Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Warming up for New Year's Eve

We started partying last week on Wednesday and we partied like it was 1999.
The partying began Wednesday with the end of Pop Life. Oh, the horror! On Thursday, Kitch, Larken and I went to the Hensley’s holiday party at Oceanaire. The lump crab cakes and as usual, the oysters, were off the hook. Food writers from various publications were there, as well as former City Councilwoman Lynn Wheeler, whom I hadn’t seen in forever.
After Oceanaire, we ran by Tilt for the final Creative Lounging party, and then to the Blitzen’s Holiday Bash at Morehead Street Tavern. Downstairs they had a dessert spread from Costco that included sheet cake, cookies and mini chocolate bars. I wasn’t really feeling that. Upstairs, they had chicken wings, potato skins and dip. I’m still not sure the hot spread was part of the party, but we ate it anyway.
We ended the night at Tempo for the holiday staff party. Oh my goodness. The owners treated everyone to cocktails. Broderick laid out the buffet with macaroni and cheese, chicken wings, green beans and more. It was like hanging out with your family.
Some people played cards, Tempo co-owner Jumaane Torrence let us play with his remote control Corvette that Santa gave him. Jumaane was going to put together the basketball goal that Santa also brought early, but he realized it was way too hard. Periodically, people bumrushed the dance floor and then they’d rush the bar for drinks.
On Friday, Kitch, Road Dawg and I went to Hom’s Liv lounge. DJ Johnnie Davis got a gig there at the last minute and it was on. We took over the lounge’s small dance floor, dancing and chanting. I was exhausted by the time we went home early Saturday morning. What a way to welcome Christmas.
I’m in Alabama with my friends until Sunday, but if you’re looking for something to do this weekend before New Year’s Eve, I’ve got you. Neo-soul singer Bilal performs at Tempo on Friday, and Davis spins at Hom’s Play (Yep! The big room) on Friday as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bar hoppin' on the light rail




The Box Car Bar Crawl hit up spots along the light rail line, including Villa Antonio and Morehead Street Tavern, on Saturday.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Navarro chills at Cans


Looking as sexy as ever, guitarist Dave Navarro quietly entered Cans and sat in a VIP area near the DJ booth on Thursday night. He sat with a small entourage of women. Partiers crowded behind the ropes taking pictures with digital cameras and cellphones.

Navarro, who played with Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, stripped out of his leather jacket and wore a sleeveless shirt and a thin pin-striped gray scarf. While I was there, Navarro chilled. He talked with friends, and at one point adjusted a Christmas stocking hanging on the wall above his head.

About 200 people turned out for Navarro’s appearance, which was part of Cans’ new weekly series called Scene Thursdays. Celebrities have been guest DJs and bartenders.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are you on the list?

David Stafford has a great idea, but I don’t think Charlotte’s nightlife scene is ready for it.

The former Time lounge bartender and Carolina Nightlife photographer’s new site, Dave’s VIP List (www.davesviplist.com), works like this: Log on, pay the club’s cover electronically, and you don’t wait in line when you get to the club.

So far, you can pre-pay for certain nights at the Forum, the Breakfast Club and Buckhead Saloon.

Sounds good.

Problem is Stafford doesn’t offer enough premium nights at premium clubs. What’s the point of being on a guest list if the club doesn’t have a line? Stafford said he’s trying to get better nights and more clubs, but owners want to see how his list works first. It’s sort of a chicken and egg thing, isn’t it?

Plus, I’ve been to plenty of clubs where patrons were willing to pay two to three times the cover to cut the line. How will a club doorman handle a big spender compared to someone who paid the regular cover or a discounted cover on Dave’s VIP List?

I admire Stafford’s ambition, but he’s facing a big challenge.

What to do you think? Post your responses below.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Overpriced NYE parties

I love a good party as much as anyone, but a few New Year’s Eve party promoters are absolutely losing their minds.

We have three parties with triple-digit cover charges. What!?
The first is Cirque du Theatre in the Carolina Theatre. It costs $150 a person and $250 a couple. They have live music, visual artists, grub and top-shelf liquor. I’ll give them credit for the top-shelf liquor, but still.

Rich & Bennett’s New Year’s Eve Bash at Hawthorne’s is charging $60for women and $80 for guys. For VIP access, it’s $100-$125. VIP allows you to enter at 8 p.m., and gets you access to the VIP room with a separate buffet, as well as a private bar with premium liquor.

The other is Groovin’ at the Village at Ballantyne Village. It costs $100 per person and features live music by The Real Hot Sauce and clips from ’70s and ’80s movies. They’ll have free beer and wine, and a cash bar for liquor. Come on! That’s crazy. For $100, liquor should be free.

With the exception of Loft 1523 ($85), most places in Charlotte are charging less than $50 for NYE. I realize Charlotte is growing, but we’re not big enough to charge triple-digits for a New Year’s Eve party. Heck, anything over $50 seems steep to me.
What do you think? Post your replies below.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wu Tang and Kid Rock coming to Carolinas

Enter the Wu!

Wu-Tang Clan is coming together to perform at Amos’ Southend on Jan. 20. Tickets go on sale Wednesday. The rap group’s new album, “8Diagrams,” comes out on Tuesday. www.amossouthend.com.

Also coming up: Kid Rock will perform at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville on March 1. Rev. Run of Run-D.M.C. will also perform. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. www.ticketmaster.com.

And Comedy Central’s Brian Regan will perform at War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro on Feb. 8. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. www.livenation.com.

LeBron and Jordan


LeBron James wasn’t the only celebrity at NV lounge on Friday night.
Michael Jordan and Nelly also made low-key appearances at the club. They were tucked away in the club’s super-secret VIP room.

LeBron, on the other hand, was visible. Usually, the VIP area is upstairs, but the club turned the stage into a VIP so everyone could see the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar. Hundreds of patrons packed the Lake Norman club, and dozens more stood in line to get into the monthly 1st Friday party sponsored by Thomas Washington, Black Ice and Troy Veale. 1st Friday is already hugely popular, but adding King James, as he was called, took it over the top.

Other local promoters turned out as well as Power 98’s Tone X. The club was so packed that it was too crowded to move on the dance floor, and people were shoulder-to-shoulder trying to move about the club.

LeBron and his entourage, including teammate Drew Gooden, arrived about 12:30 a.m. James stood near the front of the stage talking with his friends and watching women try to impress them with their body-winding skills.

Patrons in the VIP area not only got to hang out with LeBron, but some got to taste the new Crown Royal Cask 16. Diaegeo sponsored the VIP area to showcase Cask 16, which is Crown Royal whiskey aged in rare cognac casks from France. I’m a whiskey and bourbon drinker, and I have to say Cask 16 is the smoothest whiskey that I’ve ever tasted. (At $100, it should be.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"The Wire" in South Charlotte

Patrons at Table last night probably didn’t realize it, but they were dining with celebrities.

Two cast members from HBO’s “The Wire” -- Andre Royo (Bubbles) and Felicia Pearson (Snoop) -- were hanging out. HBO brought them to Charlotte to get some street time in to help publicize the critically acclaimed series, which returns on Jan. 6.

Royo is becoming a regular here. He partied here for CIAA. This is the final season for the crime drama about cops, drug dealers and politicians in Baltimore. Last season's central storyline examined the public school system. This one focuses on the newspaper.

The Americana closes - already

Whoa, I knew The Americana was going to have a tough time surviving in Pineville, but I didn’t think the live-music venue would close less than a month after its grand opening.

But it did.

In a brief e-mail today, music director Kevin Clark wrote: “The Americana in Pineville has closed its doors. "

Hopefully, Charlotte will be able to support a venue of this caliber in the future.”

The problem isn’t Charlotte. The problem, as I wrote last week, was The Americana’s business plan. You don’t open a spot like that in Pineville and expect success. Plus, there was no way people in this area were going to pay casual-dining prices and also be expected to fork over a cover charge to hear roots music. For example, The Little Dooey Barbecue & Blues restaurant in Concord has great food, but doesn’t charge a cover for its live blues on Sundays.

And to everyone blasting me about the previous blog, get real. You obviously read my blogs consistently, so you know I support live music. But I also know that in Charlotte, people don’t like to pay cover charges – period.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Light rail bar crawl


On Saturday, I hopped on the Box Car Crawl, a bar crawl along the light rail line.
The crawl started at Brixx and then went to McKoy’s on Old Pineville Road. From there, it was off to Tyber Creek, Tutto Mondo, Gin Mill and Morehead Street Tavern.


Center City Magazine, an upcoming Observer publication, co-sponsored the crawl. For the record, I went because Larken told me about it -- not because it was affiliated with the Big O. He works for Sparrow, a liquor distributor, and each stop featured specials on some of their liquors.

The next crawl is scheduled for Dec. 15. For details go to www.lightrailbarcrawl.com. Saturday’s event was a test. It started slowly, with about 10-15 of us meeting at Brixx. (Apparently, many more people joined up later.) We rode the train to McKoy’s and hung out there for wings and cocktails. Larken and I headed back early to go to Hom nightclub, and to see Grandmaster Flash spin at Tempo. On the train trip from McKoy’s, about a dozen people leaving a wedding jumped on the train.

Only in Charlotte can you be silly drunk, bump into folks on mass transit, and not worry about getting your booty kicked. Gotta love this city.

Local longtime deejay returns

I was navigating the crowded dance floor at Woods on South on Friday when I saw a face I never expected to see: Wearing a headset and working the turntables at the Toys for Tots party was Scott Beaty!

