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October 29, 2010

Four Loko banned in college campuses; Maryland schools have no official policy on "blackout in a can"

The new boogeyman at college campuses this week is Four Loko, the caffeinated alcoholic drink that's been charmingly called "blackout in a can."

Two colleges, Central Washington University and New Jersey's Ramapo College, have banned its consumption on campus following the hospitalization of some of their students.

At the Washington school, nine freshmen were hospitalized October 8 after drinking Four Loko in combination with other types of booze.

Kids these days are such light-weights.

Four Loko, if you aren't informed, packs a punch. Just one 23 1/2-ounce contains 12 percent alcohol - and "modern day ingredients like Guarana and Taurine," as the drink's website says.

Other drinks have been demonized before, as the Seattle Weekly notes. But in light of the hospitalizations, the Los Angeles Times reports college officials and law enforcement agencies are being especially watchful of the drink made by Phusion Projects LLC.

When asked for comment, representatives for Johns Hopkins, Goucher, Loyola Maryland and University of Maryland said they have no official policy on Four Loko yet, but are monitoring the situation. 

"At this time, the University of Maryland does not have an official policy in place regarding the consumption of Four Loko on campus. The product is not sold at the University," said Beth Cavanaugh, spokeswoman.

"As always, we encourage students of legal drinking age to make responsible decisions regarding alcohol consumption. We are currently reminding all of our students to be mindful of what is in the alcoholic beverages that they choose to consume. In the case of Four Loko, one can is equivalent to several beers and several cups of coffee; this makes for a dangerous combination. We want to make sure that our students are aware of this and think carefully about their decisions regarding alcohol and its use especially when combined with caffeine."

Tracey Reeves, spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins: "We know of no action on our campus similar to that taken on other campuses relative to the Four Loko drink."

Courtney Jolley, spokeswoman for the Loyola University Maryland: "While we do not sell alcohol of any kind on campus or allow drinking by students who are underage, we don't have a specific policy regarding these products. That being said, we are aware of the rising concerns surrounding their risks, and are considering developing a policy specifically addressing caffeinated energy drinks when preparing next year's student life policies."

Kristen Keener, Goucher spokeswoman: "Goucher does not have a specific policy addressing the consumption of caffeinated alcohol beverages on campus. This issue would fall under the general alcohol policy - students of legal drinking age permitted to consume these and other alcoholic beverages in their rooms in the residence halls, but not in public areas. Also, no alcoholic beverages are sold on Goucher's campus"

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:50 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: News

Leon's to open Triple L, a new leather lounge

Next week, a reader will start a semi weekly column chronicling his visits as a straight guy to local gay bars. (He's heard all the jokes - so save it). 

A big fan of Leon's, he sent along this tip: Baltimore's oldest gay bar - and incidentally, 32nd best bar - will open a new leather lounge called Triple L next week.

The lounge will be located behind Leon's, a space that has had many names over the years.

First, it was notorious dive Tyson's Place. But after owner Ben Davis died, Leon's owner Ron Singer bought it and renamed it Nadds - as in, New Age Dine and Dance. Later, realizing the name didn't catch on, he called it Singer's*. 

Triple L will have its official opening November 6, with karaoke, 2 for 1 rails and a happy hour buffet, which, at a leather lounge, is bound to be super sanitary. 

The ad for the new lounge is after the jump. Beware, chaps are involved.

Triple L's ad in City Paper: IMG_0738%5B1%5D.jpg

Photo: Chiaki Kawajiri/Baltimore Sun

*The owner of Leon's is Singer, not Springer. Post has been corrected. 

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:17 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Baltimore's "subculturally mind-blowing" Halloween parties: Bonjay at Taxlo, The Annex, Celebration at G Spot

On Saturday, Power Plant Live will hold its annual Halloween party - "Baltimore's Biggest!" its website announces.

And Fells Point will be predictably mobbed with friendly neighborhood drunks bar-hopping all night long.

But there are other options too.

Jonathan Coelho, who's hosting the Halloween Monster Bash at the Annex tonight, initially scoffed at Baltimore's current Halloween party choices. "Power Plant Live is massively lame compared to something that will blow your mind musically and culturally, or should i say subculturally."

He also framed his party, though, as a showcase of local talent that may not have a chance to play bigger venues. "The reason for all this is to support emerging artists coming out of nowhere that don't have an audience," he said. "DIY shows help underground artists."

On the Midnight Sun Halloween party round-up, I want to highlight other parties with a similar focus. They're more indie, more underground - take your pejorative - but also, maybe, just more "subculturally mind-blowing."

The music at the bash, held on the fourth floor 419 E Oliver St., will vary - indie rock, progressive rock, noise, Baltimore house - and is scheduled to include acts like Abiku, Great Tap Root, Moustache, and Witch Hat, whose Chris Day screen-printed the poster above.

Bands are supposed to play 30-45 minute sets. Doors open at 8 p.m. Cover is $3-$5 at the door; $8 for the lame-o's who don't wear costumes. The Facebook invite specifies: "No $ no entry (sic), unless you got 2 beers and 3 smokes." Now you know.

Around the same time doors open there, Celebration will play its first non-festival show in Baltimore since March at the G Spot, says Bmore Musically Informed, which is throwing the concert. Sri Aurobindo, Microkingdom and Dustin Wong will also play that night. Day, actually, drew the poster above for this show. Tickets are $12 on missiontix. 

Saturday and Sunday parties after the jump..

DJ Cullen Stalin, who is co-promoting the return of the popular Taxlo to Sonar, was more diplomatic than Coelho in describing the conventional Halloween party choices at hand.

"Most parties are a chance to get dressed up and dance around," he said. While they wanted a party with a broad appeal - "broad because it's a broad range of people not because it's so bland everyone likes it" - they also didn't want something that was just catering to the lowest common denominator.

"Expect there to be a creative selection," he said. "It's not going to be the hits. It's not going to be music that everyone's familiar with. We push new music and new artists."

This time around they've gotten Bonjay, these Canadians who specialize in dreamy reggae, to play two sets, one in D.C. (Friday) and one in Baltimore. Tickets are $6.66 in advance, and Sonar is offering $2 Natty Bohs all night.

Also on Saturday, (online) Gutter magazine will host its second annual Dead Celebrity Ball at Metro Gallery. Sal Bando and Sick Sick Birds are set to perform, but the draw is the dead celebrities costumes. Here's to hoping someone goes as Carmen Ghia or George Steinbrenner. Tickets are $5.

The tiny Hexagon Space will have its own Halloween Party Saturday night too, where Asian Tiger and The Help are scheduled to perform; doors open at 9 p.m. At 10 p.m. Golden West Cafe, will host Los Angeles band The Zeros. Cover is $10; best costume prize is $100.

And on Sunday, the event with the best line-up has the least information available online right now. It's probably for the best, as disclosing the location might attract the fuzz. The 4th Annual Bank Halloween Cellebration (sic) will open its doors -somewhere! - at 9 p.m. and go until 4 a.m, according to the Facebook invite. Rapdragons will MC downstairs, and Sewn Leather, Dan Deacon, and Eric Copeland will play upstairs. Tickets - $8 - are sold at the True Vine.

Photo: Chris Day/Bmore Musically Informed 

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:29 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

October 28, 2010

The Roots, Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples to perform at Jon Stewart D.C. rally

The Roots, Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy are scheduled to perform at the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" Saturday at the National Mall.

Stewart, who is hosting the rally with Stephen Colbert, has been in Washington all week with "The Daily Show"; you might have missed his prickly interview with Barack Obama Wednesday night.

Today, the National Park Service released the permit for the rally, and the Christian Science Monitor got a hold of it. (Click Track picked it up earlier).

The Roots are scheduled for a pre-show performance, and Staples and Tweedy will go on for ten minutes at 1:40 p.m. Crow would follow later at 2:15 p.m. The entire show is scheduled to last nearly four hours.

The permit also allows that more musical guests may be added.

The rally is expected to be massive - a Huffington Post founder is even sponsoring 200 buses, and several side rallies are planned. Midnight Sun won't be there - there's too much Halloween in Baltimore this weekend  - are any readers going?

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:41 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Music News

Midnight Sun seeks contributors

Readers know I'm a big Rye Rye fan - while others, confusingly still wonder why I write about her at all. I had been planning on going to see her and Die Antwoord Wednesday night at the 9:30 club but I had to work late and couldn't make it.

It was the saddest part of my week after learning Sony retired the cassette Walkman. But as a reporter who blogs - not vice versa - sometimes (read: most of the time) I get pulled into other assignments.

This is why I'm still looking for occasional contributors to the blog in order to keep it fresh as often as possible.  Jay Trucker and Christeen Roden have already dispatched some great posts, and I'm looking for more writers like them.

Generally, I'm looking for bar and concert reviews, but feel free to pitch the occasional post too -- one reader will start doing a straight man's guide to local gay bars soon.

A contributor should have personality and the writing chops to match it. Ideally, you've written for someone other than livejournal before; even Splice Today will do.   

I can't pay, but I can get you review tickets, and sometimes, set-up Q&As. The idea is to show off the work of more Baltimore culture writers. 

Interested? e-mail three writing samples and a bio.

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:46 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Random stuff

Can Andrew W.K. host a magic show?

Andrew W.K. was in Baltimore Wednesday night to host a magic show sponsored by Heineken beer called "The Most Interesting Show in the World."

TMISW, which is going to 16 other cities, is described by the company as an "upscale variety show," a phrase I would never associate with the metal goofball. Upscale, anyway. 

He was recruited by the Dos Equis, a subsidiary of Heineken, to lead a series performances by "eccentric personalities," including a Hungarian magician, burlesque dancers, and someone called Bubble Man.

Last night's show was at Bourbon Street, and tickets were given away.  

I couldn't make it. Did WK even perform? or did he just play ringleader? or was it just another illusion?

Here's to hoping he can add master of ceremonies to his long list of accomplishments, which already includes VH1 talking head, motivational speaker, and being a great fake blood model.

Photo: "I Get Wet" cover 

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:11 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Music News

Sully's Comedy Cellar, Parkville's newest (only?) comedy club

sullys.bmpThe Bowman restaurant has been an institution in Parkville for 30 years. For most of that time, its basement was occupied by Tracy’s Comedy Club.

But in 2007, the Sullivan family -- which co-owns the restaurant along with several partners, including Steve Diffenderffer -- partnered with a couple of brothers, Marc and Andrew Unger, to open Magooby’s Joke House.

This year, Magooby’s relocated to Timonium, and the basement returned to the Sullivans’ ownership.

Now dubbed Sully’s Comedy Cellar, after Bill Sullivan, who opened the restaurant, the club is almost invisible from Harford Road.

It’s past a British Petroleum station, right next door to the Fraternal Order of Police building, and underneath The Bowman. And like it’s predecessors, Sully’s is a small venue that holds slightly less than the dining room upstairs — about 160 people.

The club has been open since September, when Magooby’s defected to Timonium. Still, for the nearby suburbs, it'll likely to be the closest comedy club. 

The comics that perform there on a regular basis — Mickey Cucchiella and Rain Pryor, among others — are the same that now perform at Magooby’s, and that probably performed at Tracy’s for years.

Cover is on par with the Joke House — between $12 and $17 — and food is relatively cheap, with a basket of fries starting at $6. Owners don’t just use it for comedy shows, but also rent it out for parties.

When Sullivan, who used to be a real estate representative for Baskin Robbins, first opened the restaurant in 1974, he pictured the basement as a comedy club. Thirty years later, general manager Shari Sifrit says it’s back as he imagined it.

Sully's Comedy Cellar is at 9306 Harford Road, Parkville. Tickets are $12-$17. Call 410-665-8600 for reservations.

Also see:
Top 50 Baltimore bars
Weekend events: Best bets
Find: More bars and nightlife coverage
Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

October 27, 2010

Last Night's Photo: Japanese Noise


Japanese noise musician Merzbow performing in September, by flickr user and photographer joshsisk.  To see your nightlife and music photos on Midnight Sun, join the flickr pool.

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Last Night's Photo

Review: Magooby's Joke House in Timonium

magoobyalt.jpgYour standard comedy club doesn’t need many frills — just a microphone, an exposed-brick wall, and a schlubby comic parsing the day’s events.

Magooby’s Joke House, which moved from Parkville to Timonium last month, doesn’t alter the formula. Its new location is a former auditorium, almost big enough to host a high school production of “Oklahoma!” But it’s as sparsely decorated as an Elks’ Club.

Just two shades of paint — red and blue — and a few posters with one-liners like  “How many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The club hasn’t piled on the glitz because it doesn’t need to.

Baltimore has few comedy clubs to begin with, and certainly none as big as this one. And owners have fortified themselves against failure by smartly selecting a spot amid Timonium’s hotel area. If locals don’t trek out here to see the club’s comics, tourists and conventioneers certainly will.

On a recent Thursday, when the club hosted a political round-table featuring with 98Rock’s Mickey Cucchiella, Rain Pryor, bartender and comic Mike Tee and comic Marc Unger, among others, tables were full except for the last two rows.

Magooby’s first opened three years ago in Parkville, replacing Tracy’s Comedy Club. It’s still the only place in the area other than the Baltimore Comedy Factory that is strictly for comics. Other venues — like The Hippodrome Theatre, which hosted Demetri Martin recently, and The Ottobar — host only occasional comedy nights.

But Magooby’s even has an open mike night.

At the new location, the owners’ idea of decoration consists of two images of Richard Pryor and George Carlin spray-painted above the platform stage, overlooking the comics like two spectral ghosts. Or maybe like Statler and Waldorf from “The Muppets.”

The other hints of color are the red mantelpieces covering dozens of cocktail tables.Not that what’s on the wall matters. Magooby’s knows comedy seekers don’t go to a club for the decor but for what’s on stage. Comedy clubs are slightly seedy by nature.

The classic image is of a lone comic on stage, enveloped in darkness, except for the spotlight and the cigarette in his hand.

Magooby’s old location, in the basement of Bowman Restaurant, was along those lines. But the new place is more inviting than that. From the second row, where I was sitting, the crowd and all seven comics on stage were clearly seen and heard.

The lights might have even been too bright for some of them, exposing some faces that were clearly made for radio.

Cucchiella, sporting a peroxide blond hairdo that recalled a chubby Billy Idol*, took on Mike Tee, a Neanderthal by his own admission, over the legalization of marijuana.

