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!