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Posted at 10:28 PM ET, 06/16/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Too-hip cover band Nouvelle Vague brings its Americana and bossa nova takes on new wave hits to the French Embassy this week. (Courtesy of Nouvelle Vague)

This week brings your first chance to see influential post-hardcore greats Frodus in D.C. in a decade, a hip cover band at the French Embassy, walls of noise from Harm City's Double Dagger, summer pop music, chic neo-soul, funky house and happy hours for charity.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Wednesday, June 17
Double Dagger (listen) is a powerhouse of a band. The Baltimore trio uses very little to make a whole lot -- of noise. But it's not noise for noise's sake; that would go against everything the band stands for. Efficiency is Double Dagger's calling card. Consider the band to be scientists who deconstruct songs to their most basic elements, leave out all the unnecessary parts and then piece things back together in a brutally precise manner. Electric guitar? They don't need no stinkin' electric guitar. The band's bass/drums/vocals combo is massive, and on the third album, "More," the songwriting palette has expanded to let the band better explore its expert sense of dynamics. But for all of the little bits of weirdness that can be found in Double Dagger's songs, the musicians know that nothing kills quite like a big chorus, and that's exactly what makes "The Lie/The Truth" one of this year's best songs to date. The band kicks off its month-long U.S. tour at Crooked Beat Records, where you'll conveniently be able to buy "More" right after Double Dagger blows the roof off the sucker.

The Skratch Makaniks (listen) crew from Philadelphia is a group of turntablists without superstar profiles but with super skills. They didn't go the battle route; most of them made their names in the clubs and on the airwaves with that rare blend of vicious technique in a party-rocking context. It's not easy to drop hardcore turntablism into a club set, make it sound good and still keep the dance floor moving, but this collective specializes in just that. They're the prototype of a DJ's DJ. Mention Jay Ski or Kwestion to any jock with a hip-hop background who takes his craft seriously, and he'll probably raise his eyebrows and exhale heavily. Skratch Makaniks members Excel and Impulse take over Eyebar tonight for a special set welcoming Excel back east after last year's move to Los Angeles.

Ah, the singing drummer. It's like the albino gila lizard of the rock-and-roll world. So rare, so awkward, and often native to desert climates. But Telekinesis's'ses -- er, Michael Lerner of Telekinesis (listen) -- manages to pull off the neat trick. Sure, he still looks a bit goofy when he's singing his sugary power pop songs while banging on his kit, which is placed much closer to the front of the stage than those of lazy, non-singing drummers. But that endearing quality fits with the endearing nature of the songs he write. It's pop music. Simple, straightforward. He's not trying to show off. Or rather, maybe he is trying to show off. Not in the classic sense, but more in the "I bet I can write a song that is just the same basic song you've heard a thousand times and you're still going to love it because it's so irresistibly catchy." An Horse (listen), the band that keeps your high school English teacher up at night, opens at the Black Cat, backstage style.

Thursday, June 18
The last time Nouvelle Vague brought its cheeky mix of bossa nova-styled punk and new wave covers to Washington, the band performed for an overflow crowd in an auditorium at the French Embassy's Maison Francaise. It was an odd venue choice -- with everyone seated, like at your high school -- though it made sense for what was essentially a French lounge act. But now Nouvelle Vague is touring to support its yet-to-be-released album "NV3," which has dropped the sambas for a decidedly more Americana mix of blues and country, and it's playing some of Europe's bigger rock festivals. So when the group returns to Washington two-plus years later, it's booked to play ... the French Embassy's auditorium. Nouvelle Vague auteur Marc Colin told Fritz on Wednesday that about half of the 25-song set list will be from the new record, which includes stripped-down acoustic versions of "Blister in the Sun" and a countryfied "Road to Nowhere." In a cool twist, some of the original performers make guest appearances on Nouvelle Vague's versions -- Terry Hall croons "Our Lips Are Sealed," Martin Gore joins a fun "Master and Servant." (Hear some tracks from the unreleased album on the band's MySpace page and others on its official Web site.) Tickets are $25, which includes admission to a day-long garden party at the French Embassy on Saturday. Finally, look for Fritz's Q&A with Nouvelle Vague on Post Rock.