“I would much rather deal with a pot head than Mike Tee,” he said. “With a pot head it might take a minute to get the sentence out, but when it’s out, at least you know what the sentence is. With Mike Tee, you need a cryptologist.”

Comics on stage also riffed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and illegal immigration. “You give the Israelis Southern Arizona, you will not get one Mexican across the border,” said Marc Unger, whose brother Andrew is a co-owner of the club. Comedian Mike Storck added, “The Jews will start building settlements down into Mexico.”

Cucchiella then chimed in, “It’ll be like Baltimore’s bed bug problem but with Jews.”

Though arranged like one of the round tables on “Real Time Bill Maher” — several comics taking jabs at politicians, from Barack Obama to Governor Martin O’Malley — towards the end of the night it had taken on a much more casual attitude. The seven comics were just lazily sitting on stage, taking questions from the audience and occasionally passing the mike to each other.

Cucchiella and Unger dominated the conversation. Pryor, on the other hand, tweeted from stage.

Informality suits the club just fine, though. Magooby’s hasn’t so far attracted big headliners — the most famous face on its picture wall was Hal Hall Sparks, the VH1 personality.

But with it’s cheap cover by club standards ($14) and reasonable dining offers — $4.75 for a Yuengling and $6 for a bucket of onion rings — it won’t scare off any of the nearby suburbanites.

Even then, tourists from the Holiday Inn and Extended Stay American Hotel down the road are likely to also keep Magooby’s in business even when it’s just a comic from Timonium on stage.

On Thursday, the crowd — mainly white, as the comics pointed out — had a good time. When the performers were asked how marijuana should be stopped, it was an audience member who got the laugh, screaming: “You smoke it!”

Magooby's Joke House is at 9603 Deereco Road, Timonium. Cover is $14. Beer starts at $4.75 and food at $6. Call 410-252-2727 or go to

Photo: Andrew Unger at the new Magooby's/Chris Lewis, Baltimore Sun

Also see:
Top 50 Baltimore bars
Weekend events: Best bets
Find: More bars and nightlife coverage

*I incorrectly described Cucchiella's hair color; it is not peroxide blond, but brown. He would also prefer that I call him "portly" rather than chubby, but that's wishful thinking, not a correction.

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

October 26, 2010

Can Cordish Cos. find a new tenant for closed ESPN Zone?

Five months after ESPN Zone closed in Inner Harbor, the Walt Disney Co.-owned bar is still upsetting employees.

On Monday, five of them filed a class action lawsuit charging the company with failing to adhere to federal labor laws, The Sun's Gus Sentementes reports this morning.

The lawsuit also underscores the absence of the venue from Power Plant, where along, with Barnes and Noble and Hard Rock Cafe, it was one of the anchors of the area. The big question remains: will Cordish Cos. replace it any time soon? Can it?

The concept bar, which had been open for 12 years, abruptly closed in June when Disney shut down locations in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C.

Then, 20 workers of the Baltimore location protested the closure, alleging the company didn't give them the 60 days notice federal law demands for layoffs. But, the company, which did file a notice letter with state officials in time, disputes the charge.

The lawsuit is only the latest step in their dispute. The workers, Sentementes writes, could be joined by employees at some of the other locations.

What remains unchanged through this fracas is the venue itself. In June, Cordish Companies, said they were looking to fill the spot with another big-box store.

But so far, it remains unoccupied.

Photo: ESPN kitchen workers demonstrate outside Garmatz Federal Courthouse/Kenneth Lam, Baltimore Sun

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:55 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: News

Document a whole day in Baltimore with The Sun's Picture This

The Baltimore Sun invites readers to submit photos to an online feature called Picture This, Baltimore: October 26.

The feature is a constantly updated fotolog for locals. The idea is to have a visual record of a day in the city by the end of Tuesday, created by those who walk its streets. 

At Midnight Sun, I've asked for nightlife and concert photos; this is more general.

Say you woke up this morning, went sailing, and took a picture of the skyllne with your phone (right). Just e-mail it to sometime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

You have complete discretion over the subject. The only directions? Include the photog's name and a caption.

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

Morris Martick sells 40-year-old liquor license on Baltimore City Paper classifieds

Morris Martick, the 88-year-old proprietor of Martick's Restaurant Francais, is selling the liquor license he's held for 40 years.

Not with a broker, but on the classifieds of Baltimore City Paper.

Martick, who first opened the downtown French restaurant in 1970, closed it in 2008. He's tried to lease it since then but no one has expressed interest.

In January, he asked the liquor board to extend his due-to-expire license for six extra months so he could find a new buyer.

He tried Craigslist but was unsuccessful. Two weeks ago, he decided to try a classifieds ad on the alternative weekly. The ad appears on the back page, past all the ads for massage parlors, above a picture announcing $900 luxury apartments.

It is unadorned and pithy, reading simply: "Martick's Liquor License - for sale," with a few more words on location and a contact number. No mention of the restaurant's history, or its off-kilter reputation.

After 40 years, Martick had enough.  "I won't re-open it ever again. I'm too old."

Martick was born in the building where he later opened his restaurant. When he couldn't afford the city's requirements for exterior improvement, which he pegged at $30-40,000, he closed the restaurant.

"it's an institution," he said. "Or it was. But I'm 88. What's the use of working anyway."

It's stayed closed since then. Without the liquor license in use, Baltimore city Liquor Board was about to suspend it before Martick began to seek buyers. A reader noticed the ad in the classifieds.

"I was going to lose it, so I might as well sell it," Martick said. "It's very hard to get a new liquor license." He's held on to his for 40 years.

When asked got the asking price, he gave an answer that was classic Martick. "Gee, I don't know. That's a good question," he said. "I think it's worth around $20,000 to $25,000."

Stephan Fogleman, the chairman of the Liquor Board, said Martick is within his right to sell the license, but it must be transferred within the same Senatorial district. If the new owners choose to move the location of the license, it cannot be less than 300 feet from a church or school.

For interested buyers, Martick's personal number - 410-685-5192 - is listed on the ad.

But so far, Midnight Sun's is the only call the tired chef has received.


Photo: Martick's/Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore Sun

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

October 25, 2010

Wham City launches comedy tour featuring Ed Schrader, Dina Kelberman and Dan Deacon

Wham City will launch a 10-city comedy tour in Baltimore November 11.

Several of the hyphenated members of the arts collective -- they are comics-video artists-musicians-dancers -- will participate in the tour, which kicks off at the Bells Foundry and will go through Pittsburgh and Chicago before ending in New York November 20.

The participants are: Ed Schrader, Ben O'Brien, Alan Resnick, Robby Rackleff, April Camlin, Pete O'Connell, Mason Ross, Adam Endres, Connor Kizer, Dina Kelberman, as well as Dan Deacon.

The tour will also feature locals The Creepers and the jokey music of Ram Ones.  

"Wham City: a night of comedy" comes after Deacon and video artist Jimmy Joe Roche started a retrospective film series at the Charles last week. With the film series, the comedy tour, and Whartscape, what could be next? the Wham City salad dressing? 

Pitchfork had news of the tour first, which was also posted on Wham City's website

Photo: Wham City

Posted by Erik Maza at 5:36 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Stillwater Artisanal Ales' Brian Strumke gets national attention, last keg of new brew now at Pratt Street Ale House

During Baltimore Beer Week, Brian Strumke unveiled a new "imperialistic" stout at Max's Taphouse that was only available for that night and only at that bar.

Stillwater Artisanal Ale's "Requisite" has long been gone. But, Strumke also unveiled another new ale that same week.

Called The Channel Crossing, Volume 2, it was a collaboration with Pratt Street Ale House's Steven Jones. And that, it turns out, is still on tap. On its last keg, in fact, the Ale House says.

Strumke has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. He's part of a growing number of "gypsy brewers," beer-makers who eschew big start-up capital and instead rent equipment, space, and manpower to make their product.

In August, Strumke was profiled by NPR. And last week, Clay Risen at The Atlantic blogged about the new trend, listing Stillwater and Cambridge's Pretty Things as examples.

In its beer issue, Washington City Paper also placed Stillwater among an existing group of metro breweries that are making the area a mecca for the craft beer industry.

Four new craft breweries are coming to DC next year, joining established area ones like Heavy Sees Beer, Oliver Breweries, Flying Dog in Frederick and Ladder in Silver Spring.

For Baltimore Beer Week, Jones, who brews Oliver Ales for Pratt House, combined his English brewing style with Strumke's Belgian brewing style to come up with a hybrid ale, the second volume of The Channel Crossing. It was a follow-up to their first collaboration, which was released in May.

"We wanted to do something special for beer week," Jones told Midnight Sun then. 

Originally, 13 kegs of the new brew were made. Two weeks later, the Ale House is down to its last keg. 

Photo: AP

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:52 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Brewing News

What does Justin Bieber smell like?

Justin Bieber is getting into the fragrance business. Some genius at Etoile Nation Beauty convinced the 16-year-old to go into the trade where Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker have thrived, as if it were possible to capture the essence of Bieber in a bottle.

Apparently, it isn't. Instead of releasing a typical fragrance, Bieber will sell "wristbands and dog tags infused with a unisex fragrance called My World," Women's Wear reports

The pitch is: now, not only can teenage girls smell of Bieber lust, so can your puppy.

The perfumed accessories will go on sale before the holidays, at Wal-Mart. Sellers say the scent has "notes of bergamot, lychee and pomegranate, a heartof cedar glimmers and a drydown of musk."

It's unclear what this will smell like to the regular shopper, which raises the question, what does Bieber actually smell like? Frankincense and candy corn? Lollipops and Canadian conditioner? 

Above, Bieber performing at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in September. 

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:01 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: News

Review: Matt & Kim at Rams Head Live Saturday, October 23

Contributor Christeen Roden reviews Matt & Kim at Rams Head Live Saturday, October 23.

Exuberant doesn’t begin to describe the visceral experience of being twenty feet away from a two of the most energetic musicians around, Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino.

Even in the cavernous atrium that is Ram's Head Live, Matt & Kim’s energy Saturday night was as infectious as it was goofily charming. Barely a body remained still on the surprisingly packed floor or the balconies, which were overflowing with ardent, if less-expressive fans.

True to Matt Johnson’s earlier promise, they dazzled longtime fans by sticking mostly to their previously released material. And, just like they did at Virgin Mobile FreeFest, they also mixed it up with a few Old Dirty Bastard and Sir-Mix-A-Lot covers.

During a particularly boisterous Major Lazer riff, Kim obliged the more rabid audience members by dusting off that old rock 'n’ roll stand by: the stage dive, and pulled it off without any visible body arm except hand prints.

Any lull between songs were filled in by the adorably familiar banter between the (obviously) close duo. For instance, I now know that last year Johnson dressed like Andy Warhol for Halloween. And that Kim was a very serious runner in high school, but that instead of taking a full college scholarship, she ran away to Brooklyn where she met Johnson and started the band.

It was surprising to see the venue so full, if only because Matt & Kim are such a Brooklyn band - their last album, "Grand," was even named after a main fixed-gear thoroughfare in Williamsburg. I didn't know if Baltimore would come out for them. But I found myself standing amid a great deal fewer coke-bottle glasses than anticipated; the Baltimoreans in the crowd lapped up whatever the duo threw at them, including balloons.

While it's difficult to pinpoint a highlight of what was a raucous hour-long performance, their rendition of the “Grand” hit and fan-favorite “Daylight” is an obvious choice. Earlier in the night the band had passed around balloons, and during this performance, fans blew them up and released them.

It was as charming a move as the duo's performance, and also a plug. Upon closer inspection I noticed they were emblazoned with Schifino's likeness, and the release date of their new album, "Sidewalks."

Set List*:
I Wanna
Good Ol Fashion Nightmare
Spare Change
Lessons Learned
Yea Yeah
Silver Tiles
Don't Slow Down

Christeen Roden has an English degree from University of Maryland at College Park. She maintains her own blog about Baltimore and has written for Erik Maza edited this post.

*Set list is incomplete

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Concert reviews

October 22, 2010

Lower Dens, Cotton Jones, Josh Dibb on why they're playing CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival

lowerdensalt.jpgSince Tuesday, New York City has been crawling with struggling musicians — even more so than usual.

By now, there are more of them around than koi at Central Park. They might even outnumber Japanese tourists.

Officially, hundreds of bands have flown in from all over the world to play the annual CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival. Unofficially, they’re coming for the same reason sex columnist Ashley Alexandra Dupre left the ‘burbs: To make a splash.

The music marathon, in session through Sunday, is a showcase for rising bands to introduce themselves to record producers, labels and new audiences. And for the fans, groupies, and observers coming to New York just for CMJ — some 120,000, according to organizers — it’s a chance to see about 1,200 performances in the span of five days.

Jana Hunter who’s playing a whopping 11 shows with her band, Baltimore’s Lower Dens, summed it up as a giant, adult band camp.

“The whole industry descends on [New York] for a few days to geek out about music in a really intense and obnoxious way,” she said. (Above, Lower Dens performed at The Ottobar Tuesday).

The dream is that by going there, your upstart band will get signed to a major label after one blistering performance somewhere on the Lower East Side. But Maryland musicians see the marathon as a means to other ends.

“Whatever our goals are, they don’t end in dollar signs,” Hunter said. 

While some of these bands had to trek thousands of miles to get there — one group named Circle Pit came all the way from Australia — for the Maryland groups it's nothing more than a Bolt Bus ride away.

“New York isn’t too far,” said Michael Nau of the Cumberland band Cotton Jones. “We’re making it into a day trip.”

Besides Lower Dens and Cotton Jones, other performers from this area are rapper Rye Rye, Silver Spring multi-instrumentalist Zo!, 20-year-old hard-rock vets Clutch, and Josh Dibbs.

Now in its 30th year, CMJ has become the East Coast’s South by South West — a manic, relentless marathon with little space to do anything but listen to new music.

“It’s hard for me,” said Dibb, who will play under his solo stage name, Deakin. “It’s a little too much information. There’s only so much music I can take before I stop listening.”

Organizers say 500 bands from at least 30 countries will play 75 New York venues over the five days. With performances starting as early as noon and ending as late as 2 a.m., there are inevitably points during the day when you’ll miss not just one band but five others.

During one hourlong block Friday, 20 bands will start playing somewhere around New York.

