This week, old-school hip-hop heroes like Slick Rick and Kurtis Blow meet Trouble Funk at Constitution Hall, Beaujolais Nouveau parties offer DJs, dancing and free French wine, southern hospitality comes to Penn Quarter at the Mississippi State Society's tailgate happy hour, and there are lots of chances to help the less fortunate, including a fashion show with NFL stars at the Shadow Room, a bar crawl in Bethesda and happy hours across Washington.
Wednesday, Nov. 19
Since French law prohibits Beaujolais Nouveau wine from being sold before the third Thursday in November, some restaurants make a big deal of staying open late on Wednesday night so their customers can be among the first to taste the new vintage. Bistrot du Coin has long thrown the biggest party in D.C., clearing tables to make a dance floor and offering free, unlimited wine as soon as the ceremonial first cork is popped. This year's entertainment comes from French DJ JR St-Rose (listen), accompanied by musicians on vocals, sax and percussion. There's no cover, but lines can grow very long. Arrive well before the 11 p.m. start if you want a chance to dance on the zinc-topped bar. Local culture site Brightest Young Things is throwing its own Breathless Beaujolais soiree at the new wine bar 1905, featuring drink specials and a DJ spinning French classics from Gainsbourg to Daft Punk. Beaujolais Nouveau wine is free after a midnight countdown. There's a $10 cover, and doors open at 9. Early arrival is recommended, as pre-sale tickets have already been snatched up; only a limited number will be available at the door.
Belgian beer lovers will find it hard to believe that the first kegs of Chimay didn't find their way to Washington D.C. until April 2002, when the Reef became the first bar in the city -- and only one of three in the country -- to offer the beautiful Trappist ale on draft. Now, with boutique Belgian ales showing up on menus across the city, Chimay's almost become too easy to find, and it has lost a little bit of its luster. Remind yourself why the beer is so good tonight at the Reef, where they're celebrating the 25th anniversary of Chimay's arrival in America. (We feel the need to point out that the brewery has been operating since 1862.) To make the occasion, the Reef will be pouring all three Chimay beers, known by the color of their labels -- the dark Red, the heavier Blue, the crisp White -- and offering some rare vintage Chimay Reserve so you can appreciate how it ages like wine. To go along with the beer, there will also be samples of Chimay cheese, which the monastery has been producing since 1876. Once you've tried the Chimay beers, which come with a commemorative glass, check out the two special beers prepped by Maine's Allagash Brewery. DJ "Hoppy Jeff" Wells spins from 6 p.m. on.
As the holidays approach, the number of charity events begins to rise. Tonight at Eyebar, the seventh annual Juntos Damos Mas Food Drive offers free admission and happy hour appetizers if you bring two cans of non-perishable food for Mary's Center, a charity that helps pregnant women and new mothers in predominantly Latino areas of the city. (Organizers also will take a $10 donation in lieu of food.) A percentage of happy hour drink sales will be donated to charity. Cuba de Ayers restaurant provide complimentary appetizers. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so the sponsors -- the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Hispanic Lobbyists Association, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and others -- can provide enough food for everyone. The party runs from 5:30 to 9; afterward, DJ Geometrix spins in the recently renovated lounge.
Thursday, Nov. 20
Since not everyone can stay up past midnight and down wine in the middle of the work week, there are other events going on tonight to mark the release of Beaujolais Nouveau. At Metropolitain's Third Thursday event, disco-man-about-town Chris Burns spins disco and house from 8 to close, and Beaujolais Nouveau is free while it lasts. As always, there's no cover.
Since it comes up so often in "Got Plans?," it's our duty to specifically flag events that are likely to bear fruit for folks who roll solo and want to expand their social circle, whether for friendship or dating. The Alliance Francaise generally delivers in that department and boosts your cultural nutrition intake in the process. A series of cocktail parties based around electronic music, Soiree Carte Blanche gives patrons the chance to provide the sounds using their own personal music players. One of those parties takes place tonight at the Phillips Collection with the added bonuses of French film screenings and a short fashion show. Be the lucky tune selector who gets the most crowd applause and win free classes at the Alliance and a membership to the Phillips Collection's Contemporaries young members group. Advance ticket purchase is recommended.
The Smithsonian's Young Benefactors run some great programs for culturally aware young professionals, including museum tours, lectures and volunteer events. But the group also throws some killer parties, including an annual ball and fantastic holiday affair (this year's is coming up on Dec. 6). Get a taste tonight at happy hour at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's Empress Lounge, which features live Brazilian jazz and discounts on wine, as well as a special cocktail created for the event. (The usual bar and cocktail menu also will be available.) The party runs from 6 to 9, and admission is a suggested $5 donation to Culture4Kids, a group that sends local children to Smithsonian Summer Camp and Discovery Theater.
