Sockets Records showcases its diverse roster at the Black Cat, hip-hop jam session Guerilla Lounge makes its long-awaited return at Liv, French dance music makes for "une soiree enorme" at Metropolitan and Haiti benefits start to take over local venues.
Wednesday, Jan. 20
After realizing her musical calling in her late teens, Laura Izibor's gone pretty far in five short years. Her R&B debut album soared up the charts in her native Ireland, charmed American audiences and landed her placements on "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Nanny Diaries." She recalls Alicia Keys both in her broadly appealing music and as a dazzling looker who accompanies herself on piano, but she has more refreshing quirks than Keys. V. Rich -- Washington's more mature answer to R&B star the Dream -- pulls opening duties at the Birchmere.
As of press time, there are still a handful of tickets left for Sunday's Thievery Corporation show, the finale of the downtempo superstars' five-night stand at the 9:30 club. But those will surely be gone by the time next week rolls around. So get on it! To kick off the homecoming, the band and Eighteenth Street Lounge Music are hosting a happy hour and photography exhibit at Bar Rouge. Get to the opening reception for discounted Flying Dog beer and free apps. The photos of groups on the ESL label will stay on display through Sunday.
Thursday, Jan. 21
The French get a justifiably bad rap when it comes to mainstream rock music (see Hallyday, Johnny), but if you're looking for something for the dance floor, there's an embarrassment of riches: Daft Punk, Justice, Air, Phoenix, Yelle, Stereo Total, SebastiAn, the Teenagers, DJ Mehdi, Plastic Bertrand, to name a few. DJs Shea Van Horn and TMY draw out the best French dance music at Maison, their monthly party at the Parisian-chic Metropolitain lounge underneath Napoleon. With its leather couches, damask wallpaper and girls-night-out-friendly list of champagne cocktails (all half-price until 10:30), it's une soiree enorme.
Friday, Jan. 22
While most labels are known for a single musical aesthetic, local label Sockets Records looks for bands that share a penchant for experimentation. Tonight's five-band bill at the Black Cat showcases the diversity and left-field thinking that's helped make it one of the most exciting labels in the area. Headliner Cornel West Theory's (listen) hip-hop might not be as accessible or commercially focused as other hip-hop acts on the rise, but it's lyrically and musically forward-thinking. Imperial China (listen) plays sharp, percussive songs that demand your attention. The band certainly knows how to settle into a groove, but the next surge of noise is always right around the corner. Hume (listen) is the brainchild of Britton Powell, a dude with a very active brain. Powell changes the lineup of his band more often than some of us (okay, just David) might change jeans, and his similarly schizophrenic songs embrace everything from prog to Afro-pop. Instrumental rockers Buildings (listen) and stripped-down electro act Big Gold Belt (listen) round out the bill. This will be a good one.
Iota's Haiti benefit tonight gets many of the area's favorite singer-songwriters on stage together. And separately. Who knows exactly how it will work, but we know there will be a lot of them, that's for sure. Brother Shamus, Tom McBride, Taylor Carson, the Walkaways and No Second Troy are only a handful of the evening's performers. Proceeds go to Red Cross relief effort.
Saturday, Jan. 23
Need a fix of primal garage rock? The Black Cat has you covered on Saturday. Kerry Davis has been bashing out brief blasts of noise since the mid-'90s with her cult-favorite band Red Aunts. Her latest group, Two Tears (listen), keeps the sharp edges and the sneering attitude but manages a more refined sound: There's less feedback, more reverb. New single "I'm So Outta It," which chugs and stomps along for just under two minutes, adds a minor gem to her already long list of hits. Openers Eyes of the Killer Robot play only a handful of shows each year, so it's worth getting to the club early to hear their similarly stripped-down tunes.
The fact that griots still exist in the information age is something to cherish. These West African troubadours, poets and virtuoso musicians preserve the histories of a people not by writing them down but by passing them on as stories, from one generation to the next. Cheick Hamala Diabate's (listen) Malian griot tradition extends 800 years, about as long as the lineage of his chosen instrument, the ngoni. In Diabate's hands, this ancestor of the banjo produces rapid chromatic melodies. Local groove jazz outfit Funk Ark (listen) and Richmond's salsa classica preservationists Bio Ritmo (listen) join the old master for an evening of compelling world rhythms at Rock and Roll Hotel.
After an extended hiatus, Asheru's hip-hop jam session and social salon returns this Saturday. While Guerrilla Lounge was on ice, Asheru maintained his active edutainer's schedule by performing with his band the El's, leading arts and activism workshops and spreading his hip-hop based language arts curriculum to schools. This Guerilla Lounge features South Africa's Hip Hop Pantsula, Washington's hot duo Fly Gypsy and Fatso Skinny at Liv.
Sunday, Jan. 24
The appropriately titled Funkin' for Haiti is another of this week's many benefits that caught our eye. Modern hosts many of the area's top DJs -- Nadastrom, Fort Knox Five, Will Eastman and Stylus Chris -- who will take to the turntables to spin wicked funk, Baltimore club, hip-hop and electro. Bring your dancing shoes and donations.
Sunday, Jan. 24
Monday, Jan. 25
Dubbed "the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" for the way she combined edgy R&B vocals and tough hip-hop beats on her hit 1992 debut, "What's the 411?," Mary J. Blige has had numerous multi-platinum albums and Top 10 singles. If someone says the words "Real Love," try to stop singing the hook of that single in your head. (Admit it: You're doing it right now.) Blige's distinctive vocals truly make the song - she's supplied the hook on many rap hits, including some by Jay-Z, Talib Kweli and T.I. Expect DJ Jahsonic to pull ballads and club-bangers during his annual "Hail Mary, Full of Grace" tribute, which features nothing but Blige all night long. You thought there were a lot of people singing along on the dance floor at Marvin on a normal Monday; just wait until "You Remind Me" or "Can't Knock the Hustle" comes over the speakers.
Twee pop alert! The Red & the Black hosts a pair of bands tonight that know the charm of slightly-out-of-tune nasal vocals, jangly guitars and a well-timed trumpet blast. Well, the out-of-tune vocals part only applies to Folklore (listen), the out-of-towners on the bill, who pull it off very well. The Positions (listen) are far less ramshackle than many of their brothers and sisters in twee, thanks to the silky vocals of singer Nicole Stoops.
-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson
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