Archive for March, 2012

The Five Best Music Venues Around NYC

March 17, 2012

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Whether checking out a friend’s band or going to see our favorite artists, the venue can be hit or miss. Many rock rooms of all sizes can be the kind of places you’d never want to be unless you had a reason to go there. Let’s take a look at our five favorite live music venues around New York City that bring sound quality, decor, presentation, talent and the overall live experience to the next level.

Union Hall | 702 Union St., Brooklyn | Take the R to Union Street
The folks at Union Hall care deeply about what they do. This translates to every aspect of their esteemed live room. The sound is top notch. The staff is hospitable and on point. The booking team brings the best in local, national, and international up-and-comers in music and comedy through the space on a nightly basis. With a standing room capacity of 100, you’re always close to the action. The Ting Tings, Fleet Foxes, David Cross, Fred Armisen, and Janeane Garofalo have all graced the Union Hall stage. You can get the party started upstairs with a bite to eat, a round of bocce ball, or a drink at the bar. Their larger sister venue, The Bell House, is another gem for live music and even bigger acts.

Brooklyn Bowl | 61 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn | Take the L train to Bedford Avenue
Opened two years ago near the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl has raised the bar across the board. The venue books a diverse line-up that ranges from big name national acts to thriving local talent. Such luminaries as Adele, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Snoop Dogg, Big Audio Dynamite, Dinosaur Jr, Hot Chip, Gogol Bordello, John Legend, and Sharon Jones have all graced their stage. Questlove mans the wheels of steel for a weekly Thursday night residency called Bowl Train. Brooklyn Bowl pours an impeccable selection of local brews, serves up delicious Blue Ribbon fare, and offers classy yet unpretentious rounds of bowling. Unlike so many music venues, the décor is impressive and the sound is impeccable on a stage high enough to guarantee quality sight lines. Most evenings require a cover charge or advance ticket purchase for entrance, which is used to fund the bands rather than acting like an exclusivity tactic that ultimately pads the owner’s pocket.

Waltz Astoria | 23-14 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria | Take N or W to Ditmars Blvd.
This coffee shop and wine bar strikes the balance between fostering new artistic talent and curating slightly more established performers. With weekly Open Mic Nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you never know what might come your way between comedy, music, spoken word, magic, and many other mediums. As exhilarating as it can be to see a polished big name act, there can be a unique kind of thrill witnessing artists in their infancy. There’s a rawness and honesty that can often disappear with experience. It’s a charming and special time in performance that can be spied regularly at Waltz. Thursdays through Sunday host touring performers, songwriter competitions, and rotating themed music series. They even offer morning Kids Sing-A-Longs on Mondays and Thursdays to get musical with the whole family.

Maxwell’s | 1039 Washington St., Hoboken | Take the PATH train to Hoboken Terminal
A short jaunt from the Manhattan PATH stops, Maxwell’s has been serving up quality grub and the finest in indie rock since 1978. When quality bands breeze through the likes of Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and Terminal 5, many often hit Maxwell’s the night before. What that means is a chance to see these groups at a smaller venue. Maxwell’s has a 250-person capacity room that ensures this intimacy. A never-ending who’s who list of rock has ripped the Maxwell’s stage a new one including The Replacements, Nirvana, Joan Jett, The Pogues, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Buzzcocks, Fugazi, John Cale, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Strokes, and on and on we go. Their reputation in the music community attracts the continually excellent roster. The cozy restaurant offers a high quality diner-style menu that oozes personality.

Midnight Ramble | Levon Helm Studios, 160 Plochmann Lane | Woodstock | Rent a Hybrid
Levon Helm is widely considered a national treasure. As drummer for The Band, he also carried lead vocal duties for classics like “The Weight” and “Up On Cripple Creek.” A true original in music and classic rock, Levon has been hosting his Midnight Ramble, on periodic Saturday nights since January 2004 in his barn. Named for the traveling minstrel shows of his youth, the Ramble has featured special guests like Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, The Black Crows, Norah Jones, My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello, and Willie Nelson, sometimes unannounced. The intimacy of these performances at Levon’s hearth offer a hospitality and warmth found in no other venue. Tickets run you between 100 and 150 clams. It’s pricey, but not considering that you get to see a living legend in an intimate setting who has a wealth of famous friends who like to drop in and jam. Levon also fosters the up and coming talent of the area, having Brooklyn’s local heroes, Spirit Family Reunion, join in on the fun on a recent wintry Saturday night. New Midnight Ramble dates are added throughout the year, usually a month in advance. Keep checking the site or subscribe to their Newsletter for future shows. This kind of retreat to rootsy Americana surrounded by the secluded wilderness of the Catskills Mountain Region is the perfect antidote to urban intensity.

About the author: In addition to writing for offMetro.com, Chris Brunelle plays in New York band, The Whisperians, who will celebrate the release of their latest single “Life Is Coming True” with a show at Union Hall on Leap Year, February 29, 2012.

