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Posted at 5:27 PM ET, 07/29/2008

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Local troubadour Justin Jones is among four familiar names playing at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Friday night. (Joel Didriksen)

This week in nightlife: Local singers, including Justin Jones, take over the Rock and Roll Hotel, charitable events offer drinks and views for good causes, a Baltimore legend comes to D.C. and a Black Cat bartender throws a rockin' birthday party.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Tuesday

Wednesday, July 30
It's Wednesday afternoon, and the weekend is now officially closer than Monday morning. Isn't that a reason to celebrate? You could drop some cash at the usual after-work watering hole, but today we're encouraging you to step it up and help others while grabbing food and drinks. Mate, a swank lounge filled with brushed metal, colorful lights and chandeliers, is hosting a fundraiser for the Capital Hospice. Stop by for the usual specials -- half-price sushi and appetizers, $4 beers, $6 cocktails and wine -- and the $10 suggested donation at the door will go straight to the Hospice, which provides care and counseling for hundreds of terminally ill patients and their families. (In exchange, you get happy hour prices from 5 until 10, while prices for non-donors rise at 7 p.m.)

Thursday, July 31
Kid Congo Powers (listen) is just a cool name, isn't it? And it's certainly not wasted, as King Congo has spent the last few decades playing with cult favorite bands such as Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the Gun Club and the Cramps. He's still churning out noirish garage-surf-country-punk these days, and the former New York City and London resident is now a D.C. local, which means he's a perfect fit for Fort Reno. Joining Kid Congo on the bill are the Shirks, who play rock-and-roll. No qualifiers. Just rock-and-roll. Also, Girl Loves Distortion (listen), whose name may be a bit misleading. But Girl and Two Guys Who Like Distortion But Don't Get Carried Away With It By Any Means doesn't quite roll off the tongue.

Back at the beginning of July, Fritz wrote about a poolside party on the rooftop of the newish Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill. We gotta say, it's a great location: within spitting distance of the Capitol, views of the Washington Monument, comfortable cabanas -- and did we mention the rooftop pool? Check it out for yourself tonight at a fundraiser for the Hoop Dreams Foundation, which has offered college scholarships to almost 1,000 D.C. public school students. Between 6 and 9, partake of an open bar and hors d'oeuvres, dance to DJs and chill to the sounds of a steel drum band. Most importantly, all proceeds from the event go directly to charity. Tickets are $50 in advance or $60 at the door; use this URL to sign up.

There's plenty of competition for your Good Samaritan dollars tonight. Over at Rhino Bar, the PEN Foundation, an international education organization, is hosting an open-bar happy hour to raise money for the Bhandari Girls High School in Bangladesh. The $20 cover gets you unlimited drinks from 9 to midnight, plus entry into a raffle. Half of the proceeds go directly to help this non-profit group do its important work.

J*DaVey (listen) turned Bohemian Caverns into a packed, sweaty mass of bodies last month, cramming fans in at a density far beyond what's comfortable for that venerable jazz room. The only complainers were those who couldn't get in, so they're back this month in the club's roomier Liv space upstairs. The Internet darlings have polished their digi-funk with a band that gives Jack Davey more space to stretch, and better fleshes out the sludgy electro tracks. And finally, after a few years of bootlegs, blog buzz and demos sold only at shows, they have an actual, official release to push. The double CD includes a mixtape, previously available only online, with the best of the repertoire the duo has used to build its brand. Along with the resident Sound of the City band, Muhsinah joins the set, which is fitting because her spaceship flies in the same squadron as J*DaVey's. Where J*DaVey tends to explore the dark and sexually charged regions of the galaxy, Muhsinah's course is cerebral and whimsical.

Friday, Aug. 1
Do you ever scan the club listings and find yourself saying, "I see that name a lot, I should really check them out"? But then you end up watching "Last Comic Standing" because it seems like it should be funny, but man, it never is. Anyway, tonight's lineup at the Rock and Roll Hotel is one that can help you make up for missed time with four local acts that are all worth catching. Justin Jones & the Driving Rain (listen) are at the top of the bill, one of the many bands that has made D.C. an unlikely hotspot for alt-country. Andy Zipf (listen) often plays pretty singer-songwritery stuff on his own but he'll have a full band backing him tonight, so expect there to be a bit more oomph to his songs. Olivia & the Housemates (listen) do fun and freewheeling indie-pop, while Meredith Bragg (listen) sounds sad and lonely, but makes great and pretty songs. So we won't complain.

