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July 31, 2010

The Reserve isn't closed, it just has BGE issues

is the reserve closed? i chose this photo because it's dark, and implies that it's closed. The Reserve has been closed a couple days this week due to an electricity outage, according to the blog's Facebook site. The South Baltimore bar isn't closed for good.

I'd heard plenty of rumors this week about it being shuttered, and I published a post asking people about it this morning.

I should have just checked the bar's Facebook page. Sorry for furthering the rumor ...

I've been really under the gun this week -- today I had to run back to Pasadena for the third time in three days for a story -- and been tossing everything that comes my way on the blog.

Anyway, back to work on this story, which will come out Monday. Can't tell you what it is quite yet, but I hope it will make a splash when it runs.

Have a great Saturday night, everybody!

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:38 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 30, 2010

Alewife to replace Lucy's Irish Pub

A high-end beer hall with New American cuisine is set to replace Lucy's Irish Pub on the West Side, according to owner Daniel Lanigan.

Alewife, which could open as early as Sept. 5, will have 40 drafts and 100 bottles, as well as craft cocktails and a wine program, Lanigan said.

"We're going to try to be an institution in Baltimore," he said. "I think the West Side needs a good restaurant/bar. That part of town is an opportunity for revitalization, and we want to be a part of that for a long time." ...

Aside from a few cosmetic changes, Lanigan plans to keep the large space mostly the same.

"We're going to modernize it a little bit," he said. "It's a nice looking couple rooms as it is."

Lanigan owns a number of other beer halls, including Lord Hobo in Cambridge, Mass. and Other Side Cafe in Boston. A self-professed beer guy, he said the challenge of running a large space drew him to Baltimore.

Alewife won't offer an obscene amount of beers because it doesn't have to, Lanigan said. What matters is the quality.

"There aren’t 2,000 good beers in the world," he said. "There's not even 1,000. We sell 100 bottles of beer because we think that’s the best 100 bottles you can get. That philosophy dictates how we do our menu."

Formerly Maggie Moore's, the space at 21 N. Eutaw St. became Lucy's in 2008 before closing last year.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:04 PM | | Comments (40)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

Johnny Rad's is open

Johnny Rad's, the new pizza bar which replaced Kelly's in Fells Point, is open for business.

"We are open, God help me," said owner Steve Ball. 

The bar's soft opening was Wednesday, and despite what the bar's Facebook page says, no date has been set for the grand opening, which should be sometime next month. Johnny Rad's is open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. every day. The happy hour, which features $3 drafts and rails, is 5 p.m.-8 p.m. weekdays. And the beer list is impressive ...

Johnny Rad's has 32 bottles and cans, everything from Pabst to Schneider-Weisse Wheat Doppelbock, Ball said. The draft list is small but mighty: 21st Amendment, Acme IPA, Victory Prima Pils, Oliver's Blonde Ale, Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat and others.

I haven't been inside yet, but Baltimore Magazine's Jess Blumberg has. Check out her post about the place.

If you've been, lemme know what you think of the place.

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

July 29, 2010

Just shake the darn shaker

God bless New York, but sometimes it's too stuck up for its own good. I understand the need to make a good drink, and I appreciate the proper methods for preparing a cocktail. But after watching this video shot by the New York Times, I want to shake the mixologist -- not the drink -- and tell him to get over himself. I can only guess how much this drink costs, too. Thanks to ryan97ou for the tip.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:12 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Get Out: Dru Hill at Sound Garden

dru hill at the 2010 BET awardsDid you think Dru Hill was down for the count? Think again.

The hit Baltimore R&B group is back with a new album, the questionably titled "InDRUpendence Day," which came out this past Tuesday.

Why didn't it drop on July 4? Because Dru Hill makes its own holidays, that's why.

At 6 p.m. today, Dru Hill is performing at Sound Garden in Fells Point. Dru Hill for free? I'm there.

But wait, that's not all. I have more important Dru Hill info to share ...

Dru Hill doesn't just have a new album and a new member -- there's also a new reality show, "Platinum House," on BET's new Centric network.

In all seriousness, Amie recently (legally) downloaded Sisqo's "The Thong Song," and we listened to it in the car a couple weeks ago. I forgot how much I loved the phrase "dumps like a truck," even though I'm still not exactly sure what it means. And in an age when everybody pop, rap and R&B star is Auto-Tuned to the max, it was refreshing to hear Sisqo actually singing. Remember when singers used to sing, like, for real? I miss those days.

(Reuters photo of Dru Hill at the 2010 BET Awards)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:23 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Get Out

The review: Dick's Last Resort

I wish I could say Dick's Last Resort was full of unexpected surprises. But the new Inner Harbor restaurant/bar is just what I expected: A tourist zone, with overpriced drinks and "funky" decor.

When you consider the location (next to Hard Rock Cafe and a few doors down from the shuttered ESPN Zone), Dick's is tailored for the neighborhood. I'll bet it does well there.

While Dick's has plenty of dining space, I nabbed a chair at the bar. I set my elbows on the stone-topped bar and immediately realized it was about six inches too high (or the chairs were six inches too low) ...

At 5' 9", I'm of average height, and the bar almost came up to my shoulders. Sitting there, I felt like a kid, waiting for a root beer float at the drug store. I scanned the drink menu, and saw that a bottle of Natty Boh was a whopping $4.75.

Let me repeat that, just so it sinks in: At Dick's Last Resort, a bottle of Boh is $4.75. 

In all my years as a nightlife critic, I've never seen Boh sell for that much. $3 is too much for a bottle o' Boh. I had to order it, just to see if, somehow, the most expensive bottle of Boh tasted any different than the cheaper bottles I'd had at dozens of dive bars around town. It didn't.

To the bar's credit, Dick's had two Heavy Seas brews on tap: Marzen and Loose Cannon. You can order a pint, or a large souvenir glass, which costs upwards of $10, but you get to take it home. Oh boy.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:55 AM | | Comments (38)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 28, 2010

Get Out: Jews Rock

who wants to give gene simmons a KISS?Tonight, Rabbi Brian Leiken is discussing the Jewish legacy in rock 'n' roll, from way back in the Tin Pan Alley days to more modern music.

The lecture, called Jews Rock - From Tin Pan Alley to Woodstock: Jews and Rock-n-Roll, is one of the Jewish Museum of Maryland's Brews and Schmooze events.

I like both boozing and schmoozing (and ... Jewzing?), so this event gets the Sessa stamp of approval.

My guess is, he'll talk about Gene Simmons, Bob Dylan and Norman Greenbaum, among many others.

It costs $10 and runs 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the museum.

(AP photo of The Tongued One)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:19 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Get Out

Coaster sticking to your pint glass? Pour salt on it.

if you look closely, you'll see salt on this beer coaster.And now, another installment of Weird Drinking Tips Sam Just Learned:

Last night, I met my good friend Miguel (who happens to have his own stellar nightlife blog) in Washington for drinks. Our server set our beers down on the coasters in front of us, and we lifted our glasses for a toast.

For a moment, Miguel's coaster stuck to his beer glass, and he gingerly plucked it off. It's annoying, but I've begun to accept sticky coasters and napkins as part of going out. 

That's when Miguel showed me the secret to ending sticky beer coasters forever: Pour a little salt on them ...

He snatched a salt shaker and dumped a little bit on his coaster. At first, I thought he was going to dump salt in his IPA (like the dudes did at that Latino bar), which would have been a travesty.

Then I saw he was just sprinkling salt on his coaster. It's a trick he learned from a dude in an airport bar, who was shaking salt onto his napkin. 

Lo and behold, it worked. Miguel's coaster didn't stick anymore for the rest of the night, even though we ordered a couple more rounds. Sweet, huh? No wait -- salty, huh?

(Photo by me)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Drink-ology

July 27, 2010

Riptide by the Bay has decent specials, standard decor

riptide by the bayRiptide by the Bay seems to get lost amidst all the other Thames Street bars and pubs in Fells Point.

I've walked by Riptide plenty of times but never seen many people inside the bar/restaurant/crab shack. I've only been inside once myself, when I stopped by a couple weeks ago on a Friday evening.

Riptide's decor is largely unremarkable, aside from the nice, big wooden bar back.

The mirror behind the bar has a few bumper stickers with cliche slogans on them, such as "Breast inspection 20 feet ahead (please have 'em out). Har, har, har.

The drink specials are the real reason to hit up Riptide. On Fridays, they have $2 light beers and rail drinks from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Here's a full rundown of the specials ...

These specials are all day Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Mondays: $5 margaritas made with 1800 Silver or Jose Cuervo Gold tequila and $2 Corona Extras and Corona Lights.

Tuesdays: $2 draft beers and crabs

Wednesdays: $5 select wines, $2 Yuenglings and Blue Moons, $4.99 half-pound hamburgers

Thursdays: $2 PBRs and Miller Lites, $5 flatbread pizzas

Fridays: $2 light beers and rail drinks

Saturdays & Sundays: $2 PBRs

(Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:39 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Wale, Artscape and the curse words

wale performs at the 2009 virgin mobile freefestI'm late to the dance on this issue, but that's only because I can't believe it's gone on like this. 

During Washington rapper Wale's performance at Artscape, the rapper -- and possibly members of his entourage -- dropped some curse words, according to the local news site Investigative Voice.

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, who had told Wale this was a family-oriented show before his set, was shocked and appalled, and pursued legal action.

Unfortunately, since they paid him in advance, there was nothing they could do, according to this piece by Sun reporter Julie Scharper.

Now that it's all said and done, I'd like to add my 50 cents to the mini-scandal ...

First off, this shouldn't have been a scandal in the first place. I can't believe this is the first time anyone ever cursed at Artscape, as BOPA executive director Bill Gilmore claims in Julie's piece. That's ludacris. It's probably just the first time the press noted it and people complained about it.

If BOPA was so concerned about curse words at Artscape, they shouldn't have booked a rapper like Wale to play it. Go for Will Smith or LL Cool J. With Wale, you pretty much know what you're getting, and it's not 100 percent family friendly. He's not dropping f-bombs right and left, but he's not Mr. Clean either.

While were talking "family friendly" performances, let's not forget Dru Hill doing "Thong Song" in 2008, or Robin Thicke's sexually charged live show from last year. Granted, they're not cursing up a storm, but their music isn't G-rated either.

To me, this seems like one of those cases where nothing would have happened if Investigative Voice hadn't dug up the story in the first place. Since the press grabbed it and ran with it, BOPA felt like they had to do something. But in the end, there was nothing they could do anyway, except never  book Wale or anyone like him at Artscape again. To me, that seems a little silly.

(Photo of Wale performing at the 2009 Virgin Mobile FreeFest by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:26 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music

What's your favorite summer drink this year?

baltimore sun mojitosI scanned the news this morning, and saw stories about bedbug infestations, a homicide in Charles Village, the oil spill, and I thought 'Man, I need a drink.'

