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March 31, 2011

Celebration on TV on the Radio, Friends Records and new album "Hello Paradise"

PX00171_9.JPG"I'm 38; I don't want to do that anymore. Unless someone pays me a lot of money and they want to make it super cushy, but that doesn't happen in rock 'n' roll."

That's Celebration's Katrina Ford talking about the long tours she and the band used to do while they were at label 4AD.

They broke with the label three years ago, and have spent that time working on a new album, "Hello Paradise," that they released in January through the low-key, local label Friends Records. 

The quote comes from a profile of the band that appeared in Sunday's Sun magazine. The whole feature is here.

This picture, by Josh Sisk -who'll exhibit some of his work at Windup Space later this month - comes from Celebration's record release show in early March at 2640, where the profile begins.

Also in the story, a video of the band's three core members - Ford, Sean Antanaitis, David Bergander - performing a new song, "Don't Stop Dreaming."

Celebration's next show is April 8, when they'll open for TV on the Radio at Rams Head Live.

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Most requested bands for Virgin Mobile FreeFest: Girl Talk, Mumford & Sons, Florence and the Machine

virgin.JPGFor this year's Virgin Mobile FreeFEST, it seems readers are in the mood for Girl Talk, and folky British rock. Those are the names that keep coming up on the post from a couple of weeks ago asking readers for band requests for this year's festival. Also with multiple mentions: Grizzly Bear, and locals Wye Oak and Rye Rye. (photo: via)

See pictures, reviews and more Virgin Mobile FreeFest info at The Baltimore Sun's Virgin Mobile FreeFest page.

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

Sam Sessa's Weekend Watch: Kegasus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Farmers' Market

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:17 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sessa's Weekend Watch

How Dan Deacon ended up on Broke-ass Stuart's IFC show "Young, Broke & Beautiful"

A new IFC show, "Young, Broke & Beautiful," filmed a couple of warehouse shows last week in Baltimore for an upcoming episode about the city.

On Monday, host and creator Stuart Schuffman e-mailed a few cursory responses, via IFC, to questions I'd sent last week.

He writes that he was "stoked" to be in Baltimore and that he came to film here because of "all the amazing underground things going in the city."

"Young, Broke & Beautiful" sounds like IFC's take on Vice's travel series. Schuffman "infiltrates the underground of American cities to find the hidden, cheap and carefully guarded secrets that aren't in any guidebooks," according to the network, which has ordered six episodes. 

The other five episodes will cover Boston, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, San Diego.

In Baltimore, Schuffman and his producers filmed a Double Dagger show on Wednesday and a show at the Bell Foundry the next day that featured Dan Deacon, Jimmy Joe Roche, Ed Schrader, the Creepers and several members of Wham City.

When I found out about the shoots Wednesday, I e-mailed Schuffman via his website and IFC to see where else he went and why he chose Baltimore as one of the first cities profiled.

After all,  it wasn't clear if he had ventured outside of the city's DIY music scene or if these cities were again being portrayed as glamorously destitute. 

Below is what he wrote back.

On why he filmed Wham City:


"We did a ton of research about Baltimore and all the amazing underground things going on in the city, and since we all thought Dan Deacon is the s**t, we figured we'd reach out to him.  I'm stoked he was kind enough to give us his time.


On where else he filmed:


"We filmed in SO many cool places and I got to meet an amazing array of wonderful characters.  If I told you everything we did, it would ruin the surprise, but let's just say we did a lot more than just hit
up warehouse parties (even though we did a ton of that too)."


Schuffman didn't elaborate on the other filming locations or why Baltimore was among the first chosen cities; maybe St. Louis was unavailable. He is traveling and shooting other episodes at the moment, but will be available for interviews in the future, IFC says.


There's also ready some criticism of the show. 

Michael Byrne, who was at the Bell Foundry Thursday, writes in in this week's City Paper that Schuffman's show promotes poverty tourism culture and glosses over Baltimore's inequity problems.

He has also reached out to Schuffman and IFC with questions but has not received a response. Update: Sarah Takenaga, an IFC spokeswoman, insists she tried contacting Byrne several times but that he responded only after his piece was posted.

The network hasn't yet scheduled the Baltimore episode, a spokeswoman said. The show's first episode, though, will be broadcast June 24.

Photo: Schuffman peddling one of his $15 t-shirts (via)

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:18 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music, News

March 30, 2011

Is InfieldFEST's Kegasus an Old Spice rip-off?

The birth of a product pitchman is a complicated process that sometimes involves focus groups, lots of spit-balling, and drinking twenty Old Fashioneds in a row a la Don Draper.

Other times, it just boils down to watering down another firm's more successful campaign and adding a nipple ring.

That may just have been what Elevation, the DC-based firm, did to come up with Kegasus. 

It's hard to imagine there was a pitch meeting to cobble together this thing, but even "The Rural Juror" had its own spitballing session.

InfieldFEST's topless, deep-voiced pitchman already sounded and looked a lot like Old Spice's Isaiah Mustafa as played by Danny McBride. 

But AdFreak points out that Old Spice had already used a centaur pitchman created by Portland-based firm Wielden+ Kennedy about two years ago. 

Compare and contrast:

2008 Old Spice spot:

Kegasus spot:
Update: Asked for a reaction, a W+K spokeswoman said the company doesn't comment on other people's work.

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:31 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

Maryland State Fair wants Justin Bieber crowds again, books girlfriend Selena Gomez

When Justin Bieber performed at the Maryland State Fair last year, 12,500 fans turned up to see him toss his hair and perform.

Organizers can't book the Biebs again this year, so they're settling for the next best thing: his girlfriend, or anyway the girl he's been seen making out with, Selena Gomez. The Disney Channel star will perform at the fair August 26. Tickets, at $42.50, go on sale Saturday.

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:28 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

March 30 - April 3 in nightlife: Sara Bareilles, AK Slaughter, Dog Leather

lithhall.JPGThis is coming a little late, but here's what to do at night the rest of this week. There's a listening party at True Vine, competing parties Friday night, and a light pop show at Rams Head Live Sunday.

On Wednesday, party-rap duo AK Slaughter, out with new album, "The Pleasure of Doing Business," perform at the Hexagon Space, 1825 Charles St. Neutron Bombs and Dangerous Ponies also perform. Starts at 9 p.m. $6-10.

On Thursday, DJs Max Eisenberg and Griffin Pyn, teamed up now as Dog Leather, host a listening party at True Vine, 3544 Hickory Road, for their new album on Ehse Records. Preview it here. The two will also have an acoustic set. Starts at 9 p.m.

On Friday, DJs James Nasty and Benny Stixx spin at Gutter magazine's Spring dance at Windup Space, 12 West North Avenue. $5. At Lithuanian Hall, 851 Hollins St., the Save Your Soul party returns. Both start at 9 p.m.

On Saturday, Tennessee's Royal Bands and Baltimore's Raindeer perform at Golden West Cafe, 1105 W. 36th St. Starts at 10 p.m. $8.

On Sunday, Sara Bareilles, the lady responsible for that "Love Song" song that was everywhere in 2007, will headline Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. I'll have a preview of the show on Friday.

Photo: Save Your Soul Facebook

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nightlife Pocket Guide

Natty Boh on draft confirmed at Camden Yards

Natty Boh will be served on draft at Camden Yards starting Monday, the home season opener, the Orioles confirmed Tuesday.

Pabst Brewing Company had made an announcement in early March, but the Orioles and its concessionaire, Delaware North Sportservice, hadn't confirmed the deal as late as March 18.

The new development came after the concessionaire announced a new menu for Camden Yards last week. 

Boh and the Orioles have a long history going back to 1954. 

It used to be the team's official beer. And the chairman of the brewery, Jerry Hoffberger, was a majority owner of the team from 1965 to 1979.

But the stadium's concessionaire stopped selling the beer in 1992 when the team moved from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards.

A Sun story from 1994 announced the establishment of a microbrewery stand at Camden Yards that would also include Boh, but it's not clear if it was then sold on draft or by the bottle, or for how long it was available there. The Orioles and Pabst could not clarify.

Boh stopped being sold on kegs in 1996.

The return of the beer on draft is part of Pabst's attempt to revive the brand; the company has been under new ownership since last year.

Its first Boh shipment in January consisted of 900 kegs to some 80 locations in Maryland.

Pabst spokesman Andy Gurjian said the company has not yet pursued M&T Bank Stadium or any of the area's other sports venues, but did not say if it planned on doing so.

Update: Gurjian responds, "We're always looking at potential avenues to bring Natty Boh to sports fans throughout Baltimore but we haven't approached anyone else yet."

After Pimlico Race Course stopped carrying it in 1993, it seems National Bohemian has not been sold on tap at any other of the city's sports venues.  

The press release from the Orioles did not say how much Boh will cost at the stadium. 

It did say the beer will be served at several locations and also as a special "Bucket of Boh's" at the suites on the club level. There will also be a branded Natty Boh Bar on the first base side of the lower concourse.

Last week, Richard Gorelick reported on Camden Yards' new food menu, which includes a new Natty Boh bratwurst sandwich.

Photo: An advertisement for National Bohemian Beer in the Baltimore Orioles' 1955 sketch book

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:56 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Brewing News, News

March 29, 2011

Update: Britney Spears to perform at Verizon Center; Enrique Iglesias pulls out of tour

Britney Spears announced this morning a 26-city tour where she would be joined by Enrique Iglesias.

But hours later, it is being reported Iglesias has decided to scrap the joint trek.

The tour would have had them perform July 31 at the Verizon Center in Washington. Spears is still scheduled to perform that day, according to the venue.

Spears made the tour announcement today on Good Morning America. It will be her first tour since the successful Circus tour in 2009, when she also performed at Verizon.

The news was also especially notable because Iglesias, a top-shelf draw on his own, would open for her.

But after the GMA appearance, reported, citing inside sources, Iglesias had decided to pull out of the tour.

The singer would have had a full production of his own instead of being a standard opener, a double bill that would have been too expensive to produce, reporter Ray Waddell wrote.

The report has not yet been confirmed by Live Nation, the tour's promoter, or Iglesias' camp. He is on an European tour until early June.

The Verizon Center doesn't have Iglesias' name on its online listing.

Update: Spokeswoman Sheila Francis has confirmed Iglesias has pulled out of the tour. She did not elaborate on the development beyond saying, "Our show information was given to us this morning from Live Nation and it only listed the tour as being Britney Spears."

Live Nation has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Spears released her seventh album, "Femme Fatale," today.  Tickets for the show, starting at $29, will go on sale April 16.

Photo: Spears on the Circus tour (handout photo)
Posted by Erik Maza at 2:58 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: News

Maryland Jockey Club bets on tweeting centaur to attract young to Preakness InfieldFEST

In a bid to attract young people to its Preakness InFieldFEST, the Maryland Jockey Club announced today a new mascot: a tweeting, beer-swilling centaur called Kegasus.

Kegasus, described as a "manimal" in the press release, is the cornerstone of the event's new advertising campaign, also unveiled today, which features the slogan "Be Legendary."

Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas credited demographics with the campaign's creation, because everyone knows young people love nothing more than drinking beer, tweeting, and horse-man hybrids.

"In order to reach our highly targeted younger demographic, we have realized we need to go where they go and do what they do," the press release quoted Chuckas saying.

Oy, the stuff that's blamed on the young. First the fall of Four Loko, and now this. 

The press release continues.

"The humorous nature of the advertisements and their inclusive message are just two of the many added bonuses." Inclusive message? of whom? shirtless centaurs? The full thing, after the jump.

The ad campaign follows the announcement early March that Bruno Mars and Train would headline the music stage of InFieldFEST, now in its third year, at the 136th Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

The new ad campaign, which also features a stale slogan - "Be Legendary" - that sounds lifted from an old Wheaties campaign will last an inexplicable eight weeks leading up to and around Preakness.

Kegasus will appear on all media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube, where he'll desperately try to go as viral as "Running the Toilets." NB to the Jockey Club: you forgot to put Kegasus on Tumblr, formspring, and Etsy.

Some poor actor will also be hired to make occasional promotional appearances at sports bars across the city. His first is at the Orioles home opener. 

The campaign is a strange choice for the Jockey Club, which can't seem to find a winning dynamic for the infield events surrounding the centuries-old Preakness Stakes.

In the past, it was criticized for enabling drunken debauchery at the infield and later for scaling that back by preventing people from bringing in their own beer to Pimlico Race Track.When that strategy backfired, it rolled out a new ad campaign that revolved around the phrase "Get Your Preak On" that was then criticized as being too sexually suggestive.

Both that campaign and Kegasus were conceived by the geniuses at DC-based firm Elevation, LTD, which have produced ads for such notorious party animals as the American Lung Association and Michael Bloomberg

With Kegasus, though, they're attempting to strike an awkward balance between order and edginess, much like a dad organizing a kegger for his son's 21st. They might have been better served with a friendly drunk, say, Danny DeVito as his Phil the satyr from Disney's "Hercules."

