El Vez wishes you a Merry Mex-Mas, D.C. bartenders throw a formal 1930s-themed ball to celebrate 76 years since the end of Prohibition, the Park at 14th celebrates its anniversary with parties featuring free drinks and hors d'oeuvres, hip-hop artist Akil (formerly of Jurassic 5) joins local bands raise money for the Wounded Warriors project, and DC9's Nerd Nite welcomes self-proclaimed nerds who want to talk about Scrabble psychology and insect sex (among other topics) over a few beers.
Wednesday, Dec. 2
The biggest loss to music in the CD and MP3 era? The demise of the album cover. Back in the '60s and '70s, the cover was 144 square inches of canvas for artists to project their image and advertise the tunes -- think of Isaac Hayes's gold chains and shaved head on "Hot Buttered Soul," the Beatles' eclecticism on "Sgt. Pepper's" or the Ramones's ripped jeans and T-shirts on their eponymous debut. The covers were, in a sense, works of art themselves. The folks at U Street's Lounge of Three hosted a very cool exhibition of their favorite hip-hop album covers a few months back, and they're at it again tonight with "The Classics -- Series 2: Soul," co-sponsored with the Source Magazine. This time, they've teamed with local DJ YZO (listen), whose roots run deep in the modern soul scene. (He's worked with Fertile Ground, Julie Dexter and Amel Larrieux, among others, and he hosts a show on WPFW.) YZO drew from his own extensive collection to pick 40 covers to display at this event. Arrive between 7 and 9 for free Smirnoff cocktails (named after soul greats) and listen to YZO, Nick tha 1da and 2-Tone Jones spin music. There's no cover charge, but arrive early to beat crowds.
Bowerbirds is an intensely earnest band. The North Carolina trio is fronted by a couple; he plays acoustic guitar, she plays accordion and they sing together earnestly and often. And not just about love, but about loving the Earth. And trees. And plants. You are right to be cynical, but you also can't deny the quality of the songwriting, which is the most important thing. Bowerbirds' songs are melodic and at times delicate; there are no gimmicks at play here. Listen to either of the band's albums, or see them live. They really mean it. See for yourself at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
The founders of Burton Snowboards created a foundation called Chill in 1995 to introduce snowboarding (and the great outdoors) to kids from foster homes and group houses, those with drug problems and who'd been in trouble with the law. It was also designed to give them some positive adult role models and get them out of their usual environment. More than 14,000 young people have gotten gear, lessons and lift tickets from the charity over the years. If you'd like to support the cause, there's a Chill fundraiser at Science Club tonight -- and you could even walk away with a complete Burton setup if you win the raffle. Doors open at 8, and drink specials will be offered all night. Ill Element provides the music. Admission is $12 in advance from Chill's Web site and $15 at the door; all proceeds go to charity.
Thursday, Dec. 3
The dawning of December means that bands turn their attention to holiday music, whether that's the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra's annual take on the Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite, or Irish pub quartet Scythian's fun-and-festive Christmas concert. For a concert that's by turns beautiful, bizarre and rocking, you can't beat El Vez (listen), the Mexican Elvis, and his annual "Merry Mex-Mas" shows. You'll hear "Feliz Navidad," punked up and blended with non-seasonal tunes, plus Chicano-flavored originals that include "Sometimes Santa Claus Is Brown," "Pancho Claus" and "Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus?," all delivered by a wiry, fast-talking Elvis with a larger-than-life pompadour, backed by his singing and dancing Elvettes. Making Mex-Mas extra special this year: luche-libre masked surf rockers Los Straitjackets (listen) will open the 9:30 club show and serve as El Vez's band. Viva Christmas, indeed.
It has been about two years since the K Street lounge scene exploded, and coincidentally, two of its fixtures are celebrating their second anniversaries this week. First up is Tattoo Bar, an "upscale biker bar" that caused quite a stir when it opened, thanks to VJs spinning '80s and '90s heavy metal videos on huge flat-screen TVs and a decor that includes motorcycle chains, portraits of tattooed women and a full-sized Harley crashing through the wall over the bar. Specials at this party include half-price drinks until 11 p.m. and no cover for women all night. (Men get in free before 11 if they e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.) There are bottle service options, of course: $300 is good for admission for six, a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne, or for $500, get double the bottles and bring twice as many people. Call 202-408-9444 for more information.