It's summertime -- one of the hottest summers in a long time. It's my favorite season for drinking, because I love ice cold cocktails.

This year, I've been keeping it simple: Vodka with light cran-razz and a splash of Rose's Lime juice. In past years, I was really into mojitos. This time around, I'm digging the citrusy twang.

What have you been drinking this summer? Beers count too, you know.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 26, 2010

Help Laura!

My colleague Laura Vozzella wants to make you famous. Here's Laura.

I'm not writing about a bar or a nightclub, but about an unusual fashion accessory that some people wear to bars and night clubs, so it kinda, sorta fits on a nightlife blog. At least I’ve convinced Sam as much.

The accessory in question is a  new type of oversized contact lens that makes the eyes look larger. They’re like conventional tinted contacts, but the tinted part is larger than usual, extending over the whites of the eyes ...

Lady Gaga wears them, so you know it’s a good idea.

Doctors are concerned that the contacts, ordered from overseas because they don’t have FDA approval, might damage the eyes.

Anybody out there wearing them and want to be interviewed? If so, please e-mail me at

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:42 PM | | Comments (8)

My trick for removing wine bottle covers

wine top!Last week, Amie and I ordered a bottle of wine at a restaurant.

The server came over, bottle in hand, and chiseled away at the aluminum bottle cover. He cut a ring around it, but not deep enough, because the cap wouldn't come off. Then he jabbed at the top of it and peeled away a few flecks of foil.

Meanwhile, we were sitting there silently, waiting and watching.

At last, he got enough of the cover off to remove the cork, poured us some and left.

I sat there wondering why he'd gone to all the time and effort when there's a much easier way to get the cover off ...

Most wine bottle caps are made of some kind of aluminum, a thicker version than straight aluminum foil. They're not glued onto the glass, just wrapped tightly around it.

i slid the top off! look!To remove the cap, just get a firm grip on it, briefly twist left and right and then yank it off.  No need to fuss with knives and such. I discovered this in a bout of frustration with a particularly resistant cap. I got pissed with it and, in my rage, slid it off.

If this is something you already know, my apologies for wasting your time. But everyone who has seen me do it has said something like 'Oh, I didn't know that slid off.' So now you know.

This trick works best with the thicker aluminum caps, which are on most corked bottles. The thinner ones can be a bit tougher to get off.


(Photos by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:31 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Drink-ology

Whartscape recap, J. Roddy Walston & the Business profile

ed schraderHappy Monday morning, gang. How was your weekend?

I had a nice and relaxing one, for a chance. I'm actually feeling good on a Monday morning, which is a first for me, in a while at least.

What did you miss this weekend? Well, Whartscape had to deal with the monsoon that swept in yesterday afternoon/evening. Julie Scharper was there for it, and wrote this Whartscape recap for the paper.

Also, ace photographer Josh Sisk shot three days of the experimental music festival. Here's a link to his Whartscape photos. ...

Lastly, my big J. Roddy Walston & the Business profile came out yesterday. It was the centerpiece of the Sunday Arts section, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little proud of it. 

The story opens with the difference between rock and rock 'n' roll. I had a quote that I knew would never make the paper, so I decided to put it here:

"Rock 'n' roll is big and mysterious and romantic," Walston said. "Rock bands make theme songs for date rape."

Glad they're a rock 'n' roll band, and not one of those rock bands. 

Last but certainly not least, I pitched in for the faux reality TV show piece which ran in today's paper. Have you seen it yet? It's a list of five reality TV show spinoffs -- like, what if these shows were filmed in Maryland.

Instead of "Jersey Shore," it's "Eastern Shore." Then there's the "The Avenue" (a spin-off of "The Hills") and more. Sun writer Jill Rosen did a hilarious job with it. Since I'm the Eastern Shore native, I wrote the "Eastern Shore" section. I'm sure we'll get some angry reader e-mails, but this one's worth it.

(Photo of Ed Schrader looking like a crazy man by Josh Sisk)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

July 24, 2010

Sweet! BARCS fundraiser @ Field House

fiona be rockin it.I've always had a soft spot for BARCS, the animal rescue and care center in South Baltimore. That's where Amie got Fiona (pictured).

From 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. today, BARCS is taking over the Field House in Canton for a wickedly awesome fundraiser. They're asking for a $7 donation, and there's an open bar from 7 p.m.-8 p.m. 

There's more than just an open bar, of course. Free haircuts from Floyd's 99, raffles and all kinds of goodies. 

So get there, and when you're there, raise a glass for Fiona and all of the countless other animals BARCS has helped save.

(Our photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:34 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

How did Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets go?

So I just rolled out of bed and realized the Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets went on sale a half hour ago. Whoops.

How did the giveaway go? How many people sprung for the $125 pavilion seats, vs the free tickets for the lawn? All in all, they're giving away more than 30,000 tickets. Did you get one?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:33 AM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

July 23, 2010

John Stamos will join Beach Boys for Pier Six show

john stamos, circa 1994On the fence about tomorrow's Beach Boys show?

Here's a little more motivation: Actor John Stamos will be banging the drums with the Beach Boys at Pier Six Pavilion.

Stamos, aka Uncle Jesse, has played with the Beach Boys on and off for decades.

Remember that sunny, sandy late '80s hit "Kokomo?" Stamos played percussion in the music video. It's pretty funny to watch.

"I'm stoked, especially because I grew up watching "Full House," said venue publicist Nicole Parsons. "Basically it's going to be an interesting show having him."

There's only one original Beach Boy in this incarnation of the '60s pop group: Mike "chip on his shoulder" Love.

Anyway, I expect attendance to double based on Stamos' star power.

(Handout photo from '94)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:29 AM | | Comments (12)

Virgin Mobile FreeFest presale: How did it go?

Advance tickets for the Virgin Mobile FreeFest were offered in a pre-sale at 10 a.m. today.

According to organizers, Virgin Mobile customers and fans who attended previous festivals were sent a promotional code, and could log onto to register for two tickets each.

How did it go? Were you able to get tickets? The rest of the tickets will be available at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:24 AM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

The review: The Get Down

the get downI went to The Get Down the other day, and all I can say is, wow.

Owner Bryan Burkert and designer Scott Chmielewski did a fantastic job renovating the old Fletcher's space. Some of Chmielewsk's ideas blew me away.

In my review, which ran in today's paper, I called it the best new lounge in years ...

Upstairs, near where the stage used to be, he created this "woven wall" of overlapping recycled plastic strips. Underneath it, there are more than 4,000 LED lights, which glowed different colors and, together, displayed funky patterns. It was wild -- like standing in front of one of those Jumbotrons at a show, but not nearly as bright.

I loved the retro furniture, which used to be in the legendary New York club The Roxy. Burkert bought it from Roxy owner Gene DiNino, and had it reupholstered.

The reason I think The Get Down will succeed is because it looks like a high-end lounge, but it's not run like one. The drink prices are reasonable (beers are $4-$5, wine is $30 by the bottle, gin and tonics are $5.50) and the happy hour special is killer. Every day from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., drinks are half price. I got a Tanqueray and tonic for $3.25. Damn!

The Get Down's grand opening is tonight and tomorrow.All the info you need is at the club's website.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:14 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 22, 2010

Announcing the J. Roddy Walston & the Business ticket winners

j. roddy walston and the  businessThe verdict is in, folks, and we have some winners for our J. Roddy Walston & the Business ticket giveaway.

I'd like to note that Caroline, the band's lovely publicist, picked our winners. She's a neutral third party, who didn't know any of the commenters personally or professionally. At least, I don't think she did. 

Anyway, each of these lucky five folks will win a pair of tickets to the band's CD release show July 31 at The Ottobar ...

Peter Harrison
Jon Conway

I'll be reaching out to each of the winners today via e-mail, but if you want to holler at me first, my e-mail is

Thanks to everybody who entered. Enjoy the show!

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

Water Street Tavern opens outdoor Key West Bar

this is the water street tavern's new key west barLast month, the Water Street Tavern quietly opened a new Key West Bar and patio space in its cozy downtown alleyway. 

The bar itself opens up onto the street, as seen in this photo. The furniture is brand new, and the bar even hired an artist to emulate signs you might see in Key West.

"I wanted something that was a little different, like Key West when you walk up to the bars on the street and get a drink," said owner Vincent Arosemena. "It makes for an outdoor party situation." ...

The Key West Bar has a bunch of island-type drinks, from mojitos and frozen daiquiris to orange crushes and Coronas. The drinks range from $2-$5, depending on what you order.

As always, Water Street Tavern has its killer 32-ounce draft beer specials for $4, as well as 16-ounce draft beers for $2, which has to be the best all-around special you'll find downtown. On Fridays, Natty Bohs are $1.25.

"We've been lucky -- people like what we're doing," Arosemena said.

With those prices, and the now the new bar, it's easy to see why.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 21, 2010

Mahaffey's to open Bistro Rx in former Three ... space

Mahaffey's, the Canton bar known for its wide array of craft beers, is opening a "wine-centric" restaurant called Bistro Rx in the old Three ... space in Patterson Park, owner Wayne Mahaffey wrote in an e-mail.

Bistro Rx could open as early as Sept. 16, Mahaffey wrote. The name pays tribute to Block's Pharmacy, which occupied the building at 2901 E. Baltimore St. for years. Sun food guru Laura Vozzella will have more info when she returns to the office tomorrow.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:06 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Pabst Blue Ribbon launches Blue Ribbon 1844 in China

blue ribbon 1844This could just be the marketing coup of the century:

According to Gawker, Pabst Blue Ribbon has reinvented itself as Blue Ribbon 1844, a high-end beer that is being sold in China for as much as $44 a bottle.

Why 1844? It's the year the original brewery was founded. Is it a new recipe? Or is Pabst Blue Ribbon just re-bottling it's same old crappy self, in the hopes the Chinese are suckers for a decent advertising campaign? The latter, I hope.

I'll bet it's the same rotgut swill that blue collar factory workers in Pittsburgh (and, for some reason, mustachioed hipsters) toss back by the case on a Friday night.

Perhaps "rotgut swill" is a little mean-spirited (liquor pun!). But it sure ain't Clipper City, I'll tell ya that. Or even Natty Boh, for that matter.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has inspired many great pop culture moments, like this one (NSFW). I really hope it's a hit in China. I mean, who wouldn't pay $44 for it? It's got "Blue Ribbon" in the name. It has to be good, right? Right?

(Image courtesy of this site)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:02 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Drink-ology

Chugging Das Boot at Captain Larry's

Das Boot kicked me in the face ... and then the liver.After THE (midnight sun) SITUATION, a small group of die hard blog faithfuls retreated to Captain Larrys for a few nightcaps.

