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Posted at 7:24 PM ET, 10/20/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Local R&B singer (and Grammy nominee) Wayna pays tribute to Billie Holiday during a pair of shows at Blues Alley. (Courtesy of the Bloom Effect)

Howard University's homecoming weekend brings a number of hip-hop and R&B stars to D.C. for the weekend, including the Clipse, Common, Kid Cudi and Brian McKnight. But there are plenty more options this week, including a tribute to Billie Holiday, parties at the Swedish Embassy and the Corcoran, the awesomely shambolic garage punk of Lovvers, a fundraising happy hour in Bethesda, block-rocking DJs and a new event focused on French music (and half-price champagne).

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Thursday, Oct 22
Lovvers plays clattering, fuzzed-out post-punk garage rock with hints of the Wipers, the Undertones and the Replacements, all revved up with punk energy. Hop over to the band's MySpace page and listen to recent B-side "AXTXTXIXTXUXDXE." The huge pop-friendly vocal hooks -- buried under waves of crashing Ramones-esque guitars -- will get completely stuck in your head. "OCD Go Go Girls" comes straight out of the insanely catchy chapter of the late-'70s new-wave punk playbook. Amsterdam's zZz (listen) opens the late-night Comet Ping-Pong show.

We could put forward dozens of reasons why French music isn't the joke that so many people seem to think it is -- Serge Gainsbourg, Phoenix, Daft Punk, Justice, Nouvelle Vague, Air, the Teenagers, Yelle, etc. (Now, if you want to talk rock music, you might have a point.) But rather than listen to us wheeze on about Suburbia (seriously, the best Saint Etienne/New Order-influenced band of recent years), we're just going to direct you to the new Thursday party at Napoleon. DJs Shea Van Horn of Mixtape and TMY of Aural Pleasures are behind Maison, a night of French indie, electro and house that starts off with half-price champagne cocktails from 8 to 10 and runs until 2. There's no cover charge.

If you like belly dancing, wait until you see the Belly Horror show, which adds a spooky goth-cabaret atmosphere and tribal influences to the traditional dance. While the main event is Friday night at the Birchmere, Belly Horror actually extends for four days of workshops and performances. Everything kicks off tonight at the Palace of Wonders, where locals Samantha Hegre, Shems, Naimah and the Troupe Hip'Notic take to the stage with a variety of styles. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Friday, Oct. 23
We're coming up on Howard Homecoming weekend, which means parties, concerts and late-night events every night through Sunday. If you want a real taste of Howard Homecoming, there's no better place than the university's annual Yardfest. Students, alumni and the merely interested pack the spacious quad for this free all-day event, a concert that's become the stuff of legend. The completely lineup is usually a secret, but some names have leaked via the Howard Homecoming Twitter feed: The Clipse, Fabolous and '80s vets Cameo (yes, "Word Up" Cameo) are all slated to appear alongside some up-and-comers like Big Sean. Even if you don't catch your favorite rapper, the atmosphere of the event is enough to warrant a visit.

Other Howard Homecoming events (and tangentially-related-to-Howard events):

Musiq Soulchild (listen), the Philly-born heir to artists like Stevie Wonder and Al Green, headlines the official Howard Homecoming R&B Concert at the campus's Cramton Auditorium. Expect a mix of his silky "turn the lights down" ballads and uptempo dance-floor-friendly tunes. Up-and-coming Irish soul singer Laura Izibor (listen) -- whose piano-based style is reminiscent of D.C.'s own Robert Flack -- opens.

The current king of Howard University alums in the entertainment biz (by alums, I mean people who actually graduated, and that's why Diddy doesn't count) is riding high from the release of his "Music Fan First" album. Indie R&B star Eric Roberson (listen) will be bathed in adoration during his consecutive Howard-Homecoming shows at Liv.

Jamaican dancehall singer Beenie Man (listen) is no stranger to D.C.; he makes numerous headlining appearances at the Crossroads and various reggae festivals. He's no stranger to controversy, either, thanks to anti-gay lyrics that even saw him banned from entering the U.K. a few years back. But over the years and through his prodigious number of albums, Beenie has stayed relevant on the reggae scene, so it should be a packed house at Zanzibar. DJs Jazzy T (listen) and Back2Basic are in from the Caribbean to provide soca and reggae vibes for the party. Tickets are $25 in advance from pumpstn.com. As at most parties this weekend, that price will rise as the night goes on.

