Wednesday, April 15
For fans of D.C. dance music, Sleepy Wonder's Jamaican patois is a familiar sound, for it graces records by Thievery Corporation ("Radio Retaliation," "Ring the Alarm," "Warning Shots") and Fort Knox Five ("Killa Soundboy," "The Wonder Strikes Again"), among others. Though he's mostly known for guest spots, Wonder's about to drop his first solo album, "Injustice," which has a deep, conscious reggae and dancehall feel. (Check out the title track and a few others on his MySpace page.) To celebrate the album's April 21 release, Wonder's performing at Eighteenth Street Lounge tonight with an all-star band of musicians who've backed Culture, Yellowman and Eek-A-Mouse. Happy hour runs from 7 to 10, and Sleepy Wonder takes the stage at 10:30 with special guest Bobo General (listen).
Believe it or not, May is on the horizon, and with it comes the dark, malty German lagers known as Maibock beers. The Gordon Biersch brewpub in Penn Quarter is unveiling its Maibock tonight at a party with free hors d'oeuvres, a raffle featuring prizes from local businesses and the ceremonial tapping of the first keg, which is usually followed by free samples if you get your mug up to the bar fast enough. Admission is free, and the party runs from 6 to 8. As usual, a charity will be on hand to talk about its work and collect donations; this time, it's the Leukemia and Lymphoma society.
Thursday, April 16
When Camp Lo (listen) first came out in '95, their blaxploitation style and nouveau dialect on "Luchini" and "Black Nostaljack" put them in their own lane. Their feel-good party records appealed to folks who liked to get fly in the club without the Puff Daddy style shiny suit. The uniquely styled groups's first project yielded three classic singles and crucial album cuts like "Sparkle" and "Krystal Karrington," and the second album featured another banger called "Glow" that didn't get the run it deserved. The Bronx bombers are now on a third or even fourth wind with new releases and an aggressive touring schedule mixing crowds who were there from the beginning with those who only know them from the throwback portion of most DJs' club sets. Washington's own Sound of the City hosts the resurgent rap duo at Liv tonight.
Muse is a comfortable mid-point between upscale lounges and big rooms where the music pounds an expansive dance floor. Because it has multiple floors, this space lets the downtown see-and-be-seen set mingle with club heads (who meet the dress code) seeking the best DJ talent. The Thursday night Electric Cabaret event serves these two constituencies tonight with Spanish techno don Paco Osuna (listen) on the first floor and Meistro & Deep Sang's Dirty Bombs party on the second.
Fritz first saw Boston synthpop band Freezepop (listen) at an indie-music festival in London in November 2003, alongside the likes of Jens Lekman, Baxendale and Spearmint. The absurdity of travelling 3,000 miles to "discover" a band from the Northeastern United States was not lost on him -- nor was the awesomeness of Freezepop's retro '80s electro sound. Think Human League and Soft Cell updated to include touches reminiscent of Ladytron -- bubbling synths and blippy percolating beats, with singer Liz Enthusiasm's distant, oft deadpan delivery telling stories of puppy lover, house parties, crushes and nerdy cool girls. Anyway, what's almost as absurd is that, six years and two equally fun albums later, Freezepop has developed a new following due to video games. Freezepop, which performs at Chief Ike's Mambo Room tonight, has found that having its music in featured in "Rock Band," "Guitar Hero" or "Dance Dance Revolution" is as big of a boon as having bloggers gush about its MP3s. (How'd they sneak the synth-heavy "Less Talk More Rokk" into "Guitar Hero II"? One of the band members works for video game developer Harmonix.) If you were thinking about going out tonight and dancing to a DJ spinning '80s tunes, forget it -- just head for Chief Ike's, and you can groove along to a band making perfect '80s-style pop right in front of you. Doors open at 9, and there's a $15 cover.
