June 30, 2011

Charlie Wilson spans the R&B generation gap

On Sunday, Charlie Wilson will headline the African American Festival at M&T Bank Stadium. Al Shipley interviewed Wilson for tomorrow's Live Section.

Here's an excerpt:

Charlie Wilson has been alive for 58 years, and has been singing for nearly all of them — first in his church choir and then in The Gap Band, the pioneering funk group he formed at the age of 14 with his brothers Ronnie and Robert.

That long, remarkable career has reached an unlikely new peak with Wilson's success as a solo artist...[He] credits his continued good fortunate to his instrument.

 "The sound of my voice never went out of style," he said.

The rest of the interview is here

For a full schedule of performances at the festival, click here. Another veteran singer, Chuck Brown, who will also be performing at the festival this weekend, was interviewed in last week's paper. 

Continue reading "Charlie Wilson spans the R&B generation gap" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Live!, Music News

April 2, 2011

Sara Bareilles on beating Eminem, "Love Song" and her new album "Kaleidoscope Heart"

After she finished her first album, Sara Bareilles felt the pressure of success. After all, right off the bat, she had a song, "Love Song" that was everywhere in 2007 and was eventually certified three times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

How to top that? Her follow-ups were uninspired.

"I was just writing sh*** songs that didn't mean anything; I felt no connection to them whatsoever," she said.

A friend suggested she try chronicling what was happening to her. Out of that frustration with her songwriting came "Uncharted," and it led her in the right direction.

"'Uncharted' was the song that really helped me feel connected to my writing process," she said. "I thought I was going to have to do a mishmash of old songs [for the second album] because of the writer's block, but once the wheels were turning, I was drawn to the new material."

That quote comes from a story in Friday's paper that previews Bareilles' sold-out show at Rams Head Live Sunday.

The full story is here

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Live!, Music News

February 18, 2011

Plain White T's on cheesy lyrics, Cirque du Soleil, and "the Goonies".

Plain White T's, responsible for "Hey There Delilah," that song that was stuck in your head for two weeks in 2007, are back with with a new album, "The Wonders of the Younger."

Fans of the old material will find plenty to like here. Despite the unfortunately alliterative album title, lead single "Rhythm of Love" is a pretty, hazy ballad that goes for sentiment not usually found outside of Hallmark cards.

“My heart beats like a drum,” guitarist Tim Lopez croons to a girl who has “blue eyes deep like the sea.”

In today's paper, singer Tom Higgenson defends the bands' lyrics, Cirque du Soleil, and "The Goonies."

The rest of the preview is here.  

The "Rhythm of Love" video is below:

Continue reading "Plain White T's on cheesy lyrics, Cirque du Soleil, and "the Goonies". " »

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Live!, Music News

February 17, 2011

The Velvet Rope re-opens as Dubai

Troubled club the Velvet Rope re-opened a couple of weeks ago under a new name, Dubai, which must rank as the second worst bar/club name in Baltimore behind Garbo.

Management is eager to disassociate themselves from the Velvet Rope brand that had become so well known in headlines. When I tried to get a greenlight for our photographer to stop by, the club's attorney, Paul Gardner II, agreed to, but only if the name "Velvet Rope" didn't appear in the story.

We declined the offer.*

I still snuck in Saturday for the review in tomorrow's Live section. Here's the top:

Last Saturday, I went to Dubai. No, not the glitzy metropolis in the United Arab Emirates. But the club on 200 E. Redwood Street, which opened in late January under a new name after two years as the troubled Velvet Rope.

With the change, the owners hope to distance themselves from tarnished old name and associate themselves with the luxury that the word Dubai brings to mind.

But those might be too lofty aspirations.

If rebranding was all that a bad reputation needed, Hosni Mubarak might still be in power. And while in popular culture, Dubai might be linked to unlimited decadence, it's now a city burdened with a not-so-sexy $80 billion debt and a collapsed real estate market.

Dubai's owners might as well have called theirs Club Countrywide or Lehman Brothers VIP Lounge.

The club benefits from its still handsome historic location, and what seems to be improved security, but its insistence on passing itself off as an upscale club in a city that seems to be allergic to them raises doubts about its longevity.

The rest of the review is here

Photo*: Colby Ware photographed the club from outside. 

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:51 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Live!