Among them were Kateebee, Evan, Fenton and Evan Haga. We started with a few drafts -- nothing too heavy. Then we spotted something that would irreparably change our night: Das Boot.

Das Boot sat a few feet away on the back bar, silently taunting us. It looked kinda grody, like someone had rubbed their face with their hands and then wiped their hands on it.

At least, that's how I remember it looking, but my memories became fuzzy shortly thereafter ...

Someone -- I think it was Fenton -- insisted our bartender clean off Das Boot before we filled it up with beer. If I'm not mistaken, this was Evan's Das Boot to begin with. He brought it there. Or something. What matters is that it was there, and it took about five Natty Bohs to fill it.

Once Das Boot was filled, we passed it around so everybody could chug-a-lug. There is no sipping Das Boot. There is only chugging.

I'm a bad chugger, though. I'm more of a glugger. I take huge gulps and swallow them, which leads to back-washing, which is a good thing I went second to last.

In this photo, it looks like Das Boot is kicking me in the face. It did. And then it kicked me in the liver. But I survived, which makes me stronger.

(Photo by ... Evan? Kateebee?)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:40 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 20, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: BP Lounge's Happy Hour Menu

it's hard to tell if she's enjoying that taco or not. what do you  think?

Here's Midnight Sun columnist Owl Meat with another installment of his weekly Tipsy Tuesdays:

Last week's BP Bar cocktail menu was a smashing good success. Now that our little misunderstanding with the ocean has been (hopefully) cleared up, we want to celebrate with a new happy hour food menu.

We put our corporate chef Ramsay Gordon to task to whip up some victuals for your prodigious American bellies appetites.

We Brits had to create an empire to get a decent meal. Here at the BP Lounge all you have to do is ask, no violent oppression needed. Seriously, please stop assaulting the servers.

Here's the menu ...

1) Daffy Dixie Duck -- AFLAC! AaaaFLAC ... Aaaaf ... Aaa ... [kerplunk]. Served with a benzene aioli.

2) Mumbo Gumbo -- A BP Executive Club selection. What's in it? Just eat it and stop asking so many bloody questions.

3) Flash Fried Flipper Fritters -- Blackened tuna-free dolphin. Accompanied by okra poppers and Free-Range Willy sauce.

4) Wayward Hayward Wacky Wings -- BP Chief Tony Hayward's fave. Pieces of accidentally (oopsy!) genetically-modified sea birds. Served with a Dawn chipotle dispersal dipping sauce.

5) Shaft Sampler -- Who are the corporate cats who won't cap out when there's sludge all about? BP! Jolly good, brotha.

6) London Nachos -- Giddy-up buckaroos for maize crisps smothered in indifference, greed and xenophobia with Ye Olde Imperialism gravy. ¡Olé!

7) English Sushi -- Hey, you fell for Italian sushi. Enjoy a Manchester maki: Baked beans rolled in white bread drizzled with bacon grease and ham juice and a Gummy Bear honey au jus. Tally ho, Yankee-san.

8) Mississippi Pot-a-Feu -- The finest chunks of varmints and critters stewed in organic Earth juice (pétrole brut). Served with a heapin' helpin' of swamp fries and a fire extinguisher.

9) Maryland-Style Cap & Crunch Crab Cakes -- If crabs are extinct, Alabama veal (baby possum) with be substituted. Watch out for bones!

10) Driveway Beignets -- Classic Norlins pastries with a hint of asphalt.

Remember, at BP we pretend to care because you insisted that we do so. Now eat and forget.

If you have any suggestions for Chef Gordon, please comment below. Pip pip cheerio, mates.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

2010 Virgin Mobile FreeFest lineup announced: M.I.A., Pavement, LCD Soundsystem, Ludacris, T.I.

rapper T.I. is one of the headliners at this  year's Virgin Mobile  FreeFestExperimental hip-hop artist M.I.A., electro-rockers LCD Soundsystem, reunited alt-rock band Pavement and rappers Ludacris and T.I. (pictured) will headline this year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest, organizers announced today.

The free festival, which returns to Merriweather Post Pavilion Sept. 25, will feature another 12 acts, including Joan Jett, Thievery Corporation, Chromeo and Jimmy Eat World, on two stages and a dance area.

Tickets will be up for grabs 10 a.m. Saturday at Ticketfly. Virgin Mobile customers and concertgoers who attended previous festivals will receive texts and e-mail invitations to apply for advance tickets on Friday ...

In all, more than 30,000 tickets will be given away, and a limited number of pavilion seats will be sold for $125.

Instead of booking one or two big-name acts and a dozen smaller groups, festival producer Seth Hurwitz opted for "important" groups which he thinks will appeal to music lovers.

"This year, more than ever, we've taken a curator approach -- one might even call it a velvet rope approach," Hurwitz said. "No, there's not the People Magazine-type celebrity band, but that's the point. You come to this show, and you will leave knowing a lot more about some great music than before you came."

virgin mobile freefestHurwitz is looking forward to seeing Joan Jett, who is one of his guilty pleasures, he said.

"She’s played here and there, but she’s never played around here in such a cool setting and really been appreciated," he said. "She tends to play stuff more geared toward the old audience, but I can’t wait until kids see how great she is."

The $125 tickets will guarantee patrons a seat in the pavilion, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit charity. The rest will help fund the festival, Hurwitz said.

"Putting this many bands on for free is not exactly steeped in reality, but we're trying to make it work," he said.

Fans snapped up the nearly 35,000 tickets for last year's festival, which featured headliners Blink-182 and Weezer, in less than a half hour. And charity initiatives raised more than $80,000 and 30,000 volunteer hours to help battle youth homelessness and other local programs.

(Top photo of T.I. by Getty Images. Bottom photo of last year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest by Christopher T. Assaf/Baltimore Sun)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:14 AM | | Comments (44)
Categories: News

What should replace Taps?

taps is closed. what comes next? you decide.By this point, we've all heard the bad news: Taps is closed.

One question remains: What comes next? What brave soul dares to risk everything on a new business which could bring balance to the neighborhood -- or destroy it?

What about a brewpub, with the vats and stuff upstairs? Or maybe someone could resurrect the 5 for $5 wine nights (aka "purple teeth and blackout nights") The Vine used to have before it closed.

City That Breeds blogger Evan and I have our own incredibly lame brilliant plans for the place ...

TV Hat Bar: Whatever happened to virtual reality? We were supposed to be taking fake vacations and stuff by now. Well, TV Hat Bar is the next best thing. When you walk into TV Hat Bar, you strap on a super chic TV Hat, which is linked into a live video feed inside the bar. You can watch yourself order a drink! And to make things really freaky, sometimes the cameras will be in unexpected places, like the bathroom. Mindfreak! It's very post-modern.

Dave & Busted: This sports bar and game zone would have all kinds of fun activities such as shuffleboard, corn hole and arcade games. But here's the twist: Everything malfunctions. Not bad enough to make you want to leave, but just enough to annoy the heck out of you. For example, you get all the way to the end of Pac-Man and the power goes out. And everything works fine with Super Mario Bros 3, except the screen is upside down. Whoa, nelly! The best part? It will be filmed for a reality TV show. Now that's forward-thinking.

(Photo by me)

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

July 19, 2010

2010 Whartscape will be the last

dan deaconThis weekend's Whartscape will be the last, according to co-organizer Dan Deacon (pictured).

Now in its fifth year, the annual celebration of under-the-radar arts, music and culture has reached critical mass, Deacon said.

This year, the festival will feature about 120 performances on multiple stages, over the course of four days. Deacon expects about 1,000 people per day this year.

"I don't think it can get any larger," Deacon said. "We do it for the love of arranging the festival, and I still love doing it, but I don’t want it to become an institution -- something that just happens. I’d like to try something new next year and branch out." ...

Deacon and the other members of Wham City, who put on Whartscape, are considering starting a yearly outdoor festival with camping, he said. They're still not sure about the details.

"We'd want to keep it similar in size to the first Whartscape," Deacon said. "We've learned a lot over the last five years."

(Baltimore Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:43 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Local music, News

Get out: Awesome '80s flicks at AFI Silver Theatre

afi silver theatreHas everyone shaken off their Artscape hangover? I caught Cold War Kids and Gov't Mule Saturday night, and wrote this review. Both bands were better than I expected.

With another Artscape just put to bed, there isn't much on the radar tonight in terms of Baltimore nightlife.

If you're itching to check out something fun, head on over to the AFI Silver Theatre for the Totally Awesome Films of the '80s series.

At 9:15 p.m., they're screening "Used Cars," a 1980 film about dueling used car salesmen. Tickets are $6-$10. Other films in the series include "Back to the Future" and "The Blues Brothers."

(Photo courtesy of the theatre)

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 12:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Get Out

The Get Down is open

the get down baltimoreThe Get Down had its soft opening last week, and is officially open for business, according to owner Bryan Burkert.

"It far exceeded my expectations," Burkert wrote in an e-mail.

The grand opening of the Fells Point lounge, which replaced the live music club Fletchers, is this weekend.

DJ D-Mac will spin Friday and Washington's DJ Harry Hotter will spin Saturday. The action starts at 10 p.m. ...

I grabbed one of the photos from the lounge's Facebook page. Check out the rest. Wow.

The interior design and lighting was done by Scott Chmielewski, a Baltimorean who has worked with clubs in Miami and New York, as well as the Beijing Olympics. Judging by the photos, Scott did a fantastic job with The Get Down. I can't wait to see it in person.

Starting this Wednesday, The Get Down will be open seven days a week at 7 p.m. The upstairs will only be open Fridays and Saturdays.

(Photo courtesy of The Get Down's Facebook page)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

July 18, 2010

Concert review: Gov't Mule & Cold War Kids at Artscape

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.Two songs into Gov't Mule's set at last night's Artscape, bassist Jorgen Carlsson's amp started crackling.

The four-piece paused for a minute while the roadies swapped it out, and then resumed the song, "Steppin' Lightly."

"We're not going to let a little technical difficulty stand in the way of a good time this evening," front man Warren Haynes said.

They didn't.

What followed was just what you'd expect from the acclaimed jammers -- more than an hour and a half of thick riffs, searing solos and Southern rock songs. In short, it was good time music from a bunch of good ol' boys ...

Haynes' big paws and big frame can make any guitar seem half its normal size. His singing voice is a grizzled growl which barrels out of his (sizable) gut. He's been all over the jam scene, from the Allman Brothers to The Dead, and knows how to pair the right solo with the right song. Nearly every tune last night had a guitar solo at some point, but none of it seemed too gratuitous or repetitive -- a rare feat in their genre. 

