Catch hip-hop legend (and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member) Grandmaster Flash at Ibiza, participate in an adults-only spelling bee at the Rock and Roll Hotel, hear Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas go solo at the 9:30 club, dance to John B and Elite Force at Muse, vie to be the best karaoke singer on H Street NE, see if RJD2's live performance lives up to his studio wizardry or get down to the Wu-Tang Clan all night long at Lounge of Three.
Tuesday, Jan. 12
As we've been reminded by the inundation of all those best of the '00s lists, the Strokes' first album, "Is This It," really was that good: Its swaggering rock songs dripped with timeless New York cool. As for the two albums that followed . . . well, it was hard for them to equal the band's fresh debut. Multiple members have gone solo, but the album everyone was waiting for was the one from frontman Julian Casablancas (listen), he of the cough-syrup croon and perfectly constructed rock nuggets. "Phrazes for the Young" is a mixed bag. Its highlights are on par with the best of the Strokes' output, where '80s-style synths often take the place of chugging guitars. Some songs trudge along to nowhere, but perhaps Casablancas will use some of his natural charisma to give them a spark when he performs live at the 9:30 club.
Top shelf D.C. party-rocker DJ 2-Tone Jones is pulling some lounge time on Tuesdays at Masa 14 with an evening he calls La Mezcla. Although it starts at 9, it still has a social, happy-hour flavor: perfect for grown folk with soulful tastes who want to converse while they nosh and vibe out to the grooves. Expect a mix of funk, soul and downtempo.
Update: We moved the events we wrote about earlier in the week to the bottom of the post, so you can read the most current ones at the top.>
Wednesday, Jan. 6
Adam Franklin (listen) wasn't immune to reunion fever. He got his old band, guitar-assault shoegazers Swervedriver, back together for a tour to give those who needed it a nostalgia fix. From the sounds of his new album, "Spent Bullets," Franklin got most of the noise out of his system. It maintains the dreamy quality of Swerverdriver, but hazy acoustic ballads take the place of swirling, effects-laden electric guitar freakouts. It's a good trade for Franklin, because it gives him a chance to showcase his songwriting skills, which come to the forefront when less mayhem surrounds him. Local faves the Jet Age (listen), who released another excellent album, "in 'Love,'" open at DC9.
When we're at the bar at the Black Cat, we usually have one of two drinks: A beer or a glass full of gin with a little bit of tonic on top. Sometimes the beer comes with a shot of whiskey, sometimes not. But we'd never dream of ordering something fancier. Not because the bartenders can't make cocktails -- just ask Lili Montoya to whip up something -- but because the Black Cat is a Red Room Ale or PBR kind of place. Except tonight, that is, when the Cat's themed "Drink & a Movie" series winds up with two great gin-soaked 1930s screwball comedies: "The Thin Man" and "Topper." They're full of witty zingers, shaker after shaker of martinis and full flutes of champagne; there's not a pint glass in sight. Perhaps that's why the bartenders will be pouring $5 glasses of champagne during the films. Find bubbly too classy? You can still get your bottle of Bass. There's no cover, and the first movie screens at 8:30.
Sticky Rice and Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar offer two of the most rockin' karaoke nights in D.C.: Sticky has crowds of hipsters and neighborhood folks alike standing on tables to sing on Tuesdays, while everyone gets dressed up for the every-other-Wednesday Kostume Karaoke at Little Miss Whiskey's. The two events have a friendly rivalry going on, and this month they're teaming up to bring back the H Street Karaoke Competition, a three-bar contest to find the best vocals on the strip. Here's how it works: At the regularly-scheduled karaoke nights this month (Wednesday and Jan. 20 for Little Miss Whiskey's and Jan. 12 and 19 at Sticky Rice), a panel of judges select the night's top three to five performers (categories include "Awesomeness," "Hilarity" and "Sexiness"). The winners will move on to the finals at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Jan. 26, where they'll take the stage and try to win a large cash prize. It's free to enter at either location -- all you have to do is show up and put your name down.
