The Caribbean Carnival means we have a number of soca, reggae and ska artists in town this weekend, but there's plenty more: legendary indie-rockers Mission of Burma performing their finest album, Ladytron DJing at a hip clothing store, shoegazing Germans, a Q&A with Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank and a glimpse at the future of jazz.
Wednesday, June 25
If I had to use one word to describe Times New Viking (listen) it would be: awesome. If I had to use two words to describe Times New Viking it would be: really awesome. The Columbus, Ohio, trio writes short, punchy, catchy rock songs and it sounds really great when drummer Adam Elliott and keyboardist Beth Murphy sing together. But most people can't get past the fidelity of the band's recorded output. Let's just say that nobody will be using any John Cusack movie references when referring to Times New Viking. There is plenty of hiss, fuzz, static and squealing, but none of those elements overshadow the songs, which are filled with hooks and energy. Dismiss them as a noisy novelty act and miss out on some of the best indie/punk/garage/whatever music being made today. Titus Andronicus (listen) and True Womanhood (listen) open at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
Feed your insatiable appetite for the '80s at The Space tonight before the nostalgia train permanently takes off into the '90s. DJ Nyce will be on the decks dropping neon leotard and leg warmer tunes for the Workout Dance Party. Said Xanadu attire is strongly encouraged but not required. Any self-consciousness you might feel welling up within should be jettisoned by the knowledge that you'll be aerobicizing it up for the kiddies. All proceeds go to DC Writers Corp to support the DC Youth Slam Team's trip to the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam next month. A just announced bonus treat is the addition of celebrity hostess for the evening, Tiombe Lockhart. She's the slinky Detroit songstress first introduced to the world by Platinum Pied Pipers' debut album.
Thursday, June 26
While it's no Nightlife Agenda, Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" is one of the better columns you'll read on this site -- an always-entertaining look at official Washington, from grandstanding at Congressional hearings to Harrison Ford's appearance at the National Zoo. (No, really.) His columns and occasional White House pool reports sting in ways that few others do, so a chance to hear Milbank talk about politics-as-usual without an editor should be on every political junkie's to-do list. That's why you might want to arrive early for tonight's Modernist Society meeting at Bourbon -- Milbank's participating in a Q&A interview with host Jason Mojica at 9:30, followed by a chance for audience members to ask Milbank about anything. The Scott McClellan hearings? John McCain's chances in November? It's up to you. As always, doors are at 9, selected beers and bourbons are $3 all night, and when the interview's over, DJ D-Mac spins funky lounge music until the wee hours.
Jazz sales were nosediving even before the music industry started to tank, and the passings of old legends scarcely crack the attention spans of millenials and young adults. Jazz music still produces amazing musicians and new ideas but audiences don't care so much, at least on these shores. So it's more than a little bit coincidental that new jazz sensation Esperanza Spalding's name means "hope" in Spanish. Her stunning beauty and youth puts a lock on the marketability aspect that jazz struggles with, and her chops will silence any critic before they could have a fleeting thought of calling her a gimmick. As a childhood musical prodigy, Spalding jumped from violin to bass and was working on a university music degree at 16 after playing the bass for less than two years. Her vocal style somehow developed along with her mastery of her instrument, and she employs them both symbiotically, leading her band with an upright bass and accompanying it with agile scat singing. Oh, and in between touring the world and playing with heavy cats like Stanley Clarke and Michel Camilo, she's held down an appointment as an instructor at Berklee College of Music since she was 20. Experience the talent that should propel jazz far into the future tonight at The Birchmere.
From the colorful, intricate and feathered costumes to the joyful sound of steel pan bands, the D.C. Caribbean Carnival is one of the most festive weekends of the year. The parade takes place on Saturday morning, but with all the musicians, expats and soca fans pouring into D.C., the party gets started early. The Crossroads, which is hosting a number of events this weekend, kicks things off with tonight's "Carnival Welcome Party." There's no cover, and attendees are invited to bring their own percussion instruments to participate in a jam session, whether finely tuned steel pans to "irons" -- pieces of iron beaten to provide the riddim in soca. DJs provide the Caribbean beats and everyone can play along. Don't forget about the free island buffet...
Friday, June 27
There's lots of Caribbean music in town this weekend, but if you want to hear old-school rocksteady, ska and dub, there's only one destination: The Soundclash. The Kaiser, Sammy Gong and Bobby Babylon are marking their sixth anniversary at Marx Cafe by doing what they do best: spinning old-school Jamaican pressure, straight off the original vinyl. Get a preview at dcsoundclash.com, where this month's streaming playlist explores roots, dancehall and rocksteady from artists you probably aren't too familiar with. For tonight's party, Red Stripe is $3.50 all night, and there will be special mix CDs, badges and T-shirts if you're into that sort of thing. There's never a cover, and the needle drops at 10.
