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Posted at 6:38 PM ET, 12/ 8/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Warm up with mulled wine while you enjoys the views from the House of Sweden's roof deck during its Santa Lucia After Dark party on Saturday night. (Michael Temchine - For The Washington Post)

The spirit of the holiday season is alive and well in the Nightlife Agenda, as we have ugly holiday sweater parties and bar crawls for charity, a gift-filled Going Out Gurus happy hour, an apres-ski themed '80s dance party and a chance to see a Swedish Santa Lucia celebration (with DJs and an open bar) at the House of Sweden. Something else? Nas and Damian Marley bring an all-star roster of hip-hop and reggae luminaries to Zanzibar, Love celebrates its anniversary with free admission, free drinks and guest hosts, Brendan Benson leaves the Raconteurs behind to rock out and '90s indie favs Versus play the Black Cat.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Tuesday

Wednesday, Dec. 9
"Whatever my genre is, whatever my niche is, I would like it to have 'rock' in the term," Brendan Benson (listen) told David in an interview last week. It's a reasonable request. For more than a decade he's been tagged with the dreaded power-pop label, one that pigeonholes an artist into a category of either critical or cult favorite. It's not like his songs are all that simple and sugary. Sure, they're packed with memorable hooks, but there's bite to them, too. And anyone who's heard his work with Jack White in the Raconteurs knows that he can pile on the distortion. In any case, he remains an entirely underrated songwriter, just as he was back in the '90s and will likely be in the '10s, so perhaps power-pop fits best after all. Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons (listen) opens at the 9:30 club.

"Prom is a defining moment in a young woman's life," according to the founders of Once Upon a Prom, a charity that provides prom dresses for young women who otherwise would go without. For tonight's holiday fundraiser at the Rookery, though, they're not asking guests to wear tacky prom wear -- just the ugliest holiday sweater you can find. Think embroidered candy canes, bedazzled Christmas trees, reindeer with light-up blinking noses, etc. Isn't that the perfect attire for sipping holiday cocktails and getting your picture taken with Santa? There's a $10 donation to Once Upon a Prom at the door.

Thursday, Dec. 10
The Going Out Gurus wrap up a year of monthly happy hours tonight by taking over Dupont Circle's largest pool hall for an after-work affair. Arrive at Buffalo Billiards early for free snacks (wings, veggie egg rolls, Guinness meatballs); we'll have half-price appetizers available from 6 to 8, as well as drink specials, including $2.75 Budweiser, Bud Light and Miller Lite. And since it's the holiday season, we're in a giving mood: Enter our raffle to win an iPod Touch or tickets to see the Roots, Wale, Gogol Bordello or Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at the 9:30 club. And bring your own camera to get your picture taken with Santa.

Copious amounts of whiskey straight from the bottle. Beer-can fountains. Leather vests with no shirts underneath. Cigarette-flavored sweat. Amplifiers that go up to 11. This is the rawk that Rattler brings. It is groupie nirvana and grimy distortion pedals held together with chewing gum. Get awesome with Rattler at Asylum tonight for Over The Edge. Additional rawk provided by DJs Stereo Faith and Trevor Martin.

Rattler - 'Getting Awesome' - Thee Parkside Halloween 09 from DB on Vimeo.

Tickley Feather (listen) makes a quick return to town after a show a few weeks ago at American University. It's the project of Philadelphia's Annie Sachs, who plays low-budget, art-damaged, bedroom pop. Of course, tonight she won't be in a bedroom; she'll be playing at DC9. How does her sound translate? We dare you to check out this live performance featured on local blog All Our Noise and answer anything but "Pretty damn well!" She sings through multiple microphones with various effects, so it sometimes sounds like she isn't even in the same room. There are dozens of effects pedals, samplers and more wires than a best-TV-shows-of-the-decade list. On-the-rise electro act Toro y Moi (listen) and Future Islands (listen) opens.

Puns about burlesque dancers and "unwrapping" are just too easy to make, so we'll ditch the cliches and recommend Sugar Shack's "ReGifting" holiday burlesque revue at the Palace of Wonders tonight, which features Legs Malone and RunAround Sue from New York's Pinchbottom troupe (creators of the annual "How the Pinch Stole Xmas" show). Everything gets underway at 9:30, and there's a $10 cover.

Friday, Dec. 11
Of the hundreds of bands vying for attention at October's CMJ Music Marathon in New York, Fanfarlo (listen) and Freelance Whales (listen) maintained a buzz and rose above the din. Both create stately sounds that draw heavily on chamber pop and go beyond indie rock's usual guitar/bass/drums setup by using harmonium, glockenspiel and trumpet. London's Fanfarlo is at its best on slow-building dirges that eventually reach soaring crescendos. New York's Freelance Whales plays songs that are a bit more precious, but the band's youthful exuberance in live shows will likely make it a breakthrough act of 2010. Catch them both tonight at Iota.

Dahlak, usually home to soul and Afrobeat parties on weekends, will take on an "apres-ski" vibe at Slalom, a holiday party where vintage skiwear is the suggested outfit -- especially puffy '80s outerwear. (The inspiration comes from Wham's 1984 video for "Last Christmas," which you can see below.) Dress up and get ready to dance to '80s tunes, including some holiday-themed selections. There's no cover.

