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Posted at 5:29 PM ET, 09/16/2008

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

The Puma Store turns into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame Saturday as Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow and others stop in. (Getty Images)

Get fresh with Afrika Bambaataa and Kurtis Blow -- and some talented D.C. rappers -- while rocking some new kicks, catch La India and Jaguar Wright at intimate venues, celebrate the release of new CDs by Chopteeth or the Points, get your samba on (with drink specials!) at Brazilian Rhythms' first anniversary party and say goodbye to Yankee Stadium -- in the heart of Foggy Bottom.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Monday | Tuesday

Wednesday, Sept. 17
In the mood for Oktoberfest? Munich's famous festival gets underway Saturday, but some local brewpubs are tapping their German-style brews earlier this week and celebrating with live music, free snacks and tastes of beer. Tonight, for example, you can listen to polka bands while the brewers at Gordon Biersch in Tysons Corner tap a wooden keg of Festbier. Sound tempting? Check out Fritz's Oktoberfest blog post for more details.

Pygmy Lush (listen) features former members of some of the area's most notable hardcore bands, specifically Page 99 and Majority Rule. So when Pygmy Lush appeared on the scene, it was no surprise that they played ferociously fast and loud hardcore punk, full of grinding guitars, pummeling drums and intense, screaming vocals. But the band's latest album, "Mount Hope," was a huge surprise: It's an album of hushed, largely acoustic folk songs. Let's clarify that -- an excellent album of hushed, largely acoustic folk songs. It's not just straightforward dude-with-acoustic-guitar fare, but hazy, psychedelic stuff that could almost be called freak-folk if people were still using that term. The ingredients include whispered, reverb-y vocals, some gentle harmonica and even one track ("Dreams Are Class") (a slightly revved-up hoedown) that could pass for a Shortstack song. If you said this was an album of lost My Morning Jacket demos from 1999, we'd believe you. If you said it was the new band on Gypsy Eyes, we'd believe you. If you said this was the new album by some local hardcore veterans ... well, it's always nice to be surprised. Even with the new sound, don't expect everything to be so calm and quiet when Pygmy Lush plays with Ancient Sky (listen), the Catalyst (listen) and Turboslut (listen) at the Velvet Lounge.

Thursday, Sept. 18
We're not going to lie: While we love DJ Neville Chamberlain's monthly Brazilian Rhythms night at Cafe Saint-Ex, we never thought it would get as big as it has: Lines to get down to the basement-level lounge, a bar packed with folks trying to get $5 caipirinhas, the dance floor rammed full of people getting down to samba, axe, tropicalia, baile funk, batucada -- anything that the DJ picked up on one of his trips to Brazil. It's refreshing to see a night where everyone's having more fun grooving to the music than standing around posing. Tonight's one-year anniversary party should be more of the same, with Peroni beer specials, commemorative T-shirts and some other deals. The party starts at 9:30. Until then, catch the spirit by downloading Neville Chamberlain's new Brazilian mix.

Speaking of anniversaries, the Argonaut is celebrating three years on H Street tonight. It's worth remembering that the Argo was the first of the "Atlas District" nightlife spots on H, serving customers well before the Rock and Roll Hotel, Palace of Wonders or any of those spaces opened their doors to customers. And, I should add, the classic little pub remains one of the best neighborhood spots on the strip, with a clientele that crosses race and age lines. The game is always on the flatscreen TV, the rum drinks are excellent, the jukebox is loaded, and there's darts, pool and foosball to play, and the kitchen turns out some of the best sweet potato fries around. To celebrate the bar's third birthday, there's a party with free darts and foosball, free tunes on the jukebox, free meals for kids and $5 off all pitchers and carafes of adult beverages. There's no cover charge.

Tonight the Republic is trying a pretty smart gambit to regain the brand equity that was lost while the historic venue was shuttered. Jaguar Wright (listen) will be returning to Washington, and although she hasn't had a record out in a few years, she still faithfully destroys stages and thrills audiences. Her hip-hop swagger, acrobatic vocals, foul-mouthed humor and emotional sincerity first won Washington's heart when the Black Lily showcase used to stop by the Metro Cafe. Way back then at the turn of this decade, critics tried to make her a poster child for the neo-soul movement, but Jaguar has always been rooted in the aesthetic of the fiery blues woman and bold forebears like Millie Jackson and Betty Davis. Hopefully tonight is the start of more smart decisions made for the Republic.

