Best of Summer 2010… Baltimore Style!

Summer is almost here! The weather is warm, the sun is shining bright and there is plenty to do around Baltimore! Summer is my favorite season. Not only because my birthday falls in June, but because summer draws people out of their homes and out onto the streets! Summer also just makes you feel good overall! Every summer I tend to have the same routine. Work a lot, make a few Rita’s stops here and there and maybe head down to the beach for a weekend or two. This summer, I am committed to changing my routine.

I will be trying out a new activity, restaurant or event in Baltimore each week over the course of the summer. All of these events will be unique to Baltimore in some way. I am then going to come back and report on what I have experienced. I am calling this blog series “The BEST of Summer 2010…Baltimore style!”  Please feel free to comment on my experiences and make suggestions for places I should try next!

First Stop: Mt. Vernon

I recently moved to the Park Charles apartments located at the intersection of Charles and Saratoga. So far, I have no complaints for my new location and new apartment. Southern Management has been great and I feel right at home in my new space. I have come to realize that my favorite part about my new apartment is its location! I feel as if I have the best of both worlds by sitting on the border of Mt. Vernon and the Downtown district.

I haven’t spent much time out and about in Mt. Vernon so I decided to look for something to do in the area. I heard about the Mt. Vernon First Thursday concert series sponsored by WTMD so I thought I would check it out. I head up to the Washington Monument off of Charles Street and was shocked by the amount of people who were lounging in the park.

The stage was set up on the monument side of the park and people filled the grass with their lounge chairs and blankets. Most people packed up their coolers with snacks and beverages to kick back, relax and watch the concert. Speaking of the concert Can’t Hang performed while everyone was enjoying the outdoors. Vendors were set up from the surrounding businesses. I decided to stop at the Mic O’Sheas tent where I picked up and beef sandwich and corn on the cob sprinkled with old bay, truly Baltimore style.

The best part about the evening, the concert was FREE! Minus the cost of the food I chose to buy, the whole evening would have been free. Many people save money by packing snacks instead of buying from the vendors, definitely something I will do the next first Thursday.

For my first adventure in Baltimore this summer, I was nothing but pleased with the event. Great weather, good food and some music are the perfect way to close out a week. Don’t miss the next first Thursday in Mt. Vernon. WARNING: To get a spot on the grass I advise you get their earlier than 6:00 p.m.!

Stay tuned for more Best of Summer 2010… Baltimore Style!

Until next time…

Kristen

Washington Monument!

Beef sandwhich and corn on the cob!

Can't Hang!

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Livin’ La Vida Loca at Latino Fest

Welcome to Latino Fest

It seems that come summer time, every culture in Baltimore wants to celebrate with a festival to call their very own. And lucky for me, I have friends who are willing to explore around town with me. One such friend suggested “Latino Fest” and we were off to the east side with little more than a sense of adventure.

Neither of us had never been to Paterson Park, where the festival was being held, but someone had told us that it was in Fells Point. So we drove down through the Harbor and across Little Italy to Fells. Here, the New Yorker in us (we’re both from the same state) told us to grab any available parking spot we saw. Which, of course, we did without realizing that Paterson Park is about 10 blocks east of where we were parked. So in addition to attending Latino Fest, we gave ourselves a little walking tour of Fells Point. It’s a lot nicer when you don’t attend during the hullabaloo of Halloween.

Anyway, we finally made it to the park, and after paying the entrance fee of $5 we were free to roam the fair. The air was filled with a mix of funnel cake, fried plantains and grilled meat. Ahh, the smells of summer! We did a tour around the festival to get our bearings; it was decently sized, with a mixture of food stands, handmade crafts and two stages. One stage was more kid-oriented, with Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego the main attractions. The other stage had live dancers and a band playing
Latino music from a variety of Latin American countries. There was meringue, mariachi and more, including an Ecuadorian form of dance I don’t know the name of. But it was cool to watch. As they performed and the emcee spoke in rapid-fire Spanish, I realized that high school Spanish was an extremely long time ago. I was still able to understand snippets of all the conversations around me, but it all seemed like eons ago.

After our sweep of the town, we decided food was the way to go. My friend’s vegetarian, so our decision of where to eat was determined by which stand looked the most meat-free friendly. I had a beef-empanada for the first time. It was good, saltier than I expected. My friend had a fried- mozzarella cheese and corn bread patty (that she assured me was delicious) and fried plantains, which I tried for the first time.

