Howard Homecoming weekend means stars from Diddy to Eric Roberson to the Sugar Hill Gang are in town, the House of Sweden shows off some of that country's top musical talent at a pair of free shows, there's a last chance for Oktoberfest in Alexandria, Monotonix create mayhem (again) and the singer from '90s rockers Girls Against Boys is back with a surprisingly good new sound.
Wednesday, Oct. 15
One of our favorite things about Howard Homecoming week is the way that clubs try to glom on to the festivities, no matter how tangentially related they are: DJ Bamma's Grown and Sexy Friday's! [sic] becomes The Howard Homecoming Edition of Grown and Sexy Friday's [sic] and Step Show After Party! Welcome HU Law School and Class of 2009!!!! Greek's [sic] half-price all night!!! One of the weekly events that's slapped HU into its name is Riddim Wednesdays at Spank, but even if it weren't the "Howard University Homecoming Edition," this weekly party is worth a look. DJ Trini of WKYS joins DJ Hazzard, a veteran of the biggest D.C. Caribbean Carnival fetes, and Fyah Oats, of Ibiza's reggae room, for a nonstop musical mashup of hip-hop, reggae, dancehall and R&B. Admission is free before 11 for men and midnight for ladies when you hit email@example.com for the guest list. As with most events this week, you've got to dress to impress to get in the door -- no athletic wear, please.
If you think back to '90s indie rockers Girls Against Boys (happens every day, right?) you'll probably think of the band's double-bass attack or its sex-driven lyrics. But it was Scott McCloud's seductive growl that tied it all together. The band (which was born out of the ashes of local hardcore faves Soulside) had a solid run that ended with a thud when it made the major label jump for 1998's "Freak*on*ica," an album as awful as its name might imply; the quartet tried to keep one foot in the rock world while also dipping its toes in the electronica pool at a time when everyone thought that would be the next big sound. McCloud seems to have recovered nicely since then, even if it took a full decade. Paramount Styles (listen) turns down the, well, everything, but that smokey croon remains and it works surprisingly well with his more subdued offerings. GVSB had a bunch of good songs that often got overlooked because the band was seen as more style than substance, but with Paramount Styles McCloud's songwriting is at the forefront. Solar Powered Sun Destroyer (listen) opens on the Black Cat's backstage.
If you've never heard of the "steampunk" genre, you're not alone -- this was the name the members of the Cassettes (listen) came up with to describe their intriguing mix of country and Delta blues which incorporates tabla, theremin and plenty of attitude. The band, which includes ex-members of former local favorites Frodus and Metropolitan, is releasing a new tape called "Countach" -- yes, an album on cassette -- and while the official release comes Saturday with a show at the Black Cat, the foursome is hosting a listening party at Galaxy Hut tonight. They'll play the album straight through at 10 and again at midnight, while you enjoy the Hut's newly expanded beer selection, which is now up to 20 taps, and socializing with Arlington's indie-rock cognoscenti.
Free show alert! Dramatic indie rockers Shearwater (listen) -- an offshoot of even the even more dramatic Okkervil River -- will stop by Millennium Stage today, so if you want that perfect combo of free rock and an excuse to leave work early, here it is.
Thursday, Oct. 16
Monotonix (listen) has been in town so much this year that you'd think we were a swing state and the band was running for office. Tonight's show marks the Israeli garage-punk band's fifth area appearance since April -- that's five shows in seven months, more than most local bands manage -- but it also seems to be the last for the time being. So that means you won't have to read about them in Nightlife Agenda for a while, but it also means this is your last chance to catch them, and if you haven't realized by now, we really think you should. Tonight's show is at the comparatively lawless DC9, so expect some hairy, firey (no, not fiery), garage-dumping mayhem.
So while the young bucks are looking forward for homecoming parties that go until 9 a.m., the Howard alums who say "I'm too old for that madness" will be living it up at Zanzibar. "Say It Loud: I'm HU and I'm Proud" is headlined by the always-on Fertile Ground (listen), our favorite quasi-local purveyors of dance-floor-friendly soul jazz. (Homecoming tie: Fertile Ground's drummer, Mark Prince [listen], is a Howard alum.) While the band plays and DJs spin, local artist Aniekan Udofia will be painting, inspired by the music and crowd. At the end of the night, his creation will be raffled off. Tickets are $18 in advance from the Zanzibar Web site and $25 at the door.