We feel pretty confident that Drake (listen) is the only actor from the Canadian teen soap "Degrassi: The Next Generation" (or "Degrassi Junior High") to get signed to Lil' Wayne's Young Money Entertainment label. You've probably heard "Best I Ever Had" and "Every Girl" on the radio or the popular "So Far Gone" mixtape, so let's just cut to the chase: He's going to be hosting the party at Love tonight. There are three ways to get in: Pay the $30 cover, pay $80 for an open bar from 8 to 10 and access to VIP areas, or drop $200 for the same open bar plus the opportunity to sit on the stage and be the center of attention while people wonder "Who's that guy? How do I get up there?" Oh, and some dude named Wale (listen) is also the bill. Maybe you've heard of him. Purchase through lovetheclub.com.

Kid Cudi's sparse, almost paranoid rap "Day and Night" was one of the biggest earworms of recent years, an atmospheric Kanye-esque track about being a lonely stoner. (Listen) His recent work hasn't hit anywhere close to that level, but we're willing to give him another shot. His live appearance at Lux Lounge is a good place to start. DJ SNS opens. Tickets are $30 in advance from tazevents.com.

Common and Russ Parr are hosting a party at the Park at 14th. Get there for happy hour, which runs from 5 to 8. Tickets are $20 from lovetheclub.com.

Okay, enough with Howard for tonight.

The running parade of top-flight dance music talent at Muse doesn't show any signs of slowing. Sam Burns is pairing up with Kerri Chandler (listen) for Loda's party tonight. Chandler's name graces scores of vinyl releases that are still sought after even when most DJs have moved on to digital. And New Jersey's contributions to soulful house can't be enumerated without acknowledging Chandler's heavy influence, one that bridged the original garage canon with the electronic sounds that emerged in the '80s.

Ordinarily, we don't feature the Hirshhorn After Hours parties in Nightlife Agenda. It's not that we have something against the museum's indoor-outdoor events, which mix DJs with a chance to have a few drinks and browse the museum's collection at a time that's more convenient from those of us with day jobs. No, it's that the events are usually sold out before our deadline. For some reason, this one isn't. We like the idea of touring the Anne Truitt exhibit and dancing to the Fatback DJs, but we wonder if the $18 cover charge is just a tad steep. It's sure to be fun, though.

Can we dispel the myth that government workers aren't humorless paper-pushers? Maybe the winners of the Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse's Funniest Fed competition can. After four weeks of competition, four government employees join NPR/CNN political satirist Will Durst to decide who is the funniest of them all. The show starts at 8, and a portion of the $15 ticket price will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides temporary housing for the families of wounded U.S. soldiers near hospitals and rehabilitation facilities like Walter Reed.

The francophone-friendly Planete Chic parties are back in D.C. tonight with Soiree Seduction at the Darlington House's lounge. Expect uptempo house to dance to and an achingly fashionable and attractive crowd. (Seriously, this is one night when you'll want to make a special effort.) The cover is $10 when you get on the guestlist (e-mail info@planetechic.com), and admission is free for women until 11:30.

Saturday, Oct. 24
The annual Eurovision contest is a European competition to see which country can produce the best pop song. In recent years, the staging and outrageous costumes have become almost as important as the music. The Embassy of Sweden's second After Dark event of the season pays tribute to this over-the-top event on Saturday with live music, DJs and karaoke, plus an open bar and hors d'oeuvres from 7 to 9. Look for appearances and performances by actual Eurovision contestants, including Anna Sahlene, who has competed in the Eurovision contest as a backing singer for Swedish artists (including 1999 winner Charlotte Nilsson) and competed for Estonia in 2002, when she finished third. (Watch that performance below.) Guests can take center stage themselves with karaoke, while DJ K-Tell spins past Eurovision hits. No tickets will be sold at the door, so get over to ticketweb.com stat.

The Corcoran's Fall Fete is one of our favorite black-tie events of the year: Great crowd, lots of dancing, four hours of open bar and snacks, and, of course, a chance to look at the museum's current exhibitions. While VIP packages have sold out for this year's party, general admission tickets ($100 for non-members, $90 for the 1869 Society) are still available through the Corcoran Web site. "A Nautical Affair" is the theme, playing off the "Sargent and the Sea" exhibit, so you might see some nautical-themed pashmina afghans on the dance floor. Or not. But feel free to play with your outfit accordingly.

