Thursday, July 24, 2008

'Bachelor,' 'Rock of Love' casting

Charlotte has become quite the destination for producers looking to cast for various reality shows -- in the past year, we've had auditions for such shows as "America's Got Talent," "Big Brother" and "The Bachelor."

Well, tonight, the "Bachelor" is back.

Producers for the show will hold an open casting call tonight (5:30-8:30) during Alive After Five at Wachovia Plaza. Bring some recent photos of yourselves and be prepared to tell your best "woe is me" story about why you haven't found the man of your dreams.

While you're waiting for your callback, head to the new Bubble Room at Hom to get used to drinking copious amounts of champagne.

"Bachelor" too classy for you? VH1's "Rock of Love" will also be casting in Charlotte. Surprise, things didn't work out between Bret and Ambre, so the show's coming back for a third season -- with a twist. Instead of living in a mansion, the girls will be going on the road with Bret on a tour bus.

Casting will be held Aug. 2 from 8-11 p.m. at The Breakfast Club. Learn more here. In the meantime, practice your best cat-fighting technique, pick up some new threads at The Red Door and start building up your tolerance for hard liquor (rock 'n' roll bar Alley Cat is a good place to start for inspiration).

AOL names top CLT nightspots

AOL CityGuide announced Tuesday the results of its annual "City's Best" poll (view the full list).

Here are the nightlife results:

I'll give them the Visulite (although Neighborhood Theatre is a close second) and Cosmos for cocktails, but Bar Charlotte for singles scene? I would never admit I met a significant other at that skeazy place. And Stool Pigeons for sports bar? That place has TVs from the 90s -- some of which are set so low you can't see the screens through the seated bar patrons. Why not Hickory Tavern, or even Fox & Hound?

What do you guys think? Did AOL and its readers get it right? What would your "best of Charlotte" list look like?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This isn't Sesame Street

I was lucky enough to go to opening night of Avenue Q at the Blumenthal on Tuesday. I went into it not really knowing what to expect beyond the fact that it was puppets and more than a little R-rated.

If you have a chance to go this week (it runs through Sunday), jump on it. It's a lot of fun and the cast is incredibly talented. And, in between all of the curse words, full puppet nudity, and George Bush and Gary Coleman jokes, there's a nice little message.

After the show, I mingled with the actors, crew and band members during the cast party at Cafe Siena. They said the audience in Charlotte was great -- especially after the lukewarm reception the show got in Greenville, S.C., where the actors said it seemed as though the audience didn't know whether it was allowed to laugh at such raunchy, liberal humor.

I also learned of a tour tradition for the musical's lead actor, Robert McClure, who voices the puppets of Princeton and Rod. He takes photos of his worn-out Converse sneakers with city landmarks (Golden Gate bridge, the Capitol, etc.) as the backdrop. He was looking for suggestions for Charlotte. We told him the Square (Trade and Tryon streets uptown) or Lowe's Motor Speedway, but couldn't think of a defining Queen City landmark beyond that.

What would you have suggested for a Charlotte backdrop?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best service in Charlotte?

My parents were in town this weekend, so it put a bit of a damper on my party life. Their idea of partying is a nice meal and home by 9 p.m. I could live with that for one weekend. (Love you, Mom and Dad!)

I had a few notable experiences with the service we encountered, some excellent, some bad.

First, the bad. My parents stayed at the Westin uptown. Their room was nice, they had a beautiful view of the skyline and the hotel lobby smells like bouquets of spring flowers. But when we got a drink at the lobby bar before dinner Friday, I couldn't help but notice the stained couches, the crumbs of assorted nuts on the tables and chairs, and the fact that the bartender didn't know how to make a proper white wine spritzer for Mama Aarthun -- instead, he just guessed.

Note to Westin: You're about to have a lot more competition uptown -- a Ritz-Carlton is opening, the aloft at the EpiCentre is under construction, and the Blake Hotel is undergoing a major revamping. Get your act together if you want to stay in the game.