Neal Becton has been successfully conducting a clinic on the sounds of Brazil at Saint-Ex for a year now, all on original vinyl without the aid of modern digital tools. Our parents were charmed by the bossa explosion of the '60s and today's hipsters go nuts over the raw sounds of baile funk, but those are only a few representatives of the musical output of a vast country with multiple cultures. There's Brazilian hip-hop, free jazz and drum 'n bass in addition to native-born traditions like samba and forro. Get a taste of them all at Brazilian Rhythms at Cafe Saint-Ex tonight.
Friday, Oct. 17
Someday, Diddy/P. Diddy/Puffy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs won't host a Howard University Homecoming party, but it's hard to imagine the weekend without the Bad Boy CEO/Ciroc pitchman/"Making the Band" host/former business adminstration major at Howard. His "hosting" duties usually consist of showing up, waving to the crowd and jumping on the mic for a few seconds, but he's comfortable in the role of the "What's Up, Howard?" hypeman. You may see him at Dream -- yes, Love reverts to its previous name for one night -- and you may not, but the place will be packed with folks out to dance and have a good time, dressed in their finest. Expect the lines to be long, long, long, so early arrival is strongly suggested. Admission is a steep $30, with prices climing to $80 if you want VIP access to addition spaces, which might just help you escape the inevitable crowding.
Find your soulful center amid the madness happening on U Street this weekend as Howard U. alum Eric Roberson (listen) does it for his alma mater and for a city that has adopted him as its own. The Blackbyrds, Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack all passed through Howard before becoming legends, and Roberson proudly carries that torch in music that melds the aesthetic of the hip-hop generation to the work of its forebears. Some of those artists used to play the Bohemian Caverns, where Roberson performs tonight, so it's like a legacy coming full circle. Joining Roberson is Kedar Entertainment's Algebra Blessett (listen), whose voice you may know from work with Roberson contemporaries like Kev Brown, Raheem Devaughn and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Forget Diddy and T-Pain -- Zanzibar's homecoming party is taking it back tonight with the Old School Block Party. From 5 to 8, there's free food at a happy hour hosted by MAJIC 102.3's Olivia Fox and featuring a DJ spinning old-school hip-hop and R&B. When happy hour ends, it's time for the Sugar Hill Gang (listen), who surely need no introduction.
Everything you need to know about Homecoming Madness: The Co-Ed Slumber Party at the Republic comes from two lines on the invite: "Put on your grown and sexy pajamas" and "First 500 ladies free." This is the afterparty for the afterparties, opening at 2 a.m. and going until 10 a.m. (The flyer ominously warns that "the line starts at 1.") Drink specials are offered for the last hour of legal boozing -- that's 2 to 3 a.m. -- and then, once the authorities have removed all the adult beverages, there's a complimentary breakfast bar from 3 to 5 a.m. The party apparently don't stop until it's time to go tailgate before the football game.
If you're suffering through Nick Cave Withdrawl Syndrome -- and it's totally understandable if you are, because his two shows at 9:30 club last week were the clear highlights of the 2008 concert calendar -- you can get a bit of a fix tonight at Iota. Wovenhand (listen) plays the same sort of apocalyptic rock-and-roll as Mr. Cave and has even served as an opening for the Mustachioed One. Frontman David Eugene Edwards used to front 16 Horsepower, which was doing out-there Christian rock long before Sufjan Stevens brought it to the masses. Wovenhand continues in that tradition, and this isn't "Praise him!" Christian rock. Edwards takes much of his lyrical inspiration from those fire and brimstone parts of the Bible, and he cooks up an appropriately dark and foreboding musical accompaniment. It makes for intense listening on CD and even with a small touring band (he'll have two musicians with him this time) that intensity carries over into a live setting. Don't let the whole Christian thing scare you off, please. If anything, Edwards' tales of God will scare people away from religion. This sounds like the perfect way to spend a Friday night, right?
