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May 30, 2010

I'm loving Beard's new music video for "Florida"

jason dove, beardless.Jason Dove (pictured) may have a new band called Beard, but his devilish sense of humor is the same as it ever was.

Owen Long sent me the new music video for his song "Florida," and I can't stop watching it. My cube-mates are probably wondering why I've been laughing so much today.

The song is a hot and heavy garage rocker, straight out of the '70s. But the video is where it's at.

"I read your Midnight Sun blog, and wanted to share this with you, because it features two things that you like, Baltimore bar folk, and music," Long wrote in an e-mail. "Maybe you like cougars too, I don't know."

Check this out ...

Beard - "Florida" from owenlang on Vimeo.

Tell me this isn't awesome. I dare you. The woman in the white tank top and shorts is Patti, the bartender from Long John's Pub in Remington. Patti is known for singing karaoke while she bar tends. Now that's multi-tasking.

I love the shot of Dove in his sailor's hat, biting into a ripe Florida orange. Juicy! The tanning bed shots are also funny in their randomness.

I hope you liked it. I know I do.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

May 29, 2010

Landmark Theatres has 'Sex and the City 2' martinis

sex and the city 2Landmark Theatres over in Harbor East has a funky new drink list, with cocktails inspired by "Sex and the City 2."

Here's a link to the whole list, which was designed by bar liason Ginny Lawhorn. And here's a drink from the menu:

Carrie's Cosmo, $9

Grey Goose vodka with a splash of Cointreau blended together in red cranberry

(Photo by Craig Blankenhorn, Warner Bros.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

We're in the middle of Death Fest

Many people have left Baltimore City for sunny, sandy beaches this weekend. But many other people have driven to Baltimore City for the annual Maryland Death Fest at Sonar. 

Organizers are expecting 3,000 people per day. Black T-shirts will be everywhere. Check out this piece I did on the fest. Rawk!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

May 28, 2010

Taps is for sale

tapsFirst off, keep in mind: Given the right price, every bar is for sale.

That said, for the low low low price of $375,000, you can own "a Federal Hill landmark," according to the ad for the South Baltimore bar Taps.

Wait! Don't leave us, Taps! We were just getting to know you.

Why, it seems like just yesterday when Taps opened. The bar at the corner of Charles Street and Fort Avenue was going to have a ton of taps -- even wine on tap.

After an agonizing wait, they only installed 17 taps, and, sadly, no wine on tap ...

Make no mistake, 17 taps is a formidable amount. But co-owner Dave Holter made it seem like Taps was going to be the Max's of South Baltimore. So how could we help but feel disappointed when all we got were 17?

A series of unfortunate events made matters even worse.

Who could forget the profane sign posted outside Taps on Easter Sunday, which angered neighborhood residents? Or Holter's arrest for allegedly pulling a knife on a bouncer from nearby Mother's Grille. 

It's sad when any bar owners can't make it work, regardless of the reason. I'll keep you posted if/when Taps sells. According to the ad, the "owner must sell to relocate."

(Photo from the ad)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:49 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Win Tokyo Police Club tickets with a crazy contest idea

tokyo police clubIndie rockers Tokyo Police Club (pictured) are opening for Passion Pit at Rams Head Live Wednesday.

The show is sold out, but the band is going to give two free tickets to whoever can come up with the best idea for a crazy contest.

That's not all. The winner gets to meet the band, compete against them in the contest, go to the show and maybe even walk home with a free CD or poster. Yay social media!

It can be anything from grape catching to wheelbarrow racing, but something Baltimore-centric would be even better. I have a few ideas to get you started ...

Since swimming across the Inner Harbor would likely result in hospitalization for all involved parties, I'd like to see one or more members of the band compete in an Old Bay eating contest. Whoever consumes the most saltine crackers covered in Old Bay wins! Or not. 

There could also be a crab race, kinda sorta like the one they do at Lexington Market every year around Preakness time. They get two live crabs, mark a finish line and see which crab crosses it first. Scuttle scuttle!

Those are just my lame ideas. Come up with a non-lame idea and you could win! Post your idea in the comments section (be sure to leave your e-mail, so I contact you if you win).

(Publicity photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:03 AM | | Comments (24)

The Latin Bar Crawl, in all its glory

RUMBA RUMBA RUMBAHola and good morning, Midnight Sunners.

I have news to share. Good news. News of the Latin variety.

The Upper Fells Latin Bar Crawl was a serious fiesta. Our mission: To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly gringo where few had gone before. Dig the story here.

Our first stop was Rumba (pictured). If I owned this place, I would promptly change its name to the Rumba Clumba. But that's just me.

I've already written about Rumba's epic urinal. The rest of the place was pretty wack too ...

A couple customers stood near the far right, and, at the far left, a guy had his head resting on the bar and his hand on a bottle of beer. I hoped he was sleeping, and not quietly sobbing to himself. Next to him, someone sang karaoke, but Mr. Head-On-Bar didn't budge.

arizonaThere was a Coke machine -- the first Coke machine I've seen inside a bar -- which sold cans of soda for a tidy sum of $1.50. Lordy!

None of the bartenders we encountered spoke much English, and none of us spoke much Spanish, which made ordering anything but beer nearly impossible at any of these places.

Our favorite of the three bars we hit up was Arizona, at the corner of South Broadway and East Lombard Street. The DJ was spinning everything from Jay-Z to South American oom-pah accordion jams.

At least once every 30 seconds, he would hit a sound effect button and the sound of an air horn would cut the room like a knife. 


Hee hee. Har har!

Usually, when the Midnight Sons roll into niche bars like these, the bartenders immediately ask for our IDs -- probably because they think we're cops, or liquor board inspectors. We got the stink eye at more than a few Latin joints, but nobody carded us. Maybe they were too afraid of us carding them? Immigration pun!

In all sobriety, we made new friends and chatted up the regulars. It was a blast.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:36 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 27, 2010

Whartscape lineup announced

The lineup for the 5th annual Whartscape is out, featuring more than 120 music, theater and video performances over the course of four days.

The all-volunteer fest will take place at various venues around town, July 22-25. Tickets will go on sale June 15 at and the True Vine. Here is the semi-final list of performers (more will be added soon). UPDATE: Beach House and Mink Stole are not confirmed. ...


+more TBA

MINK STOLE (lecture)
+more TBA

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:19 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Local music

"Jerkface Shipley" and other songs by We Used to be Family

Last night, while surfing around on Aural States, I discovered a song called "Jerkface Shipley" by the Baltimore band We Used to Be Family.

I couldn't help but snicker, because Al Shipley happens to be one of the city's more prominent music writers and bloggers. He writes for City Paper and his excellent hip-hop blog, Government Names. Coincidence? I doubt it. Funny? Undoubtedly ...

Shipley's an incredibly nice guy, and a fair critic. I just wonder what he wrote or said that got the band so peeved. I Googled around some and couldn't find anything. Must have been pretty bad, to inspire the band to call him a "Jerkface." The song doesn't have any words but it doesn't need to.

You can listen to it here.

I called Shipley and the band and left messages, but haven't heard back yet. Stay tuned.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:05 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Local music

Introducing The Point in Fells

the point in fellsI understand that the Internet is making it hard for people to come up with original names for bands and bars.

But is it really that tough to come up with a catchy bar name? Really?

This is my long-winded way of saying there's a new bar in Fells Point called ... The Point in Fells, in the space that used to be Miss Irene's.

The Point in Fells. See that? See what they did there? Genuis. Hee hee.

It's kinda like Don't Know and No Idea. I imagine all these drunken phone conversations:

"Where are you?"

"Dude, we're at The Point in Fells."

"Cool. Where in The Point Fells?" ...

"No dude, we're at The Point in Fells."

"Look man, I'm in Fells Point. Where in Fells Point are you?"

"The Point in Fells!"

"What's the Point?"


According to Midnight Sun tipster jmgiordano, the owners bought a nice new hanging sign. I'll try to get a photo up ASAP.

UPDATE: By the way, I'm just having fun, guys. This wasn't meant to be condescending or mean. The Point at Fells isn't nearly as bad as Canton Arts and Entertainment, or NADDs, but it's not particularly great, either.

(Photo by Jmgiordano)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:07 AM | | Comments (58)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 26, 2010

More on Dick's Last Resort

dick's last resortI spoke with a marketing spokeswoman for Dick's Last Resort, which is opening a branch in the Inner Harbor.

According to the rep, Dick's should be open in the coming weeks. And yes, as we suspected, is just like Rudey's, the bar Owl Meat invented a little while ago.

"The waiters play around with you a little bit," the spokeswoman said. "They walk a fine line between fun and a little risque."

Stay tuned, gang. More updates are in the works.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:41 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Introducing the Resurrection Photoshop Can Contest

res can!Since I can't do the other Rezzie Can contest, I've decided to do the next best thing: A Resurrection Can Photoshop Contest.

Yeah yeah, it's much lamer, I know, but I don't want to run afoul of our legal department.

This is the highest res (pun!) image of the Resurrection can I could get from Brewer's Art (thanks, Volker).

Take it, and use it in a funny illustration. Do not -- I repeat, do not -- do anything silly like jump in a shark tank with a can.

Sit at your computer and photoshop yourself in a shark tank with the can. That way, the worst injury you can get is carpal tunnel from using the mouse too much. And don't sue us for that.

The best illustration wins a wild, wet and wacky prize!!!

The deadline is still May 31. Again, my email is


Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:15 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The vodka eyeball post

richard branson vodka earballsKids these days, with their vodka and their eyeballs.

Have you heard about this? To get drunk/impress girls/pass the time, young dudes are drinking vodka through their eyeballs. Yeah. Their eyeballs.

I use "drinking" in a loose sense, because you can only dump vodka in your eye for so long before it turns red and hurts like a mother. Not that I would know, or anything. But I've heard.

Witness this video, which pretty much sums it up ...

To be fair, vodka eyeballing isn't a new thing at all. If you scan YouTube, a bunch of the videos were made years ago. It also seems to be mildly popular among Europeans (go figure). 

What appears to have happened is, in the past week, the Mainstream Media found out about vodka eyeballing, seized upon it as a Startling Thing Young People Are Doing, and thereby exposed millions of teens to something only a fraction of the population knew about beforehand. Way to go, guys. Now everybody's gonna be vodka eyeballing this summer.

In college, I knew a few folks who dropped LSD through their eyes. They said it felt weird but acted immediately, because it was quickly absorbed into their brains. I took their word for it.