Beaty, who deejayed at uptown's Cosmos Cafe, for Panther and Hornets’ games and at other clubs, was seriously injured in an accident after a Panthers’ game on Christmas Eve two years ago. His road to recovery looked extremely difficult because deejays don’t make a lot of money and often don’t have health insurance. His left hip was broken and badly seperated.

I hadn’t heard from him in at least a year, so my mouth spread into a big grin when I saw him deejaying at the annual holiday party. He looked good, but he said he’s only slowly getting back into things. He still can’t feel part of his left shin and the top of his left foot. He still deejays private parties.

Beaty spun a mix of mostly old-school hip-hop and R&B for the hundreds of holiday revelers. Dancers partied in front of the stage where Beaty spun; everyone else filled in pockets of space throughout the restaurant, either sitting in booths or squeezing in a place to stand.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Springsteen tix announced

Tickets for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are $67 and $97. They go on sale Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. The concert is April 27 at Bobcats Arena. www.ticketmaster.

As I announced in a Paid to Party blog last week, this is their first full tour of the U.S. and Europe since 2003, and many of the U.S. and European dates have already sold out. The band’s new album Magic came out Oct. 2, and features the single "Radio Nowhere."

However, the band will be without keyboardist (and original E Street Band member) Danny Federici who will be seeking treatment for melanoma.

Giving a voice to black life

A who’s who of black Charlotte turned out for a red carpet screening of “All About Us” at Ballantyne Village Theater on Thursday.

Former mayor Harvey Gantt was there, along with former mayor pro tem Patrick Cannon, in addition to club owners, promoters and others. They all came out to see the indie film, by the husband-and-wife team of producer Michael Swanson and writer-director Christine Swanson. They also came to see the film’s stars, Ruby Dee and Boris Kodjoe. Both hung out for a Q&A and a cake and coffee reception afterward. It was a semi-formal event, with many people wearing evening dresses and suits.

The film drew praise from most of the people who got to see it. During the Q&A, Dee talked about the importance of having more films that explore the complexity of relationships among black men and women. She also talked about how Hollywood rarely expresses interest in those types of films.

During the reception, sponsored by Baileys, she posed for pictures with fans. Her fans quietly shook her hand and talked with her. Kodjoe’s fans, however, squealed as they gathered for shots. It was funny and fun to see women dressed in cocktail dresses acting like schoolgirls.

The movie begins an open-ended run of at least two weeks tonight at Ballantyne Village Theater.

Must-see concerts

After the Stevie Wonder concert Wednesday night at Bobcats Arena, several friends and I sat at Prevue lounge talking about the best concerts we've ever seen, and the concerts were glad we had a chance to see.

For example, if I died tomorrow, I'd go out glad to have seen Michael
Jackson, Prince, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder. And the best concerts
I've ever seen have to be Michael, Prince, Tina and Chuck Brown.

Jummaune from Tempo said he's glad he's seen Stevie and Luther Vandross.
His best-ever concerts: Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and Dave Chappelle's
impromptu performance at his club a few years ago. (He swears he
isn't just plugging his club!)

Kitch said he's glad to have seen Prince, Michael, Stevie and Luther. The two best:
Prince and Michael.

What about you? What artists are you most glad to have
seen live? And what was the best concert you've ever been to? Post your
replies below.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lovin' Stevie

Stevie Wonder reminded fans why love conquers all.
He did it from his opening monologue about how his late mother's spirit told him "Nothing can separate us, not even death," to him performing two hours' worth of music about love.

Few artists can walk onstage and begin their concert by chatting with the audience, but that's exactly how Stevie Wonder started his show at Bobcats Arena on Wednesday. With his daughter Aisha Morris (no longer the baby cooing on "Isn't She Lovely") holding his arm, Wonder talked about losing his mother, Lula Mae Hardaway. An image of his mother flashed on the video screens.

It was one of many stories he told during an unforgettable performance, in which he couldn't possibly play every song fans wanted to hear. But he performed a bunch of them. I was most excited to hear "Superstition," "As" and "All I Do." Oh wait, and "Love's In Need of Love Today." Ugh, there were so many.

The biggest flaw in the performance was that his band didn't include horns. On songs, such as "Superstition," the keyboard's synthesized horns don't punch you in the chest the way the real instruments do on the album.

Surrounded by a seven-piece band and three backup singers, including Morris, Wonder made thousands of people feel like one family. His concert drew parents with children, couples, young adults with their parents and friends of all ages and ethnicities. Some were dressed in their Sunday best, matching suits with hats, and others were casual.

He played his harmonica and piano. At one point, he stood up on the piano bench to sing. He bantered with the audience throughout the night, and took a couple of swipes at the South. Before singing a countrified version of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," he told fans that he expected them to like country music. At the end of the show, he thanked fans who skipped Bible study to come out to the concert. (I guess he heard ticket sales were slow here.)

As usual, he was political. He talked about current issues and lamented the war in Iraq and the lack of affordable healthcare. Addressing these problems were part of his message about the healing power of love. It was a message he delivered through his music.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good luck Americana


I like the concept for The Americana in Pineville, but I’m not sure it’s going to work.

It’s got good food and good music. Always a plus.
But it’s not close to uptown, and they want way too much money.

Road Dawg and I went there late Friday. We were two of maybe six people there at about 11 p.m. We ate the black-eyed pea battered shrimp appetizer, and bread pudding dessert. The bread pudding wasn’t worth talking about, but the shrimp was tasty. It was lightly battered, and it didn’t taste black-eyed-pea-ey at all. The waitress gave us a discount because our order was one shrimp short.

She also only charged us $8 admission because we arrived so late.
The place is homey, like Cracker Barrel without the clutter. They sell knickknacks such as Southern-themed recipe books, roots music CDs, muscadine syrup, etc. Tuesday through Sunday the venue features a live Americana band, from bluegrass to jazz to gospel.

It also offers a Sunday gospel brunch. (No alcohol on Sundays.)
We heard Neighbor Acres perform last week, and the band was good. But here’s the rub: After 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, you pay an $8 to $12 cover charge even if you’ve arrived earlier and ate dinner. Entrees range from $8-$22.

The restaurant should waive the cover for patrons who arrive before 9 p.m. and who spend a pre-determined minimum.

Roots music is a niche genre. The Americana is competing against the Sylvia Theatre in York and the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte. Both attract more well-known acts. During the holidays, people will be shopping at and around Carolina Place. Why not entice them with good food and no cover charge?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Not so acoustic, but great

Jonathan Davis wore a black suit and sat in a red velvet-cushioned wooden chair that looked like a throne. If that wasn’t strange enough, his band members wore suit jackets or vests and button-down shirts. There were candelabras on stage as well at Davis’ performance at Tremont on Wednesday.

It wasn’t what I'd expected from the frontman for Korn, which gave us slit-your-wrist hits such as “Blind” and “Freak on a Leash.”

The setup for his solo show reminded me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but man did he rock. Advertised as an acoustic set, it was anything but a typical guitar-strumming-love-songs gig. His backing band used a drum kit, electric violin, keyboards, upright bass and a guitar. And Davis didn’t lull fans with yearning vocals. He screamed until my throat was raw.

Several hundred people filed into Tremont for the show. I’m not a Korn fan, so I didn’t recognize any of the songs. But fans told me one was the Korn hit “Falling Away From Me,” and that many of others were tracks Davis co-wrote for the “Queen of the Damned” soundtrack. The performance made me want to go watch the movie again.

The tunes often began with Caribbean- or Middle Eastern-style drumming or instrumentation, then climaxed with Korn’s nu-metal energy. It’s a combination that I'd never heard before, but I dug it.

Turkey Bash not so hot

For the longest time, I didn’t attend gala fundraisers because they seemed uptight. But the Great Gatsby and Black & White galas changed my perception.

At these events, Charlotte’s young professionals shed their bank uniforms to party like they do at any uptown club. I expected the same vibe at the Red Hot Turkey Bash in the Wachovia Atrium on Nov. 20, but it didn’t happen.

This party, a Greater Carolinas Red Cross fundraiser, needs revamping. I’ll start with the libations and grub. They had plenty of beer stands serving Bud products (I don’t drink Bud). They didn’t have enough wine bars, so the line for a glass of wine (about as much in a Dixie cup) was ridiculous.

There weren’t a lot of food stands. BTW: Cold pizza in cardboard boxes or sandwich wrap snacks that I could buy at Sam’s are not suitable for this type of event. I did have some tasty chicken wings from sponsor The Fig Tree. Other food included pasta, shrimp in some kind of broth, and crab dip with tortillas. The line for the pasta and crab dip was too long, and no one seemed to want the shrimp (not a good sign).

All this would have been OK if the music had been better, but I wasn’t feeling Liquid Pleasure. Most of this cover band's repertoire was too dated for the crowd. The group’s orange suits and black shirts added to my feeling that my parents would have enjoyed them more than I did.

While I was there (7:30-9ish), only a handful of people danced. Everyone else chatted in small groups. I had a nice time, but it’s not something that I will plan to attend each year.
The Great Gatsby and Black & White raised my expectations. I expect these types of events to be as fun as a night at Cans. The Red Hot Turkey Bash was not.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why is Charlotte lame?

Readers and friends often ask me why doesn’t this artist come to Charlotte? Or why don’t we get that tour? I’ll tell you why, we’re the pits. We have the most fickle and unpredictable concert goers.

Stevie Wonder, an unquestionable music legend, performs at Charlotte Bobcats Arena on Nov. 28 and the concert has barely sold 5,000 more tickets. He’s not doing much better in Raleigh either.

That’s crazy.