If you're in a good mood on Thursday and just want that to stop, then head to 9th and U streets. You can run back and forth between DC9 and the Velvet Lounge and catch a pair of shows that are sure to bring you down. At DC9, catch Phosphorescent (listen), singer/songwriter Matthew Houck's longtime outlet for his dreary tales that sometimes do have a light at the end of the tunnel. His vulnerable voice fits well with these quiet songs, so it will be interesting to see how it works with a full band in tow. Houck's songs are a little too weird to fall into the Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver category, but that same wistfulness is there.
Across the street at the Velvet Lounge, the Moderate (listen) and John Bustine (listen) will team up. If it's not quite crying-in-your-beer music it's close enough. Bustine's "Waltzes and Pleas" was an excellent, overlooked local release from late last year, all downtrodden lyrics and dynamic alt-country songwriting. The Moderate is a little more straightforward with its bar-room rocking. In fact, the local trio's songs might not sink you into a state of depression at all. Where's the fun in that?
Enjoy a little southern hospitality tonight at the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, where the Mississippi State Society is hosting its annual Tailgate of the South happy hour. The organization promotes Mississippi music, food and culture for expats, folks who lived or went to school there and anyone else who just loves the state. Admission is free for members and $10 for everyone else; that includes free beer and wine from 6:30 to 7:30 and $10 pitchers of beer for the rest of the night.
In Got Plans?, we've recommended the new Glover Park bar Gin & Tonic as a place for dancing to '70s and '80s music on weekends, especially when you want to just cut loose to "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Jessie's Girl" in less-than-cheesy surroundings. Tonight, the bar ventures into the world of live music with an appearance by White Ford Bronco, a group that plays '80s covers at locations as diverse as the Tombs and the Saloun. Those tired of the same-old Clarendon cover band circuit may want to give this one a shot. The free show starts at 10, but the bar runs a two-for-one beer special from 9 to 11.
Friday, Nov. 21
Still more Beaujolais Nouveau parties going on tonight. If you want a little culture while dropping some of your high school/college French, hit the Alliance Francaise's Wine and Cheese Happy Hour, which includes vin, fromage and live accordion music. Meanwhile, the new Midtown Lounge hosts Soiree Beaujo Chic, with French DJs Herve Racaud and JR St-Rose. There's no cover, and happy hour drink specials run from 6 to 8.
"Hoop Dreams" was a powerful documentary, but the D.C. scholarship program of the same name has had an arguably bigger impact. Since 1996, it has paired thousands of public school students with mentors and internships, helped them study for the SATs and awarded more than 1,600 college scholarships. Of course, the program's success depends on volunteers and fundraisers. Tonight at Shadow Room, the Fashion Forward fashion show lets professional football players, Redskins cheerleaders and other local celebrities hit the catwalk to raise money for Hoop Dreams scholarships. (If you've ever wanted to see Terrell Suggs model, here's your chance.) Tickets are $50 in advance ($60 at the door) and include two hours of open bar and passed hors d'oeuvres -- including cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes! -- as well as the chance to have your picture taken with Tyra Banks on the red carpet. Okay, it's courtesy of Madam Tussaud's, but your friends don't have to know that.
As the first diffuse snowflakes begin to flutter down, we are forced to accept the inevitable change of season. Steaming mugs of spiked beverages make that easier to swallow, but it's hard not to look back wistfully to warm days filled with dancing on rooftops amidst an eclectic bunch of D.C.'s party people. The Coolout fam will feed that nostalgia tonight with Aperture, an exhibit of photos from the party's run atop the Beacon Hotel earlier this summer. DJs Adrian Loving and Harry Hotter will reprise their partnership on the decks, the booze will be free and it's all going down at Tangysweet, a fitting source of treats that remind us of summer. Something tells us this will reach capacity early.
The madhouse that is Saint-Ex's dancefloor on Friday nights will be conducted by an interesting decknician tonight. Blake9 is one of the unsung talents in DC's underground hip-hop scene, lending his precise cuts to Time Machine, dropping a collaboration with Count Bass D and running Candlewax Records. You probably won't hear any of those subterranean tunes tonight, but if you play nice and don't drunkenly heckle him for that new Katy Perry song, you might get some interesting surprises.
