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Posted at 7:02 PM ET, 04/28/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

They've had several huge U.K. top-10 hits remixing Beyonce, Shakira and Kelly Rowland, but the Freemasons have never performed in the U.S. -- until this weekend. (Courtesy of the Freemasons)

Dance to hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa or sample new European beats from the Freemasons (England) or Spirit Catcher (Belgium), check out D.C. fixture Ian Svenonious' new band, Chain and the Gang, hit a recession-friendly happy hour, learn to line dance at country night in Ballston or wear your favorite sundress for charity at Wonderland. (Guys, that sundress thing goes for you, too.)

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Wednesday, April 29
There are worse problems in life than trying to decide which one of two great concerts to attend, but tonight's rock-and-roll dilemma is an especially tough one. Usually you can make a decision based simply on mood -- if you're a little low-energy, check out the mellow show, if you want to get wild, check out the loud and noisy show. Sometimes you can even get to both if you work out the timing perfectly. But tonight you must choose one or the other: Chain and the Gang (listen) with the Hive Dwellers at Comet Ping Pong or King Khan and the Shrines with Mark Sultan at 9:30 club. Chain and the Gang is the latest band from D.C. punk-soul institution Ian Svenonious, former frontman for Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up, author of "The Psychic Soviet" and host of one of the Internet's most entertaining interview shows, "Soft Focus." The man keeps busy, you can't deny that. (For a career retrospective, in video form, check the GOG blog on Wednesday afternoon.) Chain and the Gang is a fine addition to his legacy, playing the sweaty, soulful, pelvic rock you've come to expect from Svenonious. The name of the band is no accident -- many of the songs have chant-along portions that sound like something you'd sing if you were on a chain gang. A sassy as hell chain gang, but still. Taking the stage before Chain and the Gang will be the Hive Dwellers, featuring Calvin Johnson. Johnson is basically the Olympia, Wash., version of Svenonious (plus Ian MacKaye). He's been in countless influential bands over the last two decades (most notably Beat Happening and the Halo Benders) and he basically created an entire scene with the seminal K Records. He's also a very over-the-top live performer; if you're in the audience at this show, expect that you'll end up taking part in the performance.

Over at the 9:30 club, King Khan and the Shrines (listen) bring their own soul-rock awesomeness to the stage. If there's one band that comes to mind as a major influence it would be the Make-Up, so that's what makes this such a tough decision. There's certainly a bit of gimmickry involved with the band's sound -- and especially King Khan's stage attire, which usually consists of a cape, a crown, no shirt and, hopefully, pants -- but the brass-blasting rave-ups are undeniably infectious. The band was ubiquitous down at SXSW, but even if it was the same show each time, it was still plenty of fun. Opening act, Mark Sultan (listen), makes this an even tougher show to pass up. His one-man-band -- he sings, plays guitar and drums all at the same time -- is like Buddy Holly gone punk rock. Great songs, great volume, a real dance party. You can't go wrong with either show. Make sure to see one.

A few years ago, Flirt drew packed houses and plenty of celebrities (Diddy, Clinton Portis, Gilbert Arenas) when it was the Wednesday happy hour at the now-closed MCCXXIII. But it wasn't just bold-faced names: A top-shelf open bar, a huge lavish buffet and hip-hop hits spun by radio DJs led to lines down the block. This week, Flirt makes its move to the new Stir Lounge. An open bar -- free beer, wine and cocktails -- runs from 5 to 7. Small bites (oysters, wings, flatbreads, etc.) are available from a special menu all night. Even better: For the grand opening, Biz Markie is spinning old-school hits. Doors open at 5, and early arrival is highly suggested.

The formula for Recession Wednesdays at Lotus Lounge tonight is a simple and wallet-friendly way to get your mind right on Hump Day. DJ Double o7 spins the tunes per his whim, from club ditties to the deep house he's known for. Jon Bowen of Video Killers handles the visuals. And as long as you're not going for the fancy top-shelf business, all drinks are $5. Welcome to yet another reason to party during the week and chill on the weekend.

Thursday, April 30
When one thinks of the sleek decor, models moonlighting as service staff and young professional clientele of Current, a night of rare soul breaks, old school hip-hop and deep funk bombs woven together by the Godfather of Hip-Hop causes a bit of cognitive dissonance. Afrika Bambaataa's been around since the mid '70s when he and DJ Kool Herc was curating the sounds that would become hip-hop. But he stays in tune with changing music trends; his Universal Zulu Nation continues today as an international organization of hip-hop heads and he even enlisted Washington's own Fort Knox Five on his recent releases. So as long as there are turntables and a place to stack the crates, Afrika Bambaataa should be able to make the sushi bar/nightclub his home for the evening. Red Bull has regularly partnered with Sirius XM to bring notable hip-hop icons like Pete Rock to D.C. so they'll be able to give Current a b-boy makeover tonight. RSVP to for free entry before 11 p.m.

In case you missed Fritz's big roundup of new/opening-soon patios last week, tonight is the big debut of SkyAtFive in Rockville, a weekly happy hour with food, drinks and DJs atop the Arts and Innovations Building downtown. It has been outfitted with lounge furniture and everything you need to enjoy the weather. Doors open at 5, and the first 100 people receive a free Peroni beer.

We've raved about Fatback's awesome funk/R&B/soul dance parties at Bohemian Caverns in this space before, but tonight, you have the chance to check out the DJs in a much more intimate space. "Dope Classics" at Cafe Saint-Ex features "remixes, mashups, and originals from P.E. to GN'R, plus Misfits, Pixies, and Bell Biv Devoe." Yeah, we'll hit that up for free. Music starts at 10.