February 10, 2011

Martha Reeves on Cee Lo Green, Gladys Horton, and being one of the last Motown stars

Martha Reeves is one of the last survivors of the Motown era. In recent years, many of the legendary recording studio's original headliners have passed.

Only two of the original Temptations are still alive. All but a handful of the Funk Brothers, Motown's backing band, are gone. Jack Brokensha died in October.

And two weeks ago, Glady Horton, the original singer of the Marvelettes, died in a Sherman Oaks retirement home at 66.

I had Reeves on the phone when the news broke, and her Detroit home was being bombarded with phone calls from reporters for comment. Though she hadn't spoken with Horton in at least three decades, the death was a poignant one.

Without the Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas would not have been. "They were our pioneers," she said. 

On Saturday, Reeves performs a sold-out show at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in honor of Valentine's Day. I previewed the show for Live. 

The rest of the story is here.

Below, Martha and the Vandellas performing "Dancing in the Street".

Continue reading "Martha Reeves on Cee Lo Green, Gladys Horton, and being one of the last Motown stars" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:03 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Live!, Music News

January 22, 2011

Touring regional breweries Heavy Seas, DuClaw Brewing, Dogfish Head, and 16 Miles

For Friday's Live section, I wrote about the increasing popularity of brewery tours. Here's the top:

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a man addressed a crowd of about 50 at a brewery right outside Baltimore and said, "Let us pray."

He raised his arm, looked over his flock and solemnly intoned: "Our lager which art in barrels, thy will be drunk, at the Heavy Seas Beer Tour. Give us this day our foamy heads, and forgive us our spillages, as we forgive those who spill against us."

The man wasn't a tipsy priest, but Hugh Sisson, founder of Heavy Seas, who delivers the same speech before the two or three tours that pass through his brewery almost every Saturday.

The crowd was there to learn about beer — its variety, its creation, its consumption. Such tours are not commonplace in Maryland, but as craft beer culture has entered the mainstream, that's changing.

The DuClaw Brewing Co. in Abingdon also offers them, as does the Brewer's Art in Mount Vernon. And Delaware has established a website dedicated to its wine and ale trail. In Pennsylvania, Yuengling offers free public tours.

Sisson has been leading his tours for 15 years, but it's only in the past two that they have become weekly events, drawing crowds of 50 to 75.

"This has become a real happening," Sisson said.

The rest of the story is here.  

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Live!

January 14, 2011

Cullen Stalin, Katrina Ford spin at new 'coldwave' party at Club Phoenix

bs-ae-midnight-rail-0114.jpgClub Phoenix is a dumpy two-floor bar in Mount Vernon that’s forgotten for most of the week, even by the crowd of older gay men that frequent its downstairs regularly.

But on weekends, it’s become known for hosting well-attended dance parties on its rickety, unvarnished upstairs floor.

Most Saturdays, a bunch of MICA students serve as DJs for the Dance Your Ass Off party.

And this Friday, it will host, for the second time, Ice Age, a monthly party dedicated to obscure, atmospheric music that marries Goth rock and New Wave — something that might sound like a cut from the Cure’s “Seventeen Seconds.”

It’s DJed by, among others, Cullen Nawalkowsky — aka Cullen Stalin — and this Friday, also by Katrina Ford, of the Baltimore band Celebration

The artists the DJs will play are largely unknown or have become cult figures only recently, Nawalkowsky said. The playlist will run the gamut from proper industrial to “dark” punk to almost-poppy New Wave.

Continue reading "Cullen Stalin, Katrina Ford spin at new 'coldwave' party at Club Phoenix" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Live!

January 12, 2011

B-52s' Fred Schneider rules out "Funplex" follow-up; says they're primarily a touring band now

The B-52s were nearing the end of another one of their annual New Year's Eve shows when, right after "Roam," they were asked to stop for the countdown, champagne toasts, and balloons.

After midnight, it might have been 2011, but the band finished the night just like they would have 30 years ago, in typical garb — Schneider a gold jacket, the gals sparkly mini-dresses — and with a couple of classics, "Rock Lobster," and "Love Shack."

That they're still playing them is further proof that the Athens, Georgia veterans have yet to overstay their welcome, their music as defiantly optimistic as it when "Rock Lobster" first charted.

The new year finds them in the mode that may very well last the rest of their career: Out of the recording studio, touring tons, and playing sets that are split between "Funplex," their 2008 comeback, and material from before 1992, the last time they released new original material.