Given how much a shot of vodka burns my throat, I can only imagine how painful it would be to splash vodka into my eyes -- let alone hold a bottle up to my eye for an extended period of time.

Even if it gets you drunker quicker, vodka eyeballing has got to damage your corona cornea. While I've been the guinea pig for all kinds of drinking trends, I'm sure as hell not vodka eyeballing.

(The closest picture I could find to vodka eyeballing in our archives was this one, of ba-zillionaire Richard Branson dumping vodka into his ears in 1995. Or perhaps he's just using them instead of cotton swabs. I'm not entirely sure. Photo by Reuters.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:32 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 25, 2010

Virgin Mobile FreeFest date set

Mark your calendars: The Virgin Mobile FreeFest will return to Merriweather Post Pavilion Sept. 25. No word on lineup or tickets yet.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

I'm canning the Resurrection can contest

Looks like my Resurrection photo contest idea was too hot for The Sun.

After a series of intense, brow-furrowing debates with The Baltimore Sun Legal Department, our cadre of lawyers has advised us to nix the contest. ...

You see, if some idiot decided to get a photo of a can of Resurrection inside the shark tank at the National Aquarium and was accidentally devoured, his relatives could theoretically sue us -- and they just might win. God bless the American legal system.

Sorry folks. Thanks for (not) playing (yet). Heh.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:40 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: I'd buy that for a dollar!

a bull and bear share a sandwich. punny!

Today's column by Owl Meat Gravy made me think of that awesome variety show on "Robocop", where the host's catchphrase is "I'd buy that for a dollar!" I would! Would you? Here's professor Owl Meat, with a dissertation about bar-cenomics:

What if drinks were priced like stocks? What if prices varied by demand from minute to minute? Today's Tipsy Tuesday goes all Wall Street on your assets. Greed is good, but bier ist besser.

Sam Adams' stock (SAM) ranged from $27 to $63 in the last year. A bottle of Samuel Adams' beer, however, has been $5.25 all year at one local watering hole.

Exchange Bar recently opened in the Financial District in Manhattan. They set their prices according to demand, like stocks. The bar has a stock ticker-style display above the bar that shows the current prices of food and drinks ...

Imagine that a gaggle of arbitrageurs storm the joint and muster up 20 shots of Grey Goose. After their order, the price of Grey Goose would go up 25 or 50 or 75 cents. The more they order, the more expensive it gets. That's how the stock market works. Demand drives price. In contrast, the price of Absolut, for example, might drop 25 cents if the market is skewed towards Grey Goose that night.

All food and drinks have a base price. A pint of Guinness is priced at $6, but could fluctuate between $4 and $8 in 25 cent increments, depending upon how popular it is on a given night.

In my experience bar products that don't move just get older. I'm talking to you dusty bottle of Pimm's No. 1 Cup. Sometimes a bar might put something on special to get rid of it. The innovation here is that they are lowering prices to spur demand and cashing in on high demand.

A review of customer comments shows little interest in the gimmick. It may get attention from the press, but apparently cool bathrooms, awesome wings, and an appearance by some dude named Jeter is making the place a success. Of course, comments on sites like that might be mostly shills. It's amazing how similar the bar scene in back-water Baltimore is to fabulous downtown Gotham.

Sure, it's a gimmick, but it's an interesting one. This system punishes the trendy and die-hard brand loyalists. It rewards the flexible and thrifty. Given the number of unemployed stock brokers in New York, I can see the appeal. 

Speaking of gimmicks, if you haven't unloaded your spare Euros at Milan, you might consider doing so soon. The Euro is sinking like a paper canoe. It lost twenty percent of its value against the dollar in the last six months. Nice job, Greece. Thanks for civilization; may we introduce you to the concept of the budget? Opa!

You could also have a system where prices fluctuate based upon the number of people in  a bar. That would encourage people to show up when it's less busy. Happy hour does that in a crude way.

Now if only someone would invent a system that had a tool/meathead surcharge. Faux-hawk? Ka-ching. Neck tattoo? Ka-ching. Ascot? Ka-ching-ching. Backwards baseball cap? Bazinga. Popped collar? Bazinga-ching! Of course, if you have all of the above, you drink for free.

(Photo by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:03 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Rock the Bells lineup announced, coming to Merriweather

wu-tang clanWu-Tang Clan (pictured), Rakim, KRS-ONE and Slick Rick will headline this year's Rock the Bells, which comes to Merriweather Post Pavilion Aug. 29

Considered the nation's biggest touring hip-hop festival, this year's Rock the Bells could be called the Album Edition -- all of the headliners are performing an album in its entirety.

Wu-Tang will do "Enter the 36 Chambers," Rakim will do "Paid in Full," KRS-ONE will do "Criminal Minded" and Slick Rick will do "The Great Adventures Of." ...

There was speculation that reclusive singer Lauryn Hill would headline Rock the Bells, but Hill isn't on the announced lineup. Still, there is some wiggle room: The roster includes "Surprise performances" and "lineup subject to change."


(Baltimore Sun photo of Wu-Tang performing at the Virgin Mobile Festival in 2007 by Kenneth K. Lam)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:40 AM | | Comments (3)

Resurrection Ale can contest

cases of resurrection, just waiting to be slurrrrpedEarly this morning, Midnight Sunner Jason Z came up with a brilliant concept:

Sam, I'm thinking a photo contest with the new Resurrection can. Have the readers take pictures of them drinking it in weird places or drinking it in weird situations.


The cans hit bar and liquor stores later this week -- available pretty much wherever you've seen the bottles of Resurrection.

Pick up a six-pack (they'll run you about $10), put one of the cans in a funny situation. You can be drinking it, or it can be sitting somewhere weird. Take a photo and send it to me -- ...

The deadline to send me photos is May 31. I'll post all the photos on Midnight Sun, and we can vote on them together. The winner will receive a wickedly awesome prize, which just might possibly be a free six-pack of Resurrection -- or something even better, if such a thing exists.

Midnight Sunners assemble!

(Photo courtesy of Brewer's Art)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:22 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 24, 2010

Dick's Last Resort coming to Inner Harbor

dicks.jpgDick's Last Resort, a chain with barbecue and live music, is coming to the Inner Harbor, according to the company's website. Dick's will settle in the space next to the Hard Rock Cafe, at 621 E. Pratt St. According to the sign, Dick's was supposed to open in May, but that hasn't happened yet.

Dick's lovingly refers to its patrons by using the suffix 'heads.' Like Parrotheads but with Dick as the first half of the word. What fun!

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:26 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Tragedy at Hops Inn

hops innOver the years, I've written time and again about my love for Hops Inn. It is one of Dundalk's best bars -- a real gem.

So it's with great sorrow that I pass along the news that owner Lee Martin was slain in a shooting outside Hops Inn Saturday morning.

While I never met Martin in person, we spoke over the phone in the past. The bar, which apparently doubled as his house, had been in Martin's family for generations, he once told me. 

Martin's death means the future of this long-standing Dundalk watering hole is uncertain. I called the bar earlier today but no one picked up. As a bar-goer, I hope Hops stays open.

I've only ever been to Hops twice -- both on the same night ...

It was the first Dundalk Bar Crawl, in the summer of 2008. Walking into Hops, it felt like it could have been 1988. Black-and-white portraits of every president dating back to George Washington hung on the wood-paneled walls. My friends and I put Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" on the box, which got the other guys in the place singing along.

This is part of what I wrote at the time:

It's possibly one of the most random but welcoming bars I've ever been to. Hops sits in the middle of a residential section of Dundalk on Railway Avenue. A list of the buildings on this street would read: house, house, house, Hops, house, house. A big sign out front advertised "Bud On Tap," as if it were some novel thing, and I wondered just how long it had been there.

We had a round of beers, and then left Hops to visit some other Dundalk bars. But none of them compared to Hops, where we found ourselves at the end of the night. The bartender, a biker mama, brought us a round of free shots. Then one of my friends, J.M. Giordano of What's Happening Magazine, spotted a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue behind the bar. This stuff goes for $20 a glass at most Baltimore bars.

At our request, the bartender checked out the bottle, which had a hand-written label on the back of it: $3. Our eyes popped out of their sockets. We quickly ordered a round. Last year, I found out Hops had raised the price to $9 a shot, which is still much cheaper than most places.

Reading the news this morning shocked me. My condolences go out to the Martin family. You're in our hearts and thoughts.

(Photo courtesy of Hops' website)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:25 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Third Eye Blind, Billy Idol to headline HFStival

third eye blind, circa 1998Looks like it's 1997 all over again: Third Eye Blind, Billy Idol and Everclear will headline this year's HFStival, organizers announced today.

The rest of the lineup for the day-long festival coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion Sept. 18 includes Fuel, Lit, Marcy Playground, Presidents of the United States of America and Ed Kowalczyk from Live.

There will also be a local stage featuring Jimmie's Chicken Shack, Jah Works, Fools And Horses, Lionize, Honor By August and Middle Distance Runner.

"It's a throwback show," said Sam Rogers, spokesman for CBS Radio in Washington. "That's the whole idea behind it. ... The majority of the people who remember the HFStival are in their 30s."

Tickets, which go on sale May 28, will cost $25, Rogers said, and the pavilion will have a "carnival-like" vibe ...

Third-Eye Blind (pictured, in 1998), just performed at Merriweather Post Pavilion last weekend, as part of the Bamboozle Road show was on the lineup of the Bamboozle Road Show, which came to Merriweather Post Pavilion last weekend, but did not perform.

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. Rogers, who was the general manager at HFS in 2001, oversaw about three or four HFStivals, culminating with the one at M&T Bank Stadium, he said.

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

"We're excited to bring the HFStival back to the Baltimore/Washington area," Rogers said.

(Handout photo by Alison Dyer)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:53 AM | | Comments (32)

Resurrection in cans to arrive mid-week

resurrection in cansBehold: A sea of canned gloriousness.

Can after can of Resurrection Ale sits, waiting to be shipped and sipped.

The shipping starts today, according to Tom Creegan of Brewer's Art, and should arrive mid-week.

Creegan and the rest of the Brewer's Art boys are gonna shotgun the first one, and play beer pong with the next few.

"That way, it'll all be done," Creegan said.

Ooooo! ...

Despite earlier worries, it looks like Brewer's Art decided to go with the design they showed Midnight Sun last month.

I'll check on the price, but I'm guessing it's still going to be about $10 per six-pack. And I'll try and get a list of places that will have it. But I'll bet it's safe to say the cans will be sold wherever the 750-milliliter bottles of Resurrection are sold.

