Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Avett Brothers wow a sellout crowd

The Avett Brothers opened their two-night homecoming show Tuesday at the Belk Theater -- and it was easy to see why the bluegrass band from Concord is making waves in the music industry.

The guys -- Scott Avett on banjo/vocals, brother Seth on acoustic guitar/vocals, Joe Kwon on cello and Bob Crawford on bass -- started with a bang, opening the show with "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa" and quickly built on the sell-out crowd's energy, rarely slowing down for a break in their hour-and-a-half set and playing such favorites as "At the Beach" and "Salina" as well as newer songs such as "Standing With You."

At times, it seemed as though they were throwing their whole bodies into each note while playing multiple instruments at a time. The only people working harder than the band were the backstage crew who worked throughout the show to fix broken banjo strings and a kick drum that felt the full force of Scott Avett's enthusiasm for the music.

The biggest ovation of the night was saved for "Go to Sleep." The audience continued to sing the refrain from the song a full five minutes after the Avetts had left the stage. The guys returned to play a four-song encore consisting of "Colorshow," "The Lowering," "Kick Drum Heart" and "Salvation Song."

The energy from the stage was infectious and had everyone in the crowd -- from children to seniors -- up and out of their seats, dancing in the aisles. It's hard to imagine how raucous the show will be tonight on New Year's Eve.

But it was the Avetts who were most thankful:

"Thanks for having us home," Scott Avett said. "You are old friends and we thank you for coming."

(Tonight's New Year's Eve concert starts at 9. It's also sold out, but you might be able to buy tickets through Craigslist.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Win NYE tickets!

Rich & Bennett's popular NYE bash is already sold out, but you're in luck -- I scored two tickets to give away to one lucky reader.

The party will serve as the grand opening for the new Common House restaurant in Plaza Midwood and features an open bar from 9 p.m.-2 a.m., a full dinner buffet from Hawthorne's Pizza, a champagne toast at midnight and music by DJ Kadence.

Interested? Just call 704-358-5207 by noon today and sing the first verse of "Auld Lang Syne" into my voicemail.

Best version wins the tickets.

Good luck!
For a full list of NYE parties, click here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

NIX owner responds

My last blog about Nix Burger & Brew received a large number of negative comments about the new uptown restaurant that opened just last week.

Owner Nick LaVecchia sent me an e-mail today addressing some of the concerns.

"I am hoping you can help me clarify some of the issues we've experienced during NIX debut. We experienced many delays during construction that were beyond our control. When we finally opened, business volume was way above our projections. We are addressing many issues daily that exist with any new restaurant opening. We are working diligently to fix problems, mostly related to the high volume with very limited space. With any new concept, there are always kinks to be worked out in the first few weeks of operation. I just want you to know we are aware of these issues and are working hard to fix them. We hope we are given the chance to fix problems and not be judged based on the first few days after opening."

In short, have patience, people. We should be rooting for all businesses to succeed right now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Uptown burger joint opens today

NIX Burger & Brew opens tonight at the corner of Fifth and Tryon streets, offering a rare mid-range option for dining uptown.

NIX, owned by Nick LaVecchia of LaVecchia's Seafood Grille, offers about 20 different eight-ounce burgers from the traditional cheeseburger to ones topped with fried egg or onion rings. Most burgers are $8.95 and you can choose whether you want turkey, beef or bison as your meat.

Drafts, including Shock Top and Kona Fire Rock, are $5, while bottled beer starts at $3.

I checked it out last night during a pre-opening event and found my buffalo cheeseburger to be perfectly cooked and smothered in blue cheese. I also liked that the bun didn't overwhelm the burger and leave me feeling sickly stuffed.

The place has an industrial feel to it with a keg-inspired ceiling treatment, deconstructed chandeliers and bolts used as accent pieces along the wall. There's a small bar and six flatscreens located throughout the cozy 80-seat space.

LaVecchia said NIX will be open for lunch, dinner and late night (food served until about 1:30 a.m.) seven days a week.

Check out photos here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Will Smith visits Observer newsroom

The first sign Will Smith was approaching the Observer: a luxury motorcoach emblazoned with a huge photo of the actor's face, advertising his new movie "Seven Pounds."

Subtle he is not.

Smith is in Charlotte today promoting the film and raising awareness for Second Harvest Food Bank.

He stopped in the Observer newsroom after visiting the Levine Children's Hospital and students at John Taylor Williams Middle School and Northwest School of the Arts.

Wearing a white button-down shirt, v-neck sweater, hooded vest and jeans, Smith breezed through the Observer lobby, smiling ear-to-ear and saying hello to gawking employees.

After a quick elevator ride to our fourth-floor newsroom, Smith stopped to shake hands and greet everyone he passed.

A reporter was able to snag an autograph for his 12-year-old son, a big fan of the actor's.

"Best Hanukkah present ever!" he exclaimed after he walked away.

Smith stopped to give a hug to one copy editor, commenting that her jacket "felt like butter." She's been seen re-enacting the moment ever since he left.

He then sat down with movie critic Lawrence Toppman for a half-hour interview, his trademark booming laugh trickling into the newsroom every so often.

His entourage -- mostly public relations reps and security guys -- mingled with others in the newsroom. One of them pointed to TV/radio reporter Mark Washburn's desk and said, "You know all the '70s movies about reporters? That's what I envision."

On his way out, the actor stopped to pose for a brief photo shoot and signed some more autographs, including an Observer section promoting "I Am Legend." He told the autograph-seeker that his K-9 co-star in the 2007 film was "the best dog ever."

Afterwards, the (straight, male) staffer said, "I never felt like a giggly schoolgirl before, but I did."

In fact, the whole newsroom seemed like a bunch of giggly schoolgirls -- the room was louder today than it was on election night last month.

He said, "Excuse me, love," to one young woman, who then flushed, clutched her heart and exclaimed "He called me love!"

Smith left about 1:45 to head back to his south Charlotte luxury hotel before heading over to Regal Stonecrest tonight, when he'll donate 300 turkeys to Second Harvest.

Click here and here for more Smith coverage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Carol of the Pipers

It's nice to know that after a year of covering Charlotte's nightlife, I can still be surprised by things I see during my party travails around town.

On Saturday I was celebrating a friend's birthday at the Gin Mill -- a low-key gathering of shuffleboard, cheap beer and music played at a reasonable volume (what a concept).

We were all thinking about heading home for the night when about 10 men wearing kilts and Santa hats and carrying Christmas-light-adorned bagpipes walked in, making a beeline for the bathroom.

I stopped one and asked what they were up to.

Turns out the guys are part of Ceol na Gael, an Irish Pipe Band, which for the past three holiday seasons has been piping its way to center city bars during its annual Carol of the Pipers.

"The guys have had a few beers," band manager (and bass drum player) Frank Keenan told me, waving at the line to the men's room.

The bagpipers -- who had already played at Tyber Creek Pub, Connolly's and Phil's Deli -- stayed long enough to play three Christmas carols for partygoers (who also demanded an encore) before heading on to their next stop, Vinnie's.

As the last member left with candy canes swaying from his bagpipe, I couldn't help but think it was a lovely way to spend the evening.

Hope some of you guys got a chance to see them, too!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nightlife on 'Monday Night'

The energy uptown was palpable yesterday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and ESPN came to Charlotte for "Monday Night Football."

Some of that energy was, of course, generated by the buzz building up to the pivotal game, but did anyone notice how bright the uptown sky was? The buildings were encouraged to keep all of their lights on for the national broadcast as Charlotte enjoyed its moment in the spotlight. (I'd love to see the Bank of America building's overnight electric bill. No wonder we're in an energy crisis.)