InFieldFEST takes place May 21 at the the public Infield of Pimlico Race Course

The Kegasus press release from the Maryland Jockey Club, a gem:

MJC urges fans to “Be Legendary” at Preakness InfieldFest

Baltimore, MD (Tuesday, March 29, 2011) —The Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) today launched the 2011 Preakness InfieldFest campaign, “The Legend of Kegasus”. Kegasus is the Lord of the InfieldFest and a modern twist on a mythical centaur. Serving as the voice and personality for all advertisements, Kegasus can be found in all of the campaign’s components to include television, radio, out-of-home and web.

“We are excited to be launching this campaign and look forward to watching this image grow throughout the course of its eight-week run,” Tom Chuckas, Maryland Jockey Club president said. “Kegasus speaks directly to our InfieldFest demographic with his no-nonsense personality and total embodiment of a good time.”

The 136th running of the $1 million Preakness® Stakes (Grade I), the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, is May 21 at Pimlico Race Course.

The InfieldFest party at The Preakness Stakes is legendary and continues to grow. The Maryland Jockey Club aims to spark added interest by empowering a legendary centaur – half horse, half man – as the campaign’s spokesperson. The humorous nature of the advertisements and their inclusive message are just two of the many added bonuses.

The MJC also anticipates this party “manimal” to come to life outside of traditional media. Kegasus will be appearing at various grassroots events around Baltimore leading up to the Preakness. He will be making his in-person debut at pregame festivities for the Baltimore Orioles home opener on Monday, April 4. He will also be posting web videos to his own YouTube channel, and yes, Kegasus even tweets.

“In order to reach our highly targeted younger demographic, we have realized we need to go where they go and do what they do,” Chuckas added. “By launching a robust social media presence and appearing at downtown bars, Kegasus will have the opportunity to interact directly with his fans and get them excited about this year’s InfieldFest – the premier celebration in the Mid-Atlantic region.”

Earlier this month it was announced that Grammy Award Winning artists Bruno Mars and Train were to headline the InfieldFest concert, with Phil Vassar, Puddle of Mudd and local favorites Mr. Greengenes on the Jägermeister stage. The popular MUG Club returns, offering fans a bottomless mug all day long for one all-inclusive price.

For the second consecutive year, the MJC has tapped Elevation, Ltd. to develop and execute its InfieldFest advertising campaign. “We are honored to once again work hand-in-hand with the Maryland Jockey Club to create a campaign that galvanizes our target audience and brings excitement to this legendary event,” Jim Learned, president of Elevation said.

Photo: Kegasus twitter account

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:37 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: News

Review: Barracuda's Locust Point Tavern

Picture%203.pngContributor Jeremy Trucker reviews recent addition to Locust Point, Barracuda's.

I haven't spent a lot of time in South Baltimore's Locust Point neighborhood, but I would go back for a dinner or drinks at Barracuda's, one of the neighborhood's newest haunts.

The evening at Barracuda's wasn't without its minor setbacks, but overall, the casual restaurant/bar seems to have a winning formula. To begin, free street parking on Fort Ave was plentiful on a Friday night, which is a major plus.

(Ed. For my most recent Locust Point bar crawl, where I also visited Barracuda's, click here)

On this particular night, the bar was full though not packed and the crowd was both racially and age-diverse, hosting men and women from their 20s into their 60s and white, black, and Latino customers. This is an occurrence rarer than it should be in Baltimore.

Call drinks were $4.50 a shot and well poured by the friendly if overworked bartender/server. Apparently, the place was short-staffed on Friday, which led a neighboring table to complain.

But the same server didn't seem frazzled as she hurried around the rest of the table and bar area on the first floor. Additional seating is available upstairs, but going out of sight seemed a bad idea on a busy, understaffed night.

The atmosphere at Barracuda's is casual. The bar and table area each feature a flat screen, both showing the NCAA tournament at the time, though patrons didn't seem interested in the contests. One thing that stood out about Barracuda's is that, on this night anyway, it is not the type of place that tries to create atmosphere by blasting music or televised programming at ear-piercing decimals. While there was plenty of chatter and a few customers who seemed to have been in their stools long enough to be louder than necessary, no one had to shout to hear the person sitting next to them. If only all pubs realized that loud = fun does not apply to the post-collegiate set.

A few minor glitches stood out. First, the men's room is so small that I nearly bashed my shin into the toilet on my way in. The door and the can miss touching by only an inch or two when the door swings in to open. If I'm struggling to fit into the stall, consider yourself warned. Also, a blank chalkboard separated the bar from the tables, obstructing an otherwise open floor design.

More importantly, though, the food at Barracuda's, which apparently derives its name from a seafood theme and not a 70s hard rock song as I had suspected, was delicious. The pub grub staples, particularly the Old Bay wings and chicken salad sandwich, and sea salt chips, were satisfying. A cup of Carribean Turkey soup had just enough kick. A deep dish of surf 'n' turf nachos at a nearby table looked appealing enough to warrant a return visit. My fish tacos were small for an entree, but not bad for $8. Daily specials were pricier but much larger. Last weekend's specials included a whole red snapper. Though more than triple the price of the tacos at $27, my server promised that this was a very large dish.

Overall, Barracuda's is a friendly, convenient, casual bar with a menu that includes your average bar fare and several more imaginative seafood options. Since it just opened last Autumn, it will be interesting to see how the business picks up if and when the weather finally turns around and the neighborhood comes alive.

Barracuda's, at 1230 Fort Avenue, is open Monday through Sundays 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. 

Jay Trucker is a frequent contributor to Midnight Sun. He teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County in Dundalk and blogs occasionally at He last reviewed Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj's show at 1st Mariner Arena.

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:12 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

March 28, 2011

Blackwater Distilling's Sloop Betty Vodka hitting stores, restaurants Friday

sloop bettyWoodberry Kitchen, Kooper's Tavern are some of the first local restaurants selling Sloop Betty, features writer Jill Rosen reports.

Maryland's first distillery in nearly 40 years has begun to bottle its flagship spirit.

Blackwater Distilling, the company of Eastern Shore natives Christopher and Jonathan Cook, reports that its Sloop Betty vodka is available in the area.

Though widespread distribution is set to start on Friday, the premium wheat vodka can now be found at some Baltimore-area restaurants and retailers.

For instance, they're pouring it at Woodberry Kitchen and Kooper's Tavern.

It's retailing for about $32. It will be available throughout Maryland, DC and Delaware.

The distillers will be donating a portion of proceeds to the scenic Eastern Shore preserve that inspired its name -- the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

The Cooks have been working on their distilling plan for more than seven years. Though Maryland was once one of the country's top spirits producers, the state has been dry since local producers folded, as rye, the region's signature spirit, fell out of favor.

Photo: Sloop Betty bottles (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

Elton John's front row at Baltimore's 1st Mariner Arena: Young, hot guys, mostly

elton john in baltimore Does Elton John like a good-looking front row? Sam Sessa hears from a fan who saw John at 1st Mariner Arena.

Hi all, it's Midnight Sun alum Sam Sessa (Erik is on vacation until tomorrow) with a funny Elton John tidbit.

I wasn't able to make John's Baltimore concert Saturday night at 1st Mariner Arena, but my good friend Kristin did. She scored second-row seats ("10 feet from Elton!") from a local radio station.

Once she and her date were situated, they turned to the young, good-looking guys ahead of them and asked them how they'd managed to land front row seats. They had been sitting further back when one of John's crew came up and offered them seats in the front row.

Kristin marveled at this, until she realized that most of the folks in the front row -- at least the ones near John -- were young, hot guys.

Then she knew what was up. 

Apparently, it's something John has done for a while. When he goes on tour with Billy Joel, the front row is half hot guys and half hot chicks. John and Joel have even joked about it during shows, one fan tells me.

I've heard of bands having their roadies hand-pick hot chicks to join them backstage after shows, but never filling the front rows with them. Still, it makes sense.

Also, here's Sun reporter Nick Madigan's review of the show, and a photo galley too.

Photo: Elton John at 1st Mariner Arena: (Colby Ware/Special to The Sun)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:54 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Random stuff

March 27, 2011

Review: Elton John at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore

elton john at 1st mariner arenaNick Madigan reviews Elton John's show at 1st Mariner Arena Saturday, John's first in Baltimore in more than a decade. Leon Russell also made an appearance.

A photo gallery of the show is here

When Elton John launched into "Funeral for a Friend" at the start of his concert in Baltimore on Saturday night, it was easy to assume that he was honoring the departed screen star Elizabeth Taylor, with whom John had long shared a friendship and the mission of promulgating the fight against AIDS.

But three songs later, John made his intentions clear, dedicating the concert to the late Guy Babylon, a Baltimore native who had been John's keyboard player for a decade -- they had played more than 1,300 gigs together -- when he died of a heart attack in 2009.

"He was a huge Orioles and Ravens fan," John told the sold-out hall at the 1st Mariner Arena, drawing a thunderous response, and said that although Babylon lived in California, his heart had always remained in Baltimore.

"Guy, wherever you are -- this show is for you," John said, touching the first notes of "Levon," one of his most evocative peans of biography.

For years one of the more flamboyant performers in rock, John, who turned 64 on Friday, has mellowed only his outfits.

Attired in his now trademark coattails, neatly buttoned around his plump frame, he remains as energetic as ever, plowing boisterously through a musical canon spanning four decades, songs like "Madman Across the Water," "Tiny Dancer," "Candle in the Wind,” “Your Song” and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" -- all a trigger to rattling memories in a crowd populated largely by the gray-haired.

elton john at 1st mariner arenaAt 1st Mariner, John jumped to his feet from the piano at the conclusion of almost every song, jabbing his finger at the audience, exhorting them to even greater enthusiasm.

This is a man who, not surprisingly, covets applause. But at one point, as he introduced his band - including guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson, who have been with him since the beginning - John spoke of the privilege of a lifetime of singing songs and getting paid for it, and sounded grateful for the chances he's had.

It was a revealing note of modesty in a performer known for outré showmanship.

It was also clear, though, that time has taken its toll. While his voice has lost none of its volume or vigor, John pitches it lower, most high notes having surrendered to the vagaries of age, smoking and high living. Perhaps in an effort to compensate, John’s delivery is augmented -- excessively, in my view -- by sometimes prodigious amounts of echo and reverb, so that songs that sound tender and soulful on his albums sound forced and even harsh from the stage.

But if John -- who recently adopted a baby -- was showing signs of longevity, his guest of honor for the evening appeared positively centenarian. Leon Russell, who was inducted on March 14 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and who will turn 69 next month, shuffled onto the stage with the aid of a cane, his face obscured by a voluminous white beard and sunglasses, his equally white hair cascading down his back from under a white, wide-brimmed cowboy hat.

Stiffly taking his seat at a second grand piano, Russell loosened up only in the tips of his fingers, deftly tinkering the keyboard as he and John delivered a handful of songs from "The Union," the album they released together last fall.

elton john at 1st mariner arenaAnd yet Russell's willingness to go out on the road and plug the album is a testament to his own fortitude, considering he underwent brain surgery shortly before recording "The Union" and has been in frail health since.

His voice, vaguely reminiscent of Willie Nelson's, was clear and strong, and recalled the heyday of his career as a session man and performer in the 1970s, when he played with everyone from George Harrison to Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones.

At first glance, his pairing with Elton John might have seemed a mismatch, given Russell’s abhorrence for histrionics and glittery showbiz, but John made clear his connection to him by saying he had “idolized” Russell and his talent decades ago, when he sometimes opened concerts for the older player. “He’s my hero, my friend,” John told the crowd.

Together, the pair pounded the pianos and wailed, and if members of the audience were not as enthused over the unfamiliar new songs, they at least encouraged the musicians to kick out the jams.

Unintentionally or not, one of their songs together, "Never Too Old," might have summed up the ethos of the evening -- two veterans, fighting on despite the advancing years and drawing cheers as they did.

"You're never too old," John said when the song was over. "And you're never too young."