So don't pester Brewer's Art with calls. Stay tuned and I'll share all the info with you here.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Creegan)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:24 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 22, 2010

A sip of history

whiskey in the bottle-oThis bottle of Maryland Straight Rye Whiskey dates back to the early '60s, according to resident Sun historians Fred Rasmussen and Jacques Kelly.

It's so old the label has started to come off.

It used to be made up on York Road, but has been coming out of Kentucky for many years now, Fred said.

Potent and delicious, rye whiskey is still consumed in large quantities by Baltimoreans, whether it's made here or not.

Shot and a beer, anyone?

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:09 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 21, 2010

Despite the sign, Rare Soul isn't exactly open -- yet

rare soul signPay no attention to the big sign out front that reads "Rare Soul Now Open."

The new Canton lounge run by Yolanda Espinet isn't quite there yet.

When Midnight Sunner jmgiordano and I stopped by last night, the lights were on inside, but the doors were locked.

We pulled on one, and a friendly fellow who identified himself as a manager gave us a sneak peak ...

With its dark leather couches and deep tones, Rare Soul reminds me of the old GoodLove Bar, which used to be a few doors down (it turned into Pur, which is now closed).

The bar has a granite top and a pressed tin bottom -- inspired by so many Baltimore ceilings, no doubt. The one odd thing about the lounge's layout is the dance area, which is sunken into the floor near the back of the room. Taking a few steps up to hit the dance floor is fine, but taking a few steps down feels awkward.

According to Rare Soul's manager, the lounge will have its grand opening in June -- about two weeks from now. 

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:53 AM | | Comments (3)

May 20, 2010

The best Jiffy Lube Live parking option

jiffy lube live If you've ever been to Jiffy Lube Live (which used to be Nissan Pavilion), you know what a nightmare it is to leave the place.

The giant parking lots are funneled through tiny exits, which means you could be sitting in your car for a maddeningly long time. When Midnight Sun correspondent Evan Haga saw Pearl Jam there last week, he opted to buy VIP parking on a whim. It cost $30 cash, and was located on the right, near the facility's main gate ...

The VIP lot is much smaller than the main parking area, but cars are ushered out at the same pace as the main lot. This meant Haga only waited five or 10 minutes to be out on the road. He called it "miraculous." 

Granted, $30 is not chump change, but Haga said it was completely worth it -- especially if you're carpooling and can split the fee.

Go now, and take this knowledge with you.

(Photo courtesy of Robert Muller/Live Nation)

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:51 PM | | Comments (12)

Mini-obsession: "Hold Back the Night" by the Trammps

Right now, I'd love to have a heavy-hitting post about juicy bar news, but I'm too busy writing a piece about the Night of 1,000 Dylans coming to Creative Alliance Saturday for all that serious stuff.

When I'm in Hardcore Writing Mode, I toss on the headphones and listen to one song or one album in repeat, until the assignment is finished. Today's mini obsession is with "Hold Back the Night" by the Trammps. Have you heard it? I'll post the video below, but if you're too lazy to read past this paragraph, click here to listen to it. Now, lemme tell you what I love about this song ...

I love how the band waits a full 40 seconds before hitting you with the first words. That's a bazillion years in today's pop music time. Today's mainstream pop music listeners would almost never wait that long for the singing to start. 

The Trammps (these are the Philly guys who did "Disco Inferno") aren't the best singers, but that's kinda the point. The harmonies aren't super polished, and the lead singer's voice is gruff and crackling. And oh, that beat. It's urgent but not overpowering -- just enough to get you to dance your pain away.

"Hold back the night / turn on the light / don't wanna dream about you baby."


Graham Parker did a rockin' version of this track in the '70s.

The Trammps released a remastered version of the song on their 1991 disc, "Disco Inferno," which sounds too clean. I like the old one, with all its analog hiss and dirtier arrangement:

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:40 AM | | Comments (5)

Review: Amber's Ale by Bawlmer Brewing

amber's ale, by balwmer craft beersLast night, I bought a six-pack ($8.99) of Amber's Ale, one of the first two lines from the new Bawlmer Craft Beers.

It had a large, thick head, a quick, front-of-the-mouth flash and a yeasty finish. I wish it had more body, though -- it was too thin.

All in all, it wasn't a bad first effort for the up-and-coming brewery, which operates out of the old Cork and Seal building in Highlandtown.

From the taste of Amber's Ale, you can tell brewer John O'Melia admires Belgian ales, and is using them as inspiration ...

Amber's Ale is a bit more than six percent alcohol, which is not nearly as much as the high-test Belgians, but more than your average American brew.

Bawlmer has one other beer on shelves right now: Formstone Ale. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll pick up a six pack the next time I see it.

Amber's Ale might not be the best local ale on shelves right now, but I'm curious to see what else Bawlmer comes out with in the near future.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:19 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 19, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner ...

blobs parkThe Mystery Bar is a mystery no more.

It's polka haven Blob's Park -- the only place in town where the accordion is cool.

And you know who guessed it? 


Congrats, Trevor! E-mail me at with your contact info and we'll arrange a prize pickup.

Hey everybody, thanks for playing.

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:21 PM | | Comments (2)

Club 410: messy messy messy

It's hard to keep a bad bar down.

Remember Club 410? The liquor board yanked its license and city police padlocked its front door after all kinds of crazy stuff went down. But that didn't stop Club 410 from throwing a big party this past weekend. They even hired security guards with loaded weapons and police vests. In your face, Baltimore! ...

The dude who threw the party at the club argued that since they had a cover charge at the party, it was legal. Nuh uh, said liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman. Dig this, from Peter Hermann's Crime blog:

Fogleman told me this morning that he researched the issue and it is illegal for any alcohol to be served when a cover is being charged. He told me authorities do not have to prove that the cover was for alcohol -- the mere fact there was a charge to get inside means the club owner violated the liquor board rules.

I wonder what the liquor board/cops are going to do now? Padlock it again? Revoke the liquor license? What a mess.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:16 PM | | Comments (3)

Another clue for Name That Bar

DSC_1376.JPGSince nobody has guessed our latest Mystery Bar, I'm going to dangle another juicy clue in your face.

See this photo? This is another photo from the same place. 

Where is it? Do you know?

Can you solve the puzzle?

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:49 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Name That Bar

I made the big time

Today's New York Times has a story about the proposed West Side arts district. In it, there's a couple quotes from some knucklehead named Sam Sessa -- a hack reporter for some rag or another.

Check it out.

Guess that makes me some kinda expert or sumthin.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:41 AM | | Comments (10)

Bleachers has been sold, new owners to take over

The East Baltimore sports bar Bleachers has new owners, who plan to open (wait for it) another sports bar there.

They're not sure of the name yet, according to co-owner Scott Copinger. The business trade name is Goodfellas, but Copinger isn't sure if that's the best name for a sports bar ...

"We like Goodfellas but I'm not sure we're going to stick with that," he said. "We want to send out the right connotation to the name."

Copinger wants to lure back the community sports teams from nearby Patterson Park, as well as the pool league which used to be at Bleachers. He's been tossing around ideas for nightly specials such as trivia and karaoke but hasn't settled on anything yet.

"We've got a ton of ideas," he said. "We're pretty excited about it."

"You should name it Fumbles -- the sports bar where even losers win," I said. He just laughed. I don't think he liked my idea. Sniffle.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:59 AM | | Comments (14)

May 18, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Hops vs. gruit

Here is Owl Meat with a Midnight Sun report on hops, gruit and the history of beer ingredients:

Some like it hot. I like it hotter.

I am a flavor ninja. I like my Thai food spicy enough to make muscle men cry. I like Scotch so peaty that it reminds me of lawn fertilizer.

For beer I'll take the hoppiest you've got. It's not about extremes; it's more about adventure. That's not to say I don't have a gentle side. A basket of puppies, blueberry scones, and a gentle summer rain can be sublime.

Hops, hops, hops. Ever wonder what beer would be like without hops? Probably boring. One evil hop-less path is to add nasty artificial flavors to get Mike's Hard Lemonade and other gut-busting fauxenbraus.

The ancient non-hops path is gruit ale, a millennia-old hop-less brew. It was brewed with herbs said to be stimulants, aphrodisiacs, narcotics, and hallucinogens. Bazinga! ...

Herbs used in gruit ale included sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, ground ivy, horehound, and heather. Other herbs included henbenon, juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, nutmeg, cinnamon, and hops.

Exact formulae are not known, as brewers, even small-time ones, kept their recipes secret. According to Wikipedia:

The exclusive use of gruit was gradually phased out in favor of the use of hops alone in a slow sweep across Europe occurring between the 11th century (in the south and east of the Holy Roman Empire) and the late 16th century (Great Britain). In 16th century Britain, a distinction was made between ale, which was unhopped, and beer, brought by Dutch merchants, which was hopped.

Here is an excellent Web site that explores gruit topics and recipes.

In Germany, there was not just a trend toward hops-only brews. The Bavarian Purity Law, mandating that the only ingredients in beer production could be water, barley, and hops became law in 1516. I used to think that it was quality control legislation (yay), but maybe it was behavior control legislation (boo).

Evolution Craft Brewing Co.Owner Tommy Knorr holds pelletized   hops at left, and barley grains on the right. There is a lot of speculation about why this came to be. One theory is that hops preserve beer and increase trade. That is true, but so do other herbs. Another idea is that gruit was too stimulating physically and sexually and governments and the Church preferred the sedating effects of hops. Hops is a chill-out herb, but so are other herbs in gruit.

The idea that beer with hops suppresses carnal urges is absurd. Many a time have I worn the hops goggles. For whatever reason, medieval gruit was a monster, said to be mega-intoxicating and hallucinogenic. It sounds like berserker fuel, Red Bull times crack plus shrooms.

Here is a podcast with Stephen Buhner who wrote Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. He links the control of psychotropic beer ingredients with the Catholic Church. My favorite quote is, "The Catholic Church before 1100 was pretty cool." A huge amount of brewing at that time seems to have been done by monks. His premise is that prudes ruin every organization over time. I can't disagree. He also mentions beer anthropologists. Fascinating.

Herbal additives, including hops, seem to have three functions: preserving, flavoring, and mood enhancement. 

I love herbal alcoholic concoctions from gin to akvavit to my own experiments with herb infused vodkas.

I would love to try some gruit ale, but I can't find it locally. There is a place in Arlington called American Flatbread that is reported to have seasonal homemade gruit ales, but none are on the current drink menu.

