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Posted at 6:18 PM ET, 02/24/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

If this guy told us he shot a man in Reno, we'd believe him. (AFI Silver Theatre)

This week is very D.C.-focused: Benjy Ferree releases a new album, DJ Eurok makes a rare club appearance, brewers offer their latest beers for tasting, hotshot turntablists Dave Nada and Harry Dixon kick off a new night, and the cabaret ensemble Crack hosts a special night at Town. Then again, we've got plenty of visitors, including ?uestlove of the Roots, DJs Day and Marques Wyatt, blog buzzband Drug Rug and a film starring the one and only Johnny Cash.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Monday

Wednesday, Feb. 25
It's tempting to say that Drug Rug is a perfect band for the blog/MP3 era. The Massachusetts-based band has this one simply fantastic song, "Day I Die," that is as perfect a sun-kissed, swirling pop song you could summon up, so you could just download that one tune and be all set. "Day I Die" may be the best thing in the band's repertoire, but there's plenty to like from the rest of Drug Rug's output. The sound veers from old-time country and folk to psychedelic pop, with singer Sarah Cronin's delightful squeal of a voice being the one constant. At a previous D.C. show opening for fellow couple-as-band the Rosebuds, Drug Rug's fuzzed-out delights transferred particularly well to the stage. Catch them tonight at DC9.

Jazz/funk Keyboardist Will Rast has tapped his Funk Ark and Fugazi personnel to support another Washington indie scene alumnus. Alfonso Velez (listen), formerly of the band Monopoli has been molding together a folksy soul sound that includes finger-picked guitar, a passing similarity to James Taylor and songwriting molded by Americana. Velez will perform two shows at Blues Alley tonight.

Former skate park/current "secret cool" venue Fight Club D.C. doesn't seem like the most appropriate spot for a show from mostly-somber indie-folk group Dead Heart Bloom, born out of former spacey/gospel-flavored locals Phaser. FCDC shows are usually pretty wild and even though DHB's recent output certainly has more of a charge to it than earlier material, it's still very carefully crafted and certainly not chaotic. But tonight's show is doubling as a video shoot, and Fight Club makes for a cooler locale than just another nightclub. So if you want to be an extra in a video soon to be all over MTV (or the Dead Heart Bloom YouTube channel), this is your chance. Get the skinny on the Dead Heart Bloom Web site.

At most beer dinners, brewers bring four to six samples of their products to a bar, pair them with food and let you sample the range. Then there are the beer tastings at the Brickskeller and R.F.D., where legions of the area's top brewers show up with their latest creations, chat about the mechanics of the beer (be ready to hear a lot about hops and the intricacies of the brewing process) and, more importantly, provide you with samples of everything. If you don't feel like driving all over creation to taste seasonal beers, then R.F.D.'s annual Strong Beer Tasting is prime one-stop shopping territory. (Actually, make that two-stop-shopping territory -- there are so many breweries and brewpubs participating that the event's running on consecutive Wednesdays.) Tonight's first round includes a strong Frederick contingent -- Brewer's Alley and Flying Dog -- as well as representatives from Shirlington (Capitol City Brewing Company), Leesburg (Vintage 50), Delaware (Dogfish Head), Baltimore (Pratt Street Ale House, formerly known as the Wharf Rat) and San Francisco (Schmaltz Brewing, the makers of He'Brew). Tickets are $35 from lovethebeer.com.

Tonight's show at the Rock and Roll Hotel serves as a nice and tidy, "Hey, haven't seen your name around for a while! What have you been up to?" bill. Headlining is Carol Bui, known for her jagged post-punk tunes and equally sharp guitar playing. It'll be her first show in many months after taking some time off after a 2008 that saw her spend plenty of time on the road. Post-Georgie James outfit Title Tracks will also hit the stage for the first time in a while. The band's debut single will be out on Dischord in April and you'll also be able to hear other tracks from the upcoming full-length debut (release date TBA). Kicking things off will be singer-songwriter Paul Michel, another one coming out of the woodwork.