Outside of those performing at official marathon showcases, there are hundreds more that are crashing the party, playing at underground gigs in dingy basements, Brooklyn warehouses and subway stations hoping to get someone’s — anyone’s — attention.

Observers will just to have to go from one venue to another to watch their favorite bands. But for performers, it’s twice as nutty. “It’s a little more hectic than playing Cumberland, of course,” Nau said.

He and the other three members of Cotton Jones will be traveling in their van, but Nau said they still have to navigate the city’s traffic and make sure their van doesn’t get towed.

And they’re playing just one show. Lower Dens is making 11 appearances. Hunter compared it to a diner waitress working a triple shift. This is the first CMJ appearance for the two-year-old band, who will play some showcases put on by ’zines, night parties and Offline, the mini-festival organized by Pitchfork Media.

The kicker: They’re not getting paid for any of them. But Hunter said the upside is too tantalizing. The four-piece band, which is signed to indie label Gnomonsong, want to show off its only album, the scorching “Twin-Hand Movement.”

"We’re still building our audience, our career, and we wanted to take an opportunity to play our music in front of as many people as possible,” she said. “We took almost every show that was offered to us.”

Members of Cotton Jones, who have played CMJ three times before, also see the performance as a way to reach new listeners, not new representation. “Some people come here to make something of their careers, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a show looking for a deal,” Nau said. “It’s a normal show amid the frenzy. It’s good for our record.”

If you go: Cotton Jones will perform a free show Friday at the Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Zo! will perform Saturday at B.B. King Blues Club, 237 W. 42nd St., New York. Doors open at 7 p.m.; Tickets are $25.

Lower Dens will perform a free show Friday at midnight at Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen St., New York. On Saturday, it performs at Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St., New York. Tickets for the showcase, which will also feature Florida indie darlings Surfer Blood, are $18; doors open at 4:30 p.m.

For more information, including a full roster of live shows, go to

Also see:
This week's concerts
Weekend events: Best bets
Pictures: Recent concerts

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

Darius Rucker, country music rising star, will still play Hootie and The Blowfish at Pier Six Pavilion

dariusruckeralt.jpgDarius Rucker is a country music star on the rise. His first foray into the genre, “Learn to Live,” sold more than a million copies.

But to most people he’ll always be Hootie, the frontman of ‘90s rock band Hootie & the Blowfish.

And if the people who come to see him Friday, when he plays Pier Six Pavilion, are all Hootie fans, that’s all right with him.

“I’m not tired of playing “Let Her Cry,” he said, referring to the second single from Hootie’s major-label debut, “Cracked Rear View.”More than 15 years later, that album is still the 15th-best-selling of all time.

Rucker has been a solo artist for seven years now. He transitioned from soft rock to country in 2008, much to the surprise of the country music world, which hadn’t had an African-American star in decades. 

It was a rocky move. The country music scene has high standards, he said. “Not everyone gets in,” he said. But the novelty factor of his country career has slowly worn off.

“I think people will always be curious, but I think I’ve proven myself,” he said. “Learn to Live,” his first country album, spawned four singles. And in March, he started touring with his second, “Charleston, SC 1966.”

He’s found such success in country, he’s now operating mainly from Tennessee; all the songs on the album were written there. To find the members of his touring band, his producer put out the word in Nashville and found his six players in two days, he said.

“The great thing about Nashville is, everybody can play,” he said. So, what does Rucker look for in a band member? “I’m looking for someone I can hang out with,” he said. “Guys that can join this traveling circus and have fun.”

Rucker says the tour, which is expected to end this March, is likely to appeal to frat brothers and country fans. He won’t just play from his first two country albums, he’ll also play Hootie songs, and even Prince and Steve Miller covers.

“When you’re touring, you just go from town to town. You have to make it interesting for yourself,” Rucker said. “My goal when we play is that everyone has a good time.”

If you go: Darius Rucker performs Friday at Pier Six Pavilion, 731 Eastern Ave. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25-$60. Call 410-244-1131 or go to

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:47 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Music News

After Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Matt and Kim return to Maryland for Rams Head Live show

BS-BS-ae-music-story-1022.jpgA month ago, Matt Johnson, the keyboard player and singer of dance-punk duo Matt and Kim, promised a powder keg of a show at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

With a prime spot before Pavement and LCD Soundsystem, they planned on tearing through a 45-minute set of their frenetic upbeat punk songs and, every now and then, 30-second covers of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.”

“We’re basically having a party,” he said then. “It’s just going to be Matt and Kim in a raw sense.”

But the festival turned out to be a missed opportunity, complicated by technical problems and a shortened set.

“There were certain parts of it that were super-rad and certain parts that were a disaster,” Johnson said. Fans shouldn’t take that as indication of future shows, he said.

When Johnson and Kim Schifino play Maryland for the second time in a month — this time at Rams Head Live on Saturday — the show will be a do-over.

It’s a philosophy you’d expect from a duo who have a reputation for being as plucky as Sally Hawkins in “Happy Go-Lucky,” and one they’ve begun to embrace since their second album, “Grand.”

The takeaway from their well-known single “Lessons Learned” is: “Never let your mark erase/ 'cause broken legs can be replaced.”

When they came to Merriweather Post Pavilion, the two had been touring since March with their new album, “Sidewalks.”

They arrived with only a few hours’ sleep from the West Coast. Johnson didn’t know what songs they’d be playing, or even when they’d go on. “When you slide into a festival, there’s a lot of winging it,” he said.

The larger problem for them was that FreeFest set up like a hybrid: The pavilion was reserved for VIP ticketholders while free ticket holders were relegated to the lawn. That meant even veterans like Pavement played to smaller-than-expected crowds.

For a band like Matt and Kim, which feeds off a crowd’s energy, playing to a few is death. “That threw me off,” Johnson said. “There was a huge line of people trying to get down, but they couldn’t. I felt bad for the people who were stuck a mile away.”

There were technical issues, too. They didn’t do a sound check and just launched into their 6 p.m. set. Their ear pieces weren’t working properly, and they performed on a riser that wouldn’t stay locked down. “It was like playing on a rowboat,” he recalled.

In the end, they had to cut the set to a half-hour. Despite it all, Johnson said he appreciated the curveballs. “I like a situation where we’re put in front of a crowd that didn’t know that much about us,” he said. “We loved that challenge.”

When Matt and Kim started out, they were the quintessential party band — all exposition and little introspection. But in the last two albums, they’ve displayed a new maturity, slowing their mania to a quiet defiance.

Even when things go wrong, their approach is that anything can be fixed by slamming your drums and keyboards as loudly as possible. Just see the “Lessons Learned” video, where the two, after stripping in Times Square, fight off a pair of cops trying to stop them.

“Our attitude is always, ‘We’re still going to have fun,’” Johnson said. “As much as stuff seemed to go bizarrely, the feedback we got was super-positive.”

At Rams Head Live, they’ll play on their own terms.

“If you have something that’s bizarre to you, it takes you out a little bit,” he said. “But with our own stuff, we can be ourselves. Everyone’s going to be in front of us, and they’ll have room to dance. There won’t be a big empty-seated section. We’re not much of a sit-down band.”

They’ll stick to songs from their demos and their first two albums instead of new songs from “Sidewalks.” “When I go to shows myself and the band screams, ‘Does anyone want a new song?’ I just think, ‘I just want to hear the stuff I know and can sing to.’”

If you go: Matt and Kim perform Saturday at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place in Power Plant Live. Baltimore duo Rapdragons play before them. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $17. Call 410-244-1131 or go to

Also see:
This week's concerts
Weekend events: Best bets
Pictures: Recent concerts

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Music News

October 21, 2010

Rye Rye plays free CMJ Music Marathon show tonight

Rye Rye will perform a free show Thursday night in New York City as part of the CMJ Music Marathon.

CMJ is five-day music festival, the East coast's SXSW basically, that features some 500 different bands.

Thursday's show makes the rapper the seventh Maryland musician to play at the event.

Baltimore's Lower Dens and Cumberland's Cotton Jones are among the other area bands that will perform. Lower Dens actually performed Wednesday the first of their 11 scheduled shows.

Rye Rye is a last minute addition. She made the announcement earlier this week on Facebook, natch.

She'll perform at the Hyper Machine showcase at Backstage Bar on the Lower East Side, where Moby's band Diamondsnake, VHS or Beta, among others, will also perform. 

It's been a big month for the rapper. She's coming off a tour with M.I.A., for whom she opened at CMJ three years ago.

And the video for her single, "Sunshine" is nearing a million page views.

Tickets for the Backstage Bar show are free with an RSVP, available here.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Backstage Bar is at 152 Orchard Street. 

Photo: Rye Rye in 2008/Josh Sisk 

Posted by Erik Maza at 5:24 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Music News

Josh Sisk's new photo book features Major Lazer, Blaqstarr, Baltimore nightlife

Diplo spinning for Major Lazer, Rye Rye soon after she was discovered, anonymous dancers at The Paradox.

 Those are the images collected in Josh Sisk's book, "Under the Strobe Light."

If you're the type who still follows cutlines, you might recognize Sisk's name. He's been a Sun contributor for years; most recently, he shot our Virgin Mobile FreeFest photo gallery.

In that time he's also been chronicling Baltimore's nightlife and music scene as steadily as Weegee once shot crime scenes.

Sisk self-published the book in April, but Midnight Sun hadn't previewed it until now. For shame!

The images in the 32-page book are from 2005 through this year, and feature a who's who - Blaqstarr, Scottie B. - of Baltimore's Technicolor nightlife, as well as many who'd fall under the who's that category.

A few of them, after the jump:

Major Lazer performing in 2009:majorlazer.JPG

Rapper Rye Rye at a 2008 performance:   rye%20rye.JPG

A night at The Paradox: paradox.JPG

"Under the Strobe Light" costs $20. Sisk is preparing to do a second printing. To purchase, visit his

Photos: courtesy of Josh Sisk

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:34 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Last Night's Photo

October 20, 2010

Gin Mill fetches $600K at auction; Reeders don't sell

Canton's Gin Mill was auctioned off today at noon and received a high bid of $600,000. But the Reeders, the family that has owned the bar for a decade, decided not to sell.

Auctioneer Jonathan Melnick said the high bid came from a well-known family that owns a chain of local restaurants, but he declined to name them. 

Owner Lester Reeder could not be reached for comment. 

As Midnight Sun reported, the Reeders put the Gin Mill up for auction in September. Lester said business was solid, but the family wanted to step away from the nightlife business. 

Lester said the bar has been for sale since they bought it back two and a half years ago, and the auction was a way to fast-track the search for a new owner. The family first bought the bar in 1996, according to property records.

The two-story establishment, housed in a building from 1850, has two bars, two dining rooms and a lounge area in the rear. Property records peg its base value at a little over $600,000.

Today's auction lasted a half hour, and was attended by 12 to 15 people, Melnick said. The high bid was $600,000 even, though the new owners would have paid $80,000 more for the business, real estate, and the liquor licenses. 

Melnick said the Reeders wanted a higher offer, though, "not a tremendous amount more."

He added the high bidder might decide to increase the bid later, but that negotiation would happen privately with the family.

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:48 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: News

October 19, 2010

Review: Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper at Merriweather Post Pavilion, October 17

Kevin Eck reviews the Halloween Hootenanny at MPP featuring the Gruesome Twosome. When he's not listening to heavy metal, he covers professional wrestling for The Sun and writes Ring Posts.

It’s that time of year when the leaves are brown, there’s a chill in the air and jack-o-lanterns abound. In other words, the perfect time for a concert featuring two of rock’s preeminent boogeymen, Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper.

The self-professed “Gruesome Twosome” were the main attractions at Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday night, when they performed their Halloween Hootenanny tour. The Murder Dolls, Black Label Society, Children of Bodom and Clutch also performed.

In separate performances that each went a little over an hour, the macabre metal gods' over-the-top theatrics captured the spirit of the season, making for a spectacle that had the charm of a midnight monster movie double feature.

Despite their obvious similarities, Zombie and Cooper differ as performers. Zombie offers a true rock concert experience: he addressed the crowd between songs and encouraged audience members to stand up and sing along.

With Cooper, on the other hand, it was like watching a musical where he was both ring master and narrator. He gives you a story line that tied the songs together, complete with characters, costume changes and props.

As far as stage antics go, nobody can outdo Cooper, but from a musical standpoint, Zombie’s set had more teeth (or, in this case, fangs) than the old man's. 

Zombie entered the stage by emerging from a sinister-looking giant robot that was engulfed in flames. He opened with “Jesus Frankenstein,” from his latest CD, “Hellbilly Deluxe 2,” and from there it was one hard-driving, infectious song after another.

Among the highlights were Zombie staples “More Human Than Human,” “Never Gonna Stop,” “Thunder Kiss ’65” and “Dragula,” as well as “Sick Bubblegum,” the first single off “Hellbilly Deluxe 2.”

There also was a wicked guitar solo by John 5 (formerly Marilyn Manson’s lead guitarist) that featured him playing his instrument with his teeth as well as playing the theme from 1960’s TV show “The Munsters.”

Throughout Zombie’s set, large video screens on the stage showed clips from classic horror movies such as “Frankenstein” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” as well as Zombie’s own frightening videos and psychedelic images of go-go girls and pentagrams.

The stage was filled with scary skeletons and jack-o-lanterns and there were a number of super-sized ghouls and robots accompanying Zombie on stage.

After concluding the main part of his set, Zombie came back on stage for an encore at 10:35 p.m., but he said that he had just been informed that the show had to end because of the venue’s curfew.

At that point, three guys in yellow security shirts came out and presented Zombie with a piece of paper. After a brief discussion, the men led Zombie off the stage. Zombie came right back out, however, and said he would have to pay a fine because he was going to continue playing.

It was all staged (the curfew at Merriweather is 11 p.m.), but there was some booing when security made Zombie leave. He played to a supportive, if eclectic crowd that ranged from Goth teens to senior citizens. After the mock scuffle, Zombie closed the show with “House of 1,000 Corpses.” 

Cooper preceded Zombie and wasted no time in energizing the crowd. He opened with three consecutive Cooper classics: “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “I’m Eighteen.” The set also included “Poison,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Feed My Frankenstein” and “Under My Wheels.”

The music was accentuated by an assortment of mock fiendish acts, some of which were committed by Cooper (he impaled a cloaked individual with a sword, sliced the head off a baby doll with a sword and tossed a female blow-up doll around the stage), while others featured him as the victim (he was decapitated in a guillotine, impaled in an iron maiden, stabbed in the groin with a gigantic syringe and put in a straitjacket.)