Ironically, the Midnight Sun Brewery bottles a gruit ... in Alaska. Paging Sarah Palin ...
Perhaps some home brewers have experimented with gruit. If you have any first-hand experience in brewing or quaffing gruit, please share it with us. 

I believe that there is a new gruit world out there for brewers to rediscover. I predict that gruit will make a comeback in weird and wonderful ways soon. Until then, try to party like it's 999 and get yer gruit on!

(Top image courtesy of Getty Images. At bottom, Evolution Craft Brewing Co.Owner Tommy Knorr holds pelletized hops at left, and barley grains on the right. Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:07 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Confirmed: HFStival to return to Merriweather Post Pavilion Sept. 18

spectators at the 2006 hfstival at merriweatherAfter a four-year hiatus, the HFStival will return to Merriweather Post Pavilion Sept. 18, officials confirmed today.

The lineup for the festival, an annual staple in the region's live music scene for more than a decade, is still TBA.

But if rumors are true, the lineup could include Billy Idol,Third-Eye Blind, Fuel, Marcy Playground and Better Than Ezra.

Tickets will go on sale May 28.

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

(Baltimore Sun archive photo of the 2006 HFStival at Merriweather Post Pavilion)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:24 PM | | Comments (30)

Johnny Rad's to replace Kelly's Tavern

this is a rendition of Johnny Rad's

Richard Pugh had been looking for the right place to open a Neapolitan pizza joint for years. His friend Steve Ball wanted to open a pub.

"We got together and said, 'Hey, you want to open a bar that serves pizza,'" Pugh said. "He said 'yes.'"

The result is a pizza pub named Johnny Rad's, which will replace Kelly's Tavern in the coming weeks.

Renovations big and small are under way at the Fells Point space, which should be open in June, Pugh said ...

They kept the old wood bar and bar back, but plan to knock out the square glass windows and replace them with ones that open out onto the street. A new wood door and different dining furniture is on the way, and the bar stools were resurfaced.

"Everything was old and outdated," Pugh said. "The place was covered in nicotine. ... We want it to be much more inviting and welcoming than that old school bar mentality. It’s not 1970 anymore."

Karaoke, which was once a fixture at Kelly's, will be back at Johnny Rad's, Pugh said. The kitchen will have a brick-lined oven, and serve meat, vegetarian and vegan Neapolitan pizzas.

Ball, the former operations manager of Bedrock Billiards, is running the bar side. There will be five beers on tap, from local brews to seasonals, as well as about 40 bottled beers and a dozen or so wines.

Johnny Rad's is named after a lounge singer from an '80s skateboarding movie. Check him out. The singer has a cult reputation among skaters from back in the day, Pugh said. Both Pugh and Ball have been skateboarding for more than 20 years.

"IF you grew up skateboarding in the 80s, you know who (Johnny Rad) is," he said. "If you grew up in the 90s, you heard about him."

(Rendition of Johnny Rad's courtesy of Pugh)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:38 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Pickled Parrot owner arrested in stabbing

Police arrested George "Gerry" Balog, owner of the Pickled Parrot, in connection with the stabbing of two men Saturday at the intersection of Boston Street and South Linwood Avenue. 

According to police, a woman named Christina Horton was walking out of the building at 2901 Boston St. when she saw Balog, Chris Lewis and Joshua Gorrera "rolling on top of each other." All three men had injuries -- Lewis had apparent stab wounds on his back and neck, Gorrera had wounds on his legs and right hand and Balog had a cut on his forehead ...
Balog also had a knife with a three-inch blade in his hand. All three had an "odor of alcohol" on their breath, according to the police report. Lewis and Gorrera were taken to Bayview Hospital, and Balog, a semi-frequent commenter on Midnight Sun, was transported to Johns Hopkins and later to Central Booking.

Police found a pocketknife, cell phone, flip-flop white T-shirt and a pair of underwear -- all with blood on them.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:06 AM | | Comments (94)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 17, 2010

More on the proposed West Side Arts District

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about why declaring Baltimore's West Side an arts district isn't the solution. It sparked a flurry of comments from people who agreed and disagreed with me.

While I lounged on a dais eating grapes and drinking wine, arts writer Mary McCauley did some actual reporting on the topic. McCauley talked to officials from Baltimore's two arts districts, as well as an expert or two.

Here is a link to her piece, which ran in yesterday's paper.

McCauley spoke with Chris Ryer, coordinator of the Highlandtown Arts and Entertainment District, who thinks the city hung his district out to dry.

Ryer doesn't get any funding, and little has come of the city's decision to make the neighborhood an arts district ...

From the piece:

In 2003, the city waved the policy equivalent of a magic wand and declared that a new arts district had been created in an area encompassing Highlandtown, Patterson Park, and parts of Canton  and Greektown. Then, officials sat back and waited for hordes of artists to turn up and bring about urban renewal. Seven years later, they're still waiting. ...

"From the beginning, we were wrongly conceived," Ryer says."Arts districts were originally thought of as being devices to revitalize old, industrial areas — not residential neighborhoods with 3,000 rowhouses. My guess is that we don't have more than 50 or 60 artists living in the whole area."

Wait, you mean, city officials can't grow an arts district from scratch just by declaring it and arts district and offering a few tax breaks? No way!

What about the Station North Arts and Entertainment District? The status as an arts district has definitely helped the area gel into a more cohesive community, officials said. But most of the changes have come from the bottom up -- not the top down.

After all, it was the community of artists, educators and business leaders who banded together to form Station North Inc., a nonprofit agency with an annual budget of about $100,000 that coordinates activities in the district.

So would it work on the West Side? Maybe, according to McCauley's piece. The West Side does have the Bromo Seltzer Tower,  Hippodrome, Eubie Blake Center and H&H Building, and the Theatre Project is supposed to move there next year.

I still don't think declaring the area an arts district is going to make much of a difference. 

(Chris Ryer, right, coordinator of the Highlandtown Arts and Entertainment District, with Margaret Footner, executive director and co-founder of the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, behind them on Eastern Avenue. The Creative Alliance is the only functioning arts organization in the Arts and Entertainment district, and Ryer's work on the district is a challenge because it is unfunded. Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:14 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

Name That Bar, vol. 21

DSC_1381.JPGFact: The first person to name this bar will win a prize.

Fact: This Mystery Bar is easier to name than the last one, which took people more than a day to figure out.

Fiction: I once filled up this glass with malt liquor and drained it in one gulp.

I'll publish the comments and announce the winner this time tomorrow. 

Good luck, everybody!

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:03 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Name That Bar

Baltimore's Makeba Riddick, songwriter for Beyonce, Rihanna

makeba riddickYou probably won't recognize the name Makeba Riddick, but I'm sure you've heard some of her songs: Rihanna's "Rude Boy," Beyonce's "Deja Vu," and T.I.'s "Live Your Life" are a few of the songs she's helped write.

Riddick, a 31-year-old Baltimore native, graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts, got a degree in music management from Berklee College of Music and set off for New York City.

There, she linked up with Bad Boy Records, and co-wrote Jennifer Lopez's No. 1 single "All I Have." She has also penned songs for Jessica Simpson, Toni Braxton, Kelis, Mariah Carey and a host of other stars.

Here is a link to the piece. ...

I sat down with the soft-spoken Riddick about a month ago, when "Rude Boy" was still crushing the charts. Now, Riddick's songwriting is back in the Top 10 with Braxton's new album, "Pulse." In order to be a successful songwriter, you have to have a stream of hits on the charts, and Riddick has pulled it off for the past eight years. She's currently signed with Roc Nation.

Every time Riddick hears one of her songs on the radio, it's like the first time, she said. The thrill has never faded.

"It's surreal," she said. "You can't believe how this song or those lyrics we were playing around with has the whole world singing along. It's very exciting, every single time." 

(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:25 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music

May 16, 2010

Zac Brown, O.A.R. and a beer bath at Preakness

o.a.r.'s marc roberge gets his preak onSo I survived yesterday's Preakness infield debauchery, which was much wilder than last year but not nearly as nuts as the BYOB days.

I think that's exactly how organizers wanted it. If you wanted to get wasted, you had to spend half your day waiting in beer lines.

I spotted a dude named Keith Carrier, who was carrying around a metal bucket filled with beer, and stopped him to see where he got it.

Turns out, he stole it from a beer stand and convinced a female bartender to fill it up for $10.

Here's a link to the little piece I wrote about him, and here is a link to a photo of him and his friends with the bucket.

Most of the day, I was in the middle of the masses who came to see the Zac Brown Band and O.A.R. (pictured). Both bands suited the sunny, breezy weather and college-aged crowd perfectly ...

Halfway through O.A.R.'s set, a young woman doused me with what must have been a full cup of beer. It was in my hair, all down my back, in my ear -- even my notepad was soaked. She was actually aiming for another dude, who started yelling at her. Then some guy came to her defense, and the two guys started brawling in the audience. I was content to let them duke it out while I dried off.

Over the course of the day, I had beer spilled on my legs, feet and shoulders, some dude bumped into me with his lit cigar butt and somebody else hurled a hoodie on top my head. Oh, the torments I suffer to get the job done. Hee hee.

Here is a link to my review of the Zac Brown Band, Collective Soul and O.A.R. It's not my best work ever, because I only had an hour to write it, but it's better than nothing.

Did you go to Preakness? Share some stories with me.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:37 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Concert reviews

May 15, 2010

Guess where I'll be today

In a perfect world, I'd be spending today getting a full body massage, drinking a bottomless pitcher of mojitos, relaxing in the mountains.

Instead, I'll be Getting My Preak On with thousands of other happy-go-lucky infielders at Pimlico Race Course. I'm going to be reviewing the music and writing little vignettes of the action throughout the day. If you're there and you see a dude with a notepad, say hi -- it just might be me.

Giddy up!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:38 AM | | Comments (2)

May 14, 2010

Reports: Rare Soul is open

Rare Soul, the new Boston Street lounge which replaced Club Phantom, is open, according to Midnight Sunner jmgiordano. I called owner Yolanda Espinet a couple times to confirm it, but haven't heard back from her. Anybody been there yet?
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:46 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Concert review: Pearl Jam at Jiffy Lube Live

eddie!Midnight Sun correspondent and JazzTimes editor Evan Haga saw Pearl Jam at Jiffy Lube Live last night. Here is his review:

When Pearl Jam emerged as part of the early '90s grunge hype, the band seemed like classic rockers among punk bands.