D.C.'s "indie" DJ crowd -- which we're defining as "DJs who spin at indie-rock bars and clubs, regardless of whether they actually play any indie rock" -- has a rich fascination with Baltimore Club, the dense mix of hip-hop and uptempo house that's the sound of the city up I-95. Washington turntablists like Tittsworth and Dave Nada were dropping bass-heavy B'more Club beats at Wonderland back when most hipsters had yet to discover the music through Diplo and Hollatronix mixtapes, and the Nouveau Riche DJs have brought Charm City heavies like Blaqstarr (listen) to the Rock and Roll Hotel, where the thumping grooves and crazy samples always drive everyone onto the dancefloor. Tonight, the Black Cat's monthly Sorted night is marking its second anniversary by welcoming Scottie B (listen), one of the biggest names on the Baltimore scene. Scottie B was there at the beginning of Baltimore Club in the late '80s and early '90s, pushing the music forward at an endless stream of parties. He's the founder of Unruly Records, which has released definitive vinyl and mix CDs by Blaqstarr, Rob Lee and the late DJ K-Swift, as well as up-and-comers like Say Whut. And after years of playing gritty clubs, Scottie's bringing the raucous Baltimore anthems in huge nightspots on both sides of the Atlantic. Sorted founder/resident Stereo Faith's mix of soul, funk, indie and house usually gets the crowd moving, so we're expecting big, big things. Doors open at 9.

The crate diggers are back to take you on a journey through dusty grooves and lost funk relics. Dahlak is turning out to be a fitting venue for this aesthetic. The record hounds and weekend hardcore partiers are co-mingling nicely and there's no cover at the door. Moneytown resident DJ Nitekrawler has some heavyweight friends on the vinyl scene and he's bringing them through D.C. one at a time. This weekend, New York's David Griffiths is in the driver's seat. When not holding down a residency at New York's legendary APT, he consults for Daptone and Kay-dee records, both fruitful sources for tasty re-issues of forgotten classics.

Saturday, Aug. 2
We all can get a little negative, cynical and snarky sometimes. (Only sometimes.) And it's good to know that not everyone is as hardened as us. Take the Makepeace Brothers (listen), a winsome family duo/trio/quartet that proves it's possible to be upbeat and positive without turning into some freaking Radio Disne-- whoops. There we go again. Sorry. Hailing from Ithaca, N.Y., the Makepeace boys play a clean, stripped down mix of folk, Americana and acoustic '60s-inflected rock and blue-eyed soul, pulling in elements of Simon and Garfunkel and Van Morrison, all the way up to Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. (The Makepeaces just got off a nationwide tour with the latter.) Tight, gorgeous harmonies, nod-along guitar shuffles, even whistling -- the Makepeace Brothers do it all with smiles on their faces, while dropping advice on how to "Treat Her Right." (Hint: It's about playing and talking and listening, not just flowers and chocolates.) Yeah, okay, it's all very hippie for the aughties, but it comes across as completely sincere, which is something we could all use a lot more of. The Makepeace brothers take the stage at BloomBars, a new performance space in Columbia Heights, at 9 p.m. tonight. A $5 donation is requested to help the musicians keep the gas tank full and to help the venue pay its electric bill.

Tuesday, Aug. 5
David's bad with birthdays. He knows his immediate family's, but that's about it. Friends, cousins, co-workers ... no clue. Sorry, guys. But he does know that Black Cat bartender Chad America has a birthday in early August, because he always has a great free party at the club to celebrate. This year's no different, as you can check out sets by local hard rockers Citygoats (listen) and Suns of Guns, who happen to be one of the best bands in the city, but you'd only know that if you saw them at one of their increasingly rare shows. John Barrett's Bass Drum of Death (listen) will also play, and what seemed like it might be a jokey band of bartender friends is actually a very good one-man-blues-garage band from someone named, well, John Barrett.

-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | July 29, 2008; 5:27 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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Nice statement:

"D.C.'s 'indie' DJ crowd -- which we're defining as 'DJs who spin at indie-rock bars and clubs, regardless of whether they actually play any indie rock'"

We're down to a scant handful of DJs in Washington who choose not to rely on playing disco records or top 40 to get people out and dancing. Even in Philly, the Making Time DJs have largely abandoned indie music, contrasting sharply with the music played by the very bands they bring over from abroad. Mousetrap, stunningly, is one of the few dance nights consistently to give new acts a chance, and Liberation, in spite of the occasional swerve into pop pap, has new indie music encoded in its DNA.

The genre of "indie music" (I know, I know - like obscenity, we know it when we see it) is as rich as ever, with dozens of great acts putting out wonderful music that you could dance to, and many would, if only the DJs would take a little risk and choose to play it.

I suppose it's just sour grapes on my part. The golden age of indie DJ nights in DC and Philly is dead. Top 40 pulls more people than indie music (by definition), so the DJs and the venues get addicted to the increased revenue. At the same time, the regulars and the staff deal with patrons who, ah, how shall I say this? would never be caught dead attending these same "indie" venues in the normal course of things due to their antipathy to the live acts they book. This, in turn, puts pressure on the truly indie DJs to play more bland, pop, "safe" music to keep up the numbers, resulting in a further increase in disco, early '80s, top-40, and other "popular" genre DJ nights.

We Fought the Big One is a nice antidote to all that - but a bit too willfully obscure to go beyond its bounds - as is Taking the P*ss, both testament to the Marx Cafe's owner's commitment to taking risks. And for the truly masochistic, there's always Procedure. But dancing is about as likely at any of those three as anyone requesting Rhianna, so...

I know, wah, wah, wah. If only everyone had the same taste for bland music, the world would be so much better, amirite?

Posted by: william | July 31, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

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