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June 30, 2010

Hole, Adam Lambert and the Washington Post's Click Track blog

A couple of my comrades over at the Washington Post's Click Track music blog are having a field day with their reviews of Hole and Adam Lambert. Have you read them yet? You need to. Both reviews are hilarious, and the comments sections are wilder still.

I was laughing so hard at the ridiculousness of it, I had tears in my eyes. Nice jobs, David and Chris. Ditto to the hundreds of peeved/pleased commenters.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:57 PM | | Comments (45)

Pier Six Pavilion and the concert freeloaders

pier six pavilion. from here, you can't quite see the freeloaders,  but they're there. they're there.Every summer, when Pier Six Pavilion opens for the season, another annual tradition resurfaces: live music freeloading.

Folks come from all around with camping chairs, blankets and even portable grills and set up shop on pier five and the western side of President Street to soak in the live music from the downtown amphitheater without having to buy a ticket.

Some people go as far as to drift out into the harbor on floating rafts (gack!) or anchor their boats near the pavilion's waterside edge ...

While there's little the city or the venue can do about the boaters, officials generally frown on large groups of people loitering on the sidewalks, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

The police don't mind people sitting on the benches, but they draw the line at folding chairs, blankets and especially grills.

"For public safety reasons, you don’t want to have people sprawled out on lawn chairs with blankets and grills," Guglielmi said. "It can impede traffic on both sides – pedestrian and vehicular."

If someone accidentally falls in the water, all of the freeloaders would make it hard for the police and rescue crews to get through, Guglielmi said. Typically, an officer will approach someone with a grill or chair and ask them to move. If the person doesn’t move, the officer will write them a ticket. But they’re not going to write tickets first and ask questions later.

"We're not out there to ruin anyone's day," Guglielmi said. "We’re just trying to keep everybody safe."

Got that, gang? 

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:43 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Local music

Queen's Hookah replaces El Basha

queen's hookah!Remember El Basha, the cute but ill-fated hookah bar on the 200 block of East Baltimore Street?

It's morphed into Queen's Hookah, according to Midnight Sun tipster kateebee.

Queen's Hookah has new owners, kateebee confirmed, and now looks smokin' hot. Pun!* Also, the window dressings are nicer and the interior looks improved. 

The new incarnation is BYOB until tomorrow (sorry for the late notice, drinkers), and is "18 to party, 21 to drink." ...

Regardless of the changes, Queen's Hookah is still at an awful location, where any business -- especially one that's relying on foot traffic -- would have a tough time. I hate to be all doom-and-gloom, but that's probably what caused the rollover in the first place.

"This is the sketchiest block on the planet, though, so I really don't think it will be able to compete with the places down in Fed. Hill," kateebee wrote in her e-mail. "Just my two cents."

*kateebee really wanted me to use the phrase "smokin' hot" in there somewhere. Wish granted.

(Photo courtesy of kateebee)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:40 AM | | Comments (7)

June 29, 2010

Spank Rock and other Whartscape lineup adds

spank rock!Wham City wizard Dan Deacon just sent out an e-mail with a few notable adds to this year's Whartscape lineup.

Here they are:

SPANK ROCK (pictured)
MINK STOLE (lecture)

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:32 PM | | Comments (1)

Insubordination Fest pits promoter, fans against Sonar

poland spring waterInsubordination Fest was at Sonar this weekend, and oh my did it stir up some drama. 

The promoter and several patrons of the two-day festival, which featured about 50 bands, are claiming the club denied them free cups of water on Saturday, and would only sell bottles instead -- a charge the owner denies. Bottles of water also varied in price Saturday.

Some of the festival-goers say the bartenders gave them a bottle and told them to refill it in the bathroom. And re-entry was not allowed on Saturday, even though the festival lasted more than 12 hours, according to co-founder Mark Enoch.

"It was hellish," Enoch said.

"I don't think I'll ever get some of the customers back because of the venue, and I don't blame them." ...

I've spoken and e-mailed with both sides of this one, and I'm not taking sides here -- I'm just presenting what I'm hearing. First, let's talk about the water situation.

Sonar owner Dan McIntosh said though the club wanted to sell bottles of water, no one was denying people cups of tap water.

"This is our policy on water: When someone asks you for water, you hand them a bottle of water," McIntosh said. "We are there to sell people things. ... But I know for a fact that none of our bartenders would not give someone a glass of water if they asked for it."

When Jacob Bruce, who lives in Missouri, asked for free water from a bartender, he was denied. He said the bartender told him a manager had instructed all the bartenders not to hand out free waters.

"I asked him what I was supposed to do and he said he could sell me a bottle for three dollars," Bruce wrote in an e-mail. "I said "three dollars!?" and he suggested that I buy a bottle and refill it in the bathroom, which I did all night right up until the of the show. The only time that I couldn't was when the men's room was closed because all the toilets were backing up."

At some bars, bottles of water were $2 on Saturday, and then they went up to $3, according to patrons. This was due to price structuring, McIntosh said.

As for the re-entry? On Friday night, Baltimore police busted a half dozen Insubordination Fest patrons drinking in the parking lot, McIntosh said. He said he pleaded with police not to arrest them, and was told he'd have to shut down the festival if he didn't impose a strict no re-entry policy on Saturday.

So there you have it, folks. Enoch is eying new locations for next year's festival. Meanwhile, McIntosh seemed to be soured on the festival and its clientele.

"Honestly, it's a situation where, if you can't even buy a bottle of water, maybe you shouldn't book an event at a major concert venue where there's bills to pay," McIntosh said.

(AP photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:12 PM | | Comments (156)
Categories: Local music

My rocky Vince Neil run-in

vince neil mug shot courtesy of reutersI wasn't going to post about this until I saw reports of Motley Crue singer Vince Neil's arrest for suspicion of DUI the other day.

A couple weeks ago, Vince was in town to perform at the M3 Rock Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Vince's camp arranged a phone interview with the middle aged rocker and me, to talk about his new solo album and tour.

Vince has (allegedly) been sober for a while now. But on the cover of his new CD (check it out), "Tattoos and Tequila," he is holding a glass of what appears to be tequila.

Typically, I save the tough questions for last. This time, it was Friday and I was feeling feisty, so I started the interview with "Vince, how are you. You're sober, right?" ...

Stupid me didn't save the tape, because I was so flustered with how it went. But here's the paraphrased version of it. Again, I must stress, these are not exact quotes, but I'm 99 percent on it, because your most memorable interviews, for better or worse, always get etched into your brain:

Sam: The album is called "Tattoos and Tequila," and on the cover, you've got a glass of tequila in your hand.

Vince: So? I'm not the sobriety police. I don't drink but I don't tell other people not to drink. I've had my own line of tequilas for four years now.

Sam: I know. So is that water in the glass you're holding on the album cover? 

Vince: No, it's tequila. (Pause.) It's just a (freaking) photograph, man. Why are you busting my (ahems) over it? What the (cuss word)?

The interview quickly spiraled downhill from here, and ended with Vince hanging up on me shortly thereafter. 

Maybe I should have waited until the end of the interview to ask him these questions. I could have been more tactful, too. At the end of the day, I was left wondering why he had such a thin skin about the issue. It's common knowledge that Vince is/was sober -- he's discussed it in previous interviews.

I think it's interesting how someone who is sober can have a line of tequilas (and wine, I believe), and be holding a glass of tequila on his album cover. So I asked him about it. Calamity ensued.

Now, we find out that he was allegedly drinking and driving. Hmm.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:57 AM | | Comments (23)

THE midnight sun SITUATION date

Bet you thought I forgot about this, didn't you? Well, I didn't. It's July 15. Mark your calendars. Place TBD. Stay tuned.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (12)

June 28, 2010

Concert review: Phish at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Last year, when I reviewed Phish's show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, a commenter named Matthew Pugh said he could write a better review than me. Instead of telling him to buzz off, I told him to prove it, and recruited him to review Phish this time around. Here is his review of Saturday's show:

Make no mistake about it. When Phish arrived last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia for the first show of a two-night stand, they brought not peace, but a sword to remove any lingering doubt about them being one of the most dangerous bands alive ...

The Vermont quartet played for nearly four hours, ripping through 23 songs in two sets. They launched the first with "Crowd Control" and "Kill Devil Falls," the same two songs they opened with last August at Merriweather — a show that met with much criticism from fans new and old. Phish, therefore, meant one of two things with this identical start: We're going to try this again OR maybe you didn't hear us the first time. ...

A steady roar from the 17,000-plus in attendance made it clear that ears were wide open as the band jammed a variety of classic, new, and obscure tunes under a June full moon.

"AC/DC Bag" and "Tube" got the booty juice flowing in the muggy Maryland air, while "Sugar Shack," "Stash," and "NICU" pleased listeners with a penchant for Caribbean and other ethnic-flavored rhythms. Fans were also treated to a rare cover of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Guitarist Trey Anastasio displayed mastery of his instrument by rarely looking at his Languedoc six-string or effects when soloing. Likewise, Page McConnell, gave the audience an education in keyboard dominance, navigating brilliantly over his Hohner clavinet and grand piano.

Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman threw a combination of heavy-weight bass and drums punches that hit you squarely in the sternum. At times, Fishman drove into his Zildjian crash with rage that lifted him off his throne.

The second set blasted off no less aggressively than the first with "Rock and Roll" and "Free." Phish's light designer, Chris Kuroda, matched the band with a syncopated tapestry of both cool, mellow hues and intense, seizure-inducing flashes.

Phish, staying true to their improvisational DNA, captivated the crowd with a deep, dark, raunchy rendition of "Tweezer," before bringing them back to earth with a fine version of "Silent in the Morning." The band would close the second set with a trio of Phishhead favorites:  "Wolfman's Brother," "Slave to the Traffic Light," and a deafening "Tweezer Reprise."

The band encored with a new ballad called "Show of Life" and the Led Zeppelin rocker "Good Times Bad Times." This juxtaposition of soft and hard coming-of-age tunes perfectly represented this latest iteration of Phish: an older, wiser band whose music and abilities have been forged and refined by fire into sharp and deadly forces.

