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Posted at 5:11 PM ET, 03/30/2010

Nightlife Agenda: Calvin Harris, Sonic Circuits and Cherry Blossom parties

By Fritz Hahn

The Cherry Blast party brings live music, works by local artists, DJs and surprises to a warehouse setting on Friday night. (2009 Cherry Blast photo by Michael Temchine for The Post)

Hear cutting-edge music from Sonic Circuits, celebrate warm weather on an outdoor patio, dance to chart-topping UK producer/DJ Calvin Harris, taste cask ales from Maryland's award-winning Flying Dog brewery, stay up late dancing to some of D.C.'s top DJs or catch a great lineup of bands at Comet Ping Pong.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Tuesday

Wednesday, March 31
It would be easy to label Sharon Van Etten's solo acoustic compositions as depressing or downtrodden. After all, her slow-burning songs and sedated voice don't exactly inspire dancing, let alone standing. It wouldn't be shocking to see some concertgoers sitting on the floor at the Black Cat's backstage, where she'll be opening for North Carolina rustic-folk band Megafaun. But there's a certain elegance to her unadorned tunes - it's just her and her guitar onstage - that makes them uplifting and captivating.

Over in Britain, National Cask Ale Week is underway, with seven days of events celebrating traditional "real ales." These beers are served without extra carbonation or pasteurization and at around 50 degrees, so they have a unique spectrum of flavors that you don't find in ice-cold fizzy lagers. While cask ales are still something of a rarity in the United States, an increasing number of local bars now offer them. New to the real ale game is the cozy Black Squirrel, which is celebrating National Cask Ale Week by offering its first firkin: a special cask of Snake Dog India Pale Ale from Maryland's Flying Dog Brewery, which has had Simicoe hops added after fermentation for extra aroma. (Non-cask versions of several other Flying Dog beers, including the dark, smoky Dog Schwartz, will be available on draft.) The party starts at 6:30, but plan to arrive early: The first 25 customers who order a cask ale get a special pint glass to take home.

Thursday, April 1
Reedy '80s synths, falsetto vocal harmonies, staccato guitars: New York's Tigercity (listen) makes music that could slot into an episode of Yacht Rock. The foursome's throwback is equal parts blue-eyed soul, post-disco thump and new-wave rock, complete with unironic handclaps. (We think.) It's fantastic party music, so prepare to dance at DC9. Kindred spirits Mother/Father, whose taut, reverb-heavy sound recalls Echo and the Bunnymen, opens.

U Street Music Hall owners Jesse Tittsworth and Will Eastman have both released music through New York's popular Plant Music, so it makes sense that they'd invite DJs from the label to come play at their club. But this is more than insider trading. Headlining this Plant Music Showcase is Stretch Armstrong, the New York DJ whose WKCR radio show was named "The Best Radio Show of All Time" by the Source Magazine and helped launch the careers of the Wu Tang Clan and Busta Rhymes, among others. His recent output skews toward electronic club-bangers instead of hip-hop rhythms, but the infectious tunes still show a strong sense of melody. Also on the bill are Dominque -- one half of electro duo the Glass -- and Kap10Kurt (listen), whose synth-pop electro originals sound like remixes of '80s jams. (That's a compliment.) There's a $10 cover. Update: Price cut! The cover has been changed to $5, and everyone gets a free Plant Music CD sampler.

Friday, April 2
Events tied to the National Cherry Blossom Festival tend to be family-friendly gatherings, such as fireworks, kite-flying and balloon-filled parades. That changed last year with the debut of Cherry Blast, an underground-ish mix of projected art, dance performances, live music, fashion and DJs that took place in an empty (but festively decorated) Anacostia warehouse. (Most of the crowd was shuttle-bussed in from Dupont Circle.) This year, Cherry Blast II - the creation of artist Philippa P.B. Hughes - moves to a storage warehouse in Adams Morgan, but the aesthetic remains the same. Artists will have their works displayed or projected on walls in several rooms. Music comes from the funky Fatback DJ crew, Maureen Andary of local folkies the Sweater Set, DJ Alex Gold of the Fridge and the duo of DJ Chris Nitti and multi-instrumentalist Matt Hemerlein. Throw in a sake bar, a "marshmallow arts play room" and other surprises, and it's sure to be a night to remember.

