This is a monster five days in the nightlife world, with a surprise DJ gig by Thievery Corporation, appearances by Detroit legends Martha Reeves (of Martha and the Vandellas) and Carl Craig (one of the world's finest techno DJs), parties for the Congression Black Caucus's annual meeting, avant-garde rock at the Sonic Circuits Festival, a "Yacht Rock" dance party, a waterfront party after a regatta, Oktoberfest beer tastings, a Parisian-style club night and concerts by local hotshots Wale and the Jet Age and the legend that is Robert Pollard.
Seriously, if you can't find something you like this week, you're not trying.
Wednesday, Sept. 24
Tonight, the streets of D.C. will echo with enough beats to have you punch drunk from compressed kick drums and crunchy snares. While the home team headed up by Roddy Rod and Emoni Fela bangs it out at Liv, the Red Bull Big Tune competition jumps off at the 9:30 club. It's unfortunate that such a conflict has to occur, but sadly that's not unprecedented for hip-hop events in Washington. I'd normally rep for the locals over the big corporate entity, but Red Bull consistently puts on the best underground talent and organizers also included workshops for kids on the art of music production for Big Tune's stop in D.C. And any time you can hear Nottz's disgustingly raw tracks booming out of the 9:30 club's new state-of-the-art system, you've got to be excited about that. He'll also be joined by Wale on the mike and Vitamin D and Jake One handling hosting duties. Hopefully both events will be well attended, because that's also happened before. They're even close enough to hit both in the same night. How we long for the times when Beat Society came through and had Roddy and Nottz on the same stage.
The Broken West (listen) made a perfectly pleasing debut album of sunny power pop last year. Most of the time once you're in the power pop game, you're there for life. But the Broken West decided to mix things up on its second album, keeping the hooks but leaving behind the bright guitars for a more processed, electronic sound. The guitars and live drums are still there, but everything just sounds a bit more detached. There's more ennui. Which, of course, makes it all the more likely you'll hear the Broken West on "Gossip Girl" or "One Tree Hill," and that's where the money is, not with power pop nerds. The Broken West opens for Throw Me the Statue (listen) at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
So maybe you've heard that "Sex and the City" was made into a movie, and it's coming out on DVD. None of us actually saw said film -- no women even tried to drag us to it! -- but we know all about the official DVD release party tonight at Posh, which sounds like it's made for fans of the TV series. Watch clips from the film on the restaurant's big screens while tasting special themed Skyy vodka cocktails (We like the sound of Skyy's "Samantha" recipe, with Skyy, Cabo Wabo tequila, simple syrup and lime juice, though the Carrie, which swaps vodka for mango nectar and triple sec, could be pretty good, too.). There will be prizes and giveaways, so you might walk out with a copy of the new DVD or other Carrie-themed swag. Happy hour is from 6 to 8, followed by a DJ and dancing until midnight. There's no cover charge, but Posh says there's a two-drink/$15 food-and-drink purchase minimum per person.
Apes (listen) and These Are Powers (listen): a pairing that's just not meant for a traditional rock club. Almost a year ago to the day these bands played at the now shuttered Bobby Fisher Memorial Building. This time around the Civilian Arts Project hosts the double bill. These Are Powers describe their sound as ghost-punk. That's one way of putting it. It's basically another way of saying, "Music that deserves to be heard in an art gallery or some other one-off space, because it's kind of mysterious and weird and, well, arty." But ghost-punk really is a lot more succinct, isn't it? Apes ... seriously, just type "Apes 'Nightlife Agenda'" into Google and you'll find all you need to know. It's not until the second page of results that something about a mandrill comes up.
Thursday, Sept. 25
The Congressional Black Caucus's annual legislative conference returns to Washington this week, which means that club promoters all over D.C. are rubbing their hands together gleefully and wondering how to lure attendees into their lounges. (Honestly, it's not quite to Howard Homecoming-esque levels of "unofficial" events yet, but it's getting there.) If we were going to pick one CBC-targeted happy hour this week, it would probably be at the Park at 14th, where the Young Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association is sponsoring an event with $5 cocktails and a special bar menu from 5 to 7, followed by dancing, socializing and networking until 2 a.m. The Park's Thursday events are generally crowded, so this one might be bigger than ever. To RSVP for VIP admission, send an email to email@example.com by 4 p.m. Thursday, and then you can cruise in with free admission until 11. (After that, you'll have to wait. And wait. And wait.)