And I hear white ticket buyers are outselling black ticket buyers. I totally don’t understand why black Baby Boomers aren’t buying more tickets. White boomers have had plenty of shows to get excited about at Bobcats arena, from the Police last week to the upcoming Bruce Springsteen concert.

In the last year, black boomers have had few concerts to appeal to them. I mean, really, how many times do you want to see Frankie Beverly & Maze?

Wonder hasn’t toured in 10 years. He’s been touring since August and performing to mostly sold out crowds. In New York earlier this month, Tony Bennett and later Prince joined him onstage. If we can only muster up a handful of people, I doubt they’re bother popping up here. I wouldn’t.

Money can’t be the issue. The maximum ticket price is $95. The maximum ticket price for the Police concert last week was $200, and the arena was packed from the bottom to the top. Are you telling me that in his genre, Wonder isn’t as good as the Police? Heck, I paid, okay the Observer paid, $75 for me to go see comedian Dane Cook a couple of weeks ago. That show was slammed as well.

So, someone please tell me, why is Stevie Wonder selling so slowly here?

Post your replies below.

The Boss is coming (maybe)

Shore Fire Media announced that Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band will perform at Bobcats Arena on April 27. Tickets go on sale Dec. 7. I assume it’s through Ticketmaster, but I haven’t received confirmation about this show from the folks at Bobcats Arena. Stay tuned.

This is their first full tour of the U.S. and Europe since 2003, and many of the U.S. and European dates have already sold out. The band's new album Magic came out Oct. 2, and features the single "Radio Nowhere."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Police deliver despite age and cooties

“Roxanne, you don’t have to put on a red light.”
I’ve been annoying my friends and singing that line for the last two weeks in anticipation of Thursday’s Police concert.

Before the show, Kitch and I joined a mob of people hanging out at Blue. I haven’t seen the restaurant that packed since CIAA. (I hear LaVecchia’s was equally crowded.) Luckily, we ran into a friend of Kitch’s at Blue and we joined them in a booth at the bar. And we knew a waiter so we were able to get food and drinks quickly. (Tonya’s bar tip: If you’re at a crowded bar, use cash. It makes things move so much faster for you and the staff.)

I met a couple from Winston-Salem who came down for the show. Everyone I asked had a different song they wanted hear. I’m pretty sure the Police played them all after opening with "Message in a Bottle."

The Police gave 15,000 fans a night full of flashbacks and memories during the band's concert at Bobcats Arena. The trio played all of its major hits during the nearly two-hour show, which included two encores.

Fans I talked to afterward had mixed reactions. Some said it was great; others, who saw them perform in the ’80s, were disappointed by the performance. The show was exactly what I
expected: Three old rockers still doing their thing.

Sting, fighting the flu, looked a little flush and forgot the lyrics to one song, but the crowd kept singing.

He and guitarist Andy Summers moved around the stage some, but this concert didn’t have the energy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or other younger rock acts. A three-panel screen flashed images of the band above the stage, and the setup on stage was sparse.

It was Sting, Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland putting on a tight show. Most of the songs sounded like they did on the albums, with little live
improvisation. The best improvisation was “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” Copeland plays these huge gongs, the lights were low and the song had a dark sinister feel. Nice.

The near-capacity crowd stayed on its feet most of the
night, singing and dancing. Sting ended the night by saying, "God bless - we'll see you again." Hmm?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Robin Thicke's not coming, but Matchbox Twenty is

The Robin Thicke concert at Amos’ Southend scheduled for Dec. 2 has been cancelled. I'm out of town so I don't know the deal. But if you're looking for sensitive music then try the Matchbox Twenty show. The band is bringing its Exile in America Tour to Cricket Arena on January 29. Alanis Morissette & Mutemath will open. Tickets on sale 10 a.m. Saturday. www.ticketmaster.com.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I get Dane Cook


Dane Cook was way funnier than I thought he would be at Charlotte Bobcats Arena on Thursday. I saw the first few minutes of his HBO special, “Vicious Circle,” and I turned it off because I didn’t get his humor.

Now, I get it. His jokes are sophomoric, but not dumb grosser than gross humor. He does some sex/relationship stuff, but a lot of his material ranged from bits about family, Thanksgiving dinner and a family trip that didn't happen, to current events, such as why he shouldn’t go to war: "he doesnt' like backpacks."

The stage was set up in the round and he was energetic enough to fill it. The only problem was that you had to keep looking at the TV screen if Cook had his back to you because you couldn't see his facial expressions. The near capacity, mostly college-aged, crowd didnt't mind. They laughed their faces off for nearly two hours on Thursday.

He's an obvious student of comedy and did a good job of referencing jokes he set up earlier in the night. His sound effects were great. For example, he did a perfect imitation of tires screeching in a parking garage as part of his bit about the mad dash to find a parking space at the maul, as he spelled it, during the holiday season. He also referenced jokes from past material. He would say the most mundane thing, like “There’s only one October” and fans started howling. I totally didn’t get it.

He did a fan favorite; the one about his dad wearing a robe that was too short to hide the family jewels. He also delivered Cookisms, such as “In a fight, guys, we just want to make you cry, just a little…Aha! I win,” he said dancing around.

My favorites were when he talked about going to war. He said he wouldn’t want to be the guy playing the flute. Then he skipped around the stage playing an annoying tune on an imaginary flute until he got shot. The he limped around the stage playing the flute. The other piece I liked was about the condom fairy. Sorry, I can’t repeat the details, but imagine you and your boo are about to get in the groove and she asks, do you have a condom.

Partying to the Maxx




The Young Affiliates of the Mint did it again.

Last night’s Black & White Gala was a great party and great fun. The new location at the Forum added a bit of hipness to the annual fundraiser, which raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

There was a VIP area upstairs on the mezzanine. And the food, not as much as last year, was on the rooftop, which was heated and tented. The private auction was in the Pravda lounge. The party mostly drew young professionals.

The Maxx, based in Georgia, provided the music again, and they didn’t disappoint. They are one of the best cover bands I’ve seen. They had the dance floor packed when we arrived about 9:45 p.m. They played everything from “I’m Coming Up” to “Let’s Get it Started” to “September,” which included a trumpet and saxophone player.

Women hiked up their little black dresses, guys unbuttoned their collars and everyone cut loose on the floor.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Robin Thicke coming to Amos'

Robin Thicke brings his sultry falsetto to Amos’ Southend on Dec. 2. It’s a Camel cigarette promotion.

Tickets can be purchased at www.amossouthend.com. Or you can register for free tickets at www.camelsmokes.com. I’ll warn you, if you aren’t already registered with Camel, be prepared to give up 15 minutes to answer a zillion questions. Oh, and don’t try using a fake mailing address. It won’t accept your registration.

Once registered, click on "Events." Under "City/State" use the dropdown menu to select "Charlotte." Click on "Thicke" and you’ll see an orange circle next to the date. Click on that to print your ticket.

Last year, Thicke released the multi-platinum selling “The Evolution of Robin Thicke,” which featured the hits “Lost Without U” and “Can U Believe,” “Wanna Love U Girl.”

This summer, he opened for Beyonce at the Bobcats Arena.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jill Scott says Charlotte is best


I only wanted to hear Jill Scott sing three songs: “A Long Walk,” “It’s Love” and “Hate on Me.”
On Thursday at Amos’ Southend, she sang those as well during her more than hour-long set. She gave fans plenty of tunes from her previous two albums, such as “Golden” as well as cuts off “The Real Thing,” such as “Crown Royal” and “My Love.”

Scott gave her typical stirring performance, talking with fans, scatting, hitting notes that “American Idol” contestants will unsuccessfully imitate and giving fans soul music.

Nearly 1,000 people, including Bobcats owner Bob Johnson and Panther player Kris Jenkins, filled Amos’ Southend for the Bailey’s Get Together concert. Charlotte is one of several stops on the promotional tour to promote Bailey’s liquor. The tour features free concerts by Scott who is sometimes accompanied by John Legend. In the days leading up to the tour, Bailey’s hosted tasting events at Rustic Martini and Madison’s.

This is the third time Bailey’s distribution company Diageo has hosted one of its free concerts here. They’ve also brought The Roots and Common to Grand Central. You’d think that by now, the company would be able to get people inside the concert venue faster, but the line to get inside Amos’ stretched down both sidewalks in front of the club. It was it usual chaos.

Once inside though, the lines to the bar moved quickly and there were flat screen TVs promoting the tour. Upstairs was a VIP section with drink specials and servers offering light appetizers. There were a few ottomans and small tables as well. Johnson had an even more private VIP area upstairs in the front corner. A couple of young hotties that were probably less than half his age were part of his entourage. He mostly stayed in his private area. Jenkins was his usual affable self, talking to people.

In a two-question interview after the show, Scott said Charlotte was one of the best crowd’s she’s performed for. And she promised that she doesn’t say that everywhere. She also said, response to her album has been overwhelming.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Last chance to party for Halloween

Tonight is Halloween. If you're too cool to dress up, you can take a lesson from my friend Road Dawg: On Friday, she was one of the few people who didn't dress up at the Halloween party at Southend Brewery and Uptown Cabaret. On Saturday, she dressed as a she-devil and had a great time.

Halloween happens once a year, so loosen up and have some fun. Don't worry. Your uniform -- whether it's jeans and a T-shirt, khakis and a button-down, a suit or a skirt -- will be waiting for you on Thursday. Tonight, you can be a kid again.