Happy anniversary to Love, the most mega of D.C. mega dance clubs; its luster is going strong after eight years. There's been a name change (Remember when it was Dream?), celebrity visitors from Bill Clinton to Jay-Z, Gilbert Arenas's over-the-top birthday party and more appearances by P. Diddy than we can count. If you stop by to celebrate another successful year tonight at its Anniversary Party, you'll get free admission (with a pass from lovetheclub.com), and an open bar on Belvedere vodka from 10 to 11. The party's hosted by Amber Rose -- the model, video mannequin, fashion plate and former exotic dancer who's best known as Kanye West's girlfriend.

Inventory list for Candyland at Little Miss Whiskey's tonight: Two turntables, four DJs, free candy, free entry and everything you can wig out to on the dance floor from electro bangers to rare disco. Starks and Nacey have patrons literally swinging from the rafters at their Nouveau Riche parties. Meistro and Deep Sang have pretty much owned Wonderland since they opened, crushing the crowds there with hip-hop, dancehall and funk. This will be first time that all four of them rock on the same set.

Over the years, Kicks has been one of the most reliable dance parties around -- your monthly melting pot of power-pop, punk, post-punk, girl groups, David Bowie, '60s soul, glam rock, '90s alternative and whatever else DJs Kim and Sara feel like throwing on. The Black Cat's backstage sticks in fourth gear as dancers jumps up and down and shout along to the Shangri-Las and Jesus and Mary Chain. And then "Another Girl, Another Planet" and "Rebel Rebel" come on. Truly spectacular. And it's always free. Hit the Kicks MySpace page to listen to podcasts and sample playlists.

Helsinki's Pink Twins (listen/watch) are more than just DJs or VJs. Brothers Juha and Vesa Vehvilainen create experimental left-field electro -- more dense, intriguing soundscapes than dance floor-filling beats -- and then craft videos to accompany their work. Buildings melt or rush past as if the viewer's trapped in a giant kaleidoscope, satellite images are remixed into a new Earth and pulsing images of a giant glacier create the scary sensation of an avalanche. The Pink Twins are in Washington this week as guests of the Finland-U.S. Cultural Alliance (FINUS), and they perform for free at the Embassy of Finland on Friday night with D.C.'s own DJ Adrian Loving and singer Yoko K. To attend, all you have to do is RSVP on the FINUS Web site.

Saturday, Dec. 12
With Christmas on the horizon, you may find yourself doing things you might not normally do. Smiling at strangers. Humming "All I Want for Christmas Is You." Deciding it would be a good idea to dress up as Santa Claus (or Blitzen) when you head out to the bar for the evening. Okay, so that last one's a little weird; but again, it's for charity. For the past 10 years, the Santa Stumble has been a goofy Georgetown tradition: festively dressed Santas, Mrs. Clauses, reindeer, elves, Grinches and other characters wander from bar to bar, spreading good cheer and making kids smile. (Costumes are required, but they can depart from the traditional: think pimp Santa, naughty elf, or, as we saw one year, Santa in Kiss-style face paint.) The party begins at Third Edition at 4 p.m. At 7, the crew wanders over to Rhino Bar, caroling and waving along the way. At 10, revelers depart for the Guards, where the party goes late. Since it's holiday time, Santas and their helpers give as well as receive: Donations are accepted for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which supports families in those service branches around the world. See the Santa Stumble Web site for costume ideas and photos from previous events.

In Scandinavian countries, the Feast of Saint Lucy on Dec. 13 is a widely popular celebration when girls dress in white robes and wear crowns of candles to honor the martyred saint. And Dec. 12 is usually a big party. The House of Sweden is bringing both traditions to Washington this weekend: The Santa Lucia After Dark party mixes the traditional Lucia procession with DJs and dancing, an open bar, Swedish hors d'oeuvres and a rooftop bar offering mulled wine and gingersnaps along with great views of the Potomac. Last year's sold-out party brought out a festive international crowd, so you should definitely put the black-tie-optional soiree on your to-do list. No tickets will be sold at the door. VIP tickets include early entry for a champagne reception with live jazz.

D.C. is buzzing excitedly about Nas and Damian Marley anchoring a panel discussion at National Geographic on the historical and stylistic connections between hip-hop and reggae. (The two recently collaborated for the "Distant Relatives" album and documentary on the topic, too.) Unfortunately for some, the discussion is already sold out. However, you can still get tickets to the after-party at Zanzibar, which promises appearances by Rakim, Red Alert, DJ Kool Herc, dub producer King Jammy and dancehall legend Daddy U-Roy -- an assembly of artists without whom the hip-hop and reggae history books couldn't be written.