Set I

Crowd Control
Kill Devil Falls
Sugar Shack
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Backwards Down The Number Line
46 Days
Suzy Greenberg

Set II
Rock & Roll
Fast Enough For You
The Horse
Silent In The Morning
Wolfman's Brother
Slave to The Traffic Light
Tweezer Reprise

Show of life
Good Times Bad Times

Matthew Pugh is a public relations specialist by day. By night, he drums for the Baltimore-based jam band Willies Light.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:37 AM | | Comments (47)
Categories: Concert reviews

June 25, 2010

Concert review: Peter Frampton & Yes at Pier Six Pavilion

Midnight Sun reviewer and JazzTimes editor Evan Haga was at Pier Six Pavilion last night to see Yes and Peter Frampton. Here are this thoughts on the show: 

Rock shows are many, many things, but they typically aren't punctual.

Yet Peter Frampton and his four-member touring band took the stage at Pier 6 a few minutes before their scheduled 7 p.m. start time last night, and the promptness proved necessary: There was a lot of music to plow through.

Frampton was part of a double-bill with Yes, and each group performed a hearty, roughly hour-and-40-minute set, including encores. It was an effective pairing, with enough contrast but also some shared philosophies. Nostalgia was a factor, sure — these bands toured together as commercial juggernauts in 1976 — but so was professionalism and musicianship: The comfort of proper sound engineering, the splendor of the extended guitar or keyboard solo, the willingness to play single songs that lasted half as long as a typical opening act's entire set. (As rock and roll history goes, punk exists because of concerts like this one.) Peter Frampton, then as now, offered the looser, sunnier side of '70s rock excess; Yes' progressive rock was the bookish, labyrinthine sort. ...

On that '70s tandem tour, Frampton was larger than life: His record-breaking document, "Frampton Comes Alive!," was released in early '76, and he filled stadiums as a composite teen idol/guitar hero. Classic-rock radio has kept him in a time capsule since then, despite some latter-day successes — the Grammy-winning instrumental record he released in 2006, for instance — so nostalgia presented something of an elephant in the room last night.

But Frampton embraced and sometimes toyed with it, in a "just happy to be here" stride that made the guitarist easy to cheer for. He wore his 60 years gracefully (sans his frilly mane of yesteryear), in jeans and a short-sleeve polo, and played the hits like he meant it, on new equipment. (His regular gear, stored in Nashville, fell victim to the flood.)

"Show Me the Way" had a modern, more rocking arrangement with slide guitar from second guitarist Adam Lester up front and Frampton’s trademarked talk box effect, which educed cheers each and every time the guitarist employed it; "Baby, I Love Your Way" was an acoustic campfire sing-along; and "Do You Feel Like We Do?," as the man promised, was performed in its "long version," a sprawling exercise in dynamics that reinforced how excellent a rock guitarist Frampton can be: He deftly paces his blues-rock phrasing and uses some added harmonic language, and knows precisely when to simmer and when wail.

With a chuckle, Frampton made sure the crowd heard him plug his brand new record, and played some of its middling material; a couple of covers fared better, including an instrumental take on Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," and the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" done as a competent vocal.

Yes stated their purpose early on, walking onstage to a recorded overture of Stravinsky’s "Firebird Suite," and proceeded to give a clinic in the valor and vice of prog. Heyday members Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums) combined with Rick Wakeman's son Oliver on keyboards and vocalist Benoît David, whom the band cribbed from a Yes tribute act to replace an ill Jon Anderson in 2008. (Yes, he sounds remarkably like Anderson, but yes, Anderson is sorely missed.)

The set list looked mostly toward the ambitious, multi-sectioned masterworks of the group's classic early '70s records: Heady numbers like "Yours Is No Disgrace," "And You and I," "Perpetual Change," "Close to the Edge," the encore "Starship Trooper" and, a crowd pleaser from its first harmonic, "Roundabout." (There was, sadly, no "I’ve Seen All Good People.")

Howe, at 63, demonstrated all the genre-mashing fretboard agility that made him a guitar-magazine regular—on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, an electric made to simulate an acoustic or, most spectacularly, his warm-toned Gibson ES-175 hollowbody, a jazz guitar he turned into a vehicle for shredding. One song stuck out like a sore thumb: "Owner of a Lonely Heart," a Billboard No. 1 from 1983 that many prog-rock fanboys saw as a shameful pop concession. (An old fanboy behind me actually booed.) Only Frampton could get away with such equal portions of guitar heroism and plain-as-day pop.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Concert reviews

Good news

Sam's on vacation but had to share a tip from Alexander D. Mitchell IV that Brewer's Art just received a new shipment of Resurrection Ale in cans. 50 cases, in all. Stay thirsty, my friends.
Posted by Sarah Kickler Kelber at 10:53 AM | | Comments (6)

June 24, 2010

The review: Tiki Barge

tiki bargeReady for your second sneak peak of the week?

Yesterday, we had the Michael Jackson/Blanks interview. Today, it's the advance review of Tiki Barge, which comes out in tomorrow's Live! section.

Check it out.

I couldn't help but give Tiki Barge a great review -- it deserves it. There isn't another place quite like it in Baltimore, and lord knows, we could use more than a few Tiki Barges around here.

As a reviewer, I try not to use superlatives that often, but I couldn't help myself with Tiki Barge. 

I said it's one of the best things to happen to Baltimore's nightlife scene this summer, and I stand by it. How many other places are there where you can sit poolside and sip drinks all day?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:00 PM | | Comments (11)

Checking in with Peter Frampton

peter frampton

Peter Frampton has never slowed down.

One of the standout live performers of the '70s, his album "Frampton Comes Alive" became the greatest selling album of all time when it was released.

Frampton performs with YES tonight at Pier Six Pavilion (get tickets here).

For his new album, "Thank You Mr. Churchill," Frampton mined his childhood memories, spinning yarns about his first guitar and growing up in post-war England. ...

On his inspiration

My brother and I had wonderful parents, but we outlived them, as we’re supposed to. Nevertheless, it’s a life changing moment when you suddenly realize one morning that you can’t make that Sunday phone call anymore. That was the thing that made me start realizing, I’m an orphan. It gave me a different outlook on my live, and I went back to take stock of where I’d come from and why I was doing why I was doing, and thankfully still enjoying it. It made me go back and start from the beginning. That’s where the lyrical idea for the album started, which is a thread throughout the album. Then it branches off on little pet peeves of mine. But generally, it’s a look back and a look forward at the same time.

The story behind the song "Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele"

There was another thing that happened when I was about 7 years old. My grandmother had given my father this banjolele, a banjo-shaped ukulele, a little tiny thing. She said, ‘You never know, stick it in the attic, you might want to bring it down one day and show him a couple of chords.’ As soon as I found that, that was it for me. I learned “Tom Dooley” and “Michael Row the Boat” and that was my repertoire for a couple months. As in the song, my father bought me for Christmas a guitar, a very cheap and nasty but treasured guitar. Just an acoustic. I couldn’t tune the bottom two strings, and I woke him up at 3 o’clock in the morning, that really was that Christmas morning, 1958 was when I started this musical journey. I had to write about it.

Looking back on his upbringing

Whoever dealt me cards from the deck, I got good cards. I didn’t become an artist out of horrible parents or a terrible upbringing. It was very English middle class, grew up parents with great values. Not rich, not poor, pretty average for that time period after the war. So for me, it was joyous to go back, because I had a great childhood. I was not dissuaded very much by my parents, especially when they knew what I was going to do. They never pushed me.

My dad was a teacher, so nothing was going to affect school. But by the time I got to the first opportunity where I could – you would call it dropping out, I would call it that I just got a job -- you either went on to the sixth form or went on to college. I got the offer with a professional band, the Herd, and they knew there was no real point in saying ‘You can’t do this.’ That’s what I’d been doing for the past 10 years. I was 16 and I’d been in three different bands already, before I was 15, touring Europe. My dad made sure that when I joined the Herd there was a stipulation that I got a minimum wage. Unfortunately they couldn’t always afford to pay themselves the minimum wage. The first few gigs we did where they could afford to pay them more than me, guess who didn’t get any more than his minimum wage? For a while it was the best deal, and then I had to renegotiate.

What his setlists look like

They have the staples from the past that people would lynch me if I didn’t do them. I’m not the sort of artist that refuses to do the ones that put me where I initially came into the light of the general public. I’m not going to stop doing those. I don’t do all of them but I do the ones I still really enjoy playing and I really enjoy the reaction to those. I get off on seeing how much the audience enjoys them. “Show me the way, “baby I love your way,” “Do you feel” are always there. Sometimes “Money,” all from the early solo records but also from Frampton Comes Alive. I’ve never sat on my laurels. I’m not an oldies act. I play my hits. I could never not come out on tour each year without something new. Lucky for me, “Fingerprints” surprised the heck out of everybody, mostly me and was a critical success and I got my first Grammy for it.

Working with his son

My son Julian is with me, which unfortunately he won’t be for a few weeks now, because he’s back in Los Angeles. The deal is, he works, I pay for college, I’m not buying his cigarettes, you know what I mean? He and I have this wonderful relationship, finally. You go through stages with your kids where you think, ‘Oh god this is not going to work.’ We just have this great relationship, and we wrote a couple of songs. One of them was so good.

I have to give him credit. He’s turned into this great songwriter/singer. It was not my choice. I wanted him on the record but I wasn’t the one who said oh what's this. My co-producer heard it and said ‘Who’s singing?’  I said ‘That’s my son.’ He said ‘That’s Julian? We’ve got to do that one.’ That was the best moment in our relationship when I got to call my son, because I knew what it meant to Julian to come and record with me and Mat Cameron and have a track on the new record. I’ll never forget the phone call. And then, of course, the session. He rose to the occasion. He really hit it out of the park on that one. I’m obviously a proud Papa.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)

June 23, 2010

The Blanks and Michael Jackson

the blanks!In Friday's paper, you will find an interview with the a capella/sketch comedy group The Blanks.

You might know them better as Ted's band from "Scrubs" -- the a capella group who seems to pop up every now and again on the TV show (dig it).

I talked to two of the guys in The Blanks. One, Sam Lloyd, happens to be the nephew of actor Christopher Lloyd. I didn't ask them about this connection. I did, however, ask about Michael Jackson, who died a year ago this week. 

Check out this snippet, which didn't make the paper because it's too risque ...