Fans started tailgating hours before kickoff at Bank of America Stadium, and for those who couldn't take a half-day from work, their frustrations and excitement were documented hourly on Facebook. (I'd also love to see the productivity rate at Charlotte businesses yesterday. I'm guessing it's about the same as it is during March Madness.)

But while banks, law firms, (newspapers) and other businesses experienced a drop in productivity yesterday, the hospitality sector saw a boon: Charlotte Center City Partners predicted the game generated up to $8 million in extra revenue to area bars, restaurants and hotels.

I stopped in to WFNZ's Dog House before the game to check out early revelers. For those of you new to Charlotte, the Dog House sits in the shadow of the stadium at Mint and Morehead streets. It's open only on game days when the WFNZ on-air team broadcasts from the bar and fans use it as a tailgating/meeting/game-watching spot.

Inside, fans dressed in Panthers garb munched on peanuts and loaded up on beer while listening to the radio show. Out back, a live band played while folks from Sagebrush served up steaming hot BBQ.

It was nice to see everyone just out having a good time and not sitting at home listening to news reports about the flagging economy.

The Dog House opens two hours before every home game (last one's next Sunday when the Panthers host the Broncos) and stays open as late as two hours after the game ends.

Where are your favorite places to tailgate or watch the game?

Monday, December 8, 2008

New Year's Eve 2009

Here's an updated list of parties to ring in the new year. Know of others? Send me an e-mail with all the details. I'll be updating this list throughout the month, so check back weekly.

  • For those of you teetotalers out there, First Night Charlotte is back. For the first time since 1995, the nationally branded New Year's Eve festivities will kick off in the Square (Trade and Tryon streets) at 7 p.m. Dec. 31. Ring in '09 with the Charlotte Dance Festival, SlamCharlotte, Charlotte Blues Society All-Star Band, Sweetbriar Jam bluegrass band, The Fettuccini Brothers juggling comedy group, Gay Men's Chorus of Charlotte and more. Bring a friend, bring the kids (free for those under 12), but don't bring the booze - it's alcohol-free. An FNC button is $10 and gets you into most events. Get it here.

  • Make-A-Wish and the Charlotte City Club are teaming up for the Enchanted Evening Ball -- a gowns-and-coattails-required event. The swanky fete includes hor d'ouevres, live entertainment, a champagne toast, silent art auction and raffle prizes. If you've always wanted to see how Charlotte looks from the city club, this is your chance -- if you can afford the $150 ticket price (or $250 for VIP). Open bar and complimentary parking included. Ticket sales end Dec. 26. Get 'em here.

  • Party promoters Rich and Bennett -- regular staples on the nightlife circuit -- are hosting a New Year's Eve bash at the new Common House in Plaza Midwood. The party will serve as the grand opening for the restaurant and features an open bar from 9 p.m.-2 a.m., a full dinner buffet from Hawthorne's Pizza, a champagne toast at midnight and music by DJ Kadence. The event has sold out the past five years, so get your tickets early. Pricing is $60 for women if you attend a pre-pay event or $65 online; $80/$85 for men. More info on pre-pay events here.
  • Suite hosts New Year's Eve "Extravagance," a night of Absolut Excellence and Lavishness. Starts at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $30, on sale Dec. 17 at the club. Private suites available to reserve. Champagne toast and cash balloon drop. Music by DJ Nova.
  • Whisky River hosts its first New Year's bash. The night includes heavy hors d'ouevres, continental breakfast buffet, champagne toast and party favors. VIP booth/table packages start at $700. General admission tickets are $25 and available here.

  • Howl in the New Year at the EpiCentre's dueling rock 'n' roll piano bar, Howl at the Moon. The deluxe party package at $60 per person gets you a full catered Italian dinner and a reserved table starting at 6 p.m. Standing-room only tickets are available for $25 after 8 p.m.
  • Dixie's Tavern is hosting a New Year's Mardi Gras bash. Champagne toast and party favors are included. Booths are available to reserve. The upper area of the bar has three booths available for $100 each, which includes tickets for four people. The lower level has five booths available for $150 each, which includes six tickets. Individual tickets are available for $15 each. Click here.
  • Rusty Rudder will celebrate New Year's at the lake. Live music. Starts at 10 p.m. $10 cover.
  • Jokers Dueling Piano Bar in Mooresville. Dinner buffet, champagne toast and party favors. Entertainment by Keith, Matt and Nathan Carter with special guest Maysameth. Drink specials. $35 tickets.
  • Tommy Ray and the Rayguns and Hick'ry Hawkins will play the New Year's Eve Bash at Puckett's Farm. Music starts at 8:30 p.m. $5 cover. More info here.
  • Flying Saucer Draught Emporium's annual bash will feature live music from Jay Mathey and his band and a champagne toast at midnight. Admission is $5 for U.F.O. club members or $10 for nonmembers. Reservations, which include a bottle of champagne and a disposable camera, are available for $40 a booth or $60 for a table. Party starts at 7 p.m. Customers with reservations must arrive by 9 p.m.
  • The Old Courthouse Theatre presents New Year's Eve Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre and Silent Auction at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In addition to trying to solve the murder mystery, the night includes food, wine, champagne, cash bar and silent auction with art, gift baskets, gift certificates and sports memorabilia. Proceeds benefit the Old Courthouse Theatre. Tickets are $75 per person or $150 per couple.
  • Coyote Joe's will be celebrating the new year, country style. Cash giveaways all night. $10 cover includes champagne toast and line-dancing until your boots fall off. Starts at 7 p.m.

  • Alley Cat presents Rockin' New Year's Eve 2009. U-Phonik will perform live along with DJ Tech Support. Complimentary party favors. 18 and up. Tickets are $15 and available here.

  • The Forum's NYE bash will feature three areas of sound: 80s/90s/Rock/Hip-Hop/Electro in the main room with Dirty Thirty & Frenzy; Latin House, Bachata, Reggaeton and more from DJ's Sensation and 3mendo in Pravda Lounge; and Progressive, Electro, and Fidget House and Trance with DJ Kevin Focus on the Roof Garden. $30 tickets available here.
  • BlackFinn pSponsor Parties' 12th Annual New Year's Eve Party at BlackFinn Saloon. Open bar, buffet, champagne toast, party favors and a $10 voucher for a future visit to BlackFinn. Tickets are $80-$99 available here.

  • InnerCircle Events presents a Voyage to Monte Carlo at Ballantyne Resort's Le Chateau de Lodge. Complimentary buffet, theater screen televising a live feed from New York's Times Square, music from DJ Paradime. Starts at 7 p.m. Cocktail attire. $35 tickets available here.

  • The Sunset Club promises you'll party in style at its formal party that celebrates 1920 and 2009. Come dressed in 1920s attire or in your current modern upscale threads. The party starts at 8 p.m. in 1920s style with a live big band. As midnight approaches, the party will transform into 2009 with DJ Rowshay. $125 includes open bar, heavy hors d'ouevres, live music, DJs and a champagne toast. Tickets can only be purchased in advance. None will be sold at the door. Click here for tickets.

