Female MCs and soul singers take the spotlight at the Can a Sista Rock the Mic? Festival, Eyebar celebrates its grand reopening with multiple events, two revered British post-punk bands go head-to-head, a rooftop happy hour closes for the season after one more party, Stacey Pullen brings techno from Detroit to Silver Spring and if you have Columbus Day off, African bands, go-go legends and '80s DJs are offering an extra night on the town.
Wednesday, Oct. 8
This year's Can A Sista Rock A Mic? Festival is easily packed with the most exciting combinations of emerging and established talents in hip-hop, soul and jazz to date. Each night you're bound to rekindle memories of some of your favorite underrated classic albums and discover new finds to add to your collection. N'Dambi brings her statuesque beauty and honey-coated pipes to Bohemian Caverns tonight to kick off the week. After establishing her solo career on the heels of a stint with Erykah Badu, she's enjoying a second wind as a recent signee to the venerable Stax Records. She'll be paired with D.C.'s own jazz and house diva Tamara Wellons (listen).
So after we were all hyped up about the return of Eyebar last week, um, it didn't happen because the venue "wasn't quite ready." No matter. It's opening this week, with DJ Geometrix officially kicking off his residency tonight. New rooftop bar, premium open bar from 10 to 11, plenty of old-school hip-hop and mashups to dance to, and no cover charge or guest list RSVP required.
Thursday, Oct. 9
Indian summer was nice, but now that we're into October, it's getting harder to ignore the chill in the air. This means, alas, that the International Club of D.C.'s rooftop happy hour at the Embassy Row Hilton is shutting down for the year. Sweeping views of Rock Creek Park and space to lounge around the small pool have made this one of our favorite happy hour venues, so we encourage you to say goodbye to partying in the great outdoors. From 6:30 to 9:30, there will be drink specials and a crowd that runs the gamut from World Bank staffers to nonprofit workers. Admission is just $5 when you RSVP on internationalclubdc.com.
Tonight's CASRAM set focuses on a near-extinct species: the female MC. Not the video vixen -- they're ubiquitous -- but the gifted lyricist. TK Wonder (listen) sits somewhere between M.I.A. and Flying Lotus, with Taylor McFerrin contributing a special brand of spaceship electro beats. Rhymewise, TK's ability to spit at aggressive tempos is rivaled by few of her contemporaries, and she's got that killer combination of looks and skills that the game is sorely missing.
Friday, Oct. 10
With the nomadic club night Buzz lacking a regular venue and 18th Street club Five lacking permits from the D.C. government, D.C.'s electronic music fans could have been facing a bleak autumn. Could have, we say, thanks to a number of smaller events that are keeping feet moving, energy high and dance floors full. Loda at Gallery has been pulling off coup after coup, scoring artists like Carl Craig and Freddy Sanon to play at the Silver Spring restaurant and nightspot. Tonight, it's the Motor City's own Stacey Pullen (listen), who has a sterling reputation on the house and techno scene. A protégé and frequent partner of Derrick May's, Pullen's all-over-the-place sets include soulful house, synth-heavy progressive beats and stark, to-the-point Detroit techno and electro, studded with reworked classics and his own remixes. It's some of the best music you'll hear all weekend. We swear. Admission is free before 10 -- and this party goes late -- or $5 if you e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for the password.
Renee Neufville, one half of beloved '90s hip-hop/soul duo Zhané, has had a nice solo career, and now we finally get to hear from her former partner Jean Baylor (listen) at CASRAM tonight. No word if they'll ever get back together, but it's all good as long as we can get more songs out of them. Yahzarah (listen) and Alison Carney (listen) hold it down for the local faves.
So as Eyebar gets into gear, there's another "Grand Reopening" tonight dubbed Party House with Chris Burns of Disco City and other assorted house nights and co-host "Female Shaq." There's no open bar, but since it's a Friday night party instead of Wednesday, we figure this is when people are really going to want to check out a new venue. Get on the guest list by e-mailing email@example.com.
We've encouraged readers to go check out the 2 Tribes DJs a number of times over the years, as Ray Kang and Barrett spin some of the most banging tribal house and dark electro you'll find in D.C. nightclubs, and they've opened for respected DJs like Victor Calderone and Scott Henry. We first wrote about Kang when he and DJ Double o7 ran the funky Knee Deep parties at the Blue Room in the early part of this decade. Now he's moving to San Francisco, and if you haven't heeded our warnings to head out to Gua-Rapo to catch 2 Tribes, well, this is your last chance. Download one of the mixes from the duo's MySpace page, then make your way to Gua-Rapo's upstairs lounge. There's no cover charge.
