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Posted at 4:09 PM ET, 04/13/2010

Nightlife Agenda: Titus Andronicus, Black Tambourine, 88-Keys

By Fritz Hahn

Titus Andronicus -- a band David says is among the early contenders for 2010's album of the year -- performs at St. Stephen's Church on Friday night. (Bao Nguyen)

One of the most rocking weeks in recent memory features album-of-the-year contenders Titus Andronicus, the crushing noise of Pissed Jeans, tuneful pop from Title Tracks, and the debut of a new album by local Americana group Shortstack. But don't overlook salsa star Oscar D'Leon's intimate show at the Salsa Room, an '80s-themed prom and a party celebrating influential 1990s indie-pop band Black Tambourine.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Monday | Tuesday

Wednesday, April 14
When Roots drummer/Twitter celebrity Questlove went to see Dirty Projectors in New York a few months ago he was captivated by opening act Tune-Yards. "this is some of the GREATEST ish I've seen in a minute!!!!" he tweeted. Tune-Yards is the one-woman production of Merrill Garbus, and her debut album, "Bird-Brains" is a vibrant, genre-hopping affair highlighted by her elastic voice and curiously catchy songs. How she recreates those songs in a live setting should be something to behold; you can expect her to use mostly a ukulele and some looping pedals to make everything come bursting to life. Tune-Yards plays after New York's mellow, experimental pop quintet Twin Sister and before perennial weirdos Xiu Xiu at DC9.

The last time Liars came to D.C. it wasn't under ideal conditions. An ice storm the night of their February 2008 show at 9:30 club kept patrons away and frontman Angus Andrew was confined to a chair with a bad back. Even so, he still was able to show off some impressive shimmying. (In David's review of the show he called a few of those moves "the Bar Stool Twist; the I Just Washed My Hands and There Are No Paper Towels in This Restroom; the Ouch! My Back!; and Andrew's old reliable, the Weird Australian Dude With Limited Control of His Central Nervous System.") He's in better health for this visit and with "Sisterworld" his band has created another fine album of murky, sinister, often chaotic rock-and-roll. Everything is ratcheted up a notch when performed live, so be ready for an intense evening at Rock and Roll Hotel.

Thursday, April 15
It's Tax Day. Hopefully you filed your 1040s already. (If not, join the club.) Our colleague Alex Baldinger has already listed a few bars and restaurants that are offering to help your lightened bank accounts with discounted drinks and snacks, but here are a few more that came in after deadline.

All three Capitol City Brewing Company locations are offering pints of their "Core Four" -- kolsch, IPA, amber ale and porter -- for $2 each all day.

Rustico is selling its pizzas for $10.40 during happy hour, from 5 to 7, along with $1 off all beers.

Duffy's will slash the price of all draft beers in half -- from Guinness and Stella down to Miller Lite and Shock Top -- between 4 and 8, and sell rail drinks for $2.50. Fill up at a free appetizer buffet of chicken quesadillas, hot dogs, tater tots and fried pickles.

Record Store Day isn't until Saturday but Crooked Beat is getting a head start with a free in-store performance by Title Tracks. You've read plenty about the local quartet in this column and for good reason - their hard-edged power pop always hits the spot. It's well worth squeezing into the tiny Adams Morgan store to hear it. As an added bonus later in the week, frontman John Davis will be the guest DJ at Kicks at the Black Cat's backstage. It will give Davis a chance to get back to sharing some long-lost pop classics after his 1-2-3-4 More More More radio show was sadly taken away when Internet radio station WOXY went off the air last month.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves as there's plenty more to do on Thursday. From Crooked Beat head down to U Street where you've got an overwhelming array of options. It would be hard to pass up Mi Ami at the Velvet Lounge. The San Francisco trio features two former members of Black Eyes, who were neck-and-neck with Davis's old group, Q and Not U, for D.C.'s Best Live Band honors around 2002-2004. Mi Ami streamlines things just a tiny bit but it stays plenty chaotic. Daniel Martin-McCormick screams like a banshee, there's punk, funk, dub and electro madness all thrown into the mix and everything is played ferociously. Last year's show at the Velvet ended with the club as one sweaty mass of humanity. Local crew Future Times handles all the support - Steve Summers and Maxmillion Dunbar perform live upstairs while Beautiful Swimmers will be on the DJ decks downstairs bringing the cosmic disco delights.

