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Posted at 6:48 PM ET, 12/15/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

DJ D-Mac digs through his collection to find seasonal songs by Marvin Gaye, Minnie Ripperton, James Brown and other soul stars, then throws the funkiest holiday party of the year at Marvin. (Holland Photo Arts)

Feeling the holiday spirit yet? This week features numerous fundraising parties and dance nights and concerts full of seasonal music from a variety of genres. There's also a reunion of D.C. punk icons Scream (two of whom went on to play with the Foo Fighters), a rare appearance by Husker Du frontman Grant Hart, a tribute to Joe Strummer, plenty of soul and a star-studded birthday party for Cobalt's lesbian night

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Monday | Tuesday

Monday, Dec. 21
On the shortlist of revered bands that will never get back together for a reunion tour, post-punks Hüsker Dü are near the top. The group from St. Paul, Minn., would make the list for both its awesomeness (the trio set the standard for melding thrashy guitars with melodic songwriting) and unlikelihood of reuniting (principals Bob Mould and Grant Hart aren't the best of buddies these days). Hart hasn't been heard from for a while, and "Hot Wax," his first album in a decade, is a decidedly low-key affair. It has little of Hüsker Dü's noisy bravado; instead Hart favors slightly off-kilter throwback garage-pop (listen). It helps put the spotlight on his songwriting, which seems no worse for the wear after the long layoff. Welcome him back at the Velvet Lounge.

Tuesday, Dec. 22
It was seven years ago today that Joe Strummer, the innovative frontman for the Clash and the Mescaleros, passed away after a heart attack. Strummer is -- and should be -- best remembered as the sneering singer and songwriter who gave punk some politics to go along with its fashion. "Career Opportunities" and "White Riot" were social calls-to-arms for disaffected working-class youth -- as well as shout-along hits. Through the Clash's explorations into dub, reggae and disco, "London Calling," the sprawling "Sandanista," and his late-'90s reinvention with the world-beat rock of the Mescaleros, Strummer never lost his focus and, more important, he never made his fans feel like anything was a pose. No wonder the Clash was "the only band that matters." Pay tribute tonight -- celebrated informally around the world as "Strummer Night" -- at the Passenger, where the music of the Clash and the Mescaleros will play all night long.

Washington's well regarded triple-threat rapper/thespian/singer Wes Felton has diverted some of the energy of his album-a-month recording pace into managing the music programming at Next Door. Thanks to his working relationships with the hottest stars of the indie soul circuit, Ben's Next Door has morphed into a Chocolate City Cheers; you'll find a who's who of soul stars rocking the back stage. Dub Ell gets back in front of the mike tonight and headlines his own set at Ben's poshed-up half-smoke annex.

Wednesday, Dec. 16
One might suspect that a former model who tries to make it as a musician would favor ornately designed songs or go in the complete opposite direction and play messy, disheveled noise. Lissy Trullie (listen) does neither. Her songs are slick but not pretty; they're sharp power-chord rockers that stand out because of her cool, throaty purr. It's a sound that never goes out of style, so maybe that's the most logical sound for her after all. She performs at DC9.

We're glad to see there are almost as many charity events this week as ugly Christmas sweater parties. Teatro Goldoni kicks off two nights of giving with the Miracle on 19th Street, which collects donations (cash, winter clothing or toys) for the Salvation Army. In exchange for giving, you'll also receive: There's an open bar from 9 to 10, passed hors d'oeuvres, live music from a guitar-and-violin duo and hip-hop and mashups spun by DJ Phlipz. Cocktail attire is requested.

Outside of Jamaica, West Africa is one of the most fervent markets for reggae. Ghana's Paapa Wastik caught the fire of the music, and over 10 years, he's has had hit records at home, recorded on the Wailers' Tuff Gong label and toured the U.S. multiple times. He'll be debuting in Washington with the aid of See-I, Culture and Storm Reggae Band members at Eighteenth Street Lounge's Rockers International night.

After tonight, the weekly '80s party at Tattoo will take a break until the new year. And what's the promoters' holiday present to you at the final dance party of '09? An open bar from 10 to 11. Other than that, you'll find the usual mix of video hits spun by VJ BennyC, glow sticks, candy necklaces and other surprises. All you have to do for the open bar and free admission is RSVP.

We wrote about the debut of Wonderland's Pink Sock gay dance party last month, but the organizers are definitely taking it up a notch with the Pink Stocking party. Between Santa handing out NSFW toys and the "mistletoe makeout area," this is probably not the party to bring the family to. But hey, with a $5 beer-and-a-shot special and DJs spinning electro tines all night, it should be quite the event.

