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April 30, 2010

This year, Aqua will have holograms. Yes, holograms.

aquabaltimoreissoooochic.JPGAqua seemed to have everything you could want out of a Miami-style lounge:

A gym-side pool, a pool-side bar, a bar-side folding futon or two ... the list goes on. But that wasn't enough. It's never enough for Aqua. 

If you thought Aqua couldn't get any weirder, new manager Ricardo Espinosa is here to remind us that oh yes, it can.

Espinosa, the chief operating officer for Camden View Inc., which is taking over Aqua, has big plans for the gym-by-day, lounge-by-night spot at the Merritt Athletic Club in Canton.

He wants to add holograms. Holograms! ...

Espinosa told Dining@Large blogger Laura Vozzella that he wants to project holographic images onto Aqua's pool and ceiling -- images of mermaids and other fanciful things. Whoa, man!

"Have mermaids come out of the pool -- something cool, something different, out of the ordinary," he said.

Unfortunately, Vozzella forgot to ask Espinosa the most important question: Who's liable if a sloshed meathead dives into the pool in an attempt to mate with one of the mermaids and accidentally drowns?


Hee hee.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:07 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Frank Zappa statue to be dedicated in September

frank zappa statue

The Frank Zappa statue will be dedicated Sept. 18 in its new home outside the Southeast Anchor Library in Highlandtown, officials said today.

The decision to erect the bust outside the library has generated buzz from neighborhood residents and local Zappa fans, according to Roswell Encina, spokesman for the Enoch Pratt library system.

"You can't imagine all the attention the library is getting," Encina said. "People are very interested that it's coming. We couldn't think of a better place for it."

When the Highlandtown branch of the library learned it would be the site for the statue, it stocked up on Zappa books and music, Encina said ...

"People are checking them out already," he said. "If you want to learn more about Zappa, travel to the Southeast Anchor Library."

Several sites were considered for the statue, including Fells Point and Mount Vernon. Highlandtown was chosen because of its high volume of foot traffic and Zappa's affinity for libraries. His mother, Rose Marie, was a librarian, and his widow, Gail, lobbied to have the bust placed near a city library.

Valued at about $50,000, the 15-odd foot statue was donated to the city from a Lithuanian fan club in 2008.

"It's been a long time coming," Encina said. "We couldn't think of a better place for it." 

In anticipation of the statue's arrival, the library stocked up on several Zappa DVDs, according to branch manager Cindy Kleback. They have been checked out at a higher rate than most DVDs, she said. Books and other Zappa-related materials could follow in the coming months.

"The DVDs are very popular," she said. "He was a very visual artist."

(Pictured is a Zappa statue in Lithuania, similar to the Baltimore statue. AP photo.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:32 AM | | Comments (16)

American Idol's Constantine Maroulis to star in 'Rock of Ages' at Hippodrome

Constantine Maroulis"American Idol" contestant Constantine Maroulis (pictured) will star in the Hippodrome's production of "Rock of Ages," officials announced today.

Maroulis, who appeared on season four of "American Idol," was the lead in the Broadway production of the '80s-themed musical, will reprise his role in the off-Broadway tour.

The play, which features music from Journey, Whitesnake and Night Ranger, comes to the Hippdrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center Nov. 30-Dec. 5.

"I am thrilled," Jeff Daniel, the theater's vice president and executive director, wrote in an e-mail. 

"Constantine is a legitimate rocker/front man and "American Idol" finalist. This is going to make "Rock of Ages" one great show."

(Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:38 AM | | Comments (23)

April 29, 2010

How much do you tip on a 99-cent drink?

the natty boh man will wink at you if you stare at him long  enoughI stopped by Singer's last night for a cold one on my way home from work, and ordered one of the bar's 99-cent Natty Bohs.

Since Singer's doesn't include tax in their drink prices (grrr), the total came to $1.05. I paused for a second.

How much should I tip on a beer that cost a buck? Another dollar? That's a lot of money, proportionately -- a 100 percent tip.

On the other hand, it's customary to tip at least a buck for any drink, regardless of the price, and I didn't want to come across as a prude.

What would you do? ...

In the end, I forked over another buck, which ended up being a stack of coins -- 95 cents, to be precise. The server tried to give it back to me, and I told her to keep it.

Even that choice left me feeling sleazy. Change? The best I could do was tell her to keep the change? Was I not man enough to give her a dollar bill?

I looked in my wallet, and only had a 10-spot. Making her break it for a tip would have been too much. So I sat there, sipping my Natty and watching poets recite their work at the far end of the bar.

I saw the Natty Boh Tower, which wasn't that impressive -- just a pyramid-shaped stack o' cans. But a buck for a Boh any time is a deal. Now if I could only figure out the best way to tip on it.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:01 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Brewer's Art will can Resurrection Ale in May

this is a prototype of the new Brewer's Art Resurrection Ale can

Brewer's Art will offer its flagship beer, Resurrection Ale, in cans, owners announced today.

The Mount Vernon brew pub, which already distributes Resurrection in 750-milliliter glass bottles, hopes to have six-pack cans of the abbey-style ale in stores before Memorial Day, according to co-owners Tom Creegan and Volker Stewart.

"We're taking the plunge," Creegan said.

Though the price hasn't been finalized, Creegan thinks it will be $9.99. Pictured, at right, is a prototype of the design for the 12-ounce cans.

The first batch of Resurrection for the new line of cans will start brewing at Sly Fox Beer in Penn. next week. Sly Fox also makes and bottles the 750-milliliter Resurrection line.

In recent years, there has been debate over whether canning beer reduces its taste. Creegan acknowledged this, but said he hopes advances in canning methods will keep the beer from tasting any different."We're going to see," he said. "They've gotten a lot better about that with canning equipment."

Cans are the new wave in the craft brewing industry, Creegan said, pointing to beers such as Dale's Pale Ale, which is widely distributed in cans. A six-pack of cans is more practical and portable than a 750-milliliter bottle, Creegan said.

"When screw cap wine was introduced, everyone was like, 'I don't know, I don't know,'" he said. "If the beer in the can is good, I don't think people are going to complain."

(Prototype of a can of Resurrection Ale courtesy of Brewer's Art)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:15 AM | | Comments (53)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Introducing Dixie Cup and Merriweather TV

Yesterday, Merriweather Post Pavilion launched Merriweather TV, a viral marketing campaign featuring nutty videos hosted by a dude named Dixie Cup.

So far, Merriweather TV has two Dixie Cup videos -- one about the "real story" behind the giant metal chicken and another urging people to buy tickets to Merriweather to support rich and famous musicians. The first one is hilarious. Check it out ...

I'm going to see if I can get a hold of this guy and find out more about the series.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:48 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Local music

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner ...

It's Stagger Lee! OH YEAH OH YEAH! Stagger correctly guessed our Mystery Bar -- Clementine. Stagger, email me at and we'll arrange your prize pickup. Thanks everybody for playing!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:35 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Name That Bar

Nobody has guessed yesterday's Mystery Bar yet ...

... and just like Powerball, the prizes have doubled! Wait -- do the prizes actually double in Powerball? Who cares?

Everybody seems to think the pressed tin ceiling of our Mystery Bar is Brewer's Art. Well, it ain't, folks. I'll give you a hint, though -- the first letter of Brewer's Art is close to the first letter of our Mystery Bar. Hit me with your best shot.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:05 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Name That Bar

April 28, 2010

Old Talking Head/Ottobar building up for auction

this building used to be the talking head, and before it, the  ottobar, and before it, chambers.The Davis Street building (pictured) which used to house the Talking Head Club, The Ottobar and Chambers is headed for auction May 19

For a mere $10,000, one lucky person will walk away with an integral piece of Baltimore's music history.

Years and years ago, it was a bar with live music called Chambers. If memory serves, it became The Ottobar in the '90s, and then the Talking Head Club in 2002.

The Talking Head abandoned the Davis Street space in 2008 at the end of 2006, and eventually moved to a side room at Sonar. The Ottobar is now on North Howard Street ...

Many wicked parties went down on Davis Street, and many bands (such as J-Roddy Walston and the Business) cut their teeth playing there.

It was a cruddy space, with a busted pool table and an odd layout. But it was our space, and now it's gone. 203 Davis Street, you will be missed.

Thanks to Adam Meister for the tip.

(Photo courtesy of Alex Cooper, via this website)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:36 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Weekly Natty Boh Tower Contests at Singer's

mr natty boh!This we know: Singer's (formerly Nadds) already has 99 cent beers, all day every day.

Now hear this: Singer's has a weekly Natty Boh Tower Contest.

A Natty Boh Tower is a stack of about 30 cases of full Natty Bohs that forms the shape of a tower. Hence, Natty Boh Tower.

Singer's keeps a running tally of how many Bohs each person drinks from 9:01 p.m. Monday to 8:59 p.m. the following Monday ...

The records are kept on a spreadsheet, and whoever drinks the most Bohs wins a free 12-pack. Not bad, Singer's.

"It's kinda fun in the Natty Boh tradition," owner Ron Singer wrote in an e-mail.

I agree, Ron. I called the bar, and found out that the number to beat is about 30 Bohs a week. Think you're (wo)man enough? Try it and see.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:17 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Was the Hammerjack's video from the '80s or '90s?

awesome '80s hair metal bandWhen I posted the awesome Hammerjack's video earlier this week, I noted that it was from the '90s.

I said it was from the '90s and not the '80s because in the video, the narrator notes how it's near the end of the 20th century.

The hair styles might look like they were straight outta the '80s, that doesn't mean it was actually the '80s. It could have been 1994 -- or even later.

Heck, it's 2010, and some corners of Baltimore are still stuck in the '80s.

Anyway, Dave Adams, who used to work security at Hammerjack's, thinks it's from the '80s ...

Adams looked at the video and saw Tom Perry, who was a manager at Hammerjack's. According to Adams, Perry retired from the police force about two years ago after 20 years on duty. Perry didn't work at Hammerjack's in the mid-'90s.

Hammerjack's owner Lou Principio, who is also in the video, had too much hair for it to be the '90s, Adams said. Hee hee.

Anybody know for sure when this video was shot? Also, you get bonus points for naming the band in the photo. Not sure if this group played Hammerjack's or not, but I love the hair.

UPDATE: OK, so, according to a Baltimore Sun article, the original Hammerjack's opened on South Charles Street in 1977. So if this was shot 12 years after it opened, as the narrator said (and Owl Meat noted), that means it was filmed in 1989. (Which means it was still 1983 in Baltimore.) Bam!

What the video could never foresee was the grunge movement, which would lay waste to hair metal bands everywhere in about three or four years. Bye bye, big hair. Hello, flannel!

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:07 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Name That Bar, vol. 20

DSC_1001.JPGMan, it's hard for me to believe we've done 20 of these.

This morning, I went back and looked at the first one, of Mt. Washington Tavern. That was the one where I naively put the name of the bar in the photo file. Doh!

Think of all the bars we've named along the way, and all the wicked wicked awesome awesome prize packages that have been won.

So here you have it: Mystery Bar No. 20. If you know it (or think you know it), leave a comment. I'll publish all the comments this time tomorrow.

(Photo courtesy of Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:58 AM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Name That Bar

April 27, 2010

Dan Deacon + 'Total Recall' + Maryland Film Festival = awesomesauce

TOTAL RECALL TWO WEEKS TWO WEEKS AAAAAAAAAHLocal eccentric, eclectic, electric musician Dan Deacon is hosting a 35mm screening of the epic sci-fi masterpiece Total Recall as part of this year's Maryland Film Festival.

As an old friend of mine would say: Oh sniggity oh snaps!

My colleague Mike Sragow has all the info over at his bliggity blog, Sragow Gets Reel.

I'm going to talk to Dan Deacon in TWO WEEKS tomorrow about the screening. But I already know it's going to be epic. E.P.I.C.

Why? I'll tell you why ...

"Total Recall" is the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movie ever, which pretty much makes it the best movie in the history of movies.

Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, a mild-mannered man who has his memory swiped on Mars or something like that. The plot comes secondary to the awesomeness.

Read (and relive) these memorable moments with me:

Melina: Hello, Hauser. Still bulging, I see.
[rubs his deltoid, then grabs his crotch]
Melina: What you been feeding this thing?
Douglas Quaid: Blondes.
Melina: I think it's still hungry. 


Johnnycab: Please state the street and number.
Douglas Quaid: Drive! drive!
Johnnycab: I'm not familiar with that address. Would you please repeat the destination?
Douglas Quaid: Anywhere just go! Go!
Johnnycab: I'm not familiar with that address. Would you please repeat the destination?
Douglas Quaid: S**t! s**t!
Johnnycab: Would you please repeat the destination?
Douglas Quaid: [Quaid rips the Johnnycab out and starts to drive himself] Aaahhh! 


Lori: Doug, honey... you wouldn't hurt me, would you, sweetheart? Sweetheart, be reasonable. After all, we're married!
[Lori goes for her gun, Quaid shoots her in the head, killing her]
Douglas Quaid: Consider that a divorce! 

(Baltimore Sun archive illustration. Use of the phrase "awesomesauce" is by permission of City That Breeds)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:38 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

Lingerie football is coming to Baltimore

lingere football Ladies and gentlemen (but mostly gentlemen), let's give a warm welcome to the Baltimore Charm -- the newest branch of the Lingerie Football League.

Read it and rejoice. Or weep, if you're a feminist.

Yes yes, women will soon be playing football in lingerie at 1st Mariner Arena. Tackle football, no less. None of that flag football fluff (insert pun about two-hand touch). The arena is hosting open tryouts 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.  

