The last Nightlife Agenda of the year is stuffed full of presents for nightlife connoisseurs: Dance to the hits of 2008 at DC9 or the hits of the '80s at the State Theatre, hear one of the world's top DJs at a tiny lounge, make an island escape in Northwest D.C., JDate meets the real world at Love, let some of the city's finest turntablists mix it up at the 9:30 club, local bands remember one of their biggest (and most helpful fans), a local bandleader takes on Duke Ellington's Christmas classic -- read on and enjoy, and we'll see you in 2009.
Wednesday, Dec. 17
You're probably tired of Christmas music by now. Between shopping, surfing the radio in the car, hitting bars or even riding in the elevator at work, you're going to scream the next time you hear "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." We know the feeling. But for a twist on seasonal classics, nothing beats the Nutcracker Suite by our own soon-to-be-legal-currency Duke Ellington. The Duke jazzed the titles of Tchaikovsky's legendary score -- "Dance of the Reed Pipes" became "Toot Toot Tootie Toot," "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" was rechristened "Sugar Rum Cherry" -- but added swinging brass and colorful solos. The whole suite is filled with holiday joy. In one of our favorite local December traditions, local trombonist Eric Felten leads his big band through Ellington's festive reinterpretation at Blues Alley tonight. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are sold out, but seats at 10 are still available. Get 'em while they're hot.
Tonight, Midtown Lounge becomes the first of the new upscale nightspots to unveil a weekly event targeted at gay and lesbian clubgoers. There's no cover charge for the initial Metro Wednesdays, though getting a table will require a minimum tab of at least $300 for six people. DJ Rich Web provides the party tunes. Doors open at 9 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 18
The band members of Sound of the City are no strangers to star power, with resumes that include stints with Snoop Dogg and Raheem DeVaughn among others. So they should have no problem finding the right groove tonight when Grammy winner Monica joins the weekly Bohemian Caverns jam session. The $10 cover goes towards a fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society.
Anyone who's been in Dewey on Memorial Day or Labor Day weekends wouldn't dream of comparing the anything-goes atmosphere of the Starboard to anything in D.C., especially in the middle of winter, but the Bottom Line is throwing a Dewey-style Christmas party tonight, and given that Steve "Monty" Montgomery owns both bars -- and will be in the house -- we'd expect the I Street bar to be a little crazier than usual. Buds and Bud Lights will be $2.50 all night.
Friday, Dec. 19
In a time of recession, some of you may be looking to get into some holiday excess. That jibes well with the fact that Will Eastman is all about doing things increasingly bigger. He's teaming his Blisspop brand with Brightest Young Things to take over the 9:30 club tonight for a holiday party helmed by Nadastrom and Tittsworth, two of the hottest purveyors of dance-floor filth on the circuit today. The title of Nadastrom's newest record can't even be printed here, but the formula is remix concepts that build into frenzied party workouts. The DJ/producer team of Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom shares a strain of Baltimore club DNA with international party titan Tittsworth, who got his start on the drum 'n' bass scene that Bob Jong Ill and Ken Lazee will be repping hard for at tonight's bashment.
Cold weather makes us miserable. Tonight, let's pretend, at least for a few hours, that we're somewhere warmer and sunnier -- like, say, Barbados, where it's going to be in the low 80s all week. The young professionals group Things to Do is hosting a holiday party at the Embassy of Barbados from 8 to 11:30, and between the rum drinks, limbo contest and live calypso and reggae music, you're sure to forget that you're on Wyoming Avenue instead of in some tropical clime. Snack on curried shrimp, rice and peas or marinated roast pork, meet diplomats, watch a film about the country -- and maybe win a trip there, too. The all-inclusive tickets are $65. Dress is "smart casual," which means you can leave the suits (and jeans) at home. Organizers ask that you bring a new, unwrapped toy, which Santa will deliver to Children's Hospital later this month.
Speaking of spreading the holiday joy: WPGC's Big Tigger is celebrating his birthday tonight at Love, and in lieu of gifts for himself, he's asked guests to bring a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. Also in the house: Terrence J, who succeeded Tigger as host of BET's "106 & Park" video countdown, and a slew of "Flavor of Love" contestants, including Deelishis, Black and Hoopz.
One of the most pleasing and surprising trends of 2008 was the way in which old soul, funk and R&B DJs found new venues and new audiences. Fatback and Moneytown were chief among them, both packing crowds into Dahlak while leaving more than enough room for folks to do the camel walk or the James Brown. Fatback eventually moved from Dahlak to Red Lounge to find more room, and tonight it's taking over both floors of that 14th Street building to make room for special guest Doc Delay (listen) of New York's Funk Weapons tribe. It will be sweaty and funky and you will love it. There's no cover charge. The party starts at 10.