(Photos: Elton John at 1st Mariner Arena (Colby Ware/Special to the Sun)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:38 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Concert reviews

March 26, 2011

March 21 - 25 reviewed: Lil Wayne, Elton John, Celebration

This week, IFC filmed Dan Deacon and Wham City members for an episode of an upcoming show called "Young, Broke & Beautiful," which might as well describe the headline above. We kicked off the week with Lil Wayne, who was upstaged at his show at 1st Mariner Arena by Nicki Minaj. The combination of the two made for the first big show of the season. Another big show happens tonight at the same place: Elton John returns to Baltimore for the first time in over a decade. We'll have a review tomorrow. This week, we also started making wishlists for the biggest show of all: the Virgin Mobile FreeFest. The Baltimore Comedy Club confirmed an official grand opening for April. The Mountain Goats played at the 9:30 club on Friday; lead singer John Darnielle loves gothic cowboy horror and Judy Garland. Tipsy? Taxi! slightly improved its performance from New Year's Eve. Liam Flynn's Ale House made progress. Deacon and several other local bands performed at South by Southwest in Austin. We picked the best Baltimore March Madness bars. Lupe Fiasco announced a return to Baltimore, if only for a meet-and-greet. Rye Rye talked about how much she enjoys the Paradox and Miley Cyrus. TV on the Radio announced local band Celebration will open for them. The band, led by Katrina Ford, performed a new song, "Don't Stop Dreaming," for us. And, if you pick up tomorrow's paper, or just click here, you can read a profile of the band as they release their third, 4AD-less album "Hello Paradise."

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

March 25, 2011

Video: Celebration performs "Don't Stop Dreaming"

Celebration perform a song from their Electric Tarot project. A profile of the band appears in this Sunday's Baltimore Sun magazine.
Posted by Erik Maza at 2:40 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

Dan Deacon, Wham City to appear in new IFC show 'Young, Broke & Beautiful'

Come this summer, Dan Deacon, Ed Schrader, Jimmy Joe Roche, and a bunch of members of Wham City will appear on an episode of the new IFC show "Young, Broke & Beautiful."

It's not some kind of 'Baltimorelandia.' The show is travel docu-series hosted by blogger Stuart Schuffman that "infiltrates the underground of American cities to find the hidden, cheap and carefully guarded secrets that aren't in any guidebooks," according to IFC's blurb.

The network picked it up for a six episode order last week for a late summer premiere. Episodes will revolve around Boston, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, San Diego, and Baltimore.

For the Baltimore episode, the show taped a performance Thursday at the Bell Foundry that featured Deacon, Roche, Schrader, as well as the Santa Dads, and keyboard-and-trumpet duo The Creepers. IFC couldn't say where else Schuffman filmed.

Lola Pierson, one of the organizers, said Thursday night's free show last a little over two hours. "It was well attended, but not crazy," she said.

That makes sense, as it was barely advertised, save for a couple of status updates on Facebook and a private Google group.

Schuffman, via an IFC spokeswoman, said he'd answer questions about how he bumped into Wham City and what made him come to Baltimore at a later time as he was traveling.

But on twitter, he's made his feelings about the city clear: "Baltimore is a city that knows how to pour a drink." (Earlier)

 IFC doesn't know yet when the Baltimore episode will air. The show's first episode airs June 24 at 10:30 p.m. on the Independent Film Channel.

Photo: Broke-Ass Stuart's Facebook

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:58 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music, News

March 24, 2011

Concert News: Lupe Fiasco, Death Cab for Cutie, Social Distortion

Lupe Fiasco is coming back to Baltimore, for a meet-and-greet anyway.

Fiasco, who's out with a new album, "Lasers," he's more or less disowned as being the work of corporate lackeys,  was scheduled to appear at Sound Garden earlier this month.

But he canceled there and at South by Southwest at the last minute citing illness. 

He's now rescheduled to appear at the store March 29 for a meet-and-greet, autograph and CD signing, and perhaps, to keep dissing the new album. First come, first serve, but a "Lasers" purchase gets you a bracelet ahead of time

In local hip hop, The Black Hole in Dundalk will host what they're calling the second 'Best in Baltimore' showcase this Friday featuring mostly up-and-comers, Michael Wayne, Lano of Bombsquad, Warzone, among others. Tickets, at $10, are sold at the door.

Also tonight, the IFC channel will film a semi-secret show of Baltimore musicians, including Dan Deacon, at the Bell Foundry in Greenmount West. The show will be part of an upcoming show about Baltimore, IFC says. More on that tomorrow.

On Friday, the always excellent Ultra Nate celebrates her birthday at U Street Music Hall in Washington. Cover is $10. 

Also in Washington, the 9:30 club announced Death Cab will perform June 3. It's the band's seventh (!!) studio album. Tickets, at $35, go on sale Saturday.

You can also hear "The Killing Moon" at the 9:30 club on May 11 when Echo and the Bunnymen perform there. Tickets for the vets start at $35. 

Earlier that month, on May 7, noisy buzzband Sleigh Bells and CSS will perform there. Tickets, at $20, are already on sale.

At the Windup Space, DJ James Nasty, of the weekly Moustache party at the Ottobar, will anchor Gutter magazine's upcoming dance party April 1.  Benny Sitxx will also spin. Twenty one and over only; cover is $5.

Photo: Lupe Fiasco last year

Posted by Erik Maza at 5:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music, Music News

Sam Sessa's Weekend Watch: Elton John and Charm City Roller Girls

FindLocal has more weekend events.
Posted by Erik Maza at 11:10 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sessa's Weekend Watch

Baltimore Comedy Factory to open in April

The Baltimore Comedy Factory will officially re-open in April at its new location in Power Plant Live, management said Wednesday.

The club, which has had many different owners but held the same name for over the 30 years, moved from its location above Burke's downtown in January, when the restaurant closed.

Owner Matt Weber said he signed a long-term lease with Power Plant Live in February, and has been quietly renovating the space since. 

He'll join an $11-million upgrade the whole complex is undergoing, its first in over a decade. 

I toured the site yesterday. Weber has added a bar to place, and renovated the lobby with a new, nautically-inspired decor. The theater will still hold some 250 guests.

The club has been in a soft opening since the beginning of the month, and anticipates having a grand opening in April, most likely with a performance by comic Bill Bellamy.

Weber said cover will stay at $17. 

The club is expected to be open Thursdays through Saturdays, and sometimes Sunday.

Its home at 6 Market Place has hosted several comedy clubs over the years, starting with Slapstix almost a decade ago, and later the Baltimore Improv and Rascals.

The space has been vacant now for at least four years. 

Photo: via

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:51 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

March 23, 2011

Today's Nightlife Photo: Progress at Liam Flynn's Ale House

Liam Flynn, who used to run the Pint-Size Pub, adding a medallion logo to his new, self-titled place on Station North, which I wrote about back in October.  Like several other local bar owners, Flynn is using architectural salvage to renovate and decorate the old building. Under wraps since at least last Spring, it looks like Flynn's Ale House is finally coming together.

To see your nightlife and music photos on Midnight Sun, join our flickr pool or e-mail me directly. Photo: Flynn in front of his bar (Jessica M. Beil, via)

Posted by Erik Maza at 5:20 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Last Night's Photo

Rye Rye talks Miley Cyrus, Ryeot Powrr, and dancing at the Paradox

Rye Rye's debut album has been in the works for years, and every announced release date just keeps getting bumped.

But NEET/Interscope, her record label, says it will finally be in stores in May, and to promote it, the East Baltimore rapper released a free, downloadable mixtape in February.

In it, she covers and mainly improves upon a bunch of cheesy top 40 songs, like Kesha's "We r who we R," "Like a G6" and the "Party in the USA" cover I saw her do in Miami late last year

In a Q&A that ran in Monday's paper, she talked about her love of Miley Cyrus, bold prints, and where she likes to dance in Baltimore when she's not on tour. 

An excerpt:

Q: Where did you dance when you were younger, and do you still go?

A: The Paradox. I still go, here and there, when I'm not on tour. It feels like home. I'm around all the people I grew up with. I go to dance with my friends and to show people that I'm still normal and not stuck up. When I'm there, I'm in my zone. It influences my music as well because I'm staying connected to that Baltimore vibe

The rest of the Q&A is here. NEET says Rye Rye has a few shows scheduled for the near future, including a slot at Coachella.

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

Can Elton John still deliver the kind of spectacles he used to?

Elton John will perform at 1st Mariner Arena this Saturday. It'll be 40 years after he first performed in the city, at the Mill Run Theatre, on his first American tour.

Since then, he's performed scores of times in the area, most recently two years ago in Washington with Billy Joel. But the last time he played Baltimore proper was in 1999.

On tour lately he's been performing his greatest hits, but also selections from his excellent collaboration with Leon Russell, "The Union."

The album, a mix of boogie-woogie flourishes, blues, and classic rock, finds Elton showing off the kind of swagger he hasn't in years.

In songs like "Hey Ahab" his writing is playful and clever, and his performance is as euphoric as the Elton of old. Elton and Leon, by the way, will perform together on Saturday Night Live later this year. Fingers already crossed for an Elton-Stefon pairing.

"The Union," which includes vocal cameos by contemporaries like Neil Young and Brian Wilson, was nominated for a Grammy earlier this year, but lost to, ugh, another Herbie Hancock record.

Still, those who've seen Elton in concert say anyway that's where he's in his element, donning the kind of get-ups that would make Kylie Minogue blanch. While reporting a story about 1st Mariner Arena's 50th anniversary, Chris Kaltenbach talked to Pat O'Malley, a former sports reporter for the Sun, who recalled seeing the singer in the early 70s.

"He started yelling back at security,” O’Malley said. “He told security to get out of the way, and they did. The next thing you know, he did ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,’ and there were a couple hundred fans up on the stage…It was wild — really wild.”

Can Elton still deliver those kinds of spectacles? When was the first time you saw him in concert and what was the experience like? Will he change the lyrics to "Candle in the Wind" again to honor Liz Taylor?

Update: A slightly longer preview of the show and review of "The Union" is here.

Photo: Elton John and Billy Joel performing in Washington in 2009 

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:07 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Music News

Tipsy? Taxi! improves service on St. Patrick's Day, except between 1 and 2 a.m.

Tipsy? Taxi! did a better job on St. Patrick's Day than on New Year's Eve, a spokeswoman for sponsor AAA Mid-Atlantic said.

The service, which offers free cab rides to residents too drunk to drive on certain holidays, had been barraged by complaints over dropped calls and shoddy service in December.

But this time, 190 cabs were dispatched to service Tipsy calls, a 10 percent increase over last St. Patrick's Day, according to AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise.

While AAA qualifies the number as a success, the number is relatively small in context, and begs the question, why aren't more people using a free cab service when they're drunk?

The service, sponsored by AAA, Yellow Cab, and the State Highway Administration, is now in its third year.

 In December, it stumbled badly. Operator Yellow Cab dropped 18 percent of calls on New Year's Eve, and the waiting time for one of its cabs was 45 minutes in some instances. As a result, only 92 rides were given, and consumers responded with intense criticism.

After the complaints caught the attention of the SHA, Yellow Cab pledged to improve service going forward, and this year, they added an additional operator dedicated to Tipsy calls.

The sponsors credit this with a decrease in dropped calls. Throughout St. Patrick's Day, Yellow Cab dropped an average seven percent of calls.

At peak hours, however, the service was still overwhelmed, and about 34 percent of calls were dropped.

Delise defended the average.

"On a non-holiday night Yellow Cab’s call answering response rate ranges from 80% to 96%," she explained. But, "Last Thursday night the cab company’s call center for their paying customers was averaging around 88% so Tipsy?Taxi! callers got answered at a better rate than calls to Yellow Cab’s regular number for paid service."

She conceded that peak hours an area that still needs improvement.

"We will also continue to explore ways to improve the call response rate during that key hour when last call is sounded, the bars are closing, and everyone wants to go home at the same time," she wrote via e-mail.

Even with the added operator, and the improved response time, however, the service was underutilized on St. Patrick's Day. It's not that there weren't enough people celebrating that day.

Just marching on the St. Patrick's Day parade were 2,000, while about 18,000 to 20,000 observers lined the parade route, according to Baltimore Police. That number is about 20 percent more than the crowd attending last year's event.

Delise said the sponsors of the service are looking into ways of expanding their ridership. For now, it intends to keep three operators dedicated to Tipsy calls.

"AAA Mid-Atlantic, SHA and Yellow Cab have been discussing strategies to ensure not only quality service but as many free rides to customers as possible during campaign periods," Delisa wrote. 

We'll have to wait and see on July 4, the next time Tipsy? Taxi! will be on offer.

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

March 22, 2011

Celebration to open for TV on the Radio

Celebration, the six-piece art-rock Baltimore band, will open a handful of dates for TV on the Radio this April. 

The announcement came via, where else, Tumblr

Celebration just released their third album, "Hello Paradise," last month with a show inside a 110-year-old church in Charles Village.

A profile on the band appears in this Sunday's Sun magazine

The band said at the concert it did not have a tour planned, save for the occasional show, as has been their custom since they broke with former label 4AD three years ago.

That's the case with TV on the Radio, said Brett Yale, of the band's current label Friends Records. 

They will open for TVOTR at just three cities, Philadelphia, Charlottesville,  and, on April 10, at Rams Head Live in Baltimore. Yale says there are currently no plans for more than three dates. The band's only other scheduled show is April 22 at Union Pool in Brooklyn.