This is the best thing to happen to women's football since Anita Marks retired. Ba-Zing! ...

I'm not sure what this says about our society (they treat objects like women, man), but I'll tell you this: The Baltimore Charm gets Midnight Sun's Seal of Approval.

Here is a link to a photo gallery where you can peruse images of lingerie-clad football players.

lingerie football. need i say more?I love this paragraph from Chris Kaltenbach's story:

But this is clearly a league where the double entendre rules. "It's about being on top," one tough-talking player asserts. It's about "pushing myself harder than ever before," promises another. "You break a nail and get right back out there," growls a third. Most of the players, at least those featured on the LFL website, are decidedly thinner and curvier than your standard-issue NFL-type.

Hee hee!

The home opener is Oct. 1 against Tampa Breeze and the finale is Nov. 5 against Orlando Fantasy.

Any Midnight Sunners wanna try out?

(Photos from our photo gallery)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:30 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Random stuff

Do Vegas handshakes happen at Baltimore bars & clubs?

in all seriousness, here is the real caption to the photo: Moscow  welcomes the first Millionaire Fair, a kind of one-stop shopping mall  for the rich. This tuxedo, made of real  American  dollar  bills, was  part of a matching set of formal wear fashioned out of paper money. Earlier today, Midnight Sunner (and local bar owner) Jason Zink came to me with a curious question:

Are there any places in Baltimore where the security or the host gets their palms "greased?

When I lived in Vegas, it was part of the dining experience.  In order to get into the club or a quicker table at the restaurant, I would put a $20 bill in my palm and shake the doorman's host's hand.

As a D-list local celebrity, people grease my palm all the time.* But are there a lot of Vegas handshakes at local bars and clubs? There have to be.

Where, though? ...

Leaving your bartender a huge tip at the beginning of the night isn't the same thing, either. Tipping doesn't count -- whether it's the valet or the server. Jason's talking about sly bribery to get into a club, or to get a table at a restaurant.

How much would you have to tip someone here? If Jason slipped people in Vegas $20, would you only have to slip someone a $5 here? Maybe I should try that with the hostess at Charleston or Tio Pepe.

Have you ever done it, or heard about someone doing it?

*In case anyone from upper management happens to read this post, no, I have never taken a bribe in exchange for coverage. That was a joke. Yuk yuk yuk.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo of Sam Sessa's Saturday evening money suit. Dolla dolla bills, ya'll)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:37 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Tired of fake nice? Come to Rudey's!


If Rudey's existed, I think I'd be a regular. What's Rudey's, you ask? Read on, as Owl Meat takes us there.

Tired of robot corporate service? Sick of false pleasantries? Come to Rudey's, where you will be treated like the miserable dog you are.

I hate fake nice service. Genuine nice is great, but fake nice makes my skin crawl. Think hotel bars. I'm talking to you, Harbor East Marriott.

That's where Rudey's comes in. Rudey's is the bar where you and your bartender can be all man-gressive and get yer ya yas out. Think of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Good product, efficient service, and no fluffing your ego. Unlike the Soup Nazi, you get to dish it out too. ...

This is probably a guy thing. I enjoy places where I have street rapport with bartenders. It's a cathartic male bonding thing.

A bartender recently suggested a beer called Arrogant Bastard. Half-listening, I heard yadda yadda Arrogant Bastard. I responded with a mild profanity. Oops, that was a beer not a greeting. We laughed.

At one of my favorite watering holes, a Russian waitress and friend used to greet me at happy hour with, "Hey, you chip baztard." Once I realized that she was referring to my attendance at happy hour and not my tipping habits, it made me laugh.

rudey's 2At the same place, bartenders and I engaged in unspeakably vulgar banter. We competed to embarrass each other. They would type in things like "%*&^  #%&* " as my check name. That backfired when they realized that my food checks went to the kitchen with the bartender's name attached as "Jack molests kittens" (but way more obscene).

There are rules at Rudey's. Neither the customer nor the bartender can be personally abusive. Racial epithets are uncool. In verbal sparring there are rules, mostly no hitting below the belt.

Nice is nice, but sometimes we need some old fashioned aggression outlets. It's a bad idea to yell at your girlfriend or wife. Consider the bartender at Rudey's your surrogate argu-mate.

I'm not suggesting abusive or sadistic service like you might find at the legendary Wiener Circle in Chicago (NSFW). That's just soul staining.

There was an S&M restaurant in New York where they served you dinner in a dog dish on the floor. Too much.

Rudey's ... Where Everybody Knows Your Name ... Is Dumbass

Play me out, Johnny Thunders.

Just for kicks, here are two more masochistic videos from the Velvet Underground and the Descendents.

(Photos by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:02 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

The skinny on Rare Soul

club goers outside a club on boston street from a couple years agoYesterday, I trudged down to the liquor board and pulled the file on Rare Soul, the new lounge/restaurant replacing Club Phantom on Boston Street.

The file had some interesting letters from various neighborhood associations, listing a bunch of restrictions on Rare Soul. The club can't have live entertainment for six months, as well as outside promoters, outside seating, valet parking or loud music.

I called owner Yolanda Espinet, who filled me in on all the details. Her plan for Rare Soul is to have a low key lounge with food -- not a bumping club. 

"I'm not a nightclub," she said. "I don't want a sweaty dance floor. I don't want crowds spilling out throughout the night." ...

Espinet, who is the sole owner, bought new furniture and redid the bar, she said. Pending a liquor board license transfer hearing Thursday, she plans to open in several weeks as a lounge, and then bring in food. Rare Soul would be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

But the ghosts of club Phantom (pun!) linger.

"It had such a terrible reputation," she said. "I've been fighting the reputation."

Espinet said she completely understands all the restrictions imposed by the neighborhood association, and is more than happy to comply with them.

"If I lived in a million dollar house across the street from a strip of clubs, I would totally understand that,"she said.

After six months, when Espinet would be allowed to have live entertainment, she wants to make Rare Soul "a platform to discuss recent social issues, politics -- a place to unwind," she said. Espinet has never owned a club before or worked in the industry, but she has high hopes for Rare Soul.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:05 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 26, 2010

This Hammerjack's promo video from the '90s is hilarious

There's a lot of crap on YouTube, but every once in a while, you strike gold.

Today, my cup ranneth over with awesomeness, courtesy of this hilarious Hammerjack's promo video. Everybody grab your Aqua-net -- we're about to step back in time, to an era of big hair, raised glasses and lowered inhibitions ...

I love love love the narration. It's classic. Also classic are the girl's teeth at :28, the mustaches throughout, and the butt-less chaps at 2:54.

"At 10 p.m., it's time to party -- to walk in the door and have Hammerjack's smack you right in the face. All of the sudden, you're in, well, you're in Hammerjack's pal."

Yes you are.

"If you were to make something that, by itself, represented all that rock 'n' roll means in America, it's Hammerjack's. It's so perfect they ought to move the whole thing into a museum, building, band, bouncers, dancers, bartenders, beer and all, and label it 'rock 'n' roll, near the end of the 20th century.'"

I couldn't have said it better myself, narrator. Too bad the club moved to downtown Baltimore a few years later, and was eventually turned into Bourbon Street. All good things ...

Anybody recognize any of the folks in the video? Where are they now?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Rare Soul could replace Club Phantom

these folks are going out clubbing on boston streetTell me if this sounds familiar: A restaurant/club named Rare Soul could open at 2312 Boston St. in the coming months. That address might ring a few bells -- it used to be Club Phantom, and before that, Kamp.

According to liquor board documents (the hearing to approve the license transfer is Thursday), a woman named Yolanda Espinet wants to add live entertainment, outdoor table service and to remove the restrictions on the license. Those restrictions forbid the club to bring in outside promoters.

What do you think is going to happen here? Let me peer into my crystal ball ...

I'll bet you all the money in my wallet ($7) that history will repeat itself. The liquor board will most likely approve Rare Soul's license transfer request, as long as the club doesn't bring in outside promoters.

Rare Soul will, inevitably, bring in outside promoters for parties. The neighbors with the nice houses across Boston Street will complain about the noise and violence, and Rare Soul will lose its license.

Why am I so sure? Because this has happened numerous times on the same little strip of Boston Street in the past few years.

That's what happened to Club Phantom. I'm not quite sure what happened to Kamp, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was relatively the same thing.

"That place is a Bermuda triangle," said Stephan Fogleman, the liquor board's chairman.

"It’s one of the toughest blocks in Baltimore to get a good concept. You've got neighbors across the street – neighbors who pay lots of property taxes. Theyre in that no man's land between Fells Point and Canton proper."

Don't get me wrong -- I wish Yolanda all the best with her new venture. But I'm not holding my breath. 

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:11 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 24, 2010

Check out the Station North Spring Music Festival today

nicole atkinsRain or shine, the Station North Arts and Entertainment District is holding its annual Spring Music Festival today.

It's free, the beer's cheap and the company is unparalleled. Need more motivation?

Here's the lineup of bands. DJ Pablo Fiasco will spin between sets:

3 p.m. - J+B Blues Project (Virginia) - (the 14-yr-old twin guitar whiz kids)
4 p.m. - Soul Cannon (Baltimore)
5 p.m. - Bearkat (Maryland)
6 p.m. - noon:30 (Washington, D.C.)
6:45 p.m. - Holly Miranda (Brooklyn, NY + Detroit)
7:15 p.m. - Nicole Atkins (pictured, from Asbury Park, NJ)
8 p.m. - Think About Life (Montreal)

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

April 23, 2010

Is the new Preakness ad campaign "Get Your Preak On" in poor taste?

preak on billboardIn the ad, a feisty young volunteer at a retirement home gushes about getting his "preak on" with an elderly woman.

"How could I resist, especially considering this might be her last chance,” he says. “I was a little concerned with how her hip would hold up, knowing we'd be at it all day long."

The commercial, one of six ads airing on local radio stations, is part of a controversial ad campaign for this year’s Preakness Stakes. Listen to it here. The "Get Your Preak On" slogan also appears online, in TV ads and on billboards and bus stops around Baltimore.

Do you think it's in poor taste? Or is it effective? E-mail me at ...

When Pimlico officials banned the long-standing tradition of BYOB last year, the infield was a shade of its former self. This campaign is aimed at bringing back the party-seeking 20- and 30-somethings to the infield.

So far, it's working, according to Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas. Infield ticket sales are up five percent compared to this time in 2008 -- the last year patrons could bring their own beer and wine to the infield.

"People like the campaign and people don't," Chuckas said. "But I will tell you one thing -- everyone has an opinon and everyone’s noticed it. And after all, isn’t that what advertising and marketing is all about?"

(Photo courtesy of Elevation)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:54 PM | | Comments (47)
Categories: Random stuff

Five Ways How Not to Run a Baltimore Bar

Sid's, a longstanding Pigtown bar, lost its license yesterday after a bizarre hearing involving video tapes and seemingly random violence.

The bar's owner, Tareq Abdul-Ghani, was accused of (and allegedly video taped) doing all sorts of bizarre, dangerous things. Did he do them or not? Depends on who you ask.

The bottom line is, Abdul-Ghani lost his license. After reading Sun reporter Brent Jones' article about the hearing (if you do anything today, read this piece), I have come up with Sam Sessa's Five Ways How Not to Run a Baltimore Bar. Here goes ...

5. Do not moon random people.

4. Do not run out in the middle of traffic after a Ravens game

3. Do not punch a dog.

2. Do not throw bottles and challenge your neighbors to a fight.

1. Do not stand there as a person at your bar shoots another person in the face and then refuse to cooperate with police.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:14 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Cucumber Dill Gin & Tonic and four other local drinks with herbs in them

the Cucumber Dill Gin & Tonic from Bad Decisions looks weird  but is pretty tasty if you ask me.Today's nightlife column is all about herbs.

Baltimore bars are whipping up cocktails with offbeat ingredients such as basil, thyme, lavender and dill. I reviewed five of these wacky beverages in today's paper.

Check out the article here.

Bad Decisions serves a gin and tonic made with cucumber and dill (pictured), with a splash of spirits distilled from honey. Owner John Reusing got the idea from cucumber dill dip.

"I was like, 'If it's good enough to dip potato chips in, I could probably make something delicious to drink with it,' " he said.

He did. And the drink is delish.

So was the Lil' It'ly Lemonade -- a blend of strawberries, basil and spiked pink lemonade made by Amicci's ...

I expected the L'il It'ly Lemonade, $8.48, to be extra sugary, but the basil stole the sweetness of the strawberries and lemonade, and the vodka was barely noticeable, which made the lemonade a dangerously smooth sipper.

Don't let it sit for long, though, because the ice cubes tend to water down the already thin mix.

Here is Reusing's recipe for the Cucumber Dill Gin & Tonic:

In a rocks glass gently muddle 2 sprigs of fresh dill
Add three long, skinny slices of cucumber
Fill with ice, then add:
3/4 oz. of Hendrick's Gin
3/4 oz. Hayman's Old Tom Gin
Fill with tonic water
Add two drops of Gioiello Nonino Citrus Tree Honey Spirit on top of the drink

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:05 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

My grand scheme for Broadway Square

When Amie and I went to Buenos Aires in February, we had dinner one Sunday night at a cute Italian restaurant in San Telmo, overlooking Plaza Dorrengo.

The weekly market with hundreds of vendors was over, and the local restaurants and bars had set up tables and chairs in the plaza. Near the far end of the square, dozens of people tangoed, and local musicians set up along the perimeter, playing drums and guitars.

I thought, 'Why doesn't Baltimore have something like this?' ...