There's an updated party list on www.charlotte.com/nightlife

CarnEvil's new home

Belly dancers twirled wands of fire, drummers with grass skirts and tribal accents pounded out the rhythm, and hundreds of costumed partiers crowded the stage at Amos' Southend on Saturday.

The annual CarnEvil party took its debauchery, freakishness and flame-lovin' ways to Amos' Southend this year. In past years, it was on Hawthorne Street at an old warehouse. Amos' isn't big enough to hold the hundreds of people who pack the party, so organizers took over the parking lot between Amos' and the Gin Mill as well.

Carnevil is one of my favorite Halloween parties because you have to wear a costume and there's so much to do. When we got tired of watching the belly dancers, we went outside. Inside a dance tent, women crammed into a makeshift cage trying to dance sexy. It's hard to be sexy with fake blood dripping down poles and a maniacal clown suspended above the cage. They tried anyway. There was also a dance platform for other exhibitionist dancers.

Outside the tent, a space suit thing that spun you around (not a good mix with alcohol) sat empty. Surprise, surprise. Next to it, a few brave souls warmed up their routine for their fire tricks performance. Several people crowded in front of the baby-tossing booth. Yep, baby-tossing. A woman hurled a baby doll into the mouth of a giant mechanical clown head. The mouth opened and closed, and she missed.

We ventured back inside and cruised upstairs. On one side, people were getting Tarot card readings. On the other, people were being whipped by a dominatrix. On the main stage, Big Mamma performed a song followed by one of her burlesque dancers.

The only drawback is that there is never enough bar staff for CarnEvil's crowd. They had three bars open and two beer tubs -- and the lines were still long.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ghosts and gouls uptown on Friday

A flasher, a grand opening party, a birthday party and eating breakfast at a strip club.
And that was only Friday night.

I kicked off Halloween weekend at the 23rd annual Halloween Thriller Costume Ball at Woods on South, formerly Southend Brewery. That’s where I met the flasher, along with Vinny Testaverde, a sepia photo, a freaky priest, the pied piper and so many others.

Mostly everyone wore costumes, except my friend Road Dawg and a handful of others. Costumed partiers crowded on the dancefloor in the bar area to groove to dusty rap hits such as “Bust A Move.” The dated music was the event’s only drawback.

The layout worked well with the dancefloor on one side and three bars to buy drinks on the other side of the restaurant.

After leaving Woods, Road Dawg and I hung out at Madison’s to help Larken Egleston celebrate his 21st birthday. Our next stop was Hom’s club level, Play. DJ Lee Burridge headlined Friday’s grand opening party which drew Andy and Lesa Kastanas, Noah Lazes and John Love among other local tastemakers.

Inside Play, huge pieces of original artwork adorn burnt orange walls. The slide is gone and so is the pole. The DJ booth has been rebuilt. There’s a small lounge area up the stairwell near the dancefloor, and the front room has a fireplace, illuminated by candles, and a piano.

Fans of Tonic will love Play’s patio. There aren’t any firepits, but the oversized ottomans and couches make for great lounging. The club’s coolest feature is the wall behind the main bar. It’s made of light panels that illuminate to the beat of the music. It looks like a giant equalizer.

Our last uptown stop was to meet Larken and his entourage at Uptown Cabaret. There was a costume contest that lasted a little too long, but it was worth watching the Burger King guy. He was toasted and nearly knocked over the pirate ship onstage. Then he tried to climb one of the stripper poles and couldn’t pull himself up. He hung there and slowly slid down the pole.

After the contest, they opened the buffet line. This might be my new late-night breakfast spot. The $6 buffet had eggs, grits, bacon, hashbrowns chips, pancakes and biscuits and gravy. It’s not as good as the Men’s Club late-night buffet, which is all-you-can-eat and has an omelet station, but it’s closer.

If you didn't party this weekend for Halloween, Wednesday is your last chance. See the list, which will be updated, of Halloween parties on www.charlote.com/nightlife.

What was the best Halloween party this weekend? Post your replies below.

Back to Woods on South

I'm beginning to learn that the food served at a restaurant’s grand opening party is always way better than the food served on any given night.

I recently learned this at Intermezzo in Plaza-Midwood. My latest lesson occurred last week at Woods on South, where I ordered chicken wings, creme brulee and bread pudding.

The chicken wings were crisper and tastier for the grand opening party. On Wednesday, they were saucy and were about as good as the wings at Cans. The bread pudding was good, but a little dry. The sweet potato creme brulee was the biggest disappointment.

For some reason, probably my own craziness, I thought the dish would be warm or at least room temperature. It wasn't. It tasted like they pulled it out refrigerator, burnt some suger on top and served it. Plus, the caramelized sugar was a bit too caramelized.

I'm going to give them a few weeks to work out the kinks before I return. There's a lot of stuff on the menu that I want to try.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stevie Wonder coming to Charlotte

I got goosebumps when the e-mail hit my inbox: Stevie Wonder is performing at Bobcats Arena. Whoa!

I absolutely love him. I have all of his box sets. He’s all up in my iPod. I’m so excited. Stevie Wonder in Charlotte! Sorry, I know I’m gushing.

Okay, okay. Here are the details: The “A Wonder Autumn Night Tour” comes to Bobcats Arena on Nov. 28 and to the RBC in Raleigh on Nov. 29. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Nov. 2.

There’s so many great Wonder songs, ugh, I’m getting a headache trying to decide on a favorite. But I guess I'd have to say “Fingertips.” He was called Little Stevie Wonder back then. He sounded so young, and that song is so lively. You could feel his youthfulness and excitement.

What’s your favorite Stevie Wonder song? Post your reply below.

Urban fashions are more than baggy pants

You may not know his name, but you’ve probably seen his style.
Designer Renaldo Nehemiah says he’s outfitted rappers Chingy and Kanye West, along with model Eva and others. On Saturday, he was among the many designers at the inaugural Urban Fashion Week at the
Blake Hotel.

Charlotte is one of several cities, including Houston, who have an urban fashion week. Dozens of models showed off the latest designers, ranging from denim to overcoats to hoodies and more.

Nehemiah, born Renaldo Nehemiah McFarland, recently moved here from Miami, and he attended Olympic High for one year. Nehemiah, who does everything from wallets to shoes, said his newest venture is on the hush-hush, but you’ll see it soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cans losing a familiar face

One of Charlotte’s most popular club managers has a new home - pun intended.
Constantine Mouzakitis, the face of Cans, officially starts working at Hom on Friday.

He will be the director of operations at the building formerly known as Menage. He will work with Hom’s general manager Marc Lista, formerly of Jillian's.

The move gives Constantine a chance to be more creative, because he won’t have to focus on operating such a large venue. Plus, he plans to eventually team with Hom’s investment partners to open other establishments. Constantine said he likes that the partners in Hom also have investments in the fashion world and other projects.

Constantine’s presence will bring a different element to the crowded lineup of people fronting Hom. James Funderburk and the crew running Hom travel in similar glam circles, while Constantine worked with a raucous party crowd. That mix of personalities should bode well for Hom.

But losing Constantine will be a blow for Cans. He had been the consummate host since the place opened, and replacing him is going to be tough. Plus, he’s so darn cute.

New club opens uptown

The lights were dim, the line at the bar was long and the music was chillicious at Liv last Saturday. Dozens of people packed the basement of the club that used to be called Menage. Liv is the lounge concept for the three-level building now called Hom.

This weekend, Play -- the club on Hom's third floor -- will open. DJ Lee Burridge will spin at a private ticketed event on Friday. Play will open to the general public on Saturday.
I know it’s confusing, so here’s how it goes:

Liv is the downtempo lounge in the basement. It will open daily at 4 p.m. There will be a cover charge of $5 on Fridays and $10 on Saturdays before 11 p.m. The bar will feature high-end cocktails and a full selection of microbrews and high gravity beers (don’t bother asking for Bud or Miller -- they won’t be serving cheap domestics). Buddy and That Guy Smitty will be resident DJs.

Feast is the name of the street-level café that used to be Belle’s BBQ. Chef Bruno Machiavelo will run this French-Moroccan café, which will specialize in bakery items. It will be open from 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. Hours will extend till 4 a.m. on weekends. It is scheduled to open in mid-November.

Finally, Play is the club on the third floor. It’s more of a dance club. At the front of the club (overlooking Fifth Street), there’s a lounge with a fireplace and a piano. It opens at 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Each level is a separate entity, which means if you can’t go from one level to the next without paying a separate cover charge. You also can’t take your drinks from one floor to another.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Woods on South impresses



Chef Marvin Woods stood in the entrance of Woods on South Saturday night. People in suits and cocktail dresses mingled with others sporting jeans and T-shirts. A line snaked from the buffet table and servers offered samples of lamb, chicken
wings and pizza.

Woods watched it all, hugged well-wishers and welcomed friends to the restaurant. He worked in this space in the late ’90s when it was Southend Brewery, which closed earlier this year; now the celebrity chef hopes to restore luster to the once-popular location.

The first signs of change are obvious. There’s new designer lighting, stonework, live plants and warmer hues. An awning covers the outdoor patio and a new wall on the right side of the restaurant makes the big room more intimate. There are seven flat-panel TVs.

All of that is cool, but the real question is whether the food and service will be better at Woods on South than it was at Southend Brewery in recent years. Both were so bad that I stopped eating there a couple of years ago and only visited for promoter parties.

Woods and manager Dave Matters say Woods on South will be better. The food is fun, light and energetic, Woods said. The restaurant’s vibe will be as well. The new menu features food grown locally. The beer is local, too. Carolina Beer & Beverage will brew at the restaurant.