Friday, Dec. 4
Richard Buckner has played Iota more times than any other non-local performer. And it makes sense: His edgy folk songs, marked by a raspy, deep-throated growl and brutally honest lyrics, represent the type of music you'll find at the Arlington venue. But the real reason Buckner is such a regular there is that he can't stay off the road. He belongs onstage, where his hulking presence commands attention. We're lucky he's such an area fixture, because he unearths songs from nearly 10 albums' worth of material and makes each intense performance unique. Anders Parker, another fine tunesmith, formerly of underrated alt-rockers Varnaline, opens.
The hip-hop group Jurassic 5 has disbanded, but its individual members continue to rock steady. Akil's straightforward, Cali-tinged flow graces a nice collection of trunk-thumping beats these days. He comes from the original vanguard of post-gangsta-rap L.A. MCs with one foot in the old school and one squarely planted in the modern underground. He headlines the Move Massive concert, and its proceeds help injured veterans via the Wounded Warrior Project. Also on the set are stylistic chameleons Future, delivering rap, rock and funk, and ESL Music's reggae troops See-I.
Marc Barnes' lounge-meets-club the Park at 14th celebrates its second birthday this weekend with two nights of events. Washington-born R&B star Ryan Leslie is featured at tonight's party, which kicks off with an open bar from 5 to 8 sponsored by Don Julio tequila, free passed hors d'oeuvres and DJ Phlipz spinning hip-hop. On Saturday, it's pretty much the same formula (minus Ryan Leslie) with an open bar and free food from 7 to 9. Both nights, the cover charge is $20, but you can get free admission before 11 if you e-mail email@example.com and request a spot on the guest list. It goes without saying that you should dress to impress.
Jay-Z's music has become the soundtrack to models-and-bottles velvet rope culture in recent years, but real heads remember the verbally adroit former hustler from Brooklyn's Marcy projects even as they appreciate his current position at the top of the game. Rock whatever 'fit you want, save that bottle-service money and get all the Jayhova you'll ever need with DJ Nick tha 1da at Lounge of Three tonight. From happy hour through the wee hours, reminisce about Jay-Z's features, remixes, bootlegs and, of course, his hits. The bar and the kitchen serve up recession-friendly specials.
Some of D.C.'s top electronic DJs are joining forces tonight at Loda to "Give Back" and support local homeless organizations. Catch house from Lovegrove, Lexus King and Joe L, funky beats from Axiom and Brandon Black (listen(, a mix of techno and house from Measax (listen), and drum'n'bass and dubstep by Harry Ransom (listen). Bring five cans of food and get in free. Bring a winter coat (new or used) and get in free. Bring $10 if you're not giving to charity. It should be a great night of dancing, and good for your karma, too. Doors open at 9.
Song-stylists are generally found in jazz. In R&B and soul you have crooners, belters and sometimes pleaders but rarely stylists. But Bilal is a blues soul with the daring and training of an inventive jazz vocalist. His song-stylings consistently take unexpected turns on a single note or syllable, daring you to predict where the end of his line will fall. He'll wail and screech into the far reaches of his falsetto and then scat-sing through the verses that you thought you knew from his recordings. He makes another of his frequent D.C. stops at Black Cat tonight.
Need to dance off some holiday pounds? Gold Chains, a new monthly event at Chief Ike's Mambo Room, features DJs Long Jawns and Billfold mixing up bass-heavy electro, house and dubstep from the David Guetta, Deadmau5 or Drop the Lime. The party runs from 10 to 3; there's a $7 cover, and you can grab mixes and MP3s from goldchains.wordpress.com.
Saturday, Dec. 5
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a holiday that should be on every cocktail aficionado's calendar: Dec. 5, better known as Repeal Day. This unofficial alcoholiday marks the day Prohibition ended in 1933, when beer trucks rolled into Washington and President Franklin D. Roosevelt poured himself a nice gin martini. This year, some of D.C.'s best-known bartenders are celebrating the 76th anniversary of this momentous occasion by taking over PS 7's for the Repeal Day Ball, where there will be an open bar from 9 to midnight, hors d'oeuvres and 1920s and '30s dance music from the Red Hot Rhythm Chiefs (watch/listen). New York bartender and author Dale DeGroff is the special guest at this black-tie event, while Oregon bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler -- the creator of the Repeal Day party -- offers a special toast.