Thursday, Feb. 26
Johnny Cash would have been 77 today. To honor the Man in Black, the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre is hosting a special screening of "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison," a documentary about the recording of Cash's legendary 1968 concert album in front of a crowd of inmates. "At Folsom Prison" was the live set that solidified Cash's blue-collar outlaw reputation and thrust him back into the national spotlight after years of drug abuse and little commercial success. It's an unforgettable document -- the way the prisoners roar after Cash intones "I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die," the crackling "25 Minutes to Go" -- and a wonderful way to remember Johnny Cash. The documentary, released last year, includes interviews with Merle Haggard, Roseanne Cash and former Folsom guards and prisoners who were there that day. Doors at AFI open at 7, and get there early -- the Silver Theatre is raffling off a "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison" CD and DVD box set to all ticket holders before the film begins.

As we write this column on Tuesday, the temperature has barely eked above freezing. We can't wait for spring to get here. In the meantime, you can take a mini-vacation -- and help a worthy charity -- tonight at Harry's Tap Room, where the Hoop Dreams Foundation is hosting "The Island of Dreams" with reggae music, an open bar, food and a silent auction. Local reggae performers Sam'O and the JFC Band (listen) are the featured performers, bringing some Trinidad flavor to Clarendon. The party lasts from 7 to 11, and tickets are $75 in advance from hoopdreams.org or $85 at the door. All money raised goes to Hoop Dreams, which helps local youth with college scholarships, internships and other life goals.

"Better Days" is an event making its debut tonight at Napoleon, and fans of the local dance scene would have a hard time finding a better DJ pairing to kick things off. Dave Nada, who's set clubs on fire on multiple continents with his blend of electro, house and Baltimore Club, and Harry Dixon, who brought the funk to the Coolout happy hours on the roof of the Beacon Hotel last summer. There's no cover or dress code, and we expect this to be rammed, so early there early.

Friday, Feb. 27
Here's one of those "better line up early" shows at Millennium Stage. K'Naan is gaining some major buzz thanks to his combination of equally intriguing backstory and sound. He grew up in war-torn Somalia but managed to flee the country, landed in New York, became immersed in the poetry and hip-hop scenes and just released one of most buzzed about albums of early 2009 in "Troubadour," which features cameos from the bizarre trio of Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Brooklyn rapper Chubb Rock (on the irresistible "ABC") and Maroon 5's Adam Levine. As with many albums that have an array of guests it's sometimes unfocused, but K'Naan's message of hope and his beats usually find their way to the forefront. As always at Millennium Stage, the show is free. But showing up right at 6 p.m. will leave you out of luck this time.

If you love dub, dubstep or reggae, you owe a debt to Osbourne Ruddock, though he never stepped in front of a microphone. Ruddock -- better known as King Tubby -- began working as a Jamaican reggae producer and sound engineer in the 1960s. Eventually, he began experimenting with adding resounding echo and deep reverb to rhythm tracks, and created the style now known as dub. Crucially, he almost never worked with live studio musicians, but performed his magic on songs that were already recorded or released, making him one of the very first remixers in popular music. Jackie Mittoo, Delroy Wilson, Horace Andy and Bunny Lee were among the galaxy of stars who had their albums retouched by King Tubby. Tragically, Tubby was shot and killed during what police believe was a botched robbery outside his studio in February 1989. Tonight's monthly Soundclash at Marx Cafe honors the great man's production work, so expect floor-shaking bass. Let's hope the soundsystem can handle the awesome heaviness of "King Tubby's Badness Dub" and "Patient Dub," both of which we expect to hear. The music starts at 10; get a preview of Tubby's genius at dcsoundclash.com.

Once a stalwart organizer of hip-hop parties that were bedrocks of the D.C. scene, DJ Eurok (listen) has diversified his creative portfolio with white label dancehall remixes and forays into uptempo Latin dancefloor workouts, also occasionally dropping a rap verse here and there to rep the b-boy bonafides. Focusing more on studio work and writing these days, he's not on the club grind as hard but he'll be holding down the booth at Eighteenth Street Lounge tonight.

