as far as across the continent for this festival, and one regular crew usually shows up with printed notes on each beer, taking up a table and sharing as many beers as possible. 

Others may appear with books or laptop computers, researching each beer as they go.  Baltimore is also blessed with the presence of Belgian beer writer/author/blogger Chuck Cook, and a quick internet search will reveal several websites devoted to explaining the intricacies of Belgian beer.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 13, 2010

Checking in with Secret Mountains

secret mountainsHere's Splice Today editor Zach Kaufmann with a Q&A with Secret Mountains:

Along with Weekends and Lands & Peoples, one of the best bands to come out of Baltimore in the past year or so are indie rockers Secret Mountains (formerly The Owls Go).

Their first EP, Kaddish, released late last summer, drifts back and forth between dreamy folk pop and wailing anthemic post-rock, all held together by Kelly Laughlin's beautifully gentle vocals.

After their recent show with Vetiver, I checked in with Kelly via email to see how everything was going:

How do you think the music you're making now differs from what you were doing with The Owls Go? Is the process very different?

The songs we're playing now are a lot fuller and more dynamic since it's not just vocals and guitar. We're constantly exploring different styles and have been reworking some of the songs we played when it was just Jeff and I in The Owls Go. The process hasn't changed drastically -- Jeff or I will come up with a basic version of the song, work with the lyrics and then add onto it, only no more doing handclaps over GarageBand. ...

You put out the "Kaddish" EP a few months back, any plans for a full-length?

We've been working with a decent amount of new material recently, so there's definitely been talk about an eventual full length release but nothing set in stone. I think we're all pretty focused on really solidifying our current and more recent songs before rushing into any recording.

Who are your main influences? Who do you keep coming back to and listening to again and again?

James Brown! And post-modernism.

What do you look for in a song? What really draws you in when you're listening to something new?

I'm always into a modest fusion of a variety of musical styles: folk riffs, drones, funk, some groovin' percussion, interestingly woven vocals.

5) Any plans to do some touring in 2010?

West-ward dreaming all day every day. I know for a fact that I cannot wait for tour. We're planning on another August trip, fingers crossed for a solid two weeks and a visit to the west coast, if all goes as tentatively planned.

(Photo courtesy of the group's MySpace page)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

February 12, 2010

RateBeer's annual Best of 2010 list is out

beer goggles

This bloggy needs no introduction. Take it away, guest poster Alexander D. Mitchell IV

RateBeer, one of several noted Web sites devoted to consolidating reviews of beers, breweries, bars and retailers from around the world (but with an emphasis on North America), has released its annual "Best Of 2010" listings based on reviews submitted by the site's registered users.

Several local beer spots made the annual rankings. In liquor stores with beer selections, State Line Liquors of Elkton, Md., was rated #18, and The Perfect Pour, a relatively new shop in Elkridge/Columbia, Md. was rated #43.

In beer bars, Max's Taphouse ranked #23, bumping down a few places from last year's ranking of #14, and Frisco Grille & Cantina in Columbia rated #46.

Among brewpubs -- establishments brewing their own beer for serving -- Baltimore's The Brewer's Art rated #37, a slight slip from last year's #30 rating.  Feel free to peruse all the ratings here. ...

In their Best Brewers of the World compilation, Dogfish Head of Milton, Delaware scored #28, just edging out the popular Port Brewing/Lost Abbey of California, and Flying Dog of Frederick, Maryland (the third brewery in what started as Blue Ridge Brewing Co.) rated #92. Several Pennsylvania breweries, including Victory, Weyerbacher, and Troeg's, also scored in the top 100.

The obvious question arises from such ratings: Are these ratings worth a warm Natural Light? Are they the least bit meaningful, or are they just the rantings of a bunch of hoity-toity beer geeks and electronic ballot box stuffers?

As it turns out, it's probably better than it looks. RateBeer has a few checks in place to avoid what would otherwise be the inevitable vote tampering that makes many such review sites utterly worthless.

First, a reviewer must complete reviews of at least ten different beers or places before his or her scores are counted toward the total of a beer or place, which helps to cut down on the one-off reviews from folks whose friend works at a place or who are desperate to trash a place that they feel was lousy.  Second, the aggregate scores are weighted mathematically against the numbers of reviews.  These scorings do mean much more than, say, the comments section of a random blog or news site.

One can still find much to criticize in the system, though. If one pokes about in the right places on the Web site, they can discover that Pennsylvania has garnered three times as many beer ratings as Maryland.

The most puzzling thing I found in a cursory examination of Maryland's listings was a "fair" rating for DuClaw's Arundel Mills location and an "exceptional" rating for the chain's Bowie Town Center location -- in spite of serving the same beers in the same decor. The same situation befalls the Pratt Street Ale House and its ancestor, Fells Point's Wharf Rat: "fair" for the brewpub and "exceptional" for what had been the "tied house."

All in all, serious beer geeks could rant on as much about these ratings and their worth as people will no doubt rant about Olympic scores in a few days or weeks, and for the same reasons: All of these places and beers are so high in their fields that the differences can come down to a few hundredths of a second or point, the prejudices of one judge over another, or one random "oops" at the wrong time.

They're still doing far better making or selling good beer than just about anyone else reading these words ever will.

But if nothing else, RateBeer could probably use a few more Maryland contributors.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Tif's tales: The Alicia Keys 'wannabe' and a music video

alicia keysToday Midnight Sun guest columnist Tif discusses a close encounter with a "wannabe" Alicia Keys and the making of a high-profile music video. Take it away, Tif:

Once, an artist I represented was scheduled to perform at a venue, but couldn’t find her.

I went to the green room, and when I inquired about her whereabouts, a short fair-skinned girl in braids rolled her eyes at me and brushed by me.

With a few in the fuel system I mumbled "go head with yourself you little Alicia Keys wanna-be."...

I returned upstairs and overheard the host on the PA announce "We have a special gust feature- none other than Miss Alicia Keys!" That crow was pretty hard to digest.

I haven’t been too much involved on the hip-hop scene here lately (I make movies now) but I was called recently to help with a Gucci Mane and Mario video that was being filmed by Bmore's own Chris Robinson (numerous videos and the movie "ATL") at a Silo Point condo.

When I told my partner I had no clue what a Gucci Mane was he replied "don’t worry about it -- I just need you to get women!" (He didn’t use the word women.)

I made a few calls and here ya go.