The 12-song show had a handful of tracks from the band's most recent album, "By a Thread": Carlsson kicked off "Broke Down on the Brazos" with a snarly bass line; Haynes strapped on a 12-string electric for "Railroad Boy."

Though Gov't Mule has more than enough original material, the band's performances usually have a few cover tunes here and there. Last night, they slipped two Led Zeppelin tracks, "D'Yer Maker" and "Whole Lotta Love," in the middle of Gov't Mule songs. Haynes also spliced "Beautifully Broken" with a downbeat cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry."

Drummer Matt Abts was riding the cowbell and everybody traded solos for the '70s stoner jam "Thorazine Shuffle," a highpoint of the night. The set ended with the inevitable "Soulshine," Gov't Mule's feelgood anthem.

Since no Gov't Mule concert is complete without at least one special guest, Washington saxophonist Ron Holloway sat in on a fiery rendition of Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues" and singer Jackie Greene, who had performed earlier in the day, joined the band for an encore of the Grateful Dead's "Sugaree." Holloway, Greene and Gov't Mule closed out the satisfying show a hair past 10 p.m.

cold war kidsAn hour before Gov't Mule went on, California indie rockers Cold War Kids got things warmed up on the Wachovia stage with some heavy, plodding beats. Singer Nathan Willett's voice, which can border on unremarkable on the band's albums, was much more energized in person.

Willett attacked his songs with a detached determination, and the other three players had the smoldering grooves on lock. Willett banged on a keyboard during "Hang Me Out to Dry," a song that was almost too slow to dance to. Almost. Their 40-minute, 10-song set ended with the poignant "We Used to Vacation." 

(At top, AP photo of Gov't Mule front man Warren Haynes. Bottom, photo of Cold War Kids by Mike Hallock.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:54 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Concert reviews

July 16, 2010

Recapping THE (midnight sun) SITUATION

Atlas Bar manager Angela Devoti accepts her Best of the Best of  the Best awardThank God for coffee. Whew.

And thanks to all the kind, funny and generally wonderful folks who came out for THE (midnight sun) SITUATION at Tiki Barge. Bud Craven and the rest of the Tiki Barge crew were fantastic hosts, and bar owners came from as far as Dundalk to accept their awards.

How many people were there? Well, I handed out 65 name tags before the awards ceremony started. More people showed up over the course of the night, but I stopped counting.

I've always wanted Midnight Sun to be a place where bar owners and bar goers can talk to each other, and last night's party was just that.

Here's a link to a photo gallery of the event. More photos are rolling in by the hour, so keep checking it over the course of the day. Now, onto the action ...

When I got there at 6 p.m., the folks from the Hard Yacht Cafe were chilling upstairs, smoking stogies and sipping cocktails. After a few rainy days, the weather was glorious. Everybody loved the Tiki Barge, too.

sam reveals his amazing six-pack abs! faces melted, as you might  imagine.Not many people stuck with the "Jersey Shore" theme, but that was a good thing. I worked for six months on my six-pack abs (one ab per month), and modestly revealed the results to everyone. People were impressed.

Who was there? I mean, who wasn't there?

Liquorboarding, aka Stephan Fogleman, handed out one of the awards to Ron Furman, the owner of Max's. BA didn't do his Elvis impersonation this year, but that's OK. Tif introduced me to some nightlife movers and shakers. I got an update on the Boomer's renovations from Steve and Jason Z of the Don't Know/No Idea empire (the new bar won't be open for a while). And one of Evan's friends brought me a cigar, which I happily smoked at the end of it all.

People who I'd never met before showed up, and I heard few funny stories about people who went to Down the Hatch because of Midnight Sun. Some of them even ran into other Midnight Sun readers there! Cool stuff.

Thanks again, everybody. Some days, I ask myself why I bother with Midnight Sun. But last night, I was reminded of why I do it. I'm really lucky to have such a great community of readers and commenters.


(Photos by Courtney Block)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:22 PM | | Comments (11)

Concert review: B.B. King at Pier Six Pavilion

bb king makes a funny, frowny facey

Sun reporter Chris Kaltenbach saw B.B. King perform at Pier Six Pavilion last night. Here are his thoughts:

It's not every day you get to watch the Statue of Liberty walk onstage, but that's what it felt like watching blues legend B.B. King enter Pier 6 Pavilion last night.

At age 84, the man's best performing days are clearly behind him. But watching and hearing a legend is an opportunity not to be missed, and on that level alone, King did not disappoint ...

On a sweltering Baltimore night, the man proved that he can still make his guitar, the wondrous Lucille, moan like nobody's business, that he can still growl in that way that all blues (and many rock) singers have been trying to imitate for decades, and that he can still win over a crowd.

True, his repertoire for the evening included some odd choices: "You are My Sunshine" and "Let the Good Times Roll," but no "Caledonia" and only one stanza of "The Thrill is Gone." But sitting in a chair at the front of the stage, King was clearly in good spirits, even while confessing that he would be going to the doctor's next week and explaining about an ear problem that clearly irritated him.

bb king knows how to have a good time.King's band, introduced as "the legendary B.B. King Blues Band," lived up to every inch of its billing, laying down some serious blues rhythms and even jazzing things up on occasion.

King has taught generations of guitarists how to play, and as one of the last surviving links to the blues that gave birth to rock and roll, he's earned every ounce of veneration he gets. Sure, it would have been nice to hear him roar through a longer playlist, to hear him coax some extended blues riffs from Lucille.

But a B.B. King experience is still a B.B. King experience, and listening to him play the blues  these days would be akin to hearing Thomas Jefferson expound on democracy. There's nothing like sitting at the feet of a master, someone who really knows of what he speaks.

King had to be a happy man before the show, provided he was backstage to hear his opening act, Promise of the Real. Fronted by Lukas Nelson, Willie's son, the band played a scabrous 40-minute set, complete with Nelson even playing the guitar with his teeth for a while. Yeah, every guitarist wants to make like Jimi Hendrix, but Nelson looked and sounded great while doing it, pounding out vibrant blues/rock riffs with propulsive flair. Playing with energy, style and a touch of old-style sass, Nelson and his band had the audience on its feet by the end of their set.

See B.B. King concert pictures.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Christopher T. Assaf)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:58 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Concert reviews

July 15, 2010

Where to park for tonight's party

tiki bargeHey folks, hope you're all set for tonight's party at the Tiki Barge. There are a few options for parking.

The meters on Key Highway are off duty at 6 p.m., and you can park for free along Covington Street, just outside Digital Harbor High School at 1100 Covington St.

There is also free parking on a few other side streets, but beware of those cryptic permit parking zones. It's better to pay for lot parking in Harborview Marina's lot than to get a ticket for parking in the wrong zone.

See you tonight!

Also, there will be food available, in case you were wondering.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:23 PM | | Comments (2)

Get out: Michael Jackson & the BSO

michael jackson impersonatorIf you're lame and don't want to come to THE (midnight sun) SITUATION tonight, head to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will be performing the music of The Gloved One.

Hee hee!

It's been more than a year since the King of Pop passed away, but his legacy is as strong as ever.

I wonder how Jackson's music will lend itself to symphonic arrangements? There's only one way to find out. Show time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $23-$50.

(Photo of a Michael Jackson impersonator by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:47 AM | | Comments (3)

What do promoters do, anyway?

heidi klotzmanThe recent passing of renown local event promoter Mark Baltimore got me thinking about the often unseen role promoters play in the nightlife world.

"Promoter" is a fancy word for party planner. Promoters put together special events -- like THE (midnight sun) SITUATION -- and hopefully a lot of people show up to them.

Bars and clubs hire promoters to bring in business. They'll pay a promoter a certain amount of money, either up front or from the night's take, and in turn, the promoter will guarantee a certain amount of foot traffic. 

For example, Heidi Klotzman of HeidnSeek Entertainment (pictured), books nights at Red Maple. She hires DJs, sends out event invites and makes sure the parties are a success.

When I hung out with Heidi a few weeks ago on a Saturday night, she was holding court at her table in the back patio like a mafia don, and people were constantly coming over to pay their respect. Ah, the power of promoters ...

Before he passed away this year, Mark Baltimore was one of the city's biggest promoters. Heidi's pretty big, too. So are the JetSetMafia. Those are the guys who were booking those controversial parties at Milan.

Live music venues often have their own in-house promoters, also called booking agents. These promoters will contact band management and hammer out deals for shows. Typically, a club will also contract freelance booking agents to bring in the occasional show here and there.

Don Wehner, of Up Front Promotions, is one of the region's more notable concert promoters. He books a lot of hip-hop and R&B -- acts such as Erykah Badu, who recently played Pier Six Pavilion. Heidi's father, Richard, also used to be a big time concert promoter.

While you see promoters mostly at clubs and live music venues, bars sometimes use promoters to help boost business. As you might imagine, the best promoters build up reputations and connections over time, based on previous successes with certain club owners.

More and more, mega clubs are hiring as many promoters as they can get their hands on, and divvying up their capacities. Remember Palma, the ill-fated downtown club? If memory serves, they were recruiting as many promoters as possible, and putting each of them in charge of 100-200 spots per event.

If there are any local promoters who want to add to this/help clarify some more, be my guest. Same goes for any bar or club owners who want to weigh in.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Colby Ware)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:01 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

July 14, 2010

Bad news

sams barbershop!I had to sell my barbershop.

Oh well. 

It was a hairy business anyway.

Don't worry -- my clubs are still doing well.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:38 PM | | Comments (1)

THE (midnight sun) SITUATION is tomorrow

tiki barge oh yeah baby you better be there oh yeah oh yeahToday might be soggy but tomorrow is looking fine, fine fine. it'll be a perfect day for a situation.

Not just any situation.

THE (midnight sun) SITUATION.

Oh sniggity oh snappersons!

The party starts at 6 p.m. at Tiki Barge but probably won't reach Wild and Crazy Kids status until 7 p.m. That's when I'm going to ceremoniously distribute the 2010 Best of the Best of the Best Awards.

We've gotten a bunch of rsvps on the facebook site. Check it out, if you haven't already ...

I've been calling up bar owners these past few days and inviting/threatening them to come. Most agreed. Ill deal with the rest later.



Speaking of the awards, you should see 'em. Our ace team of designers did a bang-up job. I'm going to give them their own award, as long as they design it.

At midnight I'm going to swim across the harbor. Or maybe I'll tie a bunch of Best of the Best of the Best Awards together and float to victory.

I'll have a bunch of tickets to give away, too, to shows like the BSO performing the music of Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa and Philip Glass. Come and get 'em!

See you manana!

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

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 11:49 AM | | Comments (4)

Get out: Mates of State tonight at The Ottobar

mates of stateGood news, everybody -- Mondays-Thursdays starting today, I'm going to be picking my favorite event of the day and plugging it on Midnight Sun. I'm calling this new feature Get Out.