In international soca circles, Bunji Garlin and Faye Ann Lyons are a real power couple. Married since 2006, they finished first and third, respectively, for top performer in the Soca Monarch Finals in Trinidad earlier this year. Lyons took home the Road March title, awarded for an individual song performed during the Trinidad Carnival's parade. (Watch her take on the fiery "Get On.") The duo is in town this weekend for D.C.'s Carnival -- they're performing tomorrow after the parade -- but Garlin and Lyons will both take the stage at Zanzibar, backed by the Asylum Band. Meanwhile, on the club's top level, there's even more Trinidadian flava from New York's Casanovas, plus live iron playing by the Jump Starters. Admission is $20. Doors are at 9 p.m.
June's been a pretty great month for fans of ambient/electronic/European/neo-shoegaze. (Hands up, everyone!) A few weeks ago M83 brought his shimmer soundscapes to the Black Cat and tonight German electro-shoegazer Ulrich Schnauss (listen) is going to bliss out the Velvet Lounge. Schnauss actually opened for M83 a few years ago, but he tends to keep things mellower than his French counterpart. There might be an occasional moment of big rock bombast, but mostly you can expect things to be nicely chilled. You'll want to get to this one early, for a couple of reasons. First, this could be one of those rare Velvet Lounge sellouts and there's no way to get advance tickets. But the opening acts are plenty worth seeing. Locals Screen Vinyl Image (listen) are one of the harshest, noisest bands in D.C. right now. The racket they create makes the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Psychocandy" sound light and fluffy. After them Auburn Lull (listen) will seem even more serene and pristine by comparison.
It's taken less than three years for technological advances in the DJ world to turn spinning vinyl into a rare and even odd sight. Memories are so short that vinyl-only jocks are now seen as these romantic practitioners of an exotic art, even though the average clubgoer probably didn't notice the transition from vinyl to CDs. It wasn't until MP3 systems took over that folks started wondering why every DJ looked like he was checking his e-mail. And as long as they were dancing, they probably didn't and do not care. Even though the analog way is finally dying the death that the industry tried to force 10 years ago, spinning vinyl will always look cooler than running tunes from a laptop. But from the audience's vantage point, it's hard to note any other benefits. Most people can't tell the difference in sound from an MP3 or a record, although the professionals can. And most importantly, digital systems have finally developed to the point where all of the tactile mixing techniques of vinyl are possible. The ideological battle wages on though. Lee Burridge and Scott Henry will be rocking a four-hour tag-team set of all vinyl tonight at Five to try to shut down the debate. These two platter-loving DJs -- Henry's the founder of Buzz, Burridge is a globetrotting DJ who switches between house, electro and various micro-genres to capture the atmosphere of the room and keep the crowd in his pocket -- should make a perfect match.
Saturday, June 28
The whole old-band-performs-classic-album-in-its-entirety trend is just about the most unpunk thing we can think of, but at least this latest example leads to the best headlining act/opening act synergy we've seen in quite a while. The main draw at the Black Cat tonight will be venerable post-punk trio Mission of Burma (listen) performing its 1982 album "Vs." That album closes with "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate," two of the most exhilarating minutes in the past few decades of music. As for the opening act, it's none other than ... Versus! We commend you, Black Cat booking staff. Not just for being clever, but for getting Versus to play a rare show. The longtime Teenbeat mainstays haven't been heard from too much lately, but besides the obvious nominal reasons, their soft/loud, slightly angular indie rock is a good fit opening for MoB.
There's always some worry when a popular club event outgrows its home base and moves off to what can be considered a "bigger and better" space. Will the vibe be intact? Was the smaller venue, with its packed dance floor and low ceilings, what made the event so awesome in the first place? These are questions confronting the DJs of Nouveau Riche, the Baltimore club/hip-hop/'80s/whatever throwdown that's been keeping DC9 rammed in recent months. Starting tonight, Nouveau Riche has a nouveau venue: Five, which feels like it has five times the capacity of DC9. So will DJs Gavin Holland, Stevelove and Nacey change the battle plan now that they have a "real" sound system and dance floor to work with? Not likely. Holland says "the goal is to put fun, indie, or otherwise underground dance music in a big mainstream club," and they're living up to that promise from the get-go. The first guest is Australian remixer/DJ Miami Horror (listen), who's bringing his group Gameboy/Gamegirl across the Pacific for a brief U.S. tour. Miami Horror should slot right in with the Nouveau Riche sound: Retro synths and modern drum machines unite in an elastic '80s new wave-meets-disco dream -- the vibe that's so popular on the music blogs these days, and it will have kids in neon shirts throwing their hands in the air. The question is whether Five's massive size -- two levels plus DJs on a rooftop deck -- will deaden the basement houseparty atmosphere that made Nouveau Riche so much fun. Doors open at 9 and the DJs go until 5 a.m. There's a $10 cover all night.