(Photo of Alicia Keys by Getty Images)

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

February 11, 2010

No vocals? No problem.

this man is playing a xylophone

Is music without any words any good? I don't see how that's possible. Hee hee.

In this guest column, Owl Meat takes a look at some of the more memorable instrumental tunes from the past few decades:

There is a lot of instrumental music out there, but very few songs break through as hits. It helps if they have a catchword like "tequila" or are linked to something visual, like the opening of Hawaii Five-0, a Pee Wee Herman dance, or hillbilly sodomy.

Here are my wildly subjective highlights:

Most awesome: Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" (1973). Add the visual of a giant albino wearing an early 1970s keyboard synthesizer and it's frothy with awesome.

Goofiest: "Hocus Pocus" by Focus (1971) – Yodeling Dutch dude, gleeful screaming, ah aaaah aaaah aaaaaaaaahhhhhh ...

Most unlikely hit: "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield (1973). Although not written for the movie, the inclusion of a piece of this in The Exorcist gave this odd composition legs. The album sold over 15 million worldwide.

Best liquor instrumental: "Tequila!" by The Champs (1958). It was a throwaway "B" side for another artist's single. This song survives because Pee Wee Herman did a weird dance to it and its one word lyric is fun to yell in a bar.

Best surf rock: "Hawaii Five-O" by The Ventures (1969). Iconic.

Song most changed by its context in a movie: "Dueling Banjos" from Deliverance (1972).

Most catchy/annoying: "Popcorn" by Hot Buttered (1972). Synth-pop is born.

Most brilliant: Jimi Hendricks' version of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock (1969). Feedback and a screaming guitar becomes a political statement. I just figured that out.

Most pretentious: King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" (1973, 1984, 2000). Robert Fripp's  acid trip noise odyssey of beautiful wretched excess.  This song was released in three parts over the course of 27 years. Part 1 is trippy excess. Part 2 is droning, rhythmic, atonal, mesmerizing, bordering on industrial. I love it.

The problem with instrumental music is that it's hard to identify songs that don't have a words. I love some of Jeff Beck work, but I have no idea what they are named. Here's one of my favorites: "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" (2007). While Eric Clapton could make his guitar gently weep, Beck's guitar is having a full-on emotional breakdown.

Instrumentals were popular in the 1950s and 1960s, but seemed to peak in the 1970s. Some of those were novelties that capitalized on new electronic techniques and instruments. I can't think of many recent hits, maybe you can.

Did I forget to mention Yanni? Yes I did.

(Photo by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

What are Federal Hill's best/worst bars?

a shot glass at the idle hour, which is out of the bounds of this particular surveyMidnight Sun guest columnist Todd Schaefer sent me this post about the best and worst Federal Hill bars. I like how he breaks it into five different questions.

As a frequenter of many Federal Hill bars, I'm always curious to hear how people perceive different local watering holes.

A place that I might love, you might hate for the same reasons. What appeals to you? A place that's quiet and never crowded, or a bar that's literally bouncing to the beat of DJ Pauly D's set?

With all that in mind, I pose the following question to you, the Midnight Sun readers: In your opinion, what Federal Hill bar is most likely to: ...

1. Have the best chance of meeting an attractive person of the opposite sex?

2. Have, on average, the cheapest drinks, specials and food?

3. Be the most annoying?

4. Give you free drinks?

5. Be the one bar you’d go to if all others closed?

For the sake of narrowing the bars down some, we'll limit the Fed Hill bar area bordered by East Hamburg Street to the north, Hanover Street on the West, Light Street on the East and Fort Avenue to the South.

For me, it depends on the night and the motive as to which bar I might visit or avoid. However, I do have my favorites as well as those places that I just can't stand to be in for more than five minutes. 

Now it's time for you to weigh in.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 10, 2010

Field House: Power Plant meets Canton

For the record, I haven't been to the Field House, Canton's newest watering hole. But Midnight Sun guest columnist (and Baltimore Orioles Examiner) Jay Trucker has. Here are his thoughts on the large new addition to the Baltimore bar scene:

Field House Baltimore, the new restaurant and bar on Boston St. that replaced the old Ray Lewis's Full Moon Barbecue, aims to be many things to many people. Cheap is not one of those things.

Billed as an "upscale sports bar," Field House hosts karaoke on Tuesdays, a DJ dance party on Fridays, and live music on Saturdays.

On Saturdays, Field House charges $10 for entrance after 8 p.m., a steep price considering live music doesn't begin until 10 p.m. and features mostly cover bands. ...

The Field House is in a two story building. The top floor is an open loft where the band plays. On the evening we went, the second floor was closed until 10 p.m. for a private party. The atmosphere on the first floor can best be described as "we have a lot of flatscreens."

The best thing about Field House is that their bartenders are fast and friendly. Unfortunately, 16 oz Yuengling drafts cost $5, and mine was so cold, chunks of ice floated to the top of the glass.

When the music finally started, the band was put in an awkward position -- looking out from the corner of the 2nd floor loft, they were playing to the crowd 25 feet below and too far removed to make much of an impression. Meanwhile, patrons who decided to pack themselves onto the 2nd floor were treated to the band members' profiles for most of their set.

To further confuse matters, the band, Burnt Sienna, can best be described as The Temptations of cover bands. For those of you with better things to do than pay attention to the membership of a Delaware cover band, what I mean is, the Burnt Sienna that played Field House on Saturday night does not feature a single member from the Burnt Sienna I used to enjoy during my days in Newark, Delaware.

Every time the singer of the group exclaimed, “we’re Burnt Sienna!” my fiancée, a Delaware native, responded, "No you're not!"

That's why I love her.

Anyway, if you are looking to pay a $10 cover and $5 a beer to crane your neck at one of two giant projection televisions or stare from afar at an unfamiliar cover band masquerading as a band you used to enjoy in college, then Field House, the closest Canton comes to The Power Plant, is for you.

If not, then stick to your square of choice.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Tif's tales: Mos Def is a thief!

mos defToday, Midnight Sun guest columnist Tif shares another one of his hip-hop memories. Take it away, Tif:

I remember when I was invited back to the green room at Rams Head @ Power Plant Live for a Mos Def performance. 

My partner was getting Mos to wear his new clothing line when Mos yelled to his people "yall find that Wire DVD yet?"

They replied, "Best Buy didn't have it, we can't locate a copy, etc."

