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Posted at 5:44 PM ET, 02/ 2/2010

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Jane Birkin, known for the lounge songs she recorded with Serge Gainsbourg in the 1960s and '70s, makes a rare D.C. appearance at the French Embasssy on Tuesday. (Kate Barry)

Feb 5 Update: The impending snowpacalypse is playing havoc with bar and nightclub schedules; a number of events featured in this week's column have been canceled or postponed. Check our list of what's not happening this weekend for more information.

If you're looking for a new drink, this is a good week: Sample gin and absinthe with a master distiller or raise a glass of Gordon Biersch's new brew at a tapping party. Elsewhere, DJ nights and happy hours raise money for Haiti, DJ Mark Farina brings his funky electronica to Layla Lounge, Evan Dando and the Lemonheads visit the Black Cat and J.P. McDermott plays tribute to Buddy Holly at Quarry House Tavern.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Tuesday

Tuesday, Feb. 9
Jane Birkin was one of the coolest women of the late 1960s. A star of Michelangelo Antonioni's Swinging London cult fave "Blow Up," the British actress is best known for the French-language lounge-pop music she recorded with her lover Serge Gainsbourg, especially their sexually explicit hit "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus." Birkin acted and performed with Gainsbourg throughout the '70s, but she eventually left him and appeared in more mainstream films. She's kept his music alive through tributes; her latest album, 2009's live "Jane Birkin au Palace," features their hits and her own original material. In recent years, she's been working with younger artists, from the Pet Shop Boys to French hip-hop icon MC Solaar. Expect to hear songs spanning her storied career at a rare Washington visit to the French Embassy's La Maison Francaise.

Canibus combined the cerebral style of Ras Kass, the wordplay of Pharoahe Monch and the hardened ethos of an aggressive battle rhymer in the late '90s, when he was being heralded as the illest new lyricist on the hip-hop scene. He spit fire with Common on their collaboration and went toe to toe with LL Cool J in an epic diss exchange. In the past decade, he fell victim to tepid beats and label neglect, but he still maintained a cult following even during the hiatus when he enlisted in the Army and served in Iraq. This year finds the journeyman with a new album. You can get a taste tonight at Jammin' Java along with a slate of DMV talent including DJ RBI and K-Beta.

Update: We moved the events we wrote about earlier in the week to the bottom of the post.

Wednesday, Feb. 3
It's tough for Fritz to pick a favorite gin. But if he had to make a list, Bluecoat would definitely be up there. Made in Philadelphia since 2006, Bluecoat has pepper and citrus notes and a lingering orange finish. Vieux Carre absinthe, made by the same Philadelpha distillery, has just as much character. Master distiller Robert Cassell is in town this week to make the rounds of D.C. bars, and he'll be available at a couple of meet-and-greet events where you can taste both spirits, discuss the ingredients and recipes he uses, and try cocktails that feature Vieux Carre and Bluecoat. (Sampling is free, but you'll have pay for the cocktails.) Cassell will be at Policy's bar tonight from 7 to 9, and at Room 11 on Thursday at 7.

We feel pretty confident saying J.P. McDermott is the biggest Buddy Holly fan in the D.C. area. Not only does McDermott perform Holly's music with his fine rockabilly band Western Bop, he gives talks about Holly's career and legacy at the Smithsonian and organizes an annual tribute concert with area bands playing nothing but Holly tunes all night long. It's appropriate, then, that McDermott is taking the stage at the Quarry House Tavern tonight, the 51st anniversary of "The Day the Music Died," when Holly, Richie Valens and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa. McDermott will cover Holly's entire catalog, from hits to the lesser-heard tracks known as "The Apartment Tapes," which weren't discovered until after Holly died. The one-man show starts at 9, and there's no cover.

Piola restaurant in Rosslyn is the latest to use its happy hour to raise money for earthquake relief in Haiti. Tonight, 20 percent of the bar sales will go to the Organization of American States' Pan American Development Foundation, which has sent food, tools and tents into the country already and wants to send more. Piola's excellent happy hour, which runs from 4:30 to 8, includes $3 beers, $5 sangria and free appetizers and slices of pizza passed by restaurant servers.

Thursday, Feb. 4
Ardamus was one of the foot soldiers spitting bars in D.C. MC battles. Diligently and quietly, he distinguished himself on production and crafted many of the tracks on his first solo full-length album, "When Everything Goes Wrong 2.0." When he performs as one half of Ardaplus, he does jagged, industrial hip-hop, but you'll find solid hoodie and black-book rhymes in his solo material. Thursday, he'll be spitting earnest couplets to a DJ's accompaniment at DC9.

It's always confused us when an artist tackles a side project only to make music that sounds like his more famous band. So we salute Alan Sparhawk for having the right idea. He's most famous for his work with Low, whose slow-as-molasses, minimally arranged music has probably helped many insomniacs fall asleep over the past decade and a half. Retribution Gospel Choir isn't exactly the polar opposite of Low -- that would be some especially hyperactive brand of happy house -- but it's definitely not something you'd put on to help induce slumber. Sparhawk treats RGC as a sort of power trio and creates songs that twist and turn and usually end up as extended psychedelic jams. At the Rock and Roll Hotel, you may want to close your eyes just to zone out, not zonk out.