Broadway Square in Fells Point would be an ideal location for it. Once a week on Sunday evenings, local restaurants could rent space in the square, set up tables and serve people there. An acoustic or jazz band could set up at the far end, and people could dance.

This could be a temporary thing, until the proposed Fells Point developments start. Anything would be better than the cruddy benches, bums and pigeons that currently litter the square.

I called Jason Sullivan at Fells Point Main Street and asked him what he thought of the idea.

"We think it's a fantastic idea," he said. "We've had discussions, especially with the Spanish businesses up Broadway, but part of it is the man power. If you start to do this stuff outside, businesses need to have staff outside as well as inside."

Baltimore can't get enough outside seating. Here's what I think they should do: Get a beer company to sponsor the tables and chairs and have the local restaurants all chip in a little for them. Then, divvy up the seating to the different bars and restaurants. They could ask a couple servers to pick up an extra Sunday evening shift, and they're all set.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:21 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 22, 2010

Catching up with the Oranges Band on their 10th anniversary

this is the oranges band, or, perhaps, a more recent incarnation  of the oranges bandIn the past decade, the Oranges Band has been one of the most persistently solid presences in Baltimore's indie rock scene.

Fronted by singer/guitarist Roman Kuebler, the band has had a bunch of different members over the years. The band's sound has gone from blistering garage rock to more calculated indie rock and back again.

Saturday, the band is celebrating its 10 year anniversary with a show at The Ottobar. Here is a link to a profile I wrote of the group, which will be in tomorrow's Live! section ...

After ten years of recording and gigging -- an eternity in band time -- the Oranges Band is still going strong. They had a stint on the seminal punk label Lookout Records, and just finished a tour with the Hold Steady. Their most recent album, "Are Invisible," came out last year.

"Ten years is an awful long time," Kuebler said. "To hold a band together for 10 years is no small feat."

One of the things I talked to Kuebler about that didn't make the story was how Baltimore's music scene has a collective short-term memory. Few of Baltimore's current crop of breakout bands know much about the scene from 10 years ago. Though Kuebler is 38, he doesn't feel like a patriarch of the scene.

"I've never felt the Baltimore scene operates on a time line," he said. "I don't feel like the bands who are happening now really feel any connection to what I've done. There are some. But that’s not across the board."

Also, be sure to check out this hilarious tour story Kuebler shared with Midnight Sun a couple years ago.

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Rumors: HFStival to return to Merriweather Sept. 18

third-eye blindAfter a four year hiatus, the HFStival could return to Merriweather Post Pavilion Sept. 18, according to local media news and gossip site DCRTV.

If the rumors are true, the lineup could include a where-are-they-now list of '90s acts such as Third Eye Blind (pictured), Fuel, Marcy Playground, Better Than Ezra, Billy Idol and Presidents of the USA.

Though HFS no longer exists as a terrestrial radio station, it continues to stream online and broadcast on 94.7's HD2 channel ...

A longtime staple for alternative fans, the HFStival began in Fairfax, Va., in 1990, moved to RFK Stadium in 1993, and ended its 16-year run at Merriweather in 2006.

Merriweather's publicist declined to comment and a call to HFS was not returned. I'll let you know as soon as I hear something concrete about the festival.

UPDATE: I spoke with Sam Rogers, a spokesman for CBS Radio in Washington, who confirmed that the festival is indeed happening. He wouldn't confirm where, when and who is headlining, though, but he said it's possible to have an HFStival without WHFS on the air.

"HFStival is a brand name," Rogers said. "People still have passion for the festival. We think it's a good idea. ... Virgin Fest is a brand name that doesn't have to have a radio station connected to it."

(Photo of Third-Eye Blind's Stephen Jenkins by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:02 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Local music

April 21, 2010

A day in the life of Sam Sessa

The Baltimore Chop's comment about shadowing me got me thinking: What does my typical day look like? It looks something like this ...

sam sessa has devil ears and a tail and smokes three to four  cigars a day6:15 a.m. -- Awaken.

6:30 a.m. -- Begin blogging.

9 a.m. -- Get ready for work, hopefully with a few blogs written.

10 a.m. -- Smoke first cigar.

10:30 a.m. -- Freak out because a story is due at noon and it hasn't been written yet.

12:15 p.m. -- File story, take a deep breath, eat lunch at my desk (typically a tuna fish sandwich with a little Ziploc bag of Cheese-Its).

1 p.m. -- Frantically research for interviews with various musicians and/or bar owners.

2 p.m. -- Conduct interviews with various musicians and/or bar owners.

3 p.m. -- Smoke second cigar, feet propped on aged oak desk.

4 p.m. -- Scramble to write a couple more blogs and/or file second story of the day.

5 p.m. -- File second story of the day/blogs. Leave for the gym.

6 p.m. -- Smoke third cigar while on elliptical at gym.

7 p.m. -- Eat an oven baked Freschetta pizza (Naturally Rising all the way, baby).

8 p.m. -- Head out for nightlife column, or, if the nightlife column has already been reported, crack open an ice cold Clipper City Loose Cannon, pour into frozen mug and watch "Law & Order: SVU" on the couch.


(Photo illustration of Sam Sessa by Sam Sessa)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:29 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Random stuff

Teen Night at Bourbon Street

bourbon street baltimoreYesterday, Terrell Thompson, a 10th grader at the Baltimore Freedom Academy, shadowed me for a few hours. He casually mentioned how he goes to teen nights at Bourbon Street. I asked him to write something about it, and he did.

UPDATE: The last teen night was last year, according to club owner James Temple and manager Sam Chaney. They're contemplating bringing it back again this summer.

Here is Terrell's account:

Bourbon Street's Teen Night is the hottest teen night in the city. The night is for teens 14 and older and is just $15, and trust me, it's worth it.

There is a lot of diversity of races that come to this club and have fun. The speakers are blasting songs from the hottest artists from Katy Perry to Lil Wayne. The club has parties from the inside to the roof (how cool is that?) ...

There aren’t many things for teens to do on the weekends and the movies are getting boring so what is the best thing to do party at Bourbon Street Teen Night? This is a teen party so no alcohol just soda or water.

Some nights they even have pajama parties and also butt shaking contests. One problem I have with teen night is, it's only from 7:00 to 11:30 and it just needs to be longer.

(Photo courtesy of the club's MySpace site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:55 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Liam Flynn's Ale House to open in June

liam flynn, owner of liam's pint-size pub, in 2004Since abdicating from his Mount Vernon digs a couple years ago, Liam Flynn (pictured) has been working hard to bring Liam Flynn's Ale House to the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Looks like he's almost there.

The new incarnation of Liam's Pint-Size Pub could open in the North Avenue Market as early as June, Flynn said yesterday. This all depends on whether or not the space can get a sprinkler system installed before then. Flynn has his fingers crossed.

"I'm excited," he said. "A month seems like a week right now. I'm a little bit concerned. I want to be open by the World Cup."

Flynn said the Ale House will have 15 beers on tap, including two cask-conditioned ales ...

The bar itself will be topped with wooden planks from the old bowling alley which used to be above the Everyman Theatre, Flynn said. Dave Scheper is doing some wrought ironwork, too. 

"We're doing architectural salvage to give it that lived-in look," he said.

The walls are up and the tiles will be installed next week, Flynn said. After the sprinklers arrive, everything should fall into place.

(Baltimore Sun photo of Flynn in 2004 by Amy Davis)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:14 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Meet Mz Streamz, who could be Baltimore's next breakout MC

mz streamzShe has collaborated with the Gorillaz and Lily Allen.

She has been retired from freestyle battles on 92Q after winning for five weeks straight. She schooled a rapper from Philly in an MC battle on the streets of South Baltimore. She has signed to New York-based label Milkcrate, which will release her first mixtape tomorrow.

Meet Mz Streamz, a Baltimore-based MC who might just become one of the city's next hip-hop breakouts.

Here's a link to my profile of Streamz, which ran in Sunday's Arts section.

(Photo courtesy of Milkcrate)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Max's expands tap list to 102 starting tomorrow

look at all these people inside max's taphouse, drinking beer! it's glorious!A few months ago, we learned about Max's plans to add nearly 30 new draft lines to its already formidable stable of beers.

Tomorrow, those new taps will go online, bringing Max's grand total up to 102 drafts. 

Who's thirsty? I'm thirsty!

According to cellar master Casey Hard, Max's won't just have 30-some new taps. The Fells Point suds mecca will also have all new tap lines for each one of their 102 beers.

"We had to put in a brand new everything," Hard said.

Change is a good thing. But change came at a cost ...

For the past two weeks, Max's has only had a measly 24 beers on tap, so they could install the new lines.It will all be worth it tomorrow, Hard said. He's been stockpiling rare and exquisite brews just for the occasion.

"We're going to have all kinds of crazy beer," he said.

Hard's favorite is Mikkeller, a European brewery. Tomorrow, he will have eight different kegs of Mikkeller beer, each made with a different hop. That's American excess at its finest! It reminds me of this exchange from the seminal film "Dodgeball."

Peter La Fleur: [after Patches hits Justin in the face with a wrench] Yeah, uh, Patches... are you sure that this is completely necessary?
Patches O'Houlihan: Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine?
Peter La Fleur: Probably not.
Patches O'Houlihan: No, but I do it anyway because it's sterile and I like the taste.
Peter La Fleur: ...Okay.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:51 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 20, 2010

If you like the 9:30 Club, you'll love this

seth hurwitz, co-owner of the 9:30 ClubAs someone who has seen hundreds of live shows, I can tell you that the 9:30 Club is one of my all-time favorite places to see live music.

Most bands who've played the Washington club will say the same thing. It has an outstanding sound system, great sight lines and one of the widest-ranging concert lineups of any club you'll find.

Check it out here.

This year, the 9:30 Club turned 30, and to commemorate the occasion, Washington Post writer (and former music critic) J. Freedom du Lac put together a fascinating multimedia package chronicling the club's 30-year history, from its inception to the move to its current digs ...

They spoke with club founder Dody DiSanto, current co-owner Seth Hurwitz (pictured), as well as a ton of local and national bands, from Fugazi front man Ian MacKaye to Dave Grohl.

Du Lac has all the dirty little details, including the rat infestation and general stank of the early club to the hot tub parlor around the corner where concertgoers would make waves with their hook ups. Instead of a traditional story, it's a collection of quotes and video clips, and is definitely worth a look.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:08 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Local music

When chic trumps comfort

the bar chairs at meliCheck out these cute orange chair/stool thingys!

That was my first thought when I saw the bar stools at Meli. They are undeniably chic, and fit the feel of the stylish Fells Point restaurant/bar precisely.

Then I sat in one. It was kind of the worst of both worlds -- not quite a chair, not quite a stool. And the little six- or seven-inch backs cut into my back when I tried to lean back on them.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a minor inconvenience -- wait until I tell you about the martini I had there -- but it got me thinking about the times when chic trumps comfort at bars and restaurants ...

Think about all the times you've walked into a bar or restaurant and noticed the cute little tables, only to have to sit at them while the server tried in vain to find room for all your food and drinks. Two plates won't even fit!

Thankfully, Baltimore doesn't have many bars and clubs that favor looking trendy over serving food and drinks.

Can you think of any other places around town where chic furniture and decor trumps comfort?

(Photo by me)

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

What are your favorite awful band names?

bad band names are funny and also sad.Walking past Frazier's on The Avenue last week, I was struck by a couple flyers on the front door.

The flyers were advertising a future show, featuring bands named, and I quote: Puddle, Gag School, 4-Footer and World Badness.

That might just be the best lineup of the worst-named bands in town.

Gag School? What is one smoking/drinking/thinking when one decides to name one's band Gag School? It's probably the same guy I saw a couple years ago at Seacrets in Ocean City wearing a T-shirt with the words "Suck it" and an arrow pointing down to his crotch. Stay classy, Seacrets.

The headliner is Puddle. Could it be one half of the original Puddle of Mudd? Could it be? And 4-Footer? Do I even want to know what that stands for? Hee hee.

Do you have a favorite awful band name? ...

I get plenty of emails from obscenely named bands, looking for coverage. Some examples: Nashville P****, Starf*****r, Holy F***, and the like. Obviously, I'm never going to write about them, The Sun being a family newspaper and all. That doesn't stop them from asking, though.

All the crappily named bands out there could be because all the good band names are taken, a phenomenon the Wall Street Journal wrote about a couple months ago.

What gives me license to skewer Puddle, Gag School, 4-Footer and the rest of the awfully named band gang? Back in high school, I was in a cover band called No Outlet. How lame is that? We wanted to take some press shots of us all holding electrical plugs while standing on top of a cop car, if I remember correctly, but we obviously never made that happen.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:01 AM | | Comments (45)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Barguments

satan created dinosaurs, you know. it's true!Years ago, we fooled around with various barguments, and even gave away a couple free copies of the book "Barguments." In this week's column, Owl Meat resurrects the tasty topic. Take it away, Owly:

Satan created dinosaurs. I heard that in a bar, so it's a fact. I learned it from our designated driver. Welcome to my world.

Today's topic: barguments. Arguments in a bar can be elucidating, maddening, and hilarious. I did an informal survey of the imbibulous and selected my favorite topics.

So, the dinosaur thing. I was working in the U.S. Virgin Islands setting up a multi-island network and doing a little BPR, you know, business process re-engineering. I had a small contingent of stateside people, useless islanders, and revolving consultants ...

My core crew was a good ole Texas Oracle boy and a born-again cultish Unix systems guy.

We shared a car to commute to work. After work we often stopped for cocktails and dinner and cocktails and cocktails. Our non-drinking driver explained dinosaurs to us. You see, everything God makes is perfect and therefore, because dinosaurs became extinct, God didn't create them.