Saturday, Oct. 18
Many homecoming parties can be nickel-and-dime affairs. Cover charge to get in, extra cover charge if you want to get into the VIP rooms, overpriced drinks, big-ticket bottle service. So it's refreshing that Masquerade: A Blue Carpet Affair, hosted by Howard alum and soul sensation Eric Roberson, is boldly proclaiming that "once inside this event, there are no additional costs!" Indeed, the tickets -- $45 to start, rising to $80 depending on when you buy -- include a "premium brand open bar all night," hors d'oeuvres and dessert at Bobby Van's. Music comes from a live band led by HU alum Gorden Campbell, who's played behind Beyonce, Earth Wind and Fire, Mary J. Blige and Eric Benet. Even stronger is the DJ lineup: Kid Capri, the legendary hip-hop DJ and producer who just performed with Rakim, and Young Guru, the former Howard party DJ (circa 1992-95) who went on to become Jay-Z's recording engineer after rocking numerous venues around D.C. Doors open at 8:30.
It's the tail end of Oktoberfest season, and while Fritz has tried a number of local Oktoberfest brews (winners so far: District Chophouse and the cask version of Capitol City Brewing Company), 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. (This event might sound familiar: It was slated to be held in late September but postponed due to rain.) 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 (listen) and Bad Panda, plus food from Rustico's sister restaurants Tallula, Vermilion, Evening Star Cafe and Buzz bakery. The party starts at noon.
The only time David ever saw an opening band do an encore was when Dead Moon came out for a couple of extra songs when it played before the Make-Up. (That was one of the approximately 416 times David saw the Make-Up play at the Black Cat in the '90s.) And while 99 percent of encores are completely bogus, this one was deserved. The backwoods garage-punk legends from outside of Portland, Ore., shrieked and slashed through a memorable set, and we demanded more. Dead Moon called it quits a few years ago after two decades of truly DIY rock, but Pierced Arrows (listen) -- basically Dead Moon with a different drummer -- picks up right where it left off. The first album, "Straight to the Heart," is a fuzzed-out, distorted mess of authentic garage rock. There's nothing stylized about what husband/wife duo Fred and Toody Cole do, and that's a good thing. Get to DC9 early to catch the Shirks, Love City (listen) and Hollywood (listen), a seriously stacked lineup.
Sunday, Oct. 19
Oh, [Expletived] Up. Do you not want the press? Or do you just think that we neglect the bracket keys? The Canadian band is all kinds of loud, churning out hardcore for people who don't usually go for hardcore. What does that mean? Not just fast/loud/shout/repeat. The songs have dynamics, discernable parts, even harmonies sometimes. But it's mostly about the volume and the bellowing of singer Concentration Camp (the band members all use aliases). The band's live show is even more ear-blasting than new album "The Chemistry of Common Life," and it comes with the added bonus of Camp stalking the stage -- and sometimes the audience -- with no shirt on. Oh, and his closest celebrity doppleganger is probably George "the Animal" Steele. Yeah, there are a lot of nutty bands in town this week. Openers Vivian Girls (listen) aren't nutty, but they do play ramshackle indie-pop that sounds like it should have been released on Slumberland in 1992. Catch the fun double bill at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
If you've never heard of Cunninlynguists, resist the urge to write off the hip-hop group for a name that pushes the bounds of cleverness and good taste. Coming out of Kentucky, this trio was post-regional before that was an option. On its 2001 debut "Southernunderground", producer Kno laid filtered samples under intricate flows with a hint of third coast drawl. Since then, Cunninlynguists have continued to defy categorization, amass dedicated fans and keep a foot in both the indie and mainstream worlds. The group's current tour with labelmate Substantial stops at Carpool tonight.
Monday, Oct. 20
The House of Sweden throws killer -- and very popular -- late-night parties with DJs and live music a few times a year, which bring out very cool (and very indie) crowds with skinny jeans, scarves, asymmetrical haircuts and white Converse. As part of the Swedish embassy, it also hosts free concerts featuring Sweden's finest musical acts. These have ranged from indie-folk troubadour Jose Gonzales's standing-room-only lunchtime performance earlier this year to classical recitals. If your tastes edge toward the indie-rock end, you're in for a treat this week, as the Georgetown waterfront is the site of back-to-back events on Monday and Tuesday. Both concerts start at 9 p.m. and require an RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, so hurry up: admission is limited.