Part of the act had to do with diffidence or plain spite: The brooding lyrics and deadly serious demeanor; the love-hate relationship with commerciality and the limelight; that whole flannel-laden, one-with-the-people aesthetic.

But there was also plenty there for fans of '60s and '70s hard rock: Frontman Eddie Vedder's voice, a highly textured baritone that comes from the belly and can fill every nook of a large space, quickly became iconic; Stone Gossard and Hendrix-worshipping lead guitarist Mike McCready staked a claim as one of rock's great guitar tandems, making nightly arguments for the big riff and the extended solo when musical incompetence was cool.

Simply put, it was thoroughly son's music, but there was enough Aerosmith and Led Zep there to please Dad as well ...

Much of the group's terrific two-plus hours at Jiffy Lube Live last night suggested the opposite: a band of punk fury playing in an arena-rock atmosphere. They played more recent material, like "Got Some" and "World Wide Suicide," and older songs, like "Blood" and "Spin the Black Circle," that were bashing, direct and venomous.

Vedder took on punk's guise of the rock 'n' roll leftist intellect, quoting Kurt Vonnegut and sending one out to the late Howard Zinn, and, less gracefully, encouraging lobbyists for fundamentally corrupt finance outfits to kill themselves to "save the lives of others." (He quickly retracted the suicide bit and simply suggested they find work elsewhere.)

At other times the punk roots were made even plainer: Vedder talked about meeting Sex Pistol John Lydon at the prior night's Public Image Ltd. gig at 9:30 Club, and wore that band's T-shirt; as an encore, the band tackled the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer." (Vedder has made a hobby of referencing his inspirations from the rock underground. A more curious citation was Pearl Jam's intro music by Baltimore’s own Phil Glass; but, hey, My Morning Jacket uses Steve Reich.)

eddie!But it's hard to say how many of the straitlaced-looking fans who packed the 25,000-seat venue got the references, or, for that matter, sympathize with economic reform -- the cheers suggested they did, though Vedder's command is so overwhelming he could lead a mass naptime if he wanted to.

A lot about the show indicated business as usual for a massive touring act. The crowd was simply rabid -- it seemed as if thousands of mouths moved in unison with Vedder's throughout -- and the $35 T-shirts and $55 sweatshirts were readily available.

Onstage, McCready flicked picks into the audience and played behind his head, and, on "Even Flow," developed a solo that betrayed his years worshipping his own guitar heroes: He started with slow bends, worked a single lick to a fever pitch, faced his amp cabinet a la Jimi Hendrix and evoked Stevie Ray Vaughan with some full-handed groove playing.

The show ended with more Hendrix homages: The ballad "Yellow Ledbetter" and McCready's take on Jimi's take on "The Star-Spangled Banner." Of course, some of Pearl Jam's most engaging material has been its most meditative, and those songs constituted high points here: the surprising opener, "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town;" "Black," something of a vocal showcase on this night; "Just Breathe," one of Vedder's recent, more contented songs, and one that he fingerpicked and sang on like a born acoustic troubadour; and "Better Man," a favorite dedicated here to Sean Penn and his work in Haiti. ("This song is about an abusive relationship. I'm not dedicating that part to Sean, just the title," Vedder quipped.)

In the end, the equal measure of brains and brawn, the balance between the stadium and the nightclub, was mightily impressive. Perhaps even more convincing is how they obtained all this: by holding up live performance as a virtue, making a slight art form of the set list and, in the case of last night, playing past venue curfew with the house lights on, giving 'em what they came for until it was no longer possible.

(Eddie Vedder performs at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 1, 2010 in New Orleans. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:04 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Concert reviews

Racially charged sign posted outside Sid's Tavern, bar owner arrested for assault

sids.jpgI'm not sure where to begin with this one, gang. It's so bizarre.

The owner of Sid's Tavern was arrested for assault last night, after he allegedly spit on a police officer, according to a liquor board official.

A sign (pictured) with racial and homosexual epithets posted outside the bar was taken down.

At about 8 p.m., the city started getting calls from Pigtown residents that a racially charged sign was posted outside Sid's Tavern.

The liquor board recently revoked the bar's license, and the sign, about three feet by five feet in size, claims to give the bar's side of the story. But the statements aren't true, according to liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman ...

"The version of the events of the hearing that were noted in that poster vary wildly from the version of the events that will appear in the transcripts of the hearing," he said.

Last night, when police confronted Sid's owner, Tareq Abdul-Ghani, he allegedly became irate and spat on an officer. Police arrested Abdul-Ghani and confiscated the sign.

The liquor board revoked the bar's license last month after testimony that Abdul-Ghani threatened neighbors, was uncooperative in a shooting investigation, tried to punch a dog and was videotaped running in traffic after a Ravens game.

The bar has scheduled a press conference for Sunday afternoon.

UPDATE: I spoke with councilman William H. Cole IV, who arrived at Sid's last night as Abdul-Ghani was arrested. Abdul-Ghani screamed and kicked the inside walls of the paddy wagon police van, and had to be further restrained by police, Cole said.

"The pattern of bizarre behavior continues," he said. "It was proven again last night that he is not somebody you want holding a liquor license. ... Attacking a community and attacking people who have legitimate fears about their safety doesn’t seem to be a logical way to move forward."

Here is a larger photo of the signs, courtesy of Midnight Sunner Stagger Lee. To view it close up, right click on the photo and hit 'view image.' The yellow fliers are notices of the press conference:

signsoutsidesids.jpg (Top photo, edited for content, courtesy of the liquor board)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:37 AM | | Comments (76)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 13, 2010

A guide to this year's Preakness

looooook at the tiny horseyman!Pssst -- wanna sneaky preaky at tomorrow's Live! weekend section? I know you do, and you're in luck.

I wrote a big piece about the split personalities of Preakness. There's the vile infield and the prim and proper pavilion.

Dig it.

It's more than just that, though. It's a cheat sheet -- a guide for revelers, with everything from drink prices to stage locations and set times ...

For example:

This year's musical roster, which features the Zac Brown Band and O.A.R., is sure to appeal to more people than last year's. Be prepared to ping-pong between the two stages at either end of the infield, because none of the performances will overlap. Each band will play a full set — unlike last year, when some of the shows were cut short to accommodate the races.

DJ Yummy gets things rolling at 8 a.m., Mr. Greengenes goes on at 9 a.m. and the music continues until 5:30 p.m. Need more entertainment? The infield will also have an oxygen bar, foosball, air hockey, beer pong and cornhole tables, a tent offering wagering advice, a volleyball tournament, bikini contest and scavenger hunt. They're also giving away a ton of prizes, including iPods, iPads and meet-and-greets with the bands.

It might be the cover story. It might not be. You'll just have to pick up a copy and see. Ha. Like anybody reads the paper anymore. 

Hee hee.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:34 PM | | Comments (5)

The skinny on De Kleine Duivel

De Kleine Duivel This morning, I caught up with Paul Kopchinski, the owner of De Kleine Duivel, the new Belgian beer bar coming to Hampden.

A Baltimore native, Kopchinski graduated from Peabody with a degree in classical composition, then spent 10 years working as a pharmaceutical sales rep. Now, he's opening a Belgian bar.

"I'm on my third or fourth life right now," he said.

After leaving Big Pharma, Kopchinski took an introductory course at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and started scouting locations for his bar. He wound up buying the Nutty Pub in Hampden, which he is currently gutting and renovating. Kopchinski hopes De Kleine Duivel will be open by late June or early July.

"The location was perfect and the timing was perfect," he said. "I thought, 'My idea for a bar would fit right in with what's already in this neighborhood.'" ...

Kopchinski wants De Kleine Duivel to have an authentic art nouveau feel, with exposed brick and intricate wood work.

"Anybody who's been in here before is not going to recognize it when they come back in now," he said. "We're pretty much starting from scratch."

If all goes as planned, De Kleine Duivel will have 10-12 Belgian beers on tap and another 30 bottles, Kopchinski said. He wants the beer menu to be seasonal, and also plans on serving a limited, authentic menu.

Kopchinski's mother's side of the family is Flemish, and he still has relatives in Antwerpen -- hence the name, which means "The Little Devil." For hundreds of years, Belgian beer was brewed by monks, who gave it names with religious symbols like "devil" and "angel."

"I know it will be little difficult for some people to read or pronounce, but what as long as they like the beer, that’s all that matters," he said.

(Photo courtesy of the bar's Facebook page)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:04 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Why isn't Baltimore more of a comedy town? Part 1

bmorecomedyfactory.JPGWhy isn't Baltimore more of a comedy town? It's a question I've heard tossed around for years -- but never properly answered. Maybe there is no answer. I'm going to try and find out.

This is the first in a multi-part series which tries to get to the bottom of it, by asking comedy fans (that's you), local comedians and comedy club owners why Baltimore is second-rate comedy town.

In this part, I want to know -- why do you think Baltimore's comedy scene isn't on the map? And do you even care? ...

When I started covering local entertainment five years ago, Baltimore had three dedicated comedy spots: The Improv, which got high profile comics and the Baltimore Comedy Factory and Tracy's at the Bowman, which hosted a mix of local and nationally touring comedians.

The Improv closed several years ago, and was briefly replaced by Rascals before going dark completely. Tracy's morphed into Magooby's Joke House, which was a step up for the basement club -- it got a redesign, a better lineup and improved marketing. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Comedy Factory, a gritty little space above Burke's downtown, has kept chugging along, same as it ever was.

What does Baltimore need to do to attract major talent? If another club like the Improv opened, could it sustain itself? Would you go see comedians there if it brought in mid- to major-level talent?

Or are you content seeing A-listers in arenas and large theaters and going to the DC Improv,  Baltimore Comedy Factory and Magooby's for everything else?

(Comedian Larry Lancaster performs at the Comedy Factory. Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:38 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 12, 2010

J Roddy Walston's debut due out July 27

j-roddy walston and the business knows how to rawk.Baltimore rock madmen J Roddy Walston and the Business are all set to release a self-titled debut album July 27 on Fairfax Recordings/Vagrant, the label announced yesterday.

Technically, it's the band's second album ("Hail Mega Boys" came out a few years ago), but their first label release.

The album was recorded at a breakneck pace -- all 10 songs were cut in less than two weeks, using vintage studio equipment and few overdubs ...

One song from "Hail Mega Boys" makes an appearance on the new album: "Used to Did." The others are new, but anchored by Roddy's hammering piano chords and guitarist Billy Gordon's blistering riffage.

