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Posted at 12:11 AM ET, 05/20/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Mustafa Akbar, best known as the doorman at Eighteenth Street Lounge, releases a new CD of funky, soulful tunes on Saturday at -- where else? -- Eighteenth Street Lounge. (Courtesy of Odara Productions)

Memorial Day weekend means that everyone is in party mood, so whether you want to dance to '80s hits, dancehall straight from Jamaica, beachy summer tunes or classic house, there's a place to get grooving. Before the weekend, though, there are plenty of bands worth your attention, a joint birthday party for Stevie Wonder and James Brown, a wonderfully funky brass band performing in the garden of the French Embassy, charity happy hours, and a chance to see the man whose records have topped both Billboard's Latin Singles and Latin Album charts this month.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Wednesday, May 20
A few weeks ago, we recommended a party at the Embassy of Finland that sounded pretty great -- art, music, open bar -- and it promptly sold out, leaving some Got Plans? readers disappointed. So we're going to try again and recommend another artsy-sounding party at the embassy, and urge you to move quickly to score tickets. The Capitol Pecha Kucha, a cool salon-style gathering of artists, architects and designers, is exploring the interactions between the sense of sound and sight. Deep stuff, we know, but the presenters and the pace should keep it lively: Eight presenters, including visual artists, composers and DJs, will show 20 slides of whatever they want for exactly 20 seconds each. (There's more about the artists on the Pecha Kucha Web site.) In addition to expanding your mind about the relationship between aural and visual stimuli, the evening includes live jazz by Nuts and Bolts and an open bar on beer and wine. Doors open at 7:30, and the presentations begin at 8:20. Tickets ($10) won't be sold at the door -- hit this Web site to get yours in advance.

Slumberland is still very much in its grace period. In other words, we're so happy that the best indie-pop label of the '90s is back to releasing records that we don't need each one to be fantastic. The debut from Liechtenstein (listen), who are actually from Sweden (confusing!) is more of a stand-up double than a home run, but hey, lots of doubles got Wade Boggs in the Hall of Fame, right? Three girls go jingle-jangle all shambolically and yeah, we've heard it before and yeah, we're hearing it even more lately, but no, we're not sick of it. Many of the songs on "Survival Strategies in a Modern World" have some post-punky jagged edges, but the girly harmonies and reverb are what you'll remember. At least until the next Slumberland band comes along. Slumberland originals Lorelei (listen) and Cincinnati noir-rockers the Sundresses (listen) open at the Velvet Lounge.

Thursday, May 21
On May 13, Stevie Wonder celebrated his 59th year of being a beacon of happiness to mankind through song. James Brown's birthday is 10 days before Stevland's, and when you put these two together, their catalog unites the tastes, influences and memories of anyone who has ever loved the funk. Theirs is the music that grannies, toddlers and everyone in between can agree on. Eight DJs will be collaborating at Liv tonight for the Soul Power party celebrating the combined works of Wonder and Brown. The lineup features DJ I-Wah, DJ 2-Tone Jones, Lance Reynolds, Adrian Loving, Damu the Fudgemunk, DJ Underdog, The Ankhitek and DJ Jahsonic.

Last Thursday marked the return of one of our favorite do-good events: Cocktail Charities. Founded by Adams Morgan resident (and former ANC commissioner) Andy Miscuk in 1999, Cocktail Charities had a simple vision: You go to a bar in Adams Morgan, you drink, you have a good time, and your tips benefit a local community organization. The next week, a different bar would host an event for a different charity. Over the years, more than 40 groups received thousands of dollars in assistance from the weekly gatherings. Cocktail Charities has been on hiatus for a few years, but it roared back last Thursday at Tryst, raising more than $1,200 for We Are Family, which assists seniors with limited mobility. Tonight, the embattled Bobby Lew's Saloon is the site of a fundraiser for Joseph's House, which offers shelter and medical assistance to seriously ill homeless men. Stop in at any point after 6, have a drink and a plate of wings, and remember that your tip money -- not a percentage of your food-and-drink sales -- will be donated directly to the less fortunate.