Singer Fred Schneider confirms a new live album might appear soon, but that there are too many obstacles to do a "Funplex" follow-up — age, the declining music industry — and that they prefer picking worthwhile gigs, like Baltimore's Rams Head Live last year.

Continue reading "B-52s' Fred Schneider rules out "Funplex" follow-up; says they're primarily a touring band now" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Live!, Music News

December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve 2010: Eleven last-minute parties, including Bourbon Street, The Paradox, Golden West Cafe

PX00175_9.JPGThe Man knows you’re going to drink yourself into a stupor on New Year’s Eve.

Why wouldn’t you?

December 31 is the year's biggest get out of jail free card. The one day of the year when you can drink yourself numb and you won't have to answer for your actions the next day. And why? Because by the time you regain consciousness, it’ll all be in the past.

By Jan. 1, it’ll be a new you, the 2011 you: more responsible, more in shape, optimistic, armed with resolutions to face a new year that, as always, you’re certain will be better than the last. Last night's debauchery? That was the old you.

And because local government knows all this, it has taken a few steps to make sure you party as safely as possible. Just consider the Maryland Transit Administration partnership with MillerCoors to offer free bus, metro, subway and light rail services from 8 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday. 

In addition, the MTA also partnered with Yellow Cab and AAA Mid-Atlantic to comp cab rides under $50 from any city bar to residents’ homes, a service that may not work perfectly, or even very well, but that's just another alternative to the surplus of transportation options available to residents Friday.

Even state legislators want you to have a good time. About 70 years ago, they approved Article 2B of the Annotated Code of Maryland, a law allows only cbars in the city to keep their doors open until 2 a.m. Jan. 2, said Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the city’s Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

And still, all these things have had the desired effect of tempering celebrations, so that residents have fun, but don't go overboard. Fogleman says New Year’s Eve is one of the quietest times of the year in terms of complaints. Maybe this is why Baltimore is 37th among the country's drunkest cities.

With so many bars staying open past 2 a.m., there will be no shortage of options to properly say good riddance to 2010. Here are just 11 of them:

Continue reading "New Year's Eve 2010: Eleven last-minute parties, including Bourbon Street, The Paradox, Golden West Cafe" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:03 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Live!, Local music, New Year's Eve 2010

December 29, 2010

J. Roddy Walston on 2010, Leon Russell, and "lifeless rock"

J. Roddy Walston and the Business have been together for six years now.

And still, critics, sounding more like movie producers, routinely refer to them as a mixture of rock standard-bearers: Jerry Lee Lewis meets AC/DC, AC/DC meets Lynyrd Skynyrd, and so on.

If Leon Russell and Elton John hadn't come together to record "The Union" this year, critics might have used them next to refer to the Business' new self-titled album.

After this year though, that might change. The band has had a remarkable 2010.  

While it took them nearly three years to sell 6,000 copies of their first album, the self-released "Hail Mega Boys," they've sold more than 4,000 copies of their new one since its release in February, according to Nielsen Soundscan.

And though they've always toured extensively, the success of the new album got them booked at more than 180 venues, many much larger than the small clubs where they got their start, like Baltimore's Talking Head.

(On Friday, the band will headline Rams Head Live's New Year's Eve party)

The rest of my interview with Walston, where he touches on leaving Baltimore to record their new self-titled album, Leon Russell's early work, and how recording on tape is more authentic than not, is here.

After the jump, the band's "Don't Break the Needle" video:

Continue reading "J. Roddy Walston on 2010, Leon Russell, and "lifeless rock"" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Live!, Local music, New Year's Eve 2010

December 22, 2010

Trombone Shorty on Lenny Kravitz, David Simon, and being the lone horn player at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest

trombone.jpgBefore the year got under way, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews was a New Orleans music star on the rise.

The 24-year-old trombone and trumpet player had toured with Lenny Kravitz and was the youngest person ever featured on the poster of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

But by year's end, he had guest-starred on David Simon's HBO show "Treme," garnered a Grammy nomination for his new album, and performed at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

The rapid success was unexpected — not because he was young, but because he's a horn player. At a time when traditional jazz has fallen out of favor with young listeners, he was the lone trumpeter who commanded his own stage at the rock- and dance-heavy Virgin FreeFest.

"I didn't see 2010 coming. I just had shows in mind, just getting better and touring," he said. "It's just been a blessing."

Though he's been touring for years, the level of attention he received this year has resulted in booking some 200 performances at clubs bigger than he's ever played before.