I said, "Mos, I have all seasons on DVD." ...

Mos summoned a driver and we went to my place to retrieve them. We came back, and I expected Mos to just want to watch them.

Instead, he said "give them to the guy -- I want to come out to 'The Wire'."

I was alarmed because I didn't know he wanted them on the huge Ram's Head screen. Let's just say my DVD's didn't come from HBO, and I wasn't sure if they'd play on their system. I was terrified they wouldn't, but thankfully, they did.

The show ended, we partied and Mos left town with my entire Wire first season DVD set. I plan to file a grievance.

(Photo by Peggy Sirota)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

February 9, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: The hair of the dog

girl bites dog

There's an old saying that goes, "Some days, you get to bite the dog, and some days the dog gets to bite you." At least, I think that's how it goes.

Either way, here's Owl Meat with a guest column on the intriguing history and science behind another old saying, "the hair of the dog."

We've all heard the expression "hair of the dog," meaning taking a drink to cure a hangover. The whole phrase is "the hair of the dog that bit you." It has an interesting history.

As a hangover cure, the hair of the dog metaphor dates back to Shakespeare's time. The original literal usage referred a very ill-conceived cure for rabies.

From the  Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898): "In Scotland it is a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound will prevent evil consequences.

Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine next morning to soothe the nerves. 'If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail in the morning.'" ...

Ironically, the song "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth is the very last thing you should play when you have a hangover. That guy's voice might make your head explode.

Trying to cure rabies may seem loony today, but it is an example of homeopathic medicine that dates back to at least the time of Hippocrates.

The credo of homeopathy in Latin is "similia similibus curantur" (like cures like). In other words, a wee bit of the thing that would kill you will cure you. I'm not judging, just reporting. Vaccines almost work that way, but it's not the amount of the pathogen that matters but its similarity to the real deal in a more harmless form.

In homeopathy they dilute a substance to the point where there is almost no original molecules left. They believe that water has memory, so you really don't need the original molecules. Sure.

Wow, that's too much science. Now it's time to go out and bite that dog before it bites me. Play me out, Nazareth ...

(Photo by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Your 2010 nightlife resolutions

the hamilton tavernIf I had to make a new year's nightlife resolution, it would be to try more specialty drinks. I have a weakness for good beer, and too often end up swilling suds. Midnight Sun guest columnist Teresa Wiltshire has a few resolutions of her own:

The typical new year's resolutions are so boring: "lose weight," "stop smoking," and "break up with my cheating girlfriend."

Why stick to these goals you only keep until mid-February (if you're lucky)? Skip the ice cream and don't think about lighting that cigarette. Gross. Oh, and tell that girl to get over herself.

It's time for a few nightlife resolutions -- because I know I am in need of some myself. ...

Go to a different neighborhood


I've gone there a couple times, but really haven't spent much time there. All I keep hearing is, 'go to Hamilton Tavern (pictured).' I must go. Resolution noted! Lauraville is also home to Zeke's coffee.


Sowebo short for South West Baltimore. A small neighborhood community that will make you wonder,  "How long has this been here and why have I not gone?"

Getting your dance on

Taxlo is still bringing beats to Sonar, and every week something is always fun upstairs at The Ottobar upstairs. Check the schedule.

Always wanted to swing dance? Charm City Swing offers Classes for all levels. You know, dancing burns calories.

Do something scary

Graveyards are creepy in the day, but creepier at night. Edger Allen Poe's grave has a mystery surrounding it. Visiting it at night will creep you out. I know it would creep me out. What an adventure.

Join a sports team

You know you want to. Baltimore Sports and Social Club is perfect for your inner athlete. Do you have to be a great athlete? Nope. They have different levels of skills that you can join. Their motto is "For people who enjoy sports ... but love to socialize." They really stress the love. So if you don't like socializing and/or sports, it's clearly not for you.

Of course there are many more things I can mention. But let's start small.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 8, 2010

Sipping in the shadow of the State House

armadillo's in annapolis. look in the window reflection -- you can see the state house! When he's not listening to new music and shaping the play lists at WTMD, Tyler Laporte enjoys a cold beverage in Annapolis. Maybe two cold beverages. Take it away, Tyler:

This past summer, I received some unsettling news: I would have to leave my Federal Hill roof  deck behind and trade it in for a room in my sister's townhouse in Annapolis.

I was sad to be leaving the noise of MTA buses, BCPD helicopter spotlights and a coveted two-block walk to my favorite haunt, The Idle Hour.

Baltimore had become my home, and I was nervous that I wouldn't fit into the shiny, polished, affluent Annapolis scene. But as the months moved forward, I had some really enjoyable moments in the watering holes of our state's capitol.

Now, as I am about to return to the city in the next few weeks, taking up residence in Hampden, I wanted to reflect on some of those moments ...

El Toro Bravo on West Street is the place to go for authentic Mexican cuisine. If you're looking for a great margarita, look no further. There's usually a bit of a wait to get in but it's always worth it. I've always had a great experience, the service is excellent and at the end you won't break the bank. You just may have a rough morning the next day, though, because one margarita is never enough.

I have also found myself closing a few nights out down at Armadillos right by the harbor. This surely isn't the nicest bar in Annapolis but it is one of the funkiest. Most Thursday nights you can catch the local band Higher Hands making heads bob in the upstairs bar. You can't go wrong with great music and $2 Guinness pints. One of my favorite nights at 'Dillos, was spent slamming shots of Jameson with the band’s lead singer, Jason, right before he jumped on the stage with the guys.

In October, I was trying to think of how I wanted to celebrate my 25th birthday but I was striking out on ideas. My sister suggested that our family go on a ghost tour of downtown Annapolis, which turned out to be a great time.

the sly fox pub in annapolisSo on a cold and rainy October night, my family and I set out with our tour guide who gave us some spooky history lessons about colonial Annapolis. I never knew that Rams Head Tavern was a brothel, and that many people during that time were actually buried alive and the rich were afforded a bell to ring if they found themselves waking up from a long nap underground.

One of my favorite bar experiences since living down here was at The Sly Fox Pub only a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday afternoon and my lady friend and I were in the mood for a good Bloody Mary. The Sly Fox was mentioned on the ghost tour as one of the city’s oldest bars, where the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would hang out after long sessions in the state house. There is even an access tunnel that runs under the streets between the Pub and the State House, which made it an easy for our forefathers to get their drink on.