I got a sneak peek of the new album, and let me tell you -- it's going to pop a few eardrums. Walston's primal shrieks can peel the paint off walls, and they're in full force here. This is American music down to its deliciously dirty core. The Hold Steady might not be America's best bar band anymore.

Stay tuned, folks.

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:36 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Local music

Both Pub Dogs could get all new custom XLerator hand dryers

pub dog xlerator mock-up 1Lookout Baltimore and Columbia!

According to the folks at Excel Dryer, both Pub Dog locations could have all new custom XLerator hand dryer covers in the coming weeks. The Hand Dryer Saga is coming to a close.

"Looks like both locations are going to have a full XLERATOR custom cover makeovers," marketing spokeswoman Shannon Filippelli wrote in an e-mail.

"You win. You win, big!"

The folks from Pub Dog are working with the folks from XLerator to retro-fit all the XLerators at the Columbia location with new custom covers. And the Baltimore location could get all new hand dryers and covers soon ...

At long last, Pub Dog patrons will be able to get an honest hand dried after a good, clean scrub in the sink. It's the American way, gang.

When the Baltimore Pub Dog installs its new XLerators, I'm going to head down there and take a couple funny photos.

Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond said he's thinking about printing out the XLerator saga, framing it and hanging it on the wall near the bathroom. I'll take all the credit I can get, of course.

But what's most important is, Midnight Sun caused positive change in Baltimore's bar scene. And that, gang, is priceless.

(Photo illustration courtesy of Excel Dryer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:02 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

One Corona, please. Oh, and pass the salt.

pop the top off this corona and shake some salt in it!Last week, the Midnight Sons squeeeealed wheeeels up to Upper Fells in pursuit of awesome Latino bars.

Did we find them? You bet we did. I'm going to be dropping blog posts like bombshells this week, detailing our exploits.

One of the odd things we noticed: Coronas -- and other brands of bottled beer -- were served with a wedge of lime in the top, and a salt shaker on the side.

I'm used to lime and salt when slamming back tequila shots. But beer? Yes indeedy ...

The regulars would poke the lime wedge into their beers, pick up the salt shakers and add a pinch or two to the brews. My mouth puckered at the thought of it. I knew I had to try it, though. When in Rome and all.

So I ordered a Corona, shook the salt shaker a few times above my beer (getting as much on the bar as in the suds) and took a swig. It tasted OK -- like salty beer.

I wasn't sold on it. In fact, it vaguely reminded me of the heinous Bud Light & Clamato Chelada. Gack!

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:33 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 11, 2010

Bottomless Bloody Marys & Mimosas. Why not Screwdrivers too?

bloody mary!Gobs of Baltimore restaurants and bars have bottomless Bloody Marys and Mimosas with brunch. But what about bottomless Screwdrivers?

Sip on this: Mimosas have orange juice and champagne, and Bloody Marys have vodka and tomato juice. A Screwdriver is a little bit of both -- orange juice and vodka.

Midnight Sunner Tif said he likes Screwdrivers with brunch, which I can appreciate, and bars typically accommodate him, no problem. They usually charge the same price as the bottomless Bloodys or Mimosas.

But when Tif asked Little Havana to serve him bottomless Screwdrivers with brunch, they balked. Tif writes:

The bartender refused and claimed he went and asked the owner who refused. We ended up at the Waterfront Hotel bar who happily offers unlimited screwdrivers. ... What's the deal/logic in denying screwdrivers at brunch when you offer bloodies and mimmies?

I called Little Havana co-owner Marc Gentile, who spelled it all out for me. It ain't a pretty picture, gang ...

"You give somebody all-you-can-drink screwdrivers and they are cooked -- passing out in the parking lot, puking in the urinals," Gentile said. "Once you give somebody a pitcher of Screwdrivers, that's it for them. It's a nightmare."


It adds up, though. I can't see people chugging Blood Marys. Heck, I don't even understand why people drink that muck. Drinking tomato juice with vodka on a hot summer morning with a hangover won't cure what ails you -- it will ail what cures you. 

Mimosas go down easier, but don't pack the same wallop. But bottomless Screwdrivers + hangover  = catastrophe.

(Pictured is the Bloody Mary at the Camden Club. Photo from Baltimore Sun archives)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:05 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Belgian beer bar De Kleine Duivel to open in Hampden

De Kleine Duivel A Belgian-themed brasserie named De Kleine Duivel will open in Hampden in June, according to Beer in Baltimore.

De Kleine Duivel, which replaces Nutty Pub, could have 10-12 beers on tap, as well as another 30 in bottles.

The brasserie will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, which doesn't have a real beer bar. Here is a link to the bar's Facebook page, which has more info and status updates. That's also where I got the photo.

I called the bar this morning but no one picked up. I'll post more details when I get them.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:02 PM | | Comments (32)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Baltimore's most ornate urinal

rumba club urinalI have discovered Baltimore's most ornate urinal, which resides in the men's room of the Rumba Club.

Last week, I led an expedition into the bars and clubs of Upper Fells. One of our first stops was the Rumba Club, on the corner of Pratt Street and Broadway.

Before we left, Midnight Sunner ryan97ou had to relieve himself, at which point he spotted this elaborately tiled urinal. It is everything you would want in a urinal, from the colorful patterns to the manual spigot.

Hee hee.

Also of note: The outer bathroom door had a large window in the middle of it. If you were curious about what happened inside, there was no need to open the door -- you just have to peer through the glass.

Most convenient! ...

Yes yes, I know all about how the Tremont Grand's bathroom was voted one of the Top 10 in the country. But that was the women's room, and didn't have urinals. So there.

Rumba Club is #1! Rumba Club is #1!

The urinal looked so nice, I almost felt bad about using it. Almost.

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

May 10, 2010

Under the weather

Hey gang, I'm feeling out of sorts today and taking a day off the blog. See you tomorrow.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:06 AM | | Comments (8)

May 7, 2010

Witness this bottle of Mamajuana from the Dominican Republic

latin cocktail time!Midnight Sunner Stagger Lee sent me this photo of a bottle of Mamajuana from the Dominican Republic.

It's a Latin herb cocktail -- just like the ones we were talking about the other day

According to Stagger, it came with shrubbery, bark and leaves soaked in rum. 

"Tastes like gas, but 'mas fuerte," he reports. I'm not sure what that means, but I sent it to our Spanish interpreter for analysis.

It came with no liquid, but the border guards made Stagger's messenger pour them in a bottle of rum to "avoid the rubber glove treatment." 


(Photos courtesy of Stagger Lee)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:30 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Concert review: Yeasayer at The Ottobar

Midnight Sun correspondent Andy Rosen saw Yeasayer's sold-out show at The Ottobar last night. Here is his review:

The first sound out of Yeasayser was a strange, slow synthesizer loop, as the five-piece, eerie indie outfit took the stage at Ottobar Thursday. A faster, spooky guitar line piled on top quickly, at first falling in and out of sync with the keyboard.

The tracks converged for good when the drums dropped in. The sold-out crowd was excited, at least judging from the intensity of the cheers. Still, everybody was just staring, transfixed as the Brooklyn band with Baltimore roots got into "The Children," the first track off this year's release, "Odd Blood." ...

It was a strange crowd, too. It wouldn't be The Ottobar without the regular skinny jeans and flannel set, but there were some serious yuppies there, too, and a significant Baby Boomer contingent. A middle-aged man in a Charles Village Baseball T-shirt stood almost entirely still for the whole show, while twenty-somethings in weird hats began to dance circle in front of the stage.

The band was tight, played complex, mostly rhythmic tunes and was mixed well. People were into it. Still, it felt like Yeasayer was just a set list tweak or two away from totally blowing the place away in what amounted to a homecoming show.

Lead singer Chris Keating and guitarist Anand Wilder met at the Park School, and they clearly still have a lot of friends here. Keating had fun, mixing a percussive synthesizer track and stepping back at times to pound a crash cymbal with his fist.

But it was perhaps most apparent the last song of the night that Yeasayer could have done more. The crowd was going nuts after the fist song following the band's brief departure. They came back with  "Strange Reunions." That song features, an intense, Eastern-influenced guitar line, a Soft Cell-style vocal line from Wilder and a heavy downbeat that had almost everybody jumping.
Then they finished, just before midnight, with "Sunrise," a spooky, spacey track that really didn't fit the exultant mood of the crowd.

We left feeling a little let down. That's not to say the show wasn't good. It was great fun. Yeasayer has a really special sound, mixing a big new wave influence with very strong vocal harmonies that sound like they come out of some twisted doo-wop track.

But it's hard not to feel like the band missed an opportunity to really make it sublime. Maybe it was the set list, maybe it was the strange crowd and maybe it was just the band's spooky sound. There was just something odd about the mix.

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:13 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Concert reviews

OK Go and 'Les Miserables'

ok go performs at rams head live sundayIf you were to pick up a copy of today's newspaper (ha ha who does that anymore), you would find my article in the Live! section about the rock group OK Go.

The Los Angeles-based four-piece is headed to Rams Head Live on Sunday. Whether you're a fan of these guys or not, you've probably seen one of their awesome music videos.

When I interviewed singer Damian Kulash (who is from Washington), we talked for a minute or two about the "Les Miserables." Turns out, Kulash is a big fan ...

"I'm a really big 'Les Mis' fan," he said. "Tim and I bonded over 'Les Mis' when we were 12 years old. As embarassed as I probably should be, I think it's a fantastic body of work."

Loving "Les Mis" is nothing to be ashamed of.

"It's a Broadway masterpiece," he said. "Massive pop musicals like that have a certain 'American Idol'  quality -- a ribald, cloying musicality. What can I say? 'Les Mis' has me to the core."


Also, does he earn or lose points for the use of the word "ribald?" I'm not entirely sure. But Kulash did have some cool things to say about Dischord, Ian MacKaye and the Washington punk scene from the '90s.

(Handout photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:45 AM | | Comments (2)

May 6, 2010

Happy (belated) birthday to Midnight Sun

sams identical twin enjoys some bday cake

I was busy worrying about what I was going to blog about this afternoon when I realized I'd totally forgotten about Midnight Sun's third birthday, which was technically April 30. Oops.

Happy belated blog birthday, Midnight Sun.

Man, I can't believe it's been three years since my very first post. A quick look at the numbers:

Over the years, I have written more than 2,600 posts, and Midnight Sunners have left more than 24,000 comments.

In its first week, Midnight Sun had 800 page views. Last week, Midnight Sun had 41,000 page views. 

Midnight Sun has been more fun (and more frustrating) than just about anything else I've done as a writer ...