Harry Hotter gets a breather from the demands of his just-the-hits mainstream DJ career when he digs into esoteric beats with Sean Gone at Mechanix tonight. This mid-week jam at Steve's Bar Room brings DJs and musicians together for a weekly creative and laid-back dance floor journey. Joey B sits in this week on trumpet; look for the Handsmiths on percussion.
Thursday, Jan. 7
Say what you want about the fairness of the college Bowl Championship Series or the need for college football playoffs, but the national title game between Alabama and Texas should be a corker. Two undefeated teams. Alabama's Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram vs. Texas's two-time Heisman finalist quarterback Colt McCoy. But where to watch the game? Both the Alabama and Texas alumni associations are throwing parties for their loud-and-proud fans. 'Bama will be at the Old Dominion Brewhouse at the Washington Convention Center, a bar that has dozens of television and more than two dozen draft beers. A pregame party (5 to 7 p.m.) includes unlimited food and a beer for $7. The D.C. Texas Exes, meanwhile, will be sporting their burnt orange jerseys with pride at Arlington's Rhodeside Grill.
Bob Sinclar (listen) is one of the most prolific -- and most unpredictable -- DJs in house. His new record, "Born in '69," finds him basing songs on Beatles-esque sitar, writing a insistent dancehall-meets-electro-house jam with Shabba Ranks and crafting a Saturday night disco jam that features Sugar Hill Gang delivering their trademark rhymes. The French DJ makes some great straight-up dance music -- check out "What a Wonderful World," a collaboration with Chicago house fixture Ron Carroll -- so the dance floor will get quite a workout at Fur tonight.
Friday, Jan. 8
Congratulations to the promoters who decided to pair DJs John B and Elite Force at Muse tonight, because they're going to have a lot to live up to for the rest of the year. This is some bleeding-edge stuff here: John B (listen) is the well-known drum'n'bass DJ who dropped vinyl for Goldie's famed Metalheadz label, but he's more recently melded drum 'n' bass rhythms with '80s electro synths to create an ahead-of-the-curve sound known as "electrostep." Then there's Elite Force (listen) , whose raw brand of breakbeats and techfunk is perfect for setting off a room full of dancers. The scene should be intense -- especially at an intimate club like Muse and when it's only $10 to get in before midnight if you RSVP on the District Ignition Web site. (It's $20 at the door otherwise.)
Holding a spelling bee in a bar is not a new idea -- remember the D.C. Bee at the Warehouse Theatre a few years back? -- but it's still a great idea, which is why we're excited about the Rock and Roll Hotel's new weekly Rock and Roll Spelling Buzz. Drink, spell, repeat. The first 20 people to start a tab at the upstairs bar after 7 p.m. are entered into the competition. Bartender/owner Fritz Wood is the host. "It's me, Webster's dictionary and a bell," he says. He'll ask everyone to spell a word from the National Spelling Bee word list. And once all contestants have had a turn, they'll have to order -- and consume -- a beer and a shot. Then they'll have to spell again. The process will be repeated until there's a winner. "We'll be using, like, fifth-grade words, but I think after a few shots some simple words will be spelled hilariously wrong," Wood predicts. First prize is a $60 bar tab. Second place wins a $30 tab. And third place takes home a joke prize "from the Salvation Army next door." Specials include a $6 PBR-and-whiskey-shot combo.
They did Jiggaman, and now it's all Wu all night. The Lounge of Three crew are taking their hip-hop happy hour concept to prime time with a first Fridays kick-off featuring all the Wu-Tang Clan you can handle. DJ Nick the 1da will remind you of the quality songs buried in the dreck of Method Man's post-debut albums. Toney Starks will factor prominently. That rare Raekwon "Rainy Dayz" remix could make an appearance. There may even be selections from Wu-affiliated third-stringers like Sunz of Man, Remedy and Killarmy, tracks like "The Pillage" by Cappadonna or Inspectah Deck's collabs with Pete Rock. Doors open at 5, the happy hour deals include $1 rail drinks and margaritas until 7, and the music and kung-fu flicks on the screen go from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m.