Me: It’s been about a year since Michael Jackson’s death.  Have you thought about doing any MJ covers?

Philip McNiven: Way to bring us down there, Sam.

Sam LLoyd: Wait a minute. Michael Jackson died?  I didn’t know he died.

PM: Oh my gosh.

He actually died 20 years ago.

PM: In a weird twist of fate, the girlfriend who I just broke up with was cooking for (Jackson’s) concert rehearsals. She’s a caterer, and she did all the cooking for a few months for Michael Jackson. She's cooked for a couple other celebrities, like Gary Coleman, which is weird.

SL: Oh man, she's never cooking for us.

PM: Why do you think I broke up with her?

Did she ever tell you what she cooked for Michael Jackson?

PM: Cocktail weenies. That was all he liked.

(Photo by Jered Scott)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:43 PM | | Comments (25)

Downtown Lockerroom and other out-of-the-way gay bars

gay pride flag time!Have you heard about the Downtown Lockerroom? It's Baltimore's newest gay bar.

From the outside, the Downtown Lockerroom (aka the DL), looks downright sketchy. It's at 839 W. Cross St. in Pigtown -- not to be confused with Washington Village -- and has dark wood slats covering all the windows.

Inside, the DL was dimly lit on a recent Thursday night, and scarcely populated. Our party of three almost doubled the number of people inside.

The regulars gave us the eye -- not the stink-eye, but The Eye -- as we plopped down on a couple bar stools ...

All of the kegs were kicked, which meant we had to order bottles. We went with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, which cost $4 each. I wonder how the shoe store feels about a gay bar copping the name. Hmm.

The DL might have been quiet when we were there, but things get crazy during the drag show Monday nights, the bartender told us. Then he went into the backroom and popped us some popcorn. I'm serious -- he microwaved some buttery popcorn and set a couple bowls in front of us, which we greedily devoured. Nice touch, DL.

The DL was one of a couple gay bars we'd hit that night. I put together a little roundup of three off-the-beaten-path gay bars, including Port in a Storm and the Rowan Tree.

Check it out.

(AP photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:47 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

And the Name That Bar Vol. 22 winner is ...

Every time I think i've posted something that will stump everyone, Midnight Sunners prove me wrong.

As many of you accurately guessed, the Mystery Bar was Canton Arts and Entertainment, and the doors won't open because it's out of business. A couple people -- RC and Jon -- knew the bar but didn't tell me why the doors wouldn't open. Their answers are hereby disqualified. YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK. That means the winner is Eric!

Congrats, Eric! E-mail me at to arrange for your prize pickup. And as always, thanks, everyone, for playing.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:14 AM | | Comments (0)

June 22, 2010

The world's worst-named live music venue?

If you sneered when Live Nation renamed the Nissan Pavilion Jiffy Lube Live, you'll get a kick out of the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre At the Florida State Fairgrounds.

No joke. Check it out. Does that even fit on a ticket stub?

Thanks to Sarah Kelber for the tip.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:53 PM | | Comments (5)

Inside the new Minus5 Igloo

From the outside, the new Minus5 Igloo in Power Plant Live is nothing special: A big blue box with a couple tiny windows on the side.

But setting foot inside Baltimore's new ice bar is like walking into another world. It's shocking. And cold. Definitely cold. If I've got my math right (which isn't guaranteed), Minus5 is about 23 degrees Fahrenheit, constantly.

As soon as you walk in, you see a thick wall of fog. Step past it and everything is drenched in a blue light. The walls, bar, glasses -- everything except the ceiling and floor -- are made of ice. There's even an Orioles and Ravens logo, and a life-sized statue of Ray Lewis. ...

I hung out there for a couple hours last Saturday, talking to people about the experience. I'm writing a story for our new Sunrise section, which comes out on Mondays. Everyone's reaction seemed to be the same bad pun:

"It's really cool."

Har har har.

Here's the deal -- you pay $18, which gets you a jacket, gloves (boots if you need them) and one drink inside. There are about a half dozen specialty drinks, all using liquor such as vodka and juice, because water/tonic/soda would freeze almost immediately. I had to duck outside every few minutes because the ink in my pen kept freezing.

Sun photographer Karl Merton Ferron took this video of the bar, which gives you a tour of the inside and outside. Check it out:
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Name That Bar, vol. 22

name this bar!I wanted to shake it up a bit for this latest edition of Name That Bar, our popular, uh, bar naming contest.

So instead of posting a photo of the inside of a place and asking you to name it, I went with a photo of the outside of a place.

In this picture, an unidentified man is tugging at the doors of our mystery bar, but they won't open. Why? The mysteries multiply.

Be the first to Name This Bar, and tell me why the doors won't open, and you'll win a prize.

As always, I won't publish any comments until tomorrow morning, to give everyone a chance to play.

(Photo by J.M. Giordano)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (75)

June 21, 2010

Gutter Magazine's Glitterball rocked Red Maple

busting moves at the glitterballMy legs are still a little sore from dancing so hard at Gutter Magazine's first (and hopefully annual) Glitterball at Red Maple Saturday night.

DJs Mikie Love and Exclaime were all about the vintage jams, from the Jackson 5 to late '70s/early '80s jams I didn't even recognize. There was no stopping the groove.

Red Maple was split into two spaces -- up front was the Glitterball, and the back was an event thrown by Baltimore nightlife empress Heidi Klotzman of HeidnSeek Entertainment

The DJs in the back room spun more traditional house stuff, which was good, but it's not really my thing. Guess I'm just a retro kinda guy ...

The only minor nuisance with the party was the patch of carpeting that was set down on part of the dance floor up front. It's much easier to dance on hardwood floors. But whatever -- around midnight, the whole room was flooded with dancers, who were literally cutting a rug (zink!).

We were even treated to a performance by Lazerbitch singer Libbey Picken (pictured, below). Remember her video? She was just as sassy in person.

Picken sang a few of her new songs, as well as "Coquette" -- the one featured in the video. At one point, she yanked off her T-shirt, revealing a sparkly bra, instantly doubling the sass factor.

I was typing into my phone when, halfway through one of her songs, Picken called me out for it.

"Stop texting, Sam Sessa," she said.

Guilty as charged.

The party was still bumping when I left, sometime around 1 a.m. Summer hadn't started yet but lordy it was hot in there. I'm sweating just thinking about it. Somebody get me a paper towel!

(Photos by Rachel Verhaaren)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:17 PM | | Comments (4)

Who had the craziest Baltimore Pride outfit?

crazy mohawk pride flag dudeOn my way to Gutter Magazine's Glitterball Saturday night (more on that later), I strolled up Charles Street, through the thick of the Baltimore Pride festival. 

It was fierce!

"Baltimore has a lot of gays," I overheard one woman say to her friend. It does indeed, and they were out in force Saturday. I loved seeing some of the outrageous get ups.

One guy was wearing nothing but these spandex daisy dukes and a glow stick around his neck.

After taking a peek at the Sun photo archives, I can see Mr. Daisy Dukes was only the tip of the iceberg. I love this photo with the orange mohawk and rainbow flag. The Oakley shades are a nice touch, too.

Did you see any crazy Pride outfits?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:34 AM | | Comments (6)

Sipping Arak at Lebanese Taverna

all the necessary ingredients for a delightful glass of ArakFriday night, Amie and I had some time to kill before seeing a movie in Harbor East, so we decided to slip into Lebanese Taverna.

After scanning the drink list, I went with a serving of Arak (pictured). I'd never had the Middle Eastern anise-flavored alcohol before, but as you know, I'm always game to try new things.

The presentation was arresting: A metal tray with a small glass carafe of Arak, a little glass pitcher of water and a metal ice bucket. It looked like a lot just for one drink.

Arak is a clear liquor that turns milky white when you add water. It's typically served on ice and cut with water.

Our helpful server poured some Arak into a small glass for me and dropped in a few ice cubes. Slowly, the Arak began to turn white. Yikes stripes! I felt like an amateur chemist ...

Then I took a swig. Remember those big rolls of black string licorice you saw/ate as a kid? Arak tasted just like a mouthful of that. Two mouthfuls. It was intense -- my mouth could barely handle it. Ditto for my liver. Adding water did little to dampen the flavor. I was still burping up licorice hours later. Gack!

It wasn't easy, but I finished the generous serving. Our waiter said it was 100 percent alcohol, which may or may not be true, but I'm inclined to believe it. I was woozy after one serving. A sizable serving, but one serving nonetheless.

I can't say I'm eager for another round of Arak, but I'm glad I tried it. 

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:16 AM | | Comments (6)

June 20, 2010

The Tiki Barge is a summertime hit

tiki barge!Yesterday afternoon, I swung by the new Tiki Barge, which, I believe, is Baltimore's first floating tiki bar/pool combo.

I'll bet they're making a mint. Every harbor-side neighborhood should have one of these.

The Tiki Barge has two levels, an upper deck with a rectangular bar and a sweeping view of the harbor, and a lower level with a swimming pool, lounge chairs and another bar. 

You can drink at the upstairs bar for free, or pay $10 to get into the pool level. The $10 admission fee also gets you one drink of your choice. ...

I stayed on the upper level and people watched. A strawberry daiquiri made with Bacardi and mixer, was $7. Whatever mixer they used was pulpy and seedy, which I liked.

As you might imagine, Tiki Bar was packed, but not overloaded. A guy was grilling and flipping burgers for $5 in the lower level, and most of the plastic pool chairs were occupied. 

From a distance, Tiki Barge looks like a ship. They're even flying a pirate flag, as well as an American flag, and I counted six or seven real palm trees planted on the barge.

After one visit, I'm nominating Tiki Barge for Bar of the Year. It's a brilliant concept -- taking an old floating barge with a swimming pool and turning it into a sweaty weather destination. Genius.

(Photo courtesy of Tiki Barge's Facebook page)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (19)

June 19, 2010

Cheap beer at the other Mo's Seafood

five glasses of samuel adams seasonal costs $10,20 at mo's

Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey.

I'm trying to do more posts on weekends. It's hard for me to feed the blog 24/7. But I'm trying.

Just about everybody knows about Mo's Seafood in Little Italy. But did you know there are actually two Mo's? I believe they're both owned by the same folks, too. Possibly even the same Mo. I'm not entirely sure about that part though.