As we write this column, our friends at the Capital Weather Gang are predicting that we might hit the low 80s on Friday. Glorious. Here are a few places we'd celebrate the warm temperatures. (Fingers crossed):

Clarendon Ballroom's rooftop deck will be open. DJ 2Nutz is on the main level. There's a $5 cover after 8, so you might want to make this a happy hour destination.

Full of greenery, the back garden at Little Miss Whiskey's is one of the cooler and lesser known spots on H Street NE. Grab something off the extensive beer list, like a bottle of Lowenbrau, and relax. Chef Ryan Gordon -- whose English pub the Queen Vic will open on H Street in a few months -- will be grilling on the patio.

On Friday night, Capitol City Brewing Company is opening the patios at its Shirlington and Capitol Hill branches and pouring its new Cherry Blossom Ale, a special medium-bodied beer made with Belgian yeast and sweet cherries. It will only be on sale during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cantina Marina's patio season kicks off on April 5, but the lower deck, which sits above the Washington Channel at the Gangplank Marina and catches some serious breezes, will be open for this weekend's fine weather.

Nothing says "beach weather" to Fritz like sipping a rum punch from a ceramic parrot. You can hit Mango Mike's in Alexandria for a beachy atmosphere on the patio, and order a Parrot Cooler: a 16-ounce rum drink in a parrot-shaped ceramic glass (which you get to take home) for $9.95.

Although we're long-time fans of live music at Comet Ping Pong, there are certain drawbacks of going to shows there. For one, there aren't many other nightlife options nearby; you go to Comet, that's pretty much your outing for the evening. So it helps when there's lineup strong enough to make it a worthy destination. Openers the Delfields play breezy, hazy indie-pop that either knows where it's headed or organically ends up in the right place anyway. Middle act Gary B & the Notions come down from Baltimore to play smart and sharp power-pop in the vein of Elvis Costello and. Headliners Meow vs. Meow lean toward the dancier side of things with a keyboard-heavy post-punk sound, but since they'll hit the "stage" well after midnight (you can't start shows until 10:30 p.m. at Comet) they'll up the energy quotient.

Just want to dance to songs you know and (probably) love? The '80s Mayhem dance party -- brought to you by the same DJs who run the Cure-vs-Smiths and Depeche Mode dance parties -- takes over the Black Cat's main floor.

Saturday, April 3
A handful of local musicians will be getting their avant-garde on Saturday afternoon to celebrate cherry blossom season with the Cherry Blossom Boombox Walk. Local electro-rock duo Bluebrain enlisted Geologist of Animal Collective, Chad Clark of Beauty Pill, Sean Peoples of Sockets Records, electronic producer Outputmessage and DJ du jour Will Eastman to create a site-specific work, but you can participate, too. Bring a boombox - you know, that thing Will Smith held over his head in the credits of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" - and you'll get a cassette recording of their composition. Everybody hits play around the same time, and some sort of wonderful cacophony will commence.

Every March, a strong contingent of D.C. DJs heads to Miami's Winter Music Conference, which is basically the electronic dance community's version of South by Southwest, but with more bikinis, bouncers and VIP rooms. Nine of those local DJs are spinning at WMC2DC: The Post-Conference Wrap Party, an epic seven-hour gathering at the Warehouse Loft. It's so big, it's split it into two rooms of music. Expect to hear from Sam "The Man" Burns, Adrian Loving, Jahsonic, Chris Burns and Quartermaine. Throw in video projections and live percussionists adding to the rhythms, and you've got yourself a party. Doors open at 9, there's a free drink for everyone before 11, and the beats will be workin' until 4 a.m.

