Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No "SATC" spoilers here

I just got back from an early screening of "Sex and the City" and, sigh, I'm in love with the idea of love.

Ballantyne Village Theatre rolled out the red carpet for some lucky ladies (and a few men) who scored tickets to the movie. Appetizers were served, cosmos were handed out and feather boas were worn.

If you're a fan of the series, the movie -- to borrow an SATC phrase -- was fabulous. I've already added it to my Christmas wish list.

And if you haven't made plans with your girlfriends to go see it, consider these fabulous fetes:

  • On Thursday, “Go Big or Stay Home.” Community volunteer Bruna Oliveria is throwing a private bash that includes an early screening of the movie. The party starts at 5 p.m. with cocktails at Dressler’s at Birkdale Village. There will be a red-carpet shoe contest; the winner gets a pair of Manolos. Only 400 tickets will be sold at $100 each. All proceeds benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the YWCA. Attendees must be 21 and older. Buy tickets at Avalilly’s, Fresh Boutique, Luna’s at the Lake and Monkee’s of Lake Norman.
  • Civilian at Phillips Place will attempt Thursday to find out who knows their SATC the best. Bring your girlfriends and answer a short questionnaire about the series to earn your bragging rights. Partygoers will sip on martinis (a must!) and try on Carrie's first love: shoes. The winner will receive six tickets to a showing of the film along with VIP treatment and gifts. The party starts at 6 p.m.
  • Uptown hot spot Hom will hold the “Sex and the City: The After Affair,” an IT Factor party, on Friday starting at 9 p.m. Charlotte's own relationship columnist, Brittney Cason, will host. Walk the red carpet and feel like a star as “paparazzi” take your photo. Once inside, indulge in a Skyy vodka “Carrie” cosmo. Prizes and gift bags will be given away throughout the night. Tickets are $10 (e-mail socialdirector22@gmail.com).
  • Candy and Potter of WLNK-FM (107.9) are hosting an “SATC” party for their listeners Saturday. The night includes a private dinner at PF Chang’s at Phillips Place, followed by the movie. Gifts from Modern Salon and Spa and Pureromance.com will be given away. For tickets, listen to the husband-wife team between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

My NASCAR-filled weekend

If you stuck around Charlotte this weekend and saved your gas money, you couldn't escape the theme of the weekend -- NASCAR.

I myself was reminded every evening as I heard the noise from Food Lion Speed Street trickle into my Fourth Ward apartment.

So I figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

I ventured out into the massive street festival Friday night to hear N.C. sweetheart Kellie Pickler.

And hear her (kinda) I did. I just never actually saw her. About a block away from the Coca-Cola stage, the crowds of people just stopped walking and some people started pushing their way through. It was an incredibly claustrophobic experience, and I stayed long enough to hear her say "It's good to be home" before having a mini-panic attack and fleeing the scene. (Check out photos from her concert here.)

On Saturday, I stayed in the NASCAR spirit and went to my first race, thanks to my fellow nightlife columnist (and racing fan) Brittney Cason of Creative Loafing. This girl knew how to introduce a city girl to the world of racing -- VIP parking, tickets to the Anheuser-Busch suite and an impromptu barbecue (best wings I've ever tasted) outside of Kasey Kahne's motorhome in the infield.

Some highlights:

  • While driving around the infield in our chauffeured golf cart (thanks, Mike!), we came across a group of people playing a game we had never seen before. Brittney asked, "What are you playing?" The answer: "I dunno. Redneck somethin' or other."
  • A young woman wearing a T-shirt that simply read: "I'm here for the Boobs" (she was raising money for breast cancer research).

  • The legendary Couch Man at Turn One. Bill Montgomery of Welcome has been setting up camp at the first turn for 30 years, as of this weekend. He calls it his twice-a-year timeshare. He's even got sponsors. Six of 'em to be exact. And his couches are the best place to watch the start of the race.
Had a great time on Saturday. How was the party on Sunday?

Friday, May 23, 2008

EpiCentre's grand-opening weekend

Slowly, but surely, more and more venues are opening at the new EpiCentre uptown.

Thursday, nightclub/lounge Suite opened to the public with an invite-only party. Tonight, the Pavilion, the rooftop bar at the entertainment complex, holds its first live-music event (Piedmont Boys and Old Plank Road) and next Thursday kicks off its EpiCentre at 5 series, sure to be a competitor to the popular Alive After Five, with Pat McGee.