Now the good. We had dinner at Bonterra in Dilworth on Friday. It might be in my top five restaurants in Charlotte now, and that's thanks to -- in large part -- the excellent service we had from our server James. He was attentive without hovering, knowledgeable without being snooty and, most important, he laughed at my dad's jokes. The food (fried lobster tail, rack of lamb, duck breast and salmon) and wine were delicious, and it was a lovely, leisurely meal.

We had another great experience at a completely different kind of restaurant on Saturday -- Vinnie's on South Boulevard. Waitress Pamela served up our shrimp cocktail and Beach Bum blonde ale with a smile and made us feel as though we had been regulars at the bar for years.

It all got me thinking about how hard good service can be to find sometimes in Charlotte.

I've found Blue Restaurant to be consistent. Copper is another favorite of mine. Luce is also excellent. But I have a hard time adding beyond that.

What do you guys think about service in Charlotte? What are some of your favorite restaurants?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Waiting at the EpiCentre

Despite having only three (four if you count the Pavilion on Thursdays) venues open and being surrounded by half-finished buildings and floating bits of insulation, the EpiCentre continues to draw a crowd.

I managed to get my dad -- an avid piano player -- to stay out past 10 and check out Howl at the Moon. After waiting in line with a parade of young women in impossibly short skirts, we made it into the packed piano bar. So packed in fact that we left after 10 minutes.

My advice: If you don't want to wait in line and you want a good seat/spot at the bar at any of the venues, you better be riding up that escalator by 9 p.m. at the latest.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Warped Tour after-party

The kitchen at Denny's was hopping -- cooks churning out plate after plate of pancakes and whisking batches of scrambled eggs as the line of patrons stretched out the door.

Except this wasn't the Sunday morning brunch rush. It was approaching midnight on Monday, and the line wasn't for a table, it was to meet rocker "It" girl Katy Perry and other performers from the Vans Warped Tour after they wrapped their concert at nearby Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

The appearance was the first stop of a five-city promotional tour by Denny's as the restaurant-- with the help of Warped bands -- works to build its late-night brand and develop a second generation of fans.

Indeed, if you were 16 years old and full of teen angst, Denny's was the place to be Monday. Piercings were practically a requirement to get in the door. And, Mom and Dad? You guys can just wait outside. In the car. Across the parking lot.

Perry, who has the No. 1 song in the country right now with "I Kissed a Girl," delighted a group of young girls when she donned a Denny's apron and, with pad and pen in hand, took their order while other fans snapped her photo.

One group of fans drove up from Atlanta for the chance to mingle with their favorite bands.

All of the bands were incredibly accessible, signing autographs and posing for photos whenever someone approached their tables. Forever the Sickest Kids (who seemed to be the most popular group with the teens) gave an impromptu performance first inside, then out in the parking lot after the crowd exceeded capacity.

For more photos from the Vans Warped Tour, click here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Frat party for adults

Lazy Day and Rock House Events have hosted Socialympics on Lake Norman for the past four years. Described as a cross between Will Ferrell's "Old School" and the Greek Week events of "Revenge of the Nerds," teams of 8-10 people compete against each other in such games as Flip Cup, Beer Pong, Dizzy Bat race and, the crowd favorite, the Bacardi Bathing Suit Swap.

I decided to check out the madness at Midtown Sundries on Saturday.

My first mistake may have been waiting until 3:30 to arrive. Contestants had been drinking since registration uptown at 11, then continuing to drink on a Ragin' party bus, then drinking some more during the competition itself. Couple that with the sun and people were practically delirious.
In 10 minutes, I witnessed:
  • A girl pull her bikini bottoms down to moon her beer pong opponents.
  • A girl, with the help of a female teammate, push her rather large breasts together to distract her male beer pong opponents.
  • And, a guy walking around with a mildly offensive message to women on his back.
In short, if you feel like reliving your wild college years, sign up for next year's games.

I'm posting a few photos on my Facebook page for those who aren't offended easily. And, as always, Lazy Day has hundreds more adult-rated pics from throughout the day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It's all downhill from here

Today, I turn 27. (And no, I'm not fishing for Happy Birthday wishes or Very Merry Unbirthday comments.)

