SOUNDS BY THE SAND From country to reggae, nightspots keep beachgoers in the groove


Nighttime is party time at the beach. When the stars come out, resort visitors trade bathing suits for shorts and T-shirts and head to the nearest club to soak up live music, do some country dancing, laugh a little or sing a tune at karaoke.

"It's such a laid-back, casual atmosphere at the beach," says party-man-around-town Mike Beatty.

Mr. Beatty, who is better known in the nightspots as the disc jockey Batman, says one of the things he likes best about the beach is "being able to put on shorts and flip-flops and go anywhere."

If you're looking for loud, hard-rock music, dance spots such as Scandals at 65th Street and the new Bayside Beach Club at 68th Street have plenty of room to dance the night away.

At Scandals, the decor is early warehouse with plywood floors, but when the dance floor is busy, it's the dancers who decorate the room. Don't plan on sitting and watching the parade of people, because the club only has a small seating area upstairs.

The Bayside Beach Club, which opened this year, is another big dance spot. It's styled with a sunken hardwood dance floor that has flashing neon accents and walls that sport beer logos.

The under-21 crowd also has a club in town called Nite Lite on Worcester Street, where thundering music is the main attraction. "Rap, hip-hop and techno are popular," says manager Jim Callahan.

Only soft drinks are sold at Nite Lite, where teens pack into the cavernous space. Dancers often climb up on platforms above the crowd to display their moves and grab the spotlight.

Classic rock and roll is the mainstay of Batman's weekend show at the Big Kahuna Surf Club on 18th Street and Coastal Highway. Rather than be consigned to a spot away from the crowd, Batman takes his high-energy show to the audience as he banters and dances with them.

Next door, the Paddock Night Club bands play mainstream rock and roll. The dance floor is smaller, but there is a good supply of comfortable seating.

Those who prefer music with a twang should stop by the Key Largo Cafe at 120th Street. Country groups regularly play in the restaurant lounge. You can also take a spin at country-western dancing Tuesday nights at the Carousel Club at 118th Street, where instructors teach the latest moves.

Even if a trip to Jamaica isn't in your future, you can experience the irie, or good feeling, of the Caribbean island at Seacrets Shipping Co. at 49th Street and the bay. It's one of the more crowded spots in town, but the club offers many nooks and crannies for guests.

Sip a drink and listen to reggae, while reclining in lounge chairs as the gentle bay waters lap at your toes. There are enough sandy paths, palm trees and torches and lanterns to remind you of a tropical getaway.

Another popular nightspot, which was packed one recent Wednesday evening, is the Angler at Talbot Street and the bay. There is a large deck on the water, and the fishy aroma from the nearby fishing boats adds to the outdoor atmosphere.

Looking for a sing-along? Shenanigan's Irish Pub at Fourth Street on the boardwalk is the place to go. It doesn't take long to catch onto the words of traditional favorites, and often the performers give helpful prompts to newcomers.

Popular with the older, year-round Ocean City crowd is Coins Pub at 29th Street and Coastal Highway. A small combo plays soft tunes, and there is an oval bar with comfortable seating.

When you're ready to take a break from the music and dancing, try one of the comedy clubs around town. At the Princess Royale at 91st Street, Headliners Comedy Club brings in a stream of comics to the resort.

An opening comedy act usually warms up the audience for the featured performer. Be warned, though, that comedy is a participatory activity, and anyone in the audience can be the recipient of a few barbs.

Don't think you can escape by sitting discreetly in the back of the room either. Comics stand on a stage, so they can spot the timid souls who are slinking into their chairs.

If you like the spotlight, grab a mike at one of the karaoke sing-alongs, which remain a popular favorite at the Carousel Club at 118th Street and a few other places around town.

Of course, there's always the unforgiving crowd to deal with. The Rebas and Springsteens are warmly greeted, while the struggling croakers probably wish they had confined their singing to the shower.

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