Entrees range from $12-$30 with dishes such as fancy fried chicken (marinated in buttermilk) and crab stuffed flounder. There’s also wood oven pizza, such as one with rotisserie chicken and regianno cheese, and dessert, such as a sweet potato creme brulee. Appetizers range from red pepper and eggplant dip to soul sushi, which includes a collard green leaf.
The appetizers can be ordered in smaller portions. There will be live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and the restaurant is non-smoking. As of now, there are no plans for happy-hour specials.

I give them three months before they start offering $5 appetizer plates and drink specials during happy hour. There’s too much competition in this area not to.

Did you go to the parties this weekend? What did you think about the place? Post your replies below.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Morton's takes a chill pill

Morton’s uptown is taking the stuffiness out of its bar. Instead of being simply a place for business men to smoke cigars and wait for their tables, the chain hopes to make their bar a place to hang out. It’s now called 1212 like the one at the Morton’s in SouthPark.

Except for the name change you might not notice much difference so here’s what they did: hardwood floors replaced the carpet and new light fixtures give the place a warmer feel. New bar menu includes jumbo lump crab, spinach and artichoke dip, prime cheeseburgers, blue cheese fries and fancy chicken strips.

At the reception last week, I tried the cheeseburgers along with the petite filet mignon sandwiches and shrimp cocktail, which were already available. All were delicious, but the shrimp scared me because they were so big.

The appetizers typically cost $8-$10 a plate, but they are only $4 Monday - Friday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.?and 9:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Will Comedy Zone bring better music?

The Comedy Zone, which closed its doors uptown earlier this year, is likely to re-open in NoDa.
That’s right - Observer business columnist Doug Smith reported last week that partners with the company will put a new Comedy Zone (among other things) in the 9,000-square-foot former dye house building at Highland Park Mill No. 3.

The plan calls for a 500-seat comedy club and a live-entertainment venue that will hold 1,000, said spokesman Craig Russing. The proposal also is slated to include a sports-bar-like eatery and a coffee shop catering to residents of the neighboring Highland Mill Apartments on North Davidson Street between Mallory and 33rd streets.

Although the Comedy Zone will retain its name, Russing said the partners are still working on a name for the complex itself, which probably won’t open until March.

The live-music venue will be direct competition for the Neighborhood Theatre, also in NoDa. The spot’s capacity, however, means it will also compete with Amos’ Southend, Tremont Music Hall, and whatever live-music club lands in the N.C. Music Factory.

I hope music fans will benefit. I hope we will start getting more of the acts that play at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill or the Orange Peel in Asheville, but don’t play here. I hope it also means we’ll get a wider variety of music in general.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jill Scott show full

Jill Scott will perform at Amos' Southend on Nov. 1, but the free sign up for the concert filled up quickly Tuesdsay morning. No more seats are available for the show.

KRS-One brings real hip-hop


I’ve heard of getting a late start, but KRS-One didn’t take the stage until after 1 a.m. on Thursday at All Stars on Albemarle Road.
When he did grab the mike, he didn’t let go. Typically, KRS-One performs a few songs and then lets local rappers battle him or freestyle. His shows sometimes turn into a local talent showcase. It’s frustrating, because usually they're artists who we've already seen perform as openers.
But on Thursday, it was all about KRS-One. (At least, for the hour or so that I was there.) He performed all the hits fans have come to know and love, such as “Black Cop.” He did his signature call and response: “The real hip-hop is over here…”
A couple hundred people came out to see him perform for more than an hour at All Stars, a former buffet restaurant. The sound was terrible, but the crowd was hype and spilled out from the main stage area into the booths and other seats.
The funniest part of the evening was watching this dude near the stage who insisted he knew KRS-One. Security kept telling him to chill, and to stop trying to get on stage. When he finally did jump on stage, a burly guard tackled him like he was a running back and threw him off it.
Now I don’t care if I’m KRS-One’s momma -- if a security guard twice my size keeps telling me to chill and looks at me like he wants a reason to beat me down, the last thing I’m going to do is give him a reason.

Eating grits at Skyland


Last night was one of those nights where I planned to be home by 9 p.m., but found myself sitting at Skyland diner at 1 a.m. with Kitch, Larken, Letha and Nicholas.

The night started at Oceanaire. Kitch and I met Larken there for the SouthPark restaurant’s one-year anniversary party. The spread was incredible. They had a hot food section with crab-deviled eggs, steamed mussels, crab balls, and some kind of crab dip.

They also had a cold buffet with all kinds of oysters, shrimp and crab claws. A server sat a fresh plate of the crab claws in front of Kitch and Larken. I slurped down some oysters. Other servers walked around offering chocolate-covered strawberries and mini lemon meringue pies. Yum to the 10th power. For cocktails, the restaurant served complimentary well liquors, wine, champagne and mojitos.

I would’ve been content to go home after that, but Kitch and I decided to visit the new martini spot On the Roxx in Ballantyne. It’s intimate, with seating that allows you to see and be seen. We were the only two people in On the Roxx. We talked with a guy who said he was a co-owner. Boris Tomic, who did the Forum, designed it so you know it’s tastefully done. The guy said their best nights are Fridays and Saturdays. They have a DJ on Fridays.

Next, Kitch and I headed to Table for dessert. I had the chocolate cheesecake, which I wouldn’t order again. Kitch had the molten cake, which was good and gooey. Table is doing a bourbon pairing dinner on Oct. 26. It’s five courses with five bourbons for $55. That has to be the best deal in town if you like bourbon.

After a quick stop at Village Bistro, we drove to NoDa and met back up with Larken at Wine Up. He was there promoting his company’s Pink vodka. Nicholas and Letha, who’s campaigning to win some kind of fabulous at 40 contest for Essence magazine, were there too. We heard some of the regulars (and some people I'd never seen before) doing their poetry thing.

Carlton, of Creative Loafing, met us there for a quick drink. Next, Kitch, Carlton, Larken and I stopped by the Sunset Club for co-owner Jeff Tomascak’s birthday party. Tomascak had a large turnout, but the DJ inspired few people to dance consistently. We sat on the patio and Noah Lazes, of N.C. Music Factory, joined us. We got caught up on the latest happenings at his spot; I’ll get to those announcements in another blog.

After an hour or so, Carlton called it a night. I finished talking with Noah, Kitch, Larken and then headed to Skyland on South Boulevard. (Can we please get a 24-hour food spot uptown? Please!) Nicholas and Letha joined us there. If you haven’t been to Skyland, they have the best grits -- at 1:30 a.m.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jill Scott is coming to Amos' Southend

The Soul Movement and Diageo, a liquor distribution company, are bringing singer-songwriter-poet Jill Scott to town on Nov. 1. The show is called "Baileys Get Together with Jill Scott." It's part of a Baileys promotion that Diageo is doing with Scott and singer John Legend.

It's a free concert, but you have to register online. Go to www.thesoulmovement.com and click on "Sign up now!"

Scott recently released her latest album, "The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3."

Friday, October 12, 2007

matchbox twenty on Kiss 95.1


Neither road construction nor food poisoning could stop matchbox twenty’s Rob Thomas and guitarist Paul Doucette from entertaining about 80 fans who filled the upstairs room at Galway Hooker pub. They performed there for Kiss 95.1’s superstar surprise concert on Thursday. (It airs 8-9 a.m. Friday on the Ace & TJ show.)

After arriving more than an hour late, they gave fans about 45 minutes worth of banter and music. Well there was way more banter than music, but fans were happy.

The lead singer and guitarist were promoting matchbox twenty’s new double-disc, “Exhile on Mainstream.” It features 11 hits and six new songs.

Between performing “If You’re Gone” and “3 A.M.,” Thomas and Doucette talked with the radio personalities.

Thomas said he got food poisoning in Raleigh and was sick in Greensboro. Responding to a question, Thomas said, if asked he would work with Britney Spears once got her act together. He called her a talented artist (I think he was being nice).

Doucette said the new songs on “Exhile” were influenced by a studio session in which they watched “Live AID” on DVD.

On the lighter side, not that working with Britney isn’t light, the two talked about celebrity encounters in the gym. Doucette said guitarist Dave Navarro dissed him after Doucette told him he played for matchbox twenty. Thomas said Billy Idol was once seen shadow boxing in front of a mirror in full leather (talk about sweating off pounds).

Thomas also said he was obsessed with “American Idol.”
“That’s human drama at it’s best. Watching all of those little kids getting their hopes smashed.”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Avett Brothers and other event announcements

Last year the Avett Brothers sold out their annual New Year’s Eve concert at Neighborhood Theatre in nine days. As a result the band is moving the party to the Belk Theater this year.

It’s going to be an odd fit. Promoter Dolph Ramseur says the band needs a bigger venue.
He says for the New Year’s Eve concert patrons will be able to take drinks into the theater. Beyond the drinks issue, I can’t imagine ushers allowing raucous Avett fans to party like they usually do.

In other announcements, De La Soul will perform at Amos’ Southend on Nov. 10. DJ Magic Mike will open.

And Chef Marvin Woods’ grand opening of Woods on South, formerly Southend Brewery, will be Oct. 19-20.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What has Michael Baisden done for Charlotte?

As I announced in Paid to Party: Humpday, radio personality Michael Baisden will be holding court at Grand Central on Saturday.

(Comedian George Wilborn and singer Howard Hewett will also perform. Grand Central. $25-$30; $50 for VIP. www.v1019.com.)

Baisden is one of the main people who brought attention to the Jena 6 case in Louisiana by talking about it on his radio program that airs during the afternoon on V101.9.

