The second half of August is traditionally a cultural dead zone in D.C. Everyone's either at the beach, at some place nicer than the beach, getting ready to send the kids back to school or just being lazy. There's not too much exciting stuff happening. Even Fritz and Rhome felt the need to get out of town. So take the end of August as a chance to check out some of the regular events that go on around town that sometimes get overlooked, like Bob Perilla and the Big Hillbilly Bluegrass Band at Madam's Organ, Weirdo Show at Palace of Wonders or weekend dancing at Glen Echo. Plus: Oneida's repetitive rock, Young Jeezy at H20 and funnyman Mike Birbiglia.
Wednesday, Aug. 20
Every Wednesday Bob Perilla & the Big Hillbilly Bluegrass Band hold it down at Madam's Organ. The band's name gives a pretty good idea of what to expect from the music -- a lively show featuring plenty of bluegrass but also folk and old-time country. Perilla's on vocals and guitar and a rotating crew joins him on banjo, fiddle, upright bass and sometimes mandolin. The band has been playing its weekly gig long enough to be loose and tight at the same time, meaning the musicians are expert enough to play off each other's improvisations.
Thursday, Aug. 21
Palace of Wonders remains one of the city's unique nightspots. Each time you walk into the H Street bar, there's a chance you'll see someone doing a) something involving fire, b) something involving a really sharp object or c) a scantily clad woman. And if action movies have taught me anything, it's that fire, really sharp objects and scantily clad women are the most exciting things in the world. Tonight is the club's montly Weirdo Show, the guest host is Baltimore's Greggy Glitterati and it seems that most of the sweet spots mentioned earlier will be on display, with burlesque, vaudeville, dance, circus, sideshow and variety acts. This week features performers named Paco Fish, Sheistezazel, Boxota Whupsinfalova and, uh, Mason Ross. Like you aren't intrigued.
Phillips After 5 made a splash this summer as a popular, out-of-the-ordinary happy hour destination. For the past handful of Thursdays, the Phillips Collection has extended its hours and offered live music, gallery talks and wine tastings. Tonight is the last chance of the summer to feel all intellectual, sipping on Chilean white wines and discussing Richard Diebenkorn's paintings as the improvisational sounds of Auto Looming Plus 1 play in the background. It's not quite singing along to Journey while downing a Bud Light, that's for sure. Phillips After 5 is on again this week, and it turns monthly starting on Sept. 4.
Friday, Aug. 22
Young Jeezy must be looking forward to the release of his upcoming album, "The Recession," if only because it will get him back on the right side of the ledger when it comes to albums vs. arrests. Right now he's at two apiece. He most recently made news for accidentally endorsing John McCain and then releasing a YouTube video where he made it clear -- you know, relatively speaking -- that he was a Barack Obama supporter. His smooth Southern drawl has helped him find hits with songs like "Soul Survivor," "Go Getta" and "Put On" and there's a whole cottage industry of songs that have "featuring Young Jeezy" as part of their title. He performs at H20 tonight; if you feel like making it a long evening at the waterfront club, there's a free buffet and open bar from 9 to 11 p.m.
Weekends at Glen Echo Park always offer an opportunity to put on your dancing shoes, get a quick lesson and dance in the Spanish Ballroom or Bumper Car Pavilion. Tonight's visit from Louisana zydeco upstarts Pine Leaf Boys (listen) should have the Bumper Car Pavilion shaking, thanks the youngsters' exuberant take on the Bayou state's favorite genre. The Boys are such zydeco purists that they sing only in French. There's an introductory dance lesson at 8 p.m. and the live music lasts until midnight.
Saturday, Aug. 23
The experience of listening to Oneida can often be roughly equivalent to listening to a really awesome record that just happens to be skipping and repeating the same three seconds over and over and over and over again. The Brooklyn band loves it some reptition. No, really -- there are multiple songs in the band's catalog that consist of the same thing being played for 10+ minutes at a time. It's usually some organ-fueled freak-out and it's usually awesome. Apes and Dirty Faces open at the Black Cat's backstage.
The Fort Dupont Summer Concert Series wraps up tonight with a D.C. Jazz Off headed by local smooth jazz favorite Marcus Johnson. If the end of the series has snuck up on you, don't feel bad; there were only six performances this year. Phaze II and David Bach Consort are part of the big finale, which is free as always, so pack a blanket and head on out.
Sunday, Aug. 24
I've probably told this story before, but it's a funny one. Many years ago someone wrote into Got Plans? asking about a comic named Mike Birbiglia, who was then appearing at the Improv. My response was: "I can't claim to know too much (or really anything) about Mike Birbiglia ... That said, live stand-up comedy is usually a good time with a good crowd." At my most helpful, as always. So then a year or so later I'm cruising Birbiglia's Web site and while in the "press" section I see that I'm quoted in there. C'mon, that's funny. Birbiglia's recent stand-up special, "What I Should Have Said Was Nothing" has a snug spot on my DVR's saved programs section, right in between some Gilbert Arenas buzzer beaters and all of "Lost" season 4. His routine isn't groundbreaking -- long stories where the punchlines mostly come at his own expense -- but it's expertly paced and delivered and he doesn't rely on any cheap gags. There, feel free to put that line on your press page, Mike. He wraps up a four-night stand tonight at the Improv.
-- David Malitz
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