House music fans around the globe love Roger Sanchez (listen). He's been a DJ in residence at Ibiza's legendary Pacha nightclub for seven years, and was named "Best House DJ" at the island's annual DJ awards, won a Grammy for remixing No Doubt in 2004, topped the British singles chart with his own "Another Chance" and has had club smashes with his mixes of everyone from Daft Punk to Kylie Minogue. In short, he's house music royalty. So why the heck is he playing at Josephine instead of, say, Fur? No idea, but if you want to hear the best club mix anywhere in Washington on Friday night, you need to be at the little Vermont Avenue lounge. Sanchez is spinning from 11 to 3, and there's no guest list, so don't bother trying to scam a free pass -- women pay $20, men drop $30 and "proper dress" is required.
"Do They Know it's Christmas?" The Legwarmers certainly do. Everyone's favorite '80s headbanded-and-fright-wigged cover band is back at the State Theatre for its annual holiday show. You can expect to hear Band-Aid and, hopefully, "Christmas Wrapping," see more neon and spandex then you ever wanted (in the crowd) and sing along to hair metal and cheesy pop until your throat is hoarse. One of the more ridiculously fun and festive nights out you'll have this season. (There's a reason the band's New Year's Eve show at the same venue is sold out.) Tickets are $16 and will sell out in advance.
Ringtone rappers aren't making the money that they used to, but folks like Plies and Soulja Boy keep resetting their alotted 15 minutes. The neon sneaker and Palestinian scarf-wearing kids dropping a new mixtape on the blogosphere every week are still going strong too. So if you don't live your hip-hop experience primarily on the Internet and you once rocked a high-top fade before they were reborn as an ironic symbol of retro cool, then Close to the Edge might be for you. DJ Dredd drops nothing but classic hip-hop on the Black Cat's backstage.
Saturday, Dec. 20
Brazilian indie-electro band CSS -- short for Cansei de Ser Sexy, or "Got Tired of Being Sexy" -- dropped its second full-length album in 2008, though the lack of an iPod commercial and/or blog-buzz song like 2006's "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above" meant the band spent a lot of the year under the radar. Too bad, because "Donkey," while uneven, does have its stronger moments, like the irresistibly slinky bass groove and keyboards that underpin "Let's Reggae All Night." The band plays tonight at the 9:30 club, then heads over to the Rock and Roll Hotel, where guitarist/percussionist Luiza Sa is joining New York's James Friedman of DFA and resident DJ Ca$$idy. Admission is $5 with a ticket stub or hand stamp from the 9:30 club show or $10 without -- but either way, Red Stripe is free between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.!
If one were to try to think up the quintessential Velvet Lounge show, it might be something like, oh, I don't know, a tribute to space-rock godfathers Hawkwind, headlined by Kohoutek, the improv band featuring Scott Verrastro, who as head booker for the last couple years turned the U Street club into the city's center for out-there sounds. And whaddya know, that's exactly the show that's happening tonight! Hawkind's best known song is "Master of the Universe" (watch) which inspired far too many people to experiment with wah-wah pedals in an attempt to mimic the song's singular sci-fi, sonic weirdness. Ultrabunny, featuring former members of psych rock wackos Bunnybrains are also on the bill, along with loud locals Plums and Richmond's Caves, Caverns.
Over the next few weeks, music fans will be deluged with "Best of 2008" lists. And yeah, sure, it's fun to read about them in the paper or on a blog or whatever, but wouldn't you rather discover some overlooked gem while you're out in the middle of a hot-and-sweaty dance floor rather than in front of your computer? Yeah, us too. (Well, Fritz and Rhome, anyway.) At tonight's wild-and-crazy Nouveau Riche at DC9, DJs Gavin Holland, Nacey and SteveLove will be spinning their favorite jams of the year -- though Holland says "Sadly, I can't guarantee we'll keep it to 2008 music for 6 hours." Show up before 10 for free admission and free Sparks, will which give you the energy to dance until 3 a.m.
Talk about cultural impact: Seinfeld has been off the air for more than a decade, and bars are still throwing Festivus parties. Tonight's celebration at Tonic will have everything you need: a Festivus pole, the airing of grievances (over a microphone at the bar) and feats of strength. (Instead of wrestling the head of the household to the ground, you'll be thumbwrestling owner Eric "Bernie" Bernstrom.) Get your spirits up with $4 shooters. The party starts around 9.
The DJ lineup at Zanzibar's annual Soca Parang Christmas Fete has the look of Carnival in December, with DJs Super Slice, Sprang International, Shiloh International, Golden Touch and Black Spider dropping soca and reggae while live percussionists perform and an artist creates new works before your eyes. Tickets are $10 in advance or $20 at the door. See the event's Facebook page for more info on purchasing.
Sunday, Dec. 21
This is a sad one. If you were a supporter of local music, well, you weren't as big a supporter as Nan Irick was. If there was a show featuring a bunch of local bands, you could count on seeing the Arlington resident there. And she took her enthusiasm to the next level by helping set up shows and writing about the local scene in OnTap. It's not like she was trying to be a scenester; she was just someone who genuinely loved local music. Irick, 52, died of cardiac arrest in October. It really is a crushing loss for the local scene, as Irick was a kind of mother figure for many of the young bands in the area. A bunch of those bands will play a show in her memory tonight at Iota. Some of her favorite bands -- Middle Distance Runner, Greenland, the Cassettes and Revival -- are on the bill.
