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

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

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 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.

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 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.

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.


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.