(I'm surprised Pavilion is opening, considering the bar isn't even built yet. A BMG rep told me staffers will improvise tonight with beer tubs.)

I checked out Suite on Thursday and was impressed. It's a beautifully designed cross between the Forum and Loft 1523 and has a big-city feel to it. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but the patio area more than makes up for the intimate space inside. Other quibbles: It's not smoke-free and seating is limited -- unless you want to pay $300 and up for bottle service. My feet are still aching today.

It definitely had more of a loungy feel to it early in the night, with house music playing at a reasonable decibel, before the DJ cranked up the energy (and the volume) with Britney Spears, Madonna, Kanye West, Nelly Furtado and Snoop Dogg.

I'll have a full review in next Friday's CLT, so be sure to check it out.

If you want complimentary tickets to Suite's grand opening parties tonight and tomorrow, click here.

What do you all think about EpiCentre at 5? Will you go? Will it be more popular than Alive After Five? Post your comments below.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Plaza-Midwood bar makes national list

Esquire Magazine has named the best bars in America, and the only North Carolina watering hole to make the list is right here in Charlotte.

Thomas Street Tavern received a rating of 65 percent to make the cut. Here's what the men's magazine has to say about the Plaza-Midwood hangout:

"There are two bars, one inside among the endearing chaos and rickety wooden chairs, and one outside in the beer garden, where you'll also find the Ping-Pong tables."

Sounds about right to me.

Also making the list from the Carolinas is Moe's Crosstown Tavern in Charleston, with a rating of 77 percent.

As of Wednesday night, the bar with the highest ranking in the U.S. (users can rate the bars themselves, which changes the rankings) was The Earl in nearby Atlanta. In just a three hours' drive, you can be enjoying Guinness, live music and the bar's famous burgers.

But forget about best bars in America. What about in Charlotte? Is Thomas Street one of them? Name your top three in comments below.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Random musings

I apologize for my lack of frequent posts lately. I've been traveling a lot this month and hope to get back on a regular posting schedule soon ... just as soon as I take another five-day weekend at the end of this month, suckers!

I have been getting out, though -- Nikko is still quite the hot spot (the wait for a table on Friday was an hour and a half), and may be even more popular after our restaurant critic gave it a stellar review. Press Wine/Food is my new favorite spot to share a bottle of wine with friends. I've found six great rooftop patios to enjoy the spring weather. I checked out Stir, a new live-music venue on Independence Boulevard. And I'm getting a sneak peek this week of Suite -- the latest EpiCentre venture, which opens to the public on Friday. Then there's that little festival called Food Lion Speed Street this weekend, so stay tuned for all that.

In the meantime, I leave you with some random reflections on the party scene.

  • Every time I walk into a bar or party, I get nervous right before I open the door. I have this fear that the record is going to scratch and the whole party will turn to look at me. I think it's because that deep down inside, I'm still a shy, awkward 13-year-old.

  • Don't ever try to order a Yuengling inside a loud bar. It'll just be an embarrassing back-and-forth exchange between you and the bartender until you write it down for him, except you won't be able to spell it without Googling it. Stick to lip-readable labels like Budweiser or Miller Lite. (Thanks for the tip, Jonathan.)

  • If there are complimentary appetizers at a party, you better not show up fashionably late if you want any. That stuff goes fast and rarely looks appetizing after it's been picked apart.

  • Guys, unless we're really inebriated, us girls are never going to think that stealthy dance move of approaching us unawares from behind is sexy. It's just creepy.

  • Isn't it funny how girls get dolled up in cute dresses and skimpy tops and then look disgusted when guys eye them? Ladies, let's be honest, we dress for attention when we go out, don't we?

  • Dropping your wine glass in the middle of a party (aka my Friday night) is really embarrassing. And no matter how much you protest, "It's only my second glass, I'm fine!" no one really believes you.

  • Table Restaurant at Ballantyne Village is closed. Did anyone other than the celebrities who stay at Ballantyne Resort eat there?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dilworth nightspot open for business

A little over a month after moving in to the former City Tavern location in Dilworth, Todd Bennett already has a new concept up and running.

Bennett opened Plan B -- a restaurant/bar -- on Friday. Still intact is the popular rooftop terrace that overlooks the bustling East Boulevard. Bennett says he plans to add a full-service bar to the roof next week and a 50-inch outdoor plasma TV later this summer.