By today’s standards, Cooper’s shock rock theatrics weren’t nearly as shocking as they sound. In fact, the eeriest thing about Cooper’s performance was that the 62-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee looked and sounded pretty much the same as he did when he first became every parent’s nightmare way back during the Nixon administration.

In addition to Zombie and Cooper, the Halloween Hootenanny also featured “midget wrestling” (The Half Pint Brawlers) and a haunted house attraction called The Clown Asylum. 

Photo: Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun. For a photo gallery of the show, go here

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:26 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Concert reviews

CMJ Music Marathon begins in New York, will feature local bands, Ghostface Killah, GZA, and 500 other acts

The relentless music marathon known as CMJ kicks off today in New York City, and six local bands will perform.

CMJ is a non-stop, five-day multimedia extravaganza that features some 500 different bands - many of them unknown - playing at 75 different venues, all but assuring that at some point of the day you might bump into a band that's never even trended playing at some dank, cramped club.

No, Willow Smith will not be performing, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention. 

In the past, CMJ has served as the Schwabb's drugstore of music, the site where previously unknown bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, Black Kids, and Wye Oak were discovered by the industry.

But the important thing here is the local connection. Six local bands are playing, including Lower Dens, Cotton Jones, Deakin, Clutch, Zo!, and a DJ set by Avey Tare.

Lower Dens, actually, performs tonight at the Ottobar before heading to New York Wednesday for the first of a mind-boggling 11 CMJ shows.

The marathon anticipates there will be be some 1,200 performances over all, as well as a series of movie screenings, some only tangentially related to music, like the new Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal romantic comedy, "Love and Other Drugs," where Gyllenhall plays a scruffy if attractive pill pusher. 

In addition to little-known bands, indie headliners like Phoenix, Surfer Blood, and Ghostface Killah and GZA will also play some shows this week. 

Watch out later this week for Midnight Sun's preview of the festival, including interviews with Lower Dens' Jana Hunter, Deakin, and Cotton Jones.

Photo: CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival
Posted by Erik Maza at 9:03 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Music News

October 18, 2010

Dan Deacon screens John Carpenter's "The Thing," Ridley Scott's "Alien" at the Charles

In May, the Maryland Film Festival invited Dan Deacon to screen a movie of his choice at the Charles Theatre.

It was a regular feature for them: Jonathan Richman once screened "Cyrano de Bergerac," and Harvey Pekar showed "The Bicycle Thief" some years before.

But instead of picking the Oscar bait typical of most film festivals, Deacon went down market. He opted for an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

He could have chosen "Kindergarten Cop," or even "Conan the Barbarian," but he settled on Paul Verhoeven's "Total Recall."

If you don't recall "Total Recall," that's the movie set on a Mars-type planet where Ah-nuld tries to save humanity from an evil corporation, and Sharon Stone, halfway through, tries to kill him. Near the end, a man opens his trench coat to reveal a parasitical talking baby latched on to his stomach.

So much for good taste.

But the screening was a success. Counting on that support, Deacon and video artist Jimmy Joe Roche return to the Charles on Thursday with John Carpenter's "The Thing," the first in a series of pulpy movie screenings they're calling Gunky's Basement.

Tickets are $5. The rest of this story is here.

Deacon and Roche also have plans to screen "Repo Man," "Bad Boys 2" and the gloriously bloody "Scanners" by David Cronenberg. What else should they screen? 

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:24 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Music News

Did the Ravens dampen first Baltimore Beer Festival?

Jay Trucker reviews the first Baltimore Beer Festival, which took place Sunday at Canton Waterfront Park on Boston Street.

At the inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival, the anchor event of Baltimore Beer Week, everyone got freebies.

Both local Maryland pubs - DuClaw and Red Brick Station, among others – and larger breweries - Saranac and Magic Hat – offered samples.

A sweet Belgian-style dubbel served up by the folks at Judge's Bench welcomed me as I came in. 

With tickets $40 at the door, the cost of admission was worthwhile for those ready to indulge in all samplings, but probably less so for those who wanted only a few 4-ounce tastings and a place to watch TV.

Local food vendors were also featured along a sizable stretch of the Canton Waterfront, though meals were not included with the price of admission. Nacho Mama's, Fins, Alexander's Tavern served up grilled grub and seafood at $6-$10 a pop. Kooper's Chowhound Burger Wagon was also a popular food choice amongst patrons.

However, Ravens football took center stage for most of the afternoon, dictating the comings and goings of most patrons. The festival planners were wise to set up a large screen, as it was clear from the crowd on the lawn that many would have foregone the festival if the game hadn’t been broadcast.

 Unfortunately, with football as the main attraction, the beer vendors, craft peddlers and live bands were largely relegated to the background.

Though tents stretched from the public parking lot, past the Water Taxi stop and towards Tindeco, the concentration of folks around the TV monitor made the event seem sparsely attended. The largest number of folks not watching the game were waiting single-file for the porta-potty.

It’s easy to see then why formerly local iconic brewer Natty Boh gave away the largest number of samples – their tent was closest to the TV. The gentleman manning the Natty tent was clever enough to give out entire cans of Boh rather than a 4-ounce sample, as I'm sure he realized most attendees were intent on parking themselves on the lawn for a large portion of the afternoon.

When overtime finally ended near 5 p.m., the masses finally rose to enjoy the tail end of the afternoon. The Ravens lost but patrons managed to imbibe enough to enjoy themselves anyway.

Hard rock cover band Dirt obliged the finally festive crowd, taking requests and pushing well past the scheduled 5 p.m. finish time. As tourists piled out of the Water Taxi, the band's set, the festival, and the protracted beer week ended with guys and girls in Flacco jerseys blithely dancing to Rage Against the Machine's “Killing In The Name Of.”

It was unclear exactly what this cheery group of Cantonites was raging against (sudden-death overtime rules, perhaps?), but the sudden popularity of the band made it clear that they had stopped caring for the missed opportunity on ESPN CBS.

Perhaps next year the event can be scheduled for a Saturday, or if Sunday is the only feasible day for the festival, hopefully the Ravens won't have a 1 p.m. kickoff time interfering with a solid range of vendors and activities.

On the whole, though, a good beer week should include a solid beer festival, and this was a solid festival in a beery neighborhood.

Jay Trucker previously reviewed Bistro Rx for Midnight Sun.  He also teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County.

Photo: Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun

For more pictures, go to the Baltimore Beer Festival photo gallery

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:10 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Baltimore Beer Week

Weekend Crime: Man beaten outside DC9 club; police officer Brian Stevenson killed in Canton

Over the weekend, two separate incidents in Washington and Baltimore that started out as fights turned fatal, leaving an Ethiopian immigrant and an off-duty Baltimore police officer dead.

At 2:30 a.m. Friday, Ali Ahmed Mohammed, an Ethiopian immigrant who lived in Silver Spring, turned up at the popular U Street club DC9 in Washington. After being denied entrance, he angrily hurled two bricks at the venue, breaking its front window, according to the Washington Post

Soon after, five men chased him, and fatally beat him, according to Washington police, who have since charged co-owner of DC9, William Spieler, and four other club employees with the crime.

The men have been charged with aggravated assault because the cause of death hasn't been determined; that could change when the medical examiner makes a final ruling

The Friday morning death has shocked Washington nightlife, where DC9 was a popular club and live music venue. Nightlife website Brightest Young Things has come to the club's defense. "The notion that that event resulted from systemic problems at DC9 itself runs counter to our seven years of experience as patrons of that venue," read a post baffingly titled "Murder at DC9? Hmm..."

The death has had other consequences. Since DC police temporarily shut down the club, owners moved bands Light Pollution and Zachary Peterson to the Rock & Roll Hotel, and canceled Thursday's Where Winston Stood show.

The club's website doesn't say anything about Wednesday's scheduled show by First Aid Kit. 

In Baltimore, 25-year-old South Baltimore resident Sian James and off-duty officer Brian Stevenson got into an argument over a parking spot around 10 p.m. Saturday on the 2800 block of Hudson St., Sun reporter Justin Fenton wrote.

According to court records, James struck Stevenson's left temple "with a fist-sized concrete fragment," and has since been charged with first-degree murder. 

It's not clear if James had been hanging out at club Clutch, which is near where the incident happened. Neighbors say the area is typically packed with visitors and tourists during the weekends; the Baltimore Beer Festival took place just a few blocks away at the Canton Waterfront a day after.

But, as Fenton notes, Canton is also one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, with Stevenson the first murder there this year.

Photo: Bloodstains remain on a crosswalk at 9th and U streets. (Bill O'Leary/Washington Post)

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:31 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: News

Review: We Are Scientists with Rewards at Metro Gallery, October 15

Midnight Sun contributor Mike Duffy on We Are Scientists, Rewards and U.S. Royalty at Metro Gallery, October 15.

We Are Scientists know how to play to their fans. The 200 or so that crammed into Metro Gallery Friday night got their $10 bucks worth as the Californians delivered a snappy set from their latest album, "Barbara."

Those who weren't as familiar got a show where the songs were sometimes indistinguishable from one another, but where they also got introductions to two other bands they should start paying more attention to.

Washington's U.S. Royalty kicked off the night with their brand of stomping swamp boogie. They played six new songs from their upcoming album, "Mirrors", including the wispy but melodically-charging “Equestrian.”

Rewards, Aaron Pfenning’s two-person outfit out of Brooklyn, followed with their the ethereal synth-rock, making for a diverse double bill before the scientists came on stage.

The decade-old, four-piece W.A.S. played a 16-song set going back as far as 2005’s "With Love And Squalor." Their sound is a little Franz Ferdinand, a little Klaxons, and a lot of Brit punk pop.

For most of their show, they stuck to that familiar genre of dance punk, which their largely college-aged audience ate up. Fists were up in the air at least 10 rows back. Slowly, they picked up steam, leading up to their latest "Barbara" single, “Rules Don’t Lie." And then, nine songs in, their biggest U.S. hit, “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt."

After that,  singer Keith Murray got more comfortable on stage, delivering a muscular performance for the die-hards at the front. They zoomed through the rest of their set with more nuggets from their five-album catalog, closing with a new song – “Jack and Ginger” – and the anthemic “After Hours.”

That song was an appropriate note to end the night on: “But if we have to go now/I guess there’s always hope that someplace will be serving after hours.”

Set list:
Nice Boys
Cash Cow
Let’s See
I Don’t Bite
This Scene Is Dead
Rules Don’t Lie
Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
Central AC
Break It Up
The Great Escape
Jack & Ginger
After Hours

Mike Duffy writes for He has contributed to Midnight Sun before.

Photo: Masterswan Recordings

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Concert reviews

October 15, 2010

Baltimore Beer Week's last three days include beer festival

For the past eight days, Baltimore Beer Week has been a potpourri of tastings, home brewing competitions and beer appreciation classes.

With at least 300 different events, there were choices for amateur and sophisticated drinkers, from the wacky to the incoherent.

On Thursday, Nick Nichols taught a three-hour class at Howard County Community College on the history of “the nectar of the Gods” that might have been both.

As of today, there are three days left.These are just three possible choices:

When beer week started, Pratt Street Ale House’s brewer Steve Jones compared the imminent onslaught of business to the hectic days before Christmas.

On Saturday, it comes to a head for him with the seventh annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, hosted at the Ale House.

The festival will feature 40 different firkins of ale, which can all be tasted with an unlimited sampling ticket ($35 in advance, $45 at the door). The question is, do you want to drink 40 different ales? In one day?

Beginners should start with something accessible, like Heavy Seas Golden Ale, Jones said.

Alexander’s Tavern is making full use of the penultimate days of beer week with a three-day, indoor block party dedicated to Flying Dog brews.

Owners say Dogtoberfest, Doggie Style and Gonzo Imperial Porter will be among the brews featured.

And on Sunday, Canton will host the inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival, a five-hour event that will take place at the Waterfront Park on Boston Street. Organizers call it the anchor event of the week.

At least 25 local, regional and international breweries are expected to participate. There will also be a home brewers tent. And, of course, the Ravens game will be on TV.

The Chesapeake Real Ale Festival is at 1 p.m. Saturday, 206 W. Pratt St. Alexander’s is at 710 S. Broadway. The block party starts at 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday; there is no cover. Baltimore Beer Festival starts at noon at 3001 Boston St. Tickets are $30-40. Go to

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:30 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore Beer Week

The Laughing Pint: Your No. 1 Baltimore Bar

It's not Charles Village Pub. Or Brewer's Art, as many readers snarkily predicted it would be. Instead no. 1 on our list of Baltimore's best bars is the quintessential neighborhood bar, The Laughing Pint. 

The Laughing Pint embodies many qualities some of the other city bars possess. It's personable - owner Shannon Cassidy bartends regularly; it appeals to both natives and arrivistes. And most importantly, it's a melting pot. It invites mingling.

Readers will inevitably disagree. One of the challenges of lists like this is that popular places are left out. In Baltimore, it's especially challenging to rank bars because there's no deficit of good ones.

But in writing the list, we didn't just consider the places with the best cocktails -- B&O American Brasserie placed tenth -- or the diviest -- Leon's got no. 32. We looked at character, the bar's history, and where it fits in the city's colorful scene. We also wanted to be inclusive, ranking bars from several different neighborhoods that cater to varied crowds.

Readers have named some of the bars they think were left out in several different posts. This might be the place to compile them all in one location. The floor is yours.

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:07 PM | | Comments (43)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

How long do you give Alewife?

In today's Live! Midnight Sun reviews Alewife, the new beer hall on the West side.

Despite its big suds selection, the bar hasn't pulled in the crowds since it opened in September, suggesting it may go the way of previous bars that opened and quickly closed on that very spot, like Maggie Moore's.

From the review: "Alewife's size is working against it. While 21 N. Eutaw St. has dignified architecture, the building is a hulking monolith with high ceilings that retains much of the coldness of a bank lobby.

"Though it's been repainted in a warm red, and dark-wood paneling covers the bar and tables, it still looks like the Treasury Department after a Pottery Barn makeover.

"While owner Daniel Lanigan can be commended for eschewing the long banquettes of most beer halls — or the spilled brewskis on the floor — maybe Alewife would benefit from a more rustic aesthetic. Empty as it is now, it's too forlorn, like a jungle gym without kids."