Last time we wrote about Blake Schwarzenbach in Nightlife Agenda, he was in town as a guest speaker at Bourbon's now-defunct Modernist Society, talking about his former bands, spiky-pop greats Jawbreaker and the decidedly more emo Jets to Brazil, as well as his career as literature professor. He's been playing in bands since he was 20, so it's no surprise that even as he gets into his 40s he's back with a new band. Forgetters (listen) is a trio that has a welcome throwback sound, eschewing elaborate and ornate setups in favor of chugging guitars and agitated vocals. It's worked for him for the better part of two decades, so why change it now? Max Levine Ensemble (listen) -- apparently still around -- also plays at St. Stephen's Church.

Another fine throwback option for that '90s nostalgist in you is the Second Saturdays show at the Black Cat. Versus (listen) -- the only band to perform at the 20th anniversary celebrations for both Teenbeat and Merge Records -- is starting to kick back into high gear after a hiatus that lasted most of this decade. Shows are more plentiful, and there's even word of a new album. As its affiliation with those two labels suggests, the band has a knack for combining classic indie pop and indie rock sounds and a particular affinity for soft/loud dynamics. Openers Soft Power (listen) -- with fellow '90s fave Mary Timony -- have only gotten better each time we've caught them over their short lifespan.

Capitol Hill's Christmas bar crawl has the clever name of the Miracle on 3rd and 4th Street, but the real reason we like the annual day out is because it encapsulates the holiday spirit: Get goofy and wear a Santa suit or ugly holiday sweater, and do some good by donating a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. You can either dress up or bring a toy (or, as we'd encourage, both) to save $5 admission to the crawl, which includes $2 Coors Light and $3 Blue Moon and assorted food specials at a half-dozen bars around Pennsylvania Avenue SE. (If you don't do either, you're a real Grinch. And you pay $10 to participate.) Sign up at the Hawk and Dove between 1 and 6, then head for Bullfeathers, the Tune Inn, the 18th Amendment, the Ugly Mug or Thai Roma, where deals run until 9.

Love's anniversary weekend continues (see Friday listing) with the 18-and-over version. It's the album-release party for 18-year-old Baltimore rapper/singer CJ, whose debut of smooth grooves is set to drop on Capitol Records. (Take a listen here.) What will really get the ladies screaming is that the event is hosted by Mario, the Grammy-nominated singer who blends soulful R&B with modern dance music. (The connection, if you've over 21: Mario and CJ collaborated on a single called "Who Am I" earlier this year.) The 18-and-over crowd gets in free between 9 and 10, while those 21-and-over get free admission until 11 and an open bar from 9 to 10. Everyone needs a pass from lovetheclub.com for free admission.

We associate White Parties -- you know, those events where everyone shows up in immaculately clean clothes looking like Diddy at his blingiest -- with summertime in Miami or Ibiza. But hey, they'll work in winter, too. Town's White Party tonight features an all-white dress code and Twisted Dee, a familiar face on the tribal/house circuit after more than two decades in the biz. The cover charge is $10 before 11 and $15 afterward.

We're hoping the "Under the Mistletoe" party at Ozio will have actual mistletoe hanging throughout the bar, because it offers the chance for some awesome (if cliche) introductory lines (i.e.: "Baby, I've been waiting for you to stand there all night long."). The gift to guests is a chance to try the new Courvoisier Exclusif for free between 9:30 and 11 (it's made from grapes aged between six and 12 years and "designed to be mixed" in cocktails). Other happy hour specials include $5 martinis. DJ Blaze spins, and the dress code is "urban chic," which apparently means you can wear sneakers if you rock them the right way. Stick around for an extra happy hour from 1 to 2; fixed-price three-course dinners, ranging from $15 to $25 per person without drinks, are available between 6 and 10. Send an e-mail to rsvp@usualsuspectz.com by noon on Saturday for free admission.

Have a busy Saturday ahead? It's okay --- the Pug is giving you two chances to stop by and enjoy an open bar happy hour while raising money for veterans recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. From 3 to 5 and then again from 8 to 10, if you donate $20 to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, you'll get unlimited draft beer, plus other specials, including free Pabst Blue Ribbon and Old Style during the first session and $2 PBR and Old Style during the latter. D.C. United, the Nationals and others are donating raffle items, too. Drop by, have a few beers, play Connect Four or Foosball and help a deserving charity.

Tuesday, Dec. 15
Behind those growling, shouted vocals and buzzsaw guitars, punk rockers really have hearts of gold. Well, at least some of them, such as locals Supreme Commander (listen) and Police & Thieves (listen), who play at the Black Cat tonight to benefit the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless. Those two bands play songs that are loud, louder, fast and faster. And in between them will be soul-punk locals the Andalusians (listen), who seem to exclusively play benefits. Talk about hearts of gold.

Fritz can attest to the way iPod DJ club nights created a new type of experience of sharing music in a social setting. But even as iPods allow club patrons to act as DJs, not everyone with music to share has a DJ's ability to match tunes to the energy of the room. The Soul Parlour iPod event debuts at Eighteenth Street Lounge tonight with additional layers of quality control: you have to submit an advance request for a 20-minute set to kennishaford@yahoo.com. If it's chosen, be prepared for an Apollo Theater-style display of displeasure if the crowd isn't feeling you. Choose wisely, but also go for intriguing, rare, and deep tracks. This is a space for the most critical music heads.

-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | December 8, 2009; 6:38 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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