Baisden and Tom Joyner have used their radio shows to cover stories involving blacks that don’t get mainstream media attention. I’m glad they do, but my problem is with people who get rowdy about injustice in cities far, far away, but don’t care about what’s happening in Charlotte.

We had buses of people flocking to Jena, Louisiana, but how many of these bus riders fight for Charlotte youth? How many volunteer in their local schools or neighborhood groups? How many are as passionate about the treatment of young black youth in Charlotte as they are about kids hundreds of miles away?

Not enough.

Post your thoughts below.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

R. Kelly coming to Bobcats Arena

I am begrudgingly announcing that singer R. Kelly will be performing at Bobcats Arena on Nov. 18.

Singers Keyshia Cole and J. Holiday will open.
I can’t believe Cole is performing with Kelly. Her music disses trifling men, but she’s teamed with an artist who’s built his career by degrading women. Yes, he’s a musical genius, but I still don’t like him.

Anyway, I’ve done my job and announced the show.
Get your tix at www.ticketmaster.com beginning Friday at 10 a.m.

New jazz singer in Charlotte

Kat Williams has spent the past 10 years making a name for herself as a jazzy singer in Asheville, but she hopes to carve out a niche in a city that doesn’t consistently support jazz. She performs at Petra’s in Plaza-Midwood on Friday (8 p.m., $10).

I saw her perform at a festival in Asheville a couple of years ago, and her show was amazing. She easily glided between jazz standards and Earth, Wind & Fire soul. She’s a big dawg in Asheville, and I was surprised to hear that she had moved here.

Here’s the scoop:
When did you move to Charlotte?
Four months ago.

Why?
I needed to be near a major airport. I’ve done every big gig I can do in Asheville; it’s time for me to spread out a little bit.

What venue would you most like to perform at here?
Blumenthal. I do a show that’s a tribute to women in jazz.

Aren’t you nervous about starting over?
I’m up for the challenge. It’s a bigger market. It has a lot more going on, a lot more to see.

Details: www.katwilliams.com

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Key-key punks out at Oktoberfest



Big Sexy, Key-key and I had just finished eating after an hourlong tasting tour at Oktoberfest when Key-key punked out.

Key-key and Big Sexy are my best friends who come down from Maryland each year for Oktoberfest. I left the two them in the Creative Loafing’s Beer’lympic Village so I could go take pictures of the thousands of people sipping beers, playing chess or tossing bean bags.

My phone vibrated.

I opened it to see a picture of Key-key sleeping on the concrete floor. I returned to where I’d left the two to find Key-key was asleep and Big Sexy was sending pictures of her to our friends in Maryland. Oktoberfest partiers took pictures of Key-key as well. I know we’re mean, but she’s a lightweight and we had to clown her. That’s what friends are for.

This year, Oktoberfest had a new home, at Metrolina Expo. Despite being so far from uptown, it was easily accessible. We took a cab to Buckhead Saloon and rode the Loaf’s shuttle to Metrolina Expo. My roomie picked us up at Buckhead after the festival.

I prefer being outside, but since Memorial Stadium had so many restrictions on food and Oktoberfest outgrew NoDa, Metrolina Expo was good a choice. There were plenty of food vendors and bathrooms. The buildings provided shade, and the bay doors created an airy feel. The best part was whenever someone dropped a glass, everyone who heard it shatter yelled, “OOOHHH!”

The only drawback: There wasn’t as much room to move between beer vendors and lines, and the Johnny Cash cover band seemed to play forever.

My favorite beer was La Fin Du Monde, a Belgian ale. My favorite name was R.J. Rockers’ Fish Paralyzer. It tasted pretty good, too.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

R&B singers fighting to be heard



At Del Frisco’s, sultry R&B singer Chrisette Michele wowed radio programmers, DJs and radio personalities on Friday.
Across town, less than an hour later, neo-soul singer Raheem DeVaughn wowed dozens of die-hard fans.
Both artists delivered smoky love songs and tunes about heartbreak and more. Michele is on the rise, getting attention with songs such as “Be Okay.” She performed for a packed crowd at Grand Central a few weeks ago and wowed them as well with several tracks off her solo debut, “I Am.” With a raspy voice and a seductive air that doesn’t rely on her shaking her hips, Michele is poised to separate herself from the female R&B pack.
DeVaughn is promoting his sophomore release “Love Behind the Melody.” His first album, “The Love Experience,” yielded the popular cut “Guess Who Loves You More.” On stage, DeVaughn is dynamic. He sweats, and isn’t shy about going into the audience and dancing on chairs or between tables. His voice reminds you of Marvin Gaye, and he tries to channel Gaye’s sensuality and sensibility.
He’s trying to establish himself in a genre that’s lost its luster in recent years, with John Legend being one of the few men to maintain national prominence. It’s a tough chore when artists such as Akon and T-Pain dominate the charts and radio with drivel about getting women drunk, or odes to strippers.

Q-Tip and Common rock Amos'



In an Aug. 20 blog entry, after I announced that Q-Tip would open for Common at Amos’ Southend, a reader commented that it should be the other way around.
During Thursday’s performance, Q-Tip made a strong case that he could be the headliner. The crowd, which stretched from the front of the stage past the sound booth to the rear bathroom, re-lived the glory years of rap as Q-Tip delivered both new and old tunes. (Hear my interview with Q-Tip on the Paid to Party Fo’ Yo’ Ear podcast on Wednesday afternoon.)
He opened with a funky tune reminiscent of a Parliament-style groove. Then he tested his chops singing on another number. By the midpoint of his 45-minute set, he and the crowd performed “Check the Rhyme,” “Bonita Applebum” and “Electric Relaxation.” He also performed his solo hits, “Vivrant Thing” and “Breathe and Stop.”
The best part of his set was “Scenario.” He invited two audience members on stage to rap lines from the song with him. Q-Tip started a verse, and each audience member had to finish it. The woman from the audience who joined him on stage got crazy love from the crowd. She rapped her parts correctly, confidently and then stopped. The guy who followed her mistook the concert for his own personal showcase. Along with rapping lines from “Scenario,” the guy freestyled and was quickly booed off stage. (Dawg, people paid to see Q-Tip and Common, not you.)
Common delivered a similar show to the one he did at Grand Central in May. He hyped the crowd, jumped around, and wooed a woman on stage. He performed more cuts off his new album, “Finding Forever,” such as the title track and “Break My Heart.” He gave fans a mix of old and new. The best part was “The Light.” It’s a song about love, and to hear nearly 1,000 people sing, “There is a light that shines…” was crazy-cool.
I was disappointed with Common’s treatment of “Misunderstood.” The track, on his new album, has a Nina Simone sample. It’s about people, such as a drug dealer and stripper, who make bad decisions trying to achieve their dream. The band slowed the song down so much that I barely recognized it. At the end, he gave shout-outs to all the people he says are misunderstood, such as Simone, 2Pac, Malcolm X and Michael Vick. Yes, Vick.
Yes, Vick made a bad decision, but throwing him in the same list as Malcolm X and even 2Pac is a stretch. They at least tried to uplift people with their words. Vick hasn’t -- yet. Maybe Common is just hoping Vick is misunderstood.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gluttony at Cans




Speaking of Larken, I saw him and five others compete Saturday in a nacho-eating contest at Cans on West Fifth Street. For months, Larken has raved about his ability to devour an entire plate of nachos by himself. He convinced the folks at Cans to hold a contest so he could show off his gluttony.

But Eun Park, who doesn’t even like nachos, spanked Larken with a time of four minutes. Larken finished his plate a minute later. I give the biggest shout-out to the diminutive Maria Isenhour, the only woman in the contest. Way to hang with the big boys.

NASCAR 101 with Paw Paw



I don’t know much about NASCAR, so I was glad when Paw Paw Egleston, Larken Egleston’s dad and an avid racing fan, joined Larken and I for a tour of Michael Waltrip’s Raceworld in Cornelius last week.

I liked looking at giant tool boxes and springs and racecars and pictures, but Paw Paw Egleston totally dug it. He shared all kinds of tidbits about NASCAR with us.

Each bay at Raceworld contains a workshop. As we walked through the facility, Paw Paw Egleston explained the difference between the current car and the car of the future, which is supposed to be safer. He also gave us a play-by-play of Waltrip’s horrific crash at Bristol in the early ’90s. We got to sit in a driver’s seat and try on a helmet, but my favorite part was touring the plush RV. More info at www.raceworldusa.net.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bringing some soul to Charlotte

As condos sprout uptown and plush new restaurants and spots open, Charlotte’s artsy, creative folks are talking about the soul of this city.

It’s a conversation that’s been going on for years over drinks at the bar or dinner at restaurants. Every now and then, that conversation gets public attention. Creative Loafing once wrote a cover story about the topic. I’ve written about it. A committee of young professionals did a study to see if we were cool, which is pretty darn close to asking if the city has a soul.

A night on the town here is often fun, but too often forgettable.

When is the last time you went to a performance, nightclub, or bar and had such a good experience that you talked about it for weeks? And I’m not talking about remembering the night because you were so hung over the next day that you’ll never drink again. I mean a genuinely good time with good people and good friends, an experience you couldn’t re-create even if you tried (and when you did try, it wasn’t the same).

For me ... let's see, off the top of my head: Celia Cruz at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center… Marques Wyatt at now-closed Tonic…Oktoberfest in NoDa…The Culinary Arts Experience two years ago…Chuck Brown at the uptown Hilton for CIAA two years ago.

