Musical Roots: Baltimore, Maryland
When bassist and guitarist Kevin Jackson talks about his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, he describes a widely diverse and eclectic music scene.
Born in the same city that was home to jazz legend Billie Holiday and avant-garde jazz-rock guitarist Frank Zappa, to Kevin, Baltimore is more that its harbor and its cultivated history—it’s a hothouse of musical innovation, from jazz to gospel, to R & B, rock, and hip-hop.
Kevin’s insider view of Baltimore starts with Peace and a Cup of Joe, which hosts an open mic every Thursday night. A variety of musical genres, as well as dance and comedy, reverberates from this café in the historic residential district of Ridgely’s Delight, a diverse neighborhood of tree-lined streets, ample gardens, and brick row houses dating back to the mid-1800s. Another favorite music venue is Ottobar, located in the quaint Charles Village neighborhood, home of Johns Hopkins University and famous for its ornate houses called “painted ladies.” For larger venue events, The Lyric/Modell Performing Arts Center is historical, dating back to 1894 and the home of the Lyric Opera Baltimore company since 2011.
Fell’s Point is mandatory on Kevin’s list. This historic neighborhood dates back to the 18th century and, along with nearly 130 restaurants, has live performances by bands almost every night. Hot spots include The Cat’s Eye Pub, Bertha’s, and the Admiral’s Cup. In a “city of neighborhoods,” as Baltimore is known, Federal Hill is also a prime destination for nightlife and boasts the best view of the stunning Inner Harbor.
For daytime exploring, walk along the Inner Harbor to admire historic ships and visit The Gallery at Harborplace, an urban marketplace offering live music, unique vendors, and restaurants with plenty of fresh seafood on the menu. Maryland is famous for blue crab boiled with iconic Old Bay Seasoning, and at The Gallery you’ll find restaurants that serve up cracked crab with succulent meat picked directly from the shell on butcher paper-covered tabletops (be ready to get messy). Wash down this delicacy with a locally brewed beer to experience one of life’s great pleasures.
The 200-year-old Lexington Market also specializes in seafood, including authentic crab cakes at Fairley’s. A short walk from Lexington Market is the gravestone of one of the most acclaimed American writers, Edgar Allen Poe (be on the lookout for ravens).
More excursions for those with a historical bent include seeing the original copy of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Maryland Historical Society and on the waterfront Baltimore Museum of Industry, which features the inventions—such as the oldest surviving steamboat—that propelled the industrial revolution of this city on the Chesapeake Bay.
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