Photo of Brooklyn Bowl by Adam Macchia

Originally published here.

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Things to Do on Maui, Where It’s Easy to Be Green

March 10, 2012

Mai Tai by the shore (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Whether we’re working in San Francisco or New York, at offMetro.com, we often find ourselves dreaming of sun, sand, and bath-temperature seas. We recently flew (yes flew, but we offset our carbon footprint; $23 to ameliorate the 4,000 lbs of CO2 emitted) to the Hawaiian island of Maui, where we discovered a dynamic range of comforts, eco-friendly eats, activities, and accommodations that can be enjoyed amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Pacific Rim.

What to do
1. Drink: Get a taste of one of the island’s best Mai Tais—and have a chat with one of its most famous bartenders—at the beloved Tiki Bar and Grill.

2. Take in Hawaiian Culture: Ka’anapali Beach Hotel takes Hawaiian cultural preservation seriously and warmly welcome all into the festive spirit of Aloha. Beyond the myriad classes and activities offered to hotel guests is a free nightly Hawaiian live music and Hula show open to all.

3. Swing a Club: The courses of Wailea capture Maui’s lush green space and stunning views in a world-class golfing experience. Each of Wailea’s three courses offers a unique outing. It has earned recognition from Maui Historical Society for its preservation of prehistoric lava rock walls during construction, and is considered a thinking players course where skill and strategy are consistently tested. As you work you way through any of the courses, keep an eye out for the wild onlookers; birds, geckos, mongoose, and other creatures are sure to be on the sidelines, as are the stunning views of Mount Haleakala and neighboring islands of Molokini, Lanai, and Kahoolawe.

4. Snorkel: On the north-western shore of the island, Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach and Napili Shores are great places to spot sea turtles, butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, trigger fish, and the former Hawaii State Fish Humuhumunukunukuapua. Excursions to the tiny crescent-shaped island of Molokini and the aptly-named Turtle Town are among the most popular snorkel and dive destinations in the world. If you didn’t come with gear, 5 Star Scuba does rentals for $10 per hour.

Where to eat
1. Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Some Sushi restaurants specialize in tradional and some in modern fusion, while Sansei excels at both. What sets Sansei even further apart from any other sushi experience is the innovation they’ve brought to Maui-inspired seafood cuisine. On an award-winning menu full of rock stars, one stand out is the Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi with shaved Maui Onion, Red Jalapeño, and Yukke sauce. The Mango Crab Salad Hand Roll won top marks at the Taste Of Lahaina Festival, showing how well Sansei can capture the excellence of local flavor. Chef Kaipo Nakata cultivates relationships with local vendors to procure the best available products. This translates to premium fresh ingredients across the board. The level of culinary quality and innovation is upscale while staying competitively affordable. All this inviting excellence is wrapped in a décor that is relaxed, simple, and comfortable to fully enhance the vacation vibe. As the weekend dinner hour fades and nightlife descends, Sansei transitions to a festive atmosphere, holding host to a variety of nightly events like Karaoke Thursdays.

2. Mama’s Fish House
Widely considered as possibly the best restaurant in Maui by locals, travelers, and press from around the globe, Mama’s has been serving up fresh and inspired seafood dishes since 1973. They build their menu daily based on what delights they’ve pulled out of the ocean. The fishermen responsible for each particular catch are credited throughout the delectable menu. One dish that gets a lot of deserved attention is the Mahimahi stuffed with lobster, crab, and Maui onion, baked in a macadamia nut crust. Equally impressive is the location, just steps from a secluded beach on Maui’s North Shore. The décor embraces old Polynesia with class and comfort. They’ve used their success to re-invest in environmentally friendly business practices. In talking with Head Chef Perry Bateman, it’s clear Mama’s treats the employees, community, culture, ingredients, cuisine, and environment with love, care, and respect. The ongoing green efforts are spear-headed by Chief Engineer Scott Burns. To date, a giant food processor allows consolidation of eight barrels of food waste, tin, cardboard and other such materials into two barrels of usable food waste pulp. With this, Scott grows beautiful vegetables and herbs in his garden in Haiku, which are used daily to bring local flavors and freshness to the cuisine. (Scott also used this pulp to raise a pig that was ultimately served in the restaurant.)

Where to sleep
The various corners of Maui display a range of flavors for travelers. Hana is a bit hippy, Wailea’s upscale, the Front Street area of Lahaina is packed with nightlife, shops, and bustle. We were drawn to the northwest coast of Maui extending from the world famous K’anapali Beach to the Shores of Napili. Nestled aside neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai, this ocean corridor ushers in a constant flow of breeze that mellows the sun more than any other part of Maui. As the whale watching season eases in with the beginning of Winter and escalates through the peak months of February and March, you can spy these magnificent creatures from shore. This classic Hawaiian destination truly strikes a perfect mix of the Maui experience.

