If you love rock music, there are almost too many good choices this week: Dum Dum Girls, Wye Oak, Soft Pack, the Ruby Suns and Surf City, to name just a few. And that's not counting Chad Hugo of the Neptunes and N.E.R.D., who's spinning at U Street Music Hall, an '80s party with big-screen Atari games and a breakdancing competition at the G:40 exhibition, the Corcoran's annual Artini gala, which combines cocktails and culture, an appearance by Dipset's Jim Jones, the Jamaican DJs visiting Zanzibar on the Waterfront or superstar Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren's visit to Glow.
Tuesday, March 30
We generally take best band/best DJ polls with a grain of salt, but Dutch trance DJ Armin van Buuren (listen), who has topped DJ magazine's prestigious Top 100 DJs survey of readers for three consecutive years, really does have the skills to back it up. His "A State of Trance" radio show/podcast has more than 10 million listeners in 40 countries, who tune in to hear van Buuren effortlessly blend hands-in-the-air trance with tracks that veer into electro and minimal styles. (The show has even spawned multiple mix-CD sets.) His original albums have topped the charts in a number of countries, and his live shows are just as impressive. On New Year's Eve 2009, he took 35,000 people on a nine-hour musical journey at the L.A. Coliseum. So what should you expect when van Buuren touches down at Fur? One of the world's top DJs at the top of his game. Tickets are $35 in advance from Glow.
Update: We moved events that took place earlier in the week to the bottom of the post, so you can see the our pick for today at the top.
Wednesday, March 24
There was a time in David's life -- shortly after Pavement broke up, to be exact -- when he'd answer "Beulah" if the question was "Who is your favorite current band?" The San Francisco band's 1999 album "When Your Heartstrings Break" remains an indie-pop touchstone, overflowing with sunny melodies and bursting horns. It's arguably the best album to emerge from the Elephant 6 collective besides Neutral Milk Hotel's landmark "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." After two more increasingly dark but still pretty albums, the band dissolved and nobody heard from frontman Miles Kurosky for a while. A long while. It's been seven years -- an eternity in the current musical landscape, when a band can go from unknown to Next Big Thing to forgotten in a few months -- since that last Beulah album, but Kurosky is back with his first solo venture, "The Desert of Shallow Effects." Beulah fans should be pleased, because it has that same West Coast, sun-kissed feel. They won't want to miss his first D.C. solo show at DC9.
After the disappointment that was last week's Small Black/Washed Out show, it's becoming more and more apparent that chillwave/glo-fi/whatever it's called this week is more of an MP3 genre than live genre. It makes perfect sense, since the songs are usually created by a single person using a combo of samplers and synthesizers in a bedroom or basement. Still, it can be relaxing stuff, especially when done by the Ruby Suns, who bring a full-band aspect to their beachy songs. Opener Toro y Moi is more of the one-man band thing -- it's nice on record, but will it translate live at the Black Cat?
Thursday, March 25
Pharrell Williams is the face of the Neptunes, the heavyweight hip-hop production duo behind Jay-Z's "Excuse Me, Miss," Snoop's "Drop It Like It's Hot," Nelly's "Hot in Herre" and a zillion other songs you'd recognize in seconds. Chad Hugo - Pharrell's partner in the Neptunes and N.E.R.D. - is just as important for his talent on multiple instruments in crafting the songs. Hugo's latest project is a DJ collective called Missile Command, in which he's joined by local boy Hip-Hop Dan. The duo is rocking the turntables all night at U Street Music Hall, and there's no cover for the 18-and-over show. Just get there early - this is going to be packed - and wear shoes for dancing to club bangers.
Male Bonding and Dum Dum Girls don't share much in common besides a label in Sub Pop. I mean, just look at those names, right? They do share a "band to watch" status, though; each group's debut for the indie giant should establish them as favorites for a while. The three British lads in Male Bonding play jagged post-punk that's all sharp edges and sudden starts and stops. Just as a chorus kicks into high gear, the song zooms in another spiky direction. Meanwhile, the Dum Dum Girls exude classic cool with their matching outfits and disaffected looks. Their brand of indie-pop is sweet with a kick. You can be sure that the next time the band is in town, it won't be the middle act on a bill at DC9.
