A solid week of beer drinking includes events dedicated to brews from North Carolina and Southern California, plus a five-course guided dinner. Then there's hip-hop from the reunited Reflection Eternal and locals Diamond District and Tabi Bonney, Kentucky Derby parties, an appearance by microgenre-hopping Chicago rockers Light Pollution, a warm-weather sundress festival, an Iranian post-punk band, an extremely nostalgic '80s dance party and much, much more.
Wednesday, April 28
Man oh man. If you like beer, this is a week to look forward to.
Let's start off with Carolina Beer Week at the Black Squirrel, where you can sample beers from five North Carolina breweries that are not regularly distributed in D.C. Since we're not too well versed on the beers, we checked in with Cafe Saint-Ex/Bar Pilar owner Mike Benson, who also owns a restaurant and bar called Southern Rail in Carrboro, N.C., just outside Chapel Hill. He recommended beers from Chapel Hill's Carolina Brewing Company (especially the Pale Ale), the Bad Penny Brown Ale, the Belgian Blonde from Raleigh's Big Boss Brewing Company, and just about anything from Asheville's Highland Brewing Company; the Squirrel has Gaelic Ale, St. Therese Pale Ale and Kashmir IPA available. The Tar Heel State is also represented by Boone Brewing Company's Blowing Rock High Country Ale and a selection from Raleigh's Lonerider Brewing Company. And to go with all this Carolina beer ... Carolina barbecue (chicken, pulled pork or baby back ribs), served with hush puppies and slaw. All the beers are limited stock, so if you're dying to try them, get there ASAP.
The Kentucky Derby takes place at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, but you can get an early start on the celebrations with the Big Hunt's Beer, Bourbon and BBQ bash. The $50 ticket includes two Kentucky Derby-themed cocktails (including a Manhattan, mint julep or Kentucky Punch), special draft beers from Great Lakes, Lake Erie, Allagash and Founders (including the last's delicious bourbon barrel-aged Kentucky Breakfast Stout). To eat, there's a barbecue buffet with pulled pork sandwiches, bacon collard greens, cheese grits and bourbon pie. The party starts at 8, but you'd be smart to get your tickets in advance at the bar, starting at 4 p.m.
Tabi Bonney and Diamond District have been working in parallel worlds towards one goal, planting that D.C. flag on the broader hip-hop landscape. With the hip, club appeal of his records, his fashion design exploits and video directing, Bonney is on the radar of those looking for flash. The members of Diamond District have kept it more underground, with international tours on the strength of an album built around the classic sound of golden age East Coast boom-bap. Put the two acts together for the first hip-hop show at U Street Music Hall and all of your bases are covered.
It would be easy to throw a handful of micro-genre descriptors at the Light Pollution. But the whole point of assigning a band a micro-genre descriptor is that its aesthetic can be neatly crammed into a corner. Not so with this Chicago foursome. On its debut album, "Apparitions" (on local label Carpark Records), the band dabbles in plenty of sounds favored by today's buzziest bands but shows off a varied palette and rarely lands in one place for too long, instead dreamily drifting from floaty psychedelic numbers to sprightly, succinct pop numbers. "Oh, Ivory!" is all uplift, while "Ssslowdreamsss" basically sounds like its Ambien-inspired title. Catch them at the Black Cat.
Blast from the past: Eastern Standard Time. Wow. Back when ska was having its brief heyday in the late '90s this local group was a mainstay, but it was always jazzier than the punk-with-horns that often passed as ska. More than a decade later the musicians are still playing their good-vibe rocksteady-reggae tunes, and they sound as pleasant as ever. The opening act, Alma Tropicalia, should be interesting. The group consists of D.C. musicians with a love for the classic Brazilian '60s psychedelic sound pioneered by the likes of Os Mutantes and Caetano Veloso, fronted by Rio de Janeiro native Bebel Delgado. Wednesday's show at DC9 will be the band's first after two years of rehearsing.
Thursday, April 29
Is it possible to be nostalgic for a club that traded solely in nostalgia? That's the question surrounding Deja Vu: '80s Dance Party vs. Polly Esther's at Chief Ike's Mambo Room. It pairs retro DJs from the uber-cheesy Polly Esther's, a downtown nightspot that was the destination for bachelorette parties in the late '90s and early '00s, and the legendary '80s Dance Party, which soothed cravings for Duran Duran and INXS every Thursday at Adams Morgan's Heaven and Hell for 15 years. DJs KC and Neal "The Angel" Keller are bringing their collections of familiar favorites to Chief Ike's for a Madonna-and-MJ throwdown on the bar's spacious dance floor, with another DJ upstairs. Will it be cheesy? Probably. Will women squeal when Cyndi Lauper plays? Definitely. Retro movies and videos play on screens around the bar, and Day-Glo shirts and jelly shoes are optional.