Saturday, Nov. 22
As a kid, Rhome can remember the days when hip-hop and go-go borrowed liberally from each other and co-existed as equals. Shows at the historic Washington Coliseum would feature New York's hottest hip-hop acts of the time, like Kurtis Blow and Whodini, sharing the stage with Trouble Funk, a band that Kurtis Blow used extensively on two of his biggest albums. Trouble can still crank hard 25 years later, and they'll recreate those classic early '80s moments with Slick Rick tonight at Constitution Hall, along with a posse's worth of legends, including Roxanne Shante and Kool Moe Dee. MC Rickey D is quite possibly the old school hip-hop artist whose talents have aged the most gracefully. Kane and KRS-One are up there too, but Rick's appearance on the scene predates them both by a few crucial years. With his entertaining storytelling abilities, clever delivery and showmanship, Slick Rick in 2008 is as compelling as ever.
As the underground music scene in Baltimore exploded and made minor (read: blog) stars of pretty much any semi-"hyperactive" band from Charm City with a few keyboards, the rub did not extend to veteran indie rockers the Oranges Band (listen). The group has been chugging on for almost a decade, playing crisp, catchy tunes that only seem to get better over time. "The Oranges Band Are Invisible" is its third full-length CD and is a bit of a concept album. Perhaps in response to all the recent attention on Baltimore's current scene, singer/guitarist/songwriter Roman Kuebler takes a look back at the city's past on songs such as "Ottobar Afterhours," "Gordon's Nightclub" and "Do You Remember Memory Lane?" (Check out Sam Sessa's August article in the Baltimore Sun for more on this.) No matter the lyrical content, you can always count on an abundance of hooks in the band's songs and the concise new album (just eight songs) offers plenty. (Download "Art Star" on the November Mixtape.) The album won't officially be out for a few months, but tonight's show at the Red & the Black serves as a pre-release show, so you can get the album before anyone else. And maybe blog about it so more people will be excited when it comes out this spring. Locals Deleted Scenes (listen) open things up.
Every holiday weekend, local party planners Lindy Promotions organize some kind of bar crawl downtown. (Nightmare on M Street, Capitol Hill Bunny Hop, etc.) Oddly, while Lindy is headquartered in Bethesda, it throws very few events there. Today's second annual Bethesda Fall Bar Tour is a rare chance for an organized suburban pub crawl, so jump on it: Eight bars are offering specials from 1 to 9, including $2 Miller Lites. Sign up at Tommy Joe's, then head off to Harp and Fiddle, Union Jack's, Barking Dog, BlackFinn, Hard Times Cafe, Saphire or Steamer's. There's a $10 cover, which drops to $7 if you do a good deed and bring two cans of food for the Manna Food Bank.
You might have heard of the Left (listen) had they been from Detroit, New York, Melbourne ... basically anywhere but Hagerstown, Md., which is where the punk quartet did most of its damage back in the '80s. The band's limited studio output was compiled a couple of years ago on "Jesus Loves the Left: The Complete Studio Recordings" and it showcases a band that could match up to anyone when it came to snarling, driving garage rock. There was nothing fancy about the band's songs, but listening to them now they still sound relevant and real, thanks to those timeless themes of anger and alienation. Which were no doubt enhanced by being in a punk band in Hagerstown. "There's no reason to continue trying/Life's so [expletive] boring, man/Let's try dying," go the lyrics on "Teenage Suicide." Like every band that ever broke up, the Left is giving it another go, but you don't have to question the members' motives. It's not like there's much glory in a reunion show at the Velvet Lounge. They're just in it for the rock.
"Pigtails and Plaid Skirts" is both the name of and the dress code for Tonic's fifth anniversary party. (This applies for both sexes, so get out the kilts.) The bar and restaurant has turned into a Mount Pleasant landmark, and they're celebrating tonight with drink specials and other surprises from 8 p.m. until last call. This is also a birthday party for owner Eric "Bernie" Bernstrom, so be sure to wish him the best and try not to say anything too mean about his beloved Detroit Lions.
Tuesday, Nov. 25
If you spend your Saturday evenings listening to "Hot Jazz Saturday Night" on WAMU, spend your Tuesday listening to Hot Jazz at the Jam Cellar. The weekly Lindy Hop dance party usually relies on DJs to provide music for its enthusiastic crowds, but tonight, the Jam Cellar welcomes the Boilermaker Jazz Band (listen), who'll have everyone doing the Charleston, collegiate shag and balboa like there's no tomorrow.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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