Music Festival Is A Coming-out Party For Station North


April 23, 2009|By SAM SESSA | SAM SESSA,

In 2002, when the city first named the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, it was hard not to chuckle.

Aside from a few galleries with sporadic hours and a two-block stretch of North Charles Street by the Charles Theatre, there wasn't much arts or entertainment in the area.

Since then, the fledgling neighborhood has slowly started to grow into its own. Saturday, it will play host to the first (and, organizers are hoping, annual) Station North Spring Music Festival. In addition to being a free event with live music and other entertainment, the festival is, in a way, a coming-out party for the neighborhood.

"We're doing this festival because we can, and we couldn't three years ago," said Joe Edwardsen, owner of Joe Squared Pizza and Bar. Edwardsen is the festival's founder and one of several organizers.

Big changes have come to the neighborhood in the past couple of years. The Metro Gallery and Windup Space, two arts and live-music spots with regular bar hours, made their debuts. The local experimental arts collective Wham City took over the Zodiac and started booking wild, wacky and resoundingly awesome acts to the space. And a group of music lovers started running the Lo-Fi Social Club, renaming it the Hexagon. These spaces - as well as a few others - will hold their own musical performances and gallery showings as part of the festival.

"We're getting to the point where we can call ourselves an arts and entertainment district because we have arts and entertainment," Edwardsen said. "It's starting to actually mean something."

About 15 bands will perform on several stages set up around the neighborhood. The lineup includes Big in Japan, the Nerftones and Lafayette Gilchrist and the New Volcanoes. But the festival is more than just music. Maryland Institute College of Art students will stage a fashion show in the North Avenue Market, and performers from Washington will put on a burlesque show.

The main stage will be in the parking lot of the old Bank of America building near East North Avenue and North Charles Street. Not only did festival organizers book bands, but they also got sponsors and beer trucks, Edwardsen said. He hopes the festival will spawn a series of other similar events in the years to come.

Granted, the Station North Arts and Entertainment District still has a long way to go. But this festival is one more sign that the neighborhood is making progress.

"It's still a little laughable," Edwardsen said. "But definitely less so."

Baltimore Chop closes

Baltimore Chop, the coffee shop, bookstore and live-music venue in Ridgely's Delight, has closed, according to owner Andy Rubin.

"It's been slower and slower around here over a long period of time now, and on top of that I've been busy on some major projects for Baltimore Glass Works and 31 Tigers Records, the other two things I do in life, and so I took some time to attend to them while kind of having accordioned hours," he wrote in a Facebook message.

That's really a shame, because Baltimore Chop showcased some great local authors, as well as up-and-coming musicians in an intimate acoustic setting.

An old drinking law

Here's a little-known fact: Half of the mixed drinks in this city are illegal. Got your attention yet?

It's true. According to city liquor laws, "No licensee shall serve more than two ounces of liquor to one person at one time for consumption on the premises."

Two ounces! How many ounces are in the average martini? More than two, most likely. How about the average double gin and tonic? Or the average double anything for that matter? If the city enforced this law, half the bars in Baltimore would be fined or shut down.

I spoke with Douglas Paige, the spokesman for the Board of Liquor License Commissioners (that's a fancy way of saying the Baltimore liquor board) to try to wrap my head around this law.

Paige said in his 20 years with the liquor board, he has never once heard of a bar being punished for this law. In fact, he implied that it would be absurd for liquor board inspectors and police officers to enforce it.

"It's something that's on the books," Paige said. "Unless a police officer or an inspector is right there real time, how do you catch it?"

That's probably the best way to handle the law. Otherwise, it would turn this city's night-life scene upside down.

if you go

The inaugural Station North Spring Music Festival is Saturday at various locations. The main stage is at 2 E. North Ave. Music there starts at 5 p.m. For more information and a full roster, go to

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