Friday, May 22
"Girls on Top" at Muse is exactly what you'd think: An all-female DJ crew takes turns on the decks on the venue's top floor, while some of Baltimore and D.C.'s finest house and club DJs keep dancers grooving on the first and second levels. The local ladies include Ca$$idy and Fabiana (listen) of the electro-heavy Garutachi parties at the Rock and Roll Hotel, and Decibelle (listen), who has spun at a couple of parties at Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club. Joining them is Baltimore's Emily Rabbit (listen), who DJs with the heavily hyped electro-rap group Spank Rock and at the hip Charm City dance night TaxLo and runs her own nights of post-punk and disco. Meanwhile, the first floor features DJ Spen (listen) and Baltimore legend Teddy Douglas (listen), whose sweet-and-funky disco and house tunes have made him a favorite. The meat in the middle of this sandwich is Scottie B (listen), the godfather of the relentlessly pumping dance music known as Baltimore Club, and the founder of Unruly Records, which is home to most of the scene's heavy hitters. Alongside him is Australian DJ Anna Lunoe (listen), whose crunk/electro/baile funk sets have garnered her slots supporting Daft Punk, Chromeo and Lil' John. (Yeah, it's like that.) Throw in an open bar on Remy Martin drinks until 11 p.m. and a $10 cover when you RSVP to Girls on Top and it's hard to see how the night could get better.

Friday's forecast looks great (we say, knocking on wood) so what better to do after work than relax with a glass of white wine in the gardens of the French Embassy and dance to Tarace Boulba? The 30-member brass band plays some of the most ecstatic, upbeat rhythms you'll ever hear, something that sounds like the offspring of James Brown, Femi Kuti, Tito Puente and Illinois Jacquet. Try to listen to some MP3s without tapping your foot or shimmying in your chair. Admission is free, and drinks will cost you a couple bucks each. (You can't bring your own food or drink to picnic.) Gates open at 6:30.

St. Vincent (listen) -- a k a angel-voiced multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark -- is going to be famous someday. Well, famous enough that one day in a few years your mom will come up to you and say, "Hey honey, I heard a really interesting piece on NPR today about this St. Vincent and they played some of her songs and they were just gorgeous! Then it said she was playing at Strathmore and I thought we should go!" So while it's always nice to take Mom to a show that you'll both enjoy, this is your chance to see Clark while she still plays in rock clubs. That's not necessarily where she belongs: since her immaculately constructed songs are like mini-symphonies, she'll make that Andrew Bird-esque leap to concert halls soon enough. She's been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times and -- yeah, we're hip, too -- the Sunday Washington Post. So savor her being small time while you can and catch her at the Black Cat.

Saturday, May 23
Earlier this month, Puerto Rican reggaeton singer Tito El Bambino (listen) hit the top of Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart with his poppy new single "El Amor." A few days later, the album "El Patrón" hit number one on the Top Latin Album chart. Perfect time, then, for him to visit D.C. -- except he's not going to be in the city, exactly. Instead, he'll be performing at the Star Total Lounge and Ballroom in Annandale. (Where? Exactly.) Forget about the venue for a minute, because "El Patrón," which fuses reggaeton, radio-friendly ballads and a touch of hip-hop, marks Tito El Bambino as an artist to watch. Tickets are $30 from the Primo Productions Web Site, and we'd advise ordering them in advance -- we have a feeling there will be lines.

Mustafa Akbar (listen) is one of the most famous doormen in town, thanks to his position as the arbiter of who gets into Eighteenth Street Lounge on weekends. But the tall, dreadlocked Akbar should be better known as a singer than a roadblock. His soulful croon has graced tracks by local electro-funk artists Thunderball and the Fort Knox Five, and Akbar has led his band, Mustafa Akbar and Chosen, onto stages like the 9:30 club and the Black Cat. His new CD, "That Day," finds him in a reflective mood: the funky title track is a love song with a James Ingram vibe. Check out a live performance at the album release party at -- where else? -- Eighteenth Street Lounge. Arrive on the early side if you want to make sure you get in.

So you have a taste for hip-hop and you want to dance, but you're looking for more than today's collection of No Child Left Behind rappers (the various permutations of Youngs, Yungs and Lils). You can still dig a good, ignorant club hit, but you'd prefer that it's not the only hue in your party palette, and you don't want to wear slacks and hard shoes to earn the privilege of such a mix. Where should you go? Usually, we'd say there aren't many options, but DJ Cam Jus (listen) steps into this void tonight with the launch of his Primo party at Selam. There's no bottle service at Selam. You'll only get hit for $4 at the door and you can even dodge that if you arrive before 11:30 p.m. Expect uptempo club music that connects nicely with hip-hop you can dance to, including dancehall, go-go and R&B.

Attention drum 'n' bass heads: The we-wish-it-were-more-regular Konkrete Jungle night is back for a special Memorial Day Weekend throwdown at Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club with DJs Headhunterz Inc, Mob Barley, Dan Amitai, the Blue Alchemist and Darkenetiks. It's free, it starts at 10 and you'll feel the bass in your stomach the next day, no joke.