We were pretty disappointed when Ladytron abandoned tonight's regularly-scheduled 9:30 club concert to open for Thievery Corporation at Merriweather Post Pavilion. We're digging the new "Velocifero" album, which is full of the sinuous synth lines, danceable electro-bass and memorable vocal hooks we've come to expect from Mira Aroyo and company. It's just that, well ... it's at Merriweather, and we were hoping to see the band in a headlining slot at the 9:30 club. But the band is throwing us a bone in the form of a DJ set tonight at Redeem. No, it's not a new club -- it's the 14th Street clothing store, stripped bare of merchandise for the night. Cut Copy spun an afterparty at Redeem a few weeks ago, and it was verging on insane: Great music, fun hipster crowd, open bar on Red Bull and vodkas, dancing until 4 a.m. To get in, there's a two-step process: RSVP at UptheAntics.com, then show up with a ticket stub from the Merriweather concert or a hand stamp from Bliss, which is taking place on the Black Cat's backstage. Doors for the afterparty open at midnight, and Ladytron is expected to start DJing around 2 a.m. -- Just be prepared for lines.
It's Caribbean Carnival day, and while we can't recommend the parade and the festival enough -- it's one of the best parties in D.C. all year -- the music is going to keep going deep into the night. Here's a brief rundown of the goings-on:
Jamaican musical ambassador Byron Lee and the Dragonaires (listen) are at Zanzibar. Lee has been active in the ska scene since the '60s -- his band performs in the club scene in "Dr. No," he headlined Jamaica's section of the 1964 World's Fair and he ran the Dynamic Sounds label, which put out records by Delroy Wilson and Toots and the Maytals. He's older now, but Lee is one of the authentic voices of ska, and a treat to see live. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
Speaking of legends, Dobby Dobson (watch) -- the smooth-voiced singer of "Loving Pauper" fame -- is performing tonight at the Hollywood Ballroom in Silver Spring. After more than five decades in the music biz, Dobson is still performing regularly, through his material these days is more spiritual than secular. He's joined by award-winning Jamaican gospel singer Merle Gayle, selector Winston Blake of the band Merritone and the Yawd Lynk Reggae Band. Tickets are $68, which includes dinner and an open bar. See the Web site for tickets and more information.
Finally, there's Glow Til The Morning, which features a number of the Carnival's featured soca performers at an late-night party at the Crossroads. Take your pick of Iwer George (former International Soca Monarch in 2002 and 2007), Alison Hinds (the Barbados Soca Queen), Shurwayne Winchester (2006 Soca Monarch, 2007 Soca Monarch People's Choice winner, 2006 and 2008 Groovy Soca Monarch), Berbice (2007 Grenada Roadmarch King) and Trinidad's Kerwin Dubois and Bezo. Tickets are $35, and surprisingly, there's no dress code.
Sunday, June 29
What can we say about Tiesto that hasn't been said a million times by a million dance music fans? The last time the trance pioneer was in town, he packed the streets outside Love for raving dance party. This time, he's playing not one but two nights at Glow at Ibiza, and tickets for Saturday night sold out in a flash. If you've never seen Tiesto live, you should experience it at least once -- the vibe in the room will make the doubters understand why Tiesto deserves the Grammy nominations and the "#1 DJ in the World" rankings from music magazines. He's simply the best in the world at what he does. Ibiza's thunderous sound system makes it the perfect venue for this 18-and-over show. As we just said, tickets for Saturday are already gone, and only a limited number remain for tonight. Get a move on if you want yours.
Last time King Khan was in town (as part of the King Khan and BBQ Show), it was a disaster. The show at the Red & the Black was marred by bad sound, near-fights, ejections and at one point the cross-dressing garage rocker angrily shouted, "No wonder we've never played D.C. before!" Apparently it wasn't bad enough to keep him away for too long, as he'll be back in town tonight with his other project, King Khan and the Shrines (listen). It's a similar brand of down and dirty garage rock with a '50s dance party vibe, very fun stuff. We're a bit surprised that the show is at the Rock and Roll Hotel. The band had such a bad experience last time, but now they'll be just a block up the street at a venue owned by the same folks. The always fabulous Hall Monitors (listen) open.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
Posted by: Suzy Queue | June 25, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse
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