  • Charlotte Salsa is hosting a Latin Party at the Crowne Plaza for New Year's Eve. The goal for this event is to provide a place to celebrate ringing in the New Year with a formal Latin party in a friendly, family-oriented and safe environment. Music from live salsa band “The Latin Project” and DJ Psychs. Two dance floors. Live performances from Charlotte Salsa and the Charlotte Tango Society. Cash bar. Projection screen with live feeds from Times Square. Ticket prices (before Dec. 15): $45 per person, $80 per couple. After Dec. 15, tickets go up to $50/$90. On the night of the event, tickets will be available at the door for $55/$100. Teen admission price is $25. Tickets here.
  • Highlighter's Singles Club (4235 W. Tyvola Road) is having a dance party. Music by Colours. Appetizers will be served. $25 in advance, $30 at the door. More info: 704-548-9212.
  • Precious Promotions is hosting a party at the Big Chill. Music by R&B singer Jonathan, aka Super J, and Nashville's Ilyasin. Advance general admission tickets available for $40. VIP tickets are $85 and include light appetizers, champagne fountain, free photo, easily accessible bar and gift giveaways.
  • The Sol Kitchen and Apostrophe Lounge are hosting an intimate gathering for those of you who are tired of overcrowded and expensive NYE bashes. Free food (including a dessert bar) and champagne toast. Tickets are $25 and available at the bar.
  • The Comedy Zone and Embassy Suites (Concord/Speedway) present two NYE shows. The 8 p.m. early dinner/show package includes three top national comedians, a dinner buffet and cocktail service. You'll be home by 10, or you can hit other parties later in the night. The 10:15 p.m. Laff into 2009 show includes three top national comedians, party favors, a champagne toast and breakfast buffet. Tickets $85 or $150 per couple. Click here.
  • NYE at Hom has DJ Wiiz Kid spinning a mash-up of your favorite tunes in Play, while Fred Everything and Johnnie Davis spin in Liv. The club is offering three different packages: general admission for $15; an all-inclusive $35 general admission ticket gets you your choice of appetizer and entree and a champagne toast (seatings at 9:30 or 10:30); the $75 all-inclusive VIP ticket gains you exclusive access to the study with a private bar (open bar until 1 a.m.), appetizer buffet, a champagne toast and a separate door entry so you don't have to wait in line. The VIP ticket is presale only. Tickets available here.
  • Back to the Future Bash at The Breakfast Club -- 1989 meets 2009. Hosted by 107.9 The Link's Bandy from the "Matt & Ramona Show." Advance tickets are $20 before Dec. 30 (available at the club). Day of tickets are $25.
  • NYE at Loft 1523. $75 cover includes penny drinks, champagne toast and party favors. The ticket price jumps up to $90 the week of, but the party is nearly sold out, so act fast.
  • 5th annual NYE celebration at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. Five bars, buffets upstairs and downstairs, champagine toast at midnight. DJ Method and DJ Scooter will be spinning hits from the '70s, '80s, '90s and today. Tickets are $69. Call 704-377-3808 or e-mail
  • NYE at Buckhead Saloon. Party favors, champagne toast, live music and DJ. Doors open at 8 p.m.
  • The Garden & Gun Club will go back to the fabulous years with its Disco Era NYE bash. DJ Andy Kastanas will be spinning the disco and house classics all night. Party favors, champagne toast. Doors open at 9 p.m. $15 for members, $20 for guests.
  • Kiss Lounge, in conjunction with Pendulum Party, celebrates NYE 2009 with a special party open only to couples and single females. Unlimited champagne and KISS shots, complimentary hors d'oeuvres. $100 per couple, $50 per single female. More info here.
  • Purgatory on New Year's Eve at Amos' Southend. Music by DJ Koji, End: The DJ and Mixtress Krikett. Live performances by Filth on Demand and fetish performers. Featuring 10 fully interactive VIP fetish play areas including Dr. Spankenstein and rope suspension. Ages 18 and up. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 general admission, $25 VIP.
  • The NYE party at NoDa's 28th Davidson Atrium will benefit the NoDa School of Arts. Music, treats from Amelie's Bakery, champagne toast. 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased here.
  • The Art of Celebration at Stir, featuring DJ Biz Markie. Hosted by Power 98's Danny Diaz. Party favors, champagne toast, live countdown to 2009 from Times Square on the big screen. General admission $30, VIP $60. Tickets here.
  • New Year's Eve at the Red Lion Tavern. Full dinner buffet, champagne toast, after-midnight breakfast buffet and live music. $25 per person. Call 704-302-1215.
  • M5 celebrates New Year's in SouthPark style. Special menu. DJ spinning music all night. Full dinner menu available until 11 p.m. 4300 Sharon Road. 704-909-5500.
  • Le Grande Holiday Soiree at NV Lounge. Champagne toast, $1,000 balloon drop at midnight, cash giveaways, music by DJ Supa Dave, breakfast at 2 a.m. VIP admission includes appetizer buffet and private open bar. 9 p.m. 20924 Torrence Chapel Road. $100 VIP; $25 general admission in advance, $30 at the door.
  • BBW and BHM Masquerade Ball for the big beautiful women and big handsome men in the Charlotte area. 8 p.m. Crowne Plaza, 201 S. McDowell St. $40. E-mail for more info.
  • A New York New Year's Eve at the Pub at Gateway. Party favors, complimentary buffet, champagne toast. Music by DJ Eye-U. 8 p.m. 710 W. Trade St. $15 in advance, $20 at the door. 704-333-9818.
  • Cans' New Year's Eve Celebration. Buffet, champagne toast, party favors and entertainment. 9 p.m. 500 W. Fifth St. $20 in advance, $30 at the door. Contact 773-276-7582 and ask for Kathy or Erica for details.
  • Mez celebrates NYE with its first Black Tie Ball. Champagne toast, balloon drop, party favors and passed hors d'oeuvres. Limited advance tickets available for $40 online or at the restaurant/lounge. 
  • 2nd Annual New Year's Eve Blowout at Buckwild, featuring Angie Aparo live. Champagne toast, $5,000 balloon drop in cash and prizes. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
  • New Year's Eve 2009 at Bar Charlotte. Party favors, balloon drop, raffle prizes, free mechanical bull rides and a champagne toast. Ages 18 and up. $20 for those 21 and over; $25 18-20. Tickets here.
  • NYE at Brick & Barrel features $5 Mason Jar drinks, live entertainment on both floors and a champagne toast. Call Aaron to RSVP and lock in no cover: 704-975-8019.
  • Special couples menu at Bull & Barrister Draft House and Grille. For residents in Northwest Charlotte, you can stay close to home this NYE. The dinner special features a choice of one appetizer, one entree and one dessert per couple for $17.99 per person. DJ Wizard will be providing the music starting at 9:30 p.m. Champagne toast. More info here.

Updated holiday party list

Here's a list of festive fetes this month. Don't see yours on the list? Send me an e-mail with the details. Happy holidays!

