By Amy McNeal
Baltimore has a vibrant local music scene. Charm City’s bars and clubs host shows and dance parties that showcase Baltimore’s unique flair. CBSBaltimore spoke with two Baltimore area music scene experts, musician Roy Retrofit and DJ Neska Lapicki to find out what’s going on in Baltimore’s music scene, what their favorite venues are, and what they consider a great night out in Baltimore’s music scene.
CBSBaltimore: What are your favorite places in Baltimore to see live shows, and what is it about these venues that you like the most?
Roy: The Ottobar is one of my favorite places to see live shows in Baltimore. They have great sound, friendly staff, fun patrons, great bands and great drink prices!
Neska: I second Roy’s vote for The Ottobar for smaller shows, for the same reasons. For larger shows it’s all about Sonar for incredible sound, impressive bar selection, and ample parking — plus it’s huge.
CBSBaltimore: What are some of the trends that you see heating up in Baltimore’s show scene?
Roy: One trend is the retro revival. Another is cross genre shows.
Neska: To expand on that a little there is a huge wave of new bands using old keyboards and going for a very 80s new wave feel, but modernized and blended with more of an indie vibe. Bands like Raindeer and Adventure that I had the pleasure of DJing a show for when they opened for Stereograph at the Ottobar a few months ago. It is young and raw, and seems to be catching on like wildfire here. As to the cross-genre shows, many of the music fans in Baltimore tend to listen to a broad range of music, so it is becoming more and more common to see a metal band opening for an industrial band, or a burlesque troupe opening for a goth band. It makes the shows here way more fun! COMA Online Music Magazine even brought Darkfest to Baltimore this year, featuring a wide spectrum of the musical styles that drive our scene ever forward.
CBSBaltimore: What is your favorite annual music event in Baltimore?
Roy: Baltimore Independent Music & Arts Festival is always off the charts fun. With four nights of shows in over 10 different Baltimore venues it is, to me, by far the most ambitious and original festival I’ve ever been to!
CBSBaltimore: What local bands are you the most excited about? Why do they grab you?
Roy: Synthrockers, Red This Ever put on the most energetic and entertaining shows! The music is unique, catchy and they really know how to engage and interact with their audience. Stars and the Sea serve powerful pop rock with an enticing blend of gothic-drenched post-punk and catchy romantic lyrics. If you’re looking for straight up rock with flair, precision and personality, Vagus is the band to check out.
CBSBaltimore: What Baltimore area clubs are your favorites?
Roy: The Depot has always been my favorite Baltimore club. It’s a small, grungy, totally unpretentious place with great music. It doesn’t matter what you look like here. You just come to have a good time!
Neska: I second Roy on The Depot, it’s like an old home for most of us. My favorite club to work is Grand Central. This is an actual entertainment complex right in the heart of the Mt. Vernon Arts District. Grand Central sports a pub, disco, video lounge, pool room, and ladies lounge, multiple bars with an amazing drink selection, and some of the best sound, lighting and decor in Baltimore. Grand Central is a gay club, but all are welcomed and treated like family.
CBSBaltimore: Which Baltimore DJs are your favorites right now, and what is it about their sets that gets you moving?
Roy: I have always loved DJ Neska who never fails to get me on the dance floor and DJ Fun Billy’s 80s night at The Depot is always off the hook!
Neska: I am a huge fan of DJ SARRS, DJ Cerberus, and DJ Motormenace from The Depot, and of course all my comrades at Elektroschock!
CBSBaltimore: What’s your perfect night out in Baltimore’s scene?
Roy: Out to the Ottobar Friday night for a great show and then head over to The Depot around midnight for Fun Billy’s 80s mayhem!
Neska: My perfect night out when I’m working is of course Elektroschock at Grand Central. Then staggering down the block to Never On Sunday for some of the biggest, best tasting, and remarkably cheap post bar food! They are open ‘til 3, so you can sober up before you drive home. My perfect night out when I’m not working is hitting the Station North Arts District. The Depot, Liam’s Ale House, The Club Charles, The Charles Theater, Lost City Diner, The Windup Space, Sofi’s Crepes, and so much more all within a few blocks of each other, and from Penn Station. You can plan a perfect date night, or just go bar-crawling with your friends.
Amy McNeal is a writer and journalist living in Bowie, Md. A Baltimore native, she’s constantly intrigued by her city’s vibrant and unique culture.