On December 30, he'll perform at Rams Head Live, where the local band The Bridge will open for him.

New Orleans is full of musicians, and Andrews grew up in one of its better-known musical families. His grandfather, Jessie Hill, scored a popular hit in the 1960s with the song "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," and an uncle, Prince La La, wrote the classic "She Put the Hurt on Me."

The full preview of Andrews' show is here.

Continue reading "Trombone Shorty on Lenny Kravitz, David Simon, and being the lone horn player at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:45 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Live!

December 10, 2010

Are there too many Christmas albums?

Every week, there's a new one in my mailbox. Annie Lennox's "A Christmas Cornucopia," "Christmas with the Rat Pack," "Christmas with the Chipmunks."

The last straw came with "Now that's what I call Christmas IV."   

Even Aaron Neville, who's made two holiday albums, says in today's Live! there are too many of them. He prefers to listen to Marvin Gaye during the holidays. 

The problem with the genre, if we can call it that, is that it rarely offers anything new.  The albums consist of songs that have been covered so much even Santa would blanch.

Mariah Carey's new one, "Merry Christmas II You," includes only four original songs besides the umpteenth versions of "O Holy Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Yet, they keep getting made, which means that people love them, or they just need stocking stuffers. Here's just hoping I won't get "Christmas with the Hasselhoffs" any time soon.

Update: Alternatively, NME has posted ten free Christmas song downloads, by people like Sufjan Stevens.   Not sure this is any better, but hey, it's free.

Posted by Erik Maza at 10:42 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Live!

December 3, 2010

Ted Leo on the Ottobar, retirement, and "Living with the Living"

When Ted Leo and the Pharmacists comes to Baltimore, the band usually performs at the Ottobar. They have performed there so often, some of the band members even know the bartenders by name.

"Its one of my favorite places in the country to play," said Leo, who knows his venues; the band does on average 200 gigs a year.

But on Tuesday, when the four-piece group swings by Baltimore, it won't be performing at the Charles Village hangout. Instead, they'll perform at the Gspot on the outskirts of Hampden. It's a fitting move for a band that lately, after a momentum-undermining album three years ago, has been in the mood to hit the reset button.
"It's one of those things," he said. "Maybe there's a change of scenery we could experience."

The band has been on an incredible streak since their start at the end of the 1990s,releasing album after album of spitfire punk. With singles like "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" Leo and company managed to sound both defiant and exuberant.

But then the band released 2007's "Living with the Living," an album that was more political than usual, and that was more interested in making statements than delivering hooks. The song "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb." was as overbearing as it sounds, and others, like "The Unwanted Things," were too dense for their own good, often relying on too-long choruses.

Said drummer Chris Wilson: "'Living with the Living' was sprawling. It was a bit too much for some people."

For the rest of this story, which is in today's Live section, click here

Midnight Sun's original announcement of the Gspot gig is here.

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Live!

Review: The Park Bench, the new Boomer's on the Hill

For today's Live section, I reviewed The Park Bench, which I had blogged about recently. Here's the beginning of the review:

South Baltimore's newest bar has been open for less than a month. It's so new, it doesn't even have decorations on the wall, except a clock and an alarm box. The toilet still has a remove-before-using sticker.

So few have stepped inside, it still has that new apartment smell. When I spoke with manager Stephen Gronowski recently, he hadn't even settled on a name yet, wavering between The Park Bench or just Park Bench.

Still, I went down for an early look last Friday, and found a bar that, though short on pizzazz or notoriety, shows a lot of promise. Gronowski has said the Park Bench doesn't aim to be much more than a neighborhood bar. It isn't, but it's also much more handsome than some of South Baltimore's other recently renovated bars.

The rest of the story is here

Photo: The Park Bench (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Live!

November 24, 2010

KT Tunstall on Cocteau Twins, blood-sucking executives, and "American Idol"

One performance on "American Idol" can make anyone ubiquitous.

Soon after Katharine McPhee performed KT Tunstall's single "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on the show in 2006, even soccer moms knew the words to the "woo hoo" song.

You might have also heard the songwriter's "Suddenly I See" played over promos for "The Amazing Race" or opening the movie "The Devil Wears Prada," behind a montage of pretty girls and Anne Hathaway getting ready for work.

In fact, even her label, Virgin Records, was getting tired of seeing her face, Tunstall says.

