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Posted at 4:00 AM ET, 09/30/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Hmmm... The guy from Wavves, wearing a Bad Brains T-shirt, holding a Kenny Loggins record. And all the words are backward ... so now that lo-fi slacker rock makes sense! (Joseph Allen)

This week is one of the busiest for live music in ages, with must-do concerts across the board: the fuzzy, lo-fi indie of Wavves, Mayer Hawthorne's throwback soul, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart's perfect guitar pop, a new album from anthemic local rockers Middle Distance Runner, and the hip-hop-meets-electron promise of the "All Killer, No Filler" showcase. But then there are Oktoberfest beers to be drunk, the revival of the once-popular Sinatra night with live swing and free martinis, multiple chances to help charities at happy hours, and a night where you can meet new people over cocktails and games of Uno and Twister.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Wednesday, Sept. 30
Wednesday is one of those nights where there's no shortage of fine music. If you wanted to catch reunited Sunny Day Real Estate in all of its '90s emo glory, too late; that show's sold out. As for other options, there's the smart and stinging lyrics of alt-country troubadour James McMurtry at the Birchmere; quirky piano songstress Regina Spektor at Constitution Hall; and on-the-rise buzz band Antlers, which will play soaring indie anthems at DC9. All are worthy of your hard-earned dollars, but we old-school indie-pop types will stick with the status quo and head to the Black Cat to catch the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The New York band's self-titled debut is as perfect a throwback to the chiming, jangling guitar pop of a couple decades ago, so it was entirely appropriate for the album to be released on recently revitalized Slumberland, a label that specialized in that sound. "Young Adult Friction" may be the best pop song of the year -- bouncy rhythm, shimmering guitars and a bridge that slowly swells into a big ending. The band's previous performance at the club was on the backstage, and it was 30 minutes of fiercely fuzzy pop delights. Expect a longer set this time, but don't show up too fashionably late (as Fritz did last time) or you may miss some gems.

Back in the '90s, a swingin' Adams Morgan lounge called Felix had one of the hippest parties in town: Sinatra Night. The Wednesday night party, with live jazz combos and birdbath-sized martinis, was part of the post-"Swingers" retro-chic that gripped a certain segment of young urbanites. Wouldn't it be more fun, they thought, if we got dressed up in cocktail dresses and fedoras and went out and sipped cocktails and danced to a jazz band like we were in a Rat Pack movie? And so it was. Worship of all things Sinatra faded along with neon-blue cocktails as we moved into the 2000s, but former Felix owner Alan Popovsky is bringing back the idea at his new restaurant, Hudson. In an era that embraces all things "Mad Men," his timing is pretty good. The opening night features live music by Satin Doll -- a jazz trio featured regularly at Felix -- plus free Skyy vodka martinis from 6 to 8. (After that, and on future Wednesdays, the price will be $4.) The biggest change? Popovsky says there's an area to cut a rug "that's bigger than Felix's dance floor. Felix didn't really have one."

Thursday, Oct. 1
Washington's newest crop of rap hopefuls and sonic craftsmen don't color within the lines, and party people stand to benefit. The staff of the Couch Sessions lifestyle and music blog are of the same ethos that says MCs and DJs should be able to get down to hip-hop, go-go, or synthed-out electro beats without the constraining allegiances to scenes. As a commitment to this vision, they're kicking off the monthly All Killer No Filler party at Liv tonight. Young female firebrand RA The MC (listen) headlines with a full band set. Cam Jus, Trevor Martin and Starks & Nacey of Nouveau Riche keep the dance floor on crazed mode.

Somehow Nathan Williams -- a San Diego kid whose main hobbies include skateboarding, getting stoned and writing fuzzy, lo-fi pop songs in his basement -- has become a lightning rod for controversy in the indie rock underground. As one half of Wavves, he's been on the receiving end of numerous Internet insults; he even got involved in a fight last weekend with one of his detractors from garage band the Black Lips. Why all the hatred? As a songwriter Williams is no real revelation, but sun-kissed, slacker anthems such as "So Bored" and "No Hope Kinds" are undeniably catchy, even if it feels like you've heard them a few dozen times before. We're hoping it will be a drama-free show at Rock and Roll Hotel.

