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Posted at 7:44 PM ET, 11/10/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

New York buzz band Crystal Stilts represent the new guard at Slumberland Records' 20th anniversary party on Friday night. (Lauren Bilanko)

Slumberland Records throws itself a 20th anniversary party at the Black Cat, Wale's debut album finally -- finally! -- drops and he celebrates at Ibiza, the Reef relaunches its weekly celebration of traditional beers, Lucky Strike becomes a gay nightlife destination, swing dancers go in search of new blood, and hip-hop stars Rakim and Goodie Mob hit town. Oh, and the Going Out Gurus invite you to happy hour, where the drink specials and free food are on us.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Tuesday

Thursday, Nov. 12
True story: Fritz and his friends occasionally refer to going to Russia House as "making a bad decision." (As in "What do you want to do tonight?" "I dunno. Want to make a bad decision?") It's not that there's anything wrong with the attractively decorated Russian-themed bar and lounge. Heck, you might even bump into some Washington Capitals while sipping on a tumbler of one of the bar's close-to-100 vodkas. No, it's more like one shot of Putinka Vodka leads to a shot of Business Class Vodka, which gets chased with a half-liter bottle of Baltika No. 7 lager, and then you still have beer left, so you order a shot of Nemiroff Honey Pepper Vodka from Ukraine and ... well, you can see how a night could go downhill pretty quickly. Tonight, however, going to Russia House would not be a bad decision, because the Going Out Gurus are taking over the joint four our monthly happy hour, offering free food and drink specials ($7 house martinis! $5 half-liter bottles of Eastern European beers!) and raffling off tickets to see the Arctic Monkeys, They Might Be Giants or Devendra Banhart at the 9:30 club. The party runs from 6 to 8.

Looking for something to do later on? DJ Dirty Hands (founder of both the groundbreaking underground Soul Camp hip-hop night and the bottle-service-heavy Fly lounge) is over at Mix + Flow Thursdays at Lima, where he'll have the hip-hop beats covered from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. There's no cover. Just leave the jerseys and sneakers at home.

There's been a lot of talk about cask-conditioned beers lately, thanks to the presence of five casks pouring naturally carbonated ales at the new ChurchKey. (Try the Bells' Two-Hearted Ale on cask if you get the chance. It's a revelation compared to its bottled siblings.) One bar catching the wave of this revival is the Reef, which is bringing back its dormant Firkin Thursday events for the fall and winter months. The bar's kicking it off with a pair of interesting beers. One is Arcadia Starboard Stout from Michigan, which we've never tried, but reviewers at Beer Advocate and other beer sites talk about its chocolate and espresso flavors. The other one, and the real reason to go tonight, is Limb and Life, a collaboration between brewers Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada. Fritz tried this lovely "small beer" at Pizzeria Paradiso a few weeks ago, when the only keg was tapped, and it's a hoppy dark-brown beer with a strong roasted grain flavor. (It's made from the mashed grains left over after brewing its 12-percent-alcohol sister beer, Life and Limb.) The firkins will be tapped at 5. They won't last all night.

Flashback of the week: Step back to the heady post-"Swingers" Rat Pack revival of the 1990s as Aroma brings "Sinatra Night" to Cleveland Park. Aroma was one of the cigar-and-martini bars that cropped up during the period, and it's one of the only ones still standing -- and one of the few remaining bars in D.C. where you can still smoke indoors. The night kicks off with free Absolut cocktails and JD cigars, and a DJ spins Ella, Frank, Dean, Tony and other jazzy hits for your dancing pleasure all night long. Skinny ties, miniskirts and other "Mad Men"-appropriate outfits are suggested, but not required.

Friday, Nov. 13
It's a shame when three unique events happen on the same night. But we'll stop complaining about having too many options and just give you your choices.

There was a time when D.C. was a hotbed for punk rock and its kinder, gentler cousin, indie pop. That was the early '90s, and that's when Slumberland Records opened shop in Silver Spring. Bands such as Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine and Lorelei jangled their way through swirling songs full of reverb and often-indecipherable vocals. It was all very pretty, catchy and melancholy. Slumberland relocated to San Francisco and continued to put out some of the genre's defining records. After a few stops and starts, it's now back to a full-time label and experiencing a resurgence, thanks to the success of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Crystal Stilts, young bands heavily influenced by the label's classic sounds. The latter headlines Slumberland's 20th-anniversary show at the Black Cat, which also features newbies Frankie Rose, Brown Recluse and a highly anticipated reunion of '90s local faves the Ropers.

