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Posted at 5:54 PM ET, 06/ 3/2008

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Former Mekon Jon Langford blends insurgent country and a pop edge in the Waco Brothers. (Courtesy of the Waco Brothers)

This week's Nightlife Agenda features throwback hip-hop, a happy hour that involves frozen drinks and a Jacuzzi, record releases by two noteworthy local bands, the fourth anniversary for the gay dance party Taint, ska and punk at a scooter rally, a James Bond-themed party and D.C.'s own reggaeton star.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Monday

Wednesday, June 4
Why isn't the Jet Age (listen) more popular on the local scene? The band has two excellent albums to its credit, including this year's "What Did You Do During the War, Daddy?" which contains everything that is good about indie rock, from the muscular guitars to barbed hooks to some seriously powerful drumming. The album even scored an 8.0 on Pitchfork (that's .6 and .7 higher than Georgie James and Le Loup, respectively) but still, the Silver Spring trio is largely overlooked. So what's the deal? The deal is that they aren't too "hip;" they don't send out dozens of MySpace bulletins or take part in cheesy photo shoots for local blogs. They simply write and perform good songs and let the music speak for itself. The nerve of them. Enjoy the rock -- and just the rock -- tonight at the Black Cat.

Taylor McFerrin (listen) really keeps the origin of his surname under wraps. It seems like he's trying to make his way in the music game without taking an equity loan on the name of his famous father Bobby, which is admirable. But once you experience his vocal percussion skills, it's hard not to get into an internal nature versus nurture debate. The younger McFerrin is probably a combination of both. He's adept at creating entire compositions with just his mouth and voice, but his music is anchored by precision beatboxing that borrows from hip-hop, drum 'n' bass and broken beat. He's also created a live show where he accompanies his beatboxing improvisations with an array of samplers and synths. His "Broken Vibes EP" (on which his pops makes an appearance) along with collaborations with Amp Fiddler and Ty have kept him buzzing in progressive soul and electronic scenes worldwide for the last couple of years. D.C. can get familiar with him at Bohemian Caverns tonight.

We love animals here at the Nightlife Agenda -- check out our list of dog-friendly happy hours -- and tonight at Science Club, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter is coming down I-95 to host a Yappy Hour Fundraiser. Expect drink specials, raffles and a canine-owner date auction, which sounds like a lot of fun. It kicks off at 5:30, and all proceeds from the raffles and date auction go to charity.

Thursday, June 5
Last summer, the Omni Shoreham's Code Orange Happy Hour became Fritz's go-to Thursday spot, especially after a tough day at the office: The $15 cover change included a frozen drink, use of the hotel's sprawling, secluded pool area, the Jacuzzi, the locker rooms -- even a sauna. And those frozen drinks -- man, there's nothing like sipping a slushy mix of gin, peach schnapps and mango while laying on a poolside deck chair on a warm day. And since the pool is surrounded by the hotel on one side and Rock Creek Park on the other, there's no street noise, you can't see any buildings -- it's like being on vacation. Anyway, Fritz went back last week to check out the first Code Orange of 2008, and it's time for an enthusiastic thumbs-up: Nothing has changed, and we mean that in the best possible way. Whether you want to put on a swimsuit and go for a dip or just take your shoes off and relax, the Omni needs to be on your summer agenda. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; Give yourself time to change into some summer clothes and stake out the best reclining lounge chairs.

Until recently, April Hill (listen) was one of many New Yorkers grinding away at an office job while trying to carve out a space for artistic pursuits. But once she joined the much smaller club of folks who take the leap to pursue those dreams full time, she saw results pretty quickly, going from the stage of the Blue Note to touring with pop star Ne-Yo. Since getting that experience under her belt, she's spent time developing her own voice and catalog of material. Her first solo offering has cuts that could fit right into WHUR's playlist or grab the ears of an Alicia Keys fan with a latent curiosity about jazz. You can get acquainted with her tonight at Andalu, backed by Washington's own Ab and the Souljourners.

Jon Langford has more side projects than most bands have albums. He's best known for his work with punk originals the Mekons, who remain a band not to miss more than 30 years after their formation, but the same can be said for the Waco Brothers (listen), his longest running side gig. This was Langford's chance to indulge his cowpunk leanings, and he's enjoyed it as much as his fans; the band now has nine albums of fierce, fun country-punk to its name. Langford is a consumate showman, always filling his live performances with energy and humor. Chris Mills, the Starlingtons and the Highballers open at the Rock and Roll Hotel.

The micro-genres keep splitting themselves into more granular fragments as the music scene gets ever more crowded with new hopefuls trying to stand out. "Punk Funk" is an interesting one often used to describe J*DaVeY (listen) but it's more an ethos than an accurate stylistic description. Made up of Brook D'Leau on a barrage of synths and the freaky, seductive vocals of Jack Davey, the J*DaVeY sound melds new wave, Prince and Dilla when he was in space funk mode. Jack Davey can go from intergalactic sex kitten mode to twisted George Clinton vocal layers to raw battle raps in the space of one tune. Her stage presence reflects that same unpredictable energy while D'Leau backs her with his sharp-edged electro sleaze beats. The duo lands its revamped version of the Mothership at Bohemian Caverns tonight.