Satan created a race of humanoids called the Antediluvians who then created the dinosaurs. When a sober person proposes such an idea, there really is no point is arguing with him.

And now for the rest:

The cursed – Phil Collins is Australian.

The classic – Who would win in a fight? Jesus vs. Moses, Superman vs. Batman, Sarcasm vs. Irony, etc.

The seasonal – St. Patrick was Italian.

The obscure – Gilligan's Island characters represent the Seven Deadly Sins. This is a good one.

The Jersey – Where to bury the body.

The awkward to refute – "Schindler's List" is anti-Semitic. This generally blows people's minds.

The geek taunter –" Lord of the Rings" is the film equivalent of an Enya song, i.e., a huge, cluttered waste of time. Plus, it's anti-Semitic.

The ridiculous – Madonna is a musician. No, she is a singer. But her instrument is her voice. Then everyone but mutes are musicians. Yadda yadda.

The awesome – Imagine you are standing in the middle of a gym with a door in each of four corners. Four homicidal three year olds enter every five minutes bent on your destruction. Nobody is armed. How long can you endure? What is your strategy?

So Midnight Sunners, what are your favorite or most annoying barguments? I won't give away my strategy for toddler apocalypse; I'll let you weigh in first. Let the games begin!

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:41 AM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

April 19, 2010

The Hill has one of Baltimore's best martini deals

the hill

The Hill has more than 15 specialty martinis. And every day the Federal Hill restaurant/bar is open, they're all $5.

Let me type that again, in case you missed it the first time: Martinis are $5 all the time at The Hill.

Do any other Baltimore bars have a deal like that? I can't think of any off hand. Their martini list is fairly long, too -- more than 15 martinis in all.

I have only tried one: The Afternoon Delight, which, presumably, is named after the song, which is named after the ... well, you know. My wife Amie introduced me to the Afternoon Delight. It's delightful in the evening, too ...

Made with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, raspberry and lemonade, the Afternoon Delight tastes just like raspberry iced tea. To borrow a phrase from a local pie maker, it's dangerously delicious.

I called The Hill and asked chef/owner Antoine Petteway how he makes any money from charging folks only $5 for a martini. He laughed for a few seconds before answering.

"It's just our marketing to get people in the door," he said.

(Photo courtesy of The Hill's website)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:35 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

In search of bars with herb-infused cocktails

Ever since Green Cilantro closed, I've been pining for places with herb-infused cocktails. Mojitos made with mint don't count, but other drinks made with mint do.

What else counts? Well, McCormick & Schmick's on Pier Five has a Basil and White Grape Refresher that's cool and crisp. Amicci's has a Lil' It'ly Lemonade, which is made with muddled strawberries and basil, and I know Bad Decisions makes a thyme martini.

But there's got to be more than just these three. Help, gang! Help!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:41 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

City council president tours Federal Hill bars, gets mooned

jack youngCity Council President Bernard C. "Jack"  YoungAround midnight Friday night, I was walking home from the bars in Federal Hill when two of my colleagues, Julie Scharper and Justin Fenton, popped out of a car next to me.

Fenton and Scharper were on a tour of the South Baltimore bar scene with City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young (pictured), who I also got to meet and shake hands with. That was a little awkward, but I made the best of it.

Young is proposing a bill which would jack up the fines for public urination, defecation, open containers and other drunken behaviors. Young, I'm sure, hoped the scene would give his measure some ammunition. It did ...

Fenton shot this awesome video of Federal Hill debauchery, in which one passerby (who was right by Young's car) dropped his pants and mooned the camera. Another grabbed his crouch and air humped. And there was the inevitable shot of someone slumped next to a building, snoozing. 

The police officers are out en masse, arresting folks for this and that.

The outtakes from the night's adventures are just as wild, Fenton said. He taped an officer who had his knee on a suspect's head, while the suspect hollered "I'm gonna call Fred Bealefeld! I'm gonna call Fred Bealefeld." Bealefeld is, of course, the city's police commissioner.

Here are the bullet points of Young's proposal, according to Scharper's article:

  • People drinking or holding open containers of alcohol in public could be fined as much as $500, 10 times as much as the current penalty. Those found guilty of "disorderly drinking" could be forced to pay as much as $1,000 under the proposal.

  • Lighting up indoors, which was outlawed in 2008, could cost the smoker as much as $500 and the bar owner as much as $750.
  • Adults found urinating or defecating in public places could be fined as much as $1,000 — twice as much as the current fine.

That's a whole lotta money for holding an open container. Of course, the city is strapped for cash, and wants to make more money wherever possible. Will the measure pass? I think so. How many people are going to stand up and vocally oppose a higher fine for public defecation?

On the other hand, there are a ton of respectable adults who walk their dogs with beers in hand, causing no harm to anybody. Same goes for the old folks who love to sit out on their steps and drink a cold one after work. It's the drunken 20-somethings like the ones in the video that give it a bad name.

I'd love to take a video camera down to Federal Hill every Friday night for a month and tape the shenanigans for Midnight Sun. Unfortunately, since The Sun is a family newspaper, most of it wouldn't be allowed on the site.

Maybe when it snows next winter, I'll camp out with the camera and get footage of drunk people slipping on the ice. Snicker snicker.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:46 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

British woman banned from every pub in England for two years

A 20-year-old woman named Lauren Hall has been formally banned from every liquor store and pub in Britian, the Daily Mail reports. She also can't carry an unsealed container or consuming alcohol in a public place.

Two things jumped out at me when I read this article ...

1) The British government can do that? I don't know if that would ever fly in America. I mean, it kinda sorta makes sense -- the government tells you when you're old enough to drink. In the U.S., drinking is seen as more as a right than a privilege.

Across the pond, it's becoming increasingly the other way around. Obviously, there's no way for them to keep you from drinking in your own home. But banning someone from every bar in the country? Sounds extreme and hard to enforce.

2) Hill is only 20, which makes her not even old enough to legally drink in America. I look at the drinking age the same way I look at the driving age -- to a certain extent, age does matter. Most people get more mature as they get older. But experience is just as -- if not more -- important. The more experience you have drinking or driving (but never at the same time), the more you're going to get the hang of it, and know your limits.

Anyway, what do you think of the country-wide ban? If she behaves, Hill could have it lifted in a year. To get banned, she comitted "a series of public order offences, and had flouted bans from pubs and clubs through local Pub-Watch schemes in her home town of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire."

Is banning someone from every pub better than sending that person to jail? And should the government have the right to do it?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:11 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

April 17, 2010

Useless beer gadget I'd love to have: the Tap-a-Cap Bottle opener

I didn't know I needed the Tap-a-Cap Bottle Opener until I saw this awesomely bad commercial for it. Now, I've got to have one. Or not. Maybe I'll just watch the video again and snicker.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:12 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Drink-ology

April 16, 2010

True Vine ranks on Spin's 15 Best Indie Record Stores ... again

For the second year in a row, Baltimore vinyl hub The True Vine has ranked No. 14 on Spin magazine's list of America's 15 Best Indie Record Stores.

No offense to True Vine, but ranking No. 14 two years running seems a little odd, doesn't it? Well, that's because it's the same list as last year, pretty much word for word.

One minor detail is different -- the sentence: "In honor of the second annual Record Store Day on April 18" was changed to "In honor of the third annual Record Store Day on April 17."

Looks like Spin is aching for something -- anything -- they can write about Record Store Day. But to copy and paste something from last year and pass it off as new material? That's low, man ...

I put a call out for comment, but haven't heard anything yet. True Vine's owner, Jason Willet, was happy with the publicity, though.

"Maybe they've run out of ideas," he said. "That's funny."

UPDATE: This just in from the Spin camp:

"We updated last year’s list to reflect any changes that might have happened in the intervening 12 months. These are SPIN’s 15 favorite indie record stores. We’ve loved them in the past and we love them right now."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:01 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Renovations could be in the works for the 13th Floor

the 13th floor looks cool in this picture, but in reality, it could really use an updateThe 13th Floor, the worn out lounge space at the tippy top of the Belvedere Hotel, could be getting a much-needed facelift later this year.

The Belvedere has new owners -- Mount Vernon Properties -- who bought the place last August, according to spokeswoman Averil Christens-Barry.

In the coming months, the new owners will be renovating the 12th floor ball rooms. The 13th Floor could be next, she said.

"We're working with some people, getting some ideas for what we can do up there," Christens-Barry said.

I have a few suggestions ...

As you may recall, I've spent some time complaining about how under-utilized the space is. It needs a new carpet, and those rope lights have got to go. New tables and chairs aren't a must, but would also be nice. And let's have a real stage there in place of the rickety old wood one.

Given the right attention, the 13th Floor could be -- should be -- Baltimore's go-to spot for upscale cocktails with a great view.

The 13th Floor needs a better drink list, top notch bartenders and managers and a new look. I hope the new owners are up to it.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:49 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Pub Dog owner responds to free XLerator offer

pub dog xlerator mock-up 1At long last, after countless voice messages left on his cellular apparatus, Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond came out of hiding and called my phone yesterday. 

As expected, Osmond heaped praise at my feet for procuring him one free XLerator hand dryer -- with custom cover.

"Oh gracious blogmaster, oh Wizard of the Interwebs, I cannot begin express my gratitude," he said.

Or something like that. Hee hee. Actually, Osmond almost kept mum about the matter.

"I'm having so much fun reading the updates, I almost didn't want to call," he said. "It's great. You're doing an awesome job."

Will Osmond accept Excel Dryer's offer of a free XLerator to replace his current wimpy batch of dryers? Probably ...

A couple days ago, Osmond brought in an electrician to make sure the bathrooms had enough juice to power an XLerator. They do.

The final hurdle will be the noise level. Osmond is worried the XLerator might shake the very foundation of his Federal Hill pub.

To test his theory, he's bringing an XLerator from the Columbia Pub Dog to the downtown branch, setting it up in the bathroom and giving it a go.

"I want to make sure it's not too loud for the space," he said.

We should know for sure by next week. If it works, Osmond said he'll accept the free one and buy three more, and print, frame and hang up this whole blog series for all to see.

"I really appreciate your blogging about it," Osmond said.

It's nothing, Steve. Let's not forget to thank the folks at Excel Dryer, too. If you haven't already, make sure to vote for your favorite custom dryer cover here.

(Photo illustration courtesy of Excel Dryer)

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

April 15, 2010

Today is National High Five Day. Celebrate with me!

gimme some skinHappy National High Five Day, brosephs!

Gimme some skin!

Just slap your computer screen. Hard.

Then, go read Owl Meat's column about the history of the high five, in case you missed it.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:39 PM | | Comments (3)

$.99 Natty Bohs at Singer's

natty boh!Midnight Sunner Tif e-mailed me an un-Boh-lievable tip:

Singer's (the bar that used to be Nadd's) has $.99 cent Natty Bohs.

I called the place to confirm. Sure enough, Bohs are 99 cents all day every day. That just might make Singer's the spot with the cheapest Bohs in Baltimore.

"If anybody sells them cheaper, they're way dumb," a bartender told me.

The glove has been thrown. Now I'm just waiting for another bar to offer 98 cent Nattys. Let the games begin.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:58 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

An ode to the early morning drinker

Zissimos in the morningAt 7 a.m. today, there wasn't much action on The Avenue.

A few cars whizzed by empty Hampden sidewalks as the morning sun began to burn off last night's dew. The shops were shuttered, and most of the restaurants deserted -- except for one.

The door to Zissimos hung wide open, an invitation for folks to skip the coffee and go for a stronger morning brew. But no one had taken the dive bar up on its early morning offer.

Zissimos sat empty, its bar stools begging for company. I wasn't about to oblige them. But it was nice to know that if I wanted to, I could trash today's plans and spend the morning with a few Buds.

Have you ever done a dawn bar crawl? Its been more than a year since my last one. Jmgiordano and I hit up Hogan's and the Locust Point Tavern at 6 am one weekday. It was an eye-opener ...

Yes, there are people who start drinking before the sun comes up. Old folks, mostly. They'll nurse a few cold ones until mid afternoon, go home, take a nap, get up and go right back to the bar. They're devoted. Some might think that's sad, but I have another idea.

In my mind, these are guys who worked hard labor their whole lives, dreaming of the day they'd be able to sit on their butts and drink beer from sunup to sundown. So there they are, perched on bar stools, tossing back cold bottles of Bud Light while most people haven't gotten out of bed yet.

Do you get a hangover if you drink all day, every day? Or does your body accept a certain level of drunkenness -- that is, of course, before your liver gives out?

It doesn't take much to get a good buzz going if you start extra early. After only two Buds at 6:30 a.m., I was feeling just fine. Unlike the other early morning drinkers, I was back in bed by 8 a.m. My body wasn't set for swilling so early, it seems.

When I walked past Zissimos at 7:45 a.m., it wasn't empty any longer. A couple patrons leaned over the bar, relaxed and ready to greet the day.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:06 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Pick your favorite custom XLerator for Pub Dog

pub dog xlerator mock-up 1Witness the power of Midnight Sun.

A few days ago, I wrote about Pub Dog's crappy hand dryer. Then, the kindly folks at Excel Dryer saw my first post and offered to donate a free custom XLerator to the Federal Hill bar. 

They Excel Dryer crew made four different mock ups of custom XLerators with Pub Dog's logo, and sent them to me. I narrowed it down to three (the fourth one looks just like the black one, only it's white).

My favorite is the half-beer, half-bubbly head one with the Pub Dog logo up top. I'm calling it XLerator No. 1.