The basement bar still feels like you're sipping in the 1700s, except for the flat screen TVs. But when we went to order the Bloodies, the bartender told us he was out of mix. Instead of reaching for the pre-made bottled up mix that may as well be thinned out ketchup, he told us to hang on a minute so he could go whip some up back in the kitchen. Talk about service. We did have to wait a while, but it was totally worth it.

The combination of going the extra mile for us, the delicious spicy beverages, and watching the Ravens trounce the Patriots made for my most memorable Annapolis moments.

(Top photo of Armadillo's by Brittany May/Special to the Baltimore Sun. Bottom photo of the Sly Fox Pub by Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

All tapped out

Here's guest blogger Peter Hermann on an unfortunate side efect to this weekend's snowstorm:

Tapped out

A sad occurrence the day after the big storm:

    The neighborhood bar has tapped out of beer.

    After suffering through a snowy, paralyzing Saturday, the folks in South Baltimore put away their shovels and headed for the taverns along Fort Avenue.

    The owner of Rafters, Paul Hartman, lost count of patrons that packed his rowhouse establishment, which straddles the world of old-time South Baltimore and the gentrified who started moving in at the onset of the housing boom. This bar boasts Winter Bourbon Belgian Cask Ale on tap, and has Formstone on the inside.

    Some people count snow inches. Hartman counts kegs. And by lunchtime Sunday, he'd blown through six kegs. Customers, before they could even shed their parkas and gloves, were met with plastic cups covering the taps, the universal sign that the beer is no more.

     No more Bud Light. No more Pabst. That makes the old-timer's stomach sink.

     No more Cask Ale. No more Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale (this reporter tried that one, but the keg ran dry before a half-inch of beer hit the glass). No more Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA.

    The only beer on tap that was left was Yuengling and Shock Top Belgian White, which is just fine but not quite the hearty winter ale that warms the body in a deep snow, and after having walked a maze of narrow, icy, tree-laden trails cut through the snow.

    So many people packed Rafters on Saturday that when Hartman turned on the juke box Sunday, he discovered 68 songs in queue that people had paid to hear but didn't play  by the 2 a.m. closing time.

    Another hit at the tavern: the special of the day was homemade tomato soup and grill cheese, the comfort food of kids everywhere coming in from playing in the snow.

    Super Bowl Sunday is not usually a big night for neighborhood bars, with most people heading out to private parties. And Hartman had enough beer – Miller Lite in bottles is still one of his best sellers.

   The next beer shipment is expected Tuesday — if it can beat the next storm.

Posted by at 10:21 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The anti-Valentine's Day post

the anti-valentine's day candyIn today's column, guest poster Owl Meat lashes out against the V-Day industry. Give in to your anger, Owl Meat:

Romance and love are great, but Valentine's Day is fake and should be scorned.

All Hallmark holidays should be mocked, dishonored and set on fire. In that spirit, I invite everyone to submit any events or places that are having anything like an anti-Valentine's Day event, promotion, or inclination.

I got the idea at Bad Decisions during Zombie Survival Happy Hour recently when someone proposed it, but I don't know if the idea got any traction. Hint, hint. ...

What better way for jaded hipsters to share their cynical awesomeness? As far as I know doesn't exist ... yet.

Here’s a great website on the same subject: Unhappy Hipsters (via Richard Gorelick).

Listen up bar owners: Happy people, happy couples don't drink themselves into a cash register-swelling stupor. Here is your marketing bonanza – hipster misery squads. If you pour it, they will come.

P.S. Baby, I'm sorry. I love you. This was just something I wrote. Really. Come on, why you gotta be like that? Aw, really? Noooo, not my Buzzcocks t-shirt. Put down the bleach! Oh, noooooo. That's it, we're broken up.

Now we end with a song. The Heartbreakers (not those Heartbreakers) offer a tender love song about the mercurial nature of love. Rage on, Richard Hell.

(Photo from

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

February 7, 2010

Checking in with Small Sur

small surSplice Today editor Zach Kaufmann was kind enough to share a conversation he recently had with Small Sur. Here's Zach:

Since their debut full length, "We Live in Houses Made of Wood," came out in the summer of 2008, Baltimore folkies Small Sur have caused quite a buzz, earning reviews from blogs like Tiny Mix Tapes to the music gliteratti over at NPR.

Back from a cross-country tour and with their beautiful Daytrotter session recently posted, I talked to frontman Bob Keal about the Baltimore music scene ...

What are some of the best upcoming bands in Baltimore? Who have you been really into lately?

"Upcoming" is a tough word to pin down, but Ghost Life, an ever-changing ensemble led by Steve Santillian (formerly of More Dogs) and Wheatie Mattiasich, has to be my favorite newish band. I also really like what I've heard from Moss of Aura, and Lands & Peoples make some nice sounds. Geoff Grace from The Tall Grass also has a new band called The Dodgers that makes really fun tunes. (Full Disclosure: I play drums in this band, but I loved them long before I joined up!)

What are your favorite venues around town?

2640, The Windup Space, Hexagon, Charm City Art Space, and Sonar's club stage are a few licensed venues that come to mind.

Unfortunately, this all-to-brief answer leaves out the countless "illegal" venues found all over Baltimore that host incredible shows that many of the Midnight Sun's readers will never know about because of the live entertainment laws that exist in our city.

In my opinion, the political leaders and policy-makers should be ecstatic to not only embrace, but to emphasize and publicize, this amazing portion of our city's cultural landscape. However, as Sam has mentioned on this blog before, the Powers that Be are more interested in "looking for potential liquor/live entertainment license infringements" (his words) than showcasing the great music that's being made.

small surBest show you've ever seen in Baltimore?

I'd probably have to say Lungfish at the 2005 Reverent Fog Festival. I had just moved to Baltimore a few months earlier and this was the first (and last) time I saw them play. I was in awe.

Favorite Baltimore album from the past few years?

Here are a handful in no particular order: Pontiak - Sun on Sun,  Zomes - Zomes, Wye Oak (Monarch) - If Children, Video Hippos - Unbeast the Leash. There is also a Wheatie Mattiasich record that she made with Austin Stahl (drummer in Small Sur) in late '08 or early '09 that, unfortunately, may never be released. It is absolutely breathtaking and far too short. I'm anxiously awaiting more from her. In the meantime, you can hear a few of the songs from these sessions on her Myspace page.