The bar's challenge will be getting patrons to go weekdays, not just on weekends and during the Hippodrome's season. 

Without weekday crowds, for how long can it stay open?

Photo: Beer in Baltimore
Posted by Erik Maza at 1:19 PM | | Comments (72)
Categories: Bar stories

Avett Brothers, former pawn shop regulars, sell out Pier Six Pavilion

When they started touring a decade ago, North Carolina folk band the Avett Brothers nickel-and-dimed their way through 22 cities.

Traveling in a four-door pickup truck, they didn't play fancy venues; mostly just Irish pubs and sports bars.

But since getting signed to music mogul Rick Rubin's label in 2008, the band has upgraded to better digs. In 2009, they opened for Dave Matthews, and earlier this year, for John Mayer.

On their own headlining tour, they've been selling out 1,000-seat theaters like Boston's House of Blues and Tennessee's Rylan Auditorium. Saturday, they'll play a sold-out show at Pier Six Pavilion.

Bassist Bob Crawford said they didn't start out expecting to play arenas. "We never thought about making it big, or what big was," he said. "We've been doing the same thing for ten years. It's been a slow ride for us."

Before their first tour in 2001, Crawford and the namesake brothers, Scott and Seth, were just a bunch of well-read musicians peddling their own brand of sped-up Americana.

Scott was in graduate school, and Crawford was about to enter a graduate program himself. But Crawford convinced the then-three piece band to go on the road.

He sent out press kits in unassuming manila envelopes with just an 8-song album and a letter saying, "We're the Avett Brothers, and here's what we've done." Though he managed to book 22 venues, the tour was a gamble. For one, the gigs didn't pay a lot of money.

"There were times of struggle in the early years," Crawford said. "I had to go to the pawn shop a couple of times." There was the time he hocked a mandolin, then an air conditioner. 

To save money, they ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches on the road and limited themselves to $5 for dinner.

If they didn't have family in the area, they camped out. That first tour made them just $4,000, which they split three ways, with a thousand going to the band's account.

Still, it gave them motivation. "That tour taught us it is possible," Crawford said. "It was a young man's dream to have pulled it off, but we did it with discipline."

Soon after, the Avett Brothers performed at the National Association of College Activities conference (where many schools book talent) and picked up dates at college cafeterias.

It paid dividends: Over the years, college audiences have been a constant support for the band. By 2005, they decided to quit their day jobs and school and focus entirely on touring.

Through the dirt-poor years, Crawford said the goal was only to play more venues to hone their sound. "When we look back on it, we did it because it's what we enjoyed doing," Crawford said.

It's only been since getting signed to Columbia that they've been able to support their families strictly from their music, Crawford said. When they nearly sold out the 8,000-seat Bojangles Coliseum, one of the biggest venues in their home state, Crawford saw it as a benchmark.

"It was an intensely emotional performance because it was our first time performing at a venue that size," he said. "And because it was a homecoming for us."

The venue was enough of a big deal for them that they chose it as the recording site for their third live album, which was released earlier this month and that they're now touring with. At the show, they played fan favorites like "Murder in the City" and "Shame."

Yet, for a band well known for its rambunctious performances, the live album might not live up to the in-the-flesh experience. Crawford himself doesn't know how the album will be received.

He said fans will be reminded of their concert experiences, and he started to say that people who've never heard of the band would get a sample of their brand.

But then he stopped himself.

"I don't know if it's going to be accurate," he said. "The beauty of that show was the pure adrenaline. I wonder how it's going to translate."

Photo: Handout/Baltimore Sun

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:40 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Music News

The Get Down launches new gay party Peer Pressure

Baltimore's gay scene is as famously anorexic as some of its twinks. As far as dance clubs go, there's only Club Hippo and Grand Central.

At these venues, the music doesn't stray far from Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, and the favorite past-time is not dancing, but blocking people on Grindr.

It's a complaint heard so often, many young, local LGBTQ just commute to Washington on Saturday nights for proper venues, like Cobalt or Town (Danceboutique).

Among those bored are a former Sonar promoter and rapper Rye Rye's former DJ. On Wednesday, they launched a party at Fells Point' The Get Down to fill the void. Midnight Sun was there.

When I walked in, Kyle Holtgren, aka DJ Aisle_K, was playing Bob Sinclair's "World, Hold On." Not a good sign. If I'd wanted to hear hackneyed house, I would have stayed in Miami.

But when Steve Lemmerman, nee DJ Lemz, got behind the tiny booth, the music improved dramatically. I can't recall the last time I heard Roisin Murphy at a club; maybe when she played Mansion in New York a couple of CMJs ago. Lemmerman played Crookers' relentless "Royal T," where she's featured.

Naturally, he also played new M.I.A., but unlike her recent set at Virgin Mobile FreeFest, it wasn't a mess. "XXXO" sounded as good as it does on the album. I didn't stay past one, but if he remixed "Teqkilla" later, the ensuing hoedown would have been worth the price of a Yuengling alone.

Lemmerman says that while he'll play top 40, he wants to spin less commercial stuff, like Boys Noize and local DJ Blaqstarr. That would be a change from the venues around now.

Dustin Sugar-Moore, Peer Pressure's promoter, is right when he says they stick to the usual anthems. There are a few parties that play subgenre music, like No Rule at Metro Gallery and Deep in the Game, which is now actually held at Hippo, but they are typically mixed crowds. (Sonar's popular Taxlo returns next month.)

Moore says that while Peer Pressure welcomes allies, it's the first party catering specifically to young gay Baltimoreans. On Wednesday, I didn't see a huge turn out from this group - there were more girls in Uggs than gays.

But it's early.

The other often-heard complaint about Baltimore's gay scene is that it skews older. Moore says he started the party partially to avoid getting hit on when he goes out, but he could have used that  crowd Wednesday.

Young and senior gays stay far away from each other enough as it is; it would be smarter to appeal to both age groups, and just strive to improve what's booming from the stereos. On that front, Peer Pressure is a start. 

The next party will be November 10. There is no cover.

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:09 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

October 14, 2010

Debate over Wayne Mahaffey's Bistro Rx continues

Midnight Sun's review of Bistro Rx has stoked the commentariat, with Wayne Mahaffey himself joining the debate today.

Bistro Rx is the new bar and restaurant in Patteson Park. Or is it Upper Canton? or Highlandtown? Talking about neighborhoods in this town is like dropping a lit match on an ant hill. But that wasn't the only point of contention for readers, or Mahaffey.

That question is: is Bistro Rx that different from Parkside or Three, the two other establishments that opened at 2901 E Baltimore and closed?

Mahaffey, using his personal e-mail, bristled at the suggestion Bistro looks just like those places.

"Can I send you a copy of my contractor's invoice?" he wrote. "My goal was to have my customers not even think about the previous businesses when they walk in the door, to include decor, service, food quality and consistency, prices, management, attitude and ambiance."

He writes that his concept for Bistro is simple: "A good product at a good price and being nice to people." But this is business boilerplate. Restaurateurs always say they have a good product and are nice to customers.

Settling on a more specific concept might be better for consumers because they want a way to distinguish between the dozens of choices they have in the area. And as Jay Trucker also added, does that mean coming to a bar/restaurant that's more expensive than the neighborhood around it?

The debate is still open.
Posted by Erik Maza at 12:05 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Q&A: Alice Cooper on Rob Zombie, Jennifer Aniston, and "crotch rock"

PX00009_9.JPGAlice Cooper is co-headlining Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday with Rob Zombie in what’s being billed as a Halloween Hootenanny with “the Gruesome Twosome.”

The rock legend talked about what a night out with Zombie and Cooper looks like, what he’s listening to, and “crotch rock.”

You've been on stage for 40 years, is there an impetus to stay relevant? do you listen to rock today? If you look at the bands that are still here from the 60s - Bowie, Elton John, Alice Cooper - we’re all still working, we're all still touring. I think I'm doing some of the best shows I've ever done. I don’t think what we do is disposable. My generation seems to have a different work ethic. I always thought, "Do 25 albums." I'm a lifer. A lot of bands today get together, play, make an album, break up and form another band. There's no bands staying together.

They do sound less frivolous than in your time. A lot of rock I listen to is a yawn. I know whats coming. A lot of hard rock today sounds joyless. Bands forget to have fun. Rock should be played from the crotch not the brain.

What's wrong with them? The songwriting has gone out the window. The music on the charts is too high-tech, not married to the lyrics. When I learned how to write lyrics, I was listening to Burt Bacharach, Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, Gershwin. We were competing with Zeppelin, the Beatles. We really had to write great songs to get on the radio. If you write a ballad, you better break a girl’s heart. We spent 90 percent on the music and 10 percent on the theatrics. The theatrics come easily.

What are you listening to instead? Panic at the Disco is a very original band. And the White Stripes are very original. Everyone else I can think of is an off-shoot of somebody else. First time I heard Jane’s Addiction, I thought "what was that?" "Teenagers" by My Chemical romance - that’s a great record right there.

How did you and Zombie hook up for this double bill? We’ve been old friends for a long time. I kinda look at him like my little brother. We have the same ideas about things. Few things scare us.

So what does a night off with Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper look like? Because to me it sounds pretty mind-blowing. Well, we're not going to see the new Jennifer Aniston movie. On nights off, we usually watch "Nightmare on Elm Street," horror movies. Tonight, we’re going to go see "Let Me In."

Where did you meet? When I first heard of "White Zombie," I thought this sounds like off-shoot of an Alice Cooper thing. I went back stage, and it looked like they'd just been dug up. They had stage dust on them, and when I padded them on the back the dust came off. Then I watched them on stage, and it was a modern version of what I do.

If you guys don't share a musical style, it seems you do share a sensibility? My show is entirely different. It centers around Alice the character and Rob's show is a media blitz on the audience. It's almost generational. I'm classic hard rock, and Rob is more industrial, the next stage. There's more technology in his show. I always stayed from pyro and lazers and store-bought props. But Rob, being a director, can use all that to his favor. I'm a little more vaudevillian. But it’s a very thin line between horror and comedy . Both acts show that. Some parts of the show could be considered shocking but if you look at it, it's based in a dark sense of humor.

Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday. Doors open at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40-$75. Call 877-435-9849 or o to

Photo: AFP

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Music News

October 13, 2010

Baltimore's top 50 bars: Ropewalk Tavern ranked 26th

The countdown of Baltimore's best bars continues today, with numbers 30-21 posted earlier this morning.

Ropewalk Tavern came in at 26: Well-known for being a Republican bar -- there's a statue of Ronald Reagan inside -- Ropewalk is also Federal Hill's best destination for men of a certain age.

Its cabin-like interior feels like an uncle's fortress of solitude, all whiskey glasses and dark wood. TV is never too loud, and conversations stay frank, but at a simmer.

With all the hubbub at bay, it's a place where you can sit and read your paper in peace, darn it. If John Boehner lived in Baltimore, this is where he would hang out .

The rest of the list is here

Posted by Erik Maza at 5:43 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Full Moon Saloon to reopen as Garbo in November

IMG_07352.jpgStoried dump Full Moon Saloon will reopen in no more than 30 days as Garbo, a lounge catering to an over-25 crowd, owner John Saki said Tuesday.

Take that date with a grain of salt though. The bar has been undergoing renovations for two years now, since Saki bought it. In June 2007, he promised Elizabeth Large he planned to open it in six months.

Saki explained his purchase as a way to attract "a sophisticated crowd," and a more affordable companion to his restaurant next door.

"Adults have nowhere to go in this historic neighborhood," he said.

One thing is for sure: the renovated bar also looks like nothing in this neighborhood, where authenticity is priced over glitz.

Full Moon was for years one of Fells' diviest bars that also hosted well-known jazz and blues musicians.  "It was the worst place," Saki said. "It was one of the only bars without a refrigerator. Everything was in buckets. There wasn't a bathroom."

But Saki's spent a half a million dollars remaking it, he said. He's added an onyx bar, granite floor, 20 bar stools done in leopard print, a DJ booth, a grand piano piano and an additional 1,500-square-feet of space to accommodate a dining room.

Even before it opens, the new owner is boastful about the new bar. "I changed a doghouse with no toilet to piss on into this," he said.

Garbo has been open for a year just for private parties and dinners, Saki said, but red tape with the city's Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation prevented him from opening it to the larger public.

Tuesday he said that paper work was resolved and the grand opening should happen within 30 days at most.

 The bar, which has a new dance floor, will play 60s and 70s music, as well as a live piano. Garbo will carry 80 wines by the bottle, 20 by the glass, and about 20 bottled beers. There is no tap in place now. The cheapest wine by the glass is $6.

The dinner menu is to be more affordable than Louisiana's, with prices ranging from $8 - $20. 

Saki plans to keep it open six days a week, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Photo: Maza
Posted by Erik Maza at 1:01 PM | | Comments (72)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists play Baltimore December 7

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists will make a previously unannounced stop in Baltimore in early December.

The DC punk rock band has been touring in support of their new album, "The Brutalist Rick Bricks,"* and were scheduled to stay on the road through December 6, when they'll play Terminal 5 in New York. 

Earlier this week, Hampden's The G-Spot posted on Facebook the band would play an additional show at their venue Tuesday, December 7.

Heks Orkest, which has members from disbanded bands like DC's Engine Down, will open for Leo. 

Doors open at 8 p.m. The show is open to all ages. 

Tickets go on sale Friday at and at Charmington's Cafe.

The G-Spot is at 2980 Falls Road.

Poster: Facebook

*Though, "the Brutalist Rick" has a nice ring to it. 

Posted by Erik Maza at 7:39 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Music News

October 12, 2010

Baltimore's top 50 bars: Dionysus, Charles Village Pub, Ale Mary's among 40-31

Ale Mary's, Charles Village Pub, and Dionysus are just three of the bars that made it to the next installment of our top 50 Baltimore bars list.

Ale Mary's made it to the list at 33 because it's one of the Fells Point bars with most character. And that's some tough competition. But it's probably the only bar in the neighborhood that has more Sacred Hearts outside of a convent.

Last week, it was featured in Midnight Sun's story on Franken-bars.

The rest of the 40-31 section went online earlier today, and can be found here. The next chunks will be posted over the next three days. 

And no, commenters, Brewer's Art is not top dog.

