(AP/RCA Music Group)
Fantasia comes to town for Black Pride weekend, bicyclists and goths host their own proms, Texas Hold 'Em Poker makes a welcome return to Fado, DJ Meistro celebrates a new CD by giving away champagne, a Nigerian troubadour plays tropicalia at Eighteenth Street Lounge and Hillyer Art Space welcomes some club-filling DJs.
Wednesday, May 21
Let's take a trip into the wayback machine, all the way to the mid-'90s. Back then the Internet was just a 2400-kilobit-per-second apple in our eye. If you wanted to learn about new bands, you had to read these things called magazines. And if you wanted to learn about new bands that didn't have any albums out, you simply had to go see them play. Locals Suns of Guns are living the throwback life. When I saw the band's name was hyperlinked on the Black Cat Web site I was shocked. Did they give into MySpace? Nope, it was just a Rick Roll. The band's sound is heavier than most indie rock, more nuanced than most garage rock and even has a bit of a groove. With regular gigs, the quartet has become one of the best bands in the city, but you'd never know, since you can't hear it on the blogs. The only way you'll hear it is to head over to the Black Cat and find out in person. Openers Pontiak (listen), have an appealingly sludgy sound, a new deal with Thrill Jockey Records and are well worth the early arrival.
It wasn't long ago that Texas Hold 'Em Poker seemed primed to supplant trivia as the city's top organized bar activity. There were tournaments offered every night of the week, from Irish pubs to sports bars to neighborhood taverns. But then interest in the fad began to wane, and poker nights quietly disappeared from schedules. Tonight, though, Hold 'Em returns to Fado, which was one of the first places in D.C. to offer weekly poker nights. Of course, some things have changed: Back in 2004, it was free. Now, there's a $20 buy-in. (Bragging rights for the winner, however, remain priceless.) Signups start at 5:30, with the first games beginning at 6. There are 35 to 40 slots available, and as players go broke, the top gamblers will move up to smaller tables. All players at the final table will receive prizes, including gift certificates.
Thursday, May 22
One of our favorite party motivators DJ Meistro (listen) convinced Napoleon to pick up the tab for his new Top Ranking mix CD. We think it's a good look all around because his thoughtful and seamless blend of Afro-funk and Latin grooves adds a dose of sexy to the venue's branding as summer approaches. Get a copy for free at the release party tonight along with complimentary champagne and noshes if you RSVP to email@example.com. After Meistro loosens you up, you can get nasty with Sleazy McQueen's electro greasiness (listen).
Okay, we give up. Prom-themed parties are never going away. Ever. But you've got to give the Goth Prom credit: Not only has it survived the closing of Nation -- moving this year to Town -- but it has a theme ("Under the Milky Way") and its 18-and-over age limit means actual high school students could attend. An international team of DJs spinning electro,'80s, goth and industrial tunes includes Scary Lady Sarah, a Berlin-born new wave fan who runs Chicago's Nocturna goth night, and Kelowna of Canada's XM, whom longtime D.C. clubbers may remember from her chiaroscuro night at the Edge. Among the local DJ talent is Dirty B (Alchemy), Liebchen (Midnight) and Shade (Spellbound). You'll get the usual decorations and prom photos, of course, but did your high school have the daring burlesque of the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow? Thought not. Doors open at 8, and tickets are $15. Find more info on the official Goth Prom Web site.
Washington-based Nigerian troubadour Kuku (listen) brings his guitar and folksy Afro-blues to Eighteenth Street Lounge tonight along with jazz singer Loide. Segueing naturally between English and his native Yoruba, Kuku compels you to slow dance with your sweetie, and between his ballads, he mixes humorous audience interplay. Loide also uses multiple tongues, drawing upon her Lusophone background to infuse straight-ahead vocal jazz with elements of tropicalia. Her classic tone and phrasing wouldn't be out of place on a Stan Getz record.
Friday, May 23
Not promed out yet? Step this way for the Bike Prom, which is an odd idea but one with plenty of potential. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is turning the Black Cat into a two-wheeled dance party with photos, DJs and the works. (If only it turns out like Fritz's favorite scene in the '80s BMX cult classic "Rad".) The WABA is encouraging prom attendees to ride their bikes to the club, and members will be setting up extra bike racks outside, where the Cat's bouncers can keep an eye on them. The $5 cover goes to the WABA.
Hillyer Art Space is a gem of a gallery, tucked into a mews behind the Phillips Collection. The two-room space, which is bigger than you'd think, offers a great mix of shows, ranging from Brazilian printmakers and emerging Soweto painters to works by local colorfield artists and sculptors. Check out the current shows -- paintings by D.C.-based Anna U. Davis and Toronto resident Ante Sardelic -- tonight as the gallery hosts a fundraiser for its local artist series. DJs Will Eastman (Bliss) and Gavin Holland (Nouveau Riche) provide the electro-tinged tunes, while Kylos mixes up some video art on the spot. The party runs from 7 to 11; Donate $10 (or more) to join in.