It could be a sweet, sweet happy hour, or a concert. Or maybe a free movie screening. Originally, I was going to pick the showing of "The Hangover" on the pier in Fells Point, but I figured the inclement weather (whoa, big words) would probably put the kibosh on it.

Instead, I'm going with Mates of State at The Ottobar. Have you seen these guys before? ...

They're a husband-and-wife duo (he plays drums and sings, she plays keyboards and sings).

I've followed Mates of State for the past six or seven years, and have been pleasantly surprised with their past few albums. They were a breath of fresh at at last year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest, amidst all the rock bands on the main stage. Good stuff.

Tonight's show starts at 8 p.m. and only costs $15. Free Energy is also going to be there. They're great too.

You take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and then you have ... today's Get Out.

(Photo by Crackerfarm)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:39 AM | | Comments (2)

Kill Hannah & Bad City's clever CD strategy

kill hannah, i believe. if i'm wrong, lemme knowMost bands set up merchandise tables at their shows and wait for the crowds to come to them.

At Monday's Smashing Pumpkins show at Rams Head Live, openers Kill Hannah and Bad City went to the crowds. 

The bands dispatched two young women with push-up bras, mile-high pumps and bleached blonde hair into the audience with handfuls of the bands' CDs.

The girls would walk up to people during the Smashing Pumpkins' set and ask them if they wanted to buy a CD for $5.

Having missed both openers, I didn't bite on their offer. But I realized just how smart of a strategy it was ...

I'm willing to wager those bands sold twice as many CDs as they normally would have if they'd just camped out behind a merch table. Even more importantly, got the names "Kill Hannah" and "Bad City" into the heads of the folks in the club.

Near the end of the Pumpkins' set, I felt someone squeeze my behind. A little freaked out, I turned to my left, where a guy had just walked up. I eyed him strangely, but he didn't pay me the time of day. Then I looked to my right, and there were the CD chicks, talking to some dude. I can't prove it, but I'm sure it was them.

I still didn't buy a CD.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Josh Sisk)
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 7:30 AM | | Comments (6)

July 13, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: If BP had a bar ...

who is the man behind the mask? is there a man behind the mask at  all? MINDFREAK!What? Did you think Owl Meat was gone? Nah, he was just on a brief hiatus, doing his Owly thing. He's back now -- and slicker than ever.

Oil pun!

In light of the whole BP potentially stopping the oil spill thing (about freaking time, guys), Owl Meat has put together a list of the Top Ten Cocktails at the BP Cafe.

Feel free to submit your own, folks.

Without further delay, here they are ...

Top Ten Cocktails at the BP Cafe

1) Flintstone Daiquiri -- WILMAAAAAA!!!

2) Italian Gulf Surfer -- Hang dead, dude.

3) Beep Beep - a.k.a. Louisiana Roadrunner -- drops you like an anvil.

4) Rum, Sodomy and the Lash -- a nostalgic cocktail evoking previous English nautical gifts to humanity.

5) Black and Tan and Blue -- Declare passive-aggressive war on Ireland, I mean the oceans.

6) Slow Uncomfortable Screw -- Sloe gin, Southern Comfort, and OJ. Not orange juice. Served by new BP spokesman O. J. Simpson.

7) Really, Really, Really Dirty Martini -- Boodles gin, bayou water ice and shake. (Meaning you will shake until you convulse.)

8) Treme Cocktail* -- Complex, cluttered, and laudable. Order a round for the table to impress people. Travel back to simpler times when New Orleans only had to worry about hurricanes, voodoo, and Harry Conick, Jr. 

9) Dirty Diana -- ironic tribute to the late Princess of Whales.

10) Stiff Upper Lip -- Tanqueray, Pimm's, and Gulf plume water. Caution: may paralyze entire face, not just upper lip. A fave of BP spokesmen.

* Treme drinking game -- the first person at your table to mention "The Wire" has to chug.

(An activist dressed as death holds an  oil covered  globe June 16, 2010 during a demonstration in Washington, DC against BP for their role in the  oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:33 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Concert review: Counting Crows at Pier Six Pavilion

counting crows front man adam duritzMidnight Sun correspondent Patrick Gavin saw the Counting Crows and Augustana perform last night at Pier Six Pavilion. Here is his review:

Last night's Counting Crows and Augustana concert had a lot in common with Sunday's World Cup final: Two "teams" giving it their all, an endless sense of anticipation throughout, little in the way of highlights -- though most who stayed 'til the end left satisfied -- and a last-minute heart -breaker of a goal by Andres Iniesta.

Wait ... forget that last thing. I botched my Venn diagram.

Put it this way: The smart fans for both spectacles were the ones who took their pre-gaming seriously and showed up at halftime.

For the second year in a row these two acts brought their "Traveling Circus and Medicine Show" to the area – this time Pier 6 Pavilion – in an unconventional but utterly welcome format. ...

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

Initially both bands and all the backup musicians – that includes everyone from accordion and ukulele players to a white rapper – took the stage. Then, throughout the 28-song, three-hour set, a rolling group of performers from both camps hopped on and off stage with a 15-minute break in the middle.

Little of note happened before or immediately after that intermission. Augustana singer Dan Layus rolled out the piano and serenaded the crowd with "Boston," the California band's biggest hit to date. The Counting Crows notably played "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby." But nothing shaggy front man Adam Duritz, Mr. Layus, several bonafide guitar solos, the accordion player or even the barely legal Pocahontas-looking nymph dancing in the cheap seats could do seemed to lure more than one-third of the crowd to their feet.

NOTAR! NOTAR!Last year Sam wrote a review and took exception with the show"s "Circus" labeling, suggesting words like "hootenanny" or "jamboree" were more apt. Early in the show, under the Pier 6 tent, the words "failed rock & roll revival" seemed most suitable for this reincarnation.

However, the Medicine Show's revitalizing tonic came from two seemingly unlikely sources.

First, the aforementioned rapper, Notar, hit the stage for the second time, bringing a dose of adrenaline (name-checking Ray Lewis and sporting a Ravens tee didn't hurt) even while spitting sheer nonsense ("Blap, blap, blap ... 'Cuz I'm a matador!").

Stylistically, Notar was a blend of Mike Shinoda and Zack de la Rocha, though just to rein it in from such lofty comparisons, bear in mind that at one point he rhymed "Counting Crows" with "counting hoes." Consider me entertained! Signed to Duritz's record label, Notar was often seen raising a beer to no one in particular or throwing one of his many towels into the audience.

The show's second shot in the arm came in the form of a song the Counting Crows hadn't played all tour but dusted of for obvious reasons: "August and Everything After's"  "Raining in Baltimore." Even Mr. Duritz admitted it was pandering, but hey, it worked.

From here on out it was a steady stream of hits ("Long December," "Hangingaround," "Rain King"), reprisals of those hits, and a few irresistible sing-along covers of the likes of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and most agreeably "With a Little Help From My Friends," sung more akin to Joe Cocker than Ringo.

Even without "Mr. Jones" (an omission I’m just fine with), I'm all right with grudgingly granting this show "hootenanny" status.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Algerina Perna)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Concert reviews

Concert review: Smashing Pumpkins at Rams Head Live

billy corgan and the smashing pumpkinsHalfway through the Smashing Pumpkins' show at Rams Head Live last night, singer Billy Corgan asked the crowd what year it was.

"1979," the audience shouted, begging for the band's 1996 hit. It was not to be.

"Yeah, it sure ain't 1993," Corgan replied.

Corgan refuses to be labeled a relic, and last night's intimate club date was no hit parade. The '90s alt-rock pioneers never actually played "1979," though they did do "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Tonight."

The show, which lasted more than two hours, was advertised as a tour through the Pumpkins' catalog, and that's what the band delivered. It was not a concert for the casual Pumpkins listener -- it was a performance for true fans ...

Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show.

The Pumpkins offered songs from nearly every album, starting with the lackluster new "Astral Planes." It was not the best way to get things rolling. The four players found their footing with the second song, "Ava Adore," settling into a dark, heavy groove.

With his shaved head and half-soft, half-searing voice, Corgan looks and sounds just like he did when the band broke out nearly 20 years ago. He's the only original member still touring with the group.

At the tender age of 20, drummer Mike Byrne was probably still in diapers when the Pumpkins released 1991's "Gish." Last night Byrne handled the sticks with skill, though he did rush several songs. Sporting a thick headband, he could have been the karate kid. Bassist Nicole Fiorentino had the low end on lock, and guitarist Jeff Schroeder offered solid fills and the occasional solo.

smashing pumpkins front man billy corganMake no mistake, it was still Corgan's show, and he snatched every opportunity to wail on his guitar, at times overpowering the rest of the band. It was a night of guitar worship, with fans bowing at the altar of The Bald One. Corgan was loving it. Early on, he stood with arms outstretched, assuming a benevolent, Jesus-like pose, facing his adoring fans.

Angst-ridden '90s tracks like "Cherub Rock" were just as biting and prescient now as they were when they first came out. One of Corgan's biggest strengths is his ability to be angry and vulnerable in the same breath, and that ability was on full display last night. Many of the newer songs, such as "A Song for a Son," lacked the same spark and momentum.

Something must have been in the air, because the crowd was feeling feisty. A few guys in the back were hurling obscenities and weird, funny heckles, and when Corgan paused in the middle of "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," the audience started booing. Guess they didn't want the tune to end. (It didn't.)

After playing "Perfect," Corgan and Schroeder started noodling around, teasing Jimi Hendrix songs  and talking about the guitar legend. A fan near the front chucked a bottle or cup of water at the stage, aimed at Schroeder. Schroeder responded with a stream of insults, challenging the fan to come up on stage and fight him.

Keeping true with the night's theme, the Pumpkins' final encore was the epic, 18-minute song "Gossamer." The unreleased track began with sizzling guitar riffs, dissolved into a plodding stew and foamed up into a shred fest before Corgan finally put it to bed. The average Smashing Pumpkins fan were left scratching their heads while the hard core Pumpkin-heads were loving every guitar lick.

The show started at 9:53 p.m. and ended at 12:04 a.m.