Shudder To Think (listen) made a pretty decent career out of being the band that never fit in. Back when it was on Dischord in the late-'80s, it was pretty far removed from the post-hardcore sound that shaped the seminal label. When it made the major label leap in the '90s, it shared in neither grunge gloom and doom nor Gen X slackerdom. The band's shifty songs and glam-rock tendencies made it an outsider, and if you saw the band at HFStival back in the day, you can attest to that. In fact, the band's current reunion is one of the first things the band has ever done that's actually en vogue. But the public still hasn't caught up, it seems, at least if the band's recent Virgin Mobile Festival performance is any indication. OK, playing right before Taking Back Sunday and Paramore meant that there were lots of impatient teens there for STT's set, but it sure felt like not much had changed since that HFStival nearly 15 years ago. And since STT was clicking on all cylinders then, that's a good thing. The reunion tour hits the 9:30 club tonight.
It's been a while since we've seen Middle Distance Runner's (listen) name around, but maybe we were just used to seeing it a whole lot. Tonight's show is the band's 100th, so Willard Scott salutes you, MDR! (And then he rambles on in a truly bizarre manner.) It actually has been almost a year since the band that was the darling of the local indie scene in 2006 and 2007 has graced a stage, and who knows if it can still claim that title. Lose a bassist, take a year off and all of a sudden you've got Jukebox the Ghost and U.S. Royalty snagging all those Brightest Young Things features. The comeback beings tonight at Iota.
We were big fans of the Antiques' (listen) last album, "Sewn With Stitches," as it filled a niche on the local music scene -- namely, sounding like awesome, obscure British bands that were around when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. The band cast a wide net for follow-up "Awake," adding an a cappella group, saxophone and cello to the mix on various songs. Basically, don't expect it to sound less gloomy. IfIHadAHiFi (listen), White Wrench Conservatory (listen) and local punks the Fordists (listen) -- who are set to release their debut 7" -- are also on tonight's bill at the Velvet Lounge.
Saturday, Oct. 11
CASRAM wraps today in grand outdoor festival fashion with a Grand Finale in Silver Spring. Bring the kiddies down if you couldn't get a babysitter for the earlier offerings. They might be inspired to construct laptop beats in the ethereal style of Yoko K (listen) or develop rhyme skills like Emoni Fela (listen). Angela Johnson (listen) and Deborah Bond (listen) easily appeal to generations raised on classic soul singers and jazz stylists, while Gen-Y'ers should find a lot to like in Emily King.
Pase Rock (listen)is one of the few acts on today's tight-pants '80s-revival coke-rap scene who have successfully shed a hoodie and backpack to reinvent themselves for a whole new generation of fans. And even if you're a Five Deez junkie who wouldn't know a Cool Kid from a Kid Cudi, you'd be hard pressed to hate on Pase Rock's current nonchalant party style, which still sports a solid rhyme foundation. He'll still have a career once everyone decides puts down the PBR and kaffiyeh scarves. In the meantime you can mosh, holler and get drunk guilt-free with Pase Rock at DC9 tonight.
People talk about "swing music" like there's no difference between the lush melodies of Glenn Miller, the rhythmically challenging compositions of Duke Ellington, the hard-driving Count Basie Orchestra or Cab Calloway's entertaining vocal performances. In truth, "swing" is pretty similar to "rock," with all sorts of microgenres for hardcore fans and purists to argue about. Mora's Modern Swingtet (listen) is a modern group that doesn't fit in a neat box. Though it specializes in the music of the small groups of the '30s and '40s -- the energetic shuffles of Artie Shaw's Grammercy Five, the more intricate arrangements of the John Kirby Sextet and the wonderful works of the Ellingtonians, a side project of Ellington's band members -- it can also play hot jazz and more conventional big band tunes. (The Swingtet is composed of members of the popular Los Angeles hot jazz band Mora's Modern Rhymists and the larger big band Dean Mora and His Orchestra.) The Swingtet makes a very, very rare East Coast appearance tonight at the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo, and while we haven't seen the Swingtet live, we've seen its parent groups, and this has the potential to be one of the hottest jazz shows of the year, period. Swing dancers take note: This concert is part of the first Balboa on the Potomac weekend, which offers classes focused on Balboa, a unique (and rad) dance of the '20s and '30s.
It used to be that DJs just stood in a booth in the corner of the room and played records while people danced. Now some DJs have become the center of a whole multimedia experience, controlling the visuals as well as the beats. Take Sander Kleinenberg (listen), the Dutch progressive and electro house standard bearer. Not content with just spinning at legendary clubs like Ibiza's Pacha, London's Ministry of Sound or the annual Creamfields festival, Kleinenberg and his partner Mark Pistoire create short films and videos to match the music. Get ready to have your mind blown when Kleinenberg makes his semiannual return to Glow at Ibiza tonight. Advance tickets are $20 and highly recommended, because the lines outside are going to be long enough as it is.