Back in July, Fritz was all excited about a "Yacht Rock"-themed party at Cafe Saint-Ex, where DJ Eddy Perez (Taint) would be spinning Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald, Toto, Kenny Loggins and other smooth '70s grooves, inspired by the mega-popular Web-only "Yacht Rock" mockumentary series (watch). Being the huge McDonald fan that he is, Fritz went to check it out, and found himself among kindred spirits: a packed room of folks in sailor hats and other nautical attire dancing the night away to "What a Fool Believes," "Steal Away," "This is It," "Time Out of Mind" and similar tunes. The DJs, not expecting a large turnout, had planned for the night to be a one-off, but they're setting sail again tonight in the bar's Gate 54 Lounge. There's no cover, so arrive early or risk being shut out.
He may not have achieved the fame or acclaim of 30-years-ago Stiff Records labelmates Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe, but Wreckless Eric (listen) is a minor god in the rock pantheon just the same. His signature song is "Whole Wide World," a two-chord rocker that was introduced to a new generation thanks to the Will Ferrell movie "Stranger Than Fiction." The song has been covered by plenty of performers over the years. One of them happened to be singer-songwriter Amy Rigby, she of the influential mid-'90s album "Diary of a Mod Housewife." At one show in England she played "Whole Wide World" and Wreckless Eric was there, so they were introduced and played the song together. Fast forward a few years and the couple is now happily married and happily collaborating on an album of lo-fi garage-pop, recorded in their French home. The songs have all the wit and humor you'd expect from the pair, and it makes for one of the surprise feel-good albums of the year. Expect to hear Rigby and Eric chestnuts -- yes, including "Whole Wide World" -- when the duo plays at Jammin' Java.
No matter who the new commander in chief is, local country singer Wil Gravatt (listen) has his inauguration plans set: He'll be making a return to the Texas State Society's annual Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball, alongside names like Asleep at the Wheel, Dale Watson and Jack Ingram. Though he's from Virginia, Gravatt and his rollicking country tunes have long found an audience with the legions of Texans who work on Capitol Hill and are longing for a slice of home. If you want to know why Gravatt's in such demand, check out the Wil Gravatt Band tonight at the Capitol Hill American Legion Post, which is a homey place perfect for a country show. It's just $6 to get in.
Friday, Sept. 26
Five is still shuttered, so the 'burbs are still holding it down as an option for serious underground dance music heads to get their fix. The Loda party at Gallery welcomes Carl Craig tonight. If you know techno, you know that Craig is a Mount Rushmore figure for the genre and he continues to build on it by drawing from other styles of music. If you don't know techno, go surprise yourself by how far this is from the standard boom-chick-boom-chick-bleep-bleep cheeseball music that everyone thinks is "techno." You'll be dancing all night.
During World War II, the USO was founded to entertain troops in uniform and make their lives a little easier when they were away from their families. It's only fitting, then, that tonight's City Tavern Club fundraiser for the charity Luke's Wings has a USO theme. Luke's Wings is a nonprofit that provides plane tickets and other assistance for family members of wounded servicemen recovering at Walter Reed and the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. If you'd like to help, get dressed up in your finest '40s threads and head to Georgetown tonight, where the Sultans of Swing will have the crowd jitterbugging to the hits of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington, and silent auctions and raffles also help the charity. The 100 percent-tax-deductible tickets are $35 in advance from lukeswings.org or $45 at the door, and they include two drinks. (Oh, and don't worry about missing the debates: The City Tavern has a special viewing room set up.)
D.C.'s lesbian community is set for a really cool weekend. Tonight, DJ India welcomes Euphoria to kick off her monthly "Premium Autumn Lesbian Series," which will be at Tabaq on the fourth Friday of each month. The event takes over Tabaq's whole space, from the glassed-in rooftop deck to the first floor lounge, and it's a for-women, by-women affair with DJs and dancing from 10:30 to 3. This month's suggested dress code is "Sexy Black," and jeans and sneakers are fine. (Leave the athletic wear and do-rags at home, though.) Admission is $10; it's free for all Libras.