Congratulations are in store for Frederick's Flying Dog Brewery, which took home three gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival last week, as well as one of the biggest awards on offer: mid-size brewery of the year, which means the competitors are U.S. breweries that make 15,000 to 2 million barrels of beer. Not a bad haul for Flying Dog, which started in Colorado in 1990 and purchased a Maryland brewery in 2006. Among its individual medal winners was Dogtoberfest, the wonderfully malty Oktoberfest beer. You can find Dogtoberfest on tap around town -- Fritz had his first pint of the season at R.F.D. -- but we suggest getting a sample at the Mayflower during the hotel's Thursday Night Social Club. Tonight, the $20 all-inclusive ticket covers dinner with "Pan-Seared Hudson River Duck Breast," tunes by a piano man and unlimited Dogtoberfest from 5:30 to 8:30. You provide the mixing and mingling.

Pop quiz: The apes most closely related to humans are orangutans and: (a) gorillas, (b) chimpanzees, (c) bonobos. The answer is bonobos, which share 98.4 percent of our DNA. You many not have heard much about these intelligent creatures, who can walk on two legs and live in matriarchal societies, because they were the last great apes to be discovered, and today their habitat in the Congo is under threat from logging and the country's generally unstable situation. However, efforts are underway to establish a sanctuary for the endangered bonobo, and you can help tonight at Ulah Bistro's Save the Sexy Ape Happy Hour. (The name comes from bonobos' penchant for practicing, uh, "free love.") Bartending 4 Change is donating 100 percent of all tips tonight to the Bonobo Conservation Initiative, and it's also asking for a "suggested" donation of $5 at the door. In exchange, you'll get some potent happy hour cocktails and the knowledge you're helping your cousins survive.

Friday, Oct. 2
We've written about DJ Nitekrawler's monthly soul-and-funk fest Moneytown before, usually when he's got a special guest coming to educate us about the funky sounds of '60s Georgia or the Midwest. This time around should be even more fun than usual; Moneytown's featuring a Super Friends-style team of guest DJs from other great D.C. nights like Fatback and Brazilian Rhythms. As always: No cover; beers are $5 or less.

When it comes to recession-friendly imbibing and thrifty pre-gaming tips, you know the Gurus got you covered. Your newest option to stretch your happy hour budget goes down on Fridays at Fly. Rail drinks and brews start at $2 from 6 to 7 p.m. and increase hourly by a buck until 10. Shots are 3 for $10 and for training-wheel ballers, Skyy bottles go for $25.

Saturday, Oct. 3
For the last couple of years, Daz-I-Kue (listen) has been residing in Atlanta and gradually infecting the U.S. with the brand of jazzy, frenetic, soulful dance music that he pioneered in London with Bugz in the Attic. So now, in addition to devouring his remixes, bootlegs and original productions, we get to see Daz rock live around these parts more frequently: there's tonight set at Eighteenth Street Lounge, for example. Daz-I-Kue's sets encompass a journey through U.K soundsystem culture, from rare grooves and roller-skating boogie through drum 'n' bass and the trademark West London broken-beat sound.

As Oktoberfest traditions around Washington go, the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest is right at the top. The Capitol City Brewing Company's annual block party in the streets of Shirlington offers beers from around three dozen breweries - ranging from regional brewpubs to internationally famous names. Until last year, it was a raucous sample-as-much-as-you-can affair - and then the Virginia government discovered that it's illegal to offer unlimited beers for one price. Whoops. The format changed last year: the cover charge only includes 10 tickets to exchange for beers, which appeared to cut down on the number of people who were out to kill as many kegs as possible. For those of us who look forward to sampling the newest offerings from Williamsburg Alewerks, Stoudt's or Vintage 50 while listening to oompah music and eating German fare, it remains a important day on our calendars.