Outside of the monster beer list, R.F.D. generally isn't much more than sports revelry spill-over from Verizon Center. But stop by its back room tonight and you might end up bouncing off the walls. The Couch Sessions and Glass House DC blogs team up with DJ Brian Senyo for HiRes, a night of jams and hip-hop party bangers on the decks and the video screen. There's no cover, which leaves more dough to pillage the beer menu.

One hundred percent of the proceeds at the Barking Dog's "Pints for Parkinson's" fundraiser will go directly to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Disease, which is a good enough reason to hit the bar. Your $10 donation is also good for specials like $2.50 Budweiser and Bud Light pints, $4 glasses of house wine and discount appetizers. There's a long list of door prizes and raffle items, including autographed Caps and D.C. United jerseys and balls, University of Maryland basketball and football tickets and gift cards from local restaurants and bars. Afterward, hang out while a DJ spins upstairs.

Time for more Howard Homecoming!

For the big-club atmosphere, check out Ibiza, which has an actual Howard alum on its lineup in WPGC DJ (and former "106 and Park" host) Big Tigger, along with current "106 and Park" host Terrance J and headliner Fabolous. Tickets are $20, or $80 for VIP access, through ibizadc.com.

Not to be outdone, Love has Grammy-nominated R&B star Trey Songz (listen) playing live. It's the same setup as Friday: Pay $20 to get in, pay $80 for an open bar from 8 to 10 and access to VIP areas all night, or drop $200 for the same open bar plus the opportunity to sit on the stage. And it's all your through lovetheclub.com.

9th Wonder has crafted tracks for Little Brother and Jay-Z, and he teaches a course on hip-hop at North Carolina Central University, but his passion is True School. That's his traveling DJ night dedicated to the golden age, the hip-hop era for people allergic to the Gucci Manes of the world but who aren't going to pack it in and listen to smooth jazz radio, either. Lots of Howard Homecoming weekend events expect you to ball out in the club with bottle service and hard shoes, but this one lets you sweat out your party shirt to classic hip-hop, R&B and New Jack Swing with 9th, DJ Cuzzin B, DJ Face and Jay Clipp.

Over at Layla Lounge, there's a birthday party for the Ravens' Willis McGahee (who went to Miami, not Howard) and Antwan Barnes (who went to Florida International, not Howard) with a large tented outdoor area and a performance by the Clipse, plus DJ SNS. Admission is $30 in advance from tazevents.com.

Howard University alum Lance Gross (from "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" and "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns") hosts a night of classics called "Remember the Time" at the Park with R&B singer Brian McKnight, who could teach a lot of this weekend's other performers a thing or two about career longevity. Tickets are $20 in advance.

Sunday, Oct. 25
The Foreign Exchange's Leave It All Behind album (listen) has quietly established itself as the prototype for a new forward-thinking incarnation of R&B. This concept album from producer Nicolay and vocalist/emcee Phonte covers the arc of a romantic relationship using abstract electronic textures, re-imagined quiet storm balladry and melodic boom-bap. It's soul music that reflects the tastes of listeners who love their Luther Vandross as much as they love their Radiohead. Join the growing chorus of F.E. devotees at the Black Cat tonight.

Update: We moved the events we wrote about earlier in the week to the bottom of the post. This way, it's easier for you to find our nightlife picks for today at the top.

Wednesday, Oct 21
In crafting her winning brand of modern soul, Washington's own Wayna (listen) has drawn from underground hip-hop rhythms as well as melodies of her native Ethiopia. Her crystalline soprano voice has been likened to those of Syreeta Wright and Minnie Riperton, whom she covered for a Grammy nomination last year. To restock her well of inspiration, Wayna recently immersed herself in the catalogue of Billie Holiday, another classic voice who comes up in descriptions of her sound. That exploration led to the tribute performance that Wayna will debut in two shows at Blues Alley this week.

DJ Meistro, a regular feature at dance parties and in this column, recently took a few months off from spinning records and headed to Nigeria to do work related to his masters degree. He's back in town and back on the grind, and you can catch him at tonight's Mechanix at Steve's Bar Room, where he'll no doubt drop a mess of Afrobeat, Latin and house. DJ Smudge and Mechanix resident Sean Gone are also on the bill at this free event.

-- Fritz Hahn and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | October 20, 2009; 7:24 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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Comments

Is this the same Beenie Man who wrote the song "Han Up Deh," a song that calls for lesbians to be hanged? http://www.petertatchell.net/popmusic/Dancehall-Dossier-FINAL.pdf

Is this no longer controversial?

Posted by: SamK1 | October 22, 2009 1:15 AM | Report abuse

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