Unless you're on the list at George -- or know someone who's on the list at George -- you probably haven't been inside the Georgetown bar that's become the playground for Late Night Shots readers who are too old for the post-college party scene at Gin & Tonic. Like Smith Point or L2, George is members-only Thursday through Saturday nights. But you can get a glimpse inside the preppy-and-low-key spot tonight at the Smithsonian Young Benefactors Happy Hour. You don't have to be a Young Benefactors member to come out for $4 beers and $5 rail drinks all night. The $10 cover charge helps local schoolkids attend Smithsonian summer camps and cultural performances. Doors open at 6.
Last weekend, Baltimore's Jason Weems beat out dozens of rival comics to book a place in the semi-finals of "Last Comic Standing" in Hollywood. (Watch the videos on jasonweemscomedy.com for evidence of his sharp observational comedy.) This Thursday, he'll be at the Capitol Skyline Hotel's three-week-old comedy night. Local comic Greg Brown is the host of the five-comic bill. There's a $5 cover charge, a $6 all-you-can-eat pizza deal, $5 drink specials, and unlike some other comedy clubs, no minimum. The show runs from 8 to 11.
We're still months away from the beginning of the NFL season, but members of the Washington Redskins, including Jason Campbell and Kedric Golston, are already making appearances around town. This time, it's the Kickoff for Breast Cancer fundraiser at the upscale Josephine Lounge for the Tigerlily Foundation, which supports women under 40 who have breast cancer or are recovering from the disease. Channel 9's Angie Goff hosts the happy hour-style event, while DJ Moh Ducis spins house and electronic music. The $45 tickets -- all proceeds go to charity -- include an hour-long open bar and hors d'oeuvres. The $95 VIP tickets include a private meet-and-greet with the Redskins and a gift bag. No tickets will be sold at the door, so get them in advance from tigerlilyfoundation.org.
Friday, March 26
Alternatives to a sold-out show, part 1: Buzzy Baltimore duo Beach House's show at the Black Cat is long sold out -- with good reason. The band finally filled out its dreamy sound on third album "Teen Dream," and it's been one of the year's best reviewed albums to date. But across town at the Rock and Roll Hotel, there's another Baltimore duo that's also done a masterful job of filling out its dreamy sound. That would be Nightlife Agenda faves Wye Oak, whose latest "My Neighbor/My Creator" contains both the band's jauntiest ("Emmylou") and dreariest ("I Hope You Die") songs. The band opens for Shearwater, a group deserving headliner status on the strength of this year's "The Golden Archipelago," an album as stately and dramatic as its title suggests.
On Saturday morning, thousands of marchers are expected on the Mall for the annual National Walk for Epilepsy. The night before, a group of country musicians will host the annual Concert for Epilepsy on the rooftop deck above Charlie Palmer Steak at 101 Constitution Ave. NW, a building just across the street from the Capitol, with some of the finest views of downtown. Headlining is Trailer Choir (listen), whose rollicking and party-ready tunes - including "Rockin' the Beer Gut" and "Off the Hillbilly Hook" - landed the band a deal with Toby Keith's Show Dog label and a national tour opening for Keith himself. Locals Wil Gravatt Band (listen) and Rebelicious (listen) are also on the bill.
Jim Jones' latest Harlem-centric mixtape, "The Ghost of Rich Porter," dropped on Monday through the XXL Magazine Web site, and it finds the Dipset man back to his old tricks with rhymes about money, drugs and cars. Jones is celebrating his new release Friday at Lux Lounge at a party hosted by Baltimore Raven Ray Rice. Admission is $30 in advance from tazevents.com.
The late nightclub Red was a mini-temple of boom that brought together b-boys, Golden Triangle party animals, old head disco vets and club kids for powerful house music sessions that went until 4 or 5 in the morning. U Street Music Hall aims to recreate that energy of the space, so henceforth, Friday nights at U-Hall shall be Red Fridays. There'll be a rotating cast of DJs delivering deep house sounds that require you to increase your aerobic capacity. Meistro and Deep Sang are first in the booth this week to set it off.
The semi-regular Gaia party returns for spring, and this time it moves from Gallery to Dahlak. Gaia is a coordinated experience of video artists, DJs, musicians and live performers that flows between discrete sets and improv. Producer Nico Laget helms the project and also plays reeds. Jazz vocalist Lulu Fall, percussionist Tom Pipkin and DJ Kimozaki are among the featured artists in the ensemble for this session.