Set list:

1. Astral Planes (new song)
2. Ava Adore ("Adore")
3. Hummer ("Siamese Dream")
4. A Song for a Son ("Teargarden by Kaleidyscope")
5. Today ("Siamese Dream")
6. Bleeding the Orchid ("Zeitgeist")
7. Eye ("Lost Highway" soundtrack)
8. Stand Inside Your Love ("Machina/The Machines of God")
9. Bullet With Butterfly Wings ("Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness")
10. United States ("Zeitgeist")
11. Widow Wake My Mind ("Teargarden by Kaleidyscope")
12. Perfect ("Adore")
13. Cherub Rock ("Siamese Dream")
14. That's the Way (My Love Is) ("Zeitgeist")
15. Owata (new song)
16. Tarantula ("Zeitgeist")
17. Tonight ("Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness")


Freak ("Teargarden by Kaleidyscope")
Moby Dick tease -> Gossamer (unreleased)

(Baltimore Sun photos by Josh Sisk)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:08 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Concert reviews

The Smashing Pumpkins hecklers

There were more than a few hecklers in the crowd for last night's Smashing Pumpkins show at Rams Head Live (here's my review of the show). Something feisty must have been in the air, because people were hurling curse words at the stage -- at least from where I was standing near the back bar. Here are a few of the heckles I wrote down ...

Before the show started: "C'mon Billy, you're as old as I am. We don't stay up past 11. It's Monday night."

A few songs in: "Hey Corgan, suck my [ahem], son!"

Several minutes later: "It's good to see all of the four band members."

After 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings:' "Despite all my rage, there is still only one Pumpkin on stage!"

Hang tight for that review.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:34 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Random stuff

July 12, 2010

Win tickets to J-Roddy Walston & The Business' CD release show at The Ottobar

j-roddy walston and the business!Seminal Baltimore rockers J-Roddy Walston and the Business are throwing a CD release party for their major label debut at The Ottobar July 31.

It's going to be a killer show, and you can be there for it -- for free. Tommy Tucker and Beard are opening. This is one you don't want to miss.

Just post a comment below (make sure to include your e-mail address) with a comment about why you like the band.

J-Roddy Walston's new label, Fairfax/Vagrant, has been kind enough to give us a few pairs. The best comments win. I'll announce the winners on Friday.

Good luck, everybody!

(Handout photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (29)

Red House Tavern sold to Singer's owner

redhouse tavern baltimore

Ron Singer, who owns Singer's in Mount Vernon, has bought the Red House Tavern and is cooking up all kinds of schemes for the place.

Renovations will begin in two weeks on the Canton neighborhood bar, which closed last year, Singer wrote in an e-mail.

Singer plans to add a second floor and updated decor which is reminiscent of a Colorado ski lodge, complete with fireplace, pool and dart leagues ...

The stage will remain, featuring mild music such as acoustic stuff during brunch and happy hours and jazz, R&B, poetry and comedy during the evenings.

Singer is also applying for outdoor seating and maintaining the building's pre-existing live entertainment license.

Call me crazy, but I think this is a great idea for this space, and if done well, it could be really successful. As long as Singer keeps up a good relationship with his neighbors, this new version of the Red House Tavern will be a hit.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:04 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

July 10, 2010

The Epic Dundalk Bar Crawl Part III

the glass grillWho knew it would get this big? Who knew a little bar crawl out in the blue collar 'burbs would be so off the chain?

Every year, the name gets a little longer and the stories get a little wilder.

At first, it was just a Dundalk Bar Crawl. Then it was the Dundalk Bar Crawl Part II. Now, it's grown into a full-fledged franchise: The Epic Dundalk Bar Crawl Part III: Return of the Midnight Sons.

Check it out.

Our first stop was The Glass Grill (pictured), which has all kinds of crazy, colorful blown glass sculptures inside. A two-man band was knocking out some cover songs in the corner, but most of the folks were chilling outside on the patio.

Then we hit up Mo's, which had those ridiculously cheap Samuel Adams drafts. Bluefins came next, but it was kinda dead.

At one point, we dropped by a bar which didn't make the final story ...

I can't remember the name offhand (my notes are at work and I'm typing this from home), but it was also a packaged goods store.

The bar, like so many Dundalk bars, was U-shaped, and the men's bathroom smelled like it hadn't been cleaned in 10 years. It was rank. We also got this scary vibe from the other folks in there. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but we bounced pretty quickly. It wasn't our scene. At all.

As always, we ended the night stuffing our faces at Denny's. We were that table. You know, the rowdy 3 a.m. table every waiter hates to serve. We didn't care, though. The place was practically empty and I made sure to tip heavier than normal.

Finally, Midnight Sons rolled out, leaving Dundalk in ruins -- a few wisps of smoke wafting up from the rubble.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:32 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

July 9, 2010

Adam Duritz's Baltimore roots

counting crows lead singer adam duritzCounting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz may be a Baltimore native, but he doesn't have strong roots to the city. He's more like David Hasselhoff than John Waters.

Duritz was born here but moved when he was 3. As a kid, he would come back in the summertime to visit his grandmother, Selma Feldman.

Since Duritz and the rest of the Counting Crows are playing Pier Six Pavilion Monday (get tickets here), I interviewed him about what he remembers of Baltimore. 

The piece ran in today's Live section (check it out) ...

Feldman would take Duritz duck pin bowling (she belonged to a league). At night, they would watch "Bowling For Dollars," a TV show hosted by Duritz's second cousin, Royal Parker.

When the Counting Crows toured through Baltimore for the first time, Duritz insisted the band go out to dinner at Obrycki's. And in 2004, when Feldman passed away, it was a turning point in Duritz's life.

For some reason, the last time The Baltimore Sun interviewed Duritz was waaaay back in 1994, when the Counting Crows first broke out. I'm glad we were able to catch up with him this time around. It was one of the more memorable pieces I've done.

(Photo by Getty Images)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:39 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Local music

Midnight Sun's 2010 Best of the Best of the Best Awards

midnight sun's best of the best of the best awardsResplendent readers, marvelous Midnight Sunners, it is with great pride and prejudice that I bring you Midnight Sun's 2010 Best of the Best of the Best Awards.

It's been a good year for the Baltimore bar scene -- a year filled with surprises, big and small. The unexpected was everywhere.

This is the second year for the Best of the Best of the Best Awards (named after a quote from this "Men In Black" scene), and I'm giddy with glee to share them with you.

The gurus put together this photo gallery, which gives you a tour of 10 of this year's awards. I've printed the entire list below, along with a bunch of awards that didn't appear anywhere online or in print. It's the Deluxe Edition, if you will.

The awards will be handed out in person at our party at Tiki Barge July 15 around 6:30 p.m. Be there.

Are you ready? Of course you are. Fasten your safety belts, kids. Here we go ...

Best Bar to Write On
Ryleigh's Oyster (pictured, top)
We shot the cover for today's Live! section at the slate-topped oyster bar at Ryleigh's Oyster. The bar leaves sticks of chalk lying out so customers can sketch while they slurp down some tasty shellfish. Rumor has it that people have even proposed by scribbling on the bar top. Aww.

Best place to spend your leftover euros
When the uber-swanky restaurant/lounge Milan opened, it listed menu items in dollars and euros. Though Milan didn’t accept euros at first, after catching some heat from critics, management rejiggered the computer system to take both. So if you're just back from vacation with some spare euros jingling around your pockets, head to Milan.

Where's your other award? Award
Last year, MaGerk's won the Biggest Meathead Magnet award. Since then, I've been to MaGerk's a couple times but haven't seen the award anywhere. What's the deal, MaGerk's? Put it on the wall for all to see, and put this one next to it. Don't hate, celebrate!

the atlas barBest secret bar
Atlas Bar
Side room of the Charles Carryout, near 25th and St. Paul St.
If you know about the Atlas Bar, you know about the Atlas Bar. Otherwise, you might never find it. Tucked away in the side room of the Charles Carryout, the Atlas Bar is one of the Baltimore bar scene’s best-kept secrets. The decor is dark, mysterious and fun, and you can sip one of manager Angela Devoti’s inventive cocktails while ordering some spicy Indian food from the carryout. Yum.

Best Dundalk Bar
Hops Inn
No other Dundalk bar I've been in compared to Hops Inn. It was one of a kind, and now, after owner John Martin was murdered, Hops may be closed for good. That's a huge loss for Dundalk's nightlife scene. Rest in peace, John.

Silliest re-naming
Jiffy Lube Live, formerly Nissan Pavilion
a flight of tequilas at azul 17It seems Live Nation is willing to name its amphitheaters after just about anything, if the money's there. That’s how Nissan Pavilion in Virginia became Jiffy Lube Live. Yuck. Hey, at least it's not 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater at the Florida State Fairgrounds, which actually exists. I'm not kidding. Look it up.

Best tequila bar
Azul 17
A fancy lounge? In a strip mall? In Columbia? Yes, and it’s a hit. Tequila fiends will love Azul 17’s more than 100 different shots of the South of the Border spirits, but the margaritas are fiery, too. If you like a little spice in your sip, order La Raspa, a margarita garnished with a serrano pepper boat.

Craziest bar namesake
Larry Gross of Captain Larry's
All kinds of legends and lore have been spun about this South Baltimore bar. Turns out, the truth was stranger than fiction. "Captain" Larry Gross, a former city cop and private detective, used to shoot holes in the ceiling as part of a game he called Follow the Hole. He also had an alcoholic parrot and pierced people's ears in the bar with poker darts (sterilized in vodka first, of course). Now retired, The Captain is living in West Virginia and thinking about opening a new bar out there. Here's to you, Captain!

Best social-networking hustlers
Bad Decisions
Few — if any — other Baltimore bars have jumped on the social-networking bandwagon like Bad Decisions. Heck, owner John Reusing is practically steering the thing himself. Anybody who's anybody on the Baltimore Twitter scene follows @bad_decisions. I even had to retire Bad Decisions from my polls on Midnight Sun because it kept trouncing the competition. Reusing's drink lists always boast some wacky new ingredient, and folks compete to be the mayor of Bad Decisions on Foursquare.

the upper bar at tiki bargeBest new bar(ge)
Tiki Barge
By far the biggest thing to happen to Baltimore’s nightlife scene this summer, Tiki Barge is everything you’d want on a sweltering day: a pool, two bars and shade from half a dozen real palm trees. I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.

"Coolest bar" and other bad puns
Minus5 Igloo
Since Minus5 Igloo opened in Power Plant Live's plaza several weeks ago, it's been bad joke central. Since the bar, walls and furniture inside Minus5 are made of ice (and tipsy tourists aren’t the wittiest people out there), it's second nature for folks to say something like, "Oh man, this place is cool. Get it? Har har har." Thanks, Minus5.

Best Marina Bar
Hard Yacht Cafe
Nestled at the end of a curvy county road sits one of my favorite summer spots: the Hard Yacht Cafe. Though it's been around for only a handful of years, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better waterside hangout, especially during the warmer months.