A few Charlotte nightlife trendsetters have turned those complaints about soulless Charlotte into action.
(Read my Sept. 5 blog, "Info on club formerly known as Menage.") The Forum’s Andy Kastanas and local DJ James Fedele are working on a lounge/restaurant called Soul in Plaza-Midwood. (Read my Sept. 24 blog, "Soul is coming to Plaza-Midwood.")

The titles of each project give you an idea of what they’re about. Creating spaces that feed the spirit as well as the body. Both projects are supposed to be places for people who want to their nightlife to consist of more than getting sloppy drunk on cheap beer and Jager bombs, or dancing to the same songs they hear every hour on the radio.

The concepts will add variety to Charlotte’s nightlife. With the exception of live-music venues, our nightlife revolves so much around bad music and cheap drinks, or pricey martinis and pretentiousness.

So tell me, when was the last time you had an unforgettable experience partying in Charlotte? And do you think Charlotte has soul? Why or why not? Post your replies below.

Soul is coming to Plaza-Midwood



On Saturday night, I drove down 22nd street, wondering where the heck I was going. I was trying to find a party, but had never been in this area. Then I saw cars parked along the street and two police officers standing in the near the intersection of Brevard and directing people where to park and where to party.

Inside Center of the Earth Studio, basically a warehouse, people of all hues, ages, professions and sexuality grooved to the delicious beats of DJ Neil Aline, of New York. Art pieces lay scattered about, there were a few sofas near the entrance, and disco balls hung from ceiling beams. Bartenders mixed drinks among circular saws and other tools at a makeshift bar. There was one bathroom. To get to the smoking section you walked through some plastic sheeting to the outside of the building.

It was grimy and oh so lovely.

The party was called Foundation, and it was a launch party for Soul, a new concept by The Forum’s Andy Kastanas and local DJ James Fedele. Soul will be in Plaza-Midwood at the corner of Pecan and Central above Lotus. It’s where the Perch improv comedy club lived years ago. They plan to open in the next few months.

To call Soul a lounge wouldn’t do it justice. To call it a restaurant wouldn’t be fair either. It will be both. Most partiers recognize Kastanas for helping build this city’s house music and nightlife scenes in the ’90s, but he also has a culinary degree and loves to cook. He and Fedele plan to put as much emphasis on the food as the music and the vibe of Soul.

The menu will be tapas with cuisine from all of over the world. The music will be soulful house. Oh, and the cocktails recipes will be equally emphasized. There won’t be any full size entrees nor will there be a dance floor.

If you want to see the layout, go to Common Market or Central Records and see if they have any flyers from Saturday’s party. The design of the building is on the back of the flyer. Along with adding a kitchen to the building, Kastanas and Fedele will add a balcony along the Pecan Avenue side of the building. There will be seating around the DJ booth as well as lounge-style seats throughout.

The goal is for friends to go, grab a seat, nibble all night and hear good music. If you hung at Tonic and Tutto Mondo back in the early years or go to Prevue on Wednesday nights for Pop Life, then Soul will be your kind of spot.

At Saturday’s Foundation party, I ran into people I haven’t seen clubbing in ages and people I only see at certain types of parties. The true house heads were on the dance floor. Aline made me want to find his music and burn it. He spun the typical house tracks such as “Lonely People” as well as funked up cuts by Stevie Wonder.

Kastanas and Fedele want to bring the soul back to Charlotte. Kastanas bluntly says he is opening a club for he and his friends. Usually, that isn’t the smartest business plan, but I hope it works this time.

Oktoberfest sold out

Charlotte Oktoberfest is sold out.

I wondered if the move to Metrolina Expo would dampen enthusiasm for the popular event, but obviously it didn't. The last ticket was purchased at 10:46 p.m. Sunday, according to organizers.

If you didn't buy a ticket and want to go to Saturday's event, be sure to read Friday's E&T. We will be giving away three tickets.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good times at Petra's

A cute waitress named Autumn sang “Unchained Melody,” and later, an adorable waiter named Jason sang “Imagine.” Between their solos, pianist Nathan Hefner played tunes while brave audience members took turns on the mike at Petra’s in Plaza-Midwood.

The cabaret and piano bar finally opened this weekend. There was a line out the door on despite heavy rains last Friday night. Packing the small club were friends of owner Petra Fugger and creative directors Robb and sister Connie Huddleston and Chris Hollar.

Petra’s is tastefully decorated, with dark hues, mirrors and chandeliers. The staff and patrons were friendly. It’s the kind of place that could easily become your regular hangout.

Petra’s drew (and will likely continue to draw) a predominately gay crowd, as well as heterosexual women who like hanging with gay men.

It’s an alternative to Liaison's and the dance club scene of Velocity and Eagle.

If you’re open-minded, then Petra’s is for you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Charlotte Observer/Carolina Nightlife are No. 1


"We are the brewmasters, my friends ..." (Sing to the tune of “We are the Champions.”)
I predicted the Charlotte Observer’s Eye/Carolina Nightlife team would spank the competition in the Blues, Brews & BBQ media beer contest. And, of course, we did. (Okay, we won by one vote, but a win is a win, baby!)
Big thanks to George Allen and the folks at Carolina Beer & Beverage for making our concept -- an Oktoberfest called Five o’Clock Now -- the best beer ever.

The losers were:
Second place: Matt Harris of 107.9 The Link and Todd Trimakas of Uptown Magazine; along with Jeri Thompson and Monty Ramseur of the Charlotte Post.
Third place: The beerman himself, Chris Herring of Creative Loafing, and Mark Perez of Charlotte Viewpoint Magazine.
Honorable mention (a.k.a. dead-last): Jeff Katz of 1110 WBT and Mark Pellin of Rhino Times.

Blues, Brews & BBQ hits its stride



Several hundred people stood in the parking lot across from Rock Bottom Brewery dancing to Delbert McClinton boogie woogie music on Saturday night. Rain kept many people away from the Blues, Brews & BBQ festival on Friday, but on Saturday the folks

showed up in full force.
At least 100,000 attended the two-day event, highlighted by a barbecue cook-off and performances by McClinton, Acoustic Syndicate and others. Despite the rain, Charlotte Center City Partners spokeswoman Moira Quinn said all of the acts performed on Friday.

The festival worked well in the new location on Tryon Street from Sixth to Ninth street. Along with professional and backyard grillers, the festival featured a couple of carnival rides and games, and plenty of carnival food, such as sausages and funnel cake.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You can be the Grand Marshall

The Bank of America 500 is launching a
street party and a contest for the October
race.

On Oct. 9, uptown will see the inau-
gural Bank Of America 500 Fan Fest. As part
of the festivities, fans can audition to be the hon-
orary grand marshal. The fans with the best
“start your engines” command gets to issue
the magic words for the race and ride in the
pace car.

Entry forms are available at area branches or
at the Food Lion Auto Fair at Lowe’s Motor
Speedway on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Are the Police too old?

I may have questioned why Van Halen sold out in Charlotte, but I do know why the Police should. They were one of the best rock bands in their heyday and their music had all kinds of crossover appeal.

Still, I'm torn about the upcoming show.

As I reported on Charlotte.com yesterday, the reunited Police perform at Bobcats Arena on Nov. 15. (Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday.) Charlotte is one of four cities recently added to the popular tour, which has already sold 2.2 million tickets.

Here's why I'm torn: Even though they've done some solo work and toured since they went their separate ways more than 20 years ago, the guys seem just a wee bit old to be hitting the road now. I'm not convinced they're going to put on an electrifying, energetic show --especially since they're on such a grueling schedule. But I loved the Police growing up, and since I never got to see them live, I'm planning to attend the concert. And early reviews have been favorable.

The band is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its first double-disc CD collection, "The Police." It includes the group's first single, "Fall Out," released in 1977.

Am I the only one wondering if they're too old to tour? And what song do you most want to hear at the concert: "Roxanne"? "Every Breath You Take"? Or maybe it's "Message in a Bottle"?

Post your replies below.

Petra's finally opening in Plaza-Midwood

Plaza-Midwood’s newest spot is finally ready for business.
Petra’s will have a soft opening on Thursday before bringing out the big guns on Friday.

As I reported in March, Petra’s Piano Bar and Cabaret will open next to the Penguin. Robb and sister Connie Huddleston (along with club namesake Petra Fugger and Chris Hollar) modeled the place after popular piano bars in New York’s West Village.

The club was supposed to open in April, but the owners underestimated how difficult it would be to obtain all of the permits required to open a club in this city.

Robb Huddleston said that for Friday’s grand opening, he is bringing in friends from cruise ships and tours who will sing everything from John Lennon to Patti LaBelle.

The format is like the Duplex club in New York’s West Village: The piano player starts at 9 p.m. He sings and takes requests. Audience members can sing with him. Waitresses, bartenders and doormen will also perform.

Huddleston said his priority in hiring staff was to make sure they could sing. Even the doormen can carry a tune.

“There are some very big guys out there that have very beautiful voices,” he said. “I have a couple of friends who sing, who happen to be 6-4 and 250 pounds.”

Doors open at 5 p.m. for the after-work crowd. Music starts at 9 p.m. It costs $10 for a one-year membership. Without a membership, it costs $3 to sign in with a member.

Big ups to Red Door

Longtime Paid to Party readers may remember my first column in April 2004 was about a night out with Red Door owner Eric McCoy. Back then, McCoy threw parties in addition to running his store.
These days, he’s racking up the frequent flier miles to Las Vegas to expand his business.

On a recent trip, Red Door was named the best lingerie store at the first-ever Storerotica trade show at Mandalay Bay. McCoy was also nominated for store owner of the year. You can see why Red Door took home the top honors on www.thereddoorstore.com.

