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Real Music -- Not Com

Our Subjective Guide to Where to Get Live. . .If You Want It

Michael Northrup
Brass Monkey
Michael Northrup
Latin Palace
Michael Northrup
Mick O'Shea's (which does frown upon underage drinking)
Michael Northrup
Full Moon Saloon
Michael Northrup
Michael Northrup
The Sidebar
Michael Northrup
The Vault

Decibel 2000

Meet the New Boss . . . Well, the Internet isn't exactly the same as the old boss. As each passing month proves anew, the Ne...

After Napster How the New Technology Will Change Music Itself | By Joab Jackson

Surf Music Tuneful Web Sites We Can't Live Without

Real Music -- Not Com Our Subjective Guide to Where to Get Live. . .If You Want It

Posted 7/12/2000


8133-A Honeygo Blvd., White Marsh, (410) 931-2583,; booking: ask for Joe Scopel

The Bayou Blues Café, located on The Avenue at White Marsh, is an improbable venue. The food is pricey but tasty Cajun cooking, while the décor runs to Early Sports Bar. Four televisions hang from the ceiling, and the stage at the corner of the bar is dwarfed by its neighboring giant TV screen. On an average night the crowd is mostly thirtysomethings clad in polo shirts and khaki pants. But the sounds make the café a wonder. The live blues and bluegrass music every night of the week features the best of local and national talent, and there is never a cover charge. Tuesday night is College Night, and the younger crowd sheds its collars for local alternative acts like Crushing Day and Pinfold. But it's the blues that the café does best; with good acoustics and great acts, it's worth the trip to White Marsh. (SL)


734 S. Broadway, (410) 327-5795

Famous for its mussels and the ubiquitous green bumper stickers that tout them, this Fells Point restaurant/bar also features a teeny stage that somehow hosts a regular rotation of very small jazz groups. Don't bother calling to book a gig because the musical lineup is as consistent as the shellfish (Paul Lingo has been playing Tuesdays for more than a decade now). (LG)


1601 Eastern Ave., (410) 276-4395,; booking: contact Pat Fisher at (410) 377-4596 or

With an atmosphere that at times makes you feel like you're playing in someone's living room, this slightly-askew-of-Fells Point bar is small in size, but not in moxie. The Brass Monkey is a breeding ground where local rock acts of varying degrees of intensity can pay their dues and build up their all-important chops before graduating to the area's larger clubs. And if the catch-a-rising-star thing isn't reason enough to drag you away from the bright lights of Broadway, the Monkey always has low cover charges and drink prices that make it worthwhile for you to stagger in its direction. (LN)


313 N. Charles St., (410) 332-4200

The beat goes on at Buddies. Though affable bandleader and skinsman Bing Miller has passed away, members of the former Bing Miller Quartet have formed a new outfit called, straightforwardly enough, the Buddies Pub House Band. They play Friday and Saturday nights, when a two-drink minimum goes into effect. Buddies has been the heartbeat of downtown jazz for more than a dozen years, and the cozy eatery draws a diverse crowd that comes to relax amid straight-ahead grooves. Oh, and the kitchen stays open till 1 A.M., so you can eat to the beat. (BJ)


4825 Belair Road, (410) 325-7427,; booking:

It can't make up its mind what exactly it wants to be--or even if it wants to be. But that spirit of seat-of-the-pants eclecticism is what makes Café Tattoo NorEBo's outpost of hip civility. Owners Rick and Elayne Catalano like jazz, surf instrumentals, head-banging metal, punk, pop, and rockin' garage stuff to go along with their good, home-cooked Tex-Mex and extensive selection of suds. So, other than Wednesday nights (which are devoted to jazz, usually the Carl Filipiak Trio), it's hard to guess what will be happening on the café's postage-stamp-sized stage on any given night--better to check the listings before you head out. (Although you won't get an expensive surprise--the cover charge rarely tops $5.) The Catalanos recently (and unsuccessfully) tried to unload the joint through a Web-touted win-this-bar contest. Now, there's talk of a straight sale of the property, which would likely be enough to make those of us who frequent this funky, homey place cry in our Coronas. (MA)


