Friday, June 27, 2008

New clubs opening this summer

Are things finally picking up over at the N.C. Music Factory?

A press release sent out Thursday night to members of the Charlotte media announced a new venue in the uptown entertainment complex tentatively set to open in late July.

It's called The Garden and Gun Club. Motto: "No Velvet Rope. No Plasma TVs. No Attitude."

It promises to bring pure dance back to Charlotte nightlife, focusing on progressive dance music and the latest international sounds.

GGC's creative consultant is Andy Kastanas, a local DJ and one of the men behind Forum, Alley Cat, Cosmos and the legendary Mythos -- one of the first clubs to open uptown before there even was an uptown.

Kastanas is a busy man of late. He is also involved in another new concept -- Soul GastroLounge on Central Avenue in the old Lotus location.

A MySpace profile for the spot describes it as such:

"This lounge will encourage conversation and creativity with a perpetual sexygroovy house music soundtrack. ... Our love for cuisine matches our love for music. Expect imaginative concepts from our bartop sushi bar and global tapas from our open kitchen."

It's an exciting time for Charlotte nightlife, what with the EpiCentre's new scene, the N.C. Music Factory adding venues, and others like Kiss Lounge and Apostrophe opening soon.

The question remains though: is there enough demand in Charlotte to keep up with the growing supply?

Don't forget to tip your bartender

While Chris Rock had me rolling in the aisles of Ovens Auditorium on Thursday, some party scouts went to check out the Bobcats draft party at Whisky River.

The Bobcats people had given out "hot passes" -- mostly to season ticketholders -- that allowed partygoers to drink for free.

Nice, right?

Not if you're a bartender.

Turns out my friends overheard many of the WR staff complaining about the scrawny amount of tips they were getting.

I've fallen into that trap myself -- showing up somewhere with an open bar and not stopping at an ATM on the way there.

It's a good reminder for us all. Just because we're drinking for free doesn't mean the bartenders are working for free.

And as one female bartender lamented to a girlfriend in the bathroom, "You'd get served faster if you tipped!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chris Rock doesn't disappoint

My face is still sore from smiling and laughing so much during the Chris Rock show Thursday at Ovens Auditorium.

It was a great show -- my only regret is that most of his punchlines are unprintable and I thought it dragged on just a little too long.

But it was really refreshing to see the variety of people Rock drew. It was a diverse crowd -- a mix of all ages (average age about 35) and races, and everyone was just eager for a laugh.

Read my full review here and see more pictures of Rock (and his loud teal-colored suit) here.

What did you guys think of the show? Best (printable) punchline of the night?

Women Who Rock

I was honored to be recognized Wednesday among Charlotte’s Women Who Rock.

The party at Pop Life at Loft 1523 was presented by Creative Loafing and The Sol Kitchen.

My fellow honorees:

Lisa Reyes, former News 14 newscaster.
The Charlotte Roller Girls.
Photographer Moye.
Trineka Greer of the Urban League of the Central Carolinas.
Tonya Jameson, my predecessor and politics video columnist for the Observer.
Mary Curtis, another Observerite.
Allyson Speaks, owner of Century Vintage.
Novelist Cheris Hodges.
Kali Ferguson, storyteller and poet.
Allison Wolf Hertzler, owner of Green Rice Gallery.
Kim Hawkins of

Former rockin’ ladies also made an appearance.

Congratulations, ladies.

The guys at CL and Sol Kitchen are also planning a Men Who Rock party for the end of August. Mark your calendars.

If you have never been to Pop Life, go next week. It’s every Wednesday at the Loft and brings together a diverse group of young professionals. Bring plenty of business cards and plan on meeting at least one new friend.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Songs you should never play in a bar

Men's Web site Holy Taco has compiled a list of 14 Songs You Should Never Play in a Bar. (Caution: The list contains some language that may not be safe for work. Don't click if you're easily offended.)

Among them, Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" (agree), The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" (agree) and "Smooth" by Santana and Rob Thomas (definitely agree).

But others on the list are questionable: Abba's "Dancing Queen," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Those songs never (with the exception of Dancing Queen, maybe) fail to get the crowd singing and dancing.

The two must-nots on my list?

Anything by Oasis -- it's such a downer -- and "Crazy Game of Poker" by OAR (I'm talking to you, Dixie's Tavern). That song goes on and on and on, and then on some more. If the crowd doesn't know it, you start to lose them after awhile, and pretty soon everyone is making a beeline for the door.

What would make your list?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Win tickets!