First up is Hello Saferide (listen) and Firefox AK (listen), an unlikely musical pairing. Firefox AK is the nom de guerre of Andrea Kellerman, a Stockholm-based singer whose time spent in Berlin explains her shift away from guitars to synthy, retro-electro sound on her new record "If I Were a Melody." Fans of the Knife and other indie-dance stars like Annie will love Kellerman's hot-and-cold sound, which goes from crazy dancefloor to introspective bedroom without losing the hooks or groove. Headlining is Hello Saferide, also from Stockholm, but singer Annika Norlin's strong, jangly sound is steeped in Americana and folk -- more shades of Wilco and Kirsty McColl than Abba or other Swedish exports. The lyrics are often dark, focusing on relationships gone wrong -- the driving single "Anna" is a litany of accomplishments that the singer's daughter could have completed, from learning to play sports to winning the Nobel Prize, but ends with "I'm real sorry Anna you never got to be -- because your daddy moved on and he left me." Not really a party tune, that one, but certainly attention-grabbing.
Benjy Ferree's (listen) a weird dude to see in concert, and that was especially the case at his most recent show at Iota. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sporting some bizarrely coiffed hair (that had to be a wig, right?) he looked like a news anchor at a Jimmy Buffet show. (Worst. Halloween costume. Ever.) His excitable, sort-of boastful on-stage demeanor reminded me of a Jamie Kennedy character (even though I've never seen a Jamie Kennedy show/movie/experiment) and it doesn't really fit with his music. Ferree's 2006 debut was my favorite local album of that year. It had a nice backporch, electric-folk vibe and a bunch of memorable songs. His over-the-top persona fits well with his new sound, which is much less folk and more glam-rock. In the past, his sets might have one T-Rex song. Well, now there are a lot of T-Rex songs, and they all sound excellent and Ferree has the swagger to pull it off. The Griefs (listen) open for Ferree on the Black Cat's backstage.
In today's haze of partisan warfare, it's interesting to point out that Talib Kweli is responsible for notable examples of reaching across the aisle. Before he outgrew the underground label, Kweli teamed up with West Coast G-funk pioneer DJ Quik. More recently, his collaboration with UGK's Bun B helped build more bridges between the East Coast and the South. Kweli will be appearing at the 9:30 Club tonight with David Banner, another rapper who can switch up his style from odes to shapely women and tricked out cars to raw lyricism and political commentary. Here's another opportunity to cast a vote for post-regional hip-hop.
Tuesday, Oct. 21
Most weeks Monotonix would have no competition for Most Insane Live Act in town. But Japanese noise-rockers DMBQ (listen) are at the Velvet Lounge tonight, meaning that this week is nirvana for those who like over-the-top theatrics with their loud rock and roll. Like Monotonix, DMBQ plays heavy, riffy, '70s-inspired blues-rock that would sound really good with a black light around. And like Monotonix, the songs are secondary. The band's show last year at the Hosiery is the stuff of legend. If you like fire and leaping drummers and general chaos, you will want to be at the Velvet Lounge tonight.
The House of Sweden's second musical offering is on Tuesday, and it's a bit of a headscratcher. Ane Brun (listen), Theresa Andersson (listen) and Tobias Froberg (listen) are kicking off a national tour with a free concert, then heading off to New York and Philadelphia. Their tour returns to the D.C. area on Friday, and tickets for that show at Iota are $15. Doesn't make the most sense, but this is still a great combination of acts. Folky singer-songwriter Ane Brun reminds me of Keren Ann, only with more darkness behind her soaring melancholy voice. (She's also originally from Norway, but currently calls Stockholm home.) Tobias Froberg writes catchy pop songs that occasionally venture too far into the Coldplay/Keane nexus, but mostly have a charmingly dreamy feel. But Theresa Andersson is really the one to watch: Born in Sweden but has spent the last 18 years in New Orleans, and her music is an infectious mix of Americana, girl group doo-wop, vintage blues and chiming Swedish indie pop. But almost getting as much attention as her songwriting is her performance technique, as the one-woman band triggers drum loops, dulcimer swells and guitar strums with foot pedals as her hands juggle guitar, violin and other instruments. (See the YouTube video for "Na Na Na" for a look at her deft switching of instruments. And yes, it was recorded in one take.) The three musicians have some close ties -- Brun recorded duets on both Andersson and Froberg's albums, Froberg produced Andersson's debut, "Hummingbird, Go!," and they're both from the Swedish island of Gotland -- so expect some onstage collaborations.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
Posted by: Ernesto Cassanova | October 14, 2008 11:26 PM | Report abuse
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