Dec. 16

  • Analog Daze at the Double Door Inn. Party like a rock star with Analog Daze at this Christmas party. Food, drinks and live music. 8-midnight. Info here.
Dec. 17
  • Pet PALS Holiday Bash at Suite. 7-9:30 p.m. $15 at the door (includes one drink ticket). Proceeds benefit the Humane Society of Charlotte.
  • Holiday Happy Hour at Brio. Mingle with the Young Affiliates of the Mint during their monthly social with a holiday theme. 6-9 p.m. No cover.
  • Gin Mill is hosting an "Appreciation, 3/4 of the way to St. Paddy's, Recession Proof Christmas Party." $1 domestics, $2 imports, $3 house liquor. Live Irish music from The Merrows. Karaoke later in the night. 
  • Rusty Rudder's Ugly Sweater/Naughty Santa party. Starts at 8 p.m. No cover. Karaoke. Specials include $1 Miller High Life bottles, $1.50 Coors Light drafts, $2 domestic bottles and $5 Sweet Tea Vodka drinks.
Dec. 18
  • 8th Annual Blitzen's Holiday Party. DJ spinning holiday tunes. Passed appetizers and drink specials. Silent auction features spa packages, a trip for two, and gift certificates to area restaurants and retail stores. 6-10 p.m. at BlackFinn Saloon. $5. Portion of proceeds benefit American Red Cross. Get your tickets here.
  • Cans Bad Sweater Party. Bring out your ugliest sweater (holiday-themed preferred) and win a prize for worst sweater. $4 Skyy Red Bull, $2 Swill of the Month. Music from DJ Stix. Starts at 9 p.m.
Dec. 19
  • The Gathering: A Soulful Xmas Party, hosted by Consuella and Brittney Cason. Collecting toys for toys for tots, canned goods and handbags for Bags of Love. Music by The Sol Kitchen and DJ DR. Starts at 10 p.m. at Alive in NoDa. $10 cover.
  • Sunset's Ugliest Christmas Sweater Party. Dig out that old ugly Christmas sweater your grandma once gave you and make it pay off. The club is giving away a free VIP section and bottle service to the one that has the most tacky holiday sweater. Starts at 10 p.m.
  • Naughty or Nice/Sexy Santa party at Bar Charlotte. Sexiest Santa wins $500 cash. No cover if you bring an unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots. Starts at 9 p.m. 
Dec. 20
  • Blue Santa Benefit Party at Blue Restaurant. $3 drafts, $6 martinis. Live music from the Presley Brothers. Proceeds benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank. $5 cover without a canned food item. Free with a food donation.
  • Executive Entertainment presents The Black Affair, a Christmas Party at Grand Central Events on Central Avenue. More info here.
Dec. 24
  • Matzo Ball Party. Forum, along with the Society of Young Jewish Professionals hosts a party for all those who aren't celebrating Christmas Eve. SYJP offers men and women ages 21-49 the opportunity to develop networking connections, long-lasting friendships and romantic relationships. 9 p.m. $30 at the door or online here.
Dec. 27
  • Queen City Hollywood at the Blake Hotel. Enjoy two ballrooms with different music (pop, hip-hop and old school in one, a live jazz band in the other). Complimentary hors d'oeuvres. Gift bags and over $2,000 in giveaways. Hosted by Power 98's Consuella and Ife Moore. Guests include Bobby Valentino, Ryan Leslie, Wali Rainer, Aaron Brooks, Angelo Crowell and Dre Bly. Tickets are $35. Click here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Whisky River employee arrested

An employee at Whisky River was arrested as he arrived for work Tuesday night at the EpiCentre bar in uptown.

Anthony Ortega Rodriguez, who worked security at the front door, was arrested on warrants for selling cocaine to undercover detectives from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

According to a press release, Rodriguez's arrest was the culmination of an investigation that began after CMPD received complaints about drugs being sold inside the bar.

At the time of his arrest, officers found 12 bags of cocaine totaling 15 grams in his pocket.

Bob Durkin, president of Bar Management Group, which runs the bar for owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., said Rodriguez is no longer employed.

"We are definitely shocked by the whole thing," Durkin said. "We go through extensive background checks on everyone we hire."

Durkin also said BMG has a zero tolerance policy for drugs in its bars, requiring employees to sign a form saying they will not bring drugs on the premises and to report employees who do.

"We take as many steps as we can," Durkin said. "Unfortunately, we had one bad seed."

Second String Santa draws 4,000

More than 4,000 people turned out to Time Warner Cable Arena on Tuesday night with gifts in hand.

The annual Second String Santa party celebrated its 20th anniversary in a big way, collecting more than 3,000 gifts for needy children in the Charlotte area and raising a record $57,000.

The party was started by a group of friends who wanted to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season by collecting toys for children. The first year saw 600 guests at a backyard gathering and that number has steadily grown, making it one of the biggest social events of the season. It outgrew its longtime location at Founders Hall and moved to the uptown arena this year.

I hadn't been to the party when it was at Founders Hall, but I have a few suggestions for next year if they decide to hold it at the arena again.

  • Kill the fluorescent lights in the concourse at the arena. The lights were unforgiving and took away from the festive atmosphere. Hint: Ladies love Christmas twinkle lights. They make everyone look gorgeous.
  • Add a dress code to invites. I saw people in a broad range of outfits, from summer-weight dresses to women in full prom hair and makeup and full-length gowns. Cocktail attire seems appropriate for a holiday party. Although I have to give kudos to the three brave men in jaunty Christmas sweaters.
  • More bars! I saw a comment on a web site before I went along the lines of "You know how long you have to wait for a drink at SSS..." And while we're on the subject of adding stuff, more coat check areas are needed. My friends waited at least 20 minutes just to check their coats. Total buzzkill.

But aside from the lighting and long lines, it was cool to see so many people out on a Tuesday night, celebrating the giving season -- and enthusiastically partaking in the open bar. The arena floor was a sea of people socializing and dancing along with the live band to hits like "Proud Mary." I heard one person say "this is more people than they get for Bobcats games."

Even Michael Jordan made an appearance, briefly passing through the VIP area of the party before watching the festivities on the floor from an upper-level suite.

For more pics from the evening, click here and here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bartender's Ball 2009

Bartender's Ball is coming back next year with an international theme.

Yes, it's still three months away, but tickets are on sale now for only $50.

After Sunday, the price jumps to $60.

If you've never been to a Bartender's Ball, you need to check it out. It's one of the biggest parties of the year for Charlotte's young professionals, featuring open bar with premium liquors, free food and music from a host of DJs. Participating bars really get in on the fun, designing elaborate booths to fit with the theme.

This year's party benefits The Guys with Ties.

To get your tickets, click here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Iconic music venue to open in Charlotte

Charlotte is getting a major addition to its live music scene.

The N.C. Music Factory announced Thursday that Live Nation will open a Fillmore Music Hall in the entertainment complex in uptown's Fourth Ward. The concert promoter will also exclusively book the music factory's 5,000-seat outdoor boutique amphitheater.

“Having the Fillmore brings a world-class recognition to Charlotte,” said Noah Lazes of ARK Group, which is developing the Music Factory. “The Fillmore is arguably the most respected club venue in the world, by artists as well as fans.”

And with Live Nation operating the venue, “it's the best. It's like having Microsoft running your company,” Lazes said.

The original Fillmore opened in San Francisco in 1965 and attracted such music acts as The Who, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead. Since then, Fillmore venues have opened in New York, Miami, Detroit and Denver.

Lazes says the 2,000-seat venue is slated to open in late spring or early summer.

What do you guys -- especially everyone posting on my last entry -- think about the news? Is this what Charlotte needs? Does a name like the Fillmore put Charlotte on the music map?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cans tries out new concept

Cans General Manager Brian Labovitz tells me you'll find a whole new vibe on Saturdays in the lower level of the uptown bar, called the Underground.

Previously, the lower level was mostly used as an extension of the main floor entertainment, catering to the overspill of the crowd. Now, the bar is bringing in master mash-up DJ Vandam for Chop Shop on Saturdays.

“His style of mash-up DJing, by layering the new and trendy top 40 and house hits with our thematically appropriate retro '80s and '90s hits, gives Charlotte a much-needed musical kick in the (backside),” Labovitz says. “Best example I've heard (of his style) was M.I.A.'s ‘Paper Planes' with Bon Jovi's ‘Dead or Alive' mashed in.”