Another band with local ties is Aloha, appearing at DC9. Drummer T.J. Lipple helps operate Silver Sonya studios in Arlington and has recorded countless local bands. Aloha has been together for more than a decade, weathering plenty of indie trends but staying true to its sneaky-catchy brand of pop, always understated but never undercooked. Pomegranates and Carol Bui round out the bill.

Owen Pallett at the Black Cat could serve as a nice followup to Tune-Yards the previous night. Pallett also uses looped beats and his voice as two of three elements to his unique sound, but violin is the third piece of the puzzle. His recent album "Heartland" is filled with modern-baroque symphonies that feature both dramatic string flourishes and textured electronics. He's on an Andrew Bird-like path to success so this may be your last chance to see him before he starts playing 9:30 club.

Idaho's Finn Riggins features a more traditional three-piece rock lineup of guitar, bass and drums. Like fellow Idahoans (Idahoites?) and past tourmates Built to Spill they like to paint big tapestries with their songs. But it never gets so atmospheric as to become boring; there are always enough twists and turns to keep listeners engaged. This show at Tabaq Bistro is a benefit for the Sunlight Foundation, a local nonprofit that advocates for transparency in government. So while $20 may seem steep for an indie rock show, it is deductible on your 2010 taxes (we pray your 2009 have been filed by now) and there's also an open bar.

There are more lesbian and gay sports organizations in this area than you might think -- water polo, rugby, crew, ice hockey, bowling, softball, racquetball, cycling ... almost too many to list here. But that's okay. You should head out to Town's new monthly Jock-A-Thon game night to meet and greet the teams in person, and see if there's one that's right for you. (Rock climbing? Diving? Touch football?) When you're not browsing, show off your skills at Twister, beer pong, Wii bowling, Rock Band or any of the other interactive games. There's no cover charge before 9 and $5 after; for an extra $5, you can get all the draft beer you want.

Friday, April 16
It takes some serious gumption to name your band after Shakespeare's bloodiest drama, but since "The Monitor" is an album loosely based on the country's bloodiest war, at least New Jersey's Titus Andronicus stays consistent. Even if you don't pick up on the sometimes-vague Civil War references, "The Monitor" has plenty to grab onto. And you really must grab, because frontman Patrick Stickles leads the group through breakneck pub rock/punk anthems that twist and turn, regularly zip past the five-minute mark and make you wish you had more than two fists to pump in the air. His vocals overflow with emotion as he screams and shouts every line as if it could be his last breath. As fiery as the songs sound on record, they really explode when played live. Friday's show at St. Stephen's Church is a benefit for Positive Force.

A couple weeks ago David gave a rare Baltimore recommendation with DNA Test Fest, suggesting a drive up I-95 for an evening featuring all varieties of noisy, slimy, sludgy rock. It was a fun time but late in the proceedings Pissed Jeans took the stage and after only a few minutes it was easy to realize that everyone else on the bill was simply a warmup act for the Pennsylvania group. This picture pretty much sums things up but if you need the video proof, here's some shot by All Our Noise. This show will not be for the faint of heart but the brave souls who trek to the Rock and Roll Hotel will be rewarded. Pissed Jeans shows are usually full-contact affairs, band and audience frequently slamming into each other. It makes sense, as the band's songs operate as bulldozers, crushing everything in sight. The timing should allow you to catch both Titus Andronicus and Pissed Jeans and still have time to head over to Marx Cafe for...

In indie-music circles, Black Tambourine is the most influential D.C.-area band that you've never heard of, let alone seen live. Between 1989 and 1991, the indie-pop quartet released exactly two seven-inch singles, had three tracks featured on various compilations and played just a handful of shows. But the band's signature sound - Pam Berry's ethereal melodies floating over a crashing wall of overdriven guitars and feedback - is still cited by such groups as the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Vivian Girls and other acclaimed up-and-comers who were just kids when Black Tambourine was active. Black Tambourine's complete recordings were recently reissued by Slumberland Records, and the official release party is at Marx Cafe. Band members Archie Moore and Brian Nelson - who went on to find success in Velocity Girl after Black Tambourine's demise - will spin their favorite records alongside DJ Pinstriped Rebel. CDs, vinyl albums and other items will be given away throughout the evening.