It thrills me to no end that people actually read -- and sometimes enjoy -- what I write.

Don't hate, celebrate.

I've always loved telling people stories, which is why I got into journalism in the first place, but Midnight Sun took that love to another level.

Thanks, everybody, for helping make Midnight Sun fun.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:30 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Random stuff

Going to Preakness this year? Call or e-mail me.

preaknessflowersawww.JPGPreakness is only a week away, folks, and I'm looking for people who skipped Preakness last year but are going back this year.

Are you one of those people? Do you know one of those people?

Call me at 410.332.6689 or e-mail me as soon as possible.


Sam Sessa
CEO, Midnight Sun

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:55 PM | | Comments (0)

By the way ...

The Pub Dog/XLerator hand dryer saga, it hasn't been forgotten. Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond has just been on vacation for the past 16 days. When I called him this morning, he was in Bankok. I hope the call didn't cost him $50. I'll post another update when he gets back.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:21 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

WTMD's 1st Thursday Concert in the Park is tonight

goldspotWhat a day for an outdoor show -- a free outdoor show, at that.

Dust off those folding chairs and blankets, and bring them to Mount Vernon Park tonight for WTMD's First Thursday Concert in the Park.

It's the first First Thursday of the season, featuring live performances by indie pop group Goldspot (pictured) and Baltimore's reggae hot shots Can't Hang.

According to Can't Hang's website, the band has sold more than 100,000 digital downloads -- a serious accomplishment for an unsigned band. Congrats, guys! ...

The show starts at 5:30 p.m., but if you can, you should get there a little earlier. The primo seats go quick.

If you're having no luck finding street parking, the Sun garage at Monument and Calvert streets is always a good bet, too.

(Photo courtesy of Goldspot's MySpace site)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:49 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

Concert review: Drake at Pier Six Pavilion

drakeMidnight Sun concert reviewer John-John Williams IV saw Drake perform at Pier Six last night. Here are his thoughts:

A couple years ago, I would have thought you were crazy if you told me a former kid actor from Canada would roll into Baltimore and rock the crowd with the same swagger and lyrical prowess of veteran rappers from the gritty streets of America's inner cities.

But that is exactly what Drake did last night at Pier Six Pavilion to a crowd of screaming, head nodding, and in a number of cases, scantily dressed, 20-somethings.

It's amazing that this young import has yet to drop his debut album. (It's coming June 15.) Until now he’s been the collaboration king, working with his mentor Lil' Wayne, fellow newcomer Nicki Minaj and industry heavyweights like Alicia Keys.

But he proved last night that he is more than capable of headlining a show. Who knows? He might even live up to the hype of being the next big thing in rap ...

With an impressive array of rapping and singing skills, Drake's potential seems endless. Toss in his acting roots, and Drake has the potential to be a double threat like LL Cool J, Will Smith, and Ice Cube.

One thing became very apparent when Drake hit the stage last night -- he knows how to work a crowd and connect with his material. His voice was crisp and strong, his lyrics delivered in a clear, confident manner. And the crowd wasn’t sitting there playing the "What did he just say" game while listening to him (Soulja Boy and Lil’ Wayne, take note).

Most importantly, he's likable. At times he's self-deprecating. Instead of shying away from his teeny-bopper TV show roots, he poked fun at it. When he did something as gauche as scanning the pavilion and pointing out all the women in the audience he said he wanted to have sex with, there weren’t the groans and boos you would expect if R. Kelly did the same. There’s just something about him -- call it charisma.

Drake hit the stage hard and energetic. Wearing a black Towson University hoodie, he performed his hit "Forever," and the mostly Towson University crowd went nuts. Drake then transitioned into the fast paced "Unstoppable." By his third song, he ripped off the sweatshirt and launched into the first of several endearing anecdotes he shared with the audience.

"I come here from Toronto, Canada to give you a show ya'll will never forget," he said. That youthful confidence was somewhat comical, yet refreshing. You could tell he really meant it.

While Drake’s concert wasn't the best I've seen in the past 16 months -- Beyonce, Maxwell, and Lady Gaga have a healthy lead -- he did show a lot of promise. With time, I think he might be able to be mentioned in the same breath.

Drake really mixed up his material during his 90 minutes on stage. One minute he was earning street cred with hard lyrics featured in Lil' Wayne’s song "I'm Going In." The next he was crooning to the crowd. A few minutes later he was freestyle rapping. At one point he picked a female fan from out of the crowd and slow danced with her on stage. He even threw in a little comedy when a number of audience members tossed their bras at him.

"I was having a moment on stage and you throw a double D bra at me," a smiling Drake said as he held up the bra in question. A few minutes later, his microphone stand was draped with assorted bras.

My favorite moment of the concert was when he performed "Successful," a beautifully haunting track laced with what sounds like a choir of angels singing in the background. The lavender lights draped over the crowd as a breeze from the harbor cooled the crowd. It was as close to a perfect concert moment as you can get.

The crowd was the loudest when veteran rapper Birdman came on stage and joined Drake for the songs   “4 My Town” and “Money To Blow.” The two had really good chemistry. They fed off each other’s energy, and really worked the crowd.

Drake ended the night by performing his hit "The Best I Ever Had." Considering its title, that song might have been released too early in his career. I think the best is yet to come.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:34 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Concert reviews

May 5, 2010

Latin drinks infused with "stimulating" herbs


A reader named Lee saw my piece about herb-infused cocktails, and sent me this curious lesson in South of the Border herbs and drinks. Keeping with today's Cinco de Mayo theme, I thought I'd share it:

In Latin America, it's not uncommon to infuse mix drinks with aphrodisiac herbs like damiana, muira puama, catuaba, etc. (these are just the most popular ones).

For example if you hit the bars in Mexico city or the Baja peninsula, you will see lots of women drinking tequila infused with damiana, usually mixed into a margarita. Originally, the margarita was always made with damiana liqueur.

The other two -- muira puama and catuaba, are usually sold as coarsely shredded wood bark in small glass flasks. You pour your rum into the flask and carry that around, where it slowly soaks up the aromatics in the bark. It's also used to spike drinks at bars or these herbal mixes are boiled up in big pots at roadside stands.

These are highly effective sexual stimulants (both men and women) as well as a relaxing tonic (even without the alcohol) ...

Given the number of Latinos living in Fells Point, for example, it's really surprising to me that these types of drinks have not popped up in local bars. With a name like Bad Decisions - you'd think they'd be on top of this!

I used to live in Texas and my parents used to visit Mexico all the time w/ me. They visited the Baja peninsula just last year and brought back a bottle of Damiana Tequila.

On another trip to the Caribbean Islands, my dad brought be back one of those glass flasks filled with herbal bark. Yes it really does "do the trick."

Oh, something else they will do is roast and grind the stuff up with coffee. That will give you a buzz worth remembering. Funny you never hear about that stuff here, but you can get it at the vitamin stores in pill form, or sometimes as an extract.  (It's worth looking into.)

Maybe some Bodegas stock it behind the counter, but I've never heard of it at bars. Only places like the Vitamin shop carry it. They should totally use this for bar drinks in B-more. 

(Baltimore Sun archive photo of a margarita)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:01 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What are the best Latino bars in Upper Fells?

is this an innocent man wearing a bandana and sombrero or ... Sam  Sessa in disguise?The Midnight Sun biker gang (we call ourselves the Midnight Sons) are rolling up to Fells Point later this week, searching for the best Latino joints in town.

Got any suggestions?

This is largely uncharted territory. I kinda feel like Columbo -- err, Columbus. Maybe a little of both, actually.

Our plan is to squeal wheels up Broadway, terrorizing the locals with our Harleys, stopping at as many watering holes as possible.

What traditional drinks should we order? Beers seem too obvious ...

I wonder how many of the bars/restaurants/clubs there just do cheap beers and tequila, and how many have serious traditional drinks -- way beyond the typical margaritas and such.

Right now, we're definitely hitting up the Rumba Club and Arcos. I'm not sure about Latin Palace -- there is usually a cover charge, even on weeknights.


(Is this an innocent man wearing a bandanna and sombrero taking a photograph or ... Sam  Sessa in disguise? AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:16 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Tequilas, margaritas and a burrito truck - oh my!

a frothy topped margarita awaits you tonight at bad decisionsWhat are youuuuu doing tonight? Hmmmmm?

It's Cinco de Mayo, you know.

Let me tell you something -- let me share a secret with you, my friends: There is a tequila tasting, with all kinds of wicked South of the Border spirits, as well as margaritas galore, at Bad Decisions

Do you know what that means? It means your world is about to be rocked like a sailboat in a thunderstorm. YEE-HAW!

And when all that tequila is rolling around your belly, you're going to want some NOM NOM NOMs. Don't worry -- they've gotcha covered. There's gonna be a burrito truck parked riiight outside the bar, serving up hot Mexican grub. 

Convinced yet? Be there.

Find more Baltimore area Cinco de Mayo events here.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:20 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 4, 2010

Zodiac to close this month

The Zodiac, the restaurant-turned performance space in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, will close this month, booker Adam Endres said.

For the past year and a half, local arts collective Wham City has brought lectures, live music and comedy to the Zodiac. But Endres is taking a month-long vacation in June, and building owner Joy Martin wants to focus on opening a nearby diner, Endres said ...

"When we started doing Zodiac, we planned on it being a temporary space," Endres said. "It's been open a year and a half. It's run its course for Joy."

Endres said he'd be open to the idea of reopening Zodiac in the fall, but isn't sure if anything will come of it.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:30 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: The world's worst bar names

This post doesn't even need an intro. Here's Owl Meat Gravy with another hilarious installment:

We've discussed good and bad bar names in the past.

My faves are Rub-A-Dub Club, The Awesome Zone, ZombieBar, and Xtreme Cilantro. One of my bartender friends named Kyle, a Michigan native and Detroit Red Wings fan, wants to open a bar with three of his friends. The proposed name: Quad Wingers.

Oooo, exquisitely bad name.

Quad Wingers is laughably bad, but there are worse names. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the world's worst bar names. Savor ...