Saturday, March 27
There's simply too much happening on Saturday night. Rock fans are presented with an overwhelming array of choices, so let's just run them all down and you can decide for yourself. The most buzz will emanate from the Black Cat, where San Diego's the Soft Pack will charge through a set of brisk, chugging rockers filled with stinging guitar leads, cooler-than-school attitude and catchy choruses. Openers Nodzzz, part of that whole unnecessary consonant trend play bratty songs that often start with the chorus and collapse on themselves within 90 seconds. Beaters and Foul Swoops round things out.
Don't let the name fool you. New Zealand's Surf City sounds nothing like a band from some '60s movie starring Frankie Avalon. Nor does it share the wall-of-noise sound of Jesus & Mary Chain, who did inspire the band's name. Instead, the quartet holds true to its homeland's storied three-decade history of slightly off-kilter noise-pop, all woozy slabs of jangle and distortion. The band's first D.C. show is reason enough to head to Rock & Roll Hotel - the added bonus is that Surf City's just the opening act. Headliners Woods and middle band Real Estate are part of the new indie class that plays leisurely mid-tempo jams more about relaxation than rock.
We've speculated a few times in this column that '90s nights are the new '80s nights, given the prevalence of DJ events featuring Bell Biv DeVoe and Technotronic instead of old standbys Madonna and Duran Duran. But hey, maybe we're going to be proven wrong: the finale of the sprawling G40: The Summit exhibition in Crystal City is the 80's Throwback Closing Reception. Start practicing your windmills for the breakdancing competition, bone up on Ms. Pac Man and Pitfall for an Atari 2600 video game contest (played on a giant projection screen) and brush up your moonwalk for the Michael Jackson dance-off. (And yes, there's a prize for the best '80s outfit, but we guess you sussed that one out already.) DJ Lil E, who rocks the Black Cat's monthly Right Round parties, provides the '80s grooves all night. The party will be hopping from 8 to midnight, and admission is free.
One of the city's premiere events for cocktail hounds (and art lovers), the annual Artini gala at the Corcoran Gallery of Art brings 12 of the city's best mixologists together for a head-to-head throwdown. The all-star cast, which includes the top bartenders at PS 7's, P.O.V. at the W, the Gibson, Rasika and Bourbon, among others, each chose a painting from the Corcoran's current "A Love of Europe" exhibition and created a recipe inspired by that work. Then they offered them at their bars for sampling. At the main Artini event, you can try all 12 under one roof, while sampling hors d'oeuvres and desserts all night. Local DJ Chris Nitti provides dance music. All-inclusive tickets are $100 in advance -- none will be sold at the door -- and proceeds benefit the Corcoran's ArtReach art education programs. Festive, colorful cocktail attire is requested.
If you get a sense of deja vu from the lineup at Big Bear Cafe, it means you probably devote too much of your brain space to remembering indie-rock concert bills. Take it from David -- there are better uses. Anyway, the Beets and Beach Fossils are back in D.C. about a month after playing at the Velvet Lounge. The Beets are once again the headliners, and while their shambling songs are fun for a few minutes, the Beach Fossils were actually the highlight of that Lounge show. The laidback vibe of their recordings gave way to a more aggressive live sound and showed what a difference a second guitarist makes on a bill filled with trios. Another trio, Eternal Summers, (who played with the Beets at Big Bear in 2009, and David didn't even need to consult his spreadsheet to remember that -- ugh) are also on the bill. Big Bear will be selling beer for this show, which would be a new and welcome twist.
If you just want to get rowdy, you can say goodbye to Fight Club D.C., as another long-running alternative venue in city closes down. If you were looking for debauchery, you were sure to find it at the Blagden Alley punk spot. As with most things related to this "venue," details on the final show are a little sketchy, of course. Expect unofficial house band the Points to play, along with Cloak/Dagger and young, fierce duo Maybe, Baby.
Fans of Caribbean music should know the Rawkus parties at Zanzibar on the Waterfront are some of the biggest around. And this weekend's Aloha party is no different, headlined by Jamaica's famed Stone Love dancehall sound system and DJ Jazzy T of the island's well-known Renaissance Disco. New York DJ Back to Basics makes a guest appearance, while Superslice and Spyda the DJ hold it down for D.C. The party runs until 4 a.m., and admission is $20 in advance from www.pumpstn.com.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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