One of the original west coast purveyors of soulful organic house, Marques Wyatt (listen) headlines Muse Lounge tonight, a spot that is helping to fill the hole created by Five's closing. Entering his third decade of globe-trotting musical evangelism, Wyatt's known to today's dancefloor audience through his releases on Om Records and his residency at L.A.'s Deep, a world famous house party he launched in 1998 at the Viper Room.

Today is the Dominican Republic's Independence Day, marking 165 years since the country won its freedom from neighboring Haiti. The best way to join in the celebrations? Some great Dominican music. Singer Frank Reyes (listen) is known as "The Prince of Bachata" in his homeland, where he excels at the romantic, guitar-based music. (Check out the hit singles "Princesa" and "Amor Bonito" on his MySpace page for a sample.) Reyes is performing at Bravo Bravo tonight, for what promoters claim is "the first time in D.C." (Reyes's most recent area appearances were at El Boqueron in Wheaton.) Reyna "La Gata Fina" of El Zol (99.1 FM) is a special guest. Tickets are $32 in advance from EventBrite.

Friday night at the Black Cat is one of those nights that'll either make you feel really young or really old. Fives Kids is not a knockoff burger joint, but a group of college-aged DJs that spin party music. Disco, house, maybe some old dance floor favorites from before the DJs were even born. The pair of DJ duos -- Sch├Ânkinder and Mystery Date -- and DJ Decibelle, who will be in control on the decks tonight might very well be the names you see at the DJ dance nights of 2011 and beyond. Tonight's show is also a benefit for the Sierra Student Coalition, which we are 99% sure is the student chapter of the Sierra Club and not a front so these kids can get money to buy beer and import 12" records. Oh, like you didn't think of starting a fake charity when you were in college. Please.

Saturday, Feb. 28
Benjy Ferree is a Nightlife Agenda favorite. In fact, we wrote about him just two weeks ago! But tonight is the official CD release show for "Come Back to the Five and Dime Bobby Dee Bobby Dee," the best damn concept album about a drugged-out child star who ended up becoming a Warhol Factory fave before dying 40 years ago to come out of D.C. this year! If you've failed to heed our advice and check out Ferree before, tonight's show at the Black Cat should be at the top of your to-do list. Between the CD release aspect and the homecoming after a few weeks on tour, everyone should be in a plenty-festive mood and the glam rock elements of Ferree's work should be even glammier and more rocking. Tim Fite and the Laughing Man make it a good one from top to bottom.

?uestlove is trying to squeeze in the last few DJ gigs before the Roots finally take over that late night TV job as Jimmy Fallon's house band. With sets full of exclusives and deep catalogue cuts that bring out his legendary music nerd persona, he's long since broken the mold of the celebrity DJ who is long on hype and short on tunes. Local icon DJ Dredd takes the opening slot when ?uestlove hits at Liv tonight.

Has DC9 really been around for five years? The first of Joe Englert's plethora of venues celebrates half a decade as a member of the vibrant U Street scene with a show that is shockingly not sold out yet. Jukebox the Ghost is undoubtedly one of the buzziest bands in town these days, the trio's propulsive piano-based (no Jack's Mannequin stuff here) gaining fans across the country. Jukebox has sold out the Black Cat in the past, and since that place holds about four times as many people as DC9 and Baltimore's J. Roddy Walston and the Business will bring its rousing roadhouse rock, well, be prepared to have not much personal space at all. For those who just want to celebrate the anniversary, admission is bumped down from $10 to $5 after midnight, and happy hour specials will be offered.

We've seen Crack at DC9 several times and -- stop that snickering. We're talking about the cabaret group fronted by the over-the-top drag queen Summer Camp, which has brought its mix of comedy, goofy skits, music, dance and films to the 9th Street club, both as part of the gay-and-lesbian DJ night Taint and on its own. (There's some crossover: Performer Karl Jones is a founder of both Taint and Crack, while Shea Van Horn hosts Crack as Summer Camp and has also DJed at Taint.) Crack's offbeat shows and R-rated audience participation games have proved so popular that it's moving around the corner to Town Dancebotique tonight, where "Crack: Journey to Uranus" should be as silly and groan-inducing as you'd expect. (We lost count of the number of puerile "Uranus" jokes on the preview clip on crackdc.com.) Don't worry, though -- the crack team behind Crack is always good for a number of laughs, and the $8 admission to the 10 p.m. show includes a late night of dancing at Town afterwards.

