Among this week's many picks: Lady Gaga's tour DJ opens a new night at Ultrabar, a smarter-than-average trivia night moves to the pool at the Capitol Skyline hotel, the Donovan House Hotel unveils a tres chic new party, Eli "Paperboy" Reed and J Roddy Walston bring retro sounds to H Street, Trouble Funk celebrates the spirit of go-go and "Wedding Crashers" screens under the stars in Bethesda -- with $2 beers to sweeten the pot.
Wednesday, June 16
While we're still waiting for Screen on the Green to start up, there are numerous outdoor movie series going on around town. One downside to [most of] them: You can't drink while watching the film, and honestly, who wouldn't want a drink while watching "The Wedding Crashers?" Thankfully, The OnTap movie series, which rotates between various bars' outdoor areas, allows you to sip $2 Coronas and other drink specials at Caddies on Cordell while making bromance jokes about stage-five clingers and lower-back tattoos. The film and drink deals start at 8. If the weather's poor, the movie will be shown inside on the bar's flatscreens.
For young professionals who want more out of social events than same-old happy hours, the Smithsonian's Young Benefactors is one of the best programs in town. Yes, the Young Benefactors host meet-and-greets at bars, but members can also take advantage of private museum tours, concerts and galas, and there's plenty of socializing to be had. If you haven't made it out to an event, here's the perfect introduction: The Benefactors turn 21 with a party at the Embassy of Finland. The $45 tickets include cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, a tour of the new exhibition about architect Eero Saarinen, and birthday cupcakes. There will be no door sales, so RSVP on youngbenefactors.org as quickly as possible.
The Black Cat is double booked on Wednesday, a bit of a rarity on a weeknight. Upstairs is a sold-out show with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Surfer Blood, a pair of bands who play relatively cheery, glistening pop songs. If you missed out on tickets for that one there's a fine double-bill downstairs, although it will be more grimy than glistening on the backstage. Disappears and Woven Bones both play chugging, Velvet Underground-inspired tunes -- a bit sinister but nothing too dark. Chicago's Disappears throws a few psychedelic flourishes into its tunes; Austin's Woven Bones stick to the thumping rhythms, although melodic bits and pieces do fight through the murkiness once in a while.
Thursday, June 17
The District has fallen hard for the pool party. We've had parties with DJs, parties with live bands and cookouts with celebrity chefs. And this week, it's a pool party with trivia. This is the second year of Trivia Under the Stars, a poolside game sponsored by Sixth and the City, the young professionals group of the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Expect the usual mix of questions about geography, politics and pop culture, but be warned: There are rounds that take advantage of the location by requiring some team members to get in the Capitol Skyline's extra-large pool. (One more clue if you're wondering what to bone up on: There will be a "Name That Tune" round featuring hits of the past decade.) Each team should have five to seven people, and organizers will partner anyone who arrives solo or with one or two friends. Prizes include concert tickets and restaurant gift certificates. Doors will open about 6:15 p.m. and guests will have about an hour to swim or hit the buffet-style din ner for subs (meat or veggie) and chicken wings before the games get underway.
All credit to Glow for giving District clubgoers everything they could want. If your thing is the giant multi-room warehouse experience with laser lights, dancers on pedestals and a kajillion-watt sound system, there's Glow every Saturday at Fur. And if you like your dancing a little more upscale and intimate, the group brings top-shelf headliners to Lima, the downtown lounge and restaurant. This week, it's a rare chance to see English DJ Steve Lawler (listen), whose sexy blend of disco-tinged house has made him a hit at Space, a nightclub on the party island of Ibiza, and at the now-shuttered New York megaclub Twilo. Lawler has packed far bigger venues in the District, so we're recommending that even the people who say "Oh, I saw him at Nation" check this one out. It should be special.
Washington's summer weather can play havoc with outdoor happy hours. When Fritz tried to make it out to the new Treetop Thursdays atop the Bethesda Doubletree two weeks ago, he found the party disrupted by a passing storm. But once the rain and clouds had moved on, it was easy to see how much potential the place has. Comfy cushioned chairs and benches surround a large pool. Off to one side is a grill where a chef turns out free snacks that will change every week. (At the opening, it was tangy chicken skewers.) And there's a bar pouring rum runners, pina coladas and other tropical frozen drinks as well as cold beers. But we can see the draw being the views of Bethesda and the National Institutes of Health that you get from the 16th floor -- a wonderful panorama with a fantastic sunset. There's no cover charge, and the party runs from 6 to 9.
Hey, have you heard about the mighty power of the U Street Music Hall soundsystem? Unless you've been living under a rock the past few months, you certainly have. (And you'd probably feel the club's booming bass under said rock.) That system is mostly used for dance and electronic music so tonight it will be fun to see what one of the noisiest rock bands in the city can do with it. Screen Vinyl Image plays an alarmingly loud shoegaze-goth-electro-rock hybrid, and its best days may be ahead of it. The band's set at the Velvet Lounge last month opening for Spectrum featured a closing song that went beyond mere My Bloody Valentine homage to "Man, this sounds as good as stuff from 'Isn't Anything'!" level.
Policy's DJ-fueled Friday happy hours have been a popular draw, so it makes sense that the 14th Street lounge is trying to copy the vibe (and the deals) on Thursdays as well. The new Jumpoff features resident DJ Rex Riddem of the local funk/reggae group Nappy Riddem (listen) spinning party-friendly reggae, funk and hip-hop along with special guests. First up: Steve Raskin of Thunderball (listen), the Eighteenth Street Lounge artists that meld funk, Bollywood, hip-hop and reggae into smooth electro-fied soundtracks. Jumpoff runs from 9 until 2, with no cover and $3 Guinness and Red Stripe specials. That's hard not to like.