Saturday, May 24
A couple of weeks ago we wrote about a quasi-secret show featuring the Brave Burns. Those with a passing knowledge of D.C. music history and deciphering anagrams could figure out that it was the Urban Verbs (listen), new wave almost-stars of 30 years ago who were getting the band back together. The purpose of the show was to work out some kinks, integrate a new rhythm section and test out a pair of new tunes before tonight's more proper reunion show at the 9:30 club. So if that was just a warmup, expect some great things at the "real" show. As David noted in his review, the band's songs and sound didn't sound dated, Roddy Frantz's dramatic vocals were in fine form and Robin Rose's defining synth work was similarly on point. This show isn't just for those seeking a nostalgic fix.
Chico Debarge survived prison, the tragic flameout of his greatly talented older siblings and some terrible fashion choices in the '80s to lay claim to a few obscure but solid contributions to the pantheon of slow jams. He hasn't had a new release in a while, but grown folks will fondly remember "Rainy Night" or even "Iggin' Me." You can catch up with the youngest Debarge brother at the Sheraton Crystal City tonight along with contemporary crooner Carl Thomas and the mature go-go band Suttle Thoughts. Advance tickets are available at www.logan3000production.com/.
Black Pride weekend draws gay, lesbian and transgendered African-Americans from all over the mid-Atlantic region, and organizers have a whole slate of events planned, including speed dating, relationship advice for couples, readings by authors and poets and a fashion show. (See the whole schedule on the Black Pride Web site.) After hours, of course, there are plenty of parties across the city.
If you've never heard DJ Mandrill spin old-school house Paradise Garage-style, you're missing a true master at work. He's appearing tonight at the Renaissance M Street Hotel downtown, which is headquarters for many Black Pride events. Admission is $10, and a light buffet is provided, beginning at 10.
Hopefully we're not ruining the Millionaire Mind Group's "Secret Society Event" by telling y'all about it, but it's too good to pass up: Premium open bar and hors d'oeuvres all night at Lounge 201, plus a DJ and dancing, for $65 -- $60 if you pay in advance.
There are two more Pride parties tonight that are just for the ladies: Legend, at the brand new Twelve lounge on H Street NE, features six DJs spinning over two floors, dancers and other surprises. Admission is $20. Meanwhile, RNR Bar & Lounge is opening all three floors -- and its rooftop deck -- for Lure. The casual party runs from 9 to 3; cover starts at $5 and will increase as the night goes on.
Sunday, May 25
The marquee event of Black Pride weekend is Nucleus, a concert and dance party starring former "American Idol" winner and Broadway star Fantasia Barrino (listen). The event takes over all three floors at Avenue, leaving plenty of room for three DJs, performances by opening acts Bry'Nt (listen), KC Sullivan (listen) and Eriq J'Mar (listen) and an appearance by Harlem's City Gym Boys fitness crew. Buy your tickets now: General admission is $35 in advance and VIP passes, which allow holders to skip lines and access special areas, are $55. Those prices double at the door. Platinum passes, which include a meet-and-greet with Fantasia and a buffet, are $80.
While Fantasia's wowing the crowds, DJ India is hosting her annual U Street Bar Hop Block Party. She's teaming with New York DJs Tease, Missy B and Trini at Pure (the former Bar Nun) and Tabaq. Admission allows guests to bounce between the two bars all night -- if Pure's underground dance floor isn't doing it for you, maybe Tabaq's rooftop lounge will. Tickets are $30 at the door, but you'll pay $20 if you purchase in advance from www.deejayindia.com or bring a Fantasia concert stub.
If you're not jetting off on vacation for Memorial Day, partying inside a plane-styled lounge could be just the thing to help you relax. The appropriately named DJ Dynamix -- a member of the bhangra-rockin' Blazin' Beats crew -- smashes up top 40, hip-hop, house, rock and international tunes at Fly Lounge for a flight that's sure to be filled to capacity. Book your reservation on nightlifeagency.com; Women get in free all night, while men who RSVP can board for free between 10 and 11.
Long Holiday Weekend? DJ Dredd to the rescue! It's been a while since his Prince party dropped the Prince-vs.-Madonna/Outcast/Michael format for a battle royale, and the gloves should come off for tonight's Prince Vs. The World dance party at the Black Cat. Since he's able to draw from, well, every record ever made, we're expecting big, big things.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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