After a decade of playing in and around D.C., Shortstack is ready to release its second CD of original music, "Please Leave My Mind." It's being billed as a huge step forward for the group, but if you loved the group's jangling, dense Americana on previous releases, you'll still find much to like on songs like "Breathe" and "Here's to Progress," both of which are featured on Shortstack's MySpace page, though they show a distinct lack of the twang and pedal steel found on "The History of Cut Nails in America." The new material has more melody, more drive, and hooks galore, though it's still rooted in bluesy rock. Check out the band's new sound at an album release party at the Black Cat, along with Suns of Guns and Birds of Avalon.

Saturday, April 17
What a weekend for St. Stephen's Church! Saturday offers another great reason to head to the place of worship. (We're sure they wouldn't mind seeing you there Sunday morning, too.) But Saturday is another rock show, an all-local bill that serves as a special Record Store Day show/Fort Reno Benefit. That's right, it's almost Fort Reno time, and as we're often reminded, just because the series is free that doesn't mean it's free to produce. The diverse bill features guitar ensemble Tone, singer-songwriters Olivia Mancini and Paul Michel and all-out rock trio New Rock Church of Fire. Hey band name/venue synergy! You get half off the $10 admission with a Record Store Day receipt.

Prom season is coming, no matter how old you are, or, in the case of the slew of '80s-themed proms that pop up around this time of year, how old you *wish* you were. (We've been to a couple of these events, and most of the crowd wasn't remembering their '80s prom nostalgically, because they would have been barely old enough to watch the Transformers after school.) That said, if you want the retro-cheese experience, That '80s Prom at BlackFinn delivers the goods: '80s cover band Hair Raid, VJs playing '80s videos on flat-screen TVs, staged Polaroid "prom photos," old-school candy to snack on, even vintage video games. The night starts with free Coors Light as you dig into packets of Fun Dip and Pop Rocks, then there are '80s outfit contests, Rubix Cube contests and the coronation of a king and queen. Tickets are $17.50 in advance, but that includes $2 beers and $3 vodka drinks all night. (Bring a group of five or more and you get one ticket free.)

With young rappers jumping from soul samples to club-kid to emo-rock hybrid rap (not that there's anything wrong with that), you can still find a few groups that stick to the basics: pounding beats, rugged flows and a DJ furiously cutting it up during the chorus. Since 1996, Jedi Mind Tricks's motto has been "raw beats, raw rhymes." If Sean Price, Kool G. Rap and Killah Priest speak to you, this is your kind of rap music. Also featured at the 9:30 Club is Mr. Lif, another hard-spitting veteran underground MC whose cerebral raps, social commentary and b-boy records overlap with Jedi Mind Tricks.

When DJs Will Eastman, Tittsworth and Nadastrom teamed up to take over the 9:30 Club last Fourth of July Eve, they drew a few hundred sweaty, raving fans to D.C.'s best live music venue. Since then, Nadastrom has toured the country, Tittsworth's played clubs in Asia and both he and Eastman made Fatboy Slim's top-cuts Weapons of Choice list on Beatport. (Not half-bad, eh?) Now that Tittsworth and Eastman own their own club, the U Street Music Hall is hosting the latest Blisspop Spring Extravaganza. Expect to find it harder to get in this time around, so early arrival is suggested. (Doors open at

Glen Echo's historic Spanish Ballroom may be most famous as a swing dance venue, but it's not just big bands that get bodies moving across the gorgeous hardwood floor. This weekend, for example, the excellent local salsa group Sin Miedo plays its electric Afro-Cuban rhythms from 9 to midnight, following an hour-long beginner salsa lesson. In between the band's sets, the Latin Motion Dance Company performs. All-inclusive tickets are $15.

School's almost out for the summer, and with it go the Wild North parties at the Warehouse Loft. A few hundred people have been coming out for these house-and-electro throwdowns, but since two of the DJs are GW students, this is going to be the last event until the fall. So join the Party Bros (Gavin Holland and Chris Burns) and Pacemaker (Sami Y and TJ) for a night of dancing in a low-key party-friendly atmosphere.