I have also uploaded potential XLerator Nos. 2 and 3 for your enjoyment. Let's have a vote: Which one do you like the best? ...

Obviously, the bar gets the final say, but maybe (just maybe) they'll be swayed by Midnight Sunners.

Pub Dog XLerator #2Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond has still not returned my multiple phone messages. Steve! Where are you, Steve? Call me!

In the meantime, tell me which one you like best.

The black one, XLerator No. 2, is sleek and mysterious, but I don't know if it fits Pub Dog's decor.

And, at the very bottom, we have XLerator No. 3, which is filled to the brim with beautiful, delicious beer. I don't like it as much as XLerator No. 1. But that's just me.

As previously noted, the fourth one is the white version of XLerator No. 2. So if you like the idea of an all-white XLerator, just cast your vote for No. 4.

Oh, and I'm also taking write-in suggestions. The more random, the better.

Chrome would be cool. You could just replace the mirror with the XLerator, and admire your handsome (or gorgeous) reflection in the hand dryer. The only downside? The staff would have to take shifts polishing the chrome four or five times a day, and they might not be up to the task.

Just a thought.Pub Dog XLerator No. 3

(Photos courtesy of Excel Dryer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:31 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 14, 2010

They're gutting the old Friends space

this is the sink from the men's room of friendsLooks like some renovations are taking place over at the old Friends building.

The sink from the old men's room is in a dumpster outside.

I used that sink a few times myself. No, not "use the sink" like this, but in the traditional fashion.

I'll never forget how cold that bathroom could be.

Friends, which closed last month, is reportedly being replaced by an Asian restaurant in the near future, if all goes as planned.

(Photo by Don)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:06 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

My new project: "Sheilly Dan," a reality TV show

get  ready, world. "sheilly dan" is coming!Attention world: There is a new reality TV show in the works, and it's going to blow your mind.

We're going to get former mayor Sheila Dixon and experimental music genius Dan Deacon to live together for a month -- inside the Bromo Seltzer Tower -- and film the whole thing.

We're going to call it "Sheilly Dan."

Lookout, Baltimore -- this show is going to drop the awesome bomb. You can't see it, but right now, I'm rubbing my hands together in a decidedly devious way.

Don't hate. Don't doubt. I already spoke with Deacon, who was reluctant at first, but quickly warmed to the idea.

"I don't know, man," he said. "Maybe. Sure." ...

I admire Deacon's commitment to the cause. He even had his own suggestion.

"You gotta get (Michael) Phelps involved," he said.

Yes we do, Dan. And we will. We will.

I haven't approached Dixon's camp with the idea yet, but I'm sure she'll be game.

"Sheilly Dan" is gonna be big. Huge, even. It might even change the world. 

Now all I've got to do is get corporate to green light the $1 million needed for production and salaries. That's the least of my worries.

Brace yourselves, Baltimore. "Sheilly Dan" lives.

(Photo illustration by J.M. Giordano. Dan Deacon photo by Josh Sisk; Sheila Dixon photo by Kim Hairston)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:02 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Local music, Random stuff

A local DJ's guide to buying vinyl records

this person is playing a record on what is commonly known as a  turn table. it's called that because it sits on a table and spins the  records. music ensues.

After last week's column about DJs spinning vinyl, I thought it would be appropriate to get some advice on looking for and buying vinyl records.

Patrick "DJ Action Pat" Griffin, who regularly plays Save Your Soul at Lithuanian Hall, has been collecting vinyl for the past 10 years.

His collection, which numbers about 4,000, is heavy on soul, R&B and rock 'n' roll from the '50s.

Over time, Griffin has developed strategies for where to find the most obscure records, and how much to pay. Here are his tips for aspiring vinyl collectors ...

Where to buy: Go to everything from thrift stores to flea markets to record stores. I go to the Arbutus Record & CD Show every month, and record fairs in Allentown and Austin if I’m on that side of the country. Go to different dealers and collectors’ houses and dig through what they have, and trade with people online. Those are the main places to look ...

What to search for: Look for labels that put out early soul, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘50s and ‘60s, especially labels like King or Federal. Those are some of the big ones. Also look for subsidiaries of those labels. Carry a portable record player with you and quickly listen to a snippet of each of the songs. You can tell what you like and don’t like from that.

How much to pay: If you’re buying from an online dealer or eBay, you’re going to pay top dollar, because you’re dealing with people from all over the world who are looking for that same record. If a record is worth $300, you’re probably going to end up paying $300. If you’re digging through antique stores and flea markets, you’re going to find a lot less of what you’re looking for, but when you find it, it’s going to be at dirt cheap prices. Last year when I was in Texas, I found a $1,200 garage record for $20. That doesn’t happen very often though.

(Photo by Josh Sisk)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:37 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

Is a 10-ounce martini too big?

martiniWhen I was young(er), I used to think that bigger was better.

A 10-ounce martini? Bring it on! A giant, bulbous glass of wine? Gulp, gulp, gone. A trash can full of jungle juice? Sluuuuuurp.

As I've grown, and ever so slightly matured, I've started to frown on such humongous drink portions. Is an eight-ounce pour of red wine really necessary? Or a 10-ounce martini?

Glasses have grown in size, gang. So has the amount of alcohol needed to fill them. The 10-ounce martini, which I've seen (and occaisionally drank) is popping up more and more around town.

The average shot glass holds about an ounce and a half. That's about six shots of vodka in one martini. Whoa ...

In and of itself, gluttony isn't all that dangerous. But it can get deadly if you hop in your car after having two of those suckers. I can see someone justifying it in their mind -- "I only had two martinis in two hours." But if those two martinis were 10-ouncers, you've got a problem.

Let's get back to less serious affairs. Should martinis really be that big? Whatever happened to the six-ounce martini?

Maybe the answer is giving customers an option. Sam's Kid in Fells Point serves six- and 10-ounce martinis, though, annoyingly, neither their drink or food menus are online. Still, choices are good.

What do you think?

(LA Times photo by Con Keyes)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:57 AM | | Comments (41)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 13, 2010

Brian Morrison's new music video: "Choptank River Boys"

brian morrisonBaltimore-based director Brian Morrison (pictured) is back with a new music video, ladies and gents.

You may remember Morrison from wild and crazy music videos like the one for Lazerbitch's "Coquette" or The Cheaters' "Blow My Mind."

With this new video, for singer/songwriter Michael Butler's "Choptank River Boys," Morrison moved away from the wacky antics of his past couple videos, in favor of a more straightforward approach.

It looks like he spent some time down on the river, getting shots of folks fishing and geese flying, interwoven with shots of Butler strumming his 12-string out on a pier and inside a bar.

Morrison said he shot the video on a Canon 7D camera, which weighs less than five pounds. Here's the video ...

What do you think?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:53 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

Excel Dryer to donate free custom XLerator to Pub Dog

XLerators don't dry your hands so much as they blow the water off  your hands onto the floor. i love them.Victory!

The battle of the wimpy hand dryer has come to a close, ladies and gentleman. 

Yesterday, a rep from Excel Dryer, the company that makes the all-powerful XLerator hand dryers, read my blog post about Pub Dog's hand dryer.

They've offered to send Pub Dog a free XLerator with a custom cover -- much like the one pictured, except without all the weapons.

How awesome is that? 

The folks at Excel Dryer are going to get in touch with Pub Dog's owner, Steve Osmond, today ...

I left a couple messages on Osmond's phone, and haven't heard back from him yet.

Over the years, I've made no secret about my love for XLerator hand dryers. If my wife, Amie, would let me, I'd hang one in our bathroom. But that ain't gonna fly.

Still, this is an exciting development for bathroom users at Pub Dog. Call me, Steve! We need to chat!

(Photo courtesy of Excel Dryers)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:06 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: High Five Day

kitty high five style. me-ow owwwww!

What does high-fiving have to do with nightlife or local entertainment? Nothing. And everything. Read on, as Owl Meat takes us on a cultural adventure:

Rejoice, bro-hams! Thursday is National High Five Day. Up high! For real. Come on, brosephs! Drats, the interweb has left me hangin'.

The 1980s were the Golden Age of the high five, the celebration of awesome low-brow moments via ritual male bonding. High fives now are half-hearted and perfunctory.

Back then there were rules. A slow response to an "up high" could yield the "too slow" fake out that turns into a hair smoother. The low five or down low was an optional sequel. I've been told there is a pivoting high/low combo move.

The high five, like the "whoop" or "woo" yelp, was a dude activity. Gender equality has diluted their macho value ...

A traditional meat-head/frat boy high five was like swatting a bat out of the air. Ow, that hurts. It was fast and furious, and if you missed, there was bro-shame.

A lame innovation is the lady five. The lady five, in contrast, is a gentle upward pushing, like you're petting a stuffed giraffe or doing water ballet. I've seen Barbara Walters do it and it does not get lamer than that. Okay, parents high-fiving babies is lamer.

Then there's the high ten. No. Just no. I envision girls' soccer players high-tenning. Or octogenarians after a Yahtzee tournament.

Now for a little history. The high five is a recent invention. It has only been part of the Oxford English Dictionary since 1980.

The high five's ancestors included, "gimme some skin" and "slap me five." I associate these with old jazz cats and 1970s TV pimps. "Gimme some skin" was done at waist level with the palms grazing each other in a sly manner and attitude. "Slap me five" was a waist-high thwack.

Like most cool things from black culture, these were modified, popularized, and ruined by white dorks. (See The Todd from Scrubs.)

High-fiving was ably lampooned in the 1980s by the High-Fivin' White Guys.

According to Wikipedia, "the first high five in baseball occurred between Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke of the Los Angeles Dodgers in late 1977." Who really invented the high five? Impossible to say. It's like asking who invented burping the alphabet.

The high five was almost invented by the Nazis in the 1920s, but they only got it half right. The "Heil Five" is a classic example of being "left hanging".

Al Jolson does a celebratory low five in the 1927 film "The Jazz Singer." Take that, Nazis!

There is a mind-blowing version of "slap me five" in the Abbott and Costello movie "In the Navy" (1941), with the Andrews Sisters singing "Gimme Some Skin, My Friend." Warning: Watching this might cause all your awesomeness to flee your body. It is the whitest thing I've ever seen.

Here is a cool video of a cyclist in New York City, high-fiving unwitting people hailing taxis.

From now on, I think I will go mega-old school and simply proclaim a hearty "Huzzah! Huzzah!"

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:15 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

April 12, 2010

Wild & crazy cocktail recipes from The Art of Ixia

the x-tasy is garnished with a sliced kumquat. who has a kumquat  lying around? where does one even get a kumquat?Got a copy of the new book The Art of Ixia in the mail the other day. Skimming through the glossy pages, I had to wipe the drool from the corner of my mouth.

The book is brimming with sharp, seductive photos of cocktails and food. There are even recipes. 

This is one of those books I'd put on my coffee table and crack open every once in a while when I wanted to feel inspired. I don't think I'd ever make anything out of it, though. Too much work.

It was much more enjoyable when the folks at Ixia made the cocktails for me, before Ixia closed last year.

Sorry, but I don't have a spare kumquat lying around for the X-Tasy (pictured, top) -- or the time or urge to make honeydew melon ball lollipops for the Honeydew Me. Where do you even get a kumquat? ...

The only drink I'd actively pursue is the Cilantro-Lime Mojito, because it doesn't look too tough or expensive to make.

The problem with books like this is, inevitably, I want to try and make one of the wild & crazy drinks. By the time I've rounded up all the ingredients, I've spent $100 on weird liqueurs and garnishes which I never use again. They just sit in my liquor cabinet collecting dust.

Enough of my prattling. If you want to try your hand at some of Ixia's signature drinks, here are a couple recipes:

cilantro-lime mojitoX-Tasy

1 1/2 ounces vodka
2 1/2 ounces X-Rated Liqueur
1 ounce Calpico
1 kumquat

Place the three ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake until properly chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish by slightly slicing into the kumquat and decorate by placing on the rim of the glass. Sante!

Cilantro-Lime Mojito (pictured, middle)

2 1/2 ounces 10 Cane Rum
1 ounce simple syrup
12 fresh cilantro leaves
juice of 1 lime
soda water
lime wedge

Place the cilantro leaves, simple syrup and lime juice into a mixing glass and gently muddle the ingredients. Fill the glass with rocks and pour in the 10 Cane Rum. Shake the contents gently three times to mix. Pour the cocktail into a pilsner glass or a glass of your choice while adding in a few splashes of soda water. Garnish with a lime wedge and a few sprigs of cilantro. Salud!

Honeydew Me (pictured, bottom)

2 ounces Bacardi Limon Rum
1/2 ounce Midori
2 1/2 ounces honeydew juice*
this is a drink called the honeydew me. there's a pun in there  somewhere. i'm just not sure where.1 honeydew melon ball lollypop**

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake intensely and strain into a cocktail glass. Now garnish with the honeydew melon ball lollypop. Enjoy!

*honeydew juice -- Take one honeydew and cut away the rind from the core and remove the seeds. Thoroughly chop all the melon fruit and place in a blender. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the blender with the honeydew and puree thoroughly. Pour liquefied honeydew through a chinois into a container to extract some of the pulp. Now you are ready to make the Honeydew Me!

**honeydew melon ball lollypop -- Before chopping up all the honeydew for the juice make a few melon balls using a melon baller utensil. Individually skewer each melon ball (bamboo skewers are used at Ixia), place on a plate and place them in the freezer. Allow one hour to freeze, then they will be ready to use for garnishing.