A few months ago, Fritz wrote about Recess, a game night for adults at the Aloft Hotel at National Harbor. It's a really cool concept: Imagine a boutique hotel bar filled with a 25-to-45 crowd playing Uno, Twister, Pictionary, Taboo, pool and other games while a DJ spins dance tunes and bartenders shake up fruity martinis. When you finish a game, you can wander off to join another game or challenge your new friends to a rematch. (Also, "Want to play some Connect Four?" is still a great opening line.) As you can imagine, this is a popular night. It hits capacity every time it happens, especially because no tickets are sold at the door. Read the full review; if it sounds like something you'd want to hit with a group this weekend, move on over to and reserve your spot now.

A few years ago, local quintet Middle Distance Runner seemed on the verge of big things. Its debut album, "Plane in Flames," was garnering lots of well-deserved local buzz for its songs that ranged from swaggering garage rock to big, Brit-rock anthems. As is often the case, the buzz slowly died out and the band fell off the map for a bit. It wasn't a breakup, just a break. Now the band is gearing up for big things yet again with its new album, "The Sun and the Earth," out officially later this month but available at tonight's release show at Iota. Expect the same range of rock sounds, but listen for the stomping lead single, "The Unbeliever."

It's back-to-school time in D.C., and as you may have heard, the city's public schools can use a lot of help. One of the groups working with D.C.'s parents and school children is Turning the Page, which organizes a bevy of activities, from workshops that get parents more involved in their children's education to organizing museum visits with the kids. (You can learn more about the group on its Web site.) Of course, Turning the Page needs money to fund these programs. The organization is holding a benefit tonight at the Reserve, the brand-new downtown restaurant that replaced Ollie's Trolley last week. Donate $10 at the door, and you'll get free food and happy hour drink prices from 5:30 to 8, as well as two raffle tickets. Bonus: Bring books, DVDs or CDs for Turning the Page to sell during its annual fundraising sale, and you'll get $1 off admission with each one.

In the last few months, we've seen more and more people walking around town with brightly colored clothing bearing the word Durkl. Maybe it's just that Will Sharp's local clothing line felt right for summer, with its bright colors and eye-catching graphics. Or maybe it's increased marketing, with more shops stocking the clothes and Durkl even getting some exposure on MTV, thanks to UCB sporting the line while backing Wale on the MTV Video Music Awards. At any rate, things are about to blow up for Durkl; the homegrown label is about to open its first boutique at 443 I St. NW and its home, Gold Leaf Studios, was just profiled in the Post's Sunday magazine. The boutique's grand opening celebration, which runs from 8 to 11, features free food and drinks, plus a chance to buy limited edition mixtapes and T-shirts. Get there early.

Sunday, Oct. 4
Mayer Hawthorne looks like a mash-up of Clark Kent and David Cross, but he sounds like a mash-up of the Impressions and Prince Paul. The cognitive dissonance ends quickly once you settle into his crisp breakbeats, rhythm guitar and doo-wop-era falsetto. Hawthorne grew up outside of Detroit, and he wears the badge of the classic Motown sound proudly. His work now reaches the masses through Los Angeles' Stones Throw Records, known as much for twisting retro sounds into new contexts as it is for tweaking the conventions of hip-hop, soul and electronica. Hawthorne's making his first D.C. appearance at DC9 in support of his debut album, "A Strange Arrangement."

It's been a busy year for rooftop pool parties, from the Liaison's poolside swimwear fashion shows to the laidback-but-stylish soirees at the Donovan House Hotel. But this week brings word that the Coolout, the hippest one of them all, is throwing its farewell party. Lacking a dress code, cover charger or burly bouncer, the Coolout's strength was its diversity, whether in the rainbow of faces hanging out or the ever-changing lineup of DJs spinning electro, funk, Afrobeat and rare grooves for the crowds who gathered atop the Beacon Hotel at 17th and Rhode Island. It was a go-to option for folks who wanted to end the weekend with good vibes and good sounds, and it will be missed. However, there's one more party to be had, with DJs Adrian Loving and Harry Dixon joined by guests Smudge and Jahsonic on the turntables and Tom P providing live percussion. Drink specials are promised, and there's word of an afterparty. We'll update this post when we hear more.

-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | September 30, 2009; 4:00 AM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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