Best bar with more than 100 taps
Max's Taphouse
Because 70-something drafts were just not enough, Max's Taphouse redid its tap system this year, and it now offers a grand total of 102 draft beers. That's more than any other bar in Baltimore by a long shot, and possibly the most of any bar in the region. Cellar master Casey Hard has a knack for obtaining rare brews and knows how to put together a beer tasting.

jack's bistroMost underrated beer list
Jack's Bistro
This Canton eatery gets a lot of love for its tasty grub, but the beer list is just as impressive. The roundup of about 70 selections (eight drafts and the rest bottles) is split into groups such as "Lager-ish," "Trappists" and "Smoke/Rauchbier." More importantly, all the beers are served in the proper glassware. If beer flights are your thing, three six-ounce draft pours is $8.

Swankiest happy hour
B&O American Brasserie
The throwback vibe at B&O American Brasserie’s bar makes having a drink seem more like hobnobbing. Bartenders know their drinks, classic and contemporary, and many of the patrons are dressed to impress. Given the decor, the drinks are more affordable than you might think: Every day, 4 p.m.-7 p.m., select draft beers, wines and champagnes are $3 a glass, and one of the house specialty cocktails is $5. You couldn’t ask for more down-home prices in such an upscale setting.

Best happy hour buffet
Taco Fiesta
Every Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Taco Fiesta lays out a spread of chicken and steak burritos, enchiladas, flautas (which are like taquitos) and salad. Buy two drinks and you get a plate to fill with as much food as you like. And it’s better than the crab-less crab dip you see at most happy hour buffets.

vino rosina's strawberry rhubarb martiniBest infused vodkas
Vino Rosina
Yes, it might seem odd that a wine bar has the city's best infused vodkas, but any doubts you might have will be swept away with one sip of Vino Rosina's Strawberry Rhubarb Martini ($12). This cocktail is so fresh and aromatic, you don’t even have to lean over to smell it. Vino Rosina lets vodka steep in a big glass vat, along with basil, rhubarb and strawberries. If you're a more traditional martini drinker, go for the olive-infused dirty martini.

Best dance parties
Lithuanian Hall
It's certainly no secret that Lithuanian Hall is home to some of the city's best dance nights, but this Pigtown club deserves all the recognition it can get. How many other old ethnic clubs have connected so successfully with people in their 20s and 30s? For years, DJ Pablo Fiasco has been holding Tighten Up! there on the last Friday of every month, and local DJ collective Charm City Summit runs Save Your Soul, a night of '50s and early '60s tunes. Newcomers must pony up $10 for a yearly membership, but after that, cover is only $5, and drinks are cheap. If you love old vinyl and wish dance clubs spun more of it, hit up Lith Hall. You won't be disappointed.
This can be broken out into a box

the custom cover of pub dog's new XLerator hand dryer, courtesy of  Excel DryerBest activist journalism
Midnight Sun
Pub Dog’s Baltimore location used to have the world’s wimpiest hand dryers — little white boxes that let out this pathetic wheeze when you placed your hands under them. They might have had emphysema.

Ever one to champion a just cause, I whined about them on Midnight Sun, which caught the attention of Excel Dryer, the company that makes high-powered hand dryers such as the XLerator.

These hand dryers are powerful enough to blow all the moisture off your hands in seconds. They even push the skin around on your palms.

Excel Dryer offered to send Pub Dog a free XLerator, with a custom-designed cover. After checking to make sure the bar’s power grid could handle the voltage, Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond ordered four for its Baltimore location.

"Oh gracious blogmaster, oh Wizard of the Interwebs, I cannot begin to express my gratitude," Osmond said. Or something like that.

Now, with four brand new XLerators on the way, I've decided to give myself the Best Activist Journalism award. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pat myself on the back with a warm, dry hand.

(All photos by Baltimore Sun staff except the XLerator hand dryer image, courtesy of Excel Dryer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:45 AM | | Comments (12)

Taps is closed

Some sad news, folks: Taps is closed. It may have been closed for as long as a week now. These things are never easy to pin down. Later today, we'll take a closer look at the place's brief history in SoBo. But now, the grief is too new to write much.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (23)

July 8, 2010

20 Rams Head Live Smashing Pumpkins tickets left

About 20 tickets have just been released by the Smashing Pumpkins' label for the band's Monday night show at Rams Head Live, according to the venue.

Get them here. And get them now, because they're going to go quick. UPDATE: I'm shocked. I just checked, and at least one ticket is still available.

Also, Chris Furst of Power Plant Live told me that they're giving away a pair of free Smashing Pumpkins tickets tomorrow night during the free Mr. Greengenes show in the PPL plaza. Anyone who signs up before 8:30 p.m. will get two entries, and the winner will be announced before the band's third set. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is 21+

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:56 AM | | Comments (6)

Cast your votes for the Best of the Best of the Best Awards

these beer taps look mmm mmm goodSorry for not posting as much as I'd like to lately, gang. I've been putting together the second annual Best of the Best of the Best Awards, which has been eating up all my spare time.

At last, they are complete. All will be revealed in tomorrow's Live! section (it's the cover story).

Right now, I'm going to share a few of the categories with you, and I want you to nominate some bars and clubs for what you think they should win (vote by leaving a comment).

Ready steady? Here goes ...

Best new bar

Best happy hour

Best happy hour buffet

Best dance parties

Who do you think should win, and for what category?

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:23 AM | | Comments (16)

July 7, 2010

XLerators are on the way to Pub Dog

Pub Dog XLerator #2Just got off the phone with Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond, who said they ordered four of the black-covered XLerator hand dryers for the Baltimore location. 

When they're installed, which could be in a couple weeks, Osmond wants me to come down, so they can take a picture of me standing by the hand dryer.

"I'm framing the whole thing and posting it in the bathroom," Osmond said.

Now I'm all blushing and stuff.

On a more serious note, I think this whole story goes beyond me ...

All I did was stick up for the little people -- the folks who, after they're done giving their hands an honest scrub, want something that will evaporate the moisture in mere seconds.

That's not too much to ask. And Pub Dog delivered. Let's give them a hot, dry, round of applause. Thanks again to Excel Dryer for spotting the post in the first place, and donating a free XLerator. Our cause was just, and we'll get our just rewards.

(Photo courtesy of Excel Dryer)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:02 AM | | Comments (4)

Corkboard: Baltimore bars with table shuffleboard

the laughing pintDeck shuffleboard is for old people on boats. Table shuffleboard is for young people in bars. 

Table shuffleboard is a game of precision, where, like darts or beer pong, it's all in the wrist.

Dozens of Baltimore bars have shuffleboard. Here's a link to FindLocal's list of six spots with the game.

But where are the best places to play it? ...

Pub Dog has a big shuffleboard table up on its third floor, and I've found myself playing there with friends more than a few times. Since the space is about half the size of the other two floors, all you can do up there is play shuffleboard or stand around and watch other people play shuffleboard. Shuffleboard isn't a second thought, it's the centerpiece.

little havanaThe shuffleboard table at The Laughing Pint in Highlandtown must be several decades old. At one point, it was even hooked up to a vintage electric scoring machine, though I have no idea how it worked. I'm not even sure if it's still connected to the thing or not, but it's fun to play on such an old table.

I also like playing shuffleboard at Little Havana, but the table is in an odd location, sandwiched between the bar and the dining area, and on some nights, it quickly gets too cramped to comfortably play.

Oh, and Don't Know Tavern is another South Baltimore bar with a nice shuffleboard table.

I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface here. Where's your favorite place to play table shuffleboard?

(Baltimore Sun archive photos)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:55 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Concert reviews

July 6, 2010

THE (midnight sun) SITUATION is July 15 at Tiki Barge

tiki bargeCalling all Midnight Sunners: THE (midnight sun) SITUATION kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday July 15 at Tiki Barge in South Baltimore (pictured).

Remember, this is a "Jersey Shore"-themed event, so GTL beforehand, and put some gel in that hair, bro.

Fist pump! Hee hee. 

I will be handing out the 2010 Best of the Best of the Best Awards there, so brace yourselves, bar owners. I'm going to ROCK YOUR WORLD.

Well, maybe ...

I've spent most of today dreaming up the awards, and writing little blurbs for them. The Best of the Best of the Best Awards story is going to be on the cover of this week's Live!, too. Double fist pump.

I want a strong showing at this one, gang. It's going to be historic.

Now, the best way to get to Tiki Barge is to head south on Key Highway and make a left into Harbor View Marina (just past those fancy Harbor View condos). Then you park, and walk to the end of the main pier. You'll be able to see the palm trees in the distance. 

Also, if it rains, we're just going to walk over to Little Havana.

It's going to be one serious party. See you there!

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:41 PM | | Comments (14)

The Baltimore bottle (or table) service post

martini glasses!At some clubs in Washington, Miami and New York, the only way to get a seat anywhere is to get bottle service.

Side note: It's alternately called table service, too. I think they're the same thing.

Bottle service is where you pay a huge chunk of change -- sometimes as much as $200 or $300 -- for a bottle of liquor, mixers and, in some places, your own bartender. It also guarantees that you have a reserved table, as long as you keep spending money.

For obvious reasons, bottle service hasn't gripped Baltimore clubs like it has other cities ...

First off, we don't have that many high-end clubs to begin with. Baltimore doesn't have much of a high-end lounge mentality. The only places I know of that have bottle service are Angels Rock Bar, Lux and Mosaic. Those are the only ones that come to mind right away, at least. If you know of any more, feel free to post them.

I think a lot of Baltimoreans are loathe to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a bottle of liquor just to get a table at a club. In Miami and New York, it's accepted practice at this point. Not so here -- at least not yet.

There are some benefits to bottle service: You get your own table, and if you're with friends and split the bill, it doesn't end up costing you an arm and a leg. Plus, you get to drink top shelf liquor and don't have to wait in line at the bar.

But there are downsides, too: In order to get a table at a club/lounge, you have to spend a bunch of money. 

As a club owner/patron, where do you stand? Are you for or against bottle service? And do you wish Baltimore had more/less of it?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Doug Kapustin)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:31 AM | | Comments (18)

The Whistling Oyster is back again

the whistling oysterLast year, Green Cilantro replaced the Whistling Oyster. Now, the Whistling Oyster has replaced Green Cilantro. 

Inside and out, the Whistling Oyster looks the same as it ever was. At least, the same as I remember it being.

There are life rings on the walls and ceiling and the old nautical theme throughout. Even the exterior is back to being black and red.

It's weird -- like nothing ever happened.

I've been keeping tabs on the Oyster, stopping by every time I hit up Fells. Last week was the first time I saw it open again ...

I stopped by last Friday evening for a beer and scanned the Oyster's selection of bottles (they don't have any drafts, at least not yet).

I went with a Samuel Adams Summer Ale, which, since all bottles were $1 off, cost $3. 

The front windows were open and the World Cup was on the two bar TVs. It was a pleasant spot to sit and chill on a Friday evening.

Good to have you back, Oyster.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

July 5, 2010

Happy 5th of July!

Yesterday might have technically been the holiday, but today's the real one for me. Three day weekend!