Those are some of many new changes to the location, and more are coming.

Bennett says he is aiming to offer something for everybody with his menu -- mainly sandwiches (he says the Philly Cheese is the best), salads and appetizers. The restaurant is also working on a late-night menu for bar patrons.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Smells from Verizon

If the wind blew just right on Friday night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, chances were you were getting a secondhand high off of all the marijuana smoke wafting through the air.

The first fumes hit me in the parking lot and I was officially introduced to my first Radiohead concert.

Overheard on the lawn: "This is a different crowd than the James Taylor concert, huh?"

Not a huge fan of the band, but I can appreciate what they do and they put on a great show for their diehard followers. I just wish they had the big screens on for the audience on the lawn. I think they missed a big portion of the show by watching what looked like ants all night. Read a full review of the concert here.

For all the horror stories about Verizon (e.g. traffic is atrocious, parking even worse, etc.), I have to say my first experience at the outdoor venue was pretty painless.

Traffic was as you would expect it driving up 85 at rush hour. Once off the highway, it didn't take too long to be directed to a parking lot (E, which was surprisingly close). But I guess timing is everything. My friends and I left uptown Charlotte at 6:15 for the 7:30 concert and got settled right before the opening band Liars (they sounded like Blue Man Group, but without the makeup) came on.

My complaints didn't have anything to do with the traffic, but with the concessions. I didn't think anyone charged more than Time Warner Cable Arena for a beer, but I was wrong. One draft beer = $9 at Verizon, or $8 for a bottle. Compare that to the (slightly bigger) beer at TWC Arena at $7.25.

Note to Verizon: Most of us are already burning extra gas to get there, so why gouge us even more?

I'm also that person who never has cash on me, so I was annoyed to hear the concessions stands don't accept credit/debit cards. Um, it's 2008. Haven't you seen enough Visa Check Card commercials by now? Get with it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chris and Rihanna make love connection

If there was any question about the relationship status of Rihanna and Chris Brown, those rumors quickly became reality Thursday night during the Kanye West concert.

During opener N.E.R.D. (as a former marching band geek, I have a secret crush on fellow band geek Pharrell. He gives us all hope that one day we can be cool, too), the guys invited audience members on stage to dance and mosh to "Spaz." Sneaking in there from backstage was Chris Brown, who is accompanying girlfriend Rihanna on the Glow in the Dark tour. The pair also were spotted together in Miami on Wednesday. His dance moves clearly stood out from the Joe Schmoes on stage and you could feel the murmur in the audience as people pointed and said, "Is that ...?" It was a treat to see him dance and I wish he could have stayed out there all night.

Other highlights:
  • The eclectic range of fashion. There were guys wearing thick gold rope necklaces and shutter sunglasses, preppies in polo shirts and women in their hottest club gear, complete with sexy stilettos.
  • N.E.R.D.'s entire set. I could have gone home $82 poorer and perfectly happy. It felt like a rock concert more than a hip-hop show and Pharrell knows how to connect with the audience. (Kudos to Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna, as well. Lupe is definitely one to watch in the future.)
  • Kanye West's never-ending amount of energy. By the end of his second song, sweat was pouring off his face and he didn't slow down. It was amazing to look out at the arena and see every single person's hands in the audience bouncing to the beat of "Stronger."
Read a full review of the concert here.

Next up: Radiohead tonight. 

What did you guys think of last night's show? 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Primary partying

Young voters turned out Tuesday to celebrate the N.C. primary at the GenerationEngage party at Cans.

Some of the drama was taken out of the night when Barack Obama was called the winner in North Carolina early in the evening, but about 100 people stuck around to watch the Indiana race and local results.
It was a bit surreal to see the normally rockin' Cans forgo the blasting Top 40 music for MSNBC analysts on the big screens and on the speakers.
GenerationEngage is a nonpartisan, youth-civic-engagement initiative that aims to connect young people with political leaders and other civic organizations. Their target demographic: 16- to 30-year-olds.
The group holds movie screenings of such social-action films as "Charlie Wilson's War" and "The Kite Runner" regularly.
Decker Ngongang, outreach coordinator for GenGage in Charlotte, said Tuesday's party was a dry run for a similar event the organization will host for the presidential election in November.