Friday, June 6
A pair of excellent albums by local bands are released into the wild tonight at Iota. Julie Ocean (listen) makes the kind of perfect power-pop you'd expect from a band that features former members of great indie-pop bands. But this isn't just a nostalgia thing: "Long Gone and Nearly There" may be the crowning achievement in its band members' careers. In less than half an hour, the band offers 10 songs packed with countless sweet hooks and harmonies. We'll have a podcast with two members of the band on the site later this week. Yell County (listen) brings a bit more of garage rock edge to the songs on its album "A Real Fine Hole." There's nothing particularly complicated about the band's material, but that's a good thing. Tonight's show at Iota is sure to be a winner.

For budding oenologists, the French Wine Society is one of the more interesting social groups in town, organizing everything from classes on the wine-producing regions of Burgundy and the Loire to mix-and-mingle tastings with the owners of esteemed French vineyards. Membership isn't cheap -- $75 per year -- so the group's public socials are something we keep our eyes open for. Take the French Cocktail Hour at the Park at Fourteenth tonight. It's something of a misnomer, actually, since the bartenders will be pouring Pommery champagne and a variety of red and white French wines as well as mixed drinks starring the French vermouth Noilly Pratt and St. Germain elderflower liqueur. The $20 cover includes an open bar from 7:30 to 9, a selection of pates, cheeses and other hors d'oeuvres, and French house music by DJ Terry Smith. (After 9, everything reverts to regular prices, so make the most of happy hour.) A very limited number of tickets may be available at the door, but it's best to get yours ahead of time from the French Wine Society.

The Gypsy Eyes catalogue becomes a bit more diverse tonight when Mikal Evans (listen) celebrates the release of her debut EP, "A Jailhouse... A Kingdom," at the Black Cat. Until Evans joined the local label, Apes organist Amanda Kleinman had been the only woman keeping it from being a completely all-boys club. Despite Evans' Southern upbringing and association with Gypsy Eyes, there's not much twang to her sound. She's more of a throwback to the early '90s when bands like Tsunami and Throwing Muses were making noise -- both literally and figuratively -- on the indie circuit. Evans plays in between old-time country act the Hackensaw Boys (listen) and folk-pop group the Cotton Jones Basket Ride (listen).

If you see crowds of Vespas on the street this weekend, it's not Quadrophenia redux -- it's the annual Scootergate Rally (Web site), which brings scooter rides from up and down the East Coast for a weekend of late-night rides around the monuments, gear swaps, contests, concerts and other good fun and fellowship. Most of the events are centered around the bars of H Street NE, including tonight's show at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Not only does it feature Nightlife Agenda favorites the Pietasters (listen), who we raved about last week, but it's a reunion show for the Oi! band Spitfires United (listen), who always had aggression as well as talent to spare. Local punks Alleged Bricks (listen) and the Breakups (listen) are on first. Upstairs, DJ Mark Zimin of Mousetrap fame is bringing back his long-dormant Monkey Island night, spinning '60s soul, funk and reggae. The DJ night is free; the show will cost you $17. Plan on early arrival if you want to make sure you get in.

Saturday, June 7
Four years ago, a group of friends were fed up with the endless stream of Madonna, Cher remixes and '80s music that pumped from speakers in D.C.'s gay bars. Rather than hang out at gay-friendly (but mostly straight) DJ nights at the Black Cat and other indie bars, they decided to start their own. Thus was Taint born, with a mix of performance art, drag shows and DJs spinning electro and alternative music. The party hasn't flagged yet; lines stretch out the door every holiday weekend. Tonight, DJs Matt Bailer and Shea Van Horn will make Taint's fourth anniversary celebration at DC9 especially festive. After the DJs, music and video artists from the Queering Sound festival at Warehouse Theatre will perform. Admission is $5, and the lines get especially long after 11.

On the first releases by French shoegazers M83 (listen), the music was a woozy, atmospheric blend of burbling synths, dense layers of fuzzed-out guitars, compressed computerized drums and the occasional snippet of monologue. The better songs built over four or five minutes to explosive, soaring crescendos that would be a match for the top moments in the My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive catalogs. Since co-founder Nicolas Fromageau split, though, leaving Anthony Gonzalez as the only fulltime member of the "group," the tunes have become more traditionally structured -- while single "Couleurs" stretches past the eight-minute mark, it features discernable verse and chorus sections and is almost, dare we say it, funky, thanks to pulsing electronic beats, accented with cowbells. But it's "Graveyard Girl" that's the winner, with shimmering guitars stretching out over the hazy keyboards, vividly recalling early '90s indie-pop with a nod to '80s new wave. (Just go to the band's MySpace page already and listen.) Past appearances in D.C. were heavy on the long, slow-boil interpretations of album tracks, so we'll be watching how Gonzalez mixes old jams like "Run Into Flowers" with the newer material when he takes the stage at the Black Cat.