Thursday, Dec. 17
For fans of live holiday music, this is a big week. Eric Felten and his band performed Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite at Blues Alley on Monday. Tonight, it's the annual Scythian holiday party at Fado. And then Last Train Home rolls into Iota for the usual two-night-and-a-matinee holiday party. Scythian's show is undoubtedly the liveliest and most packed -- it seems like twice as many people as usual try to squeeze into the pub to hear Washington's top bar band crank out its rollicking "Christmess" medley. Though it has been based around the Kinks' "Father Christmas," in years past, the 12-minute set includes rocked-up versions of traditional carols, Hanukkah tunes, "Last Christmas," "Feliz Navidad" and other cheesy hits. (And yes, you'll get the usual mix of pub standards, originals, sing-alongs and drinking games for the rest of the night -- just with added holiday flair.) Want a taste? You can download last year's show through the band's Web site.The cover is $5. Oh, and because it's practically obligatory at D.C. bars these days, there's an ugly Christmas sweater contest with $200 for the winner.

On the third Thursday of the month, three is the magic number around Ninth and U streets NW. Starting tonight, Nellie's, DC9 and Town Danceboutique team up for a "Third Thursday Three-Way" of bar hopping: Buy a $3 wristband at any location, and you'll get free admission and one free drink at Town, another free drink at DC9 and a free snack at Nellie's. The offer goes all night, and there's no set itinerary, so start wherever. We suggest the beat-the-clock happy hour at Nellie's, with $1 beers from 5 to 6.

Like Linus in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Teatro Goldoni is trying to remind us all about the spirit of the season. Wednesday's charity fundraiser is followed by Martinis and Mistletoe, a happy hour fundraiser for the local charity Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care Inc., which provides care for HIV-positive children. Make a $10 donation at the door and get free hors d'oeuvres, discounted cocktails and entry into a raffle for gift certificates from area restaurants, boutiques, salons and fitness clubs.

Friday, Dec. 18
In the early '90s, DJs were digging for funky breaks on records, and hip-hop producers were combing those same records for samples. But DJ Greyboy wanted to create an original sound. His jam sessions with reedman Karl Denson in his home town of San Diego led to an ensemble of musicians recording 1995's "West Coast Boogaloo." After Greyboy ended his touring days, the Greyboy Allstars went on to record and perform successfully for years before splintering off into side projects. Now the band's back on the road together with its trademark blend of boogaloo, funk and acid jazz. Hear it tonight at the 9:30 club.

By the middle of December, we're dreaming of never, ever hearing "White Christmas" or "Silver Bells" again. Then someone like DJ D-Mac makes us realize that we don't hate holiday music if it's performed by Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton, James Brown or someone equally funky. D-Mac turns his monthly excursion into the corners of deep soul, funk and disco into a jumpin' holiday party called the Christmas Soul Spectacular with plenty of cuts you've never heard but can sing along to. (Watch out if he drops Don Patterson's incredible version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.") Yes, it's on a weekend at Marvin, but this is one night worth braving the crowd. Need proof? Download D-Mac's ridiculously good "Christmas Crackle" mix here.

Publicist (listen) is the electro-funk alter ego of Sebastian Thomson, drummer for local synth-stalwarts Trans Am. His side project is straight dance-floor fare -- funky disco beats, vocoder vocals, party music for people in 2010 who wish it was 1980. Thomson has recently brought the inimitable Ian Svenonious into the fold for some vocal assistance and the results are predictably fun, even as Svenonious eases up on the spastic shouts in favor of cool, clubland vibe. Svenonious is on tonight's bill as a DJ, but you can certainly expect him to get on the mic for a few songs. That's when things at the Velvet Lounge will transform from a party to a PAR-TAY.

Though ZooLights is about as far as you can get from the bar and club events we usually cover here, we have to admit that the Zoo's Date Night sounds like a 100 percent score if you're looking to woo someone -- especially if, you know, it's cold and you have to hold hands and snuggle up and such while you're walking around and looking at the light displays. The tickets -- $40 a couple -- include admission, hot cocoa, cookies and chocolate candies, and access to the indoor areas, including the Giant Panda house, where you can say your goodbyes to Tai Shan. Oh, and then you get a plush animal to take home, which sounds like a great early Christmas present if you're hurting for ideas. Afterward, walk up to Aroma for cocktails in the lounge or down to Woodley Park to listen to Irish music and warm up with a pint at Murphy's. We suggest getting advance tickets.