Since we last caught up with Fly Gypsy last fall, they've been grinding heavily to great effect, opening for Wale at the 9:30 club and getting video rotation on VH1 Soul and mtvU. Where the curve can often be steep for new groups, this hip-hop duo is on an accelerated plan because both members being established in their own right before collaborating. Komplex has years of experience riding the dividing line between rap and poetry, while Alexei's studio chops and multi-instrument skills backed many alumni from the fertile Bar Nun urban arts scene. Fly Gypsy's sophisticated hip-hop shares billing with rising DMV star Phil Ade at Liv tonight.
One of David's favorite "Saturday Night Live" sketches from the '90s was about the British Fops. It featured David Koechner and Mark McKinney dressed in powdered wigs, Victorian blouses and knickers and speaking in ridiculous accents and ... well, that's about it. If that duo were in a band, they'd be in the Upper Crust (listen), a Boston outfit that wears ridiculous outfits. Don't expect any baroque stylings, though. The band plays straightforward hard rock, just a step removed from AC/DC, riffs as big as the wigs sitting on the band members' heads. Death By Sexy (listen) and Fishnet Stalkers (listen) open at Black Cat.
Saturday, Jan. 9
Over three decades of DJing, Grandmaster Flash has gone from rocking Bronx block parties to enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the founding fathers of hip-hop, Flash developed the technique known as "cutting" between records and recorded classic songs "The Message" and "White Lines" with the Furious Five. While he's collected plenty of lifetime achievement awards, Grandmaster Flash is still going strong; he hosts a weekly radio show on Sirius and is touring the world. (In a few weeks, he's off to Australia.) But first, there's an 18-and-older concert at Ibiza, where you can guarantee that the crowd will be rapping along with every record he drops. Locals Dan Amitai and Buster provide support.
The dawning of a new decade inspires grandiosity in many, but RJD2's new album, "The Colossus," might deliver on its name's promise. This versatile DJ (listen) began his career 10 years ago as a vinyl surgeon on the indie hip-hop scene, crafting beats for underground rappers and slicing up dusty records in live sets and classic mix tapes. His work still bears some of that DNA - the raw b-boy breaks are still there - but the instrumentation now extends from dreamy down-tempo melodies to jagged industrial sounds. His is the work of a highly sought-after producer, one who used the basic tools of hip-hop beat craft as gateways to comprehensive studio mastery. This is a 9:30 club show not to miss.
Everyone knows that live music schedules are a bit thin during the first weeks of January. But Millennium Stage continues to offer free, live music every single night at 6 p.m. Tonight's offering is something a little different -- the Cuban Cowboys (listen). It's pretty self-explanatory, really. The quartet bills itself as "the World's Finest Cuban Surf Rock Band" and its songs incorporate hints of ska, mambo and post-punk, but surf guitar serves as the foundation. As always at Millennium Stage, the show is free.
African diaspora beats meet hybrid electronic grooves from the far and south east at CommonGround tonight. This party at Liv is a global DJ summit with I:Wah the BeatPriest and Underdog handling Afrobeat, house and broken beat while V:Shal Kanwar takes it to India, the Middle East and North Africa. An international buffet, belly dancer and percussionist expand the sensory experience.
When your last name is as internationally recognized as "Cousteau," your career path is pretty much predetermined. You could try to do something completely different from the marine explorer Jacques Cousteau, maybe something buttoned-up like working in a law firm, or you could just embrace your family's calling. Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau went the second path, founding EarthEcho International, a nonprofit foundation that educates young people about the struggle to preserve the oceans and marine life. The group is hosting a fundraising happy hour tonight at BlackFinn, and Philippe Cousteau will be the man pouring the drinks between 8 and 11. The $10 entry fee -- which includes one drink ticket and free appetizers until 10 -- will be donated directly to EarthEcho, as will the cost of $5 Svedka cocktails and glasses of house wine. A DJ spins dance music from 10 p.m. on. RSVP to Victoria@vmpublicrelations.com to save your spot.
-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson
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