Red Door is the fashion coordinator for most of the city’s dancers, but 50 percent of its customers aren’t strippers, said manager Todd Joffe, who still promotes occasional parties in town.

To cater to the non-stripping customers, Red Door is launching www.heels.com later this month. McCoy hopes the online shoe store will rival www.zappos.com. (Joffe promises me Heels will carry funky shoes for women like me who don't wear heels and girly stuff. Wahoo!)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Belly dancing uptown

At Pacha at the Sunset Club on Thursday, there were belly dancers, hookahs and a guy singing in a Middle Eastern language.

The weekly international party has been building a strong following. Last week’s party drew a diverse crowd.
The highlight was bellydancing. Three women did their thing while men tossed dollar bills onto the floor in front of them. A couple of overly enthusiastic men tried to dance with the belly dancers.

Middle Eastern-themed parties come and go here. Lava had bellydancers and hookahs on Wednesdays before the lounge changed ownership. Now there’s Pacha at Sunset, and the Forum has Cultural Fusions (also on Thursdays). It features belly dancers, live drummers, fire dancing, hookahs and extreme yoga.

The Forum also hosts occasional Greek nights, and every last Friday of the month is Greek night at Greek Isles restaurant in Southend, where a DJ spins modern Greek dance music.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Comedian Byrdman dies


Reggie “Byrd” Byrdman, one of the city’s best local comedians, passed away Sunday. He was only 38, and reportedly suffered a heart attack. He is survived by a son, a daughter, two sisters and a brother.

All week, he’s been getting love on Power 98. Tonight and tomorrow, two clubs will host memorials to raise money for his family. The first is tonight at Club Eclipse, home of Q.C. Comedy. The second is Thursday at Tempo. Singers Adina Howard, rapper Mr. Woods and local DJs Tab D'Bia$$i, Boney B., and ’O6 will perform. Both events begin at 9 p.m.

Byrdman was always on the grind, and consistently played in comedy clubs. He never reached the status of a Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle, but few do. He began his career in 1995. I first saw him perform at Eight Tracks nightclub, now Tempo. He beat several other local comedians to win the Def Comedy Jam competition in 1999. I also saw him perform at a hole-in-the-wall off South Boulevard. Those were in his early years.

Since then, he appeared on BET’s “Comic View” and toured on the Def Comedy Jam Tour. I last saw him a couple of years ago at the Q.C. Comedy showcase at its former home, the Big Chill. He was supporting young comedians and wanting to launch a comedy tour to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

If you’ve never heard of him, come out tonight and hear why he was so loved by the urban nightlife community. If you have heard of him, then come out and pay your respects with people who know how you feel.

Info on club formerly known as Menage

The tacky slide is gone, and Menage’s fall from premier-nightclub status is complete.

Tonic lounge co-founder James Funderburk and several partners (including Tonic’s Andre Araiz and Funderburk’s real estate partner Alvaro Kraizel) ) who purchased Menage and Belle’s BBQ from Stefan Latorre are rapidly renovating the three-level space. It will hold three different concepts.

They’re calling the overall vibe HOM (pronounced “home”) because Funderburk and his partners want it to be a community hub. The bottom floor will be a down-tempo lounge open seven days a week at 4 p.m. The street level, formerly Belle’s BBQ, will be a European style restaurant/bakery featuring local, organic meats and vegetables with additional selections for vegetarians and even raw foodies with menu items created by artist-actor John Love.

Funderburk’s partner Andre Araiz refers to the top level as the Penthouse. They plan to create a club that will house a state-of-the-art sound.

“Our aim is to make this place feel like your own personal place in uptown Charlotte, that you can identify with in terms of design, ambience and sound,” Araiz said.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ozzfest was rank




When I walked through the gates at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre for Ozzfest on Tuesday, the stench hit me harder than the music.
Thousands of bodies sweating out in temperatures zooming past 90 degrees made things yucky. Although, the heat didn’t stop fans from guzzling beer, crowd-surfing and rocking out to lesser-known metal bands.

Admission to Ozzfest was free this year, but Verizon charged $20 to park. Ridiculous.

The concert drew a crowd that ranged in age from young kids to Baby Boomers. Lines snaked from autograph tents, and fans crowded in front of the stage. Inside the main pavilion area, vendors sold T-shirts, bags, sunglasses and more.

Most fans (predictably) wore black, although I saw several men wearing kilts. What’s up with that? There were lots of spiked, multi-colored mohawks. The outfit that caused the most rubbernecking was worn by a rail-thin woman wearing thigh-high fish nets, a G-string and a bra.

Along with the stench, the other thing that stayed with me longer than the ringing in my ears was the frat-boy style obsession with women’s breasts. At one point, a crowd of men gathered around a woman in a grassy area who acted as if she was going to flash her breasts.

One guy held a cardboard sign that read “Show your (you know what)” Later the MC berated women in audience for not showing off any breasts. Of course, that prompted someone to do just that.

Pathetic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Martini lounge braves uptown's no-man's land

Carlos Combs hopes couches, free parking and an upscale atmosphere will separate Charlotte’s newest martini lounge from the competition.

Combs’ Rustic Martini officially opened last week on North Tryon near Ninth Street. It joins a slew of martini bars in Center City, from Loft 1523 to Tutto Mondo to Therapy. Combs says his spot is the only true lounge –- with sofas, a humidor, a stonework bar and all premium well liquors -– on Tryon. Martinis cost $12.

Combs, a Fairfax, Va., native, picked the spot two years ago, but couldn’t close the deal because he was sent to Kuwait for the Coast Guard.

After finishing his active-duty commitment, Combs bought a former bank and turned it into Rustic. The spot has two patios. The one out front is good for people-watching (although there aren’t a lot of people on that end of Tryon). The patio out back overlooks the parking lot, so there isn’t much to see -- but it’s a good place to go if you want to be incognito.

Combs plans to offer VIP members free birthday parties. His staff will hire a limo for the birthday boy or girl, send out invitations and create a photo album from the party. Combs said he will also offer complimentary cab fare of up to one mile for members.

He’s going to need those types of amenities and more to be successful. North Tryon past Seventh Street doesn’t receive the same amount of foot traffic as businesses between the Square and Seventh Street. New Orleans restaurant GW Finns is slated to open next month. It’s where the Palomino restaurant was, so that should help generate more traffic on that end of the street.

Combs isn’t relying on Charlotte’s martini crowd. He’s building a steady clientele by renting the space to wedding parties for engagement parties and pre-wedding receptions.

Monday, August 27, 2007

M5 has the great patio

If you’re looking for a place to kick off your evening or chill with friends, M5’s patio is the hotness.
M5 is the newest venture by the Harper’s crew. It’s an upscale Mediterranean restaurant in SouthPark near Crate & Barrel.

I tried it Friday and loved the spacious patio, which has tables on the Sharon Road side and wicker sofas and love seats closer to the building. Overall, the restaurant’s design is stylish, with suede panels on the wall, but the bar is narrow. And on Friday, a bunch of older men looked for hot young thangs.

When it comes to the food, stick to brunch. The Spanish eggs and French toast were tasty and filling. When it comes to dinner, save your money. It’s one of those places that gives you a big bill and a little meal. Plus, my server completely screwed up the filleting of my whole Red Snapper. The gnocchi was delicious, as was the halibut.

There’s a portable bar and servers. DJ Steve Tuohui spun chill house music. The people hanging out Friday were a mix of diners, like ourselves, and others. They were black and white, straight and gay, and a range of ages. Some were couples, and others were small groups of friends.

The patio is the restaurant’s biggest success because it’s a space where you hang before a night out. It’s also comfortable enough to chill for the evening. The patio is open on weekdays until 10 p.m. and on weekends until 1 a.m. or later depending on the crowd. Tuohui spins Thursday-Saturday.

Have you been to M5? What do you think? What other restaurants’ have a cool patio? Post your replies below.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Charlotte Observer will smash the competition

You read it here first: The Charlotte Observer’s Eye team -- which is paired with Carolina Nightlife -- will win the Carolina Blonde Beer Brewing Contest.

The contest will kick off the Brews, Blues & BBQ festival the weekend of Sept. 14. I’m on a team with Crystal Dempsey, editor of the Observer’s Eye, a new publication "for people who live, work and play in central Charlotte," and Charles Wilson of Carolina Nightlife.

We’re going against WBT, led by Jeff Katz and paired with the Rhino Times (aren’t they’re too conservative to drink beer?); along with The Link, led by Matt Harris (is he dressing himself yet?) and paired with Uptown Magazine; and Creative Loafing (our stiffest competition), which is paired with Charlotte Viewpoint's Mark Perez.

We brewed our batch this week. Cheers!

Loving "The Lion King"

“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, my misconceptions sleep tonight. AweemawayAweemaway...”
Please indulge my tribute to “The Lion King.” I’m still reliving the memories of seeing the musical play, which ended its run at Belk Theater last week.

When the production first went to Broadway, I gagged. I couldn’t believe the big-time playwriters didn't have a more original idea than turning a Disney movie into a Broadway production. I had no interest in seeing it.

But last year, promoter Mike Kitchen and I bumped into one of Blumenthal’s public relations people at a party, and she raved about the play. She encouraged me to see it -- and to arrive on-time (a rarity for me).

I ordered tickets early, and went with my girl, her little ones, and Kitch. I’m not sure what was better, the play or watching the kids’ mouths drop during the early scenes.

My favorite parts were the opening scene, the one after intermission, and when Simba talks to Mufasa’s image in the lake. Amazing.