Then, sitting in the grass of the grass of the park, listening to a cover of a Celia Cruz song — recognizable by the cries of “Azucar!” peppered throughout — everyone just started to dance. It was subtle, some bobbing and swaying to the beat. And then in women began to salsa. Old women, young women. Maybe they knew each other, maybe they didn’t. But that didn’t stop everyone sitting around the amphitheater from shaking their hips to the beat.

Dancing in the Streets!

The vendors were nothing out of the ordinary — the same sorts of crafts and bags and sunglasses at all of these fairs. However, McDonalds and Goya each had booths, which was fitting because they were sponsors. It was so nice to see bilingual signs across the entire fair and see flags from different Latino countries waving.

Some of the Dancers

Walking back meant trying to beat the foreboding rain clouds, but there was time to stop at Rita’s. It was my first time going to one — I’d recommend the mango.

Hurray for another day of exploring Baltimore.

Many more adventures ahead,
Heather

UMBC and Johns Hopkins Acapella Show!

This weekend was UMBC’s 4th Annual Acapacalypse – a fun night of acapella. This year’s showcase featured UMBC’s all-girl acapella group “The Stilettos”, the Johns Hopkins “Mental Notes” and was hosted by the final group, UMBC’s super-popular “Mama’s Boys.”

The night opened with what the show’s emcee (the Mama’s Boys Director) called the “world premiere” of UMBC’s new all-girl acapella group. Called “The Stilettos”, the girls came out on stage dressed in cute black dresses and of course high heels. Though the group only did two songs to open the show, both were entertaining and well performed for the group’s first time out. They opened with “Time of a Season.” The song went pretty well, with only a few sour notes here and there, but their energy was great and they pulled the audience in to enjoy the song right along with them. Their next song was Michelle Branch’s “All You Wanted.” The nerves were definitely nowhere in sight for this performance as every note was hit well, and the soloist brought the house down with her ability to hit the high notes so clearly. With only a semester of practice under their belts, the girls definitely showed they have real potential to take on the “Mama’s Boys” as UMBC’s crowd favorite.

Next up were the Hopkins “Mental Notes.” This co-ed group came out emblazoned with wild Hawaiin print shirts and instantly brought fun to the night as they opened with a hilarious comedic song. This group intertwined their comedy numbers with some traditional pop music as the second song choice was “Hey Girl.” Sung extremely well by the soloist, the sung was a great transition into the next comedic choice of “Boob Fairy.” This song (about a girl who’s never visited by the boob fairy) left the audience in stitches – and as audience participation was requested made everyone join in and pretend they were an acacpella singer too. The group’s third song was “On The Radio” which, again, was extremely well sung by the soloist but with an extra comedic twist. The group closed their set with “Kiss the Girl,” complete with all the animal sounds that so wonderfully accompany the movie version. (Another routine that kept the audience laughing.) Overall the Mental Notes were a huge hit with the UMBC crowd, and showed off their vocal chops as they turned in a top-notch performance.

The last group of the night to perform was the host – the UMBC Mama’s Boys. An all-male acapella group that’s been around for several years, this group always draws a big crowd and is a campus favorite. Dressed in suit jackets and jeans the Mama’s Boys opened with a mash-up mix of “Complicated” and “Apologize.” Surprisingly, the two went together nicely and the boys hit every note. With a much longer set then the other groups (a perk of playing host) the Mama’s Boys showed their vocal range as well as their comedic range, throwing in a few funny songs here and there. There were a few highlights throughout the set – the first coming from a brand new member of the group as he was the featured soloist on “How to Save a Life.” This was actually the group’s overall best song and for a new guy, the soloist was amazing. (The veterans better watch out – he could be taking over.) Another good highlight was the group’s comedic performance with “Best Mix Tape.” Exploring the joy of having a great mix tape from an old girlfriend, the song was funny, but still allowed the soloist to show off his vocal chops. The only hitch in the program was the song “Sugar We’re Going Down.” The soloist did all he could, but the Boys have been trying for years to get this one right and we’re not sure why but it just doesn’t work. After the group had finished their set they made a surprise announcement and asked the Stilettos to join them onstage. What resulted was a hilarious and enthusiastic rendition of Flo Rida’s “Low.” That’s right – an acapella group took on a hip-hop song. We were surpised too – not only did they try something completely foreign to the acapella world, but they did it well! It was actually the perfect way to end the show as the audience loved the mixed group performance and everyone sounded great.