Best part about the Baltimore music scene?

The best part about the Baltimore music scene that I know and love is that it manages to be surprisingly inclusive and welcoming to different types of musicians and performers while still maintaining a high level of quality in its releases and live shows. For the most part, shows aren't just thrown together, they're curated; and great albums by Baltimore musicians, regardless of genre, feed into, influence, and overlap with others.

(Photos by Shantel Mitchell)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

February 6, 2010

We <3 bacon

bakon vodka

I can't get enough of bacon. Baconbaconbaconbacon. We've discussed it quite a bit on Midnight Sun. Now, let's discuss it some more. Here's Owl Meat with a roundup of several scrumptious-sounding bacon delights.

When did bacon become a religion? Bacon vodka, bacon ice cream, bacon chocolate, bacon chewing gum. Bacon bacon bacon.

Bakon Vodka has some recipes that sound a little perverse but a little awesome too. Bakon vodka in a bloody Mary sounds good. Bakon vodka and scotch? That sounds good too. A bacon vodka chocolate martini? Yeah! 

In other bacon news, this bacon kills terrorists.

If only bacon could drive you to the liquor store. Your wish has been granted. Here's an article about a car that runs on bacon grease ...

It's the biofuel of choice for a pair of entrepreneurs building their business on pig fat. Founded in 2005 by married couple Dan and Tracy Kaderabek, Bio-Blend Fuels has a three-acre processing plant in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. "The pork gets run through microwaves to make precooked bacon, the grease falls off and that's what we use," Dan tells the Manitowoc Herald Reporter. "Americans' bad eating habits ensure our supply."

Imagine driving behind a bacon-powered car.

Bakon vodka is available in ten states, the closest being New York. Has anyone tried it? Maybe if we appeal to the spirit of Flying Pig, Maryland will be blessed with this porcine elixir. Hey, hey, hey.

(Photo from

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

February 5, 2010

Tif's tales: Rapping with KRS-One

krs-oneI had no idea Midnight Sun commenter Tif was so tied into the local hip-hop scene. Either that or he's a compulsive liar. You decide.

In this multi-part series, Tif will talk about some of his encounters with hip-hop icons. Today, it's hip-hop pioneer KRS-One. Take it away, Tif:

Though I toured the country performing a "Hip-Hop is Dead" piece, I am, despite the rumors, a fan of hip-hop.

I am not a fan of rap and since that's enough fodder for a thesis, we won't go that route.

My fondest memories are hosting shows with my partner DJ P-Funk. He would headline with artists, open the stage for local artists, and include all the elements of hip-hop in his shows.

There would be plywood outside for graffiti artists, breakers and dancers on the floor, he would be spinning on the tables, beat boxers would be on stage and of cource the emcees.  We did these shows at The Ottobar, Fletchers, and Sonar. ...

One of my favorite emcees was KRS-One (pictured). When KRS or Teach as we called him came to town he would give us every possible bang for our buck.

He would rhyme on stage that he wasn't going to stop despite the club's closing requirements. He would invite every emcee in the house to do their own freestyle.

After a few Bmore visits, I remember encouraging a Bmore club owner's younger brother to come with me for the opportunity to rhyme on stage with KRS-One. It was like a scene from "8 Mile."

I shoved him on stage after Teach's invite. His arms were sweaty and his knees weak; he was nervous but on the surface he was calm and ready. The youngster grabbed the mic and started ripping with nodded acknowledgement from Teach and he just exploded. That's the energy that Teach brang.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

A peek into Baltimore's burlesque scene

trixie little and the evil hate monkey

When Midnight Sun reader Aaron Bush offered to write a guest column about Baltimore's burlesque scene, I couldn't resist. Here goes:

A few weeks ago, Alexis and I dragged our friend Bill to his first burlesque show.

Bill bartends in Fells and the three of us had been drinking all day and were pretty much hammered at that point.  He didn't want to go but it was a choice between drinking by himself or pasties. Pasties won.

Almost no one goes to a burlesque show for the first time without being dragged. I don’t know why. I was bribed with the lure of a trip to the pub afterward and a covered tab.

From what I recall, I was expecting a high-school talent show put on by a drunk phys ed teacher crossed with a college production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It's not like that.

Except when it is, and then it's hysterical -- unless you paid to get in ...

That's not Baltimore though. Honestly, Baltimore has some of the best performers in the country.  Their acts seem to have a witty edge and enthusiasm that is half Greta Garbo and half drinking a 40 after hours in the Charleston.

If you haven't been to a show before, picture a room packed to the rafters with fold-up chairs (if there are chairs), a forest of Natty-Bos and plastic wine glasses perched precariously by everyone's feet, probably more women than men (all of which have the best lingerie drawers in the city), and a woman or man up on stage doing the smartest, funniest, striptease shimmy you’ll ever see.

There's a danger in over-analyzing it, cause you'll sound like an ass, but burlesque is for folks who want some banter with their sexy. The performers are there because they want to be, most don't make any real money, and during the day are typically retail clerks, lawyers, and office drones like the rest of us.

Until recently Baltimore only had one burlesque troupe, Gilded Lily, and a few independent performers like Trixie Little and Evil Hate Monkey (pictured), but for whatever reason, business is booming and they’re multiplying like rabbits. Not just here either but all over the country.

Any show you go to will most certainly sell out. The show we dragged Bill to was in the Creative Alliance while an apartment building next door dramatically burned to the ground. The lobby filled up with smoke and breathing was like wrapping your lips around a car exhaust. No one left the line even when the fire hoses started rolling past the doors.

(Photo by Steve Parke, courtesy of
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 4, 2010

Cocktails with toys and other odd drink accessories

Lego my Fun Snacks!

I've always been torn over the little paper umbrellas that come in South of the Border drinks. They look nice and all, but it's hard to drink around them, and I'm never sure what to do with them after I pluck them out of my drink. I tried eating one once but that didn't go down well.

In this guest column, Owl Meat has some pretty wild ideas about cocktail accessories. Dig it:

Once, I was at a quirky bar in Tucson that had some inventive drinks. One of them was called a Choking Hazard. It had a small plastic toy in it.

Another one had Lego candy in it. Lego candy? Do kids need more incentives to eat their toys? Talk about a choking hazard.

I remember candy coins being popular when I was young. Also a sketchy idea, but nothing beats candy cigarettes for pernicious influence.