I'm not a native Carolinian, so I always find myself looking on with envy as couples shag dance in front of the stage at events like Alive After Five. So I was excited to hear from a reader who was anxious to introduce me to Charlotte's booming shag scene.

I put on my dancing shoes last weekend and shimmied my way to Thoroughbred Lounge, a shag club on the west side of town.

You can read more about Thoroughbred's and the shag community in Friday's CLT.

The Swingin' Medallions, a legendary beach music group from South Carolina, will perform at Thoroughbred's on Sunday.

Want to go? The first person who e-mails me ( the title of the group's biggest hit will win tickets to the concert.

Update: Tickets gone. 

Thanks for playing.

Martini and a manicure

Polished, the hip nail bar in South End, offers a special promotion every Wednesday that includes a martini with your manicure (or pedicure).

I popped in to pamper my toes after work and found dozens of other women doing the same.

Owners Sonny Kim and Haley Tran know how to put on a good party, with hor d'oeuvres for those waiting for their nail treatment and attentive staff who are there to replenish your drink or bring you a magazine.

If you've never been, it's a great spot to bring your girlfriends for a special occasion. I found one group of teachers from the Montessori school on East Boulevard cashing in gift cards they got from parents for Teacher Appreciation Day. They were all lined up in the pedi chairs, martini glasses in hand and looking like they were in heaven.

And even if you show up sans posse, the environment is such that you find yourself easily talking fashion and celebrity gossip with your neighbor.


$20 Martini mani
$30 Martini pedi
$45 for both

The promotion goes on all day Wednesdays, so you can even have a cocktail on your lunch hour (I won't tell).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday at the lake

I've been hearing for months now about what a wild Tuesday night party the Rusty Rudder on Lake Norman throws, so I decided to check it out this week.

The specials are hard to beat: 50-cent wings, $1 domestic drafts, $1.50 Coors Light drafts, $2 Landsharks, etc.

My three-beer tab came to a whopping $4.75.

The bar overlooks the marina, so the best spot to perch is out on the deck where you can pick out what boat you'd like to have (in your dreams).

The deck was packed this Tuesday -- you won't find anywhere uptown that crowded on a Tuesday night, no matter what time of year. The majority of the crowd skewed younger -- lots of college kids home for the summer it looked like -- and very casual. T-shirts and shorts, and a few swim trunks in some cases. Most everyone looked as though they came straight off the water -- or from a NASCAR race as one of my friends put it.

Overheard: A 20-something guy to his friend, "You're doublefisting? Damn, I better start doublefisting, too."

Monday, June 16, 2008

New dueling piano bar opens Friday

I got a sneak peek Monday night at Howl at the Moon, the latest nightspot set to open in the EpiCentre.

The concept, which has 13 other locations across the country, is a rock 'n' roll dueling piano bar that focuses heavily on staff and audience interaction.
Song-request slips sit at every table (just try to stump the entertainers, GM Dickson Hunley challenges) and the staff will break out into impromptu dance routines for certain songs.
I caught the wait staff, bartenders and door guys practicing their new moves to such tunes as "Greased Lightning" and "Love Rollercoaster." Even without a packed house, they were clearly having a good time. One young woman leading the group advised them that when they're in front of a live audience later this week, the cheesier the better: "If you were a cheerleader, put your perma-smile on."
If you've been to another Howl, the Charlotte location looks pretty similar -- think traditional bar with lots of wood detailing, dark green walls and lighted beer signs. The focal point is the small stage with the dueling piano, drum set and guitars. Anyone is invited up with the band to entertain the crowd between sets and Hunley tells me the bar is always looking for more entertainers.
It opens this Friday. I'll be out of town, but I'm sending a couple of friends to scope it out for me. I'll have a full review in next Friday's CLT section of the Charlotte Observer.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The scene at Summer Pops

I went to my first Summer Pops at SouthPark concert on Sunday and I'm hooked.

It was refreshing to see such a mix of people: dads (Happy Father's Day!) and their college-aged daughters playing cards, young families with bouncing babies, girlfriends sharing a bottle of wine and couples dancing barefoot in the grass.

One couple even set up their own table for two on the lawn, complete with candlelight, tablecloth and pitcher of sangria.

Charlotte Symphony conductor Albert-George Schram's enthusiasm is contagious and the highlight of the night was when he convinced most of the audience (packed in like sardines on the lawn) to stand up and dance the macarena along with him.

It's a great (free!) way to spend a Sunday evening.

Next week's theme is Broadway, with show tunes from such classics as Les Miserables, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady and Phantom of the Opera.