Syphilitic Mike's Old Man Keno Bar
Beers for Fears
Claddagh Pub based on the novel Push by Sapphire
The Barf Trough
Sarah Palin's Tundra from Down Under Gentleman's Club
Urine the Money
T.G.I. Enema's
Roofie McPervy's Martini Bar
The Corpse You Came In On
Fraulein Thunderkraut's Brew Haus
Stabby McGee's
Ben Roethlisberger's Cozy Corner
You're A Peein' Lounge
Club Crunk & Disorderly
Bad Hygiene Decisions
Dave & Buster & Hitler's
Scabby's Drinkateria
Grand Crud Wine Bar
Lap Dances & Tech Support
Hard *ock Café
L.P. Cleveland Steamers
Rusty's Scupper
The Scrote Pit
Flavio's Brazilian Lounge & Wax
Sauerkraut Belch Factory
Jetset Mafia Presents DoucheBar

Please add your own ideas. As a bonus, I will buy a drink for the authors of my favorite submissions at the next Midnight Sun gathering.*

*Rare cognac and Scotch excluded. Void where prohibited. Not valid in American Samoa or the Marshall Islands. Not open to residents of Michigan, ex-girl friends, Red Wing fans, or investors in Quad Wingers. Judging is completely arbitrary and unfair.


(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:17 AM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Dan Deacon: 'Total Recall' a 'perfect choice' for Maryland Film Festival

dan deacon says arnold was an important facet in his artistic  development. me too!

When the Maryland Film Festival first approached local musician Dan Deacon (pictured) about presenting a late night screening, Deacon had no idea what flick to pick.

Deacon came up with three options: "Dead Man," "Total Recall" and "Predator." He went with "Total Recall," the 1990 sci-fi flick starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone.

At 11 p.m. Saturday, Deacon will host a late night screening of "Total Recall" at the Charles Theatre.

"A lot of people pick something overly esoteric or a movie that tries to make them seem more intelligent than they are," Deacon said.

"I wanted to pick a movie I really wanted to see in the theater and would be fun. I thought “Total Recall” was a perfect choice." ...

Deacon first saw "Total Recall" as a kid, and still loved it when he revisited it as an adult. The special effects hold up, and the plot line is as pointed as ever, he said.

"It's a movie that, for lack of a better term, is a mindf--- movie," Deacon said. "You honestly don't know if Schwarzenegger is actually saving Mars or if he's completely insane."

"Total Recall" isn't just director Paul Verhoeven's best film, Deacon said, it's one of the best sci-fi/action movies ever made. There is one line at the end of the movie (Deacon wouldn't say which line) that makes you rethink all of the characters' motivations, he said.

aaaaahhhnold.JPG"I love "Starship Troopers" and "RoboCop" -- those are beautifully awesome films," he said. "But "Total Recall" is the crown jewel."

If "Total Recall" were to be made today, the score would be terrible, Deacon said. Most of today's action films have sub par scores, he thinks. Not so for "Total Recall."

"The score in "Total Recall" is beautiful," he said. "If that score were to be made this year, it would be nu metal throughout, and overly orchestrated nonsense."

This isn't the first time Deacon has presented a piece involving Schwarzenegger. Several years ago, he and renegade Baltimore filmmaker Jimmy Joe Roche collaborated on "Ultimate Reality," a video/music project with footage taken from Schwarzenegger films.

"In a lot of his films, he plays the heroic protagonist that's stopping evil forces, and (now) he's become the evil forces," Deacon said. "It’s the most awesome half-circle of life. He's the evil (governor). That's awesome."

See more Maryland Film Festival coverage.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:12 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Maryland Film Festival

May 3, 2010

Tom DeLonge makes me scratch my head

tom delongeI don't get Tom DeLonge.

At last year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest, I watched him crack anatomy jokes like a 13-year-old with his Blink-182 band mates.

When I talked to him about his other band, Angels & Airwaves (they play Rams Head Live tonight), he was chatted my ear off about metaphoric symbolism.


"We're not just bringing a catchy song on the radio. We have symbolism with deep rooted historical consequences. Our songs relate to these larger-than-life philosophies. We have a movie that tugs and pulls at different emotions. A lot of our graphics were the juxtaposition of love and war to show that tug of war in human existence."

Huh? ...

DeLonge spoke fast and spat out long answers to my questions about the band's up-coming movie, "Love," and their decision to give away their latest album, also titled "Love," for free.

Here is a link to the piece, which ran in Friday's paper. I think if there is a theme to what Angels & Airwaves is doing, it's that the band is hoping for success through sheer force of will.

"Human intent can change all matter around you," DeLonge said.

(Getty Images photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:20 PM | | Comments (8)

Cheap cheap lunchtime beers at Baltimore Pho

millerlitebaltimorepho.jpgThirsty for a few lunchtime brews? Baltimore Pho's got you covered.

The Vietnamese restaurant near Hollins Market has Miller Lites for $1 as part of a lunch special. I didn't say the lunchtime beers would be good -- just cheap.

Honestly, on a hot day like today, the lighter the beer, the better. And for a buck, I'll raise a Miller Lite or two.

Sure, I'm a beer snob, but I'm also broke, and thirsts need to be quenched on the cheap.

(Photo courtesy of oneeyedcarmen)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Corkboard: Who has the best Cinco de Mayo specials?

CINCO de MAYO!Little known fact: Wednesday is Cinco de Mayo, the fifth annual Mexican celebration of mayonnaise.

I jest, I jest. Well, only about half of it -- the part about Wednesday being Cinco de Mayo is true. And Midnight Sunners deserve to know what Baltimore bars and clubs will be celebrating Mexican pride and culture.

If you're a cbar owner/bartender/bar-goer and you know about a particularly pleasing special, post a comment. I'll be calling around looking for specials today, too ...

I'm particularly curious about what the Upper Fells bars will be like, but I doubt many -- if any -- of them read Midnight Sun.

I heard something about a troupe of costumed Dos Equis dudes carrying a woman around on an elevated chair, going from bar to bar, but haven't been able to confirm it yet. Stay tuned!

Here is a link to FindLocal's list of about a half dozen Cinco de Mayo events at local bars and clubs.

(Ramon Ponce, of "Mariachi Real  De Mexico" plays a biguela during a Cinco de Mayo fiesta in 2001 at New York's South Street Seaport. The Mexican holiday celebrates the Mexican army's victory over the French in the 1862 battle of Puebla. AP photo by Tina Fineberg)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:46 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Corkboard

Concert review: My Morning Jacket at Merriweather Post Pavilion

my morning jacketMidnight Sun reviewer Evan Haga was at My Morning Jacket's show at Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday. Here are his thoughts:

A slight but telling moment occurred only two songs into My Morning Jacket's thrilling two-hour show at Merriweather on Saturday night, the venue's season opener:

At the close of "One Big Holiday," one of the band's many cathartic, hooky two-guitar showcases, frontman Jim James snatched a toy pistol from the holster he wore throughout the concert and fired an imaginary shot into the audience; moments later, while working into the more ethereal "Gideon," he directed a kind of Buddhist bow toward the zealous crowd.

The two contradictory movements made a declaration of purpose: the rock gig as spiritual transcendence, a state of Nirvana sought via the electric guitar. The dualities didn't end there, and the band, formed in Louisville, Ky., in the late '90s, expertly meshed high culture and deep roots with rock and roll's animal instincts ...

At the opening, fans of 20th-century classical music would've noticed a loop of minimalist composer Steve Reich's "Four Organs," which the quintet punctuated with thundering chords. (The results recalled The Who.) Vocalist and guitarist James was a consummate rock showman, borrowing Pete Townshend’s knee-slides and summoning guitar gods past through his V-shaped Gibson. But he also offered a fine impersonation of a trad-jazz crooner with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band during its set. (James guests on that terrific and historic ensemble's new album.)

Pulling largely from the albums "It Still Moves" (2003) and "Z" (2005), MMJ sparingly referenced its latest, sometimes oddly grooving record, "Evil Urges." Instead, the band offered more of the sound that made it famous, a deft balance of familiar melody and outsized rock sonics.

James' songwriting is dependent on stylistic touchstones you should be familiar with: Neil Young's sharp country-rock, sunny '60s and '70s pop, the shadow of Bob Dylan. Those tunes were filtered through the band's twin-guitar attack, the robust rhythm section of drummer Patrick Hallahan and bassist Tom Blankenship, and Bo Koster's keyboards, which created ambiance and filled in the harmony while guitarist Carl Broemel and James took turns soloing, harmonized their leads or engaged in a kind of collective improvisation that brought to mind a hard-rock variation of Preservation Hall’s most raucous moments.

The guitar work was ferocious -- imagine the Allman Brothers raised on AC/DC, or the Dead with a philosophical interest in punk rock. (The influence of arena rock as it was reborn in the early '90s was also undeniable: A guy in front of me wore a Pearl Jam T-shirt, and the selection seemed wholly appropriate.) A song like "Off the Record," with its lilting, vaguely Caribbean cadence, was taken into aerospace, and the symmetry was stunning: A hummable melody and to-the-moon guitar heroics in equal portions. This is clearly a group who loves to jam, though to call it a jam-band isn't fair.

When the high-volume picking verged on chest beating, an acoustic number would pull the show’s focus toward the song itself. "Golden," with James on guitar, Broemel on pedal steel and some well-placed vocal harmonies, underscored the frontman's sweet, melancholy way with country-rock melody, and highlighted his warm, casual tenor. As a singer, James likes his voice the way he likes his guitar sound: saturated in reverb, which turns his frequent falsetto wails into possessed incantations. (In the case of "Wordless Chorus," the first encore number, those soul shrieks became overbearing, like the toy gun he twirled or the antique cape he covered himself with at times.)

Another fine, and surprising, showcase for James' voice closed the whole shebang, which had to end at 11 p.m. in accordance with Merriweather's curfew. (James expressed, in no uncertain terms, his distaste for that policy.) Rejoined for the final few tunes by the Preservation Hall band, James channeled Curtis Mayfield on "Move On Up," the huge-toned horn section tackling those iconic lines with spiritual aplomb. If it was transcendence James and company looked to offer, they delivered.

(My Morning Jacket's Jim James performs with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Sunday, April 25, 2010. AP photo by Gerald Herbert) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:12 AM | | Comments (11)

May 1, 2010

Why do women drink in bars? Prohibition.

martick's wasn't really a bar, but it was kind of a speakeasy  restaurant.An esteemed former colleague of mine turned me onto this intriguing New York Magazine story about the effects of Prohibition.

Before Prohibition, most women didn't drink in bars. Saloons were men-only. That changed during Prohibition.

People didn't really have house parties (as we know them today) until Prohibition either. And people didn't order name brand liquor with the same enthusiasm until Prohibition. 

Definitely check out the article. It's cool stuff.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo of Martick's, which looked like -- but wasn't -- a speakeasy.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)
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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