(Photos from The Art of Ixia)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:30 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Just say no to wimpy hand dryers

pub dog has a wheezy hand dryerIn a neighborhood where nearly every other bar has a super heavy duty XLerator hand dryer, Pub Dog is woefully behind the times.

Have you been in Pub Dog's bathroom lately?

Everything is fine (cramped, but fine) except for the tiny white box-shaped hand dryer. It's pathetic. You put your hands under it and you can barely feel a wisp of warm air.

I could dry my hands faster with a wet nap. Zink!

(I've only been in the men's room, but I assume the women's room looks relatively the same.)

This has got to go. Pronto ...

I called owner Steve Osmond and left him a message this morning. With a little luck, he'll get back to me soon, and say something like this:

"Sam, I'm so sorry to have disappointed wet-handed Federal Hillians for so long with my skimpy wimpy blow dryer. I'm going to rip that bugger off the wall today with a sledgehammer and replace it with a gas-powered leaf blower."

Then I say:

"Whoa, Steve, that would be wicked awesome, but you don't need to go that far. An XLerator would do just fine."

Then Steve says:

"You got it, broseph."

Just a thought.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:02 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The three-sink glass cleaning system

scrub a dub dubEver wonder how bars clean their glasses?

It's as easy -- and as gross -- as one, two, three.

This is how it works -- or, how I understand it works: Bartenders or bar backs take a dirty beer mug, and dip it in a sink filled with a warm soapy mixture of water and cleaning solution. Occasionally, the glass is scrubbed a bit. The glass is then dunked in a second, neighboring sink of lukewarm half-soapy water.

Finally, the glass is submerged in a third sink of cold water, wiped with a towel, filled with beer and served to someone.

Raise your glass if this grosses you out.

Let's be honest here. Since the sinks are close together, there is some overflow between them. The "clean" water inevitably gets soapy and so forth.

It's debatable how clean the glasses actually get ...

Probably depends on how often the first sink is washed out and refilled, which, during peak hours, is probably not often. Same goes for the towel.

Maybe it's not so bad. There might be a positive here -- what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Look at it this way: The lingering bacteria and soap bubbles helps strengthen your immune system against more dangerous infections.

Not all bars clean their glassware this way. Restaurant/bars tend to have a dishwashing machine in the back. And a few places, like Pub Dog in Federal Hill, have dishwashers behind the bar.

This whole discussion raises the debate: At what point does this really matter? Alcohol is a poison, after all. What's a little more bacteria tossed into the mix?

Over the years, I've seen my share of three-sink glass cleaning systems. When I do, I try not to think about what's really in my glass.


(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:10 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 10, 2010

Three of Baltimore's best dance parties

a woman grooves at always dope at red mapleIn yesterday's Live! weekend section, I wrote a nightlife column about three of the best dance parties around town.

What were they?

Reaction! at the Sidebar Tavern, Save Your Soul at Lithuanian Hall and Always Dope at Red Maple.

Check out the whole column here.

I also talked to DJ Action Pat, and got tips from him about the best places to find old vinyl records. For some reason, I can't seem to find that piece online. I'll dig it up and post it later.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Colby Ware)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

April 9, 2010

Introducing Bawlmer Craft Beers, Baltimore's newest brewery

this is the label for Amer's Ale, by Bawlmer Craft Beers

Since Baltimore can never have too many local breweries (and for the past few years hasn't had nearly enough), it is with great pleasure that I share this news:

There's a new brewery in town. It's called Bawlmer Craft Beers, and it's based in the old Crown Cork & Seal building in Highlandtown.

At the moment, Bawlmer has two bottled beers ready to hit bars and liquor stores: Amber's Ale and Formstone Ale.

Bawlmer Craft Beers is the brainchild of John O'Melia, a 46-year-old who lives in Towson. Before getting into the beer business, he worked as a consultant for water treatment engineering.

Sounds like a radical career swap, doesn't it? ...

Actually, making beer and engineering clean water aren't all that different, O'Melia said.

"I decided my skill set was exactly right," he said. "Brewers are glorified janitors. The key is, everything has to be clean, all the time. It's very much like making water."

O'Melia quit consulting three years ago to work on Bawlmer full time. He was a home brewer for years, and got his wholesaler's license last week. He has about 1,000 cases of beer ready to go, which he plans to distribute independently.

The recipes for Formstone and Amber's Ale are O'Melias; he also has a strong dark ale in the works, called Crabby Abbey. All three are high-gravity brews -- Amber's Ale is a little more than six percent alcohol, and Formstone Ale is a little more than seven percent.

"We've got a taste I'm really proud of," he said. "These are beers that have a significant amount of body."

O'Melia is a fan of Belgian ales, and particularly loves American micro brews. He praised Hugh Sisson's Heavy Seas and the Brewer's Art's Resurrection Ale.

"That's a great example of an American micro brewery making some of the best beers in the world," he said of Brewer's Art. "There's no beer in the world where you can say, 'That's a better beer than Resurrection.'"

Currently, Bawlmer has the capacity to make 160 barrels of beer every two weeks (one barrel holds about 31 gallons). I'll keep you posted on where you'll be able to buy the first two brews.

For more on the story, check out Scott Dance's piece in the Baltimore Business Journal and Alexander D. Mitchell IV's piece on Beer in Baltimore.

(Photo courtesy of

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:57 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Fred Schneider at American Visionary Art Museum tonight

fred schneiderHave you heard the one about the woman with the ham in the grocery store?

It goes like this: A portly woman wearing an overcoat is walking down a supermarket aisle when a full-size ham falls out of her coat and lands on the floor. Fearing she'd be caught shoplifting, the woman looks around and yells, "Who threw that ham at me?"

The story, which has gone around for years, was the basis for the new single by B-52s frontman Fred Schneider. Schneider filmed the music video for the song "Who Threw That Ham At Me?" in Baltimore in November.

Tonight, Schneider and his band, the Mastergators, will present the video's debut and perform at the American Visionary Art Museum. Proceeds from the night will benefit the museum.

"It's going to be a dance party," Schneider said. "It's not going to be 'Love Shack.' It's going to be wilder."

Is that even possible? ...

To properly judge, you've got to see the video. In it, which Scheider and his Baltimore-based friend Allen Shepherd co-produced, a skinny fellow in a long coat re-enacts the infamous shoplifting scene at the Eddie's market in Mount Vernon. It cuts away to a mini- disco party at the museum, where a couple of dozen folks are dancing to the song.

Schneider even invented a new dance for the song, called the Disco Garbage Can.

Every once in a while in the song, Schneider says, "OK, Disco Garbage Can. Yeah, lift your lid." To do the dance, people kick their feet out diagonally from their bodies while raising an imaginary lid off the tops of their heads.

Where did Schneider get the idea for the dance?

"A couple glasses of wine," he said. "When they asked me to put lyrics to [the song], I came up with it off the top of my head. Because it was disco music, it was the first thing that came to my head. It's very free-form."

Here's the video:

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:08 AM | | Comments (0)

And the winner is ...

A lot of people guessed yesterday's Mystery Bar, but only one person guessed it first. It's Alonso's in Roland Park.

And our winner is ... David Miller.

Congrats, David! Email me your contact into at and we'll coordinate your prize pickup. Thanks, everybody, for playing.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Name That Bar

April 8, 2010

Orioles home opener bar specials

luke scott sticks his tongue out, probably making some kind of farting noise that you can't hear on tv. pbbt.Tomorrow, when the Orioles open their 2010 season, bars within walking distance of Camden Yards are going nuts.

How nuts?

Mixed nuts.

Where's the best place to pre-game? Who has the best specials?

I called a few spots and got the run down of food and drink specials, as well as live bands and outdoor grills.

Here's my little roundup of home opener specials ...

The Nest

"I think we're going to have the best party in Baltimore," boasted bartender Danielle Lechert. She might not be far off.

The Nest opens at 9 a.m. and the live music starts at 10 a.m. The bands are the John Maurer Trio, 1154, Dirt and Vs. the Earth. They'll also have a monster bomb bar, orange crush bar, margarita bar and beer tubs galore -- as well as a grill outside.

Folks from 106.5 FM will be broadcasting live from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and Scores girls and body painted ladies will also be on hand. All three floors of the Nest will be open, including the upper roof deck, where DJs will be spinning. Bud Lights and Bud Limes are $3 all day.

Pickles Pub

One of the closest bars to the stadium, Pickles Pub opens at 6 a.m. with DJs from 98ROCK. For the first few hours, there will be a breakfast buffet and $1 beers. After 10 a.m., the prices go up to $4 for beers, $6 for mixed drinks and $9 for bombs. They're setting up five bars outside, and a station where you can buy a bottle of Makers Mark and dip the top in commemorative orange wax.

Mother's Grille

The orange patio opens at 5 p.m., and 98ROCK will be there at 7 p.m. They're hosting a Nintendo Wii Home Run Derby tournament -- the winner gets a free trip to Las Vegas.

Happy hour runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., with $3 Coors Lights and $4 fruit-infused vodkas. Who infused them? Midnight Sunner Queen Colleen, of course.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:30 PM | | Comments (11)

Concert review: Arctic Monkeys at Rams Head Live

arctic monkeysThe Arctic Monkeys made a name for themselves with music that pairs a punk attitude and indie rock sensibilities.

During a sold-out show at Rams Head Live last night, the British five-piece took their studio work and cranked up the dial. The hooks were bigger, the drums beefier and the vocals more careless.

Many of the Arctic Monkeys songs take unexpected twists, veering from thrashing percussion to slower passages with sickly guitar riffs.

Last night, the band took the turns with laser sharp precision ...

The crunchy guitars and choppy beats of "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" got the crowd jumping, and later gave way to the ephemeral keyboards and pulsing beats of "505," the closer from their sophomore release, "Favourite Worst Nightmare."

The band didn't play their early hit "Fake Tales of San Francisco" -- odd, considering they only have three albums. But they did offer a gritty cover of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand."

After a couple songs, lead singer Alex Turner, long-haired and lanky, mumbled a few obligatory words about how great it was to be in Baltimore. Turner and crew didn't waste much breath talking before getting right back to the rock.

The Arctic Monkeys' songs have a habit of pausing halfway through. Live, this lets the crowd cheer, and then the band picks back up where they left off. Last night, it was fun the first couple times, but grew gratuitous -- as though they were holding up the song like a trophy for the crowd to applaud.

The staging was simple: A large silver screen hung behind the band, and lights flashed from behind and in front of them. At times, the band's figures cast big shadows on the backdrop. A few hapless fans even tried crowd surfing (it generally didn't go so well).

The boys in Arctic Monkeys have a sound and attitude that belies their age. Turner is only 23(!). He was in his teens when the band hit the mainstream overseas. They're not quite as big here yet, but if last night's show was any indication, they might be.

(AP photo of Arctic Monkeys performing at last year's All Point West festival)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:40 AM | | Comments (12)

Do you like watching movies?

mike sragow gets reelDo you like watching movies?

I know I do. 

Hi, my name is Sam Sessa, and I'd like to take a moment and show you something special.

An esteemed colleague of mine, a gentleman who goes by the name of Michael Sragow, has started his very own blog about movies, called Get Reel.

It's freaking great.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:49 AM | | Comments (3)

Name That Bar, vol 19


Can you believe we're almost at Name That Bar, vol. 20? I'll have to do something special for that one.

In the meantime, you know the drill: Name This Bar and win a prize.

In line with the new rules, the winner won't be announced until this time tomorrow.



(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:44 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Name That Bar

April 7, 2010

Where to find parking at local music venues

merriweather post pavilion

Most concertgoers -- at least in an around Baltimore -- face one nagging question before every show:

Where is the best place to park?

It can be hassling and expensive to park in nearby garages, and many live music fans are hesitant to look for parking in an unfamiliar area.

Usually, there are options, if you know where to look ...

Merriweather Post Pavilion (pictured)

While Merriweather Post Pavilion doesn't charge for its on-site parking, it can sometimes take as long as 30-45 minutes to get out of the lot after the show. But you don't necessarily have to park in Merriweather's main lot. While the nearby Mall in Columbia frowns on parking in its lots because it wants the spaces for shoppers, there are a few free parking garages just across Little Patuxent Parkway. During the day, they're reserved for office workers, but at night and on the weekends, they're fair game for concertgoers.

1st Mariner Arena

It's not uncommon to find street parking near 1st Mariner Arena, depending on the show. Look for spots along North Liberty Street and Park Avenue, as well as Pratt Street, which is only a few blocks away. If the Hippodrome is dark, spots abound on North Eutaw and Paca streets as well. Street parking is much easier on the wallet than the arena's garage.

Verizon Center

Good luck getting street parking outside the Verizon Center. It's a crapshoot on regular days, let alone during shows. Instead, a good option is to drive to the Greenbelt Metro station, park there (which costs $4.25) and take the Green Line to the Gallery Place/Chinatown stop, which is right below the Verizon Center itself.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:32 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Corkboard: Who has the best Orioles Opening Day specials?

look! orioles fans! inside pickles pub!Ah, April. Flowers and trees are blossoming, birds are tweeting and the weather is warm and sunny. All is forgiven in the springtime.

You can't help but feel optimistic -- even about the Orioles. Who knows? Maybe this will be the year the Birds will break their streak of 75 straight losing seasons.

If you're like me, you're going to want to see some baseball. You're also going to want to have a few cold ones, which will make the wins all the sweeter, and take the sting out of the losses.

Since Opening Day is this Friday, I've got to know: Baltimore bars have the best opening day drink specials? ...

Since this is the Corkboard, any and all Baltimore bar owners/bartenders are welcome to shill their spots. Heck, you can shill someone else's spot if you want.