DJ Day's solo releases (listen) are breezy constructions of jazz loops, beat breaks and sample collages that are the audio equivalent of his native California sunshine. Those records only touch the surface of a DJ who can play every position on the court. He's got hand skills on the cut that match up with top turntablists and a remixing touch that ranges from People Under the Stairs' underground hip-hop to Tittsworth's club bangers. DJ Day is also touring with DJ Exile, performing intricate live sets with dueling MPC drum machines. You can get a taste of DJ Day the party rocker when he touches down at Eighteenth Street Lounge tonight.

The Dominican flavor continues tonight with Dominican Independence Bash at Muse, where DJs will be spinning bachata, meringue, mambo, reggaeton and salsa over three floors, with more of a focus on Dominican sounds. Hit Primo Productions (www.primop.com) to get on the list for free admission before 11. (Another benefit of early arrival: half-price drinks from 10 to 11.)

We like dogs. We like drinks. We like the idea of Booze Hounds, a fundraiser for the Washington Humane Society tonight at Gin & Tonic. For $20 at the door -- $5 of which goes straight to the humane society -- you get unlimited domestic drafts and rail drinks. Please, think of the puppies.

The artistic fellows of H Street NE's Dissident Display gallery are having another of their ultra-hip multimedia parties tonight. The aptly named Sensory Overload finds DJs Adrian Loving and Phoenix on the turntables while VJs Ayo and Eric mix video art before your eyes. (Loving says that one of tonight's pieces, titled "Video Vixens," is a tribute to the ladies who provide eye candy in hip-hop videos.) The performances run from 8:30 to 10. After that, the party moves across the street to the freshly renovated Pap & Petey's, which now sports a new bar, sound system and DJ booth. A donation of $10 is requested for the Dissident Display portion of the evening, which covers wine during the party and discounted drinks at Pap & Petey's.

Juana Molina (listen) plays delicate psychedelic lullabies that are appealing thanks to gentle atmospherics and her inviting voice. She's bringing those songs to Iota on a Saturday night. That does not sound like a match made in heaven thanks to the usual chattiness of concertgoers at the Arlington club. One reason to be optimistic about tonight's show (an early one -- doors are at 7 p.m.) is that unlike her last area appearance at the Black Cat, she'll have a rhythm section backing her. So expect the songs from her recent album "Un Dia" to burst to life with a bit more vibrancy and liveliness while still maintaining those all-important subtleties.

Sunday, March 1
One reason David likes Montreal's Plants and Animals (listen) more than most bands from Canada's second biggest city -- there are only three of them. Most Canadian bands travel in large packs, but Plants and Animals' trio se up helps keep the band's songs from getting too overblown and bombastic. That doesn't mean they are frail little things without much substance -- in fact, the best moments on "Parc Avenue" are epic in scope, but more because of the power of composition than power in numbers. Plants and Animals earns its big moments, not only because they are produced in an efficient manner, but because the folky interludes and quieter passages make the payoffs a welcome contrast. Hear for yourself tonight at DC9.

Monday, March 2
So far, the focus on Columbia Heights's CommonWealth Gastropub has been on the food (mmmm... marrow and pork) and the English beers. Tonight, though, the focus turns to another beverage from the British isles: Single Malt Scotch. The restaurant's special dinner pairs four courses of food paired with six glasses of single malt. The tasty butcher's plate is joined with a smoky 14-year-old from Oban, and Scotch eggs with a 14-year from Clynelish. A main course of steak and oyster pie gets two very different accompaniments: a peaty 10-year Talisker, from the Isle of Skye, in the northwest, and a 12-year Caol Ila from Islay. Master of Whisky John Heffernan is your guide for the evening. Dinner begins at 6:30, and the $60 fee doesn't include tax or tip. Reservations are strongly suggested.

--Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | February 24, 2009; 6:18 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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