I don't think they make candy cigarettes anymore, but there is still some demand. Consider the incredibly stupid fad of kids "smoking" Smarties candies. They crush the candy into dust and roll it up into a big fattie, inhaling and puffing out the dust that resembles smoke.

This place in Arizona was clearly trying to maximize the hipster cred vibe, but I wonder if drinks aren't getting a little too precious? Or maybe not enough? What is the weirdest drink accessory you have seen? ...

I wouldn't mind stirring my bloody Mary with a crisp piece of bacon or moose jerky -- but not a Slim Jim. A cucumber wedge is the perfect accoutrement for Pimm's and soda. The floating slice of cucumber in the sake martini at Minato's Sushi Bar is ichi-ban. A peperoncino in a vodka martini is bracing.

I heard that in North Carolina they serve martinis with a pickled green bean instead of olives. I experimented with a variety of olives other than the ho-hum stuffed manzanilla and loved the results.

I challenge mixologists to up their pickled fruit and vegetable game. How about kalamata, picholine, niçoise, or gaeta olives? Don't you think there is a drink out there just dying to be served with a gherkin?

I have method of lightly fermenting grapes so that they are internally carbonated like little champagne bombs. Pow! Dream big, dream fizzy.

(Photo courtesy of Kellogg's)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

The Captain's Corner: Taking the cage

capt. larry outside his bar, circa 2000

We've heard about the bullet holes in the ceiling and Joe the parrot.

In this week's column, Capt. Larry Gross, the former owner and namesake of Captain Larry's, dishes about the ultimate drunk tank. The helm is yours, Captain:

We had a cage near the pole in the center of the bar, made out of stainless steel. It was about three foot by three foot by about eight foot tall. It was made out of stainless steel. It was a rectifier cage.

Now, a rectifier cage in the Navy is something they would have in a radio room where they would put equipment in they didn't want anybody to touch, and lock it up. ...

I get a knock on the door one day, and it's three or four SEALs. They said, 'We got something for ya, Captain.' They had a pickup truck. They said, 'We got a new bird cage for Joe.'

I said, 'Jesus, Christ, look at the size of that. Where did you get it?'

They said, 'We can't tell you.'

I said, 'Where'd you get the cage?'

Well, they had stolen it off a Navy destroyer down in Norfolk, Va. and brought it up to me.

We didn't use it for the bird, but if we got a customer that got a little unruly, either he got barred from the bar, or he would have to take the cage.

If he took the cage, what would happen was, we would lock him in the cage, and get bottles of beer -- preferably Guinness or Beck's or Harp -- and we would shake 'em up and spray beer all over him, in his face, all over his body, laugh at him, totally insult him to death.

If he survived and didn't get mad, he could come back and drink at the bar.

All fun stuff. Nothing where anybody got hurt. It was quite a time.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bar stories

February 3, 2010

In search of swanky spots

pratt swanky styleI knew Midnight Sunner Evan was a classy fellow -- but this classy? As it turns out, Evan is quite the jet-setter, sipping cocktails at a swanky event at the Pratt. On with the tale, Evan!

Despite the rather foul weather this past Saturday, the Pratt Contemporaries hosted their 3rd anniversary celebration at the Enoch Pratt Free Library (400 Cathedral St.) with a highfalutin masquerade.

For a mere $45 the celebration included complimentary masks, open bar, catered hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction and a DJ spinning dance tunes.

Needless to say, with Black & White attire required, everyone was looking fantastic. ...

Not only was everyone looking fantastic, but might I say (as is kind of the point of this post in the first place) that the Enoch Pratt is an equally fantastic venue for an event.

With its marble floors, immensely high ceiling and general elegance I'm actually kind of surprised that the lobby isn't used more often for such things.

Which gets me to thinking: what are some of the nicest places in the city to have a swanky cocktail party that you might not normally think would have one?

I mean, "The Library" wouldn't have been my first thought.

Obvious answers like The Belvedere (at least, prior to its stabariffic bottle club days) come to mind but how about some lesser known venues?

(Photo courtesy of Evan)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:00 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

In defense of Baltimore bars

peter's innHere at Midnight Sun, we spend a lot of time being critical of Baltimore bars. That's why I asked guest columnist Patti to write a post defending Baltimore bars. Take it away, Patti:

About two years ago, I went to the Mt. Royal Tavern. When I returned one Sunday last November, three of the four strangers who had been in the bar during my previous trip were sitting in the same seats (probably drinking the same drink).

Sad? Maybe a little, given that it was before noon on both occasions. But mostly just charming in that odd, slightly disturbing way that Baltimore does so well.

I've lived in Chicago and spent more than my share of 20-dollar bills on quasi-martinis in Manhattan. I've sampled some of the finest artisanal cocktails that San Francisco and Portland Oregon have to offer. I've downed beer from boots in Madison and let les bons temps roulez in New Orleans.

In short, I consider myself something of a bar connoisseur, at least in the continental U.S. And yet, I can state without any equivocation that Baltimore is hands down the best bar town ...

Baltimore doesn’t have the flash and pizazz that make a lot of cities seem like obvious front-runners. But what we've got is genuine and unpretentious.

The bars with great beer don't overcharge, the bars with amazing infusions and inventive cocktail programs don't condescend, and the bars with loud music, cramped dance floors and 20-somethings chain smoking out front don't pretend to be something they're not.

Some people may disagree with me because other towns have more eye candy. But in my experience, the people at those bars are trying too hard, and at the end of the night, probably didn’t have as much fun as we do.

A few nights ago, I stopped by Nevins on Cross Street. Strangers were singing with each other. I joined them. We sounded terrible, and no one cared. To me, that is the essence of the Baltimore bar scene.

We aren't the fanciest or the most innovative. Our dives aren't even the dive-iest (I believe Detroit gets that distinction). But Captain Larry's is like visiting a friend's house, Bad Decisions will make a drink out of bacon and Manwich, and no one does wine selection and prices like the Wine Market. 

Add to that that the top bar in America (Brewer's Art), a plethora of shuffleboard tables, and such gems as Cat's Eye Pub, Peter's Inn, Woodberry Kitchen and Muggsy's. There is no doubt in my mind that Baltimore bars are unrivaled.