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Video: Septimius the Great at Windup Space, and Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad's last show

Despite the tantalizing twofer, Midnight Sun didn't go to Windup Space Friday to watch Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad and Septimius the Great.

The feedback was that the show was, in the words of one Project Runway contestant, "cray cray."

Marmaduke gave out fake mustaches to everyone who came in, so that from stage, it looked like a boisterous crowd of Tom Sellecks.

Then Septimius came on, wearing a trench coat with a print louder than Dirty Marmaduke that actually matched the Windup's floor. 

It sounded too good to be true. And yet, guitarist Nikc Miller sent video earlier this week. It's after the jump. 

You might want to put on your sunglasses before staring Septimius do "I am fashion," or as he would say, "I AM FASHION."

Septimius the Great performing "I am fashion" at Windup Space Friday, October 8. Blog The City that Breeds also posted video earlier today.
Posted by Erik Maza at 4:40 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Music News

Review: Amedeo's in Little Italy

After a long, self-imposed hiatus, Midnight Sun contributor Owl Meat is back with Tipsy Tuesdays.

Psst ... I found an oasis among the dining hubbub of Little Italy. Don't tell anyone.

Osteria da Amedeo popped up on my radar a few months ago. It's referred to as a wine bar, but it isn't really. it's an osteria, an Italian tavern that serves simple food and wine.

So much of Amedeo's charm is about what it is not. Not an oenophile snobfest. No oo'ing, cooing, or gurgling over Chateau Loutre Songeuse. If you wanna get your Jäger on with your brahs, go someplace else.

Wanna troll the skankosphere? Not here. Wanna slip into an appletini-induced coma? Nope. It's a normal bar that feels complementary to the LI scene, one where there are no gimmicks, forced vibe, or cliché decorations.

When fellow Little Italians recommended it, I asked, "that place where Pepino's was?" That was the last osteria in the neighborhood. I put it off because I couldn't see how they could do much with that dive bar.

But I dropped by and was blown away by the transformation. Then I did something selfish - I kept it to myself. For a while.

Owner Ahmad Ebrahimpour has stripped the nicotine-colored walls painted with nicotine and the grim sooty ceiling. Instead, he has restored a handsome white tin ceiling. There is much exposed brick and dark wood. And there is even a charming little backroom suitable for conspiracies, trysts, and hullabaloos.

On my first visit Ebrahimpour was bartending. He was friendly, unpretentious, and laid back. The three regular bartenders have a similar demeanor. The crowd, never throbbing, skews younger than the hip-impaired bocce ballers you might imagine.

Conversation can happen here. People pop in for a drink and move on home or to another destination in the neighborhood. It's not a tourist joint. The scene at Amedeo's is whatever people bring to it on a given night.

I've watched Roy Halladay throw a no-hitter, listened to a woman talk about her baby's enormous head, kept up with Michigan (or was it Minnesota?) football, and ran into some old friends, all while on a grappa safari.

Grappa is a brandy made from pomace - what's left after grapes are pressed for wine. Bad grappa is often justly compared to kerosene. But these grappas are good to excellent. Banfi is smooth and reminiscent of many Balkan brandies like rakia. It even resembles Slivovitz in aroma.

Nonino is a real treat, with a pleasant seductive aroma of exotic fruits, like passion fruit and watermelon Starburst.

 I also tried their liqueurs. The Sicilian limoncello at Amedeo's had an uncommon creamy taste and texture. Among the best I have ever tasted. Cynar is an Italian bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants, with artichoke as the dominant flavor.  Fernet-Branca is unforgettable, like a mule kick of bitter pleasure.

The wine selection is respectable, focusing on affordable Italian wines. They plan to keep the food selection basic. Panini are $7 (there are seven combinations in all), a plate of olives and cheese is $4, and bruschetta is also $4.

Ebrahimpour said that he is planning to increase his stock of eccentric liquors. I hope he does. Other suggestions: a printed list of wines by the bottle and glass. (Currently they are going through a process of natural selection, listening to customers before making a set list.) Wi-Fi, while not essential, would be nice.

And some better beers. I know it's not a beer bar, but how about an IPA at least? Until then, Moretti la Rossa will have to do.

Amedeo's is part of a gentle metamorphosis in Little Italy. The addition of Isabella's, Max's Empanadas, and now Amedeo's adds variety for residents.

 And tourists seem to love it too, if only because they feel it's the total Little Italy experience - rubbing elbows with locals and getting that East Coast ethnic experience that you don't get at the Olive Garden in Omaha. As one said to me, "I always wanted to hang with some pie-zones."

Amedeo's is at 301 S. Exeter Street. It's open from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays, and from 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call 410-727-8191.

Photo: Maza

Posted by Erik Maza at 7:58 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

October 11, 2010

Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad breaks up

Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad has broken up after seven years, guitarist Nikc Miller tells Midnight Sun.

The Baltimore costume band just played Windup Space Friday for their most recent self-release, "Boneslinky," a show that was joined by another local wacko/hero, Septimius the Great.

Miller said the band hadn't generated enough commercial interest to justify keeping it alive, especially as band members go on to other ventures, like working at an alpaca farm ranch. 

"In the early days, we could play anywhere within a day's notice," he said. "But now it's gotten too elaborate to make it work. There's only so many freaks and weirdos in this town that like us, and it's not clear they'll come out every time."

Dirty Marmaduke started recording in 2003, and performed its first live show two years later at what is now the Hamilton Arts Collective.

The five band members dress up in ludicrous costumes and sing songs like "Don't Let Jesus Ruin your Day," and "I Like Fat Girls." Lewd? Sure, but the band was also living, costumed testament that there's room in the city for every weirdo fond of a dollar store unicorn costume.

Miller said the goal was never to make money, which allowed them to stick together for seven years while barely breaking even. But as band members dabbled in other projects and careers, it was difficult to keep a balance.

The band members collectively decided it was time to quit on Saturday, a day after their album's release party at Windup Space as part of Baltimore Beer Week. Miller said some 300 fans attended.

In between drinks at Racers Cafe and Hamilton Tavern, lead guitarist Ryan Graham suggested they weren't breaking through to crowds beyond their fans.To produce this latest album, they raised some $600 from a campaign.

"If you're around and around, people think if they've seen your show, there's just nothing new to find," Miller said. "It's such a small city, and there's just a ton of bands and not that many people."

But Miller also said that the band was competing with some of the members' other projects. Miller is working on his solo career, Graham is working on a book and vocalist Steve Thomas is working at an alpaca ranch. 

"It wasn't a meeting, it was just a conclusion we came to," Miller said. "We have all this other stuff we want to do," Miller said.

Barring some lucrative offer, Miller said the band won't perform again. The new album will still be sold at their website. 

 Photo: Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:16 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Music News

Baltimore's top 50 bars: Joe Squared, Turp's, Grand Central among 50-41

Well, it's finally here. The official, definitive, ultimate:  Baltimore's best 50 bars list.

Sorry, Rodos, you didn't make the cut. You too Looney's.

When Midnight Sun asked readers for their thoughts on the city's best bars, these were two of the most talked-about bars.

But, in compiling the list - The Sun's Sam Sessa, Richard Gorelick, and yours truly, Midnight Sun - we looked at not just popularity, but quality of ambiance, conversation, and drinks.

Through sheer character and history, these bars stepped above the rest. They come from all parts of the city, from Mt. Vernon's Turp's to Hamilton's Brannan's Pub. There are gay bars -- Hippo, Leon's -- and sports bars -- Mother', MaGerk's.

But where on the list do they fall? We will be revealing them all this week in increments of ten. The first batch is online now, and it includes Station North's Joe Squared, Turp's and Grand Central. 

Agree? vociferously disagree? The comments are below.

Art: Wordle

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:28 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Pictures: Roger Waters' The Wall Live at Verizon Center, October 10


Roger Waters played Verizon Center Sunday night with a phantasmagoric show that gave Midnight Sun's Sam Sessa nightmares into dawn. Did you have the same reaction? Judging from the cadaverous pictures of Waters in The Sun's photo gallery, all signs point to yes.

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Concert Photo Gallery

Review: Wayne Mahaffey's Bistro Rx

The corner of Linwood and East Baltimore streets has had three different owners in the past five years. Bistro Rx seeks to find success were others flopped. 

First was Parkside Restaurant, which, when it opened in the mid aughts, was considered “ahead” of the neighborhood.

"Ahead" meaning nearby residents were not obvious patrons for $20-roasted duck and rosemary entrees.

But shortly after Parkside's opening, the housing market crashed, the economy tanked, and Upper Canton once again became Highlandtown. 

The restaurant closed, and the similarly spirited Three...[owner's ellipses] opened in its place shortly thereafter.  Three thrived for a time as an upscale restaurant/bar with picturesque outdoor seating near the leafy Northeast corner of Patterson Park.

But it too shuttered earlier this year.

On Thursday, Wayne Mahaffey's Bistro Rx, officially replaced it. From the looks of things, though, little has changed at 2901 other than ownership.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  For what it is—an upscale wine bar with a hummus-and-flatbread-leaning menu—Bistro Rx makes a good first impression.  But will the mobile, distinctly non-Highlandtown crowd stay loyal to Bistro Rx when a trendy new joint opens in, say, Harbor East?

Mahaffey is banking that they will, and using a formula very familiar to 2901 E Baltimore. The only changes to its previous incarnation are a few new pendant lights and two new draft taps. The beer selection is largely international, with macrobrews available only in bottle.  A wine chiller sits at the corner of the bar near the only operating TV. 

Overall, the  atmosphere is sleek and modern.  So too are the 30-something horn-rimmed glasses-wearing clientele, who sipped cocktails and nibbled on pita while Norah Jones tunes played in the background.

Drinks were reasonably priced.  A tall liquor drink cost $6 and came in a pint glass.  It's hard to complain about a place that serves Jack Daniels as their house whiskey.  The bartenders were fast and friendly and the serving staff seemed amiable if a little stressed out over a few opening weekend kinks. 

Still, if only a few tears are shed on the first weekend of business, consider it a smooth opening. 

Also, the “test menu” available on Saturday did not try to do or cost too much.  The most expensive dish was a $25 filet with lobster sauce.  Chicken and salmon entrees were $16 and $17 a piece.  Rx serves wings, but they are served with gorgonzola dip, not blue cheese, mind you.

Mahaffey's figured out a formula that works for his eponymous beer bar in Canton, with weekday and happy hour specials that highlight the bar's extensive beer selection.  Here's to hoping he finds a way to make Bistro Rx stick, too.  

Once Rx settles on a more permanent menu, the trick will be to get customers to come back during the winter months when the shiny newness of the place has worn off, the outdoor seating has been folded up until Spring, and the see-and-be-seen crowd has new places to be at and be seen. 

- Jay Trucker.

Jay Trucker teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County. Occasionally, he wanders the Patterson Park neighborhood in search of chicken wings. He has contributed to Midnight Sun in the past.

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:54 AM | | Comments (116)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Review: The Roots and Questlove at Rams Head Live, October 8

The Roots have long been a rebuttal to most of the criticism leveled at rap over the years: that it’s not actually music; that it doesn’t require hard work; that it ignores or rejects the great legacy of African-American art that preceded it; that it’s underwhelming in a live setting; that it helped destroy certain ideals in popular music, like the masterful electric guitar solo.

Within hip-hop, the Roots’ role is one of torch-carrying, perhaps even martyrdom; a critics’ act and a symbol of the heyday in the age of “My Dougie.”

The band’s sold-out set at Rams Head Live had a kind of energy and totality that could have won over pretty much anyone, even -- or especially -- baby boomers whose musical values were shaped by classic rock and funk.

The seven-piece outfit took the stage just after midnight on Saturday and kept its momentum roiling until around quarter till two. The set list, which anyone who’s seen the group this year would’ve recognized, was similarly comprehensive: While it avoided material off “Wake Up!” -- the band’s recent collaboration with John Legend -- it covered highlights and hits stretching back to the mid-’90s.

(Midnight Sun's preview story and interview with Questlove is here.)

Front and center in this powerhouse exhibition was Black Thought, aka Tariq Trotter, whose name should be mentioned more often when we discuss hip-hop’s best MCs. Trotter came out charging, with robust flow on “Web” and “Thought@Work;” even at his lyrical heaviest—he sometimes seemed to be contemplating a sort of existential angst at warp speed—he hardly let up.

Trotter also underscored the band’s respect for hip-hop culture, cleverly quoting from or paying homage to his forebears: “Thought@Work” cited the Fantastic Freaks, of “Wild Style”- fame, and saw the band swallow the Sugarhill Gang’s version of “Apache” whole; “Mellow My Man” cribbed some Slick Rick at the front; and even the hype referenced “The Warriors” (“Can you dig it?”).

Even when the music treaded on self-seriousness, the references served as reminder that the band members are first and foremost students of the genre, mindful that hip-hop began as party music. Of course, Black Thought’s relentlessness is only part of a greater whole.

By now, The Roots is a state-of-the-art unit that matured through elbow grease—first by constant touring and later by balancing live performances with a steady gig as the house band on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”

Bolstered by Questlove’s drumming, which seemed as dynamic as it was unshakable, this show was something of a stylistic revue: There was straight-ahead hip-hop boom bap; neo-soul, of course; jazz (or at least pseudo-jazz) inflections; funk of all sorts, from taut to thrashing; and, in the midst of “Proceed,” even go-go. (The band’s D.C. constituency sounded pleased.)

Remarkably, the band sometimes presented a rap-rock hybrid without evoking any of the very bad music associated with that style, and made the value it places on musicianship known by spotlighting individual players, among them sousaphonist Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson, who personified the group’s connection to the larger, storied realm of urban music.

The best solo spots belonged to guitarist and vocalist Captain Kirk Douglas, who might also be considered the Roots’ secret weapon—a real utility player but also a potential show-stealer. He covered Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and “My Favorite Things” and worked the stage, coaxing volume-swell effects from his guitar or flat-out wailing.

One of the main obstacles hip-hop artists face in recreating their recordings live has to do with guest artists; rap records are full of them, and you can’t exactly bring John Legend on the road all the time. Douglas, who possesses a fine neo-soul falsetto, provided the solution, singing parts recorded by Erykah Badu (“You Got Me”), Legend (“The Fire”) and Cody ChestnuTT (“The Seed (2.0)”).

“The Seed” was part of what would have probably been, with more available time, part of a regular encore. Instead the band plowed right through, in addition to deft covers of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up” and Kool G Rap’s “Men at Work.”