1730 Thames St., (410) 276-9866,; booking: send press kit to Ana-Marie Cushing at the club

The Cat's Eye Pub sits near the corner of Broadway and Thames, deep in the watery heart of Fells Point. And somehow, the compelling décor and engaging clientele embodies everything Fells and Irish. An older crowd sips on Killian's and Guinness while Orioles baseball plays on a television next to a wall emblazoned with a 20-foot Irish-history mural. The Cat's Eye also features nightly music by an array of zydeco, rock 'n' roll, and blues groups. Don't look for boring cover bands here--the musicians are all accomplished and play original songs. The pub is equipped with a full regimen of rail drinks and bottles and an impressive menu of more than three dozen beers on tap (although the suds are a tad pricey, running between $3.50 and $4, slightly more during live music performances). (PA)

8 x 10

10 E. Cross St., (410) 625-2000,; booking: call Giles Cook at (410) 442-2780 or e-mail Pat Fisher at

Baltimore clubs tend not to last long enough to reach "venerable" status, but this South Baltimore stalwart has withstood the test of time--and at least a dozen different musical trends--to qualify. Shoehorned into two rowhouses, the 8 x 10 has, in true Baltimorean fashion, overcome its space limitations to create a cozy home for local, regional, and national touring acts on its elevated, tiered, triangular corner stage--and since the owners have knocked down every wall they possibly can, the sightlines are better than ever. But the club's primary appeal remains the music, with rock, reggae, jam, and occasionally jazz bands on the bill most nights of the week, as well as a smattering of singer/songwriters and one of the more established Monday-night open mics in town. Though there seems to be no common thread in the booking policy, a startling number of big-time acts have performed at the club--from area big deals such as disappear fear, Jimmie's Chicken Shack, and Lake Trout to big-league big deals like NRBQ and Jonathan Richman. Who knows where those playing the club next week will be next year? (LG)


4200 Belair Road, (410) 488-4863; booking: ask for Mike

Yet another of Baltimore's fine Irish pubs often gets lost way out on Belair Road, but the European Union is well worth the short trip. Live Irish music on most Fridays and Saturdays transforms the Union into a trad pub back on the island, complete with foggy mystery and tipsy lads and lasses. The bar also hosts the occasional one-man folk show (call ahead for schedules). Even the kitchen keeps with the theme and serves fish 'n' chips and other Irish and English favorites. Though they do specialize in European brew, they don't accept the Euro (at least not yet). With a homey interior and interesting clientele, the EU drew us in and kept us there. And we'll be damned if the barkeep didn't have a brogue. (PA)


701 S. Bond St., (410) 558-1889,; booking: call club number, press 2, then 4, then 1; national booking: call Lisa White at (202) 265-0930

Located at the top of a flight of stairs over the Fells Point corner bar of the same name, Fletcher's is one of Baltimore's more dependable venues for nationally touring rock acts. Billed as a side stage for Washington's mighty 9:30 Club, the 250-capacity venue offers alt-rock along with dashes of hardcore, roots rock, ska, funk, electronic music, and hip-hop: A survey of recent shows testifies to the club's mix, alternating alternative forefathers such as Tim Finn and Frank Black, younger stalwarts such as Jets to Brazil, and mixmasters such as Kid Koala and Amon Tobin. Occasional all-ages shows go down here, sometimes featuring local punk and emo outfits. Five years into its existence, Fletcher's still hasn't built up much ambiance beyond a few beer signs and posters on the wall, but the general high quality of the shows makes Fletcher's indispensable. And if the music ever gets boring, there's pool and foosball in the bar downstairs. (EH)


Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St., (410) 962-8565,; booking: ask for Laure Drogoul