The Cold War may be over, but you can still use communist "nostalgia" to market vodka to kids who are too young to remember Reagan forcefully telling Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. The latest "premium" Russian vodka to hit the market is Hammer + Sickle, which is distilled six times before being placed in a bottle adorned with -- what else? -- a large red hammer and sickle logo. The wheat vodka is getting a large marketing push over here thanks to its "distribution alliance" with Anheuser-Busch, leading to marketing events like tonight's From Russia With Love party at McFadden's. The action includes "Sexiest Bond" and "Sexiest Bond Girl" costume contests with prizes like a complete James Bond DVD box set, $5 vodka cocktails all night and an optional $20 open bar from 8 to 11. Note to would-be Bonds: White dinner jackets are optional, since a trip to McFadden's generally means something will be spilled on you.

Even as the music industry gets tighter, some resourceful artists are able to carve out multiple lanes and thrive. One of the most versatile artists is working a multilingual hustle with roots within the District. Notch (listen) was one half of the reggae fusion duo Born Jamericans, a '90s group that deftly bridged the dancehall/pop music gap between Shabba Ranks and Super Cat before them and Shaggy and Sean Paul after them. After going solo in 1998, Notch touched a few popular dancehall riddims and had a hit with "Nuttin Nuh Go So." He also lent his high reggae tenor to tracks with Thievery Corporation and Sublime, to name a few. These days he draws on his Latin background to create a growing catalog of reggaeton hits, following up "Hay Que Bueno" with the recently released "Dale Pa'tras." He'll be juggling Spanish patois and English at Avenue tonight. Hit for the guestlist free entry.

The group of swing dancers billing a weekend full of classes and events as "The Big Big Event" could be accused of exaggerating -- until you look at the details. The instructors leading 22 workshops -- from "Partnering" to "Antiquated Vernacular Dances from the Early 20th Century" -- have a trophy cabinet full of national and international awards among them, and the bands featured at Glen Echo Park on Friday and Saturday nights play the perfect tunes for working out your Charleston. Tonight in the historic Spanish Ballroom, it's a double bill featuring the Boilermaker Jazz Band (listen), who play some of the best hot jazz and ragtime that you'll hear without cranking up a 78 RPM record, and Russ Wilson and His Nouveau-Passe Orchestra (listen), a North Carolina group that plays Dixieland and other music of the '20s and '30s. There's also a Lindy Hop competition between bands, so get practicing. The music runs from 9 to 1, and a one-hour dance lesson is included in the $16 cover charge. But wait! There's more! Beginning at 1:30 a.m., the party moves over to the Chevy Chase Ballroom for a late-night party that goes until, well, late. Admission for that is $5.

Sunday, June 8
Even the Cool Kids' (listen) name suggests a throwback to an older era of hip-hop. They're not interested in bullets or bling, just dope beats and fresh rhymes. See, they're even affecting David's writing. The band's recently released "Bake Sale" EP is getting lots of deserved praise. After seeing them open for M.I.A. at the 9:30 club in the fall, we can report that the Kids don't disappoint in a live setting, either. Dirty Water and Che Grand opan at the Black Cat.

Monday, June 9
It's the summer of "Our Band Could Be Your Life." The 2001 book by Michael Azzerad chronicled 13 American underground rock bands of the 1980s, but what's old is new again, or at least older and slightly more expensive than it used to be. Book subjects Butthole Surfers and Mission of Burma will be at the 9:30 club and Black Cat, respectively, later this month, while grunge pioneers Mudhoney (listen) check into the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight. Don't call it a reunion, because the Seattle group never formally called it quits even though shows were rare around the turn of the decade. There hasn't been much variation in the band's formula, perfected on its early "Superfuzz Bigmuff" EP, but that's because the formula of big riffs, screaming vocals and just the right amount of distortion (a lot) isn't worth messing with. The Cynics (listen) and the always phenomenal Points (listen) open. Oh, and just because it's the summer of "Our Band Could Be Your Life," don't go expecting to see Fugazi at Fort Reno. Sorry.

-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | June 3, 2008; 5:54 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Music  
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How dare you NOT mention the Regional Air Guitar Competition @ 9 30 tonite?

Posted by: Eddie Shredder | June 4, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

the air guitar championship is where it's at!

Posted by: for real | June 4, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

It's mentioned on the homepage, with a profile I wrote. Honest.

Posted by: Fritz | June 4, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I can't believe you're overlooking the Night World records showcase at Velvet Lounge June 7! Four excellent and diverse bands on one stage: Bourbon Dynasty, Rambling Shadows, Little Pink, and Spoils of NW. The stuff is bubbling up fast!

Posted by: Scott | June 6, 2008 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Matt Bailer - aka DJ me - is pure happiness. He's infectiously sunny and has a gift for making people want to get up and dance!

Posted by: Mrs. White | June 6, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, we WOULD participate in cheesy photo shoots if anyone asked ... Thanks for understanding! -E

Posted by: Jet Age Eric | June 9, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

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