Saturday, Sept. 27
If we had to rank the great Motown vocalists, it's pretty likely that Martha Reeves would edge Diana Ross out for the top spot. Nothing against Ms. Ross, because no one is ever going to argue the greatness of "You Can't Hurry Love" or "Back in My Arms Again," but we'd take Martha's rawness and enthusiasm over Diana's smooth elegance and glamour every time -- at least on the dance floor. (And, that said, it's hard to find a Supremes song that will get a dance floor jumping like "[Love Is Like a] Heat Wave," "Nowhere to Run" or "Dancing in the Street.") The story of Martha and the Vandellas is one that includes some of the most amazing pop songs of the decade, in-fighting, and some tragedy, including Reeves' institutionalization after a bad acid trip. After Reeves and the Vandellas parted ways in 1972, she recorded as a solo artist for Motown, was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and, in 2005, was elected to the Detroit City Council, where she still serves. Tonight, this living legend is performing at the Carlyle Club from 8 until 10 or so, according to the club's management, which seems like time for her to cover all the hits, and maybe some less-known tracks ("Wild One" and "In My Lonely Room," please?). Tickets are $50 per person for either seats at dinner tables or standing room in the bar area. The purchase of a meal is required for a table, while bar admission comes with a two-drink minimum. Dress code is business casual.
What haven't we said about Thievery Corporation over the years? Washington's groundbreaking electronic duo defined the "outernational" lounge music craze in the '90s, adding world-music flourishes to laidback dub beats and creating the perfect vibe for late-night lounging -- especially at the ever-popular Eighteenth Street Lounge, which is owned in part by Thievery's Eric Hilton. And while its competition has dropped away, Thievery is only getting stronger, as evidenced on the strident new "Radio Retaliation" album (listen) that dropped earlier this week. Featuring guests like Femi Kuti, Seu Jorge and Chuck Brown, the songs have multilingual messages against war, the loss of civil liberties and the lack of independent media voices, especially where the radio is concerned, while the usual deep reggae vibes are infused with rich basslines, funky guitars, shimmering keyboards, even some sparkling sitar from Anushka Shankar, the daughter of Ravi. To mark the release of "Radio Retaliation," Thievery's Eric Hilton and Rob Garza are DJing the main room of the Eighteenth Street Lounge tonight, spinning favorites new and old. It will be a madhouse, we're sure, so get tickets in advance by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The cover's $20, or for $25 you can get entrance plus a copy of the CD. Doors open at 9:30.
If someone were to compile Robert Pollard's (listen) complete discography into a book, the length would probably make Tolstoy blush. You know, if he didn't die almost a hundred years ago. Point is, Robert Pollard has written lots of songs. Let's just say the number of songs he's written is in the same ballpark as the number of Wilt Chamberlain's (alleged) bedroom conquests. Except Pollard's still going. Sure, his best work will always be that glorious period between 1993 and 1995 when as the leader of Guided By Voices he reeled off more than dozens of lo-fi indie rock masterpieces, including the entireties of classic albums "Bee Thousand" and "Alien Lanes." And sure, saying that a new album -- in this case "Brown Submarine" with his new band Boston Spaceships (listen) -- is the best thing someone has done in (insert number of years) is a kind way of saying that it's been a rough (insert number of years) for that person. But "Brown Submarine" really is Pollard's best collection of songs during the Bush administration, although he probably has about 17 albums under various pseudonyms that might have slipped through the cracks. And he might have written another album while this column was being written. Anyway, see Pollard in all his high-leg-kicking glory at the Black Cat.
We don't think we'd get a lot of disagreement if we said that teachers have one of the most vital and rewarding jobs out there, but as two of us had moms who worked in schools in D.C. and P.G. County, we also know it can be a thankless task with long hours and not as much pay as it deserves. Anyway, tonight at JV's, our favorite little Falls Church honky-tonk is hosting a Teacher Appreciation Show with live music by the Tracers (listen), a local blues band whose members have plenty of touring and recording experience between them. From 4 to 7, all teachers who show up current ID get discounts on their food and drinks -- it's like a happy hour that's not on a school night!
