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Posted at 8:20 AM ET, 12/23/2009

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

The most festive Nightlife Agenda of the year features multiple holiday parties, from salsa dance nights and tacky Christmas sweaters to the Gefilte Fish Gala and Matzo Ball. There are also concerts by Baltimore's dreamy Wye Oak and sultry soul siren Goapele, who's preparing to release her first album since 2005.

Wednesday, Dec. 23 | Thursday, Dec. 24 | Friday, Dec. 25 | Saturday, Dec. 26 | Sunday, Dec. 27 | Tuesday, Dec. 29 | Saturday, Jan. 2

Goapele embraces her sultry side more on her upcoming album, "Milk & Honey." (MJ Kim)

Wednesday, Dec. 23
If you're looking for one more night of Latin dancing before all those Christmas responsibilities take hold of your calendar, make Ballston's Caribbean Breeze tonight's destination for the Latin Holiday Bash. There are salsa lessons with Go-Go Earl (of Lima's Monday nights) and bachata lessons with Lee "El Gringuito" of the Salsa Room and eCiti, three DJs, dance contests, performances by local dance teams and an appearance by Santa himself. The suggested dress code is "Guys in suits, ladies in sexy Santa wear," with prizes for the best outfits. Doors open at 8, and the party runs until 2.

Thursday, Dec. 24
Going out tonight to get an early start on holiday festivities? Make sure you check Fritz's blog post about bars that will be closed on Christmas and Christmas Eve. ChurchKey, Marvin, Eighteenth Street Lounge and Clarendon Grill are among the places that will be closed, and a number of others, including Fado, Breadsoda, and the Capitol City Brewing Company are closing hours earlier than usual. When in doubt, call ahead.

"South Park" fans remember the Christmas special with Kyle Broflovski singing about being a lonely Jew on Christmas and feeling left out of all the holiday fun. South Park obviously doesn't have a Gefilte Fish Gala, which attracts hundreds of Jewish singles and couples every Christmas Eve for dancing and more than a little flirting. There are two parties this year, both offering drink specials and DJs spinning party music: One's a dress-up affair at Kstreet Lounge -- leave the sneakers and athletic wear at home -- and the other is a casual gathering at Union Jack's in Bethesda. The Gefilte Fish Gala gets in the spirit of the season by donating a portion of the evening's proceeds to charities such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and collecting canned goods and clothing for the homeless.

Competing for your night-before-Christmas entertainment dollars tonight is the annual Matzo Ball, which also targets Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s. Held at the multi-level Ultrabar downtown, the party offers multiple floors of music. The main floor throbs to Top 40 and mashups, the upstairs "Bedroom" lounge will have a retro feel with '80s hits and DJs in the penthouse Chroma VIP room spin house and electronic dance music. The cover charge is $20 in advance or $30 at the door, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Holocaust Museum. Just note the dress code: No T-shirts, athletic wear, baggy jeans, sneakers or boots.

A Christmas present for you from Ibiza: Admission and an all-night open bar for $20, and a Naughty Santa Christmas Party with a $300 prize for the woman with the best outfit. DJs Sixth Sense and Mario mix hip-hop, Top 40, Latin and trance all night at the 18-and-over party.

Meanwhile, over at Town Tavern, the countdown to Christmas includes $2 PBR and Bud Light tall boys, $3 domestic beer bottles and $3 rail drinks all night, plus karaoke and DJs spinning party music.

Friday, Dec. 25
Many bars will be closed tonight to allow the staff to spend time with their families and friends, but others will be open to take advantage of a weekend crowd. If you're thinking about heading out to your neighborhood tavern or favorite lounge tonight, call first -- unless they're on the list in Fritz's blog post about what's open and closed. There are a bunch of fun event ideas there, too.

It was three years ago this Christmas that Mr. Dynamite, Soul Brother No. 1, the Man With the Crown, the Godfather of Soul James Brown died. He left behind one of the most incredible catalogues of popular dance music recorded; if you've ever tried not to dance to "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" or "Get on the Good Foot," you know what we mean. They're irresistibly funky: Joy flows from every rubbery bass line and ringing chorus put out by the brass section. The Black Cat -- one of our favorite Christmas night destinations in any case -- hosts a celebration of Brown's life and career with DJs spinning hits and deep cuts by Brown and his crew, including Marva Whitney and Maceo Parker. Hot pants optional. Dancing shoes required.

As a member of the Smiths, Andy Rourke provided the bass lines on "This Charming Man," "How Soon is Now," "Panic" and numerous other songs that are staples at indie rock and '80s parties around the world. And now, two decades after the band broke up, Rourke has carved out a niche as a celebrity DJ who plays songs at those same events. He won't wow you with deft mixing or blending, but he'll play classic '80s alternative and Britpop from the '90s on at the Liberation Dance Party tonight. During previous events in D.C., we've seen plenty of well-wishers and autograph seekers hanging out by the DJ booth.

One of the last of the year, the tacky Christmas Sweater Party at Union Jack's in Bethesda includes Christmas cookies, adults-only egg nog, drink specials and DC101's Flounder spinning his trademark blend of mashups. Doors open at 8.

Oh, speaking of holiday outfits -- anyone wearing a Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus or Grinch outfit gets 50 percent off their tabs at Little Miss Whiskey's or the Pug tonight as part of the Miracle on H Street. Be aware that just rocking a red velvet hat with white fur trim won't do it -- the organizers are looking for full-on costumes with beards and all.