I just want to make sure Midnight Sunners have all the options going into Friday's game. If your bar has season-long specials, which happen every game, post those too.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:00 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Corkboard

Declaring the west side an arts district is not the solution. Here's why.

creative alliance at the patterson, pictured, in 2003A proposal endorsed by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake would make the city's west side into an arts district, which the administration hopes will help turn around the ailing neighborhood.

This is not the solution. Why? Baltimore already has two arts districts -- Highlandtown/Patterson Park and Station North. It doesn't need a third.

The city declared Highlandtown/Patterson Park an arts district in 2003. That same year, the Creative Alliance at the Patterson (pictured), a mixed use arts/performance space, opened. Offering art exhibits and cutting edge performances, the Creative Alliance was supposed to be the cultural anchor for an arts renaissance in Highlandtown.

Nearly seven years later, Highlandtown/Patterson Park hasn't seen a sliver of the artistic explosion and revitalization that was supposed to happen. Aside from the Creative Alliance and the Southeast Anchor Library, Highlandtown/Patterson Park doesn't have much more in the way of arts than it did in 2003.

Where are all the galleries and performance spaces that were supposed to open? Where are the low budget theaters? ...

Though the city designated Station North an arts district in 2001, it didn't take off until the past few years, when there was a push from the city and neighborhood organizations to cultivate new businesses.

Since then, Station North has come to life. There are new restaurant/clubs such as Joe Squared, the Metro Gallery and the Windup Space, theaters such as the Strand and Single Carrot, as well as the Hexagon, a DIY live music venue. Change came from the ground up, with artists and bartenders taking chances and opening their own businesses.

Meanwhile, the Creative Alliance has kept chugging along out in Highlandtown/Patterson Park. Take one of the Creative Alliance's organizers out for drinks and ask them how they really feel about the city's commitment to cultivating the neighborhood's arts scene and see what they say. You'll probably get an earful.

At this point, Baltimore is one for two in terms of arts districts. Can this city sustain a third? And is the west side the right place for it?

the hippodrome theatre, pictured in 2004The Hippodrome Theater at the France-Merrick Peforming Arts Center (pictured, bottom) was the Creative Alliance of the west side -- an anchor for the rest of the neighborhood. But the city took a different approach with the west side, catering more to developers than artists.

At first, it looked like it would work. New businesses such as Maggie Moore's Irish Pub & Restaurant, World of Wings and Bedrock Billiards sprung up, alongside fancy new apartments. The Bromo Seltzer tower was restored and converted into studio space for local artists.

These days, the west side is a ghost town. Bedrock and Maggie Moore's, which begot Lucy's, are both now closed. So is World of Wings Cafe. Several of the buildings which were supposed to be converted into loft apartments sit vacant. It's proof that the old saying 'If you build it, they will come,' doesn't always ring true.

Now, the administration wants to make the west side an arts district. Even with a significant push from the top down, it's an unlikely solution. Baltimore isn't big enough to sustain three arts districts. The west side could end up siphoning arts and culture from Station North.

If anything, this seems like a stop gap measure -- a way to temporarily get the west side back on its feet while the long-awaited Super Block comes to fruition. If it ever does, the west side will be more of a retail center than an arts district.

Instead of designating the west side an arts district, the city should focus on building up the two arts districts it already has. That's a plan artists and local business owners can get behind.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Jed Kirschbaum and Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:30 AM | | Comments (42)

Charm City Roller Girls see record crowds, contemplate move

the charm city roller girlsThe Charm City Roller Girls need a bigger place to play.

For the past few years, Baltimore's all-female roller derby league has performed at Du Burns Arena in Canton. These days, Du Burns is starting to feel a little snug for the Roller Girls.

Approximately 1,800 people have turned out for the past few bouts this season, according to roller girl Hilary "Rosie the Riveter Rioter" Rosensteel. They've had to turn away people from at least one event.

"The crowds keep topping off," she said. "We're going to have to look somewhere else." ...

The only feasible alternative would be 1st Mariner Arena, Rosensteel said. Even if the arena staff cordons off upper sections, limiting the number of seats to 5,000, that still might make it too big.

"We'd have to work on our marketing," she said. "I bet we could bring in more people, but I don't know."

Such a move wouldn't be out of the ordinary. Roller derby leagues in Seattle and Chicago are consistently bringing in crowds of around 5,000, Rosensteel said. But the girls would be sad to say goodbye to Du Burns.

"Du Burns has been unbelievably welcoming and friendly."

At least Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake is on their side. Not only has Rawlings-Blake been to at least one bout, she wanted to join the team at one point, according to spokesman Ryan O'Doherty.

"She expressed sincere interest, but being a mother and a mayor makes for a packed schedule," he wrote in an e-mail.

Ms. Mayor, please let me know if you change your mind. I'd love to see you get in the rink and cause a ruckus.

(Photo by Seth Sawyers)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

April 6, 2010

That's not just any foot rest. It's a trough.

The next time you find yourself sitting at an old Baltimore bar, look down and see what's underneath it.

There might be a long, wooden railing, or a rectangular foot rest -- or nothing at all. But if you're in a bar like the Pickled Parrot, you'll be propping up your feet on an exposed metal trough. And once you see it, you might start to wonder what a metal trough is doing underneath a bar.

Anyone who's just eaten lunch might not want to keep reading past this point ...

Years ago, a surprisingly large number of Baltimore watering holes were stag bars. That's a fancy way of saying "men's only" clubs -- run by men for men.

The absence of women meant the guys didn't have to be as polite as they would around members of the fairer sex. Curse words were exchanged. Dirty stories were told. Fists met faces. And after a few cold ones, most men needed to relieve themselves.

If the pub was packed full of people and you were lucky enough to have a spot at the bar, you weren't going to want to risk losing it by walking to the bathroom. But when nature calls, sooner or later, you have to pick up the phone.

What to do?

To solve the problem, bars began installing impromptu urinals underneath the bars. They were stainless steal troughs with a faucet at one end and a drain at the other. That way, the beer could go in one end and out the other at the same time

I'd like to propose toast to modern innovation!

As time passed, stag bars went the way of horse and buggies. New owners bought old pubs, and, grossed out by the sight and smell of the troughs, ripped them up or covered them with plywood. A few spots, like the Pickled Parrot, kept them for posterity's sake.

Today, when you see a seemingly harmless wooden foot rest below a bar, chances are, it's hiding a metal trough -- a dirty little secret from pubs of the past.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:37 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

John Waters, '50s jams and cutting a rug at Lithuanian Hall

the imposing outer facade of lithuanian hall scares away everyone  except the fearless. the fearless come to dance. Like clockwork, every couple months, someone e-mails me asking for suggestions on cool places to go dancing.

Baltimore doesn't have enough clubs and dance halls, but there are a few places where you can cut a rug -- if you know where to look.

Last Friday, jmgiordano and I hit up Lithuanian Hall, which has long been a mainstay for hipster dance nights. Pablo Fiasco has been holding Tighten Up! there on the last Friday of every month forever.

One of the newer dance nights at Lith Hall is called Save Your Soul. It's held on the first Friday of every month, with '50s and early '60s music from the local DJ collective Charm City Summit.

If you want to get a parking spot near Lith Hall, you have to get there at 10 p.m. If you've never been before, you'll be required to buy a yearly membership (since Lith Hall is technically a private club), which costs $5, and then pay $5 to get in.

Lith Hall will be practically deserted until 11 p.m., when a stream of hipsters, art students and dance maniacs will pour in ...

Last Friday, we were sitting at the bar when John Waters walked in and grabbed a bar stool near me. How cool is that? He's pushing 65, and splits his time between Baltimore and New York, but Waters still knows where to party.

DJs Pietro, Action Pat and King Gilbert were spinning obscure '50s and early '60s vinyl. I'm talking about stuff like Otis Redding's "Shout Bamalama," The Nobleman's "Dragon Walk," Elmore James' "Stranger Blues," Gene & the Jeanette's "Hey Lover" and King Coleman's "Down in the Basement."

Whew. Just hearing those tunes makes me sweat. When you get parched, you can moisten up with a few big bottles of Lithuanian beer, which costs $3.50. Since it's a private clubs, all the drinks are cheap cheap cheap.

By midnight, the dance floor was chock full of kids, grooving old school style. And there was Waters, holding court from his bar stool in the thick of it. I felt like I was part of something special, one of those rare scenes I'll tell my children about some day.

(The imposing outer facade of Lithuanian Hall scares away everyone except the fearless. the fearless come to dance. Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:40 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Music math

I was never good at math. But music math? It's all starting to add up now. Here's Owl Meat:

Breaking news -- Scientists prove that Coldplay is boring

A survey of British hotel guests asked what music people played to fall asleep. Coldplay came in No. 1. The first time I heard Coldplay, I thought, "That sounds familiar. It's like Catherine Wheel and Radiohead had a boring baby."

That bit of mental algebra inspired today's diversion: Music Math. The rules are simple: There are no rules or wrong answers. I'll start off with a few of my own, which I hope will amuse you, but I'm expecting a certain amount teeth gnashing.

Coldplay = Radiohead + Catherine Wheel + tryptophan - exciting

Van Morrison = God + Jameson's

Jay-Z = Henry Kissinger + Bill Cosby ...

Black Eyed Peas = ( (Spice Girls) / 5 + Tony! Toni! Toné!) x fist pumping

Lady Gaga = (Madonna + Elton John) / Narnia

Paul McCartney = Angela Lansbury + Dora the Explorer

Yo La Tengo = Velvet Underground - heroin - Nico - cello  + Hoboken

Harry Connick, Jr. = 1955 Frank Sinatra + (lame / gumbo)

Moby = (early '70s Brian Eno + iMac) x sellout

Morrissey (2010) = Morrissey (1984) - 30 percent rage + 12 percent Bryan Ferry + 17 percent Vegas Elvis

Pink = One non-Four-Non-Blonde + (Red Bull x tater tot)

Shakira = Punky Brewster - kitsch + (Viagra x habaneros)
Vampire Weekend = King Sunny Ade + Talking Heads + Blur

Midnight Sunners, I challenge you to create some of your own perverse music math. Now I will retire to the Owl Meat bunker in case Jay-Z is looking for some payback.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:20 AM | | Comments (63)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

The Horse You Came In On has the jams. The bathrooms, not so much.

how baltimore is this? the horse you came in on has tunes -- just  not bathrooms.On Easter Sunday, if you felt like hitting up the Horse You Came In On in Fells Point, you could dig the live music -- just not use the restrooms.

At least, that's according to this sign, which was posted out front.

Does that meant the restrooms were out of order? Or just off limits? If they were out of order, let me be the first to say:


On second thought, bathrooms are overrated.

Bring on the tunes!

(Photo by jmgiordano)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 5, 2010

Jet Set Mafia defends 'no single men after 10:30' policy at Milan

milan baltimoreLast week, local event promoter Jet Set Mafia caused a stir with their flier for an event at Milan. This line in particular stood out:

Men unaccompanied by women not permitted after 10:30

Midnight Sun commenters cried foul, saying the policy was discrimination. Even liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman weighed in.

But the Jet Set Mafia is standing behind its decision to keep single guys out of Milan after 10:30 p.m. -- unless they reserve a table.

"First off, we have the right to do that," said Rob Kowalski, who co-founded the Maryland branch of Jet Set Mafia. "That's what everybody else does. We do it as a way to keep the ratio good." ...

By "everybody else," Kowalski means clubs in Washington, New York and Miami.

"I've been to South Beach," he said. "If you're two guys and you walk up to the door, they won't even acknowledge you, let alone let you in. Baltimore is a little bit behind the times sometimes. This is no different from what everybody else is doing."

Jet Set Mafia runs events at the downtown nightclub mist and Meridian 54, among others. They only enact the 'no single men' policy at Milan, Kowalski said.

"This is a way to filter," he said.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:19 PM | | Comments (94)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Bmore Musically Informed starts a vinyl music label

future islandsCDs were the new vinyl. Then, mp3s were the new CDs. These days, vinyl is the new mp3.

Local music blog Bmore Musically Informed has teamed up with Sound Garden manager Jimmy MacMillan to found a new music label, and plans to release vinyl albums and singles from Baltimore groups in the near future.

Called Friends Records, the label has lined up releases by Weekends, Sri Aurobindo, Future Islands (pictured)/Lonnie Walker and Height With Friends.

If all goes as planned, three of those will be out this spring, with the Future Islands/Lonnie Walker split 7" set for August ...

"We're really involved in the scene here," said Brett Yale, who runs the blog. " We saw saw a bunch of good releases coming up this year and thought it would be a good time to take a stab at it."

Aside from the Future Islands one, all the rest of Friends Records' forthcoming releases will be 12 inches. They'll cost $12.99 plus shipping, and include a free digital download of the album.

The name for the label comes from the Lungfish song "Friend to Friend in Endtime," Yale said. 

"We wanted to imbue the whole communal sense of Baltimore," he said. "It seems to fit."

(Photo of Future Islands by EyeBodega)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:32 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

New book "The Art of Ixia" to memoralize the late restaurant/lounge

Iixiaxia may be gone, but its memory lives on -- in the glossy pages of a new book.

Called "The Art of Ixia," the limited edition, 150-page coffee table book memorializes the late Mount Vernon restaurant, which closed last June.

It has photos of the interior, food and cocktails, as well as quotes from the chef and recipes.

Why now? ...

Turns out, the folks at Ixia started working on the book a year before Ixia closed. It just took a while for them to finalize it. In the meantime, Ixia closed ...