Looking for something a little less formal or expensive? Urbana, the bar inside Dupont Circle's Hotel Palomar, is also celebrating Repeal Day with classic "bathtub cocktails" -- served from an actual bathtub -- for $8 each. (Anyone dressed in 1920s attire gets one drink for a quarter.) Tunes from the '20s will play all night, and an optional $33 prix-fixe menu (honoring 1933, of course) will be offered from 5:30 p.m. on. Sounds like a match for the gin fizzes the bartenders will be dishing up.
It's not often that you can head out to a club on a Saturday night and listen to people eagerly talking about the techniques of championship Scrabble players or the violent sex life of insects, but then again, not every night is Nerd Nite. Born as a night of intellectual stimulation and beer drinking for Boston-area intellectuals, Nerd Nite made its first D.C. appearance in September, and it's making its way to DC9 this month. At tonight's event, lobbyist-by-day Jenna Jadin talks about insects who bite or attempt to drown their counterparts while mating, using research she collected while studying the sexual behavior of crickets for her doctorate at the University of Maryland. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis, a contributor to NPR's "All Things Considered," discusses his book "Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players," talking about mathematic techniques and vocabulary skills that border on Rainman-esque. And Maryland graduate student Pete Thompson presents research about stomatopods -- coral reef-dwelling shrimp who attack with the speed of a 22-caliber bullet. (You can read more about the presenters and their topics on the Nerd Nite Web site.) And hey, did we mention there would be beer? In between talks, punkabilly stalwarts the Daycare Swindlers blast out some tunes. Nerd Nite runs from 6 to 9; afterwards, everyone can stick around for the monthly '90s hip-hop night Kids, which features free admission and free drinks from 9 to 10.
If you're looking for the consummate professional house DJ, Roger Sanchez (listen) might be it. His annual mix CD series, "Release Yourself," is up to volume 8. He has a podcast with over 1 million listeners. He's had a song ("Another Chance") go to No. 1 on European singles charts. He's a regular on DJ Magazine's Top 100 list. He's had multi-year summer residencies at clubs on the Spanish party island of Ibiza. Oh, and he's got a "Best Remixed Recording" Grammy for reworking No Doubt's single "Hella Good." All of this is nothing, though, if you can't get a crowd moving. From personal experience, we can tell you the S Man's grooves are golden. He's making a rare lounge appearance -- not a big-club showcase -- at Josephine, which means a chance to get up-close-and-personal while you get down, even if the dance floor isn't as large as some others around town. No advance tickets will be sold; the only way to get in is to try your luck and pay $30 at the door or book a table (minimums start at $1,000 for eight people).
We've always been fans of the Marx Cafe's monthly DJ night We Fought the Big One, where you'll hear obscure, left-field post-punk tunes. When we heard that organizers were going to start a WFTBO Presents... live music night at the Velvet Lounge, it struck us as a bit odd. How could a DJ night dedicated to songs by bands that people didn't even know existed when they were around two decades ago find bands that would fit this bill? But we shouldn't have doubted, apparently. The inaugural foray into live music is headlined by a performance by Outpost, which features Stuart Argabright, formerly of Ike Yard, a New York band from the early '80s that issued a lone album of electro-minimalist compositions on Factory Records. Now he's teamed up with Mark C., formerly of New York noiseniks Live Skull. If that doesn't sound like the perfect WFTBO band, we don't know what is. Local synth-shoegazers Screen Vinyl Image and instrumental madmen Blue Sausage Infant and the Plums round out the bill. As an added bonus, Big Bad City, the rawest funk and soul dance party in town, will be downstairs, should you need an escape from the noise.
There's another Park at 14th anniversary party with an open bar and free food. (See Friday listings.)
Tuesday, Dec. 8
Microgenres are all the rage these days, but apparently that's lost on Boston's Choo Choo La Rouge. No chillwave or glo-fi for this band; rock will do just fine. The group's album "Black Clouds" has a classic American pop-rock sound. But fans of the offbeat will find something to grab onto, thanks to singer Vincent Scorziello's slightly off-key, nasal vocals. Don't think it's a put on; that's just how he sounds, and it sounds just fine. Local twangers the Moderate also play at the Black Cat.
-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson
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