We always knew that local Celtic bar powerhouses Scythian (listen) were too big for Fado, though there's something awesome about dancing and swigging Guinnesses in the crowded pub while the band tears through "Black and Tans," plays drinking games and leads the good-natured crowd through a jig. The foursome is off to tour the festivals of the Midwest this summer, but before they go, they're returning to Fado for one more raucous show. (And there are seriously no more in this area all summer.) The show starts at 9:30. Get there early or get shut out, or at least have to stand uncomfortably at the back edges of the crowd.

DJ Bee (listen), already known as a turntable monster for his work on XM Radio and 103 Jamz in his native Norfolk, was recruited to join the Skratch Makaniks crew, so you actually have two chances to see them this weekend. Lord Beesus pulls off tricks in his mix sets that most jocks practice over and over in their bedroom, scared to attempt in front of a live audience. He's the guest at '95 Live, a weekly party at Steve's Bar Room that's all about classic '90s records from hip-hop to dancehall.

If you've been to a cookout or pool party in the last week or two, then you know that the mosquitos are baaaaad right now. But just imagine if getting bitten could kill you. That's a reality in Africa, where a child dies from malaria about every 30 seconds. So do something about it: Head to Skye Lounge for the Nothing But Nets happy hour, which runs from 6:30 to 9. There's a $10 cover at the door, which goes to buy one mosquito net for a child. In exchange, you get a drink ticket. A raffle, which also helps the charity, includes sports tickets and gift certificates. Oh, and it's all hosted by a team that includes reigning Miss D.C. Kate Marie Grinold and Katherine Kennedy of the "Blonde Charity Mafia" reality series, which will surely be on TV any season now.

"Cadillac Records" got more plaudits for its musical performances (Beyonce as Etta James, Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters) than its plot or direction, so it's appropriate that a screening of the film at the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse is more remarkable for its afterparty: a tribute to the artists of Chess Records with a number of local blues shouters and roots rockers, including Janine Wilson, Flatfoot Sam, Linwood Taylor and Jumpin' Jupiter. (You know there's going to some fights backstage over who gets to cover Howlin' Wolf.) Even better: The $13 cover goes to Hungry for Music, the nonprofit organization that buys musical instruments, sheet music and education for underprivileged kids. The film begins at 7:30, and the Chess jam starts at 9.

The revived Cocktail Charities happy hour is moving out of Adams Morgan and onto H Street tonight. Stop by the Pug for a beer anytime between 6 p.m. and last call, and your tips will go to Open Arms Housing, a group that helps find homeless women find homes of their own. If you want to tip $5 on a $3 can of Natty Boh, please do.

Friday, June 19
Beautiful Swimmers (listen) have been popping up a lot lately. When you notice DJs that start turning up at lots of gigs, it's usually for a very simple reason -- people like them. With Beautiful Swimmers, it's not hard to hear why. It's like taking a casual trip back to the '70s, because the duo spins all sorts of disco, funk, R&B. Everything will get the masses moving. Also providing delectable slices of boogie at Comet Ping Pong will be Andrew Morgan and Mondo & C Rob. The evening serves as a showcase for Future Times and Peoples Potential Unlimited, which are two local labels to surely keep your eye on if you want to stay on top of some of the best beats emerging from the city.

The I Love the '80s outdoor film festival in Rosslyn is showing "Labyrinth" tonight -- great news for David Bowie fans, right? But the kicker comes afterward, when the party moves across the street to the funky Continental pool hall and lounge, where the folks behind Adams Morgan's legendary '80s Dance Party will be spinning Madonna, Kajagoogoo, Simple Minds, Duran Duran and the rest of your DayGlo favorites. There's no cover for either the film or the dancing.