One band not mentioned in J. Freedom du Lac's excellent oral history of the 9:30 club was X, L.A. punk pioneers who made many stops at the tiny F Street location of the nightclub back in the '80s. In fact, in a 1981 Washington Post review of their performance at the club Richard Harrington said, "X doesn't just mark the spot, it hits with almost excessive structural tension and exceedingly loud sonic excursions." Don't expect that to be exactly the case when John Doe and Exene Cervenka, the duo at the forefront of the band (as well as alt-country offshoot the Knitters) perform at Iota on Thursday. This promises to be a much looser - and quieter - affair that should draw on many different songbooks. Expect to hear tunes from many different songbooks - X, the Knitters, the solo albums of Doe and Cervenka, probably some covers. And a good deal of witty banter and classic stories from the pair that have plenty to choose from.
If you want to go out to a club and dance to something besides electronic music, hip-hop, retro or salsa, your choices can be limited. (We know this, because Got Plans? readers ask all the time.) But there are some bands and bars we're happy to recommend for offering something different. Tonight at Peachez Cafe and Lounge in Upper Marlboro, the Young Bucks take the stage with a mix of Motown sounds, blues and old-school R&B. The bar can be crowded -- you might wind up sharing a table with folks you haven't met yet -- but it's a good time.
Friday, April 30
Listen to skittery post-punk of Hypernova and you'll instantly be reminded of the revival of that sound that came around 2002 when Interpol was the next big thing. (Whatever happened to those guys anyway?) But Hypernova is far from just another group of New Yorkers late to the post-punk party. OK, OK, that's not totally true. They are Big Apple residents these days. But they originally hail from Iran - not exactly a hub for rock-and-roll. In fact, the style of music is pretty much banned in the country but the group honed its sound by playing secret underground shows. Just because of their relocation, don't think that Hypernova has forgotten about its home. On "Viva La Resistance," lead singer Raam declares: "I will not bow down to your God/This is not who I am/I will not give into your lies/This is not who I am." Don't need to read too much into that one. Fellow Iranian rockers The Yellowdogs - who also seem to have gotten their hands on some Gang of Four records somehow - open the early show at U Street Music Hall.
OM Records' first ladies Colette and DJ Heather make pretty music but they can also throw down. They just look flawless while doing it. Colette's ethereal voice has graced some of the best-selling modern dance music releases and commands attention to nuance where bombast often rules. DJ Heather's brand of house music can be subtle but she can also get Chicago on you real quick and smack you with some jackin' beats. The Party Bros. and DJ Meegs provide support for the OM duo at Layla Lounge.
DJs Kim and Sara of the Black Cat's rockin' Kicks night are bringing their record bags over to the new Dodge City bar. Check out the two-story space -- formerly home to the much-loved Kingpin and never-opened Homeslice pizza shop before a fire and neglect left the building vacant for years. Now the owners of the neighboring Velvet Lounge and longtime Black Cat bartenders Patrick and Angie have turned the building into a very cool no-frills hangout that's part lounge, part DJ bar and entirely cool. The music starts around 10, and like all events at Dodge City, there's no cover.
Meanwhile, over at the Black Cat, DJ Shea Van Horn of the popular gay indie-electro Mixtape night joins DJ Cale of the Brightest Young Things Posse for "Christmas in Heaven" on the backstage. (We know what you're thinking, but as the DJs point out, "it's always Christmas in Heaven.") There's no cover, and there will be lots of disco and hot-and-sweaty dancing.
Saturday, May 1
It's Kentucky Derby Day, and if you're wondering where to watch the Fastest Two Minutes in American Sports, we suggest the high-brow Bonnets and Bow-Ties viewing party at the Willard Hotel's Round Robin Bar, with hat contests and bow-tie contests and some of the finest mint juleps outside of Churchill Downs; the lower-brow Derby Day party at the Red Derby, which kicks off with $2 drinks at brunch from 11 to 3 and continues with $4 juleps until close; and the whiskey-soaked Derby parties at Bourbon, where the mint juleps are made with mint-infused bourbon and served in frosted metal cups, and you can sample a half-dozen new whiskeys from the cult Willett label.