Should the Roots need a name for a definitive compilation someday, the latter title should do the trick.

- Evan Haga

Evan Haga is a frequent Midnight Sun contributor, and the managing editor of JazzTimes

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Concert reviews

October 10, 2010

Review: Roger Waters' The Wall Live at Verizon Center in Washington DC

roger watersI've never seen a show before that I knew would give me nightmares.

But after Roger Waters' The Wall Live tour at Washington's Verizon Center, with its fears and insecurities, claustrophobia and twisted animation ... I'm supposed to go to sleep on this?

The show was everything I'd expected: A two-and-a-half hour spectacle (intermission included) with gripping special effects and sturdy musicianship. Waters put together a crack band of players -- including former "Saturday Night Live" band leader G.E. Smith -- for this tour.

The show had to follow the album's narrative: A rock star builds a metaphorical wall to protect himself from the world but winds up in close quarters with his worst demons. Live, Waters erected a real wall brick by brick (the wall doubled as the projection screen), and tore it down at the end. The animation, which had clips from the movie as well as pieces by graffiti artist Banksy, was chilling. 

Unlike other classic rock icons such as the Eagles, Waters didn't reproduce the album note for note. He let the tracks breathe, gave Smith some extra solos and stretched out a few songs here and there. 

It's hard to believe Waters is pushing 70. He still hits all the high, maniacal notes like he's half his age. See more Roger Waters photos from the show.

While "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" bordered on plodding and overburdened, "Mother" was as poignant as ever. "Comfortably Numb" lulled the crowd into a haze until the pair of searing guitar solos jarred everyone awake again. And "Bring the Boys Back Home" set my spine tingling. The songs on "The Wall" make great use of silence and space, and the music was crystal clear in the Verizon Center last night. It was the best sound rig I've experienced yet at that venue. 

roger watersThe sight of a giant, inflatable, twisted grade school teacher dancing on stage is going to be burned in my brain for a while. Ditto for the huge wife/praying mantis and the villainous mother figure which rose at stage right for (you guessed it) "Mother." 

"The Wall" is against more than it's for; it's anti-war and anti-religion. At one point, there was video of a plane dropping crosses and Stars of David on a town. Waters, who is famous for his sermonizing, kept tight-lipped, letting the show convey its message. Though heavy-handed at times, "The Wall" felt just as relevant today as it was when Waters first penned it some 30 years ago. 

-- Sam Sessa 

(Photos by Josh Sisk/Special to The Sun)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:51 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Concert reviews

October 8, 2010

Septimius the Great added to Friday Marmaduke Flute Squad show

Baltimore Beer Week continues today with a series of events that starts off with a German beer breakfast at Metropolitan in Federal Hill, rare cask ale tastings at the Wharf Rat and way too many other shindigs to mention.

But some big news on the musical front: the mysterious Septimius the Great has been added to the Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad show at Windup Space

Tonight, Towson's (only?) costume band will release their latest, "Boneslinsky." It's only marginally a beer week event because the release party is sponsored by local brew Raven Beer.

Bobby E. Lee & The Sympathizers and The Go Pills will also play, but Septimius was a last minute addition. He will perform his quasi-hit, "I am fashion," after Marmaduke, though he would probably call it, "I AM FASHION."

"In many ways, he is our encore or we are his opening act," said a confused Nikc Miller, a Marmaduke band member.

Septimius last performed at Artscape, where he was decked out in a white cape and accompanied by three backup dancers. His debacle performance here.

At Windup space, doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10, with "Boneslinsky" included.

Raven Beer will be plugging and selling their brew for $6 a pop. 

FindLocal: Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave.

Photo: Robert Mercer Jr. Photograpy


Posted by Erik Maza at 8:58 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Music News

Little Italy has a new wine bar called Amedeo's

amadeos.jpgLittle Italy has a new wine bar at Exeter and Fawn Streets called Amedeo's.

The bar has been open for four months, but it's so under the radar it doesn't even come up on Google yet. Yelp hasn't even had a chance to review it. 

Amedeo's replaces Pepino's Tavern, which new owner Ahmad Ebrahimpour bought in March. Property records show he paid $200,000 for the place. When Pepino's bought it in 2003, then owners paid $55,000.

Ebrahimpour's invested an additional $175,000 in renovations, he said. 

If the owner's name doesn't sound Italian, it's because it isn't. Ebrahimpour is Iranian-born, but he spent five years in Italy as a college student and has lived in the neighborhood for the last 30. He's fluent in Italian.

Amedeo is a play on his first name. 

Even if not born to the region, he's turned around the place from what used to be a real dive. The new wine bar carries some 40 wines by the bottles, and a traditional Italian cold cuts menu.

Amedeo's building - three stories, and 2,000 square feet in all - was originally built in 1900, according to property records. Ebrahimpour is using only the first floor as a bar that seats around 30 people. 

There's a smaller quiet room that sits an additional 20. Prices for Amedeo's are comparable for the area. The cheapest glass of wine starts at $5, and the cheapest domestic is $3.The bar has 8-10 wines by the glass, several domestics, as well as Italian beers like Birra Moretti. Food consists of paninis and cold cuts, like prosciutto and mozzarella.

 Ebrahimpour is a former real estate agent who's dabbled in restaurants before. He said he owned some food markets in the 90s and was part owner in another neighborhood restaurant, but declined to say which one. When he was younger he studied in Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy, where his sister still lives, he said.

He found out the former owners were selling the space on Exeter because he lives a block away.

Amedeo's attracts a crowd in its 30s, and upwards. They're usually on dates, grabbing a drink before heading to the restaurants in the area, or just getting out of work.

"It's an easy atmosphere,"  Ebrahimpour said. "The attitude here is: have a glass of wine, relax, and go home."

Find: More wine bars in Baltimore

Photo: Maza

Posted by Erik Maza at 7:56 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

October 7, 2010

Get Out: Aaron Thompson at Hexagon Space

Aaron Thompson performs tonight at Hexagon Space.

Thompson is a singer-songwriter from Washington DC who performs with a harmonica strapped to his chin and a guitar.

His specialty is moody love songs that recall David Gray.

Baltimore is the first stop of his short North East coast tour, which he's doing with DC duo Fall Catalogue.

The other reason he's a Get Out is because Midnight Sun doesn't give enough love to Hexagon Space, the live music non-profit in Station North. 

Doors open at 7 p.m.Tickets are $6-$10.

Hexagon Space is at  1825 N. Charles St.

Photo: MySpace

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Get Out

Baltimore Beer Week is here. First rule: don't overdo beer week

For brewers like Steve Jones, the next 10 days will be like the week before Christmas.

After tonight's official kick-off at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Baltimore Beer Baltimore Beer Week will be officially in session.

In total, 65-odd local bars and breweries will host some 300 events revolving around beer culture. There will be beer breakfasts, beer luncheons, beer classes -- even chilibrews.

Now in its second year, Beer Week has grown in scope and ambition. Organizers expect it to draw more than the estimated 5,000 who came last year.

Midnight Sun's full preview is here.

Of course, readers, I have your best interests at heart, and I've also put together a survival guide to the expected bacchanal.

First rule of beer week: don't overdo beer week. Jones, brewer at Pratt Street Ale House, and reporter Alexander Mitchell IV, chime with expert advice here.

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Live Nation, M&T Bank Stadium won't confirm 2011 U2 show in Baltimore

U2's blockbuster 360 Degree tour could come to Baltimore next year, but nothing has been locked in yet.

Representatives of the band and the venue will not comment on the show.

Earlier this week, accidentally revealed a previously unannounced date at M&T Bank Stadium on June 22. In the post, the Baltimore date was not in question; instead it was a performance at the Glastonbury Festival the band is trying to sneak in between Baltimore and East Lansing shows.

The post was taken down soon after, but not before a fan site captured a screen shot.

On Wednesday, Rob Muller, a spokesman for promoters Live Nation issued a stern "no comment" on the tentative performance at M&T. He also wouldn't discuss if negotiations are happening.

The stadium took the same course of action, but vice president of marketing Gabrielle Dow said the act would be a major get for the stadium. 

"I can't imagine any arena that wouldn't want U2," she said. The last headliner at the stadium was Kenny Chesney in 2009 2008.

Ravens president Dick Cass has tried to book the band before, but it conflicted with the team's schedule. 

In 2011, though, the date could work out because it would happen in June. The stadium's website so far lists one special event for next year: Baltimore Lacrosse. Its championship will be held over memorial day weekend, in late May.
Posted by Erik Maza at 11:25 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: News

October 6, 2010

Gossip Girl's Taylor Momsen toughens up with new band

 The two-year-old band The Pretty Reckless played Warped Tour and the V Fest, the British branch of the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

Rolling named the group among the top five breakout bands at this year's Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey.

Yet to most people, lead singer Taylor Momsen is still Jenny Humphrey, doe-eyed ingenue and fictional little sister to one of the "Gossip Girl" hunks.

But the 17-year-old says fans shouldn't expect to see Jenny's school-girl outfits when she plays The Quarter Sunday in support of the band's first album, "Light Me Up."

Though she said the album is inspired by her experience as a child star, it plays like light Joan Jett.

"At this point I've been working since I was 2 years old. I lead a very different life than most people," she said. Asked how she composed her lyrics, the actress scoffed, "I don't feel I need to explain my writing process. It is what it is."

For a full preview of the show, click here.

It's still debatable who the band's audience is. Midnight Sun wants to know: Will you be going to see Momsen because you're a "Gossip Girl" fan? Will you go see her at all?

Photo: Flickr
Posted by Erik Maza at 4:29 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Music News

Last Night's Photo: Fell's Point Sunday


Fell's Point Fun Festival in action, by flickr user B. Ryder. To see your nightlife and music photos on Midnight Sun, join the flickr pool.

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Last Night's Photo

Trent Reznor's 'Social Network' soundtrack online for free

Five tracks from the soundtrack to the Facebook movie, "The Social Network," are now online for free. 

Trent Reznor - of Nine Inch Nails - scored the movie, and likely pushed for the tracks to be made available online gratis. Since returning as NIN, Reznor has pursued independent distribution of its music.

The movie, if you've been living under a rock, is a lighthearted romp about life on the Interwebs.

Reznor is just the latest rocker to score a major Hollywood movie with online cult status. The Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O scored last year's "Where the Wild Things Are."

He composed the music along with Atticus Ross, his longtime collaborator and producer.

On the soundtrack's website, Reznor describes the score as "electronic in basis, but mostly organic sounding. Lots of experiments and emphasis on sound fraying around the edges while focusing on the proper emotional tone for the various scenes."

After the jump, the free downloads. 

Free downloads are not new to the singer. He's been an outspoken critic of the record industry's distribution methods.

Since returning to Nine Inch Nails, he's rejected traditional releases and commandeered the band's marketing through its website and through social media, like his popular twitter page. The band's most recent album, 2008's "The Slip," was released as a free download and has now reached platinum status.

Earlier this year, he told The Believer that working outside the established record industry gives him more autonomy over his work and marketing.

"That’s the power of distribution—all the strangleholds that those labels had sewed up—are gone. Anybody is a broadcaster and a publisher," he said.

The five free tracks from the 19-track album are: "Pieces Form the Whole," "Eventually We Find Our Way, "On We March," "The Gentle Hum of Anxiety," and "Soft Trees Break the Fall."

They are available here

Also see: More on "The Social Network"

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:30 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Music News

October 5, 2010

Review: Born Ruffians at Ottobar, Oct 4

Percussion was the star Monday evening at the Born Ruffians show at the Ottobar.

Noisy two-man Baltimore band Weekends set the tone for the night with their relentless drumming. Opening for Montreal's Winter Gloves, Brendan Sullivan and Adam Lempel never let up; they even traded drums and guitar mid-set.

By the time Born Ruffians took the stage, the audience was properly stoked. The Canadians can be misleadingly low-key, but on Monday, they overpowered the venue.

Kicking things off with “Foxes Mate For Life,” from their 2008 debut “Red, Yellow & Blue,” and quickly following up with “Barnacle Goose," their set was louder than anything that's ever come out of Ontario.

“Foxes” made for a perfect opener, beginning with a soft chord progression before bursting with a propulsive drum beat. “Barnacle Goose” kept the energy high, as the band punctuated the lilting vocal opening with synchronized drum blasts and shouts.

They retained the light, jangly charm of their album throughout, but felt much more vital live, due in no small part to Steven Hamelin's furious drumming and to singer/guitarist Luke LaLonde’s rambunctious guitar parts. The hoe-down ending of “Little Garcon” sounded like it came from a much larger band. "Kurt Vonnegut" was a barnburner, clattering to a noisy end despite its smooth vocal harmonies.

Even with time allotted for banter, the band didn't let the set slow down and, overall, wasted very little time between tunes.

“What To Say” seethed with a bubbling tension live that’s mostly absent from its album counterpart. LaLonde’s walking guitar line and soulful voice even managed to sound sexy at certain points. But anyone seduced by the tune was quickly brought back to reality with the stabbing drums of “Nova-Leigh,” which showcased the band’s punk-rock side.

The song’s half-shouted chorus, complete with off-kilter drums and chugging guitar was a late-set highlight, one that was quickly topped by fan favorite “I Need A Life.”

Born Ruffians split their set between new and old songs, going as far back as “Red, Yellow & Blue.” They are now touring with their new album, "Say It," from Warp Records.

It's not a stretch to say their catchy tunes turned the Ottobar into a summer house party Monday night, with audience and band singing in unison for the last hour of the show. After Hamelin lost his drumstick in the audience, someone even used it to turn his Natty Boh into a DIY cowbell.

Set list

Foxes Mate For Life
Barnacle Goose
Sole Brother
In A Mirror
Retard Canard
Plinky Plonky
The Ballad of Moose Bruce
Oh Man
Little Garcon
What To Say
I Need A Life

Encore: Kurt Vonnegut

-Jacob Barron

Jacob Barron is a finance writer by day, and a voracious music consumer and bar enthusiast by night. He contributes occasionally to

Photo: Born Ruffians Myspace 

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Concert reviews

U2 to play Baltimore in 2011, maybe

U2 could play Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium next year, the band accidentally revealed on its website.

In a post announcing plans to play the Glastonbury festival in 2011, also inadvertently revealed a possible date with Charm City June 22. 

Representatives for M&T Bank Stadium and tour promoters Live Nation have not returned calls for comment. 