Sunday, April 18
Oscar D'Leon (listen) hails from Venezuela, but few singers channel the spirit of long-ago Cuban son singers as well as D'Leon, who is justifiably known as "El Sonero de Mundo" and "El Rey de Soneros" - the son singer of the world and the king of the son singers. His career spans 30 years and dozens of albums, but to see D'Leon live is to understand why he still remains popular: The band is tight, D'Leon dances across the stage as he sings, smiling the entire time, and the room is wrapped in a feeling of joy and exuberance. Given the scale of the concerts he commands around the world, it's amazing to be able to see D'Leon and his band in the intimate confines of the Salsa Room, a nightclub on Columbia Pike. (Previous shows at the venue have been sellouts.) Get your tickets now. We're willing to bet they'll be long gone by the time the doors open.

Last fall, singer Connie Campbell was about to take the stage at the Crossroads with reggae star Tarrus Riley when she suddenly collapsed. After she was rushed to the hospital, doctors determined she had suffered a brainstem stroke, leaving her unable to speak or make many movements, even though she hears everything going on around her. After a stay in intensive care and extensive therapy, Campbell's health insurance maxed out, and she and her family can't pay for the rehabilitation the 34-year-old needs. To help raise money, Riley is joining forces with superstar Shaggy, dancehall singer Coco Tea and others for a special concert at the Crossroads. Doors open at 4, and the music runs from 6 to 10. Proceeds from the all-ages show go to pay Campbell's medical bills.

Apples in Stereo have gone through plenty of stylistic changes over the course of their nearly two decade career but the one constant has been frontman Robert Schneider and his knack for crafting absurdly catchy songs. He's drifted from acid-damaged psychedelic pop to over-caffeinated cartoon pop (seriously, he wrote a song specifically for "The Powerpuff Girls" - remember them?) but "pop" has always been the central ingredient. The brand new "Travellers in Space and Time" adds retro-futuristic pop to the genre mix, with plenty of otherwordly bleeps added to the occasional disco beat to create another twist in the band's ever-changing sound. Generationals open at Rock and Roll Hotel.

Crafting beats for luminaries of the '90s underground hip-hop scene like Black Star and J-Live, 88-Keys was a hot property with liner-notes-reading hip-hop fanatics and music biz peers who admired his ability to morph samples into something completely new. With a helpful co-sign from Kanye West, 88-Keys branched out into singing and rapping and made a splash with his concept album "The Death of Adam." 88-Keys is currently on the Crowd Control Tour, along with Kidz In The Hall, a duo who bridge indie-rap and new-school beats, hot freshman Donnis and New South revivalist Izza Kizza.

Monday, April 19
Harlem has two albums to its credit. The first was called "Free Drugs," their new one is called "Hippies." So it's fair to say that the Austin, Tex., trio has a bit of a carefree attitude. That is evident in their songwriting, but in just the right amount. Their throwback garage rock songs are loose, limber, swinging and never lacking for a memorable chorus. Each of the 16 songs sounds like the great A-side of a killer 45 from some lost "Nuggets"-era band. Locals Tennis System and Foul Swoops open at DC9.

Tuesday, April 20
The last time DJ Nitekrawler was involved with an old school soul show in DC, Rhome furiously blew up the phones of the soul fans he knew with text messages describing all the awesome they were missing. If you weren't at the Eccentric Soul Revue, you've got another chance to go back in the time machine and experience that good rhythm and blues. U Street Music Hall is a serious dance club, but across the room from the DJ booth is a live stage that will be put to use with a 10-piece band. Washington's own Sir Joe Quarterman will share the stage with Kings Go Forth, the popular midwestern outfit blowing up from a series of 45s in the style that Quarterman was making four decades ago. This is the dirty pretty sound soul loyalists love from the days when you had four mikes, two tracks and no overdubs to record an entire band. Local hero Mingering Mike will host the evening. He's been tentatively embracing his renown as the folk artist whose imaginary record albums sparked a worldwide fascination with his self-taught work, and local soul collector and researcher Nitekrawler spins before and after the bands.

-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | April 13, 2010; 4:09 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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Love the writeup on Titus Andronicus ... but the frontman/rock god spells his name "Patrick Stickles."

Posted by: JerzPride | April 14, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The Oscar D'Leon concert at The Salsa Room is gonna be off the chain!

Posted by: onetwo12 | April 14, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

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