The Pink Jams concert series, which raises money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, stops in at Union Jack's tonight, so you have a chance to hear some live indie rock in Bethesda for once. Headlining is Richmond's Louisiana Territory (listen), who play atmospheric, harmony-laden indie-pop -- think '80s alternative meets Spoon. Opening is Arlington trio Memphis 59 (listen), who fall decidedly in the alt-Americana camp. A $10 donation is good for $3 beer, rail drinks and house wine, and your donation all goes to charity.

For all its jazz, soul, spoken word and hip-hop, U Street really isn't U Street without at least one good reggae bashment. Almaz holds it down for dancehall denizens the same way its former incarnation Kaffa House used to in the '90s. Celebrate four years of the Caribbean Riddimz party on two floors tonight. Black Talawah and Jah Prince get it in upstairs while Mystic Vibes 6.0 and Spyda the DJ run the ground level.

The Washington soul scene is finally reaching the boiling point, and this weekend is the proof. It won't even cost you a penny. Tonight, DJs Nitekrawler and Lunch Money go old-school and spin nothing but old funk and soul 45s -- no laptops allowed! -- at the unmarked hotspot Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club.

Saturday, Dec. 19
If you need more soul, Fatback makes its monthly return to Liv. Expect the funkiest, greasiest, make-you-wanna-get-down-until-3-a.m. soul records around, with a friendly crowd where everyone's wearing dancing shoes.

Team Edward takes on Team Jacob in a dance-off at the Rock and Roll Hotel. That's the part of the vampire-themed "Twas Twilight Before Christmas" that got the most attention in our office, but this is also a release party for the Bravery's new "Stir the Blood," so expect to hear plenty of indie dance music as well as remixes and electro hits. (The party is sponsored by Twilight fan blog Sigma Twi Omega, so wearing fangs is encouraged.)

Update: Recess has been postponed until Jan. 9, 2010.
One of Fritz's favorite new events of the year is the perennially sold-out Recess game night, a chance for adults to mingle while playing Jenga, Taboo, Uno, Pictionary, Twister and other board games. (Seriously, it's the easiest way to meet people out there.) Recess has now moved from National Harbor's boutique Aloft Hotel to the Sheraton National Hotel near Arlington National Cemetery. The cover has dropped to $5 if you buy in advance from the Recess Web site, and DJ Adrian Loving spins dance music when you want to take a break from Connect Four or the Wii.

Bare, Cobalt's monthly lesbian party, is celebrating its first anniversary with a red carpet affair that promises guests from "The L Word," drink specials, go-go dancers and much more. General admission is $10, or you can go for the $25 VIP floor ticket, which adds free champagne and $5 mixed drinks all night. Doors open at 9; Make sure you arrive early to be the crowds.

A fixture on the D.C. cover band circuit (band members boast of appearances at Asylum, the Grog & Tankard, Solly's and Top of the Hill), the Fiasco plays competent versions of '70s and '80s hits to get the crowd dancing. Nothing groundbreaking, but sometimes you want to rock out to "Baba O'Riley," you know? The band headlines a fundraiser for Teach for America tonight at Blue Ridge, a Glover Park restaurant not exactly known as a party destination. The 18-and-over show with $3 beers all night has us intrigued.

Sunday, Dec. 20
Outside of D.C., Scream is probably best known as the band Dave Grohl was playing drums with before he joined Nirvana, but here, it was much more important. The band, founded in Baileys Crossroads in 1981 by brothers Peter and Franz Stahl, was the first group to release an album (not just singles) on the iconic Dischord Records, and the first to come from the Virginia suburbs rather than D.C. And though it started out heavily influenced by Bad Brains and other D.C. punks, over the course of five albums, Scream absorbed reggae, dub and even heavy-metal influences and created a Clash-like sound that was much broader than the usual "harDCore" label. It's no wonder that a rare reunion of the band's original lineup sold out the Black Cat's backstage almost as soon as it was announced. In fact, there was so much interest that the club decided to move the band to the much larger main stage, so there are many more tickets available. Get yours now: After all, this is D.C. music history.

It makes sense that Kora Records, the local label that specializes in charming, low-key indie pop, would have its holiday show at Galaxy Hut, which is Arlington's most charming and low-key bar. Organized by Ed Donahue (Donny Hue and the Colors) and Olivia Mancini (Olivia Mancini and the Mates), this year's show also features May Tabor (Pree) and Meredith Bragg, who will all trade off songs and play together and have a merry old low-key time.

-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | December 15, 2009; 6:48 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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