It's not the first time the band has teased Baltimore with a possible performance.

Last year, Ravens president Dick Cass told Midnight Sun the stadium almost booked the band for a date, but it conflicted with the game schedule. 

But if the 2011 date works, it would be the first major league non-sports event at the stadium in recent years, and the biggest headliner in the area since Bruce Springsteen played M&T Stadium 1st Mariner last year.

Baltimore radio stations reported the 2011 rumor earlier this week.  But it wasn't any more than wishful thinking until the post went up Oct. 2.

A picture from the band's accidental post, after the jump. 

U2 fan site grabbed this screen shot from the band's official website before it was taken down:


Posted by Erik Maza at 12:23 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Music News

Rye Rye releases new single, "Sunshine," featuring M.I.A.

"Sunshine," the first single from Rye Rye's upcoming album, "Go! Pop! Bang!" is out. M.I.A., who signed Rye Rye to her NEET label, makes a cameo.

M.I.A. kicks off the single taunting Rye Rye about a school crush, before the Baltimore MC boasts about stealing back her man. All this over hand claps and gratuitous sass.

The Baltimore native posted the track Monday on her Facebook profile, before Stereogum picked it up. 

The new album has long been in the works, but was delayed last year while she was pregnant. 

It is now due to to be released early next year by NEET/Interscope. 

Last we heard from Rye Rye she was touring with M.I.A., who last performed in Baltimore at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest. 

Stream the single at Rap-up.

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:59 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Music News

John Turpin quits Mount Vernon's Turp's

John Turpin, the general manager at Turp's in Mount Vernon, has left the sports bar that bears his name.

Sunday was his last day, confirmed assistant general manager Andre Barnhill, who'd worked alongside Turpin since they opened the bar a year ago. 

"He left because the place wasn't working out the way he wanted it to," Barnhill said.  "He's been offered other opportunities and he wants to spend more time with his family."

Turpin couldn't be reached for comment.

The bar will not change its name.

Turpin opened the bar a year ago to make up for the absence of sports bars in the Midtown-Belvedere neighborhood. It was named after him by owners the Jay Group, who also own Jay's Deli and XS cafe.

The bar replaced upscale bistro Neo Viccino, and has become popular with students and neighbors as the only sports bar in the area that isn't Mick O'Shea's or the Midtown Yacht Club

Turpin himself became a neighborhood fixture. He had been an employee of the company for a decade, Barnhill said.

The old boss' goodbye party Sunday was meant to be small, but regulars kept popping in to pay their respects.

"Tons of people came by asking, 'is Turp around? I just wanted to do one last shot with him," Barnhill said. He added Turpin decided to leave only a few weeks ago.

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: News

October 4, 2010

Liam's Ale House, Ale Mary's and Max's are among Baltimore's Franken-bars

When Liam Flynn started building his new bar in Station North, he didn't go to the nearest hardware store.

He didn't scour Home Depot looking for the cheapest piece of pinewood, or the shiniest door knobs.

He went vintage shopping for bar parts as he would for second-hand football jerseys.

Flynn's idea of a Goodwill are architectural salvage stores like the Loading Dock and Second Chance, where he can find everything from stained glass to decades-old flooring.

He is among a growing number of bar owners that are using architectural salvage to enhance their established properties, or build new ones on the cheap.

While the practice has been common with bar owners seeking a vintage look, it's taken on a new currency with the shaky economy and a national movement toward building green.

The full story is in today's Sunrise. For a photo gallery of these Franken-bars, click here

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:03 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Mary J. Blige appears at Towson Town Center before Jiffy Lube Live performance

R&B diva Mary J. Blige will appear at at Towson Town Center Wednesday to plug her new eyewear line, reporter and Midnight Sun contributor John John Williams IV writes.

The "No More Drama" singer will be at the mall between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m before appearing Thursday at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA.

She'll appear in Virginia as part of her tour with Jazmine Sullivan and El DeBarge.

But in another sign that merchandise is where the real lucre is at these days, tickets for the concert start at $52 while the sunglasses start at $165. That's nice: plastic shades that retail for twice as much as in-the-flesh performance. For that price, Blige better have made them with her own bare hands.

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News

"If Baltimore is a blowzy broad, your city is" contest winner

Baltimore might be the blowzy broad with a million stories, but San Francisco is "the uppity vegan taking you aside at Whole Foods to explain why your choice of oat bran crackers is supporting the packaged food industrial complex."

That's the winning caption of the contest that was inspired by last week's nightlife column.

After Midnight Sun anthropomorphized Charm City as a chatty broad, colleague John McIntyre launched a small-stakes contest to see who could come up with the snappiest city comparison. 

This blog even upped the ante by offering the new Gucci Mane album, "The Appeal" to the winning writer.

Commenter 'fermata' wrote the winning caption, but others submitted some real gems:

Commenter DeWitt Clinton wrote, "If Baltimore is the guy at the bar with a great story about how he lost his little finger, Albany, NY is a dairy farmer who thinks he's sophisticated because he owns a necktie and is taking classes to be a notary public."

Commenter KellyJ added, "Asheville is the organic gardening, Prius Driving yoga teacher who uses passive aggressive comments to make sure you know how much better she is than you." 

And finally, on Midnight Sun, commenter incunabulum wrote, "Houston is at the Auto Show explaining the features of the all-new Corolla."

Sadly, since a You Don't Say reader won the contest, Midnight Sun lost his bet against McIntyre, and so Gucci Mane stays with me.

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

Review: Parkside Sports Bar in Canton

IMG_0689.jpgCanton bars fall into two basic types.  There's the O'Donnell Square, sports-centric watering holes (Looney's, JD's Smokehouse, Claddagh's), and there's the low-key neighborhood haunts that exist in semi-obscurity on the streets between O'Donnell and Eastern.

Parkside Sports Bar is a little of both.  Located on the corner of Fleet and Milton, Parkside is a sports bar that's off the beaten path, one that's decorated almost entirely with Ravens regalia.

But does it offer anything new to the sports bar concept? Not yet it doesn't. Nor does it feature the kind of charm that a comfy neighborhood bar needs to develop a loyal clientele.

There isn't any food, for starters. While plenty of smaller bars do not have a kitchen (Baltimore Taphouse and Butte's and Betty's come to mind), a sports bar is generally a place to sip cheap brew and enjoy pub grub like nachos and wings.  It would seem that Parkside is missing half of the equation.

That leaves only alcohol as their draw, and that they have in large supply. The bar advertises $1.75 PBR drafts and $5.00 pitchers daily, and on Sunday, the special was $12 buckets of domestic bottles. There are also four taps, with Guinness and Shock Top available in draft in case you don't want to spend your entire Sunday drinking the cheap stuff.

Parkside's strongest feature is that it is more spacious than most corner bars.  There's plenty of space between the bar top and the tables lining the window, so you don't have to squeeze your gut just to get in the door. A second room in the back offers ping pong, cornhole, and Big Buck Safari. 

But the bar's size also highlights its shortcomings. A smaller bar can feel alive or even crowded with a dozen or so patrons, but a place as big as Parkside feels empty with just a few customers.  Maybe most of the crowd leaves after the game is over. With fans gone, even the disco ball at the back of the bar looked extra lonely with no one to bask in its glitz. 

As the clock ticked down in the Eagles vs. Redskins game, only a few Philly fans sporting Michael Vick jerseys remained.  A speaker system blared the broadcast from several flatscreen TVs.  The speakers were easily audible from across the street, but inside, ESPN's echo made the place feel unpopulated.

Parkside has some potential to be more than a hangout for ping pong players and PBR drinkers, especially given its size. But to attract a less transient crowd, the owners will probably have to do more to create a neighborhood atmosphere.  

A sports bar on the square could get away with a disco ball, loud speakers, and cheap drinks.  Neighborhood bars have to do more to cater to a more loyal crowd.

Parkside is at 2501 Fleet Street. They are currently without a Web site.  

- Jay Trucker

Jay Trucker is a frequent Midnight Sun contributor. He teaches at Community College of Baltimore County and writes about the Orioles for Occasionally, he wanders the neighborhoods of Canton.

Photo: Erik Maza 

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:15 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Does Jonathan Franzen hate the 9:30 club?

Jonathan Franzen is to literature what Lou Reed is to music: someone who's produced some canonical works, lots of middling ones ("How to be Alone," anyone?), and is still universally reviled for his personality.

But his new novel is a huge deal, so huge it made him the first novelist in decades to land on the cover of Time magazine.

Critics have praised his observational prowess, his ability to capture the subtlest details of the zeitgeist. And yet, in one passage where he describes DC's 9:30 Club as a "kiddie scene," he seems to have missed the mark.

Maybe that's because, as he told Politico, he's never actually set foot in the joint.

“It’s not hard to come up with enough familiarity for a persuasive sentence or two,” he told the Web site.

Reader, you tell me how persuasive. 

In the scene, characters Walter Berglund and Richard Katz, a middle-aged rocker, go see Bright Eyes at the DC club. The crowd -- "almost religious in its collective seriousness" -- is nothing like the groupies of Katz' youth, the author writes.

"They seemed to bear malice toward nobody... They gathered not in anger but in celebration of their having found, as a generation, a gentler and more respectful way of being. A way, not incidentally, more in harmony with consuming. And so said to him: die."

Zing! And he goes on.

With Katz and Berglund being "at least twice the age of everybody else at the club, the flat-haired boys and fashionably unskinny babes," the rocker goes on a tear:

"The nation was fighting ugly ground wars in two countries, the planet was heating up like a toaster over, and here at the 9:30 club, all around him, were hundreds of kids in the mold of the banana-bread-baking Sarah [another character], with their sweet yearnings, their innocent entitlement - to what? To emotion. To unadulterated worship of a superspecial band."

Ouch. Now, does this sound like the 9:30 club you know? Full of spindly flat-haired boys with too much credit and little backbone? or is the writer describing any-hipster-venue, USA?

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:13 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

October 1, 2010

'If Baltimore is a blowzy broad, your city is...' contest

In today's nightlife column, Midnight Sun refers to Baltimore as the blowzy broad at the bar with a million stories to tell. And to Miami as the brain-dead babe with nothing to say.

Our inimitable John McIntyre is running a contest on his blog for other city comparisons. Call it the  "anthropomorphize your city" contest. So far it's resulted in this gem: "San Francisco is the uppity vegan taking you aside at Whole Foods to explain why your choice of oat bran crackers is supporting the packaged food industrial complex."

I'm upping the ante: you come up with something snappy, you get the new Gucci Mane album, "The Appeal."

Leave your comments here or at You Don't Say.

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:01 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

Baltimore vs. Miami: a charticle

waterscinco.JPGEvery time a new club boasts about bringing a Miami flavor to Baltimore, it flops.

That’s because what works in South Florida is too ostentatious for Charm City, just as Baltimore’s quirks would almost definitely be dismissed as weird in the swamp.

John Waters’ Egg Lady is another kooky denizen here, but an oddity in the runway-like promenades of South Beach. Just the same, Miami’s drink prices would be scoffed at in Charles Village.

In keeping with this week's nightlife column, here’s a primer on two cities that are as different as Waters and Chad Ochocinco:

Charm City : Magic City

$3 Natty Boh: $13 “elderwater fizz” martini

Rye Rye: Trina 

1st Mariner Arena : American Airlines Arena

Mount Royal Tavern : Club Deuce

Ravens : Miami Heat

Orioles : Marlins

“The Wire” : ”Miami Vice” 

Inner Harbor : South Beach

Edgar Allan Poe : Carl Hiassen

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:34 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: News

Midnight Sun seeks contributors, haters of Vampire Weekend

Readers, Midnight Sun is looking for contributors to review concerts and bars. Hopefully, not at the same time. Although, sometimes that yields interesting results.

A contributor should have an authentic voice and the writing chops to match it. Your taste in beer or music is actually irrelevant, though if you're the kind of person who started to like the Ting Tings after P4K gave them a 3.8, you'd be starting off on the right foot. Lovers of Ale Mary's in Fells Point also get gold stars.

Those interested, e-mail three writing samples and a small bio. 

(If you have ideas for blogs beyond reviews -- like, say, a Tipsy Tuesday - pitch them along with your writing samples and bio. Also if you have 800 words in you about the importance/irrelevance of celebrity spawn and meme Willow Smith).

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:00 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Random stuff

Burning Mom, Victoria Legrand, Miami vs. Baltimore, and other things I learned my first two weeks writing about nightlife

It was early September, and I had come to the Annex Theater for a party called Burning Mom, named after the tired hippie extravaganza Burning Man.

At 2 a.m., the party was my penultimate stop of the night. Ah, the life of the nightlife writer. When I got there, the somewhat dilapidated building was flanked by no less than five police cars, with cops completing reports on the party they had just broken up.

A few hundred people had all come to watch super under-the-radar local acts like Dazzlestorm, Talk to Animals and Gravebangers at an event thrown by a small nonprofit theater.

In Miami, where I moved from, this would have been unthinkable. In my two weeks exploring Baltimore's nightlife, I've learned that residents have no aspirations to be a sixth New York City borough like Philadelphia, or a hipster bug zapper like Brooklyn.

The rest of my first nightlife column is here

Photo: Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:30 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bar stories

Your choices for best Baltimore bars


Midnight Sun asked earlier this week your thoughts on the town's best bars, and you answered in force. Sometimes, too much. People must really love Rodos, or they must have one crack team of flacks. Also popular with commenters: Max's, Brewer's Art, and Looney's

The official list will be out next week. 

Art by Wordle
Posted by Erik Maza at 9:20 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Jason Derulo: "You won't catch me on the Jay-Z or the Usher tour"

Jason Derulo says he's not interested in making R&B. His new self-titled album is instead a bid at capturing an audience broader than the urban market. 

"I just want my music enjoyed by the world. You can't do that with just being in a box," he said. "You won't catch me on the Jay-Z or the Usher tour."

So far, it's a strategy that's working. "Whatcha Say" and "In My Head" have both earned multi-platinum status. 

But unspoken is the fact that even established R&B acts like Usher (see "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love") are moving away from genre-specific music.

The question for 21-year-old Derulo is: if he starts out in heavily-processed, auto-tuned dance music, can he go back to R&B?

Jason Derulo performs at Rams Head Live Friday night. The rest of this story is here. 


Posted by Erik Maza at 8:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Music News
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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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