Labovitz also says the atmosphere of the lower level will be more clublike – but without pretentious lines or covers.

“Unlike most venues in Charlotte, Cans does not and will not charge a cover and avoids senseless lines to create the perception of being busy,” he says. “The new Underground will not alter that approach in the slightest.”

I didn't make it to the first Chop Shop this past Saturday -- did any of you? What did you think?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gobble, gobble, gobble

Some of Charlotte' s best bartenders gathered at Connolly's on Monday night to show off their mixology skills -- and it was all for a great cause.

Turkey Fest 2008 was sponsored by Absolut, Jameson Whiskey and American Honey, and the trifecta theme was carried on at Madison's, The Attic and Connolly's.

Proceeds from the night benefitted Second Harvest Food Bank.

Partygoers could choose between different drink specials in each bar including a Lemon Drop Martini, Uptown Cosmo, Ruby Red Martini or a shot from the American Honey ice luge.

Highlights included free makeovers from the MAC makeup gurus and massages courtesy of the Aveda Institute.

Some brave guys also entered the "Rock Band" competition at The Attic -- and by brave, I mean their singing voices were painful to listen to.

But the high point of the night was the Absolut martini competition at Connolly's. The big winner of the night was Russ from Loft 1523. His cinnamon inspired, fruity flavored Confusion Infusion had the judges -- me, Carolina Panther Gary Gibson, Creative Loafing's Brittney Cason and 96.1 The Beat's Jacinda -- all begging for more.

And the best part? Russ donated his $200 prize back to Second Harvest.

A very honorable mention goes to Michael at PJ's Coffee & Lounge, whose complex kiwi-flavored concoction tasted more like a smoothie than a mixed drink.

In total, the event raised $2,075 for the food bank -- or in Second Harvest lingo, 12,500 pounds of food.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

About that uptown fight

I did a little digging to find out more about the "brawl" that happened uptown early Sunday morning.

I thought it was a little fishy that the Observer story said the fight happened at Buckhead Saloon at 2:41 a.m. when the bar -- at North College and Fifth streets -- is normally closed. The story was based on an incident log filed by CMPD over the weekend that described a large fight inside the bar.

Turns out the fight occurred out on the sidewalk a short distance up the block.

"Our doors are locked at 2:15," said Buckhead manager Wes Cumberland.

Buckhead staff was closing out registers and cleaning up for the night when they noticed the blue lights of police cars outside.

Cumberland and assistant manager Jason Astephen said none of the people involved in the fight was at the bar.

Cumberland said the fight involved Marines who had attended the Marine Corps Ball at the Marriott Center City at 100 W. Trade St. earlier in the night.

"I think they (CMPD) associated us with the fight because we're right there on the corner, but College Street is a walkway for all of the bars in the uptown entertainment district and a lot of people park in that parking structure," Astephen said.

A police report had not been filed as of Monday afternoon, but a CMPD sergeant confirmed Monday that the fight happened outside of Buckhead.

He said the fight happened when two groups passed each other on the street. One man said something about another's girlfriend and the fight broke out between the two men.

"Probably the only relevance to Buckhead was the fact that one of their bouncers came out to try to break the fight up," the sergeant said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Come to Turkey Fest on Monday

Connolly's, Madison's and The Attic are hosting a huge party on Monday night -- and it's for a great cause.

Turkey Fest 2008 will feature a "Rock Band" competition at The Attic, makeovers at Madison's courtesy of the Aveda Institute and MAC, and the main event: a bartending contest at Connolly's.

I'll be judging the martini portion of the evening, along with Carolina Panther Gary Gibson, Creative Loafing columnist Brittney Cason and radio and TV host Brotha' Fred. Larken Egleston will be our MC for the night.

Lots of goodies -- including spa packages, autographed sports memorabilia and gym memberships -- will be for sale during a silent auction in Madison's.

All of the proceeds from the event go to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

It all starts at 7 p.m., so stop by, check it out and say hello. (No cover; just bring a canned food item for donation to Second Harvest.)

Another uptown bar closing its doors

Grand Central Deli & Spirits is closing after five years -- but the uptown bar promises to go out with a bang.

It's hosting a "Last Bash" party next Thursday starting at 6 p.m. and drink specials ($1 beer, $2 well drinks, etc.) will be offered throughout the night. Is that kind of like the equivalent of a clearance sale at a furniture store?

No word on what's behind the closing. 

What do you guys think? The EpiCentre? The economy? The shooting outside the bar awhile back? All of the above?

I for one have never trusted places that are delis by day, beer-soaked clubs by night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

M5 goes late night

M5 Modern Mediterranean has conquered the SouthPark dinner crowd with restaurant regulars who include Michael Jordan and Bob Johnson, and now it's trying to carve itself a new niche.

The restaurant is now offering a late-night menu of specialty pizzas ranging from $6 to $12 – almost half the price of the regular menu. A DJ booth has been placed next to the host stand, creating an energetic vibe to the dining room and bar area. DJs spin house music starting at 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Managing partner Mark Darvill says he hopes patrons see the new late-night effort as “a great alternative to going all the way uptown.”

Darvill compares his weekend vision for the restaurant to a cross between Tutto Mondo Lounge in South End and the EpiCentre's Suite, and says he hopes it becomes as popular as Villa Antonio's late-night scene in Ballantyne.

“It seems like between Ballantyne and uptown there's really nothing (in the form of upscale nightlife), and that's why I'm hoping I can get this going,” he says.

Darvill wants to eventually add bottle service, and if the crowd gets a touch of dance fever, tables will be pushed aside.

All the makings of a great restaurant-turned-nightclub are there – a beautifully hip space, knowledgeable bartenders who use fresh ingredients, a thumping beat and upscale bar munchies. I look forward to the concept catching on.

What do you guys think? Will you check it out?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All that jazz

I'd be lying if I said I came home from "Chicago" (the musical, not the city) last night and went to bed.

In fact, I put on a pair of tights and Mary Janes and tap-danced my way around my apartment -- much to the dismay of my dog and my neighbor below me.

But that's what the infectious music of "Chicago" does to you.

The show -- the first in the new national tour -- opened last night at the Belk Theater, bringing a wide range of ages to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. I saw one man in his 60s snorting with laughter at the show's bawdy humor while another young woman was singing along to all of the songs and excitedly telling her husband when her favorite parts were coming up.

An audible murmur went through the ladies in the audience when the female castmembers started "Cell Block Tango." "This is my favorite song!" they all whispered to their dates for the evening. (Perhaps the dates should have been worried: the song is about women who murdered their husbands/boyfriends with the catchy chorus "He had it comin'.")

I had previously seen only the movie version of "Chicago," which, while entertaining, seemed to drag in spots. I was happy to find that the stage version moves along at a nice pace, and I wasn't ready for it to end.

The show runs through Tuesday. For a full review by theater critic Lawrence Toppman, click here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Opening soon: The Wine Loft

Stopped into the new Five Guys on South Boulevard for lunch today (yum!) and popped my head into The Wine Loft next door.

It's not open yet, but it looks like it has potential to be a pretty space.

The owners tell me the wine bar is tentatively scheduled to open Friday and will serve small plates of food.

The new location is part of a nationwide effort to open 23 franchises by the end of 2008.

Any one been to a Wine Loft before? What'd you think?

Beatlemania at Spirit Square

Spirit Square was transformed into the 1960s on Sunday night for Beatlemania at the McGlohon Theatre.

The show, hosted by John Tosco -- of Tosco Music Party fame -- and the Blumenthal, was to drum up interest in the upcoming "RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles" at Belk Theater this month.