Recently, a few buddies and I embarked on The Dundalk Bar Crawl III: Return of the Midnight Sunners. One of our first stops was the Mo's at 7600 Eastern Ave. ...

We entered through the back door, which puts you right into the bar. Who eats when you can drink your din din?

Five (5) large -- possibly pint-sized -- glasses of Samuel Adams Seasonal drafts came to $10.20. How cheap it is.

Maybe it's just me, but beer tastes better when it's cheaper than you expect. We only stayed for one round, but if you're ever in the area, I highly advise you to stop at Mo's and buy the whole bar a round. You might not even need to break a $50.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:34 AM | | Comments (5)

June 18, 2010

Gutter Magazine's Glitterball is tomorrow

glitter lips!

The 35th Baltimore Pride celebration is going to invade Mount Vernon tomorrow. Madness will surely ensue.

But the real craziness is going to start after the Pride block party ends. That's when the Glitterball starts at Red Maple.

Organized by Gutter Magazine, the Glitterball will split Red Maple into two party areas: The front section will be cleared out to make way for a big dance floor, with DJs and live performers, and DJs will also spin in the back area. ...

The acts include Libby Picken of Lazerbitch, DJ Exclaime, Mikie Love, DJ John Hawley & Fourquarters Collective.

The dress code is glam, so bust out those late '70s duds and take a sparkle bath before coming. The cover is $10, but if you get there before 9 p.m., it's free.

(Lips photo by Bart Sadowski)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:08 PM | | Comments (0)

Introducing Tiki Barge, South Baltimore's new tiki bar

tiki bargeOh. My. Goodness.

Tiki Barge, a floating barge with a swimming pool and two tiki bars, has opened at the end of a dock in Harborview Marina, at 500 Harborview Drive.

Take a second, have a look at the photo, and digest what I just told you. OK.

Bud Craven, who, with his daughter Shawna, helped run the tiki bar outside Bo Brooks in Canton, took over a swimming pool barge a couple months ago and started renovating it ...

They built two bars and set up real palm trees. Tiki Barge officially opened Memorial Day weekend, using the marina's liquor license, Craven said. 

Beers are about $3.50, and rail mixed drinks are $3.75. Swimming in the pool costs a $10 fee, which includes one free drink.

The whole setup is pretty killer, according to Midnight Sunner ryan97ou, who is currently chilling down there in the pool as I type this. Consider me jealous.

Tiki Barge is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays. The pool opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m.

(Photo courtesy of Vickie Frazier)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:49 PM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

So I reviewed Harbor East Deli and Byblos

byblos!As a few of you know, I was The Sun's takeout food columnist for about two years. Sometimes I review restaurants, too.

I don't know if I could be a full-time restaurant critic or not, though. There are, after all, only so many ways to describe a crab cake.

With Happy Drinker/Eater Rob Kasper on vacation these past couple weeks, I've been covering his weekly restaurant review in the Live section.

First up was Byblos, an inviting little Lebanese spot in Federal Hill ...

The food was well-seasoned but not spiced to death, and the husband-and-wife than run it are a cute couple. In the review (read it here), I said it was one of those spots you didn't know you needed until it opened. I think it will do well.

For some reason, our fancy new newsprint/online publishing automation system decided to randomly delete two stars from Byblos' ratings. That's why, in print, it only has two stars for food (instead of three) and one and a half stars for service (instead of two and a half).

harbor east deli belly!When we realized what had happened, I yelped like a little girl and sheepishly called Byblos to apologize for our computer's mistake. I wanted to re-enact that scene from "Office Space" with my desktop, but it wouldn't have been a good move.

Next up was the new Harbor East Delicatessen & Pizzeria. Like the menu, the name is a mouthful. Zink! Damn, I should have used that in my review (read it here). *Shakes fist*

I expected more out of Harbor East Deli, and it didn't live up to it. The pizza was boring and needed more sauce, the sandwich I tried didn't have any mayo or oil, which meant that, after a few bites, I felt like the dude in the Aaron Burr milk commercial

The lamb gyro was another story -- overflowing with thin strips of meat, tomato, lettuce and cool cucumber yogurt. I also liked the boardwalk hand cut potatoes, an unnecessarily long way of saying "fancy French fries." But on the whole, Harbor East Deli has a way to go.

One reader took the time and effort to read my article and e-mail me some constructive criticism:

I'm just a casual reader of the Baltimore Sun, but I do tend to notice shortcomings in writers' work.  You for example, used the sophmoric phrase "let alone" twice in this article:
1)  "let alone a deli"
2)  "let alone take a bite out of"
Surely your command of the English vocabulary could be better?

Gosh, I love fan mail!

(Top photo of Byblos by Jed Kirschbaum/Baltimore Sun. Bottom photo of Harbor East Deli by Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:02 AM | | Comments (11)

June 17, 2010

World Cup in 3D?

Sun writer/blogger (and TV fanatic) David Zurawik told me Comcast is broadcasting the World Cup in 3D. Apparently, you need to have the right kind of TV and the right glasses, but it's possible to catch the games in 3D.

Do any Baltimore bars have it? I wonder what it even looks like. I'd probably duck if the ball flew my way.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:00 PM | | Comments (9)

Woman mistaken for Justin Bieber at Ocean City bar, cops respond

justin bieberSomeone called the cops this weekend claiming teen sensation Justin Bieber (pictured) was drinking underage in an Ocean City bar, according to celebrity gossip site TMZ.

When police responded to the call at Mug & Mallet, they found a 27-year-old woman who looked like Bieber. According to TMZ, the woman, named Katie, had to bring out her ID and prove to police that she wasn't the 16-year-old Bieber.

Apparently, Katie gets mistaken for Bieber all the time.

For the full scoop, check out TMZ's piece.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:59 AM | | Comments (16)

Inside The Get Down

the second floor of the get downLast week, we learned about The Get Down, the new lounge replacing Fletcher's in Fells Point.

Now, manager Laura O'Neill was kind enough to share some more (and better) photos of the interior. Keep in mind, they're still working on it, and the space has a ways to go yet. But these shots give you an idea about the layout and a rough sketch of how it's eventually going to look. Pictured, at top, is the second floor. As you can see, they knocked out a good section of the floor and installed some railing. Here are a couple more pics ...

Below is a view of the first floor. In the far right corner, you can kind of see the original downstairs bar, which hasn't changed much. They just sanded it down some and put on a new coat of finish, owner Bryan Burkert told me. When I was there a couple weeks ago, they were also sanding down the hardwood floors. It doesn't look the same without the pool tables, does it?the first floor of the get down

And finally, a panoramic view of the upstairs floor. To the far left is where the stage used to be. To the right, the bar is still there. Burkert is keeping the basic layout of the place, which was originally four rowhouses. There are still plenty of nooks and crannies, and each will have a distinct feel, he said.


(Photos by Chris March/The Get Down)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:01 AM | | Comments (6)

Trey Songz is coming to Pier Six Pavilion

The neighbors know Trey Songz's name. Do you?

The R&B singer's Passion, Pain, Pleasure Tour is coming to Pier Six Pavilion Aug. 27. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow. I wonder if this show is going to sell out. It just might -- 92Q spins the heck outta Trey.

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 8:59 AM | | Comments (0)

At last, Pazo gets its live entertainment license

the lounge at pazo looks a lot weirder with daylight coming in  through the windows, doesn't it?After more than a year of legislation and a six-month application process, Pazo has its live entertainment license.

The restaurant/lounge between Harbor East and Fells Point is one of the first to receive a new live entertainment license under the new law authored by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake.

'It's one of the great miracles of our fair city to actually have one issued," said owner Tony Foreman. "We want to do something as simple and civilized as allow people to dance a little bit when dinner is over, just on the weekends." ...

For years after it opened, patrons of the trendy restaurant could get up and dance if they liked the house music. That stopped about two and a half years ago, when city officials threatened to shut down the restaurant if the dancing continued, Foreman said.

Pazo operates in a B-2 business district, where, until recently, live entertainment was not allowed. Technically, when Foreman's patrons got up and danced, it was considered live entertainment.

Live entertainment has been one of Rawlings-Blake's signature initiatives. She penned a bill which allowed taverns in B-2 and restaurants -- such as Pazo -- in B-1 and B-2 zones to apply for a live entertainment license with the Board of Municipal & Zoning Appeals and the Board of Liquor License Commissioners. It was passed last October.

Now that it has its live entertainment license, Pazo will once again have dancing and DJs after 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Foreman said.

"We have a great music director," Foreman said. "We have great DJs. We want people to be able to enjoy the music and feel free to express themselves a little bit after dinner."

So far, the zoning board has approved five licenses, for bars, clubs and restaurants such as Back Alley Jazz, Zissimos and Portside Tavern. The latter will have live acoustic music a couple times a week, according to owner Steve Roop.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (18)

June 16, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Wednesdays: Rock of Stages

rock of ages? no, rock of stages!

Owl Meat's column, which typically runs on Tuesdays, was delayed due to Internet errors. That said, I'd pay to see Kayne West's Broadway musical, "Stroke My Ego," if it existed. What about you? Owl Meat has a few hilarious ideas of his own. Owl Meat? Are you there? Oh, here he is:

Rock music and musical theater seem about as compatible as corn and lima beans – the latter being succotash and the former sucky trash.

The exception is the most awesome musical ever: Sir Mix-a-Lot's Pirates of Penzance.

The music of rebellion has become glitter-mulch for super-fabulous Broadway spectacles. Blech.

"Rock of Ages starring Constantine Maroulis and the music of Journey, Whitesnake, and Night Ranger" (pictured, top) is funny. Pathetic, kitschy, and funny. ...

The idea of people spending $219 to see a TV karaoke contest also-ran sing hair metal with fancy dancey costumes ... in Baltimore, blows my mind. (Tickets still available for "Rock of Ages" at the Hippodrome, November 30 through December 5.)

To each his own. Who am I to harsh your Quiet Riot buzz ... Sister Christian? When I told my friend schlockmeister extraordinaire RoCK about "Rock of Ages" he nearly jumped out of his seersucker suit with glee. To each his own.

pete townshendThat got me thinking about musicals, rock operas, and concept albums.