Sonic Circuits is presenting a show at Pyramid Atlantic on Saturday, so that should automatically clue you into the fact that there will be some weirdness going on. This one is billed as "A Celebration of Unplugged Musical Experimentation" and it's headlined by someone named Bradford Reed who plays an instrument he created called the pencilina. It's a "double-necked third-bridge guitar," Reed says, and if that means as much to you as it does to us, why don't you just watch him play it? You can also catch free-form noise-creator Pilesar, free-form drums and horns combo Gestures, and, well, you get the point. If you like choruses, this might not really be your thing.

Scottish singer and producer Calvin Harris (listen) has turned into quite the property in the last couple of years. He made some decent pop-tinged electro beats on his 2007 debut "I Created Disco," including top-five single "The Girls." He then proceeded to collaborate with Dizzee Rascal on the 2008 #1 "Dance Wiv Me" before crashing the top of the UK singles chart with the dance floor-filler "I'm Not Alone" and follow-up "Ready for the Weekend." He also found time to produce Dizzee's insanely catchy summer anthem "Holiday" and write and produce songs for pop singers Kylie Minogue and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. So it will be interesting to see what, exactly, Harris plays when he takes to the booth at Fur for the weekly Glow party -- it certainly won't be anything like the trance spun by other Glow DJs. But you can bet you won't stand still.

Today's the day that some of us have been waiting all winter for: Baseball's back in Washington. Your Washington Nationals take on the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game at Nationals Park, and while we're sure that Nationals caps will be outnumbered by bandwagon-jumpers and no-really-I-went-to-college-in-Boston fans, it's a chance to sit outside and watch the Nats. The Bullpen -- the vast outdoor bar located across from the stadium's centerfield gate -- is back for a second season of live music, cold beers, grilled sausages and dozens of beanbag-toss games. Doors open at 2, and there's no cover charge to hear live music by Deren Blessman and Sean Chyun before and after the game.

After (hopefully) ending the game with a walk-off home run, All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is hosting an Opening Day Party at kstreet Lounge. The night starts with an open bar from 9 to 10 and features NCAA basketball on all the TVs. Once the West Virginia-Duke game ends, DJs spin '80s hits and mashups for the rest of the night. There's no cover if you RSVP on Facebook.

Meanwhile, in Adams Morgan, Town Tavern is welcoming the Nats by raffling off tickets, hats and other goodies all night (register at towntaverndc.com) and offering a slew of drink specials, including all-you-can-drink Miller Lite and rail drinks between 8 and 10, and $4 beers all night long.

It's rare that we'll recommend something up in Baltimore, but Saturday's DNA Test Fest is worth the trip up 95 to Sonar. Last year's event was a two-day soiree at the Velvet Lounge, but this year, even though it's just one day, it features more bands. The lineup is impressive. Most of the bands tend toward the intense side of the spectrum, so experiencing more than a dozen in one night will be exhausting, but in a good way. As at the Sonic Circuits event, lovers of sticky choruses might find themselves out of place. There are some pop bands on the bill, but they approach things from a more off-center base. Home Blitz could be called slapdash, but it's more just overexcited, pop-savant stuff cloaked in an appropriate level of distortion. Some might say Neon Blud uses an inappropriate level of distortion, but the trio cooks up a wildly appealing garage-pop/sludge-rock combo. Lamps has a similarly overdriven take on pop, but you can hear the hooks buried in there if you listen hard enough. That's really just the beginning -- avant-noise trio Sightings, noise-rock monsters Pissed Jeans, indie brats Psychedelic Horse[expletive], garage-rock rippers Birds of Maya and many more will make your ears hurt so good.

Tuesday, April 6 30
It's been a long time -- a really long time -- coming, but the debut EP from local trio True Womanhood is finally ready for release. The six-song EP certainly sounds like a labor-intensive piece of work. Every crescendo, every layer of sound, every clanging bit of percussion comes in right on cue to create an indie-rock sound that's surprisingly symphonic for a band that employs the standard guitar/bass/drum setup. (Some of those drums are very non-standard timpanis, however.) It sets a high expectation for the live show, but the young trio comes ready to fulfill that promise. Tonight's album-release show also features Hume, who put on one of the most impressive local performances of the year so far back in February. Hot Lava rounds out the bill at the Black Cat.

-- Fritz Hahn and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | March 30, 2010; 5:11 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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