702 S. Broadway, (443) 835-1336, therockwellbaltimore.com
There’s been some hype, mostly in the form of scorn, about the announcement that Jack Barakat, guitarist for the homegrown pop-punk band All Time Low, is now the co-owner of Fells Point bar The Rockwell. We never really cared about All Time Low, and we’re not sure if anyone else does at this point, so it makes sense that at least one of them is branching out into something other than objectively awful music. In an interview with Alternative Press, Barakat vowed to finally bring a “purely rock bar” to Baltimore (we guess he never heard of the Ottobar), so we decided to see what a member of a passé pop-punk band’s vision of pure rock is.
Our first impression walking in on a Friday night is that we have been transported out of Fells Point and into some pseudo-swanky nightclub from the set of a CW drama. The vibe of the handful of people milling awkwardly about doesn’t scream “pure rock,” but rather “I think this is supposed to be a nice place, so I’ll wear my casual clubbing clothes.” The interior is dark, with massive screens hung on each wall going through a slideshow of various generic images ranging from surfers on waves to bands like The Beatles and Black Sabbath. It’s unclear what they add to the ambiance, other than making the whole place look like Guitar Hero as turned into a bar.
Bad decorating aside, we hope that at least the drinks will be good. We’re relieved but somewhat disappointed to see that Barakat isn’t behind the bar, since he bragged in that same interview that he sucks at tending bar. When we ask what’s good on tap, the friendly bartender tells us that there are no taps. That doesn’t seem very rock, but we check out the cocktail menu, where every drink is named after an album by a seemingly random mix of bands including Sonic Youth, The Beatles, The Black Keys, and Radiohead, among others. We order the Revolver, Sticky Fingers, and London Calling. They’re each five dollars, which would be a good price if they weren’t completely watered down and seemingly made entirely of soda.
Sadly, we can’t even get buzzed enough to forget that we’re in a place that reminds us of the Hard Rock Cafe, so after our tiny, expensive sodas, we move on to the real bars in Fells Point.