There's a bit of history happening at the Velvet Lounge tonight as the tiny U Street club welcomes P.K. 14 (listen) and Xiao He (listen), a pair of Chinese bands touring the United States for the first time. The bands are in town in conjunction with "Sound Kapital," a Govinda Gallery exhibition of striking portraits of alternative and punk bands that are part of Beijing's burgeoning underground rock movement, all taken by D.C. native Matthew Niederhauser. Don't think this is novelty in any way. P.K. 14 serves as the elder statesmen of Beijing bands; they're rightly revered by the young up-and-comers for a sound that's influenced by American post-punk bands such as Talking Heads and Television and never comes off as pure pastiche. Xiao He can be heard as a Chinese version of Panda Bear. (Not the animal, the Animal Collective dude. Good pun, we know.) By using samplers and layers of vocals, Xiao builds intricate soundscapes that often stroll past the 10-minute mark. (There will also be a free performance at 8 p.m. Saturday at Govinda Gallery, featuring Xiao He.)

If you missed Numero's Eccentric Soul Revue at 9:30 club, tonight presents you with a bit of a do-over. George Smallwood made light-funk delights in Hyattsville in the early '70s and released all his songs on his own label, Smallwood. Listen to "Touching Is My Thing," the kind of song that might convince Quentin Tarantino to film a new scene of "Jackie Brown," just to get it on the soundtrack. Smallwood's records have become hotly sought after items, sometimes selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay, so what better time than now for Smallwood to return to the stage? He'll come close when he performs at Comet Ping Pong tonight -- there's no actual stage there -- but his soft and mellow grooves should sound just fine at floor level.

She Rex, a night dedicated to the pioneering ladies of rock and roll, makes its return to Chief Ike's Mambo Room's upstairs bar. The crowd is predominantly lesbian, though anyone's welcome to hang out and partake of beer specials ($3 cans of PBR and Natty Boh from 9:30 to 11) and rock out to DJs Junebullett and Coach Vee. The dance party is free, but beforehand, you might want to head downstairs to catch a set by the pop-electro duo The State Of (listen). There's a $10 cover for the show; doors open at 7:30.

Saturday, Nov. 14
After Cee-Lo Green had moved on to a highly successful solo career, the remaining members of Goodie Mob released an album called "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show." While they insist that the title wasn't a veiled reference, we're glad that time has smoothed over the rifts that inevitably dismantle seminal groups. The four-man crew, who coined the term "Dirty South," introduced the Dungeon Family to the world and turned Atlanta into a hip-hop mecca, has reunited. You can welcome them back at the Scene tonight.

Nneka has been compared to Lauryn Hill at the height of her powers, and she's received a hearty co-sign from Lenny Kravitz. But rather than flaunting her accolades, the Nigerian artist focuses on articulating the ills of the world through song. Growing up in the Niger delta fueled her drive to sing for those with no voice, and her time in her mother's homeland of Germany connected her to a musical team and appreciative audiences that helped her career soar. ESL Music's See-I sets the stage with roots reggae before Nneka's introduction to Washington's eyes and ears.

You might have seen DJs Smudge and Sharkey on flyers around town announcing sets at hipster hangouts like Jimmy Valentine's, Wonderland or Steve's Bar Room. The duo is teaming up tonight for the second installment of their collaborative World Class party at the equally hot Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar. Expect electro, dubstep, house and rocking jams that will make even the most confused "I just wandered in and have no idea what's going on" folks hit the dancefloor. There's never a cover charge.

Muse's Pasion Saturdays turns one this weekend, so you can celebrate with free food and Belvedere Vodka drinks until 11 and free entry if you get on the guestlist on primop.com. DJs spin salsa, reggaeton and other Latin sounds all night.

Sunday, Nov. 15
Hip-hop eras can be marked before and after Sugar Hill Gang, Run-DMC and Rakim. The God can be compared to contemporaries like Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap, but Rakim fathered their styles as well as those of Jay-Z, Nas and many others. Rakim was the first street poet who moved the craft of MCing from the party to the mind. His classic work with Eric B. generally consists of barrages of deep verbal imagery with choruses that serve as little more than cognitive time-outs. But in the vein of Slick Rick, Rakim could also weave a great narrative. "Mahogany" is one of Rakim's best examples of that skill. Rakim hasn't released an album in the 21st century, although his infrequent cameos give heads just enough to see that he's still got it. His long-rumored "Seventh Seal" album is finally slated for release, and Rakim makes his D.C. tour stop in support of it at the Black Cat tonight.