The promoters of tonight's party at Fly Lounge bill it as your "alternative to Chinese food and bad movies" on Christmas night. It's been dubbed "Fly El Al" in honor of Israel's national airline, but there are no high fares or baggage fees: There's no cover, no dress code and no need to RSVP for a night of dancing to DJ Alex Funk.

Spend Christmas in the islands at the Crossroads, where DJ Sprang International, Bobby's Music Machine and the Aki Experience hit all your soca and reggae needs during the Under the Mistletoe Christmas Dance Party. Doors open at 9.

Saturday, Dec. 26
Three of Washington's top DJ nights are going head-to-head tonight to help you work off that turkey dinner. The Mousetrap, celebrating 11 years of spinning Britpop, indie and alternative rock, takes over the main stage of the Black Cat on a special holiday weekend.

Downstairs at the Cat, the Bliss dance party -- which has been going almost as long as Mousetrap -- features founder Will Eastman spinning the usual mix of indie, house and club remixes, with special guests Fresh Prints (the New York-based, D.C.-born duo responsible for releasing Passion Pit's first single) and Reed Rothchild, the DJ whose Head of Rothchild blog chronicles the worst rappers on MySpace when he's not bumping Baltimore Club records.

And then there's DC9, where you can expect the usual insanity from the Nouveau Riche crew -- more electro, remixes and club bangers that you can shake a can of Sparks at. (There's free Sparks from 9 to 10 p.m. along with the free admission.) Gavin Holland, Steve Starks and Nacey are your hosts at a night that's consistently packed and fun.

The Crossroads keeps the party going with a Boxing Day celebration. There's an open bar from 10 to 11, and WPGC's Rane and DJ Book are your hosts.

Sunday, Dec. 27
When Goapele, the Bay Area's sunny soul ingenue, visits D.C., she usually packs fans into larger rooms like the Black Cat and Birchmere. Sunday's show, though, will be an intimate experience suited to her sweet vocals. After years of languid grooves and issue-focused lyrics, Goapele is embracing her sultry side more on her upcoming album, "Milk & Honey." Even when she's flirting with the mainstream, there's substance in her distinctive, delicate timbre that differentiates her from more popular R&B singers. Her ballads retain the emotion that pegged her as one to watch when she first emerged in 2001 at the height of the neo-soul scene's popularity.

For a young band, Baltimore's Wye Oak has a very advanced understanding of dynamics. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, both in their early 20s, know that loud is good, and they also know that the buildup to those volume swells is just as important as the payoff. On their first two albums, particularly this year's "The Knot," the pair has created a shimmering, folk/shoe-gaze hybrid that's hypnotic in its stateliness. The combination of chilling atmospherics and intense dynamic shifts is the band's calling card; the fact that these guys can convincingly pull it off in a live setting -- without the layers of guitars afforded by working in a studio -- is an impressive feat.

Tuesday, Dec. 29
If you see the Future Times name associated with a show or DJ night, you are guaranteed a night of extra funky, cosmic grooves from the area collective that's quickly becoming synonymous with killer parties. Events at Comet Ping Pong have turned into sweaty, dance-floor filled affairs and tonight's blowout at the Velvet Lounge, which gathers many of the acts under the Future Times umbrella, should serve as a perfect introduction to one of the city's best up-and-coming scenes. Upstairs will be live performances by Steve Summers, Protect-U and Maxmillion Dunbar, whose left-of-center electro sounds run from ambient to squealing, hard-hitting techno. Downstairs the DJs will spin the spacey, retro fare that always heats up the room.

Saturday, Jan. 2
Just to be clear, this is not necessarily an endorsement: it's just a heads up on what could be a, well, unique evening. The show at Rock and Roll Hotel is billed as Stewart Lupton, A Retrospective, which is a curious title. In the late '90s, Lupton was the singer for Jonathan Fire*Eater, Next Big Things that never were, who released an album and EP of organ-fueled swagger rock. Last year Lupton resurfaced as the Child Ballads and offered up a charming six-song album of torn and frayed folk tunes full of poetic insights. And that's the extent of his output. So how you could build a "retrospective" out of that is a bit puzzling. We must mention that Lupton is what you might call an erratic live performer. If you're being nice. On bad nights, it can be bad. When David saw the latest Child Ballads lineup over the summer Lupton knocked over multiple microphones, spilled beer, got tangled up in cords and managed to play his guitar for about half the songs. And he left thinking, "Hey, he was pretty good up there tonight!" So buyer beware, and then some.

-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | December 23, 2009; 8:20 AM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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Next: Christmas presence: Bars open on Dec. 24 and 25

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Stewart Lupton has been making music nonstop since JF*E with the multiple incarnations of The Child Ballads (which has included musicians of the caliber of Judah Bauer from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Cat Power
Luke Wyatt of Big Gold Belt and
Betsy Wright of Scripts.
He recently wrote, produced and recorded a new record as The Beatins (with Brendan Canty's son Asa singing backup, famed artist and dcspace/Dischord maven Cynthia Connolly on banjo, and Paul Thornley from the next big band USRoyalty on guitar)
and is in the process of mixing and mastering an EP of new songs with the latest lineup of The Child Ballads.
A lot of music.
Happy Holdays.

Posted by: idje | December 27, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

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