There will always be a place for bands such as No Second Troy, groups that play old-fashioned rock songs built around a big chorus and heartfelt lyrics. The locals are celebrating the release of a new album, "Colors," that contains more of the melancholy rockers the quintet has been hammering out over its time together. As an added bonus there is the return of new wave rockers Soft Complex to open the bill. The band were semi-regulars in Nightlife Agenda back in 2006 or so but have been dormant for ages. And Saturday's show is their first since 2008. So come out to the Black Cat to see if they still can do dramatic, dancey, somewhat gloomy rock as well as they used to.
As the driving force behind New York's achingly hip Fixed events and Philadelphia's Making Time parties, Dave Pianka -- DJ Dave P -- has shared the booth with Simian Mobile Disco, Erol Alkan, Tiga, Boys Noize and a host of other big-name electronic dance music acts. And it's not because he's the kind of host who wants to spin his own records at his house party -- Dave P is a solid party-rocker who knows how to get (and keep) the crowd moving, which is no easy feat when you're following Erol. Fritz has made multiple bus and train trips up to Philly and Brooklyn for these parties, but tonight, there's no need: Dave P and co-hort JDH are bring their Fixed party to the U Street Music Hall, ably assisted by local DJ Stereofaith of the Black Cat's Sorted.
Karizma attacks the decks like a man possessed. While watching him spin, it would be easy to assume that he's lost in his own world and the audience has ceased to exist. Karizma's aggressive mixing techniques pump high energy into his house and club selections. With as much work as he does in the booth, it's impossible not to be infected with the same level of excitement on the dance floor. The cat's been out of the bag for a few years now so DC doesn't see him often in between his frequent jetsetting and production work. Karizma makes a rare DC appearance at Liv with Chris Burns in the warm-up seat.
Sunday, May 2
One sure sign that summer's on the horizon: It's time for the Wonderland Ballroom's annual Sundress Fest. Since 2005, the Columbia Heights bar has hosted an indoor/outdoor party, which features a pig roast on the patio, all-night happy hour pricing for anyone wearing a sundress and a Mr. and Ms. Sundress contest. (There's a $5 cover if you want to participate in that.) Note that this is the one day it's perfectly normal to see men in sundresses hanging out in the neighborhood; guys, if you need a dress, some thrift-shopped "loaners" will be available at the bar in exchange for a donation to Neighbors Consejo, a group that assists low-income Latino families.
Monday, May 3
Over the past two years, a Southern California brewery called the Bruery has garnered "one to watch" status among beer lovers, melding classic European styles - golden Belgian ales, tart German-style Berlinner Weisse, spicy, malty saisons - with American hops and clever twists. Mischief, a dry, peppery strong Belgian ale, sold out in bars around the area; at Galaxy Hut, owner Lary Hoffman went through 10 kegs before his distributors ran out. Mischief finally makes a return to Galaxy Hut as part of the Bruery Showcase, where it will be featured on tap along with several other brews: Hottenroth Berliner Weisse; the light, hoppy Saison du Lente spring seasonal; and Rugbrød, a dark brown ale made with rye malt. The latter will also be available in a cask-conditioned firkin. Brewery - er, Bruery - rep Jonas Nemura will be at the bar to answer questions about the beer. There's no cover charge, though individual glasses of beer will sell for $6 to $9.
It seems the era of iconic rap duos - especially ones built around an MC and a DJ/producer - is drawing to a close; Little Brother just dropped its final album and OutKast is still in the wind. But Reflection Eternal is bucking the trend and upholding a tradition molded by Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Gang Starr's Guru and Premier. Rapper Talib Kweli first flowed over DJ Hi-Tek's beats to craft the classic "Train of Thought" a decade ago. That record launched both on fruitful, yet divergent, solo paths, and it seemed that their initial collaboration would remain the stuff of fond memory - until a hot 2009 single heralded a new Reflection Eternal album. "Revolutions Per Minute" finds the two picking up where they left off but with additional confidence and polish. Hear the proof tonight at the Black Cat.
Tuesday, May 4
The beery week wraps up with a beer dinner hosted by City Paper Beerspotter Orr Shtuhl at Granville Moore's. Shtuhl tastes a lot of beers on his ventures around D.C., and he's picked six good ones to pair with five courses of Chef Teddy Folkman's cuisine. Think Jolly Pumpkin's funky, malty Bam Biere saison with duck terrine three ways, or Victory's Hop Devil ale with bison tartare. Admission is $65, which includes all food and drink; but not the gratuity.
Ike Reilly Assassination plays no-frills bar-band rock with smart, sordid lyrics focusing on the darker side of humanity. If you think the Hold Steady has gone soft lately (hint: they have) then this is the thinking man's band for you. Expect impassioned performances and more than a few moments of lyrical catharsis at Iota.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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