Audience members of all ages came decked out in groovy 60s and 70s duds for the costume contest.

The winner? A dead ringer for Paul McCartney, who had his accent down to a T.

The night included audience singalongs to "Hard Day's Night" and "I Saw Her Standing There" led by Tosco, whose enthusiasm for music is infectious. Audience members sang, danced and clapped freely, including barking along during "Hey Bulldog."

The show was also broken up by stellar performances from 16-year-old Emily Sadler who sang a beautiful version of "Real Love," and Paul Rosen, whose rendition of "Let it Be" inspired audience members to wave their lighted cell phones in the air. It may have been a night dedicated to the music of the 60s, but we were clearly in 2008.

RAIN runs at the Belk Nov. 24-25. I've seen the show before, and it's a hoot. Get your tickets here.

Tosco will host his next Music Party Jan. 31 and his next Beatles Tribute Party June 6.

Freaky Friday

Area bars got a financial boost this weekend with this year's Halloween falling on a Friday.

There were so many parties to choose from, it felt like New Year's Eve instead of Oct. 31 -- and it seemed as though all of Charlotte ventured to the local haunts.

I decided to start with the biggest party of the night: CarnEVIL at Amos' Southend.

Highlights included a taser station that resembled some sort of medieval torture device, a man on stage dressed in a sequinned spandex body suit complete with a bedazzled penis (there's really no other way to describe it) and some really great, gory makeup jobs.

I would have loved to stay longer to see things get really freaky, but duty called and I headed to my next stop -- though not before seeing my favorite costumes of the night: Laser Cats.

Over at the Monster Mash at Cans, the Guys with Ties were packing folks in. The guys tell me the party raised about $10,000 for the Bethlehem Center.

I haven't been to Cans in months, and was immediately reminded why within minutes of walking in: I was knocked down the stairs by a drunk, elbowed in the face by a guy swigging his beer and jammed in the back by a staff member carrying cases of beer. No one told me this job was so dangerous. (Maybe because I was dressed as Sarah Palin? Just a theory.)

Michael Phelps and his Olympic relay team were a popular costume for men brave enough to wear Speedos in the October chill. And it wouldn't be Halloween without some girls in slutty costumes dancing like strippers. Most common one I saw: The sexy cop uniform. Ladies, let's get creative next year, please?

Runner-up for best costume goes to the couple who dressed as contestants on Nickelodeon's Double Dare -- talk about a blast from the past.

My last stop was Forum, where again I fought my way through wall-to-wall bodies just to get inside. It must be said that on Halloween, you better be buzzed before you even go out just so you can tolerate the crowds. But once you're out, it's fun to see everyone dressed up and having a good time -- is it just me or does everyone seem to be a little friendlier on Halloween? Costumes are the best conversation starter.

But enough about my weekend. How did you guys spend Halloween? Best costume you saw?

For lots more Halloween photos, go here and here. Happy clicking!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Update on Chima

Many of you have asked for a revised opening date for Chima.

The new Brazilian steakhouse on South Tryon will be firing up the grill Nov. 10, according to a press release I received today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beastie Boys win the popular vote

The Get Out and Vote Tour stopped in Charlotte on Monday and rocked Amos' Southend.

Singer Santogold got the sell-out crowd energized and Sheryl Crow performed some of her newer songs as well as some old favorites.

But it was clear the crowd was there to see the Beastie Boys. I'd say the majority of the audience was white men in their late 20s to mid-30s wearing either hoodies or old concert T-shirts, tolerating Crow's mellow form of rock until Mike D took the mic.

The tour, which moves on to Richmond today, includes stops in swing states that are playing crucial roles in the upcoming election, including Ohio and Wisconsin.

The performers all made a point to remind the crowd to register to vote and to vote early. Rock the Vote reps were also parked at the venue, registration forms in hand.

For a full review, click here.

Now my one gripe about Amos': It was cool to see such big names play a venue like Amos' but every time I go see a show there, I find myself coming home with a sore neck from straining it to see the stage all night. Unless you get there as soon as the doors open and find a spot either near the stage or along the upstairs balcony, your view is toast since the floor is flat all the way to the back. I much prefer the view at the similarly sized Visulite or Neighborhood Theater where the floor slopes toward the stage, ensuring a decent view from the back.

Monday, October 27, 2008

X-rated urinals out at Sunset Club

Guys will no longer get a peep show when they use the restroom at The Sunset Club.

Co-owner Sonny Gur told me Friday that the club has gotten rid of the urinals that have caused a stir since the club reopened last month after extensive renovations.

Some had called for a boycott of the club while others dismissed the urinals as bathroom humor or works of art.

Gur declined to comment on the club's reasons behind the change and declined to say when the change was made.

Bobcats roll out blue carpet

The Bobcats put on their black-tie best Saturday for the organization's 2nd Annual My Hero Gala.

The party was a fundraiser for the Presbyterian Hospital Community Care Cruiser, a 40-foot RV that provides medical care to those who can't afford it. In its first year, the cruiser has treated 1,200 patients.

Among those celebrated at the gala as this year's heroes:

  • Dell Curry, who was accompanied by his wife, Sonya (but no Stephen). Curry was honored for his work with Athletes United for Youth, a group he founded in 2006 with Steve Smith and Jay Bilas.
  • Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, a physician who works closely with the Salvation Army Women and Children's Shelter, the Charlotte Community Health Free Clinic and other free clinics in the region.
  • Sue Gorman (accompanied by husband Peter), who founded Parent University, an effort between parents and CMS to help parents become partners in their child's education.
On the blue carpet rolled out in front of Time Warner Cable Arena, guests paired their black-tie duds with their fanciest sneakers.

Inside, Ryan Hollins played craps at the makeshift casino, while Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor and their fellow teammates mingled with guests and posed for photos.

Guests bid on some impressive items during the silent auction including autographed Beatles memorabilia, a boxing glove signed by Muhammad Ali and an electric guitar signed by Jimmy Buffett.

New coach Larry Brown kept a low-profile, delivering a short speech before dinner.

Noticeably absent from the festivities was owner Bob Johnson, who was scheduled to deliver the event's opening remarks. President and COO Fred Whitfield stepped in to replace Johnson, who was called away at the last minute for undisclosed reasons, a Bobcats spokesman said. Michael Jordan also did not attend.

The Bobcats regular season starts Thursday against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The team's home opener is Saturday against the Miami Heat.

Mistress of ceremonies Linda Cohn, an ESPN anchor, said it best, "You guys just need to stay healthy early on. ... You know who I'm talking to, Sean (May)."

Gravedigger's Ball 2008

It was an entirely different evening over at the Gravedigger's Ball.

I managed to get there just as Katy Perry was finishing her set with her hit "I Kissed a Girl."

Thousands of inebriated 20-somethings poured out of the Dixie's parking lot and into other uptown bars to continue the Halloween celebration.

I was a little disappointed in the lack of costume creativity and the fact I didn't spot at least one Sarah Palin lookalike.

There's always hope for next week.

Below are some of the best ones I spotted:

Where will you guys be celebrating Halloween? For a list of parties, click here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Honeys, this isn't your Grandma's bingo

Gay Bingo made a triumphant return to Charlotte on Saturday with a sell-out crowd of more than 2,100 people -- its largest turnout yet.

The fundraiser for Carolina RAIN (Regional AIDS Interfaith Network) has been on a two-year hiatus after six years of daubers, saucy humor and draq queens helped raise $700,000 for RAIN.