I hope everyone had a happy, hearty and heart-healthy Fourth of July yesterday. What did you do? Where did you watch the fireworks? Did you even watch the fireworks at all? I drank an ice cold glass of apple juice and played a rousing game of pinochle. Ain't that America, home of the free!

I'd imagine with such great weather this weekend, places like Little Havana, Bay Cafe and Tiki Barge were slammed. This was the first time in four or five years that I didn't get to see the Inner Harbor fireworks. How were they?

My plan is to spend today doing as little as possible. I need a day of recovery, stat. In fact I might just go back to bed right about ...
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:04 AM | | Comments (1)

July 3, 2010

Baltimore's best places to watch the fireworks

baltimore fireworksWell, maybe they're not the best best places to watch the fireworks. But they're pretty darn good, if I may say so myself.

Last year, I did a big roundup of off-beat spots where you can hang out on the 4th of July and see the pretty lights in the sky. I've copied and pasted a good chunk of the old story, and added one or two places to it.

Also, here is a list of fireworks and other Fourth of July events, courtesy of Find Local.

Now onto the best off-beat places to watch the fireworks ...

Tiki Barge: You can bet your stars and stripes that the fabulous new Tiki Barge is going to be slammed this weekend. But it's also going to be one of the best spots to see the fireworks. It's right on the water, at the end of the main pier at Harbor View Marina. 

LP Steamers: This award-winning Locust Point crab house at 1100 E. Fort Ave. has a third-story roof deck with a great view of the fireworks. How's this for an evening out: Crack open some piping-hot crabs, wash them down with cold, cheap beer (Miller Lite, etc.) and stroll upstairs to watch the fireworks. The only drawback? The roof deck comfortably accommodates 30 people, give or take. So make sure to claim your spot up there early. Call 410-576-9294 or go to

more fireworks!Tide Point Waterfront Park: : One of the harbor's better-kept secrets, this secluded little spot where Hull Street meets the water has a wide waterside promenade with a stellar view of the harbor. Better still, there is a decent amount of free parking in the neighboring office complex. Just be warned - Fourth of July traffic is going to make parking within a mile or two of the Inner Harbor a little tricky.

Little Havana: : If you want to see the fireworks from the cement patio outside this post-college party zone, get there early to stake out a spot. Really early. Chances are, the closer it gets to fireworks time, the more this Cuban restaurant and bar at 1325 Key Highway is going to fill up with people in their 20s and 30s. Call 410-837-9903 or go to

Shuckers of Fells Point: : If the weather's nice, outdoor seating will be at a premium on the Fourth. And Shuckers, at 1629 Thames St., has one of the best outdoor patios in Fells Point. The restaurant is right on the harbor, and the outside seating - which holds about 100, wraps all the way around the building. Call 410-522-5820 or go to

Bond Street Wharf:: Strolling down the streets of Fells Point, this striking patch of green at 901 S. Bond St. next to DuClaw Brewery seems to come out of nowhere. It's a great spot to stretch out a blanket and set up camp for fireworks watching. If the park is full, you can also walk east on the harborside promenade that connects the park to the end of South Broadway.

more and more and more  fireworks Canton Waterfront Park: : It's easy to forget about this stretch of grassy waterside turf at 3001 Boston St., since it's so far removed from downtown. But the Canton Waterfront Park is some great real estate for the Fourth. The sizable park - home to the city's annual Irish Festival - has brick promenades, trees and open spaces.

Bo Brooks: : When it comes to outdoor dining with a water view in Canton, it's hard to top Bo Brooks. The crab house at 2701 Boston St. has an outdoor bar in front, a patio out back and a floating dock for larger parties. On Saturday, this will be one of the better places to grab a meal and camp out for the fireworks in Canton. Call 410-558-0202 or go to

Bay Cafe:: The closest you'll get to Ocean City in Charm City, the Bay Cafe has a sandy beach, complete with palm trees. The wooden pavilion bar has the feel of a rum shack, and the drinks aren't too pricey, either. The Bay Cafe, 2809 Boston St. #409, can get loud and crazy on Friday and Saturday nights, and since the Fourth falls on a Saturday this year, expect it to be even wilder. The cafe is set back from Boston Street, next to a parking lot. Call 410-522-3377 or go to  

(Baltimore Sun archive photos) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (4)

July 2, 2010

The Dizz opening rooftop restaurant at 3838 Roland Ave., gift & coffee shop in Remington

the dizz!The Dizz is taking over the rooftop restaurant at 3838 Roland Ave. and opening a combination gift shop/coffee shop/ice cream parlor next door to its home base in Remington, according to manager Elaine Stevens.

Long considered one of Baltimore's best neighborhood bars, The Dizz, formerly Dizzy Issie's, expects to open its 3838 Roland Ave. rooftop restaurant in September, Stevens said.

The building, a senior citizen high rise, has a stunning view of the city, she said. It will be BYOB (until they can procure a liquor license) and open to the public, offering the same items currently on the menu in Remington ...

"The view is amazing," she said. "We're excited."

Several eateries have come and gone in the space, including Pleasant View Restaurant and Bobbi Jo's Rooftop Cafe.

"Nobody's been able to make a go of it," Stevens said.

The Dizz at 3838 Roland Ave. will be open to the public, and also host wedding parties, baby showers and other large functions that are too big for the Remington location, Stevens said.

Meanwhile, The Dizz is opening a gift shop, vintage ice cream parlor and coffee shop next door on West 30th St. The shop, which could be open as early as Aug. 1, will also have works from local artists and merchandise from The Dizz and nearby Charm City Cakes.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:58 PM | | Comments (18)

Man shot, killed at Queen's Hookah

hookahOnly a couple days after my post about how the new Queen's Hookah opened in an ill-fated location, a man was slain in the downtown hookah bar.

At 3:15 this morning, an unidentified man was shot several times at the hookah bar, at 227 E. Baltimore St., according to this piece by Sun reporter Liz Kay. The man was taken to Shock Trauma, where he later died.

Earlier this week, Queen's Hookah was celebrating its grand opening by allowing BYOB until July 1 ...

I wonder if that meant people brought beer and wine last night, or if the practice ended on June 30? 

Either way, the problem with this location is, it's right next to The Block. Most hookah bars tend to stay open until the wee hours of the morning -- sometimes as late as 4 or 5 a.m., depending on the night.

At that time, a pretty unruly crowd is pouring out of the strip clubs on The Block, and looking to carry the party a little later. I'm not passing judgment until all the facts emerge here, but I'm saying it's no surprise, given the address.

When I reviewed El Basha, Queen's Hookah's predecessor, about a year ago, I could tell the folks who frequented The Block, didn't yet understand what was going on inside El Basha. They would peer through the windows, but they didn't come inside. 

I can only assume that, in the time since, some regulars of The Block started patronizing Queen's Hookah. If so, it was only a matter of time before violence erupted there. It's a shame for the owners of Queen's Hookah, who are just trying to make a go of it -- albeit in the wrong spot.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:39 AM | | Comments (12)

July 1, 2010

ESPN Zone layoff protest? Really?

espn zone

Laid off employees from the now-closed ESPN Zone will still be getting paid until Aug. 15. After that, they'll get a severance package based on their time with the company. Apparently, this is not enough for some of them.

More than 20 of the 140 former ESPN Zone employees protested the layoffs, saying they violated federal workplace protection laws, according to this piece by The Sun's Gus G. Sentementes.

The employees are claiming ESPN Zone did not give them enough notice before closing. 

Let's all take a deep breath and a step back and have a look at this situation ...

According to Gus' article, the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act "requires companies with more than 50 employees to give 60 days' notice before closing. ESPN Zone did file a WARN notice letting state officials know that workers would lose their jobs as of June 16, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation."

Even if they did violate this federal law, I'd like to point out the small but important point that ESPN Zone is paying them for two months after it has already closed. And then, on top of that, they get a severance package. Good lord!

There's no doubt, the service industry is brutal. Bars, restaurants and clubs close all the time without notice. Frequently, servers and bar backs show up for work one day and the door is padlocked. Do they get severance, or two months' pay? Typically, they're lucky if they get the money that's already owed them.

I'm not saying this is right. I'm just saying a whole lot of much, much shadier business practices happen at bars and restaurants all the time. Protesting something like this seems a little out of hand.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:46 PM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

'Food Paradise' to film Bad Decisions' Bacon & Beer Happy Hour tonight

the gutbusterCamera crews from the Travel Channel's "Food Paradise" will be filming at Bad Decisions' Bacon & Beer Happy Hour tonight, according to owner John Reusing.

The footage is for an episode of "Food Paradise" dedicated to bacon, Reusing said. This is the 11th installment of the popular bacon and suds celebration, which features a rotating menu of drinks and bacon-laden fare.

Tonight's party, which starts at 5 p.m., will have food made by guest chefs from the past two happy hours, Reusing said. 

"I'm kinda still in shock about the whole thing," Reusing wrote in an e-mail. "I'm just doing my normal bacon night and hopefully giving people another reason to visit Baltimore."

Check out tonight's wickedly awesome menu ...

Bacon Bits

Bacon Cheddar Biscuits
topped with Walnut Bacon Butter

Manana Bango
Bacon Soup with Bacon Peanut Brittle

Bacon and Corn Fritters
Served with Sweet Chili Sauce

Bacon on a Stick!
Bacon Satay with a Brown Sugar Maple glaze

Bacon Strips

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp over Bacon Polenta
Served with Copper Fox Rye and Coriander Glaze

Rabbit Braised with Apples and Bacon
Served over Peach and Port Salut Crepe

Pancetta Rolls filled with Fig, Gruyere, and Bacon
Pan seared and finished with a St. Germain Reduction

BLT Stacker
Sweet Hawaiin Bread Piled High with Serrano Ham, Pea Tendrils, in tangy Tomato Salsa

"Vegetarian Option"
Potato and Bacon Gratin on Mesculin Greens tossed in Bacon Vinaigrette

Bacon Treats

Panna Cotta
with Bacon Sandies

Bacon and Maple Ice Cream
Served in a Bacon Tuille

Dippy Sticks
Chocolate Covered Pretzels Rolled in Candied Bacon

Bacon and Caramel Popcorn Balls

(Photo of the Gutbuster, a double bacon cheeseburger with two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches as a bun, which made an appearance at an earlier happy hour, by Evan)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:48 PM | | Comments (7)

The Get Down's grand opening

the second floor of the get downThe Get Down (pictured), the new lounge taking over from Fletcher's in Fells Point, will have its grand opening the weekend of July 22-23, according to owner Bryan Burkert.

They're still making final preparations, but the space is coming along, Burkert told me. I'll keep you posted with drink specials and other grand opening details.

(Photo by Chris March/The Get Down)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:31 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

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

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