Who's to blame? Pete Townshend (pictured, middle) in part. I never liked "Tommy." I thought it was pretentious and boring. Andrew Lloyd Weber? Puhleeeze. Productions like "Rock of Ages," "Mamma Mia" and "Movin' Out" are not rock operas, but trunk or jukebox musicals, songs strung together with a thin story line.

Green Day's "American Idiot" is another story. Apparently it's a concept album and now a Broadway show. Very punk, dudes. What next, "Buzzcocks On Ice?"

Flash: OMG intern Valerie Valencia just informed me that American Idiot was nominated for three Tony awards and won two on Sunday night.

Editor's note: Owl Meat has interns? For a weekly column? Why the heck am I doing a daily blog by myself?

I was thinking about one of the iconic albums of my youth, Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." The song "Jungleland" is a mini-rock opera of sorts – cryptic, bombastic, and long. Then I thought of the taut poetry of the opening lines of "Thunder Road" from the same album:

The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays

I think of those lines often. They are like a Proustian madeleine, opening the hemi-powered world of Born to Run and resurrecting dreams, memories, and desires of youth. "Jungleland" doesn't do anything like that.

Recently I stumbled upon Lou Reed's 1978 album "Street Hassle." It contains an 11-minute song called "Street Hassle" (NSFW).

lou reed sticks his tongue out at you!It consists of three parts that involve male prostitutes, drug dealers, overdosing, love, death, the whole street megillah in E major. Oddly, trendsetter Reed (pictured, bottom) says that Springsteen was an inspiration and Bruce mumbles a few words about tramps like him at 9:02. Despite its pretentions I love it.

I was in New York last weekend and I asked a busker how to get to Broadway. He said, "Pretension, pretension, pretension." Oh!

Given Green Day's example (ka-ching), I guess we can expect a spate of concept albums aimed at making it to Broadway. My crystal ball came up with a few possibilities:

  • Ke$ha's "Stuff I Like Found Like In My Purse" featuring "Don't Touch My Strawberry Lip Gloss, B***h".
  • T-Pain's "Mr. Roboto-Voice." Domo.
  • Rob Zombie's "Sound of Music" - The Reckoning, featuring "The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of People Being Disemboweled".
  • Amy Winehouse's "A Streetcar Named Crack"
  • Michael Jackson's, oh never mind, you know that's going to happen.

It's hard to make up some of these, because it seems like almost anything can be a musical. "Carrie – The Musical?" It happened. Just smother me in my sleep when they announce "Born to Run - The Musical."

(Top photo by, middle photo by AP, bottom photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Dig this Tom Petty contest

tom petty spreads his arms to the world, proving once and for all that his anti-persperant is better than mine.

Tribune, the company that owns The Sun, has a pretty cool contest going on right now, where you can win a VIP trip and front row tickets to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Hollywood Bowl.

You take a pop quiz, and then register for the contest.

Check it out

I took the quiz, and got four or five questions correct. Then I whiffed one about an actor in a music video. Oops. ...

The L.A. Times also put together an insightful behind-the-scenes video about the making of the band's new album, "Mojo." Petty can be reclusive about his life and music, but he opens up in this video.

I think as a Tribune employee, I'm forbidden from entering the contest. But if someone named Stan Sesna happens to win, well, we're not related. At all. Promise!

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)
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 9:42 AM | | Comments (2)

Davey G likes the lotion

davey gIn last week's Live section, I had a short piece about Davey G and the Keyboard, a one-man band who plays cheesy, funny songs using pre-programmed keyboard ditties.

He's in the same vein as the late Wesley Willis, but without all the mental/physical health problems.

At most of his shows, Davey G has a segment where he plays a song about rubbing lotion on himself. In the middle of it, he takes of his shirt, whips out a bottle of lotion, hops down into the audience and dumps it on himself. 

After working up a good lather, Davey G jumps back up on stage to finish the song. Occasionally, he'll follow it up with a tune about taking off his pants, too.

You can only imagine where it goes from there. (Hint: He takes off his pants.) ...

Where did the whole lotion rubbing idea come from? Like most of his musical decisions, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

"It usually gets a strange reaction," said Davey, who's real name is David Cookson. "This was an idea that popped into my head, and I didn't question it."

In the beginning, Davey G used fancy lotions. After a few years of spending $10 a pop, he discovered a mixture of water and Gold Bond worked best.

"It spews a lot better, and looks more shocking," he said. "It's more violent. It's more like a volcano effect."

(Photo courtesy of Davey G)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:33 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Local music

June 15, 2010

ESPN Zone closes tonight

espn zoneTonight is the last night for ESPN Zone, gang.

If you want to get your game on or chow down on a pricey yet middle-of-the-road burger, this is your last chance.

In the meantime, rumors have been swirling about what will become of all the ESPN gear, including the games and TVs.

Apparently, servers are talking about how managers are talking about smashing all the TVs and reporting them damaged beyond repair, so they don't have to worry about selling them ...

I find this hard to believe, and ESPN Zone's marketing rep denied it outright. She said they haven't decided how to handle removing the equipment, and are more worried about personnel at the moment.

ESPN Zone is going to leave a gaping hole in the Inner Harbor. For 12 years, it's occupied a key spot along Pratt Street. Here's hoping Cordish can replace it with something good in the next six months.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:57 PM | | Comments (9)

Joe Squared has a delicious-sounding new drink menu

Need a rum-bly in your tumbly?

Joe Squared has just the thing. Last month, the restaurant/bar in the (deep breath) Station North Arts and Entertainment District (whew) launched a new rum-based cocktail menu. Owner Joe Edwardsen says the drinks are pretty popular -- especially the Ginger Basil Mojito and Rum Fizzle.

Here's the whole list ...

Traditional Rum Drinks

Caipiriña $8.00
Cachaça, Lime and Brown Sugar
(served over ice)

Mojito $3.00 +rum
Rooftop Spearmint, Evaporated Cane Juice and Lime Juice (muddled together with soda and your pick of rum)

Bahama Mama $8.00
Brinley Coconut, Brinley Coffee, Copa De Oro, Pineapple Juice and Sour Mix

Mai Tai $8.00
Brugal, Mt. Gay, and Cruzan Black Strap, Fresh Orange and Pineapple Juices, Amaretto, Copa De Oro and Hazelnut Liqueur

Rum Swizzle $9.00
Mt Gay Eclipse, Velvet Falernum, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Grenadine, and Angostura Bitters

Planter's Punch $7.00
Coruba, Fresh Orange Juice, Lemon Juice and Grenadine

New Takes

Spicy Orange Caipiriña
House Cajun spiced Rum, Aged Cachaça, Orange Juice, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Salt and Brown Sugar

Ginger Basil Mojito
Rooftop Basil, House Gingered Rum, Evaporated Cane Juice, Lime and Soda

Joe Mama
Castries Peanut Rum Cream, Wray and Nephew Over Proof Rum, Brinley Coffee, Lime Juice and Pineapple Juice

Grapefruit Juice, Lime Juice, Orange Zest, Cointreau, Almond Syrup, Sugar, Orange Bitters, Brugal, Velvet Falernum, Mt. Gay and Cruzan Black Strap

Rum Fizzle
Oronoco, Egg White, Gomme Syrup, Velvet Falernum, Grapefruit Juice, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Grapefruit Bitters and Soda

Gentrified Punch
Ten Cane Rum, Grapefruit Juice, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Cranberry Juice, Soda, and Rhubarb Bitters

Thirsty yet?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:07 PM | | Comments (2)

Los mom

los momTonight, Los Lonely Boys will be at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis.

I wonder if their mom will be there. She does live in Maryland, after all.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:15 AM | | Comments (5)

What is the Cordoba Social Club?

cordoba social clubI got an e-mail yesterday about a new-ish club and live music venue called the Cordoba Social Club, at 3125 W. Belvedere Ave., near Pimlico Race Course.

Apparently, whoever runs this place is booking live music/DJs in there.

After some Googling, I was able to find a few fliers for events dating back as far as New Year's Eve. I can't find a phone number, and the club's Facebook page isn't much help.

Anybody know more about this place? ...

I called the liquor board, but they don't have any record of the club, which means it must not have a liquor license.

"We have nothing on it," said spokesman Douglas Paige. "It's not under our jurisdiction."


I gotta admit, I like the name. For a month last year, Amie lived in Cordoba, which is the second largest city in Argentina, next to Buenos Aires.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:48 AM | | Comments (9)

June 14, 2010

Celebrated Summer Records moves into Atomic Pop

celebrated summer!Celebrated Summer Records, known for its vinyl selection of punk, hardcore and indie rock, is moving from its Towson digs to the back room in Atomic Books (3620 Falls Road).

For the past few years, Celebrated Summer has been in Legends Comics.

Now that Legends is moving, Celebrated Summer is headed for Hampden, according to Atomic Books co-owner Benn Ray ...

Atomic Books has carried a small selection of local records, and the back room has been largely idle, Ray said.

"It makes a lot of sense," Ray said. "I think it's an excellent marriage."

Ray spoke with the owners of Hampden's other vinyl shop, True Vine, who said they welcome Celebrated Summer into the fold. True Vine carries "a very different sort of music," Ray said.

Celebrated Summer's first day of operations in the new space is July 2. For more info, the number is 443-866-9988.

(Flier courtesy of Atomic Books)

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

The scary side room at O'Ryan's Pub

o'ryan's pubLast week, on a whim, a couple of us went into O'Ryan's Pub, an Irish bar across the street from Port in a Storm.

From the outside, we couldn't tell if it was open or closed. I pulled the metal handle on the front door, but it didn't open. Then I realized I had to turn the knob and then pull the handle. Tricky, that.

Inside, O'Ryan's was unexpectedly large, with a higher-than-normal ceiling and a tiled floor.

The bartender, a pleasant, pleasantly plump fellow, cheerfully served us a few Bud Light bottles, which cost about $2 each.

There were only a handful of other people in the bar -- probably because most of the regulars were at the Polish Festival, the bartender said.

I decided to do a little snooping, which is when I discovered the freaky side room ...

It's another whole rowhouse, from the looks of it, with a long, deserted counter and piles of random stuff. It was deadly quiet, with the only noise coming from a flickering light inside a cooler.

Bzzt. Zzzt. Bzzt. Zzzt.