The tres-sexy Planete Chic parties bring together one of the city's more glamorous and international crowds, and for the first gathering since Bastille Day, DJ Herve is moving his event from Tabaq to the hot new lounge Current. "Soiree Paris Chic By Night" naturally requires "your most fashionable outfit," which means people-watching should be better than ever. The guest-list-only event, sponsored by the Alliance Francaise and France Today magazine, costs $10 before 11:30 if you register on planetechic.com, or $20 you're late. One reason to arrive on the early side: The first 100 people through the doors get a free glass of champagne.
Dahlak has become an unlikely home for local rock. Tonight's twinbill of the Jet Age (listen) and 7 Door Sedan (listen) isn't exactly what first comes to mind when you think of 18th Street on a Saturday night, but hey, it's better than a random drunk chick vomiting outside Pizza Mart at 3 a.m., right? Both of these bands are part of the "scene vets" crew, guys who have been doing this for more than a decade through a variety of bands, and it shows in the well-crafted tunes they play. The Jet Age's fuzzed-out power indie rock never disappoints and 7 Door Sedan's glammed-up, T-Rex inspired songs are tingly in all the right ways.
9/24 Edit: Rustico is postponing its OctoBEERfest until Oct. 18, due to the threat of inclement weather. Yes, just the threat.
It's Oktoberfest season, and while Fritz has tried a number of local Oktoberfest brews (winner so far: District Chophouse), he's really looking forward to the madness that is Rustico's OktoBEERfest, the annual festival held in the Alexandria restaurant's rear parking lot. The lineup of more than two dozen beers includes 15 American Oktoberfest and harvest-style ales against nine traditional German brews. Try Lancaster, Brooklyn, Bell's and Penn and see how they stand up against Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Ayinger and other old-world originals. Admission is free, but you'll be paying anywhere from $5 to $9 per glass. Besides beer, there's live music from five bands, including the Hallmonitors and Bad Panda, plus food from Rustico's sister restaurants Tallula, Vermilion, Evening Star Cafe and Buzz bakery. The party starts at noon.
(There's plenty more Oktoberfest where that came from this weekend, including the Northern Virgina BeerFest and Das Best Oktoberfest. Click here for a longer list of beer-related events.)
Since we were just talking about Yacht Rock up the page, we might as well mention a real yachting party today. The National Maritime Heritage Foundation is sponsoring the first Cantina Cup, a regatta that's held in the Washington Channel. The race is expected to run between 2 and 6, and the public is invited to watch from vantage points at the Gangplank Marina and then board a barge near Cantina Marina for the official afterparty on the water, with a DJ, steel drum performances, food and rum drinks. (Mount Gay rum is a sponsor.) A $15 donation to the foundation is requested.
Last night, D.C.'s lesbian community was treated to a new upscale affair at Tabaq. On Saturday, there's a new event at Fab Lounge, as the founder of A Different Kind of Ladies Night takes to the DJ booth for '80s Backspin, a retro night of dancing and drink specials. There's no cover. Doors open at 8.
Sunday, Sept. 28
The Sonic Circuits festival kicks off tonight at the Velvet Lounge with one of its usual massive lineups of knob-twiddlers, noise-makers and avant-garde mayhem mavens. If you are sad because My Bloody Valentine isn't bringing its ear-shattering reunion tour to D.C., a trip to the Velvet tonight should give you a nice case of fill-in tinnitus. (Although if you're a MBV fan you're probably sad to begin with, at least most of the time, right?) Sonic Circuits is now in its eighth year of presenting a platform for all things out there and all you need to do is see some of the band names -- Blue Sausage Infant, Cutest Puppy in the World, Twilight Memories of the Three Suns, Chris Grier (wait, that one's just a dude's name, never mind) -- to know you're in for something wildly different. Check back here next week for more Sonic Circuits highlights.
Ray-Ray just can't get enough of Washington. Even though he was just in town a month ago, Raphael Saddiq will be at the Black Cat tonight. You can be sure that the adoring public who's starved to see him and still holding onto memories of Tony! Toni! Toné! shows of the past will be there, too. The MN8 promotional team is celebrating seven years of booking the premier talent in modern soul at venues around D.C., and with his track record and new '60s-inspired album topping the whole retro trend, Saddiq is a fitting master of ceremonies for their milestone.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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