Baltimore Sun’s BEST party in 2 weeks

The Sidebar revives the dance party with a mix of live music and DJs


Remember when the latest dance party wave hit Charm City?

It was four or five years ago, when Underground and Taxlo sprung up, among others. Around that time, The Sidebar Tavern started hosting a soul night, though the party moved to another location soon thereafter.

Now The Sidebar's back in the game with Reaction, a monthly Mod dance party with resident and guest DJs and live bands. The Things, a local psychedelic garage punk band, play tomorrow night, and the Dansettes, a '60s soul band fronted by three female singers, headline the July 14 Reaction.

Reaction has staying power, especially if organizers can keep adding to the already-solid band list. Sidebar promoter Matt Joseph said they've booked it through August, so there will be at least two or three more.

"Combining live music and DJs, something that doesn't happen as often as it should in Baltimore, I think," DJ Amanda Otto said.

The inaugural last month drew enough people to fill the place, and the crowd's fashion sense covered a few decades. James Brown would have been proud -- even though the DJs didn't spin his stuff while I was there, a couple of girls rocked hot pants ("smokin'!"). Others wore short dresses with crazy patterns, but most people stuck with jeans, T-shirts and jackets. Only a handful of guys rocked Mod getups.

If you're not familiar with the Mods, it was a movement that took hold in the early '60s in Britain. Mods spent most of their cash on fancy clothes, concerts and motor scooters.

While it would have been a gas to see everybody roll up on Mopeds rocking '60s British garb, this is The Sidebar Tavern crowd, after all. Its regulars might have some of the Mod spirit, but I doubt most of them have the duds.

Resident DJs Matt Walter (who does the Ottobar's Undergound dance night) and Otto (of the Charm City Soul Club) traded songs using two record players set up on tables across from the bar. They spun a lot of vinyl, which sounded warm and rich coming out of The Sidebar's speakers. Van Morrison's "Gloria" and "Moving on Up" (The Jeffersons theme song) were some of my favorites.

The Get Quick, a four-piece guitar-driven group from Philly, went on at 10:40 p.m. They hammered out a 30-minute set of short, power-pop numbers, hardly pausing between songs. It was loud (is any band ever really quiet at The Sidebar?) but the mix was fab, and you could hear the singer just fine.

Sporting suits and ties and standing at attention onstage, the band members had a detached, professional air. It was clear they came to rock, and once they finished, they walked off stage and turned the show back over to the DJs. Considering it was the first time, everything ran smoothly.

Cover is $6, which is fair, since they have to pay the band. Sonar's Taxlo is usually free for those 21 and up before 10 p.m. and the Talking Head Club's Taxidermy Lodge only charges for people under 21, but neither of those dance nights has live music.

Reaction's drink specials range from good ($1 Natty Bohs, $3 for all Stolis) to OK ($3 for all imported bottles, $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons and Coors Lite pints) to meh ($3 Smirnoff Ices).

It was kind of odd to see well-dressed Mods dancing in a divey punk joint like The Sidebar.

But more than anything else, Reaction was fun, which is the goal of every dance party. It's definitely worth checking out.

The next Reaction is 9 p.m. tomorrow at The Sidebar Tavern, 218 E. Lexington St. Cover is $6. The Things will perform. 410-659-4130 or visit For more information about Reaction, visit

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