Friday, April 17
If you can turn down seeing a living repository of jazz and world political history blow his horn for $25, you must already have some amazing plans tonight. Hugh Masekela plays a South African pre-Freedom Day celebration at Zanzibar, which also includes a tribute to his former wife Miriam Makeba. Before anyone on this side of the Atlantic could discern Cuban son from Nigerian Afrobeat, Masekela was introducing American audiences to the rhythms of Africa, predating the trend of "world music." Before he was exiled from his increasingly hostile homeland, Masekela assembled the first African jazz group to gain success in South Africa. That painful exile yielded a fruitful and influential body of work in the U.S., culminating in his best known recording "Grazin' In The Grass." In his later years, Masekla has poured his energy into grassroots work, supporting emerging South African musicians, releasing their records and touring with them. On stage, his flugelhorn is but one element of an electrifying presence that draws from his timeworn singing voice, a nimble (and blue) sense of humor and plenty of emotional fire. Grab your $25 tickets from Zanzibar in advance, though, because the price rises to $30 at the door.
Colette's coquettish voice (listen) and angelic good looks are just two parts of a talent package that also includes globe-traveling party rocker and songwriter. Having established her bonafides on the house scene behind the decks -- and sometimes dropping her own vocals live while spinning -- Colette's newest work adds a pop sheen to her bubbly post-disco grooves. Catch Colette's Washington tour stop at Muse tonight.
Saturday, April 18
Saturday is Record Store Day. What is Record Store Day, exactly? Think of it sort of like Earth Day, except for record stores. It's a day to raise cultural awareness for something very important that is slowly being killed. OK, maybe record stores aren't as important as, y'know, the planet that lets us exist, but you have to admit that it's pretty cool to walk into a record store and browse through stacks of vinyl and talk to someone who lives and breathes music who can maybe help you find something you didn't even know existed. You're not going to find anything like that at Target or Walmart or even online when Amazon tries to tell you what you might like based on what you looked at or purchased. (I don't need any Radiohead albums, OK, Amazon?!?!) To celebrate the day, there are in-store performances at hip stores all over the country and here in D.C. we've got one of our faves, Benjy Ferree -- sans wig, we believe -- doing the solo thing at Som Records. Som is also the only place in town where you'll be able to get a special Record Store Day sampler released by Ferree's label, Domino Records. It includes exclusive tracks by the likes of Junior Boys, Franz Ferdinand, Juana Molina and, of course, Ferree.
Wilco's a great band, or at least a once-great band, but man, there sure is a whole lot of documentation of the Jeff Tweedy and Co. We've already got "Man in the Sand," a look at the band's 1998 collaboration with Billy Bragg, and 2002's "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," which chronicled Wilco's internal (band turmoil) and external (label issues) struggles to make its eventual career-defining album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." There's even a Wilco book, "The Wilco Book." So maybe we don't really need another Wilco film, but we're getting one anyway. But that's fine because local filmmaker Brendan Canty -- he also used to play drums in a band called Fugazi -- and Christoph Green have done enough fantastic work with the "Burn to Shine" series that it's hard to imagine them dropping the ball on "Ashes of American Flags," their concert film/documentary combo. Plus, of the five tour stops featured, one of them was at the 9:30 club last February. (I think it was the seventh best Wilco show I've seen.) The film will be shown at the Avalon Theatre as part of Filmfest DC, but the afterparty is where it's at. After the screening, just a few blocks away at Comet Ping Pong there will be a free show at which plenty of locals -- Mary Timony, Edie Sedgwick, Brandon Butler, Lorelei and John Bustine among them -- will offer up a Wilco cover or two.
The region's fraternity of working DJs and vinyl heads all let out a collective groan of mourning at the recent announcement that DJ Hut is closing, but deep down, it really wasn't a surprise. In a world where the music industry and the global economic system is reeling, the Hut outlasted many of its peers in the niche vinyl market, thanks to excellent service and selection and a nimble response to changing trends. Through seven years of business (and 17 years before that as 12-Inch Dance Records), the place nurtured the careers of countless Washington DJs. The Hometown Heroes party is stepping in tonight as the host of an Irish wake for the Hut's closing. DJ Dub, Sam "The Man" Burns and John Johnson sold many of us huge portions of our record collections from behind the Hut's counter, but they're also veterans of the city's DJ booths. The trio will be headlining tonight at the Trinidad and Tobago Association along with Slant, Bjoo, Locks of Intellect and Godfather Sage rocking drum 'n' bass in the basement.