Next weekend is Howard University Homecoming, when U Street turns into a street festival and some of the biggest names in hip-hop drop into D.C. to perform at Yardfest or "host" parties at D.C. clubs. (Exhibit A: Diddy at Love on Friday and Saturday.) This weekend, though, it's Bowie State's turn, and while it's not having Terrence Howard as grand marshall of the parade, the Bulldogs are taking a page out of Howard's playbook with a non-university-affiliated-but-sure-to-be-packed party at the Republic. Doors open at 10, and there are $5 drinks until midnight.
What's a fan of revered British post-punk bands to do on this Saturday evening? In a very unfortunate case of competitive booking, Wire (listen) and the Wedding Present (listen) go head to head. There are a few ways you can determine which show to attend. Which band has the best album? It's close, but Wire's debut, "Pink Flag" would take that honor. More than 30 years after its release, its short, sharp, punchy songs sound as vital as ever. (Apologies to "Seamonsters" and "Watusi" by the Wedding Present.) How about the band that has the most consistency in its catalog? The Weddoes would get the nod here. Wire is sort of handicapped by the perfection of "Pink Flag" and the subsequent "Chairs Missing," but once it shifted from spiky post-punk it was hard to maintain the vitality. Meanwhile, the Wedding Present seamlessly went from the hyper-strummed jangle-pop of its seminal early work to the more muscular alt-rock sound of those albums mentioned above. Pick a random Wedding Present song and it'll likely be better than a random Wire song. How about who's better live these days? This isn't a fair fight, because none of us have seen Wire lately, but the Wedding Present shows at the Black cat in 2005 and 2006 were simply fantastic. In fact, Fritz and David wholeheartedly agree on this, a rarity that regular column readers will be quick to point out. So the short story is that you can't go wrong with either band, but the Wedding Present gets Nightlife Agenda's vote.
Sunday, Oct. 12
Columbus Day isn't as popular a No-Work-or-School-Monday holiday as Veterans Day or Presidents Day, but there are still plenty of parties going on tonight.
If you're not hip to African dance music, Magic System's "Premier Gaou" (listen) hits like A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" does at a hip-hop jam, or like Frankie Beverly's "Before I Let Go" at a soul party. That record propelled the Ivory Coast quartet to fame throughout West Africa before its infectious Zouglou sound crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to excite European francophone audiences. Magic System can also excite Caribbean, Antillean and continental African partygoers in D.C. who like groove to dancehall, zouk and high-life. It'll be a pilgrimage at Fur tonight for D.C.'s expat community who rode for the group even before its breakthrough hit. The evening won't be cheap, but it'll definitely be an event.
Afterwards, D.C. go-go legends Rare Essence (listen) prove why they've earned the nickname "The Wickedest Band Alive" at Fur, with original vocalists Lil' Benny and Jas. Funk out front. Also performing is the W.H.A.T. Band. Doors open at 9.
The weekly Daylight party is extending its mix of retro R&B, disco, rare grooves and soul from 5 p.m. to "until" on the second level of Bohemian Caverns, though you should still get there early for the drink specials and homemade soul food buffet.
Modern, which is subtly moving from Georgetown student hangout to serious DJ venue -- groundbreaking drum 'n' bass DJ Doc Scott is spinning on Oct. 22 -- has DJ Frost "mixing the funky fresh sounds of the 80s." Arrive early for drink specials; women get in free until 11, men pay $10.
Monday, Oct. 13
"So leave the bottle where you found it and let me lay here on the ground/Waking up drunk makes me happy, lately you just bring me down," sings Dan McGee on "Waking Up Drunk" by North Carolina's Spider Bags (listen). It's one of those lines that has a possibility of sounding terribly hackneyed, but McGee's weary voice suggests that this is a situation he's beeen in plenty of times before, so it rings true. The rest of the album is filled with similar tales of hard living, hard drinking and the women who drive him to it. The music that accompanies the down-and-out lyrics is garage rock by the way of back-porch country, which means distortion and twang are delivered in equal amounts. Last year's "Celebration of Hunger" was one of the best under-the-radar releases of the year, and tonight's show at the Velvet Lounge with psych-country rockers the Golden Boys (listen) promises to be one of the best under-the-radar shows of the year. But now it's on your radar, so don't miss it.
...Unless you're at Kansas House. In David's article about the end of 611 Florida, he mentioned Kansas House as one of the venues that was set to pick up the area's house show slack. Tonight's bill, headlined by the Points (listen), does just that. David says the following with no hesitation at all -- the Points is D.C.'s best band. And really, the competition is not even close. The Points comfortably held the title of the city's best live band for a while -- a refresher, if you need one -- but now that its jarring jolt of energy has been successfully captured on record, it gets the more general title. The just-released self-titled debut, is just about as perfect a punk rock album as you'll hear this year. The fast and loud basics are there, but so are the hooks. The Points write songs. Very good ones. "Never Gonna Trust My Heart" is straight out of the Ramones playbook, and if you've seen someone driving around Arlington in a Hyundai blasting perfect punk anthem "No Girl," well that was David. The Shirks and Baby Guts are also playing house tonight.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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