This is a momentous day for D.C.: It's the first-ever Tweed Ride, in which nattily attired cyclists in tweed jackets, vests, newsboy caps, plus-fours and other dapper outfits will ride their bicycles from Eighth and H streets NE through the city to 14th and U streets NW. (The event begins at 11 a.m., and you can find out more about it here.) Once the ride has finished and everyone's had a jolly good laugh, there's a party at Marvin with Plymouth Gin specials, Britpop DJs and other goodness, plus prizes for the best outfits.

The band Lights (listen) playing at Comet Ping Pong tonight is not the saccharine teen-pop act from Canada. So if you're a creep or have bad taste, look elsewhere. The Lights in question is from Brooklyn, and it does have a bit of a sugary element, thanks to the tandem female vocals, which are often accompanied by weird rhythmic structures and sharp shards of guitar. Sometimes it sounds like if Au Revoir Simone sang for Comets on Fire. Weird, but it often works.

Tuesday, Nov. 17
The Jam Cellar is one of Washington's most enjoyable swing dance nights. Held Every Tuesday at the swank Josephine Butler Parks Center across from Meridian Hill Park, it the jam features friendly crowds, a smooth hardwood dance floor, great old-school jazz DJs and classes taught by some of the best instructors around. If you've never been, here's a reason to get off the couch: It's "new blood night." First-time attendees get in free. Dancers who bring newbie friends along also get in free. And everyone who shows up can take a free lesson at 9 p.m. before the main event gets underway. Honestly, you've got nothing to lose. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes.

Langhorne Slim (listen) comes from the new school of folkies, the ones who weren't weaned on early Dylan so much as early Nirvana. That doesn't mean there's a grunge element to his songs, but there's a decidedly modern feel to his tunes that puts him in the same class with the Avett Brothers and Josh Ritter. His engaging personality makes him a crowd-pleaser, and he's able to neatly toggle between plaintive, heartfelt solo acoustic numbers and full-on roadhouse romps. He really shines on the latter: the songs that have a ragged, infectious energy but still retain an organic, down-home feel. Catch him at the relatively small Rock and Roll Hotel while you still can.

Update: We moved the events we wrote about earlier in the week to the bottom of the post, so you can find the most recent ones at the top.

Wednesday, Nov. 11
The moment you thought would never come is finally here. This is a day that Wale himself was growing antsy about, but his first studio release is finally on shelves. If you're like most of us, you probably already have a fat digital playlist of his features and mixtape tracks, but "Attention Deficit" is the official debut. Wale's spent the last several years slogging through an upended hip-hop landscape, carrying the DMV on his back, charming an international fanbase and vaulting to the forefront of hip-hop's next school. The artist who brought a live go-go band to MTV will be celebrating his latest milestone at Ibiza tonight. Get in free with proof of purchase of the album.

Tired of the usual weeknight gay bar scene, Jason Royce, Brian Lempin and Georgio Takounakis have organized Split, a night of drinks, music and bowling at the lounge-like Lucky Strike Lanes bowling alley. It's easy on the wallet -- $15 for three hours of bowling, including shoe rental -- and there are $3 beers and $6 cocktails. DJ Wess of Town Danceboutique provides the music. Just watch out for the dress code, which bans athletic wear, hats and white T-shirts and hats, among other things. (See bowlluckystrike.com for the full dress code.)

MF Doom is a cryptic, verbally gifted underground anti-hero. His music demands you to pay attention, because the sardonic, multi-layered rhymes push the boundaries of clever wordplay and the double-entendres and internal rhymes fly by at a rapid pace. The only aspect of Doom that supercedes his rhymes is his weirdo villain persona. He cultivated it so carefully that when it was exposed that he was sending out body doubles to perform wearing his trademark Doctor Doom mask, it really didn't mess up his show money. If you've got what it takes to spit Doom's dense flows, sign up for MF Doom Karaoke at Lounge of Three tonight in conjunction with the release of Doom's new album "Unexpected Guests". This happy hour might be BYOM (Bring Your Own Mask).


-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | November 10, 2009; 7:44 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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