The series ends July 3 with a fireworks celebration.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Over the moon

I'm taking an informal survey about an -- ahem -- incident that happened to me over the weekend.

My boyfriend and I were standing on the side of the dance floor at a nightclub, watching the crowd, taking in the scene.
We both happened to pause briefly to watch one young woman dance because she was really getting into it.
She spotted us watching her, promptly turned around, pulled up her dress and showed us her backside.
I believe the proper term is "she mooned us."
A few minutes later, she did it again.
My question: What does that mean? Should we be offended? Was she coming on to us? Just being silly?
I still have nightmares about it.

On the hunt in Ballantyne

Let's be honest.

Ballantyne nightlife has a certain reputation.

And every time I venture out that way, I'd really like to see something that dispels those rumors.

But, I never do.

I hate the term "cougar" as much as any other woman (it's just another example of a case where there's no similar word with a negative connotation for men), but in Ballantyne, it really does apply.

Exhibit A:

My friends and I braved Wednesday's nasty weather to check out Mix at Six -- an outdoor, live music happy hour at Ballantyne Village.

Shortly after getting a drink at the bar at the Village Bistro, a woman in her mid-40s approached us and within five minutes shared these tidbits with us:

  • She's divorced after 14 years of marriage.
  • She recently got a tattoo.
  • Pointed out an ex-boyfriend and told us to avoid him at all costs since he was bad news.
  • Told my friend not to have sex too soon with a potential beau because he'll never call her again.
I know it's kind of trendy to be a cougar right now (that demographic may just be why David Cook won "American Idol"), but talk about an overshare.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Cutting back on nightlife?

After a long weekend in Florida, I was anxious to get back on the Charlotte nightlife scene this weekend. Apparently, I was the only one.

Where was everyone this weekend?

I checked out a few of the usual uptown hot spots Saturday night, and, with the exception of the EpiCentre (the line was stretched down the street for Suite by 11), the crowd was noticeably sparse.

Was it the heat? Or is everyone trying to save money during this dreadful economic time?

I'm curious, are you guys cutting back on your social lives? Going out less? Drinking two beers instead of four? Not patronizing places that charge a cover? Noticing a drop in partygoers at your usual haunts?

Post your comments below.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Uptown bar fights

The Charlotte nightlife scene seemed to have quite the shake-up last weekend with multiple fights breaking out at area bars, including two shootings.

But Capt. Jeff Estes, commander of CMPD’s central division, assured me that the violence isn’t part of an increasing trend uptown.

For those of you who missed the coverage: A fight broke out among patrons at Grand Central in the early morning hours of May 29. As the fight was being dispersed, someone fired a gun into the air. No one was injured. More fights broke out early last Friday at Alley Cat, reportedly between patrons and bouncers. Then on Sunday, a man fired a gun outside NV Lounge in Cornelius, injuring one person.

Estes said TV coverage is to blame for the increased attention on normal crime activity in the nightlife industry.

“Actually, aggravated assaults are down 23 percent in the center city (year to date). Considering we have more alcohol-serving establishments operating than last year and we are trending downwards for the year, it is actually ironic that we are receiving coverage about the number of them,” he wrote in an e-mail this week.

Estes said fisticuffs are to be expected any time you mix alcohol and a certain sense of bravado. In other words, boys will be boys.

A note to the troublemakers: We all go out to have a good time. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us. And why would anyone feel the need to carry a loaded gun into a bar or club?

Estes said CMPD is “very proactive in our enforcement efforts and (we) are plugged into the management of the bars and clubs in the center city. … We attribute our decline in aggravated assaults to those efforts.”

Thursday, June 5, 2008

South End nightclub closing

But only temporarily.

Sunset Club will close for renovations starting Saturday, according to a letter sent out to club members late last month.

Sunset's operating partner Sonny Gur tells me that the entire club will be revamped, from the furniture and bar, to the sound and lighting systems.

Gur said the club recently changed partnerships, and, after 11 years, "it's time for a new start."

The club is tentatively scheduled to reopen with a private party for members June 27, before opening to the public June 28.

Also this month, be on the lookout for another Gur project: KISS Lounge, opening on Woodlawn Road in the next two weeks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Free pair of tickets!

I got a pair of tickets to a screening of "Sex and the City."

It's at 9 p.m. Thursday at Phillips Place.


First one to post a comment below, then e-mail me the text of your comment gets 'em.

1, 2, 3, go!
Update: tix gone. Thanks everyone for playing.