An after-work combo that's hard to beat: Karaoke and 99-cent drinks. That's the new Thursday formula at Bethesda's Juste Lounge. The DJs boast that they have 10,000 songs to choose from, so get there early and browse through the thick binders while sipping those less-than-a-dollar Cosmos. Drink specials run from 5 to 9, and the singing begins around 7, so you'll have time to get your courage up before deciding that since you belt out "I'm Every Woman" in the shower before work, you can do it on stage. On second thought, maybe too-cheap drinks at karaoke night can be dangerous.

Friday, Sept. 19
On our travels from Centreville to Arlington to Dewey Beach, we've seen a LOT of cover bands. We've heard 'em all profess "I Love Rock and Roll," tell us it's time to party like it's "1999" and perform Bon Jovi covers that do, in fact, give love a bad name. One band that does make us "Jump" -- and pump our fists, and sing along to "Crazy Train" as well as "Goodbye to You" -- is the Legwarmers. Apparently we're not the only ones who dig this six-piece throwback from their synthesized drums down to their skinny ties and jelly shoes. The band's two-night stands at the State Theatre are as much about the audience as the band -- the people standing next to you are more likely than not to be wearing a costume and they'll be shouting along to every song, whether girlie pop, new wave or heavy metal. Tickets usually sell out well in advance, but it's still possible to score general admission tickets to tonight's concert for $16 each. Make sure you buy in advance, then start planning your outfit.

Saturday, Sept. 20
Nike SB Dunks have had a long reign as the current hip-hop kid sneaker of choice, but nothing says original b-boy style like a pair of Puma Clydes. The brand is synonymous with popping, breaking and an overall assertion of one's freshness. Following up on Puma's last celebration of the Yo! MTV Raps line, tonight's Puma Archive sneaker retrospective at the D.C. Puma store features hip-hop grandfather Afrika Bambaataa and great uncle Kurtis Blow rocking with Flex Matthews, Asheru, Hezekiah, Grap Luva, Emoni Fela, DJ 2-Tones, DJ Cuzzin B and many more. The all-star Players Band reunites to back the proceedings after their flawless execution of Dilla's catalog (watch, language NSFW). RSVP at Pookie's Gallery and get there early.

In Haiti, kompa singer Sweet Micky (listen) is a legend, an entertainer whose incredibly danceable songs are filled with political commentary and biting satire delivered in his native Haitian creole. Not everyone loves him -- especially those who find themselves or their political parties targeted in the meringue-like rhythms -- but there's a reason that Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly is known as "President Kompa." Although he had a scene-stealing appearance on Wyclef's "Carnival" album, his fame outside of the Haitian diaspora is limited, maybe because he doesn't play outside of New York and Miami that often. He's appearing tonight at Zanzibar, where he hasn't performed in over seven years. Check him out tonight and hope you don't have to wait another seven.

It's official: Hometown Heroes is the hottest semi-underground dance night in D.C. It debuted last month at the Trinidad & Tobago Association on upper Georgia Avenue with appearances by local soulful house legends Sam "The Man" Burns and Doug "95 North" Smith, and the good vibes are back tonight with Teddy Douglas of the Basement Boys, who's been producing smooth, funky, disco-influenced house music since the late '80s and remains a favorite of his DJ peers. The all-star supporting cast includes local turntablists Meistro (Dirty Bombs), Chris Burns (Disco City) and Steve Love (Nouveau Riche) over two levels. Admission to the 18-and-over party is $10; get there early for free mix CDs.

A little more than two years ago, David sat down for an interview with Michael Shereikis, guitarist and leader of the up-and-coming local Afrofunk band Chopteeth (listen). Since then, the band has become a local sensation, no doubt due to the exposure the band received with that podcast. Well, there's also the fact that the dozen-plus member outfit cooks up an scintillating stew of Afrofunk, rumba, salsa, ska and funk. And that the band's live shows have been known to make even the most motionless of concert-watchers flail their limbs and do something that resembles dancing. And also that there's no other band in the area with as funky and wide-reaching sound as Chopteeth. But really, it was that podcast, don't you think? Tonight at the Black Cat, the band celebrates the release of its self-titled, debut album which does a fantastic job capturing the sweaty energy of the band's live show -- not an easy task. For the CD release show Chopteeth will be joined by a pair of artists who appear on the CD, frequent collaborator and ngoni master Cheick Hamala Diabaté and political (to put it mildly) local rapper Head-Roc.