Fritz has been digging on Belgian house duo Spirit Catcher (listen) for a hot minute now -- it's one of the best blends of funky Larry Levan-esque disco house and the cooler electro-house and '80s-revival European influences in the synths and basslines. Spirit Catcher recently dropped a mix CD for the Coast2Coast series -- the 70-minute continuous mix is definitely worth one eMusic credit -- and they'll be DJing at Cielo in New York on Friday night for the album release party. Big deal -- we can check them out at Muse on Thursday night as part of the weekly Electric Cabaret, and unlike those jaded New Yorkers, we can even print out free admission passes from

Usually Ballston's pretty rock 'n' roll, but tonight, it's a little bit country, too. The Front Page is bringing back its "Country Night" with DJs spinning country all night, line dancing lessons, $1 drink specials, half-price food and the "sexiest cowboy and cowgirl contest." Yee-haw, indeed.

Half-price champagne and bhangra beats -- not a combination you find every day, but a winning idea nonetheless. The U.S. Department of Bhangra, a new collective responsible for a monthly shot of bhangra dance music at Bossa, is playing at a free one-off party called Disco of Columbia at Metropolitain tonight, which also features Swedish-by-way-of D.C. electro-house DJ Triobelisk, David Nigel Flynn and MC Janet Olympia Konz. The bhangra kicks off at 9 and the half-price champagne deal goes all night.

Friday, May 1
If you haven't heard about PostSecret by now -- well, the best we can do is point you to the PostSecret blog, where creator Frank Warren posts anonymous postcards spilling the deepest, darkest confessions you can imagine. PostSecret started almost five years ago with 150 postcards. These days, Warren gets 1,000 a week. The fifth PostSecret book, "Confessions on Life, Death and God," a collection of secrets related to religion and spirituality, will be released this fall. In the meantime, Warren's taking 100 postcards from that book to Hillyer Art Space in Dupont Circle for an exhibition that runs until the end of June. At tonight's grand opening, browse the cards, groove to DJ Fleg and meet Frank Warren. Wine and beer will be available. A $5 donation is requested.

Skillz (listen) has combined hustle and ability to become one of the most successful hip-hop journeymen in the game. On his debut, "From Where???," he was the quintessential punchline-slinging, cipher-stalking, battle-hardened freestyle rapper scrapping hard for respect in a New York-dominated world. When that well ran dry, he linked up with fellow Virginia natives Timbaland and Missy Elliott. A stint ghostwriting for hitmakers kept his pockets well-lined, and his career has outlasted some of the performers he wrote for. Along the way he's dropped multiple brilliant mixtapes, toured heavily with the Roots and DJ Jazzy Jeff and released three more full-length albums that found devotees even without mainstream attention. Skillz hits at Almaz tonight.

The summer concert season is well and truly underway: Friday Night Live on Herndon's town green kicks off tonight with veteran U2 cover band (and damned good look-alikes) 2U (listen/watch) headlining. As always, it's free, and there will be food from local merchants and the usual selection of beer trucks, with money from tips going to the Herndon High School alcohol-free prom afterparty and graduation party. (Personally, we recommend walking over to Jimmy's Old Town Tavern before and after the show.)

Cinco de Mayo is Tuesday night, so some wiley promoters from Love are inviting you to celebrate Uno de Mayo tonight. There will be drink specials all night and free tequila shots if you RSVP for the list that gets you access to the third floor. Send an e-mail to by 4 p.m. May 1 with your name and e-mail address, and you're on, with an open bar from 10 to 11 and free admission until 11. That's it.

Saturday, May 2
There are few DJs who have an ear for top-40 dance floor hits like the Freemasons (listen). How good was their remix of Beyonce and Shakira's "Beautiful Liar"? So good that Sony/BMG put the remix on U.K. radio instead of the album version, and promptly released it as a single. The Freemasons repeated the feat with Kelly Rowland's "Work," they've remixed everyone from Beyonce to Fatboy Slim, crafted songs for the likes of Kylie Minogue, and they just produced the new Sophie Ellis-Bextor single "Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)," which is the best thing she's done since "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)." They've also written and produced their own house-style club killers like "When You Touch Me" and "If." Hard to believe, then, that Russell Small and James Wiltshire have never performed in the U.S. That ends tonight at Town. Tickets are $25 in advance from Groovetickets.

DJ Rich Medina still loves records. He'll normally make time at any stop in his full tour schedule to go digging at local spots, and he still hauls a hard case of vinyl to the club. He shares a love of the funky and obscure with his longtime partner and fellow renaissance man Bobbito Garcia. Having educated audiences for years with prized sides from their respective collections, they've recently released a compilation of Afro-Latin grooves called "The Connection" (listen) that condenses their DJ sets and record libraries into an iPod sized serving of funk treats. Rich will be at Eighteenth Street Lounge delivering an extended lesson from this chapter of vinyl education tonight.

Sunday, May 3
One sign that warm weather is truly here -- no, not allergies -- is the Wonderland Ballroom's annual Sundress Fest, which features women and men donning their favorite summerweight dresses for an afternoon of dancing, drinking and a pig roast. Anyone wearing a sundress gets happy hour drink prices from 4 p.m. until close. Guys, if you don't have a lady friend your size who will loan you a dress, Wonderland always has a rack of thrift store dresses for sale for $10 that you can throw on over a T-shirt and jeans -- and all proceeds go to the Columbia Heights Initiative, the neighborhood group responsible for events like Columbia Heights Day. The pig roast, which takes place on the patio, is also a benefit -- Wonderland owner Matthew McGovern says you can expect to pay "like 10 or 12 bucks for a bottomless plate." Whatever you do, stick around for the annual male sundress fashion show, which starts around dusk.

--Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | April 28, 2009; 7:02 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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Next: "Can I Hear You Say Yeah?" -- Ian Svenonious: A Video History

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