One of Baltimore's most eclectic performance spaces, the 14Karat Cabaret emphatically lives up to its name, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a positively gilded array of entertainers during its thrice-monthly shows. Located in the dim but urbane basement of Maryland Art Place, the Cabaret even boasts a hostess to make Bob Fosse proud: Laure Drogoul, whose Teutonic-accented introductions have set the tone for many a deliciously off-kilter evening. Musically, the Cabaret focuses on left-of-center acts from Baltimore (avant-jazz supergroup Krill, home-taping pop goddess Linda Smith) and beyond (avant-garde composer/legend Tony Conrad, for one), but by the end of the evening you're just as likely to have experienced folk rock, drag kings or queens, modern dance, local film, stand-up comedy, or Dada-speak from local raconteur extraordinaire Blaster Al Ackerman. An ongoing triumph for the open-minded. (EH)


1710 Aliceanna St., (410) 276-6388,; booking: call Freda at (410) 558-2873 or e-mail

Yeah, it's a hole in the wall, but it's a good kinda hole in the wall for anyone who wants to get loose and hear the blues twice nightly, seven nights a week, in a friendly atmosphere. Plus there's food. The self-proclaimed "Baltimore's Home of the Blues" also seems to be Baltimore's home of the blues jam, damn near each and every one of those seven nights, with sessions hosted by Clarence "Bluesman" Turner, Charlie Sayles, Rick Chapman, and the Blueshounds, to name a few. (For more fun, when you're done reading this blurb go back and count how many times we used the word "blues.") The Full Moon also boasts a solid lineup of recurring characters, like Big Jesse Yawn, Red Jones, Bobby Smith, and R.C. Yetter and Riviera Paradise, with less-frequent appearances by the ever-popular Nighthawks and, lately, the less-bluesophiliac rockabilly stylings of Rodney Henry and Johnny Love. We've noticed that the slightly suburban but perfectly acceptable and lovely Bayou Blues Café up in the White Marsh is giving more work to a lot of Full Moon regulars, and while it's always great to see opportunity knock in other places for practitioners of one of America's native musical forms, there's something about fighting for a parking space in Fells Point that always makes us feel like we've got a right to howl those blues when we finally get to the Moon. (JM)


1726 Thames St., (410) 276-1651,; booking: ask for Megan Hamilton

The Ground Floor retains much of the charm and hipness credentials from its previous incarnation as a coffee house (the Daily Grind). Now run as a performance venue for the Fells Point Creative Alliance, the 80-seat space hosts live performances every Thursday night. Few of the events are single-band shows; according to FPCA program director Megan Hamilton, the group leans toward "themed nights" (such as an upcoming "All Leo" gig) and cabaret evenings, which bring together performers from different disciplines. In exchange for sharing the bill with other local acts, bands get a good deal on the door (but no guarantees) and an audience that's come to listen. Bands who perform at the Ground Floor must do mostly original music (cover bands have plenty of other places to play in Fells Point), but otherwise, all bets are off. During the past year, the Ground Floor has hosted roots, experimental jazz, acoustic blues, electronica, and klezmer music. You don't have to be a Fells Point Creative Alliance member to play the space, but it helps; membership dues cost just $25 annually. That's only about eight lattes. (EM)


4119 E. Lombard St., (410) 342-3239

Hell yes, it's a dirty little dive on a grimy little street in the City That Don't Rock Enough and Should Rock More. They got both kinds of music at Hal Daddy's: rock and roll. And if there's one club in this burg that truly carries the torch dropped due to the demise of the hallowed, hoary Hammerjacks, it's this one. You will probably damage your hearing, and you will be expected to damage your liver (don't forget to tip), but, goddamnit, it shouldn't be any other way. If you think it should be, then go to the fucking Hard Rock Café. (JM)


1626 Thames St., (410) 327-8111; call the bar

Next to Fells Point's Sound Garden sits the unassuming, narrow facade of the Horse You Came In On Saloon. Inside, a youngish crowd sways and rocks to the strain of nightly blues and straight-up rock 'n' roll. This historic Thames Street staple has kept seafarers drunk since 1895 and doesn't look to be going anywhere soon. The comfortably large bar stretches into two rooms, yet still fills up on weekend nights for house favorites like Wes and Paul, Bliss, the Approach, and Jeff Coulson. The atmosphere is lively but more laid-back than the frat-party bars of Broadway's main drag. Prices are reasonable--the bar occasionally charges a modest $1 cover--and several weekly happy hours and specials help keep them that way. (PA)


