Shorty's finds the right mix of music, martinis with 5 years under its belt

On Nightlife

April 06, 2006|By SAM SESSA

Few Baltimore bars mix it up like Shorty's Martini Bar and Lounge.

For five years running, this corner bar where Highlandtown meets Canton has showcased some of the area's better DJs and mixed drinks. Most nights, it's a haven for house and drum and bass - even as the city's electronic music scene loses steam. Saturday night, 10 resident DJs will spin to celebrate the bar's five-year anniversary.

DJ Charles Feel Good, aka Charles Fields, opened Shorty's in April 2001. He thought about leaving space for a minidance floor but installed a pool table by the DJ booth instead. Since there's no designated dance area, Fields doesn't have to worry about filling it every night or turning the beats way up. People who really want to dance find room.

"We can't have the music super loud because we're smack in the middle of the neighborhood, and you have to be respectful of the neighbors," Fields said.

Fields and manager Scott White designed a huge martini and mixed drink list that features a score of funky Red Bull-and-vodka-based cocktails. The bar stocks about 50 vodkas, and most of the drinks run about $9. One of the wildest is a drink whose name we can't print here that starts "Charm City," which is made of vodka, gin, rum, Liquor 43, Grand Mariner, Red Bull and a splash of Coke and served in a tall glass on ice. Yowza! You only have a couple of these in a night - any more and you'll go cross-eyed. For chocolate fans, they also make a mean truffle-tini.

The drink list draws locals from Canton and Highlandtown and electronic music lovers, which can mean three radically diverse but not clashing groups of people.

"We have a really cool, different crowd," Fields said. "We're probably one of the few bars in Canton - if not the only bar in Canton - that's not busier on St. Patty's Day. Holidays don't make a difference for us. We're not a college bar."

Last Thursday, the bartender and two customers discussed Japanese anime films and had the flat-screen TV above them tuned into the Cartoon Network (closed captions on). A DJ spun drum and bass and danced frantically by himself in the booth. Two women shot pool while four TVs along a back wall flashed the opening credits of Blind Eye Sees All, the Butthole Surfers' live DVD. A Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga arcade game blinked and beeped from one corner, and a few other patrons sipped drinks by the bar. It's like someone took random snippets of pop culture from the past 20 years, dropped them in a blender and hit "puree."

Weekends get a little more revved up, but rarely wall-to-wall.

A couple of weeks ago, the DJ did a song where he stopped the music every couple minutes and played an audio clip from Saturday Night Live's "more cowbell" skit with Christopher Walken. It went "bump, bump, bump, `GUESS WHAT? I GOT A FEVER, AND THE ONLY PRESCRIPTION IS MORE COWBELL,' bump, bump, bump."

Since it opened, few things have changed at Shorty's, but other genres have pushed electronic music away from the city's mainstream attention, Fields said.

"Baltimore has just been overrun by hip-hop music," he said. "Electronic music isn't as popular in Baltimore as it used to be."

Still, Shorty's keeps on. The weekly music lineup is '80s electro dance on Sundays, free-form service industry on Mondays, punk on Tuesdays, house on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and jungle/drum and bass on Thursdays. Except for the addition of punk Tuesdays, which Fields said has been a decent draw, the roster has only slight differences after five years. It makes sense - if you have something good, why change it?

"[Shorty's] was just an outlet for all the local DJs to play in, and today it's still the exact same thing," Fields said.

Shorty's five-year anniversary celebration runs 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday. Rolling Rock bottles are $1 all night and martinis are $3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will also be food and 10 resident DJs spinning. The bar is at 3301 Foster Ave. For more information, call 410-327-8696 or visit shortysbaltimore.com.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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