1. Ka’anapali Beach Hotel
Recognized as Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel, Ka’anapali Beach Hotel is on a mission to preserve Hawaiian culture and spread the customs and traditions with their guests. Through their Po’okela program, they have become a major leader in cultural tourism today. Offering daily classes and activities, ranging from Ukelele Lessons to Hula Dancing to Language and Leigh Making, Ka’anapali will immerse you in the Hawaiian experience. As for sourcing local, they grow the Taro on their grounds to make the Poi in their Tiki Terrace restaurant. They also grow the Kukui nuts used in the traditional leis they adorn on all their guests. The commitment to their culture, employees, and guests spreads the warming glow of Aloha Spirit throughout everyone who passes through their doors. The Hawaiian experience they create culturally is matched by the comfort of their rooms and the impeccable service and hospitality extended by the staff. The excellence is no fluke as it comes from the central guiding goals and initiatives that have made KBH a traveler’s favorite since the 1950’s. Check the site for frequent special deals.

2. Outrigger Napili Shores
Outrigger has lodging locations throughout Maui. At this location, the mere steps to Napili Shores showcase beautiful views and top notch snorkeling. Outrigger saves all the leftover soaps from guests and donates them to the Clean The World recycling program that redistributes these anti-bacterials to impoverished countries where it can prevent disease and save lives. Their suites come fully equipped to prepare your own island feast. The property saves thousands of gallons of water by using Xeriscaping landscaping, as well as low-flow toilets and shower heads. Photovoltaic solar panels power the entire common area. Energy-efficient pool and spa pumps are used for its solar-heated pools. They have a recycling program and even composts its lawn debris. Outrigger is constantly running specials and have locations scattered around Maui if you’d like to experience a few different areas.

3. Honua Kai Resort
Go green with upscale modern elegance at Honua Kai. Pass through the courtyard of winding pools, water slide, lounging cabanas, and hot tubs to step onto the beach. The stay at Honua Kai is so elegant and comfortable in every detail, that the experience is truly therapeutic. Their suites are fully equipped to create your own meal in a state of the art kitchen. Or you can head downstairs to ‘Aina Gourmet Market or Duke’s Beach House for a delicious convenient bite. Just off the beach you will notice the Sustainable Dunes project that centers on preserving a vibrant system of indigenous plant and wildlife. Other efforts include energy saving appliances, heat generated from ventilation systems to warm pools, solar-powered trash compacting, and a sprinkler system that measures rainfall in order to only the water the grounds when needed. Of course, the water used in landscaping is recycled. All their green efforts not only soothe the soul of the green-minded traveler, but also enhance the lodging experience by preserving the natural wonder that makes us want to visit a place like Maui in the first place. Honua Kai proves that sustainable initiatives can only serve to heighten a luxurious getaway experience. Ultimately, more green equals more Maui.

Originally published here.

Getaway to Maui
Ka'anapali Beach<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Ka’anapali Beach
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Napili Shores Beach<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)

Napili Shores Beach
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)
Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
At the entrance to Mama's Fish House<br /><br />
 (Photo provided by Mama's)

At the entrance to Mama’s Fish House
(Photo provided by Mama’s)
Bench overlooking Molokai<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Bench overlooking Molokai
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Black Pearl dessert at Mama's<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Black Pearl dessert at Mama’s
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Coast on Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Coast on Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Dukes Beach House<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Dukes Beach House
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Egret by the shore<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Egret by the shore
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Gecko<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Gecko
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Honua Kai Pool<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Honua Kai Pool
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Honua Kai Resort Sunset<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Honua Kai Resort Sunset
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel Courtyard<br /><br />
(Photo provided by KBH)

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel Courtyard
(Photo provided by KBH)
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel Hula Show<br /><br />
(Photo provided by KBH)

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel Hula Show
(Photo provided by KBH)
Mama's Dining Room<br /><br />
(Photo provided by Mama's Fish House)

Mama’s Dining Room
(Photo provided by Mama’s Fish House)
Mama's Mahi Mahi<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Mama’s Mahi Mahi
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Outrigger Napili Shores Dining<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)

Outrigger Napili Shores Dining
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)
Sansei Sushi Bar<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei Sushi Bar
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sansei's Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei’s Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sansei’s Shrimp Dynamite<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei’s Shrimp Dynamite
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sunrise on Mount Haleakala<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sunrise on Mount Haleakala
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
The beach in front of Mama's Fish House<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

The beach in front of Mama’s Fish House
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
The rock from the beginning of Jurassic Park<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

The rock from the beginning of Jurassic Park
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
View from downtown Lahaina<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

View from downtown Lahaina
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
View from Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

View from Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Wailea Emerald Course<br /><br />
(Photo courtesy of Wailea Golf Club)

Wailea Emerald Course
(Photo courtesy of Wailea Golf Club)
Wailea Old Blue Course<br /><br />
(Photo provided by Old Blue)

Wailea Old Blue Course
(Photo provided by Old Blue)
Waterfalls on Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Waterfalls on Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)