601 E. Pratt St., (410) 539-7888,; booking: ask for Dave Geller

The Lava Lounge has only been open for a year, and yet the owners of this titanic dance club located next to the cavernous Power Plant have already invested in capital improvements. Earlier this month, Dave Geller and company unveiled a brand new live-music stage, sound, lighting, and furniture. The result is double the musical experience, as the stage can be seen from the second-story dance floor, and club managers hope to offer weekly live gigs in addition to nightly dance music. The location (in the erstwhile Chart House) already offers a stunning harbor view and captivating art installations. If Lava Lounge organizers can elevate the caliber of their DJs and live acts to match that of their décor, a night out at the Inner Harbor may even become a worthy venture for nontourists. (AO)


328 N. Charles St., (410) 539-7504,; booking: e-mail Jason Tinney at

There's Irish music every weekend at Mick O'Shea's. Maybe you're thinking, Oh great, Michael Flatley on Charles Street, but this place is genuine--a true Irish sensibility, complete with rallying folk songs and a pack of cigar-smoking regulars at the end of the bar. Touring Irish bands such as the Wolfetones and Black 47 make O'Shea's a regular stop, as do local acts such as the Donegal X-Press and His Honor the Mayor's musical jones, O'Malley's March. Otherwise, the bartenders are friendly, stoically serving pints. (Be warned: Don't order Amstel Light and leave your half-empty bottle sitting on the bar. Order real beer and take it like a meal. Guinness and Harp are favorites.) And the crowd--a mix of students, ballgame-goers, and professionals--is friendly, if occasionally blue because of the music. Yes, a good weepy ballad and a fine, fine pint make us all nod and say, "Aye." (AR)


Northwood Shopping Center, 1552 Havenwood Road, (410) 366-7416; booking: ask for Keith Covington

Some jazz joints are prissy, pricey, and pretentious. Up at the New Haven Lounge things are casual, cheap, and cool. Perennial winner of City Paper's Best Jazz Club honors, this low-key bar/restaurant tucked away in a dowdy shopping center offers live jazz sans cover charges and drink minimums. Yes, you read that correctly: no cover, no being forced to buy rounds of overpriced hooch. (And if you do want the hooch, it's pretty cheap here.) What you have is a friendly local pub that just happens to have a jazz theme. (Check out the looming mural of Cab Calloway.) Every Wednesday, the Haven becomes a barbecue blues joint when Big Jesse Yawn--Baltimore's answer to Bobby "Blue" Bland--takes the mic. Live jazz comes in each weekend with local, regional, and the occasional national act letting loose in the center of the lounge (there is no raised stage). Local Hammond B-3 hero Greg Hatza regularly rocks the house with his four-piece ORGANization, and saxophonists Don Braden and Fred Foss recently blew at the Haven, as did trumpeter Vaughn Nark. (BJ)


203 Davis St., (410) 752-6886,; booking: call or send demos to club address

It's dark, it's small, and it's named after a cat, but it's home, after a fashion. The Ottobar, opened in 1997 by former Buttsteak member Mike Bowen and the indomitable Todd Berger, is the place for punk and indie-rock bands to play in Baltimore. With shows taking place six nights a week on average, local bands from the Fuses to Love Life to Great Mutant Skywheel bring their very different brands of rock to the club's stage on a regular basis. With Monozine's Todd Lesser doing booking and promotion, the Ottobar also features national and international acts such as Tribe 8, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, the Upper Crust, and the Ex. The venue is intimate and so is the crowd. Many Baltimore rockers have made the Ottobar a sort of home away from home, joining in on the "theme" nights that keep the place busy even when there's no live music to hear. The venue has even added an annual outdoor festival, the Bourbon Street Anti-Fest, to its heavy slate of activities. So grab a beer, get prepared to fight for one of the few bar stools, and enjoy the rock. (AD)