If you’ve never been to an acapella show, you have to go see one. They’re always fun and casual, and the performances might surprise you with how good they can be. Acapella is quickly becoming a college trend – so you should definitely try and make it out to a show. And with so many groups on every campus, there’s bound to be one that blows you away.

Legwarmers Concert at Ram’s Head Live!

PowerPlant Live! is one of the great features of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area. And though we had always heard of the great concerts and unique venue structure of Ram’s Head Live! we had never actually mustered up the courage to attend a concert there. Well when the hit 80’s cover band “The Legwarmers” came to town and all our local friends were clammoring to go we decided we should finally take the leap and give this whole concert at the Inner Harbor thing a chance. And boy are we glad we did!

Not only were “The Legwarmers” awesome, the venue itself blew us away. At this concert hall there really is “no bad seat in the house.” Sure, you could get stuck in the crowd behind a 6 foot 2 guy with a hat on, (and with our heights averaging somewhere at 5 foot 5 this really would block most of our view) but for the most part everyone has a clear view right to center stage. And where in the bigger concert arenas you can’t tell if the two-inch tall performers are dancing or simply raising their hand, at Ram’s Head you are super close to the performers and can even see the details on their outfits. We stood in the back level and we still felt like the group was singing right to us! The stage is surprisingly large for the size of the venue, giving the performers ample room to dance around and really put on a show for everyone in attendance. And drink sizes are great as well! Normally you pay $6 for a mixed drink that is nothing more than a dixie cup in size. At Ram’s Head you get a drink that will actually take you a long time to consume.

 “The Legwarmers” themselves were a pleasant surprise as well! Not being teenagers in the 80’s, we were skeptical about how entertaining a concert by an 80’s cover band could truly be. But the group kept us entertained, playing mostly hit songs that even we knew all the words to. And even the ones we didn’t know we were able to rock to as the band chose hits with great pop beats that everyone could dance to. The entire group donned outifts straight out of the 80’s, with crimped hair, skinny jeans, zoot suits, and those ripped fishnet stockings. And at intermission, not only did they change into new 80’s get-ups, but they came down into the audience to take pictures with the crowd and sign autographs! You won’t have that experience at many other concerts. Perhaps the best part of the show is that the entire audience donned 80’s trends as well! Surrounded by people with side ponytails, and mullet wigs (and even one guy in a complete KISS outfit – makeup and all) made the experience unforgettable! 

After that concert, we will definitely be back!

Howl at the Moon!

So this weekend we ventured out to one of our favorite Baltimore HotSpots – PowerPlant Live! But we decided to go somewhere different. We headed over to Howl at the Moon, the piano bar located right next to Ram’s Head.

We had a great time! They advertise that patrons should prepare themselves for audience participation and a night of dueling pianos, and they are not lying. From the moment we walked in the door we were involved in the night’s show as the piano players annouce everyone’s arrival. The show involves audience members requesting songs that the players then sing and ask audience members to sing along with them. As Saturday was the night of the Army-Navy game, our show included dueling military fight songs, as the Army song would be requested, and then the Navy song would have a greater monetary amount put down and they would switch to the Navy song and then back again. 

The bar also features a white board where patrons can pay to write anything they want and have it up for the whole crowd to see until someone outbids them and replaces what they have written. And if you plan on coming to this bar, you better shake off your stage fright. Multiple audience contests, including a Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes contest that we participated in (and failed miserably at) take over the stage, and you can even request to play a song with the performers. The songs played are ones everyone knows, including classic 80’s rock anthems, the YMCA, country favorites, and those catchy indie songs that you know every word to and you don’t know why.

Our only complaint was how pricey the night can become. If you can get in with a Happy Hour party special you can skip the pricey cover and get 2 $1 drinks. Otherwise prepare to spend more than you would at an average club. Song requests can be made for as little as $1, but the more money you put in the more likely they are to play your song. And once Happy Hour is over drinks can get pricey. But the one positive is that the bar is packed enough that the show will be just as entertaining if you let everyone else put in song requests while you keep your cash and just sing-along to some classic tunes.