The two bands have a history. They were label mates at 4AD, and TV on the Radio's David Sitek produced Celebration's first two albums.  

TV on the Radio are getting ready to release their first album since 2008, "Nine Types of Lights." They announced an accompanying tour in February.

The band have become not just standard-bearers in indie music but also commercially successful - their last album, "Dear Science," reached No. 12 on the Billboard 200.

The last time they performed in the area was 2008 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, on a bill that included Seu Jorge and Thievery Corporation.

To read the feature on the band, click here

Photo: Celebration's Katrina Ford performing at 2640. A photo gallery of that show is here. (Josh Sisk/Special to the Sun)
Posted by Erik Maza at 5:36 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

What bands would you like to see at Virgin FreeFest 2011?

freefest%20is%20back.JPG Virgin Mobile sent around a cryptic mass e-mail last week vaguely alluding to the return of its annual music festival here in Maryland.

It doesn't say when FreeFest will return or where it'll be held or if it'll stay free again this year. Underneath the bold banner "FreeFest is back" it just says, "Like us on Facebook for exclusive updates." How conveniently synergistic.

IMP, the concert promoter that handles the festival, didn't respond to questions about the e-mailed tease; SXSW is likely to blame.

The e-mail, though, suggests an announcement of some kind is imminent. Most likely, it'll be a confirmation that the festival will return to Merriweather Post Pavilion. That's what happened around this time last year.

While the line-up probably won't be announced until early summer, most likely around July, it's time to come up with your fantasy line-up.

Who would you like to see at Virgin Mobile FreeFest this year? Me? I would settle for a quiet, low-key pairing of Janelle Monae and Prince.

See pictures, reviews and more Virgin Mobile FreeFest info at The Baltimore Sun's Virgin Mobile FreeFest page.

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:00 AM | | Comments (53)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival

March 21, 2011

Review: Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Travis Barker at 1st Mariner Arena March 20

PX00213_9.JPGContributor Jay Trucker reviews Lil Wayne and friends, who performed on the third stop of the rapper's "I Am Still Music" tour at 1st Mariner Arena Sunday.

There were hip hop heads, multicolor-haired teen girls, a smattering of middle-aged folks, awkwardly bobbing along, and at least one young girl with “I <3 Lil Wayne” painted on her face.

Yes, the crowd at Lil Wayne's concert at 1st Mariner Arena Sunday was as diverse as the show's line-up.

During the four-hour, sold-out concert, Wayne delivered to all demographics with his trademark spitfire rapping and a rotating series of guests that included not just the announced headliners - Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Travis Barker - but also new protege Porcelain Black, Mix Master Mike, Lil Twist, and Wale.

Unannounced opener Porcelain Black took the stage at roughly 7 p.m., playing a short set to a mostly empty arena. Known also as Alaina Beaton, Porcelain is Wayne's newest discovery. She is equal parts Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga, and finished her set with a single that proudly declares, “This is What Rock n Roll Looks Like." I respectfully disagree. 

Travis Barker got on stage shortly after and discussed global economics and the worsening situation in Libya. Just kidding. He played the drums. From inside the speakers of a boombox-themed set-piece. Joining him was Mix Master Mike, of Beastie Boys fame. Their roughly 40-minute instrumental set showed off new material from Barker's solo album "Give The Drummer Some" and Mike's remixed hip hop classics.

While a few people danced in the aisles - the arena was just beginning to fill - it was clear that this opening act was better suited for segues between performances rather than as a full set.

Click here for a photo gallery of the show

Rick Ross came on next and proceeded to deliver the most consistent and well-received set of the night. Standing in front of a gigantic poster of himself, Ross had the, by then at-capacity arena, on its feet and moving as he ran through old and new tracks. He also brought out Wale, who guested on “No Hands” and stayed for the rest of the set, and DJ Khaled, who performed single “All I Do Is Win.”

Ross' stage demeanor was confident and agreeable, perhaps because, as he mentioned 46 times during his set, he is “self made," a plug, no doubt, for his upcoming compilation album of the same name.

Wayne emerged later from underneath the stage, sporting sunglasses, a blue hat, skinny jeans hanging just above his knees and a surprisingly ornate blue kerchief. Behind him was a three-tier stage with LCD screens that had dancers on the third floor, a DJ booth on the second and space for his band on the first.

He was all energy while he delivered his trademark raspy, fast-as-lightning lyrics. Female ninja dancers joined the band during “Got Money,” an early set highlight. Wayne was at his best when he performed alongside his live band. But when was by himself, he resorted to interacting with the crowd with empty platitudes, like when he told them he owed his fame to Tupac, Nate Dogg, and Michael Jackson.

The crowd was on its feet for the first portion of his set, but their collective energy level ebbed during the rest of the guest-studded two-hour show.

Lil Twist, a young rapper who is only nominally more lil than Wayne, joined the headliner on stage for a pair of songs that culminated on the Packers-themed “Green and Yellow.” Wayne later exited the stage for a two-song set by a female protege he referred to as Shanell.

This slowed down the pace of the show considerably even after Wayne returned, which left Nicki Minaj to prop up the restless audience.

She emerged in typical fashion, wearing a skin-tight white and pink catsuit with a blond beehive (a tribute to Denise Whiting, perhaps?), and with her own hype man, a full set of dancers, and a female DJ tagging along.

Minaj's presence was as varied as her multiple personalities, oscillating from smiley and friendly to angry shouting. She donned a white wedding dress during “Right Thru Me.” She also performed a shortened version of “Bottoms Up,” then gave a guy from the crowd a short lap dance. Her set ended with a costumed performance of “Monster.”

Throughout, her delivery was solid and easier to decipher than Wayne's, but as a new artist best known for guesting on other people's songs, her portion of the show was not met with the same enthusiasm as Wayne or Ross.

She returned to the stage once more later, to join Wayne for “Roger That” and the Flintstones-themed single “BedRock.”

Frequent Wayne collaborator Birdman joined the party too, trading lyrics with Wayne during “Money to Blow” and two additional tracks. When Wayne told the crowd that he had been performing Drake's “Miss Me” during this tour to commemorate his release from jail, it was clear that the night was nearing its finale.

A shortened version of smash single “Lollipop” followed. Wayne played guitar on the next song, “Prom Queen” and finished the set with “Drop the World.” He returned shirtless for one encore, the Harry Belafonte- sampling “6 Foot 7 Foot,” before leaving the stage the same way he came in over two hours earlier.

Between frequent guest appearances, elaborate stage design, and the full Minaj set in the middle of the show, the “I Am Still Music” show is a sensory assault that felt overly busy at times, though Wayne was an enthusiastic host for the duration of the evening, grinning widely and playing to all parts of the arena from the show's beginning to end.

Jay Trucker is a frequent contributor to Midnight Sun. He teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County in Dundalk and blogs occasionally at He last wrote for the blog about barhopping in Canton. Erik Maza edited this post.  

Photo: Lil Wayne performing at 1st Mariner Arena March 20 (Colby Ware/Special to the Sun)

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:52 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Concert reviews, Music News

SXSW 2011: Dan Deacon at Cheer Up Charlie's

dan deaconMidnight Sun alum Sam Sessa saw Dan Deacon play SXSW last week:

In the past few years, a bunch of Baltimore musicians have signed record deals, toured internationally and earned gushing reviews from critics.

But none have been more successful than Dan Deacon, who, perhaps more than anyone else, helped put Baltimore's music scene on the map.

So when Deacon belatedly announced one -- and only one -- date at last week's South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, it immediately became a must-see. Several hundred eager hipsters and other Deacon fans crammed into an outdoor venue called Cheer Up Charlie's to try and catch a glimpse of the gleefully eccentric musician.

Only the folks in the front few rows actually got to see him. Deacon likes to set up and perform on the ground or floor, so that he's level with the audience. He likes to get down and dirty, so to speak. And that's just what happened Saturday night in Austin.

It had been hot and dry all week, and soon after Deacon's set began, the crowd's close-quarters dancing kicked up clouds of dust. Deacon wrapped a cloth around his face to keep from inhaling too much, but the rest of us weren't so lucky (when I blew my nose the next day, my snot was black).

But Deacon's show made it all worthwhile. It was the best all-around performance I saw all week --  wacky, energetic and utterly original. It was everything we've come to know and love about Deacon, in a roughly hour-long set. He sang along to backing tracks, using effects pedals to tweak his voice, and occasionally playing a small keyboard.

As soon as the music started, the crowd surged forward, nearly swallowing Deacon's small setup. Then, when the beat from the first song hit, the moshing started. It was nothing like a punk show (these were hipsters after all), but there were still plenty of crowd-surfing and love shoves.

A few new songs made appearances in Deacon's set (he vaguely promised a new album in the next several months). The new stuff had more straightforward dance beats, a break from the spastic rhythms of much of his past work.

The show's heavy hitters were the thumping "Crystal Cat" and "Wham City," Deacon's ode to the Baltimore arts collective he and several others founded. "Wham City" was an epic way to close out the show, which ended with a searing synth riff, which melted into noise.

After the show, a young woman who'd been dancing next to me told me how jealous she was that I came from Baltimore. I left Cheer Up Charlie's, sopping in sweat, and knowing I probably wouldn't see another set as good as Deacon's. I didn't.

Photo: Dan Deacon performing at Cheer Up Charlies (Sam Sessa)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:54 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music, Sessa's Weekend Watch

Last Night's Photo: Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj at 1st Mariner Arena

minaj1.JPGLil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross and Travis Barker performed at 1st Mariner Arena last night in what was possibly the first big show of the season. Above, Nicki in a get-up that combines Lady Gaga, Celia Cruz and Chris Tucker in "The Fifth Element." Later today, we'll have a review of the show. Colby Ware put together this photo gallery of the concert. To see your nightlife and music photos on Midnight Sun, join our flickr pool or e-mail me directly.
Posted by Erik Maza at 10:29 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Last Night's Photo

March 21 - 27 in nightlife: Janet Jackson, the Mountain Goats, Elton John

Don't take my word for it. Take John Darnielle's advice: party. So stop listening to Rebecca Black, and do one of these things later this week.

On Monday, Henry Rollins is 50. He'll talk about it at Rams Head on Stage, natch. 33 West St. The show is sold out. 8 p.m.

On Tuesday, British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding performs at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. N.E. The show is sold out. Doors open at 7 p.m. Also: Janet Jackson performs her greatest hits at DAR Constitution Hall

On Wednesday, DC's hip hop grou The Eubonics performs at Charm City Art Space, 1731 Maryland Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Also: Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp stop by the 9:30 Club in one of their few American tour stops; the electronic and dance music festival Ultra in Miami is another.

On Thursday, Chapel Hill rockers Caltrop perform at the Sidebar, 218 E. Lexington St., where they'll be joined by Batillus, Hull and Billows. A night of heavy metal. Doors open at 9 p.m. 

On Friday, the great Mountain Goats perform at the 9:30 Club with new album "All Eternals Deck." They will be at the Ottobar in April. Expect at least one song dedicated to Liza Minnelli. Our interview with John Darnielle will be out on Friday. 815 V St. N.W. Doors open at 8 p.m. $22.50. Also: Ultra kicks off in Miami. Run for the airport if you'd like to go; it ends Sunday. Tickets are only available via craigslist by now.

On Saturday, 1st Mariner follows this weekend's massive Lil Wayne-Nicki Minaj show with Elton John. Prepare yourself by listening to his excellent new album with Leon Russell, "The Union." "Hey Ahab" is a standout. 201 W. Baltimore St. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $29.

On Sunday, it's a take-it-slow night at the Baltimore Hostel, 17 W Mulberry St. Maryland writers - including Sarah Jane Miller and novelist Joseph Riipi - read selections of their work. Starts at 7 p.m.

Photo: The Mountain Goats official website
Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nightlife Pocket Guide

March 19, 2011

SXSW 2011: G. Love, Rachael Ray, Tiny Victories, Baltimore House

g. love!Whew! The past few days have been a whirlwind here in Austin, Texas. Hi, it's Sam Sessa again, bringing you another update from the South by Southwest music festival.

I've been here since Tuesday, seeing and interviewing bands, as well as talking to industry and government folks. My main reason for going (I was sent here by WTMD and The Sun) was to find out why Austin (the "Live Music Capital of the World") has such a great music scene, and what Baltimore could do to help make ours better.

Here's the end result, a piece which runs in Sunday's paper.

After filing the piece, I headed out to catch G. Love (pictured, top), who played at one of celebrity chef Rachael Ray's parties. I shook Rachael's hand (omg!) and talked with G. Love  for a little while after the show. He's got a new, bluesy album he recorded with the Avett Brothers.

drew from baltimore house

I must admit, I'm not the biggest fan of G. Love's music, but he seemed like a really nice, genuine guy. He talked about playing in Baltimore a lot when he was first coming up, and gave a shout out to longtime Baltimore favorites the Kelly Bell Band.

Then I plunged back into the wild & crazy downtown Austin scene for some more music.

I met up with Andy Rubin, owner of Cyclops books in Station North, and saw Stephaniesid, a chill indie rock band with keys, guitar, vocals, drums and a sax player. Stephanie, the lead singer, had an airy, interesting voice and a cute stage presence.

Stephaniesid was playing a showcase co-sponsored by Baltimore House, a recording studio run by a former Baltimore guy named Drew Schlegel. He's been in Austin for three years, where he plays in his band, records other bands and -- get this -- runs a snowball stand! Austinites love the egg custard and marshmallow, he said.

tiny victoriesAfter waiting in line for a while to see Das Racist, I gave up and had a couple drinks at an upstairs patio bar. Austin has a ton of outdoor bars, most with live music. With the temperature creeping up into the 80s and a steady breeze blowing, it was almost perfect outside.

The last noteworthy band of the night was Tiny Victories, a surprisingly Brooklyn electro-rock duo who played drums, keys and sang. You can download their single here for free, but the album versions don't do the live show justice. Their set was up, but the crowd demanded an encore, and so they stuck around and played one more.

I'm here until tomorrow morning, when I'm catching the early plane out of Austin and heading back east. See you then!

(Photos by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:03 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Local music, Sessa's Weekend Watch

March 14 - 19 reviewed: Preakness InFieldFEST, South by Southwest, Lil Wayne

It was a week of big festival announcements. On Monday, the two-year-old Sweetlife Festival announced Lupe Fiasco, Crystal Castles and Girl Talk as headliners. Almost a month later, Bruno Mars and Train will lead the infield entertainment during Preakness, organizers announced. It's unclear yet if Janelle Monae will join Mars on stage, or if anyone will actually go see Buckcherry on the side stage.A bunch of Baltimore musicians headed to Austin for South by Southwest. Sam Sessa interviewed some of them. There was lots of shamrockery during St. Patrick's Day. Tipsy? Taxi! returned in honor of the festival. Organizers promised there were no complaints this time. I judged a bartending competition. Lil Wayne still declined interview offers.  The show on Sunday at 1st Mariner should be one of the most star-studded in some time. Ellie Goulding talked about trying to break through in America. Fans of the 90s rejoiced when it was announced Stone Temple Pilots would play at Pier Six. Several bars said they are doing their part to aid Japan. There's still opportunities to donate to relief efforts.

Posted by Erik Maza at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Roundup

March 18, 2011

Last Night's Photo: St. Patrick's Day at Canton's Portside Tavern

No doubt these guys are still recovering from last night's shamrockery. I'm more curious to find out if anyone actually used Tipsy?Taxi! and if it worked. Let me know. The Sun's Karl Merton Ferron put together this photo gallery of St. Patrick's Day celebration's in Canton. To see your nightlife and music photos on Midnight Sun, join our flickr pool or e-mail me directly.

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Last Night's Photo

Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj bring double the star power with Baltimore show

Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj didn't give any interviews to the paper, but to preview their show Sunday at 1st Mariner Arena, I talked to 92Q's music director, Vernon Kelson; R&B singer Paula Campbell, and a fan of Lil Wayne's who first saw the rapper two years ago at the first "I Am Music" tour.

Derek Davis, a 31-year-old customer service rep who lives in Baltimore, won't be getting into the concert with a free guest pass, like Campbell will. 

He doesn't even care much for Minaj or Rick Ross, who's also performing Sunday. No, when he paid $75 for the nosebleed seats, he did it for Wayne. 

When Davis saw the rapper two years ago, "The minute he stepped on stage, he had the crowd at his command,"he recalled. 

He's going back Sunday because, "I just want to see if after all this time he was locked up, he still has that same command of the crowd."

The rest of this story is here

Campbell and Kelson both say this is the biggest hip-hop show to play Baltimore in some time. 

Campbell says that, for the last time there was this much star power on stage, she would have to go back to the start of the decade, when Eminem, Dre, and the recently deceased Nate Dogg played the Baltimore Arena.


Posted by Erik Maza at 1:03 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Music News

March 17, 2011

SXSW 2011: J. Roddy Walston, Jukebox the Ghost, Chico Mann

jukeboxtheghost.jpgHello again, it's your old friend Sam Sessa with another dispatch from Austin, Texas.

Man, my legs are aching. I can't remember the last time I walked and stood and walked and stood so much.

Day two of my trip to the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin flew by. I checked in with Baltimore rockers J. Roddy Walston and the Business, who are playing a few showcases down here (check out the whole list of Baltimore bands at SXSW Erik put together).

Rod and the boys had head colds, and said some kind of bug has been going around -- a bunch of the bands are sick. But they still seemed pumped to be in Austin. Here's the interview; listen for "white people" references.

I also checked in with singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten, who is buddies with Baltimore's Wye Oak and Lower Dens. Here's that interview, too.

In late afternoon, I caught the Philly-by-way-of-Washington indie band Jukebox the Ghost (pictured at top), who played a mellower-than-normal set at Empire, an old auto shop. Austin is brimming with bands -- hundreds, if not thousands of them -- and much of downtown is turned over to pedestrians.

The lines are incredible. People stand and wait for everything from food trucks to club shows. If you have a badge, that makes it easier to get in, but still, lines can stretch down and around the block.

Later on, I saw this DJ named Chico Mann, who was bizarre in all the right ways. He had a beard and wore a black-and-white scarf, and had an avatar of his face on his laptop. Chico played keyboards and sang live (mostly in Spanish) over these killer beats.

But then he would yell things like "YEAH THAT'S THE JERSEY SOUND" and "THIS IS JERSEY!"

Come to find out, he's from Jersey City. Here's his MySpace site, check out the tune "Dilo Como Yo." 

I wrapped up around 2 a.m., got up at 9 a.m. today and headed to a Warner records showcase for some interviews. The 21-year-old singer/songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield is playing on the front lawn, and the brother/sister duo the Belle Brigade are on their way.

I'll try and check back in later today with another update. 

Photo: Jukebox the Ghost performing in Austin at SXSW (Sam Sessa)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music, Sessa's Weekend Watch

Stone Temple Pilots, Wiz Khalifa to perform at Pier Six Pavilion

Pier Six Pavilion is quickly filling out its concert calendar, and with younger headliners. 

It was just a month ago that Peter Frampton became the venue's first announced performer of the season. 

But today it was announced that 90s holdovers Stone Temple Pilots would perform there April 26.

The band's tour is in support of their self-titled release from last year. Tickets, which start at $35, go on sale Friday at the venue's website. 

Two days after that show, Wiz Khalifa will take the stage. The rapper was last in Baltimore in December, when he sold out two nights at Rams Head Live. Tickets, at $30, are already on sale at Pier Six's website.

Pier Six made other announcements today, though they are mostly of the Great Performances variety: Spaniards the Gypsy Kings  will perform Aug. 21. Tickets, which start at $25, go on sale Friday. Bela Fleck and the original Flecktones, the Grammy-winning instrumental band, will perform July 7. Tickets also go on sale Friday.

In other old concert news, Jiffy Lube Live at Bristow announced last week that Jimmy Buffett would perform there Aug. 27. Buffett is on his "Welcome to Fin Land" tour.  Tickets, which start $50, go on sale Saturday.

(Photo: via)
Posted by Erik Maza at 9:11 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Music News

Tipsy? Taxi! returns for St. Patrick's Day; How many calls will it drop this time?

Surely that's the first question to ask about the return of the free cab rides on St. Patrick's Day.

AAA Mid-Atlantic and Yellow Cab sponsor the rides on drinking high holidays to stem drunk driving.

But on New Year's Eve, the service received so many complaints that representatives of the State Highway Administration, a sponsor of the program, said they would have to re-examine how Tipsy? Taxi! is run.

In December, Yellow Cab missed about 18 percent of all Tipsy calls. And the waiting time for one of the cabs was as long as 45 minutes. As a result, there were only 92 rides on a free cab service that picks you up in front of a bar and drops you off in front of your house.

On Tuesday, AAA Mid-Atlantic announced an improved service would return for St. Patrick's Day. 

"Following the discussion on your blog regarding Tipsy? Taxi!, we wanted to reach to you directly as we gear up for St. Patrick's Day," AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise wrote Midnight Sun in an e-mail. "We've been working with our partners, [the State Highway Administration] and Yellow Cab, to discuss program enhancements, and in the short-term (sic) have added more staffing at the dispatch center to reduce call hold times."

The enhancements?

"Yellow Cab will be increasing their dedicated Tipsy? Taxi! phone operators from two to three," Delise wrote.

 The waiting time can still range from 15 to 45 minutes. But Delise said that, unlike on New Year's Eve when calls were concentrated to a few hours after midnight, on Thursday they should be more spread out.

"The number of revelers out at bars and restaurants tends to be much higher for that holiday [NYE] compared to St. Patrick's Day, especially when the next day is a day off for practically everyone," Delise wrote. 

The sponsors did make one significant change. The service on Thursday will be available starting at 4 p.m. and extending to 4 a.m., unlike on New Year's Eve, when it started at 8 p.m.

Beyond these changes, Delise said the sponsors did meet with the SHA to re-examine the program. They "came up with a few ideas to improve service" but they are still under evaluation.

Expanded hours of service and an additional phone operator are only modest improvements of a service, that, though commendable, may not be living up to its full potential.

But Delise defended the program's track record, if only on St. Patrick's Day.

"We have never had any issues from patrons regarding service on St. Patrick's Day during the five years the program has been operation (sic) for this holiday," she wrote.

Last year, she said, there were 172 Tipsy?Taxi! cab rides.

Delise pointed out that on Thursday participants are free to call Yellow Cab general manager Dwight Kines with complaints at 443-573-3416.

The rules for the service, for better or worse, are the same Thursday as they were on New Year's Eve:

Tipsy is only available by calling the special hotline (1-877-963-8294); it is free only up to $50 of cab fare; cabs will only pick up participants in front of a bar, and drop them off in front of a residence; and it is still available only to adults.

Like on New Year's Eve, Delise pointed out that the sponsors urged patience. 

"As with every holiday, Yellow Cab's full fleet will be on the road to serve St. Patrick's Day revelers. We give Tipsy? Taxi! calls priority, but because of the high demand, wait time may be length. We ask that customers be patient and persistent; if they get a busy signal, please dial again," she wrote.

Patient and persistent, that pretty much sums up your basic St. Paddy's Day drinker doesn't it?

Read more St. Patrick's Day coverage.

Photo: Tipsy? Taxi! announcement press conference in December (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:30 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News

March 16, 2011

SXSW 2011: Greetings from Austin, Texas

bat barWell, a big Texas hello, Midnight Sun gang!

I'm Sam Sessa. Some of you may remember me as the guy who used to write stuff for Midnight Sun. These days, I edit stuff and boss people around.

If you haven't guessed already, I'm in Austin, Texas, covering the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival for 89.7 WTMD and The Baltimore Sun. A gracious grant from WTMD members helped make the trip possible.

While not the country's biggest music festival, SXSW is perhaps the most important. About a thousand up-and-coming bands descend on Austin every March to try and make an impression on the roughly 10,000 journalists, music industry folks and fans who come to see them play.

I'm here to write a piece about why Austin is such a great city for live music (they call it the "Live Music Capital of the World"), and how Baltimore can be more like it.

I'm also going to catch up with Baltimore musicians who made the trip, including J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Wye Oak, Junestar, Ami Dang, and hopefully a few others. SXSW even has a film side: Eric Hatch, director of programming for the Maryland Film Fest, is here, scouting for this year's festival. Oh, and I'll also be checking out some other on-the-cusp artists.

waterloo recordsYesterday, I talked to James Moody, who runs a club called the Mohawk, and is an advocate for musicians and fellow club owners. And I sat down with blues singer/pianist Marcia Ball, who moved to Austin in 1970 and watched the city's music scene take shape. More on that later.

Austin is saturated with live music this week. Walking down Sixth Street, which is lined with bars and clubs, one song would bleed into another, and guitar solos shrieked out onto the sidewalk.

Stopped by Waterloo Records, which is the Sound Garden of Austin, only cleaner (zing!). Picking through the huge selection of vinyl made me pine for the days when you actually held music in your hands. Remember those days?

Waterloo posted a list of the top selling vinyl LPs of 2010, and Baltimore's own Beach House was No. 6. Yeasayer, who grew up in and around Baltimore, were No. 14.

I'll be here until Sunday morning. My goal is to post once or twice a day on Midnight Sun. But you should also follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@samsessa) for more frequent updates.

(Photo: Sam Sessa)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:07 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local music, Sessa's Weekend Watch

Baltimore at South by Southwest: Wye Oak, Lower Dens, June Star and more

sxsw.JPGFor a solid month now, they've been arriving at a faster clip than spam peddling Viagra. E-mails about South by Southwest.

Will you see this show, Will you attend that panel "Yoko Ono is Set to appear at SXSW," "Mellencamp documentary premieres at SXSW."

The barrage of e-mails has only intensified since last week, when geeks, journalists, angel investors and their friends - some 17,000 of them - started convening in Austin for the interactive portion of the mammoth confab, now un-ironically referred to as "South By."

For the music portion, which began Tuesday, the frenzy made its way to Baltimore, where sitar player and singer Ami Dang desperately tweeted earlier this month: "AMI DANG (@amidang) is going to #SXSW but has no shows. "PLEASE HELP; I WANT TO PLAY!! <3 <3."

While the interactive powwows at SXSW are the biggest draw now, the festival was conceived in 1987 as a place to discover emerging musicians, and it still retains that appeal, hence Dang's tweet. Several other musicians who live here, or started out here, are also headed to Austin, or are already there, to perform.

If you're there, this is a handy guide to Baltimore at SXSW.

If you're not - as I am not (guess why!)  - and depended on Paul Ford's six-word reviews of the festival to keep up on the music side of things, he won't be doing them this year. Blame a panel.

Still, you can preview many of the thousands of bands playing by listening to the MP3s they've submitted to the festival's website. And if they haven't, they can also be previewed at the unofficial torrents site.

Sam Sessa has also been covering things for WTMD, where he hosts "Baltimore Unsigned," and he'll have dispatches for Midnight Sun throughout the week. 

(UPDATED) Baltimore at SXSW:

Adventure: better known as Benny Boeldt, Adventure performs two nights, starting at 1 a.m. Wednesday at Malaia, 300 E 6th St. His SXSW promo is here

Ami Dang: the singer, whose new album "Hukam" is excellent, will perform Sunday at Austin Java, 1206 Parkway Ave. Starts at noon. She's also requesting some housing help on twitter, which is a far more respectable tweet than "bail me out of jail."

Blaqstarr: Out with first EP "Divine" on MIA's NEET, Blaqstarr performs five nights, starting 8 p.m. Thursdayat the Austin Convention Center, 612 W 4th St.

Cass McCombs: McCombs, who's from California but lived in a Baltimore for a while (see: "Not the Way"), has a new album this year called "Wit's End." He'll perform Thursday at midnight at Emo's Main Room, 603 Red River St.

Dan Deacon: won't be at an official showcase, but at a free show Saturday at 7 p.m. at Cheer Up Charlies, 1104 East 6th Street.

Deep in the Game: two of the party's DJs, Mark Brown and Adam Schwarz, have an official showcase on Thursday at Malaia; starts at 9:30 p.m.

EAR PWR: the band, which had a short stint in Baltimore, will perform Thursday at 9:20 p.m. at 512 Rooftop, 408 E 6th St. In May, they'll have an even bigger spotlight when they perform at the Animal Collective-curated ATP Festival in England.

Eureka Birds: the five piece band performs at Lovejoy's, 604 Neches, at 12 p.m. Thursday.

Hazel Dickens: Could she be the oldest performer at SXSW? The 75-year-old bluegrass singer will be at the Driskill Wednesday, where the festival she inspired, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, will be taking submissions. 11 p.m. at 604 Brazos St.

J. Roddy Walston and the Business:  The band made a memorable appearance at the festival last year, and is back again. They perform Thursday at 1 a.m. at Soho Lounge, 217 E 6th St.

June Star: the alt-country six piece is promoting new album, "Lower Your Arms." They will perform Thursday and Friday, though they haven't yet said where. Keep an eye on the band's website for updates. 

Labtekwon: the Ghetto Dai Lai Llama performs Friday at 8 p.m. at the Marq, 422 N Congress Ave. Festival promo.

Lands & Peoples: the young upstarts booked three unofficial SXSW gigs, starting 1:30 p.m. Wednesday with a house show at 1304 Mariposa Dr #154. Other dates are here.

Lower Dens: Last year, Jana Hunter described CMJ as this thing where, “The whole industry descends on [New York] for a few days to geek out about music in a really intense and obnoxious way." SXSW is the same, but hotter. They perform Friday at 8 p.m. at Klub Krucial, 614 E 6th St. (Their promo video is below)

Secret Mountains: with Lands & Peoples, Secret Mountains have put together an interactive SXSW video.  Check it here. They have also booked unofficial SXSW gigs, listed on their website. They will perform after Lands & Peoples at 2:15 p.m at 1304 Mariposa Dr. #154.

Spank Rock: the hometown boys play on the showcase of deep house DJ Boys Noize, who is producing their new album. Thursday at midnight at Elysium, 705 Red River St.

Stan Killian: the saxophonist, and An die Musik regular, performs Thursday at 1 a.m. at the Elephant Room, 315 Congress Ave.

Uncle Jesse: The DJ is on his own, not at the Unruly showcase, Thursday at 11 p.m. at Malaia, where it seems a lot of Baltimore people are stopping by. I prefer his tumblr to his soundcloud; more frequently updated.

Unruly Records: the Baltimore club label presents a showcase Saturday that features Scottie B (as Chavy Boys, with King Tutt), DJ Class, and DC's Nadastrom.  Starts at 8 p.m. at 206 E. 6th St.

 Wye Oak: the duo is promoting just released "Civilian," which NPR is streaming in its entirety. They perform Friday at 11:45 p.m. at The Parish, 214C E 6th St.

If I've missed someone, e-mail me. 

Lower Dens' SXSW promo video:

Photo: SXSW

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:59 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

March 15, 2011

Today's Nightlife Picture: Telesma at Creative Alliance

telesma.JPGBaltimore group Telesma performing at Creative Alliance at the Patterson earlier this month, by flickr user fwredelius. To see your nightlife and music photos on Midnight Sun, join our flickr pool or e-mail me directly.

Posted by Erik Maza at 4:51 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Last Night's Photo

Update: Buy beer, help Japan relief efforts

In response to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan, a couple of Baltimore bars are raising money to help with relief efforts.

Pratt Street Ale House will give the American Red Cross $1 for every pint of Strongman Pale Ale it sells. The beer was hopped entirely with Japanese Sorachi Ace.  Co-owner Justin Dvorkin said the bar has about 15 kegs of the beer, a batch that should last until the end of the month.

At Slainte Irish Pub, $1 of every pint of Guinness sold on St. Patrick's Day will go to the Red Cross as well.

Money raised by the Red Cross - $10 million so far, the organization said today - will go towards helping victims of the natural disasters, as well as to the hundreds of thousands who have been evacuated as a result of what may be the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl. 

Also, several charities, including the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps, are taking donations directly at their respective websites. (via BiB and D@L)

Update: U Street Music Hall in DC also said Tuesday that it will donate all door proceeds from March 26 to the Red Cross and ongoing relief efforts. DJ Tittsworth will be appearing that night, when the cover will be $10. 1115 U Street NW.

Photo: U Street Music Hall Facebook

Posted by Erik Maza at 3:04 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Sweetlife Festival line-up announced: Girl Talk, Lupe Fiasco, Crystal Castles join the Strokes at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Girl Talk, Lupe Fiasco, Crystal Castles and Washington DC's US Royalty are a few of the performers that will join the Strokes at the Sweetlife Festival in May, organizers announced today.

The festival takes place May 1 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, and boasts a line-up any festival, let alone one that's two-years-old would be proud of.

The other performers are Cold War Kids, Theophilus London, Walk the Moon, Modern Man, and Ra Ra Riot, who just performed at Rams Head Live. Their interview with Midnight Sun is here.   

The Strokes, who had been announced as the festival's headliners in late February, did not have any plans to play Maryland before Sweetlife. Same goes for Lupe Fiasco, who has just a couple of promotional appearances planned for new album "Lasers."

Girl Talk last played Baltimore in January.

Sweetlife was created last year by Sweetgreen, the salad and yogurt restaurant group. But it was an infinitely more low-key event.

Hot Chip was the main draw, and the one-day event took place at a tent at Dupont Circle.

This year's festival had been previously scheduled for April 30.  A pre-sale of tickets, which cost $55, starts tomorrow at the festival's website. The pre-sale code is "eatlocal."

A general admission sale begins Friday.

Photo: Sweetlife Festival
Posted by Erik Maza at 10:15 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music, Music News

March 14, 2011

March 14 - 20 in nightlife: Neil Hamburger, St. Patrick's Day, Lil Wayne

The biggest event in music this week will be happening not in Maryland, but thousands of miles away in Austin, where the music part of South by Southwest kicks off tomorrow. We will have updates from Texas by Sam Sessa, who is covering the festival for WTMD, where he hosts "Baltimore Unsigned." In Baltimore, here are the best music and nightlife options for the week.

On Monday, Neil Hamburger appears at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St. Expect jokes at Britney Spears expense; groundbreaking. Doors open at 9 p.m. $12.

On Tuesday, Pete Yorn, lover of harsh winters in upstate New York, performs at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. Doors open at 7 p.m.  $25.

On Wednesday, the Pretty Reckless, led by one of the young ladies on "Gossip Girl," performs at the Ottobar.  Doors open at 7 p.m. $38.

On Thursday, it's the high holiday of drinking, St. Patrick's Day. Toss back a Guinness at any of these ten pubs. Doors open whenever you'd like them to. 

On Friday, the Sidebar hosts several bands, including Harrisburg's The Saints of Sorrow, for a night of punk. Doors open at 8 p.m. $7. 218 East Lexington St.

On Saturday, Runner Runner will appear at a sold-out Bourbon Street, 316 Guilford Ave. The California band is touring with their first album. Philly's Valencia opens. Doors open at 6 p.m. $15. 

On Sunday, 1st Mariner Arena hosts the first big show of the season: Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $39.75. 201 W. Baltimore St. That same night, D.C.'s Rock N Roll Hotel will host the complete opposite: Salem. Doors open at 8 p.m. $12. 1353 H Street NE.

Photo: Bloomberg News 

Posted by Erik Maza at 5:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nightlife Pocket Guide

Bruno Mars, Train to headline Preakness InFieldFEST; Mug Club returns

PX00244_9.JPGSinger Bruno Mars and adult contemporary stalwarts Train will headline this year's Preakness InFieldFEST, the Maryland Jockey Club announced today.

The bill represents an extra shot of star power for the event, now in its third year. 

Headliners in the past included O.A.R., Zac Brown Band, ZZ Top and "Crazy Bitch" band Buckcherry.

Mars, on the other hand, won a Grammy earlier this year for best  male pop vocal performance.

He is currently on a Spring tour with singer Janelle Monae that was scheduled to skip Maryland.

Train, known for song "Drops of Jupiter," also won a Grammy earlier this year for best pop performance by a duo or group. 

The performers will take the main stage at the public Infield of Pimlico Race Course Saturday May 21

In addition, there will be a second stage that will feature band Puddle of Mudd, Phil Vassar and Mr. Greengenes, who are scheduled to make several St. Patrick's Day appearances locally. That stage will also host a bikini contest, the Jockey Club noted in its press release.

The festival is the Jockey Club's attempt to organize the infield experience, which before 2009 had a reputation for its rowdiness. In 2007, some attendees dashed across the tops of portable toilets while others pelted them with beer cans.

"The Running of the Urinals" has been saved for posterity on YouTube.

Instead of allowing attendees to bring their own beer, the Jockey Club in 2009 instituted the Mug Club, which allows fans to buy a bottomless beer mug for $20 in addition to the admission price.

Tickets for the event, which start at $40, went on sale in February, and are being sold at or at the Preakness Ticket Sales Office.

This will be the 136th year for the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

Photo: Bruno Mars at the 2011 Grammy Awards (AFP/Getty Images)

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:15 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Music News, News

March 10, 2011

Sam Sessa's Weekend Watch: Bethenny Frankel, St. Patrick's Day Parade, Pokemon Tournament

FindLocal has more weekend events. Its St. Patrick's Day guide is here.
Posted by Erik Maza at 10:59 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Sessa's Weekend Watch

March 9, 2011

Pete Yorn on his new album, soul-crushing winters, and leaving law school behind

Pete Yorn performs at the 9:30 Club Monday and Rams Head Live Tuesday. Contributor Benjamin Opipari spoke with him about Syracuse, his failed plans for law school and his new, self-titled album.

I spent four years in upstate New York. The real upstate, near Syracuse, not the upstate that's 60 miles north of New York City. The winters are long, cold and soul-crushing. But ask Pete Yorn about his time as an undergrad at Syracuse University, and he'll tell you that if it weren't for all that snow, he might not have become a songwriter.

How did majoring in communication and rhetoric at Syracuse prepare you as a songwriter? I don't know that it affected my songwriting, at least consciously. If anything, I was taking that major - it was speech communications at the time - because I planned on going to law school and I thought it would be good preparation. I had to give a lot of speeches and address a lot of audiences. At the beginning, I was petrified of getting in front of a group, so it helped a lot in that respect. It was a good way to work through that.

I lived in the Syracuse area for a few years. I found the winters there soul-crushing. Yeah, but as bad as the winters were there, it was the biggest catalyst to my writing. I had to stay inside all winter. I couldn't leave, so I would just write all the time. That was the start of my writing. And I credit those winters!

Do you get to do a lot of writing on tour? I put so much emphasis on wrapping my head around being a performer and on the shows that by the time I get a moment to chill, writing songs isn't really on my radar. I've been fortunate in that I haven't had to worry about that, because when I go home, things die down and I start writing again. I have two modes: home is writer time, and touring is performing time.

How active are you when it comes to seeking the muse when you write? Balance is everything. There are days I'll tell you that I can't even begin to explain any of it. It's about a feeling for me, like if I have my guitar and find a chord I like, or if something pops into my head. It's almost like it's transmitted from another planet through me.

Many songwriters tell me that they never revise the lyrics that come from that unconscious place because those thoughts are the purest. Is it possible to revise too much? If that was never a problem, I wouldn't be human. But you have to rely on what feels good. There are times when I lay vocals down on a song that I love, then a week later I have to change something. So I change it, then change it back to what it was originally. You do have to be careful of stepping on what you have. Hopefully you create enough material that the ones that work well you can keep, and those you are wrestling with you can set aside and revisit at a different time.

Is there an environment where you get your best writing done? It doesn't really matter, but I need to be alone. If I get in a flow and someone distracts me, it pulls me back into the current time and I'll get sucked out of the flow. I'll tell people I'm going to Hawaii for a month, and they'll say, "You're going to write some great songs hanging out on the beach!" And I'm like, "I don't think so. " I don't even think of it like that.

Pete Yorn performs at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place Tuesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets, at $25, are sold by calling the venue, or on its website.

Ben Opipari interviews writers and songwriters on his blog, Songwriters on Process. He has written for the Washington Post and academic journals. He last interviewed Ra Ra Riot for this blog. Erik Maza edited this post.

Photo: Pete Yorn Myspace
Posted by Erik Maza at 11:45 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Music News

March 8, 2011

Review: The Pogues, Titus Andronicus at Rams Head Live March 7

The legendary Irish band the Pogues performed with New Jersey upstarts Titus Andronicus Monday night at Rams Head Live. Contributor Evan Haga has this review.

Since 2006, the resurrected Pogues have become a fixture of the St. Paddy’s Day season in the States.

Their shows, which almost always hit the same great-sounding club venues, feature the same hit-parade set list (no new material) and the same spirited band fronted by punk-poet Shane MacGowan, whose drunken romantic persona has been endlessly mythologized.

Their current East Coast jaunt, which hit Baltimore Monday night, is reportedly the Pogues’ final U.S. tour. That's a shame. The seven piece band's propellant blend of Celtic roots and pub-rock fire is still worth paying around $60 for.

But for 53-year-old MacGowan, who looks and sounds like a man destroyed—even by the low standards he set himself—that might be for the best. 

In the past—say, when I caught the band at 9:30 Club in 2009—MacGowan’s condition posed a moral dilemma that was worth overlooking.

There was the suppressed thought that one more tour could kill him, but you couldn’t deny the romance of the situation: He trundled on and off stage like someone shuffling toward the bathroom mid-bender, yet he still knew the tunes well enough to make the correct entrances and exits.

He delivered his melancholy tales of liquor and damaged relationships almost indecipherably, but with the requisite boozy glory.

But last night MacGowan flubbed some of the Pogues' most important tunes, and even his marble-mouthed vocals—a sort of croak mixed with a toothless wheeze—couldn’t mask the missteps. He came in early or late, sang wrong verses at the wrong time, and forgot words altogether.

“If I Should Fall From Grace With God” was unfortunate; “A Pair of Brown Eyes” worse. Which is not to say the set was a washout: MacGowan improved as the night progressed, and did fine with other ballads. (The glaring omission from the set was, once again, “Fairytale of New York.”) He also stayed hydrated with what appeared to be plain old water rather than whiskey.

But another wince-worthy moment was always around the corner. On “London Girl,” which tin-whistle player Spider Stacy introduced as a Northern Soul floor-filler, he fell grossly behind the tempo. Stacy took on most of the emcee duties, though his addresses and tributes weren’t all that lucid either.

Big deal, MacGowan defenders will say. (And there are legions of them, including the guy who jumped onstage only to find that security wasn’t into it.) But it changed the dynamic. Two years ago the whole enterprise felt like a captain leading his pirates through the ultimate barroom songbook.

Here, the experience evoked certain blues shows I’ve been to or heard about: an icon still on the road long after a career has peaked, held up by sharp players who are left to grimace and smirk at one another, trying to anticipate the next unexpected turn.

When MacGowan took a breather and left Stacy to sing “Tuesday Morning,” or let the band rip through the instrumental hell-raiser “Repeal of the Licensing Laws,” it felt like a relief. Throughout the night, the players - several of them sturdy multi-instrumentalists - made a strong case for the power and urgency of acoustic instrumentation.

The giant, jigging mob in front of the stage would have been enviable for even the loudest, most electric punk band. Opener Titus Andronicus, a quintet from New Jersey whose new album takes inspiration from the Civil War, certainly was a loud punk band, and a very good one.

Patrick Stickles on the Civil War, Baltimore and recruiting local talent

Their music combined the stuff of Celtic folk and American roots— the two-beat rhythms, melodies fit for bagpipes—with indie-rock touchstones. (The punk version of Big Country, maybe?) Bearded singer/guitarist Patrick Stickles’ intuitive solos evoked J. Mascis’ playing, and his lyrics had a downtrodden charm worth deconstructing.

Self-loathing and revelry, it seems, will always go well together.

The Pogues set list:

Streams of Whiskey
If I Should Fall From Grace With God
The Broad Majestic Shannon
Boat Train
A Pair of Brown Eyes
Tuesday Morning
Lullaby of London
Sunny Side of the Street
Repeal of the Licensing Laws
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda
Body of an American
London Girl
Thousands Are Sailing
Dirty Old Town
Bottle of Smoke
The Sickbed of Cuchulainn
Sally MacLennane
A Rainy Night in Solo
The Irish Rover
Poor Paddy on the Railway

 Evan Haga, a frequent Midnight Sun contributor, is the managing editor of JazzTimes. He last reviewed The Cult for the blog. Erik Maza edited this post.

Photo: The Pogues official MySpace

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:50 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Concert reviews

Concert News: Wye Oak, The Decemberists, Neil Young

Wye Oak is scheduled to make a number of area appearances this week. They're performing a promotional set tonight at the Sound Garden. And on Friday, they'll perform at the Black Cat.  If a cold hadn't intervened, Jenn Wasner was even scheduled to appear at Monday night's Titus Andronicus show to duet with Patrick Stickles on "To Old Friends and New."

But until last week, it looked like Wasner and Andy Stack didn't have any proper shows scheduled for Baltimore.

Then on Friday the announcement came: they will perform April 16 at 2640. Tickets, at $12, are on sale now at Missiontix and Red Emma's Cafe.

NPR, by the way, is streaming their new album, "Civilian,"  in its entirety.

In other concert news, Merriweather Post Pavilion keeps filling up its calendar.

The Decemberists, out now with "The King is Dead," will play there June 13. Tickets, starting at $30, go on sale Friday at Ticketfly. 

The great Aimee Mann, whose twitter you should really be following, will perform at the Recher Theater April 10. Tickets, which start at $27.50, are on sale now at Missiontix.

Two legendary musicians will play the region this Spring.

Neil Young is only performing at ten cities on his Spring tour, but two of his dates are in Baltimore: April 27 and 28 at the Hippodrome Theater. Tickets, starting at $65, are on sale at Ticketmaster now. 

Paul Simon is scheduled to appear at DAR Constitution Hall May 25. Tickets, starting at $55, go on sale Friday at Ticketfly also.

Def Leppard, now enjoying a quiet revival as the typeface for Britney Spears' new album, will perform at Jiffy Lube Live on July 9. Tickets, which start at $25, are on sale Friday at Ticketmaster.

Photo: The Decemberists official site

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:35 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Music News

March 7, 2011

Photo Gallery: Celebration, Future Islands, Arbouretum at 2640 March 5

Celebration put on a great show Saturday night at 2640 for the release of their new album, "Hello Paradise." That's Katrina Ford above. The show featured performances from Arbouretum, out with their own new album, a subdued Future Islands, and massive white balloons, which made it seem like they were all performing up in the clouds. Josh Sisk photographed the event; a gallery of his pictures is here.
Posted by Erik Maza at 5:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Last Night's Photo

March 7 - 13 in nightlife: Titus Andronicus, Mardi Gras, Mi Ami

titus.JPGThis weekend, there were shows by Celebration, Future Islands and Lower Dens. This coming week, the local band that will make the most appearances is Wye Oak. With a new album out, "Civilian," they will make a store appearance at Sound Garden Tuesday and will perform at the Black Cat on Friday.

On Monday, Titus Andronicus opens for the Pogues at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. In this interview, Patrick Stickles talks about the local talent in their new album. $55. Doors open at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, it's Mardi Gras. Here's a list of local parties, including one at Bourbon Street sponsored by Southern Comfort. Starts at 7 p.m. at 316 Guilford Ave. Also: Wye Oak performs a short promotional set at Sound Garden at 7:30 p.m. Free.

On Wednesday, Somerville's The Dangers Of A Ghost Scorpion! plug new EP with a show at Joe Squared, 133 W. North Ave. (Locals) Garage Sale will also perform. Starts at 9:30 p.m. Free.

On Thursday, there's not much live music happening. Take a chance to go see the great "Putty Hill" at the Charles, 1711 N. Charles St.

On Friday, two bands, Cult of Youth and Pop. 1280, perform at Club Phoenix's monthly coldwave party, Ice Age. 1 W. Biddle St. Free before 11 p.m.

On Saturday, Low Budget, who co-founded Philadelphia party Hollertronix with Diplo, spins at Golden West alongside the Taxlo crew. 1105 W 36th S. Starts at 10 p.m. $5 for over 21. Also: Jerome Hicks, Thommy Davis, Bizkit and Wayne Davis spin at The Paradox's Deep Sugar party.

On Sunday, Mi Ami, now a duo, performs at the Floristree, 6th floor at 405 W. Franklin St 2603 N. Charles St. Hear the reconstituted duo with this free download. Starts at 8:30 p.m.

Photo: Titus Andronicus (handout)

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nightlife Pocket Guide

Natty Boh to be on tap at Camden Yards this season

The last time it happened, George Bush Sr. was at the White House and Justin Bieber hadn't been born.

National Bohemian hasn't been on tap at an Orioles stadium since 1992.

But that will change on April 4, the home season opener. Pabst Brewing Company has signed a deal that will bring the beer on draft to Camden Yards, Baltimore sales rep Rachel Warren said over the weekend.

Along with the return of Boh on draft to bars, the deal is part of the company's push to rejuvenate the old brand. 

Boh and the Orioles have a long history going back to 1954. 

It used to be the team's official beer. And the chairman of the brewery, Jerry Hoffberger, was a majority owner of the Orioles from 1965 to 1979.

The concessionaire stopped selling the beer in 1992 when the team moved from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards.

A Sun story from 1994 announced the establishment of a microbrewery stand at Camden Yards that would also include Boh, but it's not clear if it was then sold on draft or by the bottle, or for how long it was available there.

The beer has not been available on draft since 1996.

In January, Pabst, under new ownership since last year, launched an effort to resuscitate the brand, shipping some 900 kegs to Maryland bars.

Boh fans like Nacho Mama's Patrick McCusker, were elated, saying the beer is part of the city's heritage.

Warren could not confirm the last time the beer was served on draft at the stadium. Representatives for the Orioles and concessionaire Delaware North Sportservice declined to confirm or comment on the deal with Pabst.

It is not clear how much the beer will cost at the stadium. 

Warren did not say if Pabst will also pursue M&T Bank Stadium. After Pimlico Race Course stopped carrying it in 1993, National Bohemian has not been sold on tap at any other of the city's sports venues.

Photo: An advertisement for National Bohemian Beer in the Baltimore Orioles' 1955 sketch book

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:44 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Brewing News

March 5, 2011

Feb. 28 - March 4 reviewed: Tiki Barge, Titus Andronicus, PBR Baltimore

This week, the Tiki Barge saga got underway. And it won't be over for another three weeks. Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles, who performs Monday at Rams Head Live, talked about getting Dustin Wong, Jenn Wasner and Nolen Strals for the band's new album. The guide to a successful beer dinner was released. Incidentally, Flying Dog Brewery hosts its own dinner Monday night at Woodberry Kitchen. A list of upcoming beer and food pairing events is here. A yogurt company announced its second music festival, and somehow wrangled The Strokes to perform. The mayor finally chose a panel to review the shooting outside Select Lounge. We interviewed Ra Ra Riot. Power Plant's country-western themed bar opened Friday. The Maryland Senate accidentally threatened to ban people under 21 from going to Baltimore clubs and bars. Charlie Sheen was ubiquitous, not just ruining TV for a while, but also torpedoing Tiki Barge's shot at trending supremacy. Maybe, instead of #tikibarge, the hashtag should have been #pottedpalmtree?

Posted by Erik Maza at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Roundup

March 3, 2011

Baltimore Liquor Board punts on Tiki Barge decision

After a four-hour hearing to decide on the fate of the Tiki Barge, the Baltimore Liquor Board punted on a verdict Thursday.

The board members instead ordered Team Tiki and Team No-Tiki to meet, hash out their differences, and reconvene before the board in three weeks with some kind of agreement.

"We’re going to urge the party to come together, and if they don’t, we’ll make a decision based on the evidence,” said Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the board. 

The hearing was not a record one, Fogleman said; "Maybe top 12." But it must have set a benchmark for the highest number of times  the phrase "public urination" was uttered out loud by fully-grown adults.

I was there for all four, mind-numbing hours. Here's my dispatch:

The hearing started at 3 p.m. at room #215 of City Hall.

Throughout, Mel Kodenski, an attorney who often represents bars before the liquor board, spoke for the barge, and Matthew Klaiber, a neigbhbor represented the petitioners against it.

In attendance was a crowd of some 40 people, all sworn in in unison, though only about ten testified.

If you didn't read Wednesday's story, some of the barge's neighbors - eventually 40 - joined a petition accusing the patrons of the Tiki Barge of everything from public nudity to public urination; one of the more head-scratching complaints accused a patron of "simulated sex with a potted palm tree."

The petition also included a picture of a bosomy brunette who critics say was goaded into taking off her top, which, if you ask me, would have suggested a classic New York Post headline: "Topless woman at the Tiki Barge."

Team No-Tiki went first on Thursday. There was Marie Washington, a 62-year-old woman who lives at the Townes of Harborview, who said the bar's patron's tend to congregate outside her house.

"My problem is that it creates a safety issue for me," she said. She added that noise is also a problem: "I've been woken up by individuals on weekends late night who are intruding into my ability to enjoy my own home," she said. 

Four others spoke against the barge, then Team Tiki came on. I'll save you the sparring over license minutiae; early in the meeting Fogleman dismissed the petitioners' claim that the barge's liquor license was only limited to Tabrizi's and Sorso Cafe.

Kim Acton, the former owner of Locust Point’s Pazza Luna, and a resident in the area for six years - she's now at Harborview Tower - said she's been coming to the Tiki Barge since it opened.

It's given the neighborhood a nightlife anchor it didn't have before, she said. 

“There was nothing here before,” she said. “This gave it life.” 

The 51-year-old also helped set aside the notion that the Tiki Barge is only enjoyed by fratty, young people.

"I've entertained family, guests, I've never had an unpleasant experience," she said. "They've given me a place to be proud of."

Bud Craven, the bar’s manager also spoke in support of the bar. If it re-opens, he said it will include an expanded menu. Richard Swirnow, who developed much of this area, also defended it.

Kodenski said the barge’s owners taken precautions, like hiring off-duty police, to monitor patrons. He also noted the barge hasn’t caught the attention of law enforcement.

A spokesman for Baltimore Police described the area around the bar as “quiet” earlier this week.

Over the course of the meeting, certain phrases made the sleepy crowd perk up. "How can you differentiate between animal and human urine?" an incredulous Tiki supporter said at one point. The hearing's stenographer had to drily intervene at another: "Can we keep the joking to a minimum? It's killing me."

The meeting finally came to a close at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than the hearing a few weeks earlier on Club Reality.

Alas, the potted palm tree never made an appearance.

Because of the sheer amount of evidence, and the copious testimony, Fogleman said the board members needed more time to review it all, and will reconvene in three weeks on the issue.

In that time, supporters and detractors can come up with an agreement among themselves about the barge. And if they don't, the board will make a decision for them once and for all.

Photo: The Tiki Barge last March (Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun)

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:09 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: News

Will the Maryland Senate ban underage people from Baltimore clubs?

No, in a word. In the past week, some bar owners have written with alarm about a Senate bill (#844) that would ostensibly ban people under 21 from bars and clubs. Thursday morning the Examiner had an editorial about it.

Well, it turns out the language in the bill contained a typo. The bill would ban underage people from attending adult entertainment venues, not live entertainment venues. Reporter Chris Kaltenbach has more: 


Despite appearances to the contrary, state senators from Baltimore city are not looking to keep people under 21 from seeing their favorite bands live. They just want to keep them from seeing naked women.

A senate bill introduced last month, primarily designed to ensure clubs with liquor licenses have a police-approved security plan in place, had some club owners crying foul earlier this week. Under wording that was still in place this morning, clubs with liquor licenses – and this would have included The 8x10, Rams Head Live, Ottobar and others – would have been prohibited from allowing anyone under 21 inside.

No more all-ages shows, no more hands being stamped at the door to separate those old enough to drink from those who aren’t, no more bands with members younger than 21 even playing inside a club that serves liquor.

“That’s huge,” a shocked 8x10 co-owner Brian Shupe said when told of the bill. “This bill will definitely put me out of business.”

Not to worry, assures Sen. Joan Carter Conway, the bill’s main sponsor. The intent of that portion of the bill is to prevent people under 21 from going into strip bars, not music clubs. The wording, she promised, would be changed before the bill comes to a vote.

“The intent of the bill is adult entertainment,” Conway told The Sun’s Annie Linskey. “They (strip club owners) don’t want the kids to be in there. Patrons would have to be over 21.”

But what about all those 19-year-olds who are now allowed to check out the scene on The Block, but wouldn’t if the bill passes?

“They can wait until they are 21,” Conway said.

Photo: Band Fools and Horses performing at The 8X10 in 2008 (Courtney Block/Block Design & Photography) 

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:39 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Sam Sessa's Weekend Watch: "Putty Hill," Ice Cube, Ravens' cheerleader Tryouts

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:24 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sessa's Weekend Watch

March 2, 2011

Pairing food and beer, plus upcoming beer dinners

Pairing food and beer is not a new concept; Hugh Sisson at Heavy Seas Beer has been doing beer dinners for almost fifteen years.

But it's still a tricky undertaking, even for experienced craft beer drinkers. Though Kevin Berry has been a home brewer for six years, pairings still elude him.

So when DuClaw Brewing Company hosted its first beer breakfast in December, the Glen Burnie engineer went for tips.

He and others have more suggestions on successful pairings in today's Taste section. Here's an excerpt:

In coming up with a pairing, [DuClaw president Dave] Benfield suggests trying flavors that play off each other rather than share a common flavor. If you pair a hoppy beer with a dessert, the sweetness might be canceled out.

The DuClaw chefs also found that some pairings that might have worked — steak with the grapefruity Venom Pale Ale — failed because the beer had too much bite. Instead, his chefs tried it with the maltier flavor of their Devil's Milk and found it to be a success.

"It gave the steak body, where with Venom it felt thin and sharp," Benfield said.

The rest of the story is here

Below are upcoming food and beer pairing events in Maryland: 

Upcoming food-and-beer pairing events: 

March 2:  Six course beer dinner at Brewer’s Alley, Frederick by Maker’s Mark Bourbon Beer. $55. Call 301-631-0089 for reservations. The menu is at here.

March 7: Flying Dog Brewery hosts a sold-out a beer dinner at Woodberry Kitchen, 2010 Clipper Park Road. Cost? $95 per person.

March 8:Four-course, Mardi Gras Beer Dinner at Dogfish Head Alehouse, Gaithersburg. $60. Call 301-963-4847 for reservations.

March 10: Fordham Brewing Company hosts a five-course beer dinner at Rams Head Tavern, 33 W. St., Annapolis. $45. Call 410-268-4545 for reservations.

March 26: Heavy Seas Beer will host its real ale and BBQ festival at its brewery, 4615 Hollins Ferry Road, Suite B. $46 per person. Call 410-247-7822 for more information, or visit the brewery's website. 

Photo: Flying Dog's Garde Dog paired with Snow Hill oysters, raw and cooked, and Snake Oil hot sauce for a beer dinner at Woodberry Kitchen (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun


Posted by Erik Maza at 11:03 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

March 1, 2011

Ra Ra Riot singer Wes Miles on John Ryan Pike, new album "The Orchard" and playing house parties in upstate New York

Ra Ra Riot singer Wes Miles spoke with contributor Benjamin Opipari before the band's performance at Rams Head Live Thursday.

The musical genre known as chamber pop is characterized by instruments we wouldn't associate with house parties. That changed with Ra Ra Riot. The six piece band got their start five years ago playing house parties near Syracuse University. Despite including a violinist and a cellist, they had to play loudly to be heard. That energy is reflected in their first album, "The Rhumb Line," and also their most recent, "The Orchard." Singer/songwriter Wes Miles spoke about the band's first dummer, recording the new album, and what's like for cellists and violinists to play house parties.

Midnight Sun: It’s been almost four years since John Ryan Pike, Ra Ra Riot’s first drummer, died. How did you address that in your songwriting? Our first album had pretty much already been written when he died. On the second record, we wanted to keep playing music that we had made with him. I’m still always guessing what John would do in a lot of situations, what his contributions were, and what would they still be. I still think about everything I learned from him because he was such a good musician. Working with him on lyrics and melodies, I learned so much. I always take that with me.

MS: Was there a conscious effort to address his loss when you wrote "The Orchard"? Not really. There’s no good way to go about moving forward after losing a close friend. We didn’t feel that we had to write about him after it happened. That would have been silly and would have made our friendship meaningless if we felt like we had to write about it. The things I felt afterwards certainly made their way into our songs, but that’s inevitable. It’s not a conscious thing. The songs I write happen because of feelings that naturally manifest themselves. 

MS: When I caught you last month in San Francisco, it was your second show with new drummer Kenny Bernard. How's that going? Drumming is not an easy task in your band, given your complex arrangements and time signature changes. Kenny knew someone at Barsuk [ed. the band's label] and came recommended. He flew in for an audition in December and played great. He’s been doing great so far.

MS: How much time did he have to rehearse? We told him at the end of December that he had the job, so he had a couple of weeks to practice, then played with us for four days before the tour started and just nailed it.

MS: The band started at Syracuse University. Having lived in that area for a time, I know how miserable the winters are and how it can affect one’s psyche. Does environment affect your songwriting process? It always plays a role. Our first record was certainly influenced by being in Syracuse, but not just in terms of climate. The band started by playing house parties, and our first record was influenced by playing those shows. If we played quiet songs, we wouldn’t have attracted as much attention. We had to play loud songs that everyone wanted to dance to. That’s the only thing you can do in a loud, raging, house party. So that affected how we wrote, since we wanted to get everyone’s attention, literally, in that physical space.

MS: How did environment affect the writing of The Orchard? With that album, we didn’t have the constraints of writing for one setting. We had a lot more experience playing shows, so we wrote at a peach farm in upstate New York. There were not as many noises to compete with, so we could bring it down a notch. The sonic environment definitely affected the music we wrote. It was just the six of us and our producer, with not much else to do except play music. So in the late afternoon, for example, we’d want to play something loud, but in the morning maybe something quieter.

MS: How much writing do you do on tour? Not that much. It’s not because I set it aside, but because it’s frustrating to find the time and place to do it. Touring is hectic. I could be better at finding times in the margins, but when I have down time, I usually want to relax.

MS: So you need solitude? Yeah, to let my feelings come out, I need that alone time.

MS: With as much as you tour, are you ever able to slow down enough to realize that it’s a pretty unique way to see all of the United States in a way that most of us will never be able to do? There are days when I wake up before sunrise, it’s cold, and I have to drive all day. Then there are days when I have the morning off, or even the night off. We try to get to cool places. We made it to Lake Shasta in California on the last tour when we had an afternoon off. We were going from Sonoma to Eugene. We had maybe one hour, but that’s one of the places that sticks out in my mind, that one hour of outdoor solitude walking in the woods.

Ra Ra Riot performs Thursday at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. Anamanaguchi will open. Doors open at 7 p.m. $18. 

Ben Opipari interviews writers and songwriters on his blog, Songwriters on Process. He has written for the Washington Post and academic journals. He last interviewed the Love Language for this blog. Erik Maza edited this post.

Photo: Ra Ra Riot Myspace

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:19 AM | | Comments (0)
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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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