(Baltimore Sun photo of Peter's Inn by Kenneth K. Lam)

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

1 percent inspiration, 99 percent distillation

john reusing himself, IN THE FLESH!In what can only be described as an awesome achievement (if I do say so myself), I swindled Bad Decisions owner John Reusing (pictured) into sharing some of the recipes to his best and worst cocktails. Heeeeere's Johnny:

I've always liked variety.

Generally, I never have the same drink twice in an evening -- much to the annoyance of my bartender. I always am interested in trying that new vodka or the bottle in the back corner of the liquor store I've never seen before.

I don't see the attraction of getting the same drink each time. Naturally, this is why I became interested in mixology.

Finding an interesting liquor or a great mixer is just the beginning of making a great drink. Owning a bar has given me the opportunity to get my hands on some of the more rare ingredients I could never convince other bars to carry ...

Each time I get something new at the bar the first thing I do is taste it and identify the main flavors. Then I add other mixers to bring out specific characteristics in the final drink.

When it works out and all the ingredients complement each other, the final drink is often more then the sum of the parts.  Of course, occasionally, they mix in surprising and horrible ways and I have to mourn the loss of good booze.

Below I will list some of the great drinks I have come up with and a couple of the horrible mistakes. Try any of at your own risk, or come for a visit and see what I can whip up for you:

Good decisions:

Gingerbread Man Martini

I wanted a drink to highlight the strong ginger flavor of Domaine De Conton
1 oz Domain De Canton
1 oz Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
1/2 oz of Stoli Vanillia Vodka
1/2 or Cinnamon infused simple syrup

Shake and strain into a martini glass that has been rimmed with crushed gram cracker


I wanted to make a drink to compliment then sweet, smooth, white grape flavor of Aloe Vera soda
2 oz of Wokka Saki Vodka
Add to cocktail glass and fill with Aloe Vera soda.
Sprinkle top of drink with Wasabi Powder

Pink Coral

This drink is designed to bring out the flavor of fresh strawberries.
Dice fresh strawberries and coat with sugar. Let them sit overnight in the fridge so they can make a syryp.

In a cocktail glass full of ice mix the following:
1 1/2 oz 10 Cane Rum
1 oz Dolin Sweet White Vermouth
Some slices of fresh strawberry
Top off with Soda Water, then add a splash of strawberry syrup.

Bad decisions:

With some regulars, we were trying to invent a drink featuring Drambuie. Unfortunately, several of our original tries were horrible. Here is one that was particularly offensive.

1 oz Drambuie
1 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1 oz Seagrams Gin

Add to cocktail glass full of ice and top with pineapple juice.  Mix and garnish with a cherry.

The next drink was supposed to take the wonderful bitter flavor of a blood orange vodka and make it a bit sweeter and more palatable for the average drinker. The resulting cocktail tasted like really bad cough medicine as the sweet and bitter flavors fought each other for prominence.

1 1/2 oz Charbay Blood Orange Vodka
1 oz Cointreau
1 dash of blood orange bitters
Shake and strain into a martini glass.

Top with a splash of cold champagne and garnish with a slice of fresh orange.

(Photo courtesy of Bad Decisions)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

February 2, 2010

Argentinian imbibation

quilmesFrom guest poster Alexander D. Mitchell IV:

So, whadaya think Sam's drinking down there, eh?

He seems like an all-around kind of drinker -- anything to get a buzz on or reduce the misery of listening to a particularly bad cover band, you might think. But again, if you're writing about drinking or nightlife, you can't drink to forget.

Editor's note: I think that last line is the best way anyone's ever described this job. So true.

Quilmes is the "national beer" of Argentina, for what it's worth; like most countries, the volume of the beer produced is usually in inverse proportion to its general quality.

Buenos Aires has at least three brewpubs: Bullers, in the Recoleta neighborhood of the city, Cossab, on the west side and Antares, in the Palermo neighborhood. Here's a blogpost of a pub crawl by two English-speaking tourists in Buenos Aires. ...

It's likely what would happen if I got stuck there.  (Hey, do any of us have any idea just WHY he's going there?)

Editor's note: Red meat, red wine ... steaks the size of a dinner plate, warm weather ... need I say more?

If any of you feel like drinking along with Sam in sympathy, there's one craft beer from Argentina available in Maryland (last I checked): Jerome beers from Potrerillos, Mendoza.

The beers are all around excellent, although not inexpensive. (This is not to be confused with the Jerome Brewery in the "ghost town" of Jerome, Arizona, which for a short while cranked out awful, extract-based beers which had much in common with Rocky Run Tap & Grill's short-lived fling with brewing in Columbia. The Jerome, Arizona place is now, thankfully, a wine bar, although a Belgian bistro is now just up the street).

(Photo courtesy of this site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:00 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Hitting on the bartender

this photo is super freaky.In today's column, Owl Meat draws a clever comparison between a classic TV show and the classic, tragic art of hitting on the server.

Dining@Large also discussed a similar topic a little while ago. But Owl Meat's take is as fresh as ever. Are you ready, Owl Meat? I think he's ready. Here goes:

Flirting with the bartender is usually a harmless play. Petty sensual tourism. But when it goes too far, it becomes a squall of tawdry tragicomedy.

Mixing business, pleasure and alcohol in an asymmetric social clime is fraught with danger. The more the customer spends, the drunker he gets and the more his game suffers. To compensate, he ramps up the action.

Then the weather starts getting rough and your tiny ship is tossed. If not for the courage of your favorite brew, your Minnow would be lost. Your Minnow would be lost. ...

Whether you favor Mary Ann or Ginger or (gasp) über-cougar Mrs. Howell, eventually you become a loser stranded on a desert island with nothing but your coconuts after your three hour tour. Your three hour tour.

I've seen some crazy bad shipwrecks on the Sea of Love. While you may think you are the captain of your love boat, the bartender has complete control of the situation, and you have an audience hungry for comedy.

Here comes the evil Professor. He's going to rebuild you. I saw a guy dictate a complete makeover to my friend. "You would be beautiful if you cut your hair, dyed it darker, and thinned out those eyebrows. And get rid of those earrings. "

Another suggested breast implants – colossal fail.

Has "You should smile more," ever landed well?

The flaw of evil Professor is that he's trying to turn Mary Ann into Ginger. Did he learn nothing from the seven stranded castaways? (Season 3, episode 24).

His other half is geeky Professor. You should come over to his apartment and play Wii. Or he could go to your place to defrag your hard drive. Actually, if you want to, you can just bring your laptop to the bar and I'll, I mean, he'll install some really cool software that he hacked. After he finishes his peach mojito he mumbles something about optimization and he's gone like a muon after you turn off your cyclotron.