15 W. Eager St., (410) 783-9004; booking: ask for River

The key to Paloma's charm is not the fact that it used to be a strip bar, though that still gives many Baltimore club mainstays a chuckle. Paloma's is wonderful because there are precious few clubs like it in Baltimore, a town that seems to pride itself on the down and dirtiness of its rock venues and hang-out bars. There is nothing down-and-dirty about Paloma's. Opened last fall, Paloma's is a beautiful venue filled with beautiful people. Tables and comfy couches surround the tiny stage and equally tiny dance floor, providing an intimate atmosphere. Another room features a fireplace and chaise lounges. Two bars complete the setup. The smooth yet admirably complex sounds of improv-electronic jazz outfit Big in Japan have already made Wednesday nights here an event. The venue is still working out its schedule for the rest of the week, but with a host of jazzy acts (including occasional sets from Baltimore-based saxophone power Gary Thomas), occasional wild cards (area sitarist Jay Kishor has been known to perform), and posh yet comfortable surroundings, Paloma's is off to a good start. (AD)


33 West St., Annapolis, (410) 268-4545,; booking: ask for Chris Stevens

The Rams Head is a very nice place to hear music. And we mean that literally. This bright, colorful cabaret-style performance space connected to a spiffy Annapolis brewpub is about as comfortable and intimate a room as you'll find for checking out a diverse array of local, regional, national, and international performers. The Tavern books rock acts (especially rootsy rock), folky/country folks (lotsa singer/songwriters), and jazz (from swing to Latin). Ticket prices range from a low of $10 to more than $50, with most shows priced just under $20. Past bookings have included Richard Thompson, NRBQ, and Lloyd Cole. Later this year, Janis Ian, Jerry Jeff Walker, the Marshall Tucker Band, Doc Watson, and the Austin Lounge Lizards will traipse through. Oh, and food and drinks (including tasty house-made brews) are available during shows. Put it all together and the Rams Head can make for a nice one-stop night out in Annapolis. (BJ)


512 York Road, Towson, (410) 337-7210.; booking: e-mail Paul Manna of 24-7 Entertainment,

Located on Towson's main drag across the street from the hip Ten Car Pile-up vintage clothing store, the Recher is Baltimore's jam-band central. It's a cool midsized venue with lots of dancing and twirling space, beer specials, cheeseburgers, and all-ages shows (but the under 21-ers do pay an additional $3 to hang with the big kids). Local favorites such as the funky, funky All Mighty Senators and the reggae vets of Jah Works mingle with well-known touring acts ranging from Moby to Burning Spear on the Recher's packed calendar. "Tribute" shows and cover bands--more than you can shake a stick at--occasionally rock the Recher with the music of the Doors, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. (WW)

at Normal's Books & Records

425 E. 31st St., (410) 243-6888,; booking: send press kit to John Berndt,the Berndt Group, 2850 N.Charles St., second floor, Baltimore, MD 21218 or call (410) 889-5854

This small, cluttered former storage space inside Waverly bookstore/institution Normals is quickly becoming an institution in its own right. Founded in 1990 by a collective of local experimental musicians and lovers of experimental film, the Red Room has since become the foremost outlet for sonic adventurers in Baltimore. At least one night mosts week, the venue resounds with the sound of the city's finest free improvisers and experimentalists, not to mention the national and international experimental musicians brought to Baltimore through the good offices of the organizing collective. (If the names Evan Parker, Kaffe Matthews, or Joe McPhee impress you, then most of the rest of the venue's out-of-town roster should do likewise.) The Red Room Collective also sponsored last year's High Zero festival, which brought more than 40 artists to various local venues for three days of creative interplay. With a second High Zero on the horizon (Sept. 24-28), it's clear the Red Room's musical mission can't be contained by its crimson walls. (LG)


St. John's United Methodist Church, 2640 St. Paul St., (410) 880-3883,; booking: send a demo tape or release and any press information to Roots Café c/o Ken Delaney, P.O. Box 33392, Baltimore, MD 21218, or call Delaney at (410) 880-3883