"They said, 'Go write some new material.' It was really refreshing, actually, to have a record executive, someone who would normally try to milk the cow dry, say that."

So she did. After she finished touring with her first two albums in 2008, she disappeared. She didn't tour or appear on the soundtracks of any chick flicks.

"I was really scared at first," she said. "I had toured solidly for six, seven years."

But the time off resulted in the 11 tracks of her new album, "Tiger Suit," which she's promoting with an 20-city tour that will stop at the 9:30 Club on Saturday.

The rest of this interview is online here and in Live! Friday.

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:33 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Live!

Ozzy Osbourne comes to 1st Mariner after Rally to Restore Sanity performance

In Friday's Live: A month ago, rock legend Alice Cooper complained on Midnight Sun about today's young Turks of rock.

"A lot of hard rock today sounds joyless," he said in an interview. "Bands forget to have fun." Rock stars from his era, he said, knew "rock should be played from the crotch — not the brain."

This much we know about Ozzy Osbourne: When he performs at 1st Mariner Arena on Monday, he won't be playing from the brain.

Now in his 60s, Osbourne hasn't given up on being an agitator. Earlier this year, he headlined the 14th annual Ozzfest, the heavy-metal festival he founded. In October, he announced he was disgusted by use of his song, "Crazy Train," by the Westboro Baptist Church (the group that demonstrates at troops' funerals).

And in what was perhaps the best moment of the Stephen Colbert-Jon Stewart rally at the National Mall, he played that very song right after Cat Stevens performed "Peace Train." The double whammy became an instant YouTube moment.
The full story is here
Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images
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Categories: Live!

November 19, 2010

Future Islands on its new song, touring with Lonnie Walker and why CDs are dead

Future Islands, the Baltimore-by-way-of-North Carolina trio, is four years old.

Until last year, the group wasn’t even signed to a proper label. And its new album, “In Evening Air,” has sold only 3,000 copies, according to Nielsen Soundscan.

Yet keyboardist J. Gerrit Welmers, bassist William Cashion, and vocalist Sam Herring are on the road more than a bunch of Bible salesmen.

Just in the past year, Herring said, they’ve done 130 shows.

“I’m tired. I’m pretty sure I speak for everybody,” Herring said.

If only for that, they have been looking forward to Saturday, when they play the Ottobar in one of their last gigs in the foreseeable future. (Thrill Jockey says they will likely a new album in late 2011).

Since the beginning, Future Islands has been more prolific than late-period Woody Allen. The band has released close to 13 vinyls, split 7-inches, cassette tapes, CD-Rs and albums, and toured extensively, including on Wham City’s Round Robins.

The most recent blitzkrieg of shows started early last year when the group went on tour to promote its album “Wave like Home” and road-test the songs that would become this year’s “In Evening Air.” The touring didn’t stop until November, after a total of 150 shows.

The pace this year has been equally relentless, Herring said. After he had knee surgery in February, the band went on the road again to support the new album. And no sooner had that tour ended,  it recorded a split 7-inch — a vinyl single shared by two artists — with North Carolina band Lonnie Walker and went on the road again for an 18-city marathon, a "mini-tour" in their book. 

Continue reading "Future Islands on its new song, touring with Lonnie Walker and why CDs are dead" »

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

November 12, 2010

Hanson: We're not Justin Bieber

hanson.JPGYears after hit song “MmmBop,” Hanson returns to compete with a new generation of young pop stars.

Before Justin Bieber, before the Jonas Brothers, before even ‘Nsync, there was Hanson.

In 1997, the three teens from Tulsa, Okla., were more ubiquitous than Guess Jeans or stories about Princess Di.

Thirteen years later, they’re still around. And they’ve continued to sell albums, if not as many as back then, then as consistently.

Brothers Zac, Taylor and Isaac have sold nearly 7 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen Soundscan, not including their eighth and newest studio effort, “Shout it Out.”

Zac, the youngest brother, said they have no intention of competing with the Biebers of the world, nor do they want to.

“Unfortunately, in a lot of cases — Bieber, for instance — the similarities diverge at the connection with young fans and having amazing breakout success,” he said. “As far as the music, and the influences, we differ a lot. I hope they have a vision for what they’re doing.”

On Saturday, Hanson will be Baltimore for the second time this year for a performance at Sonar.

Continue reading "Hanson: We're not Justin Bieber" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 9:53 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Live!
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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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