Back in elementary school, we hated rain because it inevitably meant our teachers would keep us inside the classroom for "Indoor Recess." Instead of running around, playing soccer or going nuts on the jungle gym, we got to play with board games, cards, things like that. Guess which one hyperactive 8-year-olds preferred. Now that we're older and wiser, we doubt very many people will be disappointed by Recess, which is billed as a "game night and ice cream social for adults" at Continental tonight. From Monopoly, Twister and Clue to a Nintendo Wii and pool, this sounds like a great chance to let out your inner kid. (He or she will also love the free treats from Cafe Gelato.) There's a DJ, drink specials and a late-night food menu -- all you have to do is RSVP. There's no cover charge, and games begin at 9 p.m.
Dominican salsa star Raulin Rosendo (listen) has topped charts across the Americas with smooth, dance-floor-friendly hits like "Lady Laura," "Uno Se Cura" and "Amor En Secreto." He's currently based in New York, which is good news for D.C. salsa fans -- maybe he'll make more trips down I-95 to perform for us. Rosendo appears tonight at the Salsa Room, the club formerly known as Cecilia's that been bringing in some pretty big guns lately. Tickets are $30 in advance from primop.com; they're $40 at the door. Dress fashionably, but be ready to dance.
For some reason, '80s prom-themed parties will always be in style. We've given up trying to analyze why this is, especially among groups who were waaaaay too young to experience prom in the days of John Hughes movies, so we'll just throw on powder-blue tuxes and enjoy the ride. That '80s Prom II at the National Press Club is everything you'd expect: an '80s cover band (The Reagan Years) playing all the hits, dancing to a DJ, a full open bar from 8 to 1, cheesy souvenir photos, "spiked punch," the crowing of a prom king and queen, hors d'oeuvres and a best-dressed contest. Compete in a Rubik's Cube-solving competition and snack on '80s candy. (Seriously, Fun Dip? Was that even fun the first time around?) All inclusive tickets are $75 from the Lindy Promotions Web site, and party-planners should take a good look at the "Buy five, get one free" option.)
Remember that episode of "Seinfeld" when the gang was going to a dinner party and Elaine and Jerry wanted to bring a chocolate babka to bring as a gift? And they get to the bakery known especially for chocolate babka and someone else going to the party bought the last babka and Jerry and Elaine were all upset. And they were looking at the rest of the pastries and they see something and ask what it is and the woman behind the counter goes, "cinnamon babka" and Elaine gasps and Jerry's all, "Another babka?!" That's how Fritz and David felt when looking at the Black Cat listings and seeing Ra Ra Rasputin and Rah! Rah! Replica separated by just a few days. We thought Ra Ra Riot was already ra-ra-ridiculous but now we've got two more just in our town. What's going on here? The former will play its sinewy dance-punk while sharing a bill with Buildings as part of the Black Cat's Second Saturdays series; the latter, a riot grrl throwback plays a benefit for Girls Rock! DC, one of our favorite local charities, with the Bickersons on Tuesday.
Tuesday, April 21
"Lalita" by North Carolina's the Love Language (check it out on the April Mixtape) is one of those songs that just begs to listened to repeatedly. It's a fuzzy dance-floor rave-up, one of those songs where every instrument (plus the vocals) sounds like it was recorded a bit too loudly, but man, that extra bit of distortion just makes everything sound better. That's par for the course throughout the band's lo-fi, self-titled debut, where doo-wop and power pop live in sweet harmony. The record was the work of frontman Stuart McLamb, but the live version of the band has seven members, so expect it to be crowded and rambunctious on the Iota stage when the Love Language opens for Headlights.
The surprise entry on David's Best Concerts of 2008 list was Richard Lloyd's August show at the Velvet Lounge. Lloyd played guitar for Television, who brought guitar hot-shot wizardry to punk rock in the late '70s, and 30 years later his fingers still do magical things on the fretboard. His current group, the Sufimonkey Trio, includes fellow ex-Television member Billy Ficca on drums and they simply slay. You'd think that a bunch of dudes in their 50s jamming on Hendrix covers would be the worst open-mic nightmare ever, and 99 percent of the time you'd be right, but Lloyd and Co. made "Spanish Castle Magic" and "Purple Haze" roar to life. The same went for Television classics "See No Evil" and "Friction." If you want to see a master at work, be sure to catch this show.
--Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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