Then there is Thirsty Howl III – The Millionaire. His path to glory is littered with blingtabulous morsels. My boat, my condo, my house, my car. Yawn. He wants to purchase your affections. Not very flattering. He sometimes suggests that a cash tip should get him something, uh, not on the menu.

How about the Skipper? He's the Regional Director of Marketing for Bippi Tools – Tools for Living. He always gives you his business card. If you sleep with him maybe some of his splendor will rub off.

Special guest stars: One guy at a bar spent hours drinking himself into a comical spectacle. By the time his friend dragged him off, his pickup jargon was a garbled collage of languages. All we could make out was, "Would you like to ride in my motorboat?"

Whatever character you think you are, after beaucoup Grey Goose martinis or Natty Bohs, we are all Gilligans.

As you slurp your saliva colada and masticate on lubricious urges, remember this: You're at somebody's job. This is how they make their living. Pump the breaks, playa, and don't forget you might be tomorrow's YouTube hit.

As always, the best part of this column is your comments and stories. Bring it, castaways!

(Photo by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Concert review: Wye Oak and Arbouretum at G-Spot

wye oak at the g-spot

This review comes courtesy of Midnight Sunner Duffster:

On Friday night, Baltimore Musically Informed, one of the best local music-oriented blogs, presented a showcase of Charm City talent at the G-Spot, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

The lineup was headlined by Baltimore loves Arbouretum and Wye Oak. Both of those bands certainly came through.

But first, a word about the supporting bands, The Violet Hour, Weekends and Sri Aurobindo.

Ok, so I missed Violet, but I’m sure they’re awesome. Still, I was really happy with Weekends and Sri ...

Weekends is a two-piece that just had an intense raw energy that really comes through with nothing but a guitar, a fuzzed out amp and dirty drums. Thanks go to the G-Spot for the free keg beer (later cans of Natty Boh) and red and white wine for getting the party extra-frenzied.

Then, it was Sri, who I compared to a Doors-ey sound. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Psych rock at its best, which is refreshing at this point in the music biz, with all the synth-pop stuff coming out now.

When the top bills came on, all bets were off. Wye Oak isn’t necessarily the biggest "jump-around" band, but the crowd was definitely bobbing its collective head. I'm pretty sure they busted out at least two new songs, about which front-woman Jenn Wasner admitted, "We haven’t figured out our transitions yet."

Chill, Jenn. You were awesome, in that ethereal but hard-rocking way Wye Oak always brings.

As for Arbouretum, the guys put together a quick set that closed the place down perfectly.   They offered a perfect mix between brooding, driving rhythms that were brooding rock at the core and haunting lyrics. But somehow, it’s still a fun – and captivating – party.

One of the best parts of the night came when Arbouretum and Wye Oak joined forces for a closing cover of Neil Young’s “When You Dance, I Can Really Love.” Show-stopper and great ender.

So what am I getting at in this blog entry? Basically, there is never a bad time to support local bands and blogs.  It’s obviously something Midnight Sun always champions.

At a time when Pink is performing on the Grammys doing some weird, water-drenched trapeze act above the audience, sometimes the best music is often enjoyed in a small converted warehouse.

The free Natty always helps, too.

(Photo by Duffster)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Concert reviews

And I'm off!

iguazu fallsIn a few short hours, I'll be en route to (hopefully) warmer climates, far south of clammy Baltimore.

I'd like to thank all of the folks who volunteered to write Midnight Sun guest columns and help keep the blog going while I'm gone.

All in all, we've got close to 30 guest columns coming over the course of the next couple weeks. I'll be back in about 15 days.

See you then!

(AP photo of Iguazu Falls)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Random stuff

February 1, 2010

Before I forget ...

No Idea Tavern turns 5 years old Wednesday. According to owner Jason Zink, the bar is celebrating with boatloads of free and cheap stuff.

"It's one of those too many specials to list, but I do know it's all you can drink wine and Miller Lite draft til 8 p.m. for $5 and then $2.50 Miller Lites and $4 u-call-its after that," he wrote in an e-mail.

Happy birthday No Idea!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Muggsy's Week of 100,000 Mugs starts today

mugsSorry for not posting that much today, folks, but I'm scrambling to edit and schedule all these guest columns before I hop on a plane tomorrow.

I do, however, have some delicious news about Muggsy's Mug House (1236 Light St.).

Starting today, the South Baltimore beer haven is throwing the first (and hopefully annual) Week of 100,000 Mugs.

Through Saturday night, everybody who buys a mug of beer there will also get a raffle ticket with a chance to win a trip for two to Atlantic City for the Atlantic City Beer Festival.

The winning ticket will be drawn at midnight Saturday. The winner has to be there in person to receive the prize ...

There is no limit on how many tickets you can enter. So, the more beers you buy between now and then, the better your chances of winning.

"This lil bar has spunk, it has the aptitude, some have even said we have what they call Charisma," owner Danny Young wrote in an Official Press Release.

"With that in mind we will pack some of the best beer you have ever tasted into this lil Bar and we want to share them with you, all week long." 

In addition to the grand prize, there will be a series of smaller prizes handed out over the course of the week.

(Photo by Shankman)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Beer sign fail

beerfail.jpgMidnight Sunner jmgiordano recently spotted outside of Kooper's Tavern in Fells Point.

I'll have two Americans, an English and a Belgium, please.

Hee hee.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:55 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Snow day drinking at Capt. Larry's

a dark and stormy at captain larry'sHow was everyone's snow day?

Will someone please tell me why both of the big snowstorms we've had this winter have been on the weekend? Seems like a waste of a potentially awesome snow day to me.

Did you do some wild and crazy snow day drinking Saturday night? All of the guest columns I've been publishing from Captain Larry Gross made me want to check out his old stomping grounds.

I camped out on a barstool there Saturday night, drinking a couple $8 Dark and Stormys (pictured). The mixture of dark rum and ginger beer looks pretty cool when they first serve it, but to get the taste right, I had to stir it up a bit.

Two of those and I was warm and fuzzy.

What about you guys? Where was your go-to snow day bar?

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:19 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
Keep reading
Recent entries
About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

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

Most Recent Comments
Recent tweets
Sign up for FREE nightlife alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Photo galleries
Stay connected