Looking for an excuse to try a freshly made beer? The downtown Gordon Biersch is tapping its new Helles Bock tonight. It's similar in style to the bar's flagship Maibock seasonal, but general manager John John Burgess says the pale unfiltered lager is "a little lighter [than the Maibock]. It's smoother, with not as much bite and a little more body." As at all tapping parties, the staff will circulate free appetizers and pass around "das boot" of beer for customers to try. The party officially runs from 6 to 8, but if you show up for happy hour (between 4 and 6:30), you can get a half-liter of the Helles Bock for $4.50 instead of the usual $5.50. At the party, volunteers will be collecting donations for Save the Children's Haiti relief efforts.

What's in a name? Oxigeno, a monthly "networking happy hour" for Latin-American professionals, features drink specials and free food between 5 and 9 and DJ Bemba spinning a mix of salsa and hip-hop. Networking, eh? Sounds like a pretty killer party to us. But we suppose you can bring business cards to hand out while you're mingling at Lima. Admission is free; RSVP to RSVP@LatinVIP.com.

Last week, we wrote about the Bees Knees DJ night as part of an update on Haiti benefits, so here's a reminder: Velvet is giving the $5 cover charge to Artists for Peace and Justice's Project Haiti and the United Nations' World Food Program, and the bartenders will donate all of the evening's tips.

Bluecoat gin and Vieux Carre absinthe tasting at Room 11. (See Wednesday's listing)

Friday, Feb. 5
Mark Farina's work is the gateway to electronica for people who might be turned off by the stereotype of boom-boom-boom beats. His "Mushroom Jazz" compilations weave together lounge, downtempo and jazzy hip-hop to create a variety of tempos uncommon to hosue music; his sets are sexy, nuanced journeys that unfold over hours. ECB's Juan Zapata and Baltimore's Lovegrove join the smooth San Francisco maestro at Layla Lounge tonight.

Update: The Prince Dance Party has been postponed until Feb. 18.
DJ Dredd's sweatfests need ever-larger rooms to accommodate his growing throngs of partiers. Tonight his Prince vs. Madonna vs. Michael Jackson dance party takes over the 9:30 club. You know the formula: a nonstop blend of the catalogs responsible for the best dance hits of the past three decades, combined with video highlights.

Update: Moneytown has been canceled due to inclement weather.
We haven't mentioned the excellent Moneytown funk-and-soul throwdown in a while, but we'd be remiss if we left out this month's edition of one of our favorite dance parties. DJ Nitekrawler and his crates of '60s and '70s vinyl will be joined tonight by David Griffiths. The New York soul fanatic and record collector founded Ever-Soul Records, an offshoot of soul heavyweights Daptone, to re-release classic seven-inch singles, and he's in the process of restoring the tracks from an unreleased vintage instrumental LP. Griffiths is a founding member of the popular New York City dance party Bumpshop, so we're sure he'll keep Dahlak's dance floor full all night long. As always, there's no cover charge.

Saturday, Feb. 6
Evan Dando still has that long, lustrous head of hair. You remember: Back in the'90s, it was as much his trademark as his ability to write tender, lovelorn pop songs as frontman of the Lemonheads. Maybe the fact that he looks the same is one reason it's easy to stick with him, even if you can't name a new song he's written in the past 10 years. His current solo tour comes to terms with that fact. When Dando hits Iota, it will be him, an electric guitar, lots of Lemonheads hits and some other people's hits, as heard on the Lemonheads' recent all-covers album. (Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," anyone?

Update: The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks concert has been canceled due to inclement weather.
Quick -- make a list of your favorite jazz pianists. Is Mary Lou Williams' name there? If not, it should be. Williams is a well-known figure within the jazz world -- the Kennedy Center's annual festival celebrating women in jazz is named after her -- but she lacks the fame of Thelonious Monk, Ramsey Lewis and other pianists. It's a shame, because the woman could swing. She played with Benny Goodman in the '30s -- her work on the boogie-woogie classic "Roll 'Em" is astounding -- and performed widely with Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy. After the swing era ended, she moved flawlessly into bebop, writing songs for and performing with Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. In honor of her 100th birthday, William's extensive oeuvre is celebrated tonight by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra at the Natural History Museum's Baird Auditorium.

Okay, so tonight's all-local Haiti benefit at the Black Cat isn't exactly Will.I.Am, Justin Bieber, Barbra Streisand and Lil' Wayne ... but, um, isn't that a good thing? Those A-listers can join each other in a recording studio in L.A. and cover "We Are the World," we'll take the live rock, provided by Tennis System, the State Department, Nunchucks and Honeyhouse. Proceeds from the show will benefit Doctors Without Borders.

Update: The Black and White Ball has been canceled due to inclement weather.
Local swing combo Blue Sky Five (listen) combines vintage hits by Artie Shaw, Count Basie and Slim & Slam with originals by vocalist/guitarist/pianist Craig Gildner. What's most impressive is the way the band switches between covers and new material; you'd never even know that "Tin Goose Jump" wasn't written in the 1930s. The group performs tonight at the Black and White Ball at the Women's Club of Chevy Chase, a annual semiformal soiree that benefits the National Center for Children and Families, a charity that works with homeless families and victims of domestic violence. The $20 ticket -- available in advance from the Women's Club's Web site -- includes a free 30-minute basic swing dance lesson and three hours of dancing. Black and/or white attire is suggested, although plenty of guests opt for vintage clothing.

Last week, we told you that Ibiza was featuring an appearance by Rockville's own B.T., a DJ whose classically-influenced trance music had made him famous around the world. Well, Saturday's snowstorm put a damper on that show, so it's been rescheduled. Catch BT tonight at Ibiza instead, where he'll mark the release of his new double CD "These Hopeful Machines."

-- Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

By Fritz Hahn  | February 2, 2010; 5:44 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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