And here we have one of those perfect "weekend dance night vs. DJ" solutions. Well, in theory, at least. If people would just be willing to dance to songs that they aren't already familiar with. You won't hear any Britpop faves or hot blog remixes Saturday night at the Black Cat, but you will hear original creations by two of the best electronic acts around. The Juan MacLean (listen) is part of DFA Records' stable of artists who make house and disco safe for indie rockers. John MacLean, who played guitar for influential '90s band Six Finger Satellite, provides the thumps while openers the Field (listen) provide more mellow soundscapes that you can still get down to. It's more on the trance side of things -- you could almost call it IDM if you wanted to dust the cobwebs off that term -- but this time that's not code for "boring music you can't even dance to."

Sunday, May 24
Long weekend? Love to dance? You know DJ Dredd's gonna be there for you. Tonight's back-to-back-to-back battle of the songs of Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson at the Black Cat has the air of "hasn't he done this before?" but if you've seen Dredd, you know he's not sleepwalking through these sets. Few turntablists in D.C. can rock a party as deftly, and when the record selection is as stocked with hits as a meeting of the Material Girl, the Gloved One and His Royal Badness, you know that the crowd will be singing along and getting down. Seriously, we've seen the walls sweat at Prince nights.

As any good southern girl knows, you're not supposed to wear white before Memorial Day. (Not like any of understand why, but we still know you're not supposed to.) To mark the fashion shift into summer colors, Le Freak and local blog D.C. This Week are offering two hours of free champagne to anyone who wears a white outfit to Metropolitain tonight. DJ Will Eastman spins house, disco and club music in the cozy Europhile lounge from 8 to 1, and the free drinks will be offered from 8 to 10. With that kind of deal -- and free admission -- the bar is likely to hit capacity earlier than usual, so look fashionable, but don't be fashionably late.

After three years, Daylight is no longer merely an event, it's an institution. The classic soul and house party is fueled by a cast of characters as integral to the brand as the playlist. There's Nichelle who hooks up the free soul food buffet before taking spry turns on the dance floor. There's Big Tone, the gregarious host who gathers everyone together to sing happy birthday to that week's celebrants and makes sure any newbies make friends quickly. And it's all tied together by the balance DJs Divine and Source strike between surprise bombs from the far reaches of their crates to the jams that everyone can sing along to. Daylight gets to stretch on holiday weekends, extending its usual 10 p.m. closing time to 2 a.m. DJ Baby, DJ Oji and DJ AJ of Grits & Gravy will be joining the Daylight residents to go the distance tonight at Liv.

It's a clash of the house titans tonight, or more like a dream team, as Terry Hunter (listen) joins Sam "The Man" Burns to throw down at Eighteenth Street Lounge. Terry Hunter comes from the fertile Chicago scene that can claim the equivalent of multiple Mt. Rushmores of house stars. Membership in that fraternity doesn't limit Hunter, as he has more in common with peers like DJ Spinna and frequent collaborator Kenny Dope, with production mastery touching the worlds of hip-hop and R&B. That's Hunter behind the boards, but when he's in booth, expect that driving house thump.

Friends heading out of town for the long weekend? Just because you're staying in D.C. doesn't mean you can't soak up some tropical vibes. Mate Lounge in Georgetown is hosting Staycation Sunday tonight and serving up sunny summer cocktails while DJ Moh spins rock and hip-hop party jams. The menu includes Passion Fruit Iced Tea, Mate's special Pina Colada and Brazilian Cosmos (all $6-$7), and beach attire is encouraged. Sports Club LA memberships will be awarded to the woman with the best sundress and the man with the best sunglasses. There's no cover, and the party runs from 8 to 2.

Speaking of tropical vibes, tonight's a good one for the reggae and soca lovers out there. The weekly Dancehall Sundays at the Crossroads welcomes DJ Richie Feelings, whose Bembe Squad (listen) is a fixture at the popular Weekenz nightclub in Kingston, Jamaica. Host Jason Steele is also on the wheels. The 18-and-over night starts at 10 p.m. Over at Zanzibar on the Waterfront, they're crying S.O.S. -- Soca on Sunday -- with resident DJs Sprang International, Super Slice, Silva, the Mix-A-Lot Crew and a live riddim section. Tickets are $10 in advance.

On a warm summer night, there are few salsa venues that are more fun than Caribbean Breeze -- when you get too hot on the dance floor, you can head for the covered patio and its outdoor bar. (And if you feel like it, you can keep dancing out there, too.) Tonight's Memorial Day Weekend Party features a dance lesson from 6:30 to 7:30, followed by more than five hours of dancing to salsa, merengue and bachata from DJs Arnoldo, Gringuito and the Latin Leprechaun. Ladies can enter the "Sexy Beach Babe Bikini Contest" to win $500 in cash and prizes.

--Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | May 20, 2009; 12:11 AM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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Thanks for the Konkrete Jungle mention! -Dan

Posted by: amitai1 | May 20, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

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