Best Heir to CBGB: The Sidebar

218 E. Lexington St., (410) 659-4130,

We seem to forget that bands like The Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads were once young musicians looking for a break at a little bar on the Bowery called CBGB. When we look at old photos of the iconic New York punk club with the bands loading in banged-up, often-borrowed gear, chain smoking, sharing the occasional joint, and we see how the now-famous bands were oblivious to their upcoming stature, we think of Baltimore’s Sidebar. Thanks to owner Travis Hunt, the booker and manager known by everyone as Matty Pants, and promoters like Hasan Ali, the corner bar in the literal shadow of City Hall has been home to such punk acts as Wet Brain, Ravagers, and Copstabber and metal bands such as Noisem, Ilsa, and Bestial Evil—all of whom are creeping up on the national scene. The cramped stage, long bar, and sticker-caked, piss-smelling bathrooms all remind us of something out the early ’70s era music scene. Add to that a clientele that shuns technology (just try and find an iPhone or tablet glowing during a show) and stands outside smoking like a smelting plant and you’ve pretty much nailed the CBGB vibe.

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