Sunday, Sept. 21
Last year, the Nationals bid farewell to RFK and moved into a shiny new stadium. Next year, it will be the Yankees' turn. Okay, so you can't really compare Yankees Stadium, the House that Ruth Built, an 85-year-old cathedral of the game, to RFK, and you can guarantee there will be a lot more tears shed in the Bronx. Those who aren't lucky enough to have tickets for Sunday's game against the Orioles -- only going for up to $65,000 on StubHub! -- can join the party at the 51st State in Foggy Bottom. There will be aluminum bottles of Bud Light decorated with the Yankees logo, as you'd buy at Yankee Stadium, for $15 for a bucket of five, and burgers and dogs on the grill. Other New York-related drink specials include $5 pints of Hennepin, a Belgian saison brewed in Cooperstown, and $4 Brooklyn Lagers. The game's at 8. Get there earlier to claim a bar stool.

I don't even know how The Salsa Room is supposed to withstand the star power of La India (listen), but if you're one of the smart folks getting those pre-sale tickets, you'll have an experience to talk about for years to come. La India's career is packed with achievements that have touched the heights of the jazz, Latin and dance worlds and that make the hearts of Puerto Ricans swell with pride. Starting in the Latin freestyle scene of the early '80s, she took off on a trajectory with childhood buddy and former husband Louie Vega that led to collaborations with Eddie Palmieri, Marc Anthony and Tito Puente. Our favorite work of hers is her contribution to Vega's ground breaking Nuyorican Soul project, but her main fanbase idolizes her for almost two decades of salsa hits. There really aren't too many other places you should be tonight. Showtime is at 9 p.m. but the dance floor gets warmed up starting at 6 p.m.

Up in that Pygmy Lush blurb there's a mention of "dude-with-acoustic-guitar" fare, and it wasn't meant as something positive. Every genre has plenty of by-the-numbers performers but mediocre-to-bad acoustic singer-songwriter stuff has a way of sounding especially painful. So when someone does it right, it's especially refreshing. And that makes tonight's show at Jammin' Java doubly refreshing, as both Hayden (listen) and Jennifer O'Connor (listen) (a chick-with-a-guitar) use those basic elements of voice, words and guitar to craft memorable songs. Hayden is more understated with his lyrics, focusing mostly on sad-sack tales of love that sound fine unaccompanied. With a full band in tow on this tour, his songs are given an atmospheric makeover that makes them even more appealing. O'Connor is a grittier lyricist, more telling stories than simply expressing feelings, and her recent album "Here With Me" is a winner.

We'll accept arguments in favor of Motown, Sun or a few others, but during its heyday, there was no label mighter than Stax. The entirety of the nine-disc box set that covers the label's 1959-1968 is essential listening for any music fan, not just those who dig classic R&B and soul. To celebrate Stax's 50th anniversary, the house band for many of those amazing records, Booker T and M.G.'s is playing with Eddie Floyd at the 9:30 club. We could write something here, but just watch and listen, OK?

Monday, Sept. 22
Green party crusader and D.C. hip-hop icon Head-Roc is going back to his roots with his new live band. In the early '90s, 3LG paved the way for every subsequent D.C. hip-hop band to follow, and its live recording at State of the Union is an important relic documenting the birth of the U Street scene. That band spawned the Wu-Tang-like collective Infinite Loop, which then lead to Heady's solo career. He's now reunited with original 3LG drummer Kiggo Wellman and some mainstays of D.C.'s best go-go bands to make a raw funk quartet known as the Godisheus International Funk Train (listen). Catch them along with Ras Lidj and reggae/go-go fusionists Deep Band at the Velvet Lounge tonight.

Tuesday, Sept. 23
Another one of our favorite bands is celebrating the release of their self-titled debut album this week, and the Points (listen) couldn't be further on the opposite side of the musical spectrum from Chopteeth. Instead of a sprawling lineup that features more than a dozen members, the Points keep it simple: the longtime trio has recently expanded to -- gasp! -- a quartet. No genre-jumping for them, either -- the Points play over-adrenalized punk rock that feels like a punch in the face. In a good way. Live shows are always on the verge of chaos, and those are the calm ones. If you are sick of over-stylized rock-and-roll and want something that'll make you feel dirty (again, in a good way), the Points are what you need. Black Time (listen) and Static Static (listen) open at the Black Cat.

-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | September 16, 2008; 5:29 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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Also be sure to check out a full slate of Indie bands at DC9 on Saturday night...

Posted by: GoPens | September 18, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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