I suddenly got the feeling I was in a horror movie. I hoped like heck I was one of the main characters -- too important to die, you know. But I felt like I was probably one of the movie's first victims. 

I could see the headlines in the next day's newspaper:

Veteran bar blogger and D-list local celebrity Sam Sessa disappears in Highlandtown/Greektown bar. His last drink? A bottle of Bud Light.


In real life, I slowly backed out of the room, and went back to my Bud Light, lucky to be alive.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:02 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Bros Icing Bros post

this is a smirnoff ice, just like the one i iced Evan with this past weekendBy now, you've probably heard about Bros Icing Bros, the latest ingenious drinking game/viral marketing coup to hit the frat scene.

No one is exactly sure who started it. Could be some random kids, or Smirnoff Ice itself. It's almost too good to come from corporate.

Here's how it works: A frat guy (also known as a Bro) named, say, Sam, will present another frat guy, who we'll call Evan, with a "delicious" Smirnoff Ice. Sam will typically say something like "YOU GOT ICED, BRO!"

According to Bro code, Evan must immediately drop to one knee and chug the Smirnoff Ice, regardless of the surroundings. This could happen at the mall, bar, frat house or even a wedding. It only works with Smirnoff Ice ...

But -- and this is a huge "but" -- if Evan already happens to have an unopened Smirnoff Ice on him, he will show it to Sam, and Sam has to drop to one knee and chug them both. That's called a "double icing." Double icings are dastardly.

The New York Times even did a story about this, which had the hilarious headline "Popular New Drinking Game Raises Question, Who's 'Icing' Whom?"

I bring this all up because this past weekend, a few of us were talking about it during Dundalk Bar Crawl III: Return of the Midnight Sunners. We were at the Gray Manor Inn (2816 North Point Road) when I slyly asked our bartender for a Smirnoff Ice.

When I got it, I whipped around, thrust it in Evan's face and yelled "YOU GOT ICED, BRO!" We all howled as Evan dropped to one knee and chug-a-lugged the sharp, cold beverage.

At our next stop, the Left Field Pub (3818 North Point Blvd.), I had stepped outside to watch a guy get arrested for allegedly pushing someone's mother on the dance floor when Midnight Sunner Shankman tapped me on the shoulder.

"You'd better watch your back, man," he said. "I think Evan's looking to ice you."

Using the skills I learned from playing flashlight tag as a kid, I snuck around the outside of the building to the other door, and crept up to the bar. I could see Evan across the room, but I couldn't see any Smirnoff Ices in his hand. Still, I wasn't taking any chances. I hid behind a regular, who must have thought I was about to jump someone, until I got the bartender's attention. My heart was racing.

"Gimme a Smirnoff Ice," I said. It was $3 and change. I handed her a five, hid the Smirnoff Ice behind my back and strutted around the bar.

When Evan saw me, he held up his Smirnoff Ice and started laughing. I said "Oh yeah?" and whipped out my own Smirnoff Ice.

Evan's screams echoed inside the Left Field Pub.

(AP photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:25 AM | | Comments (52)

June 13, 2010

Why are bottles sometimes more expensive than drafts at some bars?

the rowan treeHey service industry people, I have a question for you.

Why, at some bars, are drafts cheaper than bottles?

When I was at the Rowan Tree (pictured) last night, I asked the bartender if there were any specials. Little bottles of domestic beers were $1.75, she said, and buckets of little bottles were $6.

Side note: What's the name for these small bottles? I can't think of it. I keep wanting to call them "pony bottles" but I know that's not right.

I asked her how much draft domestics cost. 

"$1.50," she said. Huh? ...

Shouldn't bottles be cheaper than drafts? Why, at so many neighborhood bars (Down the Hatch comes to mind), are bottles more expensive? Is it a question of demand?

I almost failed Economics in college, and I've never trusted mathematics, but I remember something about demand driving up price. Using that logic, I have developed a theory: Bottles are more expensive because more people drink them.

This raises another question: Why would people pay $1.75 for a little bottle of Bud when they could get a draft (served in a mug, no less) for 25 cents cheaper?

I also have a theory for this one: People are dumb.

But that's just a theory.

Oh, and I realize that buying a keg is like buying beer in bulk, whereas with bottles, you're paying for them to be individually packaged. Even so, there are plenty of bars who serve 12-ounce drafts for the same price -- if not more -- than an 12-ounce bottle of Bud.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:23 AM | | Comments (27)

June 12, 2010

Port in a Storm's germaphobe-friendly door string

port in a storm doorOn my way into Port in a Storm the other night, I noticed a piece of white twine tied around the front door handle.

"What's this?" I said to myself. Or maybe I said it to jmgiordano. Could be either.

I used the string to open the door, instead of touching the grimy grungy dingy door handle with my spic and span hand.

I know more than a few germaphobes who would be pleased to have such an option. You see, the string is the new thing.

In all sobriety, it might not have been a conscious move on the bar's part, so much as a celebration of someone's birthday.

I noticed party fare (including a cake!) inside ...

Or maybe someone had the door tied open earlier. I just don't know, and I wasn't about to needle our friendly, portly bartender with unnecessary questions.

We enjoyed our ice cold $2.25 Buds (mine still had chunks of ice stuck to the outside of the bottle), and soaked in the scene. The bar is bigger than it looks at first glance, and square, which I love.

Last night, there were only a scattering of people inside, enough to fill one side of the place. The walls are wrapped in wood paneling, and, last night, pop songs from Justin Timberlake and Rihanna played overhead.

Port in a Storm is one of the city's few lesbian bars, and it's been there a while. I'm not exactly sure where "there" is. It's kinda in the no man's land between Highlandtown and Greektown, way out at 4330 E. Lombard St. Maybe that's part of the reason why it's lasted so long. Or maybe it's the vibe. I rolled in there with two other dudes, and we didn't feel left out.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:10 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

June 11, 2010

Ice bar Minus5 Igloo will open tomorrow in Power Plant Live

a sneaky peeky inside minus5yIce, ice, baby.

Minus5 Igloo, the new portable ice bar in Power Plant Live's plaza, will open tomorrow, according to PPL spokesman Chris Furst.

The employees Ice Wizards have begun to build the walls, carving in Ravens and Orioles logos. If you stare long and hard at this blue-tinted picture, you will make out some of the designs. It's like a Magic Eye!

The furniture and bar itself, which will both be made of ice, will be finished tonight, Furst wrote in an e-mail ...

Once they get Minus5 up and running, they will coordinate a grand opening celebration.

Baltimore is the second stop for the Minus5 Igloo -- it was on Whistler Mountain the Winter Olympics in Vancouver last year, where, presumably, they were able to keep the door open because it was so cold outside. Just a guess.

You know what would be awesome? If they booked Vanilla Ice to perform Ice Ice Baby inside Minus5! Oh wait, they kinda already did that.

(Photo courtesy of Chris Furst)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:30 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

The Get Down to replace Fletcher's

the view from the second floor, looking downA new lounge called The Get Down will replace Fletcher's in the coming weeks, according to owner Bryan Burkert.

Burkert, who also owns the music store Soundgarden, is overseeing a sweeping renovation of the two-story Fells Point club, which includes removing the upstairs stage, knocking out a portion of the ceiling and installing metal railing and refinishing the floors, walls and bar.

A drastic departure and significant investment on Burkert's part, the Get Down could be open in early July, he said.

"There's no guarantee that what we're doing is going to work," Burkert said. "We're going to create the best space with the best vibe we can."

Burkert recruited Scott Chmielewski to design the lighting and interior design of the Get Down. A Baltimore native, Chmielewski worked on the Beijing Olympics and other high-profile lounges ...

"There shouldn't be anything around that is like this," Chmielewski said. "I'm trying to make it an immersive environment without being overbearing. ... The minute you walk in the door, we're hoping it feels unexpected."

Chmielewski and Burkert are drawing inspiration from the old GoodLove Bar in Canton and Red Maple in Mount Vernon. They don't want to open something as over-the-top as Pur, and don't have lofty expectations of bringing New York or Miami to Baltimore, they said.

"I play devil's advocate on this every day," Burkert said. "Is this going to work? We could have just gone for a pop/dance club."

Some of The Get Down's furniture will come from the late, storied New York club The Roxy. Burkert and Chmielewski got the pieces from former Roxy owner Gene DiNino. They're currently being reupholstered.

The Get Down will have DJs and some live music on a regular basis, Burkert said. Though Fletcher's hosted live music for years, with the rise of Rams Head Live and Sonar, it became harder to book notable nationally touring bands, Burkert said. And with nearby Harbor East and the planned Marketplace at Fells renovations coming soon, he thinks the neighborhood will be able to support a place like The Get Down.

"I'm sure not everybody who used to come to Fletcher's will like it," Burkert said. "Some of them are going to hate me for what I did. But I had to make a decision."

(Pictured, the view from the second floor, where the stage used to be, looking down)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

Resurrection six-packs are flying off shelves

resurrection in cansThirsty Baltimore beer drinkers are snapping up six-packs of Resurrection Ale so fast, Brewer's Art is struggling to keep up with demand. 

Resurrection, which made its six-pack debut on Memorial Day weekend, has flown off liquor store shelves, according to Brewer's Art's Tom Creegan.

"We thought demand would be high, but it's even more than we thought," he said.

"We had 500 cases and they disappeared. We sold 35 by the end of Memorial Day. One store sold 50 cases in two days." ...

Earlier this week, I stopped by Wells Liquors on a whim, looking for some, but an employee told me they'd been out of it for weeks, and might not get more for a while. 

Creegan said the next shipment of cans, which are brewed and packaged in Pennsylvania, will be "trickling in" over the course of the next week or so.

I'm sure part of the demand has to do with the novelty factor of having Resurrection in six-packs, as opposed to the less portable 750-milliliter bottles. But I'll bet demand stays high even after the initial buzz has worn off. Pun!

(Photo courtesy of Brewer's Art)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (16)

June 10, 2010

Announcing the Midnight Sun Resurrection Can Photoshop winner

Actually, the contest had winners. It's a tie!

Believe it or not, "It's a Can" (entry No. 3), by Benjamin Fry, and "Twilight Resurrection" (entry No. 6), by the husband-and-wife team of Alexander D. Mitchell IV and Jenny Heidewald each got 24 votes. ...