We're always jealous of club owners and promoters who throw themselves giant birthday parties at their venues -- sure beats having to clean your apartment to have some friends over and hoping you don't run out of Doritos and cans of PBR. Tonight, Current general manager Mood Bacho and promoter Liton Khan are marking their birthdays with a special party for the new Roberto Cavalli vodka, which is surely one of the most ridiculous products we've heard of in recent memory. (What's next, Jack Daniels tuxedos?) Anyway, there will be DJs on the main floor as well as the large outdoor deck, plus drink specials. Get free admission when you e-mail litonevents@gmail.com.

Saturday, June 20
D.C. indie-rock nostalgists have a tough choice on Saturday night. The main event is at the Black Cat, where post-hardcore/screamo/spazzcore revolutionaries Frodus (listen) will play its first D.C. show in a decade. During the '90s, the band was a regular on the local underground circuit, playing basements, rec rooms and tiny clubs. The energy at those shows was regularly off the charts. Sweat happens. In the decade since Frodus called it quits, it's become quite influential -- ain't that always the case? And now the band is back together, to bring its politically charged --and just generally charged up -- punk-rock assault to the Black Cat. Major bonus points for bringing along the Van Pelt, fellow reformed '90s not-quite-cult faves, as openers. David caught them down in Austin a few months ago and can report that Chris Leo still rocks the speak-sing like few others.

There's a solid undercard over at Comet Ping Pong, highlighted by Soft Power (listen), the new band from Mary Timony. The band used to be called Pow Wow, but apparently there were a whole lot of bands already called Pow Wow, so now it's Soft Power. We like it better anyway. David caught Pow Wow at Comet in the winter and liked what he heard from Timony and bandmates T.J. Lipple, Jonah Takagi and Winston Yu. Timony has always been a great rock songwriter, and these songs were jagged and driving with interesting little twists and turns. And since Comet actually has a PA this time, we will even be able to hear her when she sings. Score. Big Gold Belt (listen) and Protect-U (listen) also play.

When Mr. V (listen) is on the set, hip-house is no longer solely an '80s phenomenon. His sound combines the soul of his mentor Louie Vega with deep classic club beats and rapping that you generally don't find on today's dance scene. Mr. V's partnership with Alix Alvarez in creating the SOLE Channel label has allowed his work to blossom through multiple solo releases. Chris Burns will be opening for the Nuyorican Don at the Trinidad & Tobago Association tonight with the Columbia Heights All-Stars holding down the basement.

Over the last decade, Primo Productions has become a mainstay of the D.C. nightlife scene, throwing parties and weekly events at lounges like Lima and Eyebar and mixing a steady diet of salsa and other Latin rhythms with hip-hop and house. Tonight, the group's anniversary bash takes over Muse Lounge, where there's a rooftop barbecue with free food, drink specials and other treats to celebrate 10 years in the game. The cookout starts at 8, but the party goes until 3 a.m. with three floors of DJs and dancing. Get on the list at primop.com.

Sunday, June 21
When Julie Dexter (listen) made the jump from the U.K. to the U.S., D.C. was the first city to embrace her. She's since settled in Atlanta, where she's been a catalyst for its modern crop of multifaceted soul artists. Where Julie is heavily informed by straight-ahead jazz and reggae, Jaspects (listen) -- her youthful co-pilots for tonight's show at Liv -- meld cutting-edge club, pop and electronic sounds into a daring, jazzy blend of futuristic swing. Their fourth and newest album, "The Polkadotted Stripe," has word-of-mouth networks on fire. Although the Morehouse music department alums have been active since 2005, their current work has critics, fans and peers on the soul scene gushing with praise like the band was an entirely new phenomenon. It's the same energy that the Dungeon Family generated when they first hit the industry from their ATL base over a decade ago.

-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | June 16, 2009; 10:28 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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