I've written about Pop Life before (here and here), and tonight my UGF (Urban Guide Forever) Michael Kitchen is doing me the honor of throwing a little celebration at the weekly party for my birthday.

Nothing fancy, just the usual fun people/great music, only this time I'll be having a little champagne (just don't tell my editor).

Come check it out! Starts at 6 p.m. (although the cake-cutting will happen after 9) at Loft 1523 on Elizabeth Avenue.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sunset Club rumors

The Sunset Club in South End is currently undergoing renovations as its owners work to update its interior design and sound system. But it seems as though during this time, a rumor about its private status keeps popping up needs to be dispelled.

Sunset Club is not going to go back to its "members only" days, GM Krystie Phannareth assures me. Obviously, it's still a private club (as are all bars in North Carolina that don't serve food), so you have to either be a member or a guest of a member to get in, but it won't be entirely exclusive as so many people have implied lately.

Sunset, originally scheduled to reopen in late June, is now set to reopen later this month.

In the meantime, you can check out KISS Lounge, a new venture from Sunset's owners on West Woodlawn, this weekend. A grand opening party (but not the official one, Krystie says) is planned for Saturday night (10 p.m., $10 cover, located between The Gentlemen's Club and The Red Door). I'm getting a sneak preview of the bar-restaurant-lounge Thursday during Kris Jenkins' going-away party and will have a full review in next Friday's CLT.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Get a clue Fox Charlotte

I happened to catch a segment on Fox Charlotte on Wednesday night about a smoke-free bar that opened a few months ago in Matthews.

The thing is, both Fox and one of the managers at John's Place were treating the fact that it's smoke-free as though it were breaking news.

Larry the manager said, "I don't know of any other bar in the city" that's doing it.

Newsflash, Larry (and Fox Charlotte): It's not the first.

A quick search found nearby Bonefish Grill and Mario's Bar as smoke-free facilities in that city (Matthews Ale House is also listed, but a reader informs me it's a misprint. Any other members out there who can verify?).

And John's Place is far from the first in Mecklenburg County.

There are a lot of smoke-free nightlife establishments in our region -- Thirsty Beaver, Loft 1523, Press Wine/Food and Rustic Martini to name a few. I hope the number continues to grow.

To see if your favorite watering hole is smoke-free, click here.

Hot spots for the grown and sexy

I've had a couple of readers recently ask me about places to go for the over 30 African-American crowd.

I consulted my self-proclaimed "urban guide" Michael Kitchen about hot spots to help me round out my own list.

In no particular order:
  • Allure, especially on the weekends. The lounge also hosts a regular R&B Live party on Wednesdays. (South Mint Street)
  • Tempo, any time. The party starts Thursdays with a karaoke talent showcase, continues with Flirtatious Fridays and Sophisticated Saturdays, and ends with Jazzy Sundays. (Wilkinson Boulevard)
  • Excelsior Club, any time. Founded in 1944, Excelsior -- on Beatties Ford Road -- is one of the oldest clubs in the country.
  • Liv, weekends. The downstairs lounge at Hom draws a diverse crowd, depending on the music the DJ is spinning. (West Fifth Street)
  • Loft 1523, especially on Wednesdays. Kitchen's Pop Life, along with Creative Loafing's Carlton Hargro, is the place for young urban professionals to mingle and network. (Elizabeth Avenue)
  • House of Jazz. The club recently made a move from uptown to the University City area.
  • Wine Up, any time. This smoke-free NoDa billiards bar features open mic poetry night on Tuesdays and books live entertainment regularly.
  • The Grape, either University or SouthPark location.
  • Therapy's half-price martini night on Wednesdays draws a crowd of young professionals of all races.
  • Cosmos (North College Street) on Wednesdays after work attracts a similar crowd as Therapy.
Also, check out parties thrown regularly by such event planners as InnerCircle Events, Six Figure Entertainment and Thomas Washington.

What would you guys include on the list? Anything I missed?