I had to spend hours going through each comment by hand, deleting votes cast twice by the same IP address under different names. Thanks for playing fair, everybody. All in all, I ended up cutting about seven or eight fake votes.

Congrats to both of the artists. Now, I'm going to see what we can award you both as prizes. And thanks, everybody, for submitting some hilarious photos.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:21 AM | | Comments (5)

Baja Beach Club is not resurfacing in South Baltimore

I hear this building is a gateway to C.H.U.D.-land Sometimes I feel like I spend more time disproving rumors than presenting cool new stories.

A bunch of folks have emailed/texted me with the news that the downtown megaclub Baja Beach Club is relocating to the old Pabst packaging building in South Baltimore.

As delicious as this sounds, it is, unfortunately, not true. I checked in with Baja's former owner, Tony Di Fatta, who said he sold the liquor license when the club closed in early 2008. The people who bought it wanted to open some kind of restaurant, he said.

After a trip to the liquor board, I discovered that the plan is to turn the Pabst building into a combination restaurant and market ...

But from the outside (as you can see in the photo), it appears to be a long time coming and a long time off. 

Since this was more restaurant than nightlife news, I passed it onto ace food blogger Laura Vozzella, who, I don't think, has written about it yet. I'll check with her today and see.

In the meantime, if someone tells you Baja Beach Club is coming to South Charles Street, hit them with some knowledge.

Also, let's take a minute and reflect on how ominously cool this building looks. This was obviously made in a time when people took their beer seriously. Even crappy beer. I imagine a stoic CEO, standing in the uppermost office, peering out the window while gently pulling on a pipe, a gold pocket watch tucked into his vest pocket and an ice cold can of Pabst in his left hand -- 100 percent gentleman.

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:39 AM | | Comments (13)

June 9, 2010

Losing ESPN Zone would be a blow for the Inner Harbor

espn zoneDid you hear the news? ESPN Zone, one of the Inner Harbor's most prominent restaurant/bars, could be closing.

Disney, which owns ESPN Zone, is reportedly shuttering all of the ESPN Zones that are not directly tied to a Disney property. Baltimore's ESPN Zone, which opened in 1998, was the chain's first location.

As a tourist attraction, ESPN Zone has served its purpose well. Losing it would be a blow to the Inner Harbor -- akin to losing the nearby Hard Rock Cafe. But news about ESPN Zone possibly closing shouldn't come as a surprise ...


Chances are, if you live in Baltimore, you didn't go there much. ESPN Zone seems to have always had more of an appeal to tourists than locals. That's why it was such a perfect fit in the Inner Harbor. Kids liked the arcade games, parents liked the sports games, broadcast on dozens of TVs, big and small.

Celebrities occasionally dropped by ESPN Zone for parties and dinner, and local athletes regularly held events there. But in recent years, the shine has worn off.

ESPN Zone's wall of TVs seems less impressive now than it did 10 years ago, especially if you have an HD flat screen TV at home. And arcade games in general aren't as appealing as they used to be, thanks to Nintendo Wii, XBox 360 and the like. 

I've been to ESPN Zone a few times over the years, and lately, it just feels tired. That's why the closure announcement doesn't seem far fetched. I just wonder what will replace it. Do the folks in Remington still not want that Wal-Mart?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:45 PM | | Comments (82)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Smashing Pumpkins to play Rams Head Live

billy corrigan of  the smashing pumpkinsAlt-rockers Smashing Pumpkins are coming to Rams Head Live July 12.

Tickets, which will cost $45, will be on sale in the coming days. I'll let you know when the exact on sale date is posted.

The Rams Head show is one of a dozen-show run, which sees the band performing a mixture of old and new tunes in smaller-than-usual club spaces.

The last time the Pumpkins were in town was for the 2007 Virgin Mobile Fest (pictured).

(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 11:16 AM | | Comments (13)


Originally, I'd planned on tallying the votes from the Midnight Sun Resurrection Can Photoshop Contest (also known as MSRCPC) and announcing a winner yesterday. That obviously hasn't happened yet.

Even though I told people to only vote once, there were more than a few cases where people voted two and even three times. So I have to go back and double-check all 80-some comments for the IP addresses, compare them, and then tally the votes. ...

This is harder than it sounds, because our blog software is straight out of 1986. It is taking me forever. I apologize for the wait. However, I do have some good news: This week's nightlife column is all about the contest, and the winner and at least two runners up will have their photos printed in the paper.

So sit tight, gang. I know you're all anxious about the results. I know I am, at least. That's something.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:23 AM | | Comments (5)

Artscape 2010 lineup announced. What do you think?

warren haynes is the front man of gov't mule. here, he kinda looks like a zombie. or maybe he's about to consume the microphone.After blogging for three years, I've come up with a saying: Online, there is no 'best' -- there is only 'first.'

That said, I might not have the best announcement of this year's Artscape festival roster, but I have the first one.

The folks at the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts gave me a sneak peak at the lineup, which will be formally announced at a press conference today.

In case you missed my short piece in today's paper, the headliners are:

Jam rock band Gov't Mule, neo soul singer Musiq Soulchild, Washington-based rapper Wale and indie rock group Cold War Kids are the big names this year ...

Other national acts such as soul singer Maysa, singer/songwriter Jackie Greene and reggae group Rebelution round up the lineup. Of course, these bands are a mere taste of the 50-odd acts performing on four stages. This year, festival organizers added another stage featuring local music, called the Charm City Stage. Sweet!

So ... what do you think of the headliners? I've seen a couple of them before. Gov't Mule front man Warren Haynes has played with half the jam bands under the sun -- Allman Brothers, Phil Lesh, the Grateful Dead. I last saw him with Phil Lesh several years ago. He's a nasty (in a good way) guitarist, with a gravelly, soulful voice. I love how, in this photo, he looks like a zombie about ready to eat the microphone.

I caught Wale when he opened for Jay-Z at 1st Mariner Arena last year. He's probably the highest-profile rapper to come out of Washington, but he's still not a household name yet. At the end of his set at 1st Mariner, he chucked a water bottle way out into the crowd, where it struck a woman in the head, if I remember correctly. Ouch.

This year's lineup doesn't have many older performers with vintage appeal, like Dionne Warwick or Roberta Flack. Usually there's a few of those on the bill. So maybe this year's show will appeal more to a younger audience.

What do you think?

(AP photo of Gov't Mule front man Warren Haynes)

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 7:21 AM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Local music, News

June 8, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Earth Bar

who wants a shot of ... THE WORLD?!?!?!

Since I'm still snowed in with post-vacation work, I'm going to skip the usual intro and let Owl Meat Gravy do his thing with today's column:

I had a dream about the best bar ever:

•    The French make the wine (and Cognac and Champagne, but not beer).

•    The Spanish make the bar snacks. ¡Tapas! ¡Olé! Death to American tapas!

•    The English mop the floors and clean the toilets. Drool, Britannia drool. (NSFW)

•    The Scots make the whisky.

•    The Irish tell the jokes.

•    The Germans do the accounting.

•    The bartenders are monkeys. ...

•    The cocktail waitresses are from Barcelona.

•    The bar-backs are penguins.

Then I had a nightmare about the worst bar ever:

•    The English make the wine and cook.

•    The Greeks do the accounting.(Skip to 3:05)

•    The Germans are the hosts/hostesses.

•    Thais make the whiskey.

•    The Spanish and Italians make the schedules.

•    The cocktail waitresses are from New Jersey.

•    The Dutch make the liqueur (Avocado is not a mixer!)

•    The Austrians tell the jokes.

•    The bartender is this guy.

•    The Scots make the bar snacks. (Haggis happy hour, anyone?) 

•    The regulars are drunk thieving monkeys.


(Getty Images photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:39 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Is Vino Rosina "affordable?"

vino rosinaGood morning everybody, and welcome to Tuesday.

All the way back on Friday (seems like a year ago, doesn't it?), my review of Vino Rosina appeared in the Live! section.

You remember Vino Rosina, right? It's the new wine bar in Harbor East, run by the same folks who opened the ritzy sandwich shops Rosina Gourmet.

I liked Vino Rosina. A lot. But my review had a couple readers wondering what, exactly, is an "affordable" bottle/glass of wine? ...

Most of the 200-odd bottles of wine fall in the $30-$50 price range. To me, that's affordable, given the surroundings. Being in Harbor East, you should expect all the prices to be a notch above other, less fancy neighborhoods, such as Pigtown (I had to pick on somebody, SoWeBoHemians).

$30, and even $40 for a bottle of wine at a fancy spot like Vino Rosina ain't bad. It might even be -- gasp -- affordable.

Now, maybe it's a stretch to call the glasses of wine "affordable." Most of the three-ounce pours hovered around $4, and most of the six-ounce pours were about $8. Midnight Sunner ryan97ou gave me some grief about this. As I said in the review, all of our three-ounce pours looked to be at least four- or five-ounces. To me, that's a deal.

What do you think?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:38 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 7, 2010

More on Minus5

minus5 power plant liveTake a look at Minus5, the new ice bar and lounge coming to Power Plant Live.

Looks like a big ice box, doesn't it? I can see it on the back of a tractor trailer, going cross country. Right now, it's parked in the Power Plant Live plaza. 

Minus5 is set to open this month, according to folks from its marketing staff and Chris Furst of Power Plant Live.

They're not sure if it's going to have the full effect of the Minus5 in Las Vegas, where everything, including the furniture, is made out of ice ...

The bar itself and the glasses will all be made out of ice. I guess since they're not made out of glass, I really can't call them glasses. Ices? Hmm.

Minus5 is only a temporary bar, which will be in Power Plant Live through late summer/early fall, Furst said. After that, it's going to pack up and move elsewhere. I'll let you know when I have a more firm opening dates and such. Until then, you're just going to have to chill.

(Photo by me)


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:46 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 4, 2010

Baltimore bars with splenda mojitos?

mojito from red mapleSorry I haven't been around much lately, gang. I'm technically on vacation, but blogs being blogs, I'm never really "on vacation" unless I leave the country.

Anyway, I'm planning on officially announcing the winner of the Resurrection Can Photoshop Contest when I get back on Tuesday, although it's pretty clear who the winner is going to be.

In other news, Amie wants to know if there are any Baltimore bars who make mojitos with Splenda instead of cane sugar/simple syrup.