"We wanted to generate something so when people visited Ixia and enjoyed it, they could have a memory of Ixia in all its glory," said Danielle McPherson, who is handling the purchasing of the books.

"The Art of Ixia" is a limited edition affair, with only 500 copies printed. It costs $40 per book, plus tax. To order a copy, call McPherson at 410-889-4444 x2.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:35 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Inside Honey's Lounge

honey's loungeFriday night, jmgiordano and I strolled around Upper Fells, looking for some action.

No, not that kind of action. Bar action.

That's when we came upon a corner bar called Honey's Lounge (1724 Gough St.).

Honey's has an average looking bar sign hanging outside, but the rest of the exterior is uninviting, to say the least. There are only a couple small windows, all of them barred.

The folks inside were Latinos, young and old, shooting pool and sitting at the bar while some Latin pop music was blasting in the background ...

A couple of the customers shot us the 'what are you doing here' look, but after five years of barging into random bars, it doesn't bother me anymore.

the bolt on the outside of the front door to honey's loungeTwo bottles of Coors Light were $5. After the bartender set the beers in front of us, she retreated to her perch a few feet away. There was no small talk. The guys playing pool kept playing pool, and the people on the other bar stools kept to themselves. I like places like that.

All kinds of abstract things sat on the bar back: Two crystal decanters, both empty, two vintage-looking dolls, an aloe plant (in case someone gets singed, I suppose).

The freakiest thing I noticed about Honey's Lounge was one of the first things I saw on the way in. The front door has a sliding barrel bolt on the outside.

This made me nervous. I was worried we'd walked into a scene out of "From Dusk 'Til Dawn." Halfway into our beers, we'd hear the sharp click as the lock slid into place. Then, all the people inside would turn into vampires and come after us. The windows would offer no escape. We'd have to fight our way out.

Hope Honey's has a back door.

(Photos by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:10 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 4, 2010

Musical chairs at Ruth's Chris

hand drum chairs at ruth's chrisYo man, wanna get together and jam?

Yeah bro! Let's do a drum circle. Except, instead of playing with our hands, we'll play with our gluteus maximuses.

And that concludes our pun of the day.

I thought a band was setting up when I walked by Ruth's Chris at Pier 5 and saw these hand drums.

Turns out, they're just stools.

Cute stools, though.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:50 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 3, 2010

Bad Decisions and the three-foot cider pour

bad decisions owner john reusing pours cider at arm's length to  make it bubbly. glub glub.By itself, hard cider can be kind of boring. When poured at arm's length, it's much more interesting -- but not necessarily more tasty.

A few days ago Bad Decisions owner John Reusing told me about a cider called Sarasola Sagardoa he'd gotten from Spain that needed a three-foot pour. The cider is flat, and supposedly, the super high pour makes it all bubbly 'n' stuff.

I hit up Bad Decisions last night to see this epic pour first hand. Reusing kind of cheated by putting one of those metal pours in the top of the bottle, but I'll let him slide because he looks more Irish than Spanish.

Reusing stepped out to the side of the bar, where he wouldn't accidentally splash himself or others, lifted the bottle up over his head and poured it like a champion. He only missed the glass a little bit.

I don't know if the cider was worth all the effort, though ...

It was bubbly, yes, but also sharp and sour. Every time I took a sip, my nose crinkled. I couldn't help it. The Sarasola was also pale yellow in color, which reminded me of, well, you know.

Reusing saw my pained facial expressions, and offered to pour me a small glass of another cider he had -- an Etienne Dupont 2008. The Etienne was sweeter and more full-bodied than the Sarasola, but I couldn't get over the sulfurous nose. 

It smelled like feet. Or raw eggs. Take your pick. 

Somehow, I managed to finish my little champagne glass worth of the Etienne. That was enough fancy Spanish cider for one night. And possibly, a lifetime.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:21 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 2, 2010

Is Milan discriminating against men?

milan baltimoreTonight, the Jet Set Mafia are holding an event at Milan, the trendy new(ish) restaurant/lounge in Little Italy.

Reading the flier, it sounded like your typical lounge party -- until I got to this line:

Men unaccompanied by women not permitted after 10:30 (Tables excluded).

Wait ... what? You mean to say, if you're a single dude looking to get your swerve on, you can't stop by Milan after 10:30 p.m.?

Apparently not, unless you want to rent a table and order bottle service, which will run you $150.

Anybody else think this is discrimination? ...

I e-mailed a member of the Jet Set Mafia for comment, but haven't heard back yet. I also called  liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman, who had an interesting take on the issue.

"This is a public establishment with a license to serve the public," he said. "We certainly don't want any place to discriminate against any customer."

Fogleman said the liquor board wouldn't act on it unless a complaint was filed first. That means a single guy would have to try to enter Milan after 10:30 p.m. tonight and be turned away.

There is precedent, Fogleman said. He spoke with Jane Schroeder, the liquor board's deputy executive secretary and former commissioner,  who cited a case from about 15 years ago. A watering hole called Wurlitzer's in Hunt Valley was found to have discriminated by not letting in people under 25.

Several of the strip clubs on The Block won't let unaccompanied women inside after a certain hour, because they're afraid the women might be soliciting business, if you get my drift, according to Fogleman.

As for Milan?

"If somebody says they were denied entry because they didn't have a woman under their arm ... we'll certainly investigate," Fogleman said.

Milan has been taking plenty of heat today over at Dining@Large. Check out this post about the neighborhood's complaints.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:20 PM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The summer's 10 biggest local concerts

If I can have your attention for just a moment, gang, I'd like to tell you about my list of the 10 biggest summer concerts coming to the Baltimore region.

I tried to get a little bit of everything on this list, from Peter Frampton to Insane Clown Posse ... and beyond. The folks at turned the list into a nifty photo gallery, too.

Check it out.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:26 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

Comparing draft Budweisers at large, local live music venues

budweiser is the king of beersWhen you're seeing a show at a big music venue like, say, the 1st Mariner Arena, a draft Budweiser is going to cost you a chunk of change.

But what's the difference in price and size between 1st Mariner Arena, Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Verizon Center?

Funny you should ask, because I found out ...

Merriweather Post Pavilion: A 24-ounce draft Bud will run you $8 at the wooded amphitheater. It's a quarter more than 1st Mariner Arena, but it's also the only even price on our list. The other concession stands will give you back a quarter or two.

1st Mariner Arena: Old arena, contemporary prices: Here, a 24-ounce draft Budweiser costs $7.75, which is about the same as Merriweather.

Verizon Center: A 16-ounce bottle or draft Budweiser costs the same, $7.50, making it the most expensive by far (for the amount of beer you get). That's Washington for you.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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

She's the quiz-master

christy wnuk-fink, the owner of final score trivia in marylandSince taking over Final Score Trivia in 2007, Christy Wnuk-Fink has written more than 12,000 questions for the 20-some games played each week in Greater Baltimore.

Think about that for a second. 12,000 questions. It's a full time job, she says, and Final Score Trivia is the biggest live trivia company in the state.

Wnuk-Fink, who lives in Laurel, pours through reference books every week, searching for little bits of information that might make good questions.

Today's nightlife column is all about Wnuk-Fink and Final Score Trivia ...

Some of the questions Wnuk-Fink comes up with are serious head-scratchers.

For instance: "Within one either way, how many countries share a land border with Gabon?" I didn't even know what Gabon was (it's a country in Africa), let alone how many neighbors it has (three: Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo).

Feel dumb yet? I do. But I feel that way a lot.

The flamingo next to Christy in the photo is named Victory. At some of the Final Score games, whichever team wins gets to put Victory on their table the following week.

"It's a badge of honor," Wnuk-Fink said.

Damn right.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Colby Ware)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:35 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

April 1, 2010

Concert review: David Gray at Lyric Opera House

david grayMidnight Sun writer Patrick Gavin saw David Gray last night at the Lyric Opera House. Here is his review: 

According to the latest census data, one-third of all white 30-somethings within city limits were at the Lyric Opera House for David Gray last night. If you think that's a bit high, it's probably because you haven't mailed your Census 2010 form back yet, you stiff.

I bring up the audience demographic not to mock (that much) but for a practical reason. In Sam's interview with Mr. Gray, the English singer/songwriter renowned for infusing his folk rock with electronic sampling described the perfect show as one in which audiences energetically join in for the anthemic songs and reverently ponder the delicate, introspective ones.

Of course, when you have a show at the Lyric, with its plush red seats that just beg to be parked in all night, you find yourself reverently pondering those melodic, anthemic numbers as well.

What choice do you have? Few can resist the appeal of a comfy seat at a concert or sporting event ...

For those who were compelled to rise up and boogie during Mr. Gray's set, a hushed whisper from an uptight boyfriend usually stymied such a display of unbridled enthusiasm. That is, until Mr. Gray encouraged all to stand for the fourth and final encore song, "Please Forgive Me," a closer on par with Mariano Rivera.

Musings on the "should-I-twist-and-shout-or-kick-back-and-nod" nature of the venue and crowd aside, let it be known that Mr. Gray was in top form. While favoring his latest, "Draw the Line," Mr. Gray cherry picked tunes from no less than seven albums during his near 19-song set. With so many albums and sellout tours, it's a wonder this was Mr. Gray's first stop in Charm City.

Mr. Gray's five-piece band's take on "Babylon," still his most enduring hit 11 years after its release, was indicative of the performance as a whole. He opted to eliminate most traces of his signature electronica influences in favor of straight acoustic rhythm guitar and electric lead guitar.

david grayThat's not to say that occasionally you wouldn't hear the synthed sounds of a phantom violin or a bit of trippy, reverb-soaked harmonica.

Mr. Gray also proved to be quite the host. In the early going he false-started on his new hit, "Fugitive," and wound up cooler for it, admitting, "Sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up and say 'that was just s--t.'"

Later he joked about plotting his set lists on a whiteboard and waiting until Baltimore to "be two people for the next few minutes" and unveil "Full Steam," a soaring duet with Annie Lennox (minus Ms. Lennox in concert, of course).

While his chart-toppers pleased and sent Mr. Gray into a frenzy of bobble-head Dave Matthews guitar dancing, it was the minor key, somber songs that provided performer and audience lasting catharsis.

During these subdued moments, I thought most about the lyrics and songwriter. Sure beats thinking about my feet, which no doubt would have been aching for much of the two-hour set had I been standing at a typical rock music venue. Maybe there is something to these snug opera seats after all.


1. First Chance (from Draw the Line)
2. Fugitive (from Draw the Line)
3. Be Mine (from A New Day At Midnight)
4. Stella The Artist (from Draw the Line)
5. Now and Always (from Life In Slow Motion)
6. Slow Motion (from Life In Slow Motion)
7. Jackdaw (from Draw the Line)
8. Sail Away (from White Ladder)
9. Nemesis (from Draw the Line)
10. Hold On (from Lost Songs)
11. Falling Down the Mountainside (from Lost Songs)
12. Ain’t No Love (from Life In Slow Motion)
13. Hold On To Nothing (from Sell Sell Sell)
14. You’re the World To Me (from Greatest Hits)
15. The One I Love (from Life In Slow Motion)

This Year’s Love (from White Ladder)
Full Steam (from Draw the Line)
Babylon (from White Ladder)
Please Forgive Me (from White Ladder)

(Photo by Phil Knott)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:04 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Concert reviews

Why Elliott's Pour House will not host THE (midnight sun) SITUATION

elliott's pour houseMuch to the disappointment to all the Elliott's Pour House fans who posted 7,500 comments about how awesome the Brewer's Hill neighborhood bar is, I'm not holding THE (midnight sun) SITUATION there.

Sorry, guys.

Normally, when people spam me about a bar or a band, I boycott them immediately for at least six months.

This time, I didn't want to get all judge-y on Elliott's until I'd been there ...

It's a cool little neighborhood bar with a fun vibe and a bunch of beers on tap. If I lived over there, I'd go on a regular basis. My pal CJ and I went on a Sunday, when all the beers on tap were $4. Mmm! I had a draft Loose Cannon and a Dale's Pale Ale. Finally, a place with Dale's Pale Ale!

I'd heard rumors about a popcorn machine dispensing free buttery kernels for customers, but didn't see it.

But I'm not about to have THE (midnight sun) SITUATION there. It's just not big enough. The Midnight Sun crew wouldn't have room to breathe if we went there. Or maybe my ego is too big for Elliott'. 

Something like 40 people showed up to the first Midnight Sun event, at Idle Hour. Then, 75-odd folks showed up to the second event, at Brewer's Art. Same goes for the one at Bad Decisions.

Elliott's Pour House would just be too cramped. Maybe we'll do a Midnight Sun micro-event, like a beer/liquor/wine tasting there. Just not THE (midnight sun) SITUATION.

(Photo courtesy of Elliott's Pour House's Web site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:49 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Speed networking at Milan tonight

milan baltimoreIf you're out of work or looking to explore your options, grab a stack of business cards and get to Milan (pictured) tonight.

HeidnSeek Entertainment is hosting a free business mixer called Schmooze or Lose (I love that name). 

The night begins with an hour of mingling from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Then the speed networking starts.

The way I understand it, each participant gets a couple minutes at a prospective employer or recruiter's table. Then folks switch tables ...

Appetizers are complimentary, parking will be valeted, domestic beers are $3 and house wine is $5. I like that. A little booze will help break the ice. Just don't drink too much -- instead of schmoozing, you'll be losing! Hee hee.

It's a cool idea. HeidnSeek did something like this at VIN in Towson not too long ago, if I remember right.

If any Midnight Sunners go, report back to me about how it was.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

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

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