Organizers' fundraising goal for Saturday night's "Shelita and the City" was $100,000 and they came in just under that at $95,000, RAIN spokesman Nathan Smith said.

It was my first Gay Bingo experience and no one could prepare me for host(ess) Shelita Hamm's biting wit. Some of her best lines included, "Yes, you in the spring print. Hello, it's autumn," and "You're from SouthPark? You obviously didn't get that sweater from SouthPark," and likening one unfortunate bingo player's hair to a big brown football. (S/he was right.)

Note to future gay bingo attendees: You better not cry bingo wolf unless you want to be publicly humiliated by Miss Shelita -- although she made it awfully hard to keep up as she called out the bingo numbers in rapid-fire succession.

Luckily the BVDs (Bingo Verifying Divas) were on hand to give the crowd (about 70% gay and 30% straight) a break with a few dance numbers to the tune of "Man, I Feel Like a Woman," "Thriller" and Fergie's "Glamorous."

It was quite the production -- part comedy routine, part musical, part fundraiser, and yes, part bingo.

I'm marking my calendar for next year.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New lounge opens tonight in EpiCentre

It's small and intimate and the owners are hoping you make it your new after-work destination.

PJ's Coffee & Lounge officially opens today in the EpiCentre. Their motto? Wake up. Chill out. Wine down.

It's a one-stop shop for all your food and drink needs.

In the morning it serves as a breakfast bar, serving coffee, pastries and breakfast sandwiches. Lunchtime it's sandwiches and salads. After-work, the coffee bar goes dark and the signature martinis are served, along with a few small plates like quesadillas, hummus and assorted cheeses.

I stopped in last night for the lounge's pre-opening party. (See photos here.)

It's a nice addition to the EpiCentre, and offers something different -- a low-key alternative to the raucous crowds at Howl at the Moon, Suite and Whisky River.

It's part of EpiCentre developer Afshin Ghazi's vision to offer something for everybody at the entertainment complex, he told me last night.

The lounge will have live music Thursday-Saturday, including singers like Judson, who has a Jack Johnson sound. 

All of the signature martinis and signature mixed drinks are served with fresh fruit. I sampled a watermelon martini and raspberry mojito and both had so much fruit in them, it felt like I was sipping on a nutritious smoothie (with a kick). My only complaint: The martinis are $12 and signature mixed drinks $15. A little pricey, especially in these economic times. Here's hoping for a half-price martini night.

Next up for the EpiCentre:

  • The movie theater is set to open mid-November, Ghazi said last night.
  • Strike City, the upscale bowling alley/bar/lounge, has a scheduled opening date of Dec. 15.
  • Also coming soon is Mez, a new restaurant adjoining the movie theater that is set to open around Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween parties start this weekend

Halloween is quickly approaching and the parties are already starting. Here are some highlights. (If you know of other parties, shoot me the details in an e-mail. I'm looking for a variety of events to attract a diverse crowd.)

This Friday:

  • Haunted Nights Bar Crawl hosted by Elevate. No covers, transportation to and from each location on the Ragin Party Pus, free beer on the bus and tons of giveaways. Pickup at 6:30 p.m. at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. $10. Get your tickets here.
Oct. 24:
  • The 24th Annual Halloween Thriller Costume Ball. Costumes are highly encouraged. The party will be held at The Big Chill, 911 E. Morehead St. $10 for those in costume, $20 otherwise. E-mail for more information.
Oct. 25:
  • "It" girl Katy Perry will headline this year's Gravedigger's Ball. Bundle up because the Dixie's parking lot gets cold, regardless of how much alcohol you consume. A prize of $1,500 will be awarded for best costume. Ages 18 and up welcome. Doors open at 6 p.m. 301 E. Seventh St. $15. Tickets here.
  • Rich and Bennett (of St. Patty's Day fame) are organizing their 8th Annual Halloween Pub Crawl, promising more bars than ever before. Prizes will be awarded for best individual and group costumes. Registration starts at Dixie's at 1:30 p.m. $20 in advance, $30 at the door.
Oct. 28

  • Whisky River kicks off its Whisky Ween activities with a sexiest costume contest. $300 cash prize.
Oct. 29
  • Whisky's second night of Halloween festivities is a 1950s Vaudeville night. Wear your best '50s-era/pin-up costumes. Fashion and hair show will be presented by Bella Lago and the Red Door. $500 in prizes for best '50s fashions. $5,000 in raffle prizes benefitting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Oct. 31
  • This year's CarnEVIL will be a two-night event at Amos' Southend. Entertainment includes live music, Big Momma's House of Burlesque and a zombie fashion show. 8 p.m. 1423 S. Tryon St. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door.
  • NV Lounge is going all out for its 3rd Annual Boo Bash on Oct. 31. Best costume wins $1,000 (you must register for the costume contest before 11 p.m.). Creepy drink specials all night. Doors open at 9 p.m. 20924 Torrence Chapel Road. Tickets are $15.
  • Guys with Ties is throwing its 3rd Annual Monster Mash at Cans. Proceeds will go toward The Bethlehem Center. 8 p.m. 500 W. Fifth St. $10 cover.
  • Monster Cash Costume Bash at Whisky River. $1,500 for first place in costume contest.
  • Rocky Horro-ween. A screening of the movie musical, complete with live actors animating the show, costume contest with cash prize, audience participation and complimentary buffet and bloody punch. 18 and up welcome. $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Tickets here.
The full list will be published next Friday in CLT.

Common Market opening in South End

Common Market, the popular deli/coffee shop/wine bar/general store in Plaza Midwood is opening a second location this fall.

The South End spot will be located at 1515 S. Tryon St. just past the Camden Road intersection and across from the Bland Street LYNX station.

Expect the same neighborhood atmosphere as the PM location plus a few additions like a juice bar, wine and beer bar, and on-the-run breakfast foods.

And, of course, Common Market wouldn't be complete without a spacious patio to enjoy a bottle of wine with friends.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A new (aromatic) cocktail trend

First sweet-tea flavored vodka and now hickory smoked cocktails?

That's the trend that's catching on in big cities like New York, according to Trendcentral.

"Mixologists around the country are using flame to smoke various ingredients (and even glasses) to give their cocktails a whole new dimension of flavor," Trendcentral reports.

Some of the most popular NYC smoked drinks include The Waylon, a bourbon and smoked Coke, and a Hickory Smoked Bloody Mary, made with vodka, bourbon and Bloody Mary mix, then rimmed with honey and hickory seasoning.

Has anyone tried such a drink? If not, would you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Beastie Boys, Sheryl Crow, Santogold coming to CLT

Some marquee names are playing the intimate Amos' Southend this month, it was announced today.

The Beastie Boys, Sheryl Crow and Santogold will perform at the South End venue Oct. 27 as part of the Get Out and Vote tour.

The tour includes stops in swing states that are playing crucial roles in the upcoming election, including Ohio and Wisconsin.

Also on hand will be representatives from Rock the Vote, who will distribute information on local polling sites.

Tickets go on pre-sale Thursday at 10 a.m. via (Password is VOTE for the pre-sale. No password is needed if you buy on Friday.) 

Monday, October 13, 2008

New wine bar has speakeasy feel

A wine bar just opened in Dilworth's Latta Pavilion, but if you don't live in one of the condos above it, you might not even know it's there. It's not visible from the street and there's no sign out yet, so when you do stumble across it, it's like stepping foot in a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

Yn (a play off the periodic table) opened Friday behind 131 Main and is owned by the same people as the restaurant.

It's a cozy, intimate space (capacity is 50 people) with copper gas lamps that provide a warm glow off the copper bar, wood-beamed ceilings and dark leather sofas.