To me, this sounds like a no-brainer. It would make the delicious summer drink (nearly) calorie free.

I'll bet tons of people would buy them, and it wouldn't take that much more effort to make ...

I'll admit -- I could call a bunch of bars and try to find some that might offer this, but I'm on vacation and therefore too lazy. But in my five years of covering Baltimore nightlife, I've consumed countless mojitos, and never come across ones with fake sugar in them.

If no one in Baltimore has thought of this already and starts offering them because of this post, I want a cut of the profits, by the way. Just sayin.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:36 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

June 3, 2010

Concert review: Passion Pit, Tokyo Police Club at Rams Head Live

singer Michael Angelakos of Passion PitAll too often, electro-rock bands disappoint live. The thick, processed vocals sound thin in person, the lockstep synthesizers out of sync.

Not so for Passion Pit. When the five-piece from Massachusetts kicked off a summer tour with a sold-out gig at Rams Head Live last night (tonight they'll be at the 9:30 Club in Washington), the grooves were tight and funky and singer Michael Angelakos' (pictured, top) sailing falsetto was strong enough to tickle the club's rafters.

Here is a link to a photo gallery of the show.

The set wasn't long -- it clocked in at a about an hour, give or take -- but that's understandable. Passion Pit only has one album out so far, last year's "Manners," which made a splash on the indie scene. And most of the synth-heavy songs from "Manners" held up live ...

There were enough keyboards on stage to stock a music store, and the band made swift use of them. For tracks like "Little Secrets," not one, not two but three of the five guys on stage were playing synths. You didn't even miss the guitar.

Angelakos, with his frizzy bob of brown hair, button down shirt and jeans, commanded crowd members to get their hands in the air, and they complied. Every other song, open fists were bumping in the air to the beat.

singer/bassist dave monks of tokyo police clubWhen they recorded "Manners," Passion Pit smartly built in lines which audiences could latch onto in their live shows, such as "Look at me oh look at me / is this the way I'll always be? / Oh noooo" and "higher and higher and higher."

At Rams Head, it seemed like everyone knew these parts, and sang along, their hands in the air. The show was filled with ecstatic moments like this -- flashes of pure party bliss fueled by slinky synths and irresistible beats.

Passion Pit let it all hang out with their second-to-last song of the night, a cover of the Cranberries' "Dreams." Angelakos and Co. amped up the usually airy track, giving it a fresh sense of urgency and perhaps a dash of camp.

Last November, when the Cranberries opened their tour at Rams Head Live, they also wrapped up their show with "Dreams." Passion Pit did it better.

Opener Toyko Police Club laid out some fast and loose indie rock, with a blend of songs from their debut, "Elephant Shell" and their new one, "Champ," which is due out in a few days. Singer/bassist Dave Monks (pictured, bottom) has a specific range, but uses it well. Unfortunately, many of his verses were lost in the washy mix. Though the newer songs lacked the same punch as older tracks like "Tesellate" and "Your Engish Is Good," they showed plenty of promise.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Josh Sisk)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:54 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Concert reviews

June 2, 2010

The winner of the Tokyo Police Club Contest

After days spent reviewing the comments in deep contemplation, Tokyo Police Club has selected a winner in the blog contest: Devil D!

Thanks, everybody for playing. Devil D, check your email -- I just sent you instructions. Enjoy the show!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:59 AM | | Comments (9)

Corkboard: Baltimore bars and World Cup specials

soccer time!A bunch of folks have e-mailed me in the past couple weeks, wanting to know which Baltimore bars are running World Cup specials.

Being a true American, I've heard of but never seen this World Cup thing. I hear it has something to do with soccer. Meh.

Ryan97ou sent me a note about a pretty killer sounding deal at Amicci's in Little Italy.

Dig this ...

Keep in mind, I'm not sure where it's from, and I couldn't find it anywhere online. So take that as you will. Here goes:

Watch every World Cup game in Amicci's Bar. Happy Hour 10am-10pm. Cheer for your favorite team and enjoy the Best Happy Hour (12 HOURS!) in Baltimore. $2 Beers, $3 Wines, $5 Cocktails, $5 Salads and Appetizers.

A chance to win World Cup Jerseys, Soccer Balls, and Team Scarves from your favorite country! ALL PROCEEDS FROM RAFFLES WILL BE DONATED TO THE ALS ASSOCIATION OF MARYLAND. HELP AMICCI'S FIND A CURE FOR LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE! Amicci's will open the bar on game days at 10 am. World Cup begins June 11, 2010. "Let's Have a Ball!"

Who else is running World Cup specials? I'm sure Slainte's got something goin' on.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:05 AM | | Comments (48)
Categories: Corkboard

June 1, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Lacrossed


I wonder what groups smelled better after their respective events: The black T-shirted Death Metal Festers or the lacrosse champions? Here's Owl Meat with this week's column:

This weekend Baltimore hosted two national events: Maryland Death Fest and the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships.

I surmise that the intersection of the two groups was tiny. How many people were struggling with the choice of lacrosse versus head-banging with Eyehategod, Jucifer, and Autopsy?

On my way to our Falls Rd/Hamden dive bar crawl on Friday night, I spied some hot weather Goths, the sweetest goths ever. On Saturday afternoon, I saw groups of black-clad death metal fans roaming the Inner Harbor. Despite some spiked dog collars, they were neither growling nor biting. They were just hanging out and enjoying the sights.

On Saturday night I headed out for some beer and conversation. As they say in minute 29 of every VH1 Behind the Music, "And that's when trouble started." Cue ominous music and break for commercial ...

Early in the evening, I said to my friend Scott the bartender, "Something is very wrong about tonight. Very wrong."

Scott was handling the bar, service bar for the restaurant, and tables in the bar area. His bar-back was off and the restaurant had many large tables booked.

Little did I realize that on this weekend of polar opposites it would be the red-faced, AARP stick-yahoos with American Express Black cards ($7,500 fee for the first year) and pocketfuls of Lipitor who would be The Tormentors. This is a group so lacking in self-awareness and a sense of irony that they allow themselves to be called ex-laxers.

These packs of old white guys reliving their obnoxious youth through the glaucous lens of vodka and time turned into the perfect storm of boorishness. It may have been a fluke of where I happened to be, but I have never seen more obnoxious bar customers. The general modus operandi was yell-talking and yell-laughing, because if the whole room can't hear your every word, why did you buy that Ferrari?

Here are some highlights:

•    The couple who loudly announced upon arrival that the bartender was missing and maybe they should leave. When Scott returned a minute later they loudly repeated the statement to him. They didn't want to see a menu, they just wanted some bread and cheese to snack on. Not a menu item. They said, "Well, it's an Italian restaurant. You have cheese. Why don't you go fetch some from the kitchen and make us a little plate?"

•    Same couple wanted octopus. No octopus. Well, where could they get octopus, etc. Meanwhile twenty people are waiting for drinks.

•    Another group wanted to know the specific origin of the clams and musels.

•    One woman wanted the sangria ingredients and process explained in detail. She argued that those were not the proper ingredients.

•    Another woman wanted to know exactly what was in the Bloody Mary mix. After much discussion she ordered a rail vodka and tonic.

•    A loud guy with a man-perm yelled, "Hey, Steve," repeatedly at Scott, demanding immediate service for his group of five. When Scott arrived, he hemmed and hawed and turned to his group and asked, "So, what do you guys want?"

•    A loud guy yelled the history of Little Italy to his crew and the whole bar in the most inaccurate and racist terms I have ever heard.

•    One person wanted Blue Moon on tap. They only had it in bottles. He then demanded to know which draft beer was most similar to Blue Moon. He got a Coors Light ... in a bottle.
Hands down the worst crowd ever, including Yankee and Red Sox fans and the Preakness crowd.

Give me death metal fans anytime.

(Photo by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:51 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

The Midnight Sun Resurrection Can Photoshop Finalists

I wanna start by thanking everybody who submitted entries in the first (and probably last) Midnight Sun Resurrection Can Photoshop Contest. Some of the photos kept me giggling for quite some time.

I have narrowed down the 20-odd entries to six finalists. To help prevent this from becoming a popularity contest, I'm keeping the authors anonymous until the winner is decided.

Everybody gets to cast one vote (in the comments section) for their favorite image. One vote is the limit. Also, don't just say "No. 1" -- tell us why you like the one you picked. The voting ends at midnight Thursday.

Are you ready? Here goes ...

alien resurrection


No. 1 -- "Alien Resurrection"

aqua teen beer force




No. 2 -- "Aqua Teen Beer Force"











it's a can



No. 3 -- "It's a Can!"

















last supper



No. 4 -- "Last Sipper"










zombies and jesus beer



No. 5 -- "Zombie and Jesus Beer"
















twilight resurrection



No. 6 --  "Twilight Resurrection"








Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:40 PM | | Comments (77)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Minus5 ice bar & lounge coming to Power Plant Live

minus5 barMinus5, an ice bar and lounge, is set to open in Power Plant Live later this week.

I'm still waiting to hear from Minus5's marketing rep, but Power Plant Live's Chris Furst confirmed it.

According to Minus5's website, everything inside the lounge, from the bar to the glasses and furniture, is made of Canadian ice. The concept comes from New Zealand, and the only other U.S. location is in Las Vegas.

Apparently, it's called Minus5 because the constant temperature inside is 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Every 6-8 weeks, an ice carver comes in and totally redoes the inside of the place.

Everyone who walks into Minus5 gets an insulated jacket, gloves and boots. They've got a ton of specialty drinks.

When I lived in Kansas City, there was a lounge named Vivace with an ice-topped bar not too far from my apartment. I went there a few times with the Kansas City Star's nightlife writer ...

If I remember correctly, the top of the bar was a long slab of ice, with lights underneath that made it glow different colors.

People would carve their names in the ice with keys, and have contests to see who could keep their hands on the ice the longest. Every 15 minutes or so, the bartender would toss some water on top, which would freeze and re-coat the bar. It even helped keep your beers cold.

I Googled Vivace this morning, and it looks like it closed. Guess the novelty wore off. 

I'll keep you posted when I hear back from Minus5's camp.

(Photo courtesy of Minus5's website)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:21 AM | | Comments (35)
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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