The Shirks are quickly rising to the top of the list of D.C.'s best bands. You won't find them on MySpace and you won't find them on CD, so tonight's show at Galaxy Hut is a rare chance to see and hear the local quartet that bashes out punk anthems in the Spirit of '77. The Shirks work in the same ballpark as frequent bill-sharers the Points, but whereas the Points embrace a faster and more reckless sound, the Shirks have some serious heft to their songs. You feel it in your gut. And that will especially be the case at tiny Galaxy Hut.
Monday, Dec. 22
Looking for a possible trainwreck to get you in the holiday spirit? Then look no further than tonight's Evan Dando show at Iota. The Lemonheads frontman has gotten his act together after an extended battle with drug addiction, but this is a solo show, where he won't have a backing band to keep him focused. So there might be some rambling, some walking off stage, some starting, stopping and starting again. As long as he squeezes in a dozen or so tunes it should make the whole thing worthwhile, because lost in stories about his addictions and gorgeous head of hair is the fact that the dude was one of the most tuneful songwriters of the '90s alt-rock boom. "It's a Shame About Ray," "Into Your Arms," "The Great Big No," "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" -- like you ever switched off WHFS when those songs were on. Plus he might throw in some covers, like the Gram Parsons song "Streets of Baltimore," which you can find on the December Mixtape.
Wednesday, Dec. 24
'Twas the night before Christmas -- and the biggest night of the year for Jewish singles. Three big parties draw hundreds of (relatively) young Jewish singles for dancing and drinks. The biggest one is the Ball at Love, which is co-sponsored by JDate and expected to draw more than 1,000 people. (It'll be like surfing JDate, but in the real world.) DJs spin dance music on four levels, and the organizers promise "quieter areas" in the club so you can talk with the young lady/gentleman who catches your eye, though none of us have ever found these areas at Love before. Drink specials will be offered throughout the club. Tickets are $25 ($30 at the door) and the party starts at 8. Over at Ultrabar, the long-running Matzo Ball boasts three floors of DJs, sponsored by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals. Tickets are $30. Finally, the annual Gefilte Fish Gala is splitting in half this year, with one party at Union Jack's in Bethesda and another at kstreet Lounge downtown. Pick your venue carefully: one's a British-inspired pub; one's a futuristic lounge. Both start at 8 and have drink specials and door prizes, but only kstreet is asking you to skip sneakers and ball caps. Both will be donating a portion of proceeds to charity; organizers are asking for a minimum donation of $5 at the door to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, among other groups.
Thursday, Dec. 25
After opening presents and dinner with the family, you may not have the energy to go out. Or you may need to go out and get a drink to recover, and hey, Friday's a government holiday.
Rare Essence playing on Christmas day is as much of a tradition in D.C. as the president lighting the National Christmas Tree. The Wickedest Band Alive (listen) is back at Zanzibar, joined by Sugar Bear and E.U., who will get revelers doin' "Da Butt" and will put a little go-go in your stocking. Grab this flyer for reduced admission and show up between 8 and 9 for a soul food buffet (if you still have room) and an open bar.
JVs, our favorite 61-year-old honky tonk, will open at 4 on Christmas day, but show up later for a free pajama party with local alt-country favorites Honky Tonk Confidential (listen). (Sleepwear is requested, but the bar notes that "Slippers, shirts and pants are required.") The band goes from 9 to 1; there's no cover.
The Crossroads is trying to recreate some its weekend magic at the "Under the Mistletoe" party, with DJs Jason Steele of Dancehall Sundays and Majestic of Saturday's Energy night dropping reggae and hip-hop. Doors open at 10.
Once again, DC9 hosts XXXmas Taint, a special holiday version of the monthly gay and lesbian alternative/indie/electro DJ night. Doors are at 9, and there's a $5 cover. Be warned: This night fills up fast.
While many bars are closed on the holiday to let employees spend time with their families, some just hang the "we're open" sign out for the evening so you can join friends for a drink. Two of our favorites from past years, Galaxy Hut and the Black Cat, open at 8.
Friday, Dec. 26
Of all the reasons for the season, whether Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, Festivus is still fighting an uphill battle for respect. The 795685 crew can't help with the public relations campaign, but they can give you an outlet to party after you've erected your aluminum pole, aired your grievances and finished the Feats of Strength. Rusty B of All Good Funk Alliance heads a lineup dropping funky Festivus house at Eyebar tonight. RSVP to email@example.com to guarantee free entry.
Sunday, Dec. 28
J Marinelli is a troubadour, but one of those new-school types who brings a drum to stomp on and a battered guitar or two to bleat on. You won't get any confessionals or tales of classic Americana. Instead, you'll get twisted one-man-band mayhem that's part Billy Childish, part Hank Williams, part Daniel Johnston and all fun and weird. The always, uh, interesting Stewart Lupton opens at the Black Cat.
--Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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