The menu isn't intimidating -- wines (about 30 of them) are well-organized, reasonably priced and already grouped in threes if you want to try a flight. The bar also serves a handful of small plates from the 131 kitchen. My favorite: the shortrib with white cheddar grits. Melt in your mouth good.

The crowd on opening night Friday was mostly young professionals in the 25-35 age range who were passing through on their way to dinner.

It's a great place for a date or to share a bottle of wine with friends.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shameless party plug

I -- for some unknown reason -- have been named one of Uptown Magazine's Seven Sexiest. The editors clearly haven't seen me in my glasses, bedhead and sweats at Harris Teeter on Saturday mornings.

But I am honored and the magazine is throwing a party Oct. 24 for me and my fellow honorees, including:

  • Anna Kooiman, co-anchor of Fox News Rising.
  • Lauri Wilks, executive vice president of Lowe's Motor Speedway.
  • Sonny Gur, co-owner of The Sunset Club and Kiss Lounge.
  • Jeff Wise, executive director of the National Whitewater Center.
  • Joey Hewell, fashion editor for Uptown and owner of J. Studio Salon.
  • Brotha' Fred of Fox News Edge and 96.1 The Beat fame.
We've all put together some amazing packages to be auctioned off at the party. All proceeds (yes, all, United Way) go to Make-A-Wish. Last year's party helped raise about $13,000, so it's a great cause.

My package is all Observer-related and includes some great press-only perks to a Bobcats game and a Panthers game, a free portrait session with one of our photographers and a chance to review a movie for CLT.

Pick up a copy of the magazine for full details and come help raise some money for Make-A-Wish. At the very least, you should come just to see what Larry Sprinkle's hair looks like in person -- he'll be emceeing the auction.

The party will be held from 7-9 p.m. at Hom.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Another steakhouse?

I got another press release today on uptown's latest steakhouse.

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse is set to open next month on South Tryon near Trade Street.

So what is that? The fifth one uptown alone? It joins Fleming's, Morton's, Ruth's Chris and Bentley's. And that's not even including steakhouses in SouthPark or even South End.

Is there really that much of a demand for red meat?

At least Chima has a Brazilian theme to it.

According the press release, "Chima provides authentic Brazilian cuisine and the ultimate Brazilian experience with an exquisite flair and passion that is evident in their service, food and appearance."

Uptown martini bar expanding

Therapy Marketplace and Cafe is preparing to do some major remodeling as it expands into an empty space next door.

A manager at the martini bar and lounge tells me plans call for adding a full kitchen and a 40-foot bar in the bigger space.

Currently, the cafe serves only sandwiches and salads, but with a full kitchen, it will be able to add steak and seafood to its menu.

Construction hasn't yet begun -- crews are awaiting approval from the managers of the Transamerica Building, Therapy says.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New restaurant opens in EpiCentre

Add Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar to the growing list of steakhouses in the Charlotte region.

The upscale restaurant opened on Friday in the EpiCentre.

In addition to its reputation for serving great steak, the Fleming's brand also is known for its carefully picked wine list, called the Fleming's 100.

I'll be checking it out tonight and meeting with the restaurant chain's director of wine.

Look for a full review in Friday's CLT.

SouthPark event moves to Fridays

Wine Day Wednesdays has a new name -- Wine Day Fridays.

Not as catchy, but a spokeswoman for the weekly wine/music event at the Village at SouthPark says the happy hour switched days after numerous requests from attendees.

If you haven't checked out the Village at SouthPark yet (near Crate & Barrel), it's a good excuse to head over there to peruse some of the sleek furniture stores and good restaurants. And the restaurants offer special promotions during the event -- M5 offers $5 martinis and The Counter offers discounted wines.

The new day takes effect this week and starts around 5:30 on Friday evening.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Skee, Skee-Ballin'

Every Wednesday and Thursday night this fall, you can walk into Murphy’s Tavern and hear the sweet sounds of your youth -- the familiar sound of a skee-ball rolling down the lane and then the brief moment of silence as it jumps the ramp and lands (with luck and good aim) in the 50-point bucket.

The eighth “skeeson” of Brian Farrell’s BrewSkee-Ball League is starting next month and I got to check it out Wednesday during one of the league’s Skee 4 Free events.

The Story: Farrell, 27, started the Charlotte Skee-Ball League in the summer of 2006. It wasn’t long after his first skeeson started that he was contacted by a BrewSkee-Ball team in New York. They compared notes, teamed up and BrewSkee-Ball Charlotte was born.

In just two years, the league has doubled in size by word of mouth and secured Anheuser-Busch as a sponsor. It is so successful that Farrell quit his day job to devote all his time to the league, creating score sheets, trading cards and mock SKEESPN magazine covers.

The scorecards

An issue of SKEESPN

He has since expanded the league to Wilmington and San Francisco. A Raleigh league is starting next month, and Farrell also has plans to expand to Charleston.

His ultimate goal?
To have a national skeeball tournament next year.

The Players: The league is made up of teams of three, ranging in average age of 23-34. Most everyone joined as a way to meet new people and expand their social network. Indeed, Farrell says the league has spawned about five skeerious relationships and many high rollers told me they met some of their closest friends through the league.
It’s a casual atmosphere as teams wait their turn to play, but the competition heats up at the lanes and heckling is inevitable.

Brian Farrell gets the crowd revved up before the first ball is rolled

Overheard: “If you live by the hundo, you die by the hundo,” and “I bowled two full circles!”

The Prizes: Farrell works hard to include everyone – from trophies for Rook-skee of the Year, MV-Skee and Lifetime Skee-chievement awards to the highest honor of them all – the BrewSkee mug.

Want to Skee? Registration for Skeeson VIII ends Oct. 10. E-mail for more information.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Anatomically correct toilets?

***Update: I've posted a photo to Facebook for the curious readers. It is definitely NSFW. You've been warned. ***

When I took my tour of the all new Sunset Club a couple of weeks ago, I didn't think to ask to see the restrooms.

I should have.

Now I'm realizing that maybe the men's room was left off the tour for a reason: the toilets.

Someone showed me a picture of them last night and I immediately recoiled.

Each toilet has been sculpted, in great detail, to look like the bottom half of a woman whose legs are resting near where her ears would be (also known as the anvil position).

My source tells me the club used a real woman as a model for the porcelain gods (or would it be goddesses in this case?).

I know there is rampant objectification of women in our society right now, but this takes it to a whole new level.

What do you guys think? Funny or offensive? Is it actually a turn-on to the guys who are using the toilets as nature intended?

Newish Elizabeth restaurant

I've been meaning to swing by Nolia for months now and I finally had a good excuse on Wednesday when the restaurant hosted an art gala benefitting Citizen Schools.

The restaurant is in a beautiful older home (reminiscent of Copper on East Boulevard) off Seventh Street in Elizabeth. From what I hear, it's housed several different restaurants, including Ethan's of Elizabeth.

The staff cleared out all the tables to make room for the silent art auction, including pieces on hand from Charlotte's own Vincent Van Gogh, Stefan Duncan.

Nolia (short for Magnolia) opened about six months ago and serves up Southern-inspired fare. On Wednesday, my friends and I sampled shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, smoked salmon, and a rich, creamy shrimp and crab dip. Everything was delicious.

Bartenders were friendly and efficient despite the big crowd -- mostly couples in their 30s.

And according to Elizabeth residents at the party, it has turned into something of a neighborhood hangout for people who live in the area and walk over for dinner, then end up staying all night.