The Roots Café turns 10 in 2001, and what a tuneful, toe-tapping, tail-shaking decade it's been. Under the aegis of the nonprofit Society for the Preservation of American Roots Music, the café brings a pleasing mélange of blues, bluegrass, gospel, honky-tonk, troubadour folk, Tex-Mex, jazz, swing, Cajun, R&B--and good ol' rock 'n' roll--to a Charles Village church hall. Ruthie and the Wranglers, the Hula Monsters, and Gumbo Junkyard are just some of the area bands recently booked into this friendly, footloose venue. Shows are held the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from September through April. Bring the kids (tykes are welcome) and bring your dancin' shoes (there's plenty of wide-open wooden floor). What you don't need to bring is a lot of money (shows are only $7; beers and other refreshments are cheap) or a tolerance for smoke--lighting up is only allowed outside. As an added bonus, you don't have to stay up late to get down with the tunes: Shows start at 8 P.M. and wind up at midnight. (BJ)


218 E. Lexington St., (410) 659-4130,; booking: ask for Richard Ashburn

The Sidebar has a split personality. During the day it serves lunch and happy-hour drinks to the suit-and-tie set. At night, things get a little rowdier. The tables, chairs, and even the pool table are shoved aside to make room for Baltimore's indie-rock and punk bands, including the Scott Farkus Affair and Penny Regime. Two years ago, before owner Richard Ashburn took over, the Sidebar was a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of place, providing a pleasant drinking environment for lawyers and professionals day and night. But after successfully partnering with the neighboring Ottobar for last year's outdoor musical blowout, the Bourbon Street Anti-Fest, Ashburn realized there was room for another venue in town, and that if he provided the tunes the kids would come. (Drummer and former Brass Monkey booker Jeff Bradford came aboard to organize the Sidebar's shows.) At first, Ashburn limited shows to one night a week. But you can't stop the rock, and now the Sidebar reverberates with live sounds four or five nights a week. Though the Sidebar hosts many of the same bands as the Ottobar, this double team doesn't feel redundant. Rather, it's a treat to be able to choose which great show off Lexington Street to go see tonight. (AD)


4723 Gwynn Oak Ave., (410) 664-1041; booking: ask for Veria Moore

Eventually--and we hope it's not any time soon--you're going to miss the Sportsmen's Lounge. When the club ceases its (20-plus-years-old-and-counting) Monday-night jazz jam, you're going to hear about it and hang your head. Local writers will write choked-up eulogies and we'll all get wistful about the whole thing. But the key thing to remember is that you don't have to miss out now. If you know anything about the Sportsmen's, you'll know that the Monday-night jam has nurtured several generations of Baltimore's jazz elite. (Internationally known Baltimore-born pianist Cyrus Chestnut has been known to drop in to revisit his former proving ground.) The club also hosts a rotating selection of acts on Friday and Saturday nights. The Monday-night session has been competing with Monday Night Football and waning interest in local jazz for years, but it's still there. And while we can, we'll be there too. (LG)


401 W. Baltimore St., (410) 244-6000,; booking: mail press package and demo to the club or e-mail

With a name inspired by the building's original use as a bank, the Vault occupies the space once known to Baltimore clubbers as (guess what?) the Bank. This relatively young club showcases novice local rock and jam bands, the kind whose fans usually start out consisting of their circle of friends, along with local faves such as the Glenmont Popes and touring stalwarts such as the Dead-inflected Juggling Suns. The young and somewhat rambunctious atmosphere lends a sense of fun to the place, and the club's spacious interior is expansive and relaxing. A nifty little downstairs area allows showgoers to congregate and socialize away from the noisy madness. The Vault hosts live music Thursdays through Saturdays. (PA)

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Meet the New Boss . . . (7/12/2000)

After Napster (7/12/2000)
How the New Technology Will Change Music Itself

Surf Music (7/12/2000)
Tuneful Web Sites We Can't Live Without

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