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July 7, 2011

Goodbye, you wretched Movable Type

micdown.jpgToday, the blog moves to a spiffy new publishing system and a new URL.

From now on, Midnight Sun can be found here, at www.baltimoresun.com/midnightsun.

In a month, the old url will automatically re-direct to the new one, but in the meantime, be sure to adjust your favorites, rss feeds, etc.

Click here to find out why. 

Photo: a musician at the Ottobar, by @fwredelius, contributor to the Midnight Sun flickr pool.
Posted by Erik Maza at 6:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Housekeeping
        

July 6, 2011

Baltimore man sues Live Nation for "exorbitant" Jackson Browne tickets

A Baltimore man sued Live Nation and Ticketmaster last week saying the entertainment behemoth overcharged him for Jackson Browne tickets.

Now he's seeking to recover the service charges as well as punitive charges and attorneys' fees.

The man, Andre Bourgeois, filed the lawsuit last Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Maryland as an individual and also as a class action. Or, in other words, on behalf of anyone who bought tickets from the Ticketmaster in the past four years and felt gouged.

Though the lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount from Live Nation, the combined damages from those in the class could exceed $5 million, according to the complaint filed by Towson firm Quinn, Gordon & Wolf.

The Daily Record, which first reported the news, points out that Live Nation already settled a similar case in January for $22.3 million.

At the heart of this lawsuit is Bourgeois' allegation that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are not registered as ticket agencies by the city of Baltimore, and therefore, their "exorbitant" service fees are are tantamount to scalping under city law.

Through a spokeswoman, Live Nation had no comment. "We do not comment on pending litigation," Liz Morentin said.

Bourgeois's decision to sue started with a Jackson Browne concert in Baltimore two years ago. He bought a $52 ticket for the show from Ticketmaster, but was charged $12 in service charges.

He charges in the lawsuit that Live Nation "used their dominating market position in the business of ticket sales to impose service charges on top of the face value of tickets in violation of Baltimore City law," which allows only a .50 cent service charge over a ticket's face value, according to the lawsuit. 

Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged last year, becoming an enormous conglomerate that last year took in a billion dollars in revenue from ticket sales. 

In the lawsuit, the entertainment company is charged with a total of ten counts, including being in violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

The case is in its early stages and it's not clear yet when the two sides will meet in court.  Quinn, Gordon & Wolf also declined to comment.

Update: Dean Budnick, one of the authors of the just published "Ticket Masters," said lawsuits against Ticketmaster over service fees have been pursued across the country for several years. 

But the company had typically not settled. The settlement from earlier this year started differently from the Baltimore lawsuit, Budnick said.

In that case, three individuals sued Ticketmaster for misleading them about processing fees, and eventually it turned into a class action, whereas here, Bourgeois is pursuing a class action from the start.

"The case wound on for quite some time and eventually Ticketmaster blinked as it picked up momentum," he said.

Budnick said the Baltimore lawsuit seems to to be less about service charges than the city's own laws on ticket sales. "I think it would turn on the definition of 'scalping' and 'face value' in the statute," he said.

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:19 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Music News
        

Don't Know Tavern lawsuit settled for $115K; in shocker, lawyer grabs most of it

Jason Zink has settled the lawsuit five former employees brought against him two years ago.

Under the settlement, which was filed Tuesday in federal court, Zink agrees to pay his former employees and their attorney $115,000.18. 

The payment is to be made in several installments of several thousand dollars over the next two years. 

Under the settlement, Zink and the former employees also agree to a confidentiality agreement that bars them from discussing the details of the case. The Daily Record first reported the settlement news.

Three of Zink's employees sued him in 2009 for participating in what they charged was an employee-only tip pool, one that as an owner he should not have belonged to. Two other employees, bartender Brian Emar and sous chef Astrid Garrison, later joined the suit as well.

The three original plaintiffs charged at the time they were owed $10,000 together. In March, a federal judge, Richard Bennett, ruled Zink was in violation of federal labor law by participating in the tip pool, and the two sides have been negotiating a settlement since. 

The lawsuit could have ramifications for other bars and restaurants since the labor rights of an owner who also works as an employee had not been previously addressed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Bennett said in his March opinion. 

The settlement awards the bulk of the damages - about  $98,000 - to the employees' Silver Spring attorney, Philip Zipin, who will receive it in installments of $2,000 over the next 49 months, the agreement said. The employees are themselves getting a collective $15,000.18.

Zink's first payment to his former employees is due three days after Bennett approves the settlement. It consists of a payment of $5,000.06 to be divided between the five employees, with Emar getting the largest share. Zink's last payment is scheduled to be made this August.

Zink told the Daily Record in March the lawsuit could hurt his business. And on June 26, he served his last shift at his Don't Know Tavern after selling it for an undisclosed amount.

He has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the lawsuit or the bar's sale. 

Photo: Don't Know Tavern (600block)   

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:43 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

July 5, 2011

African American Heritage Festival in images and video

Talib Kweli, Chuck Brown, Charlie Wilson, and Corey Mitchell (above), performed this weekend at the African American Heritage Festival. More festival pictures by staff photog Kim Haistron can be found here. Below, a video summary of this year's festival.
 
Posted by Erik Maza at 2:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Concert Photo Gallery
        

July 5 - 10 in Baltimore nightlife: Cut Copy, Animal Collective, Def Leppard

Still recovering from America Day, eating too many cheese dogs and drinking too much sangria? You wouldn't be a patriot if you weren't. The big event in local music this week is the Animal Collective show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, even though you shouldn't expect the band to play much of "Merriweather" at the venue. Elsewhere this week: a food truck rally, rock dinosaurs Def Leppard perform at Jiffy Lube Live, Jonny Blaze spins at the Ottobar, and, in what is hopefully not a new trend, a pirate party.

On Tuesday, Providence band Sasquatch and The Sick-a-Billys performs at the Sidebar, 218 E. Lexington St. Also on the bill: Baltimore's Sonic Creeps. No cover listed. 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, Jonny Blaze spins at the weekly Ottobar party Friendzday. 2549 N Howard Street. Free. 9 p.m. Also: Cut Copy performs at Rams Head Live. $30. 8 p.m.

On Thursday, the USS Constellation hosts what is billed as a $35 "pirate party." The ticket gets you a performance by Telesma, an eye patch, a swab bag and some finger food, according to the Facebook event listing.

On Friday, from 5 to 10 p.m. all of Baltimore's food trucks will gather on the lot at 421 Central Avenue. Thank nightlife poobah Damian Bohager for making it happen. Also: the Ottobar hosts its weekly Underground party. Apparently, tickets to Animal Collective, Wiz Khalifa, and Gang Gang Dance will be given away. Free before 10 p.m.

On Saturday, Animal Collective performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Expect a preview on Friday's paper. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Also: Def Leppard performs at Jiffy Lube Live with another veteran band, Heart. 

On Sunday, Baltimore's Paul Newman and the Ride Home perform at Charm City Art Space, 1731 Maryland Ave. No cover listed. 6 p.m.

Photo: Animal Collective performing at Coachella in April (Los Angeles Times)

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nightlife Pocket Guide
        

Virgin Mobile FreeFest line-up, date to be announced next week

The Virgin Mobile Freefest will announce its 2011 line-up and show date on July 11, a spokeswoman said Monday.

In June, the festival had already been confirmed as free and returning to Merriweather Post Pavilion.

It will be the festival's third year in a row at the venue, and its sixth overall. Before Merriweather, the festival was held at Pimlico Race Track.

Earlier this year, readers picked the bands they'd like to see perform. We'll see on Monday who made the cut.

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival
        

July 4, 2011

Photo Gallery: R. Kelly in concert at 1st Mariner Arena July 1

R. Kelly, above, performed at 1st Mariner Arena Friday night in what was his first local performance in two years. More photos like this one are at our photo gallery of the show, courtesy of staffer Gene Sweeney Jr.
Posted by Erik Maza at 9:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Last Night's Photo
        

Baltimore's best places to watch the fireworks

At 9:30 p.m. today, fireworks will explode over the Inner Harbor in the annual Independence Day show.

The Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, which produces the show, says the best place to see them is at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater or the West Shore Park. 

Below, are some of the suggestions Midnight Sun has culled over the years.

Beyond the fireworks show, today the city has also scheduled several children’s shows, starting at noon at Inner Harbor West Shore Park with a magician and comic, and followed by the Grammy-nominated Baltimore children’s band Milkshake at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Air National Guard Band and the Electric Brigade, the U.S. Naval Academy band, will perform at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater starting at 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

The music that accompanies the fireworks show can be heard best at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater and on the harbor’s west shore, according to BOPA.

Sam Sessa compiled this list of Baltimore's best places to watch the fireworks last year, updated here to note some bar closings.

Tiki Barge: It's one of the best spots to see the fireworks. It's right on the water, at the end of the main pier at Harbor View Marina. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got some suggestions of your own? Add them to the comments. 

Photos: Fireworks over the harbor (Baltimore Sun archives)

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

July 2, 2011

June 27 - July 2 reviewed: Muggsys's, R. Kelly, African American Heritage Festival

Looking for places to watch the fireworks this weekend? We have a helpful guide from last year. Personally, I'm a fan of Tide Point Waterfront Park. This week was a definite change of pace from last. We released the schedule for the African American Festival, or as it's being called this year, the African American Heritage Festival. The festival is taking place through Sunday. Charlie Wilson talked about his legacy in our interview. If you wanted an interview with another veteran who's also performing this weekend, Chuck Brown talked to us last week. The IFC show that goes all Bruce Parry on Baltimore premiered on Friday. The Black Eyed Peas, Ani DiFranco and Stephen Malkmus all announced area shows. In bar news, Muggsys's served its last beer. Baltimore Taphouse was reviewed. Power Plant Live started offering $1 Miller Lites at its new Friday happy hour, a good deal or not depending on your tolerance for Miller Lite. Beer prices went up by 25 cents at some bars thanks to the new state alcohol tax. We looked for fourth of July drink specials. Nick's Fish House, for instance, has $2 domestics all weekend. If you're still looking for other stuff to do this weekend, you might find some suggestions here. Later today, we'll have pictures from Friday night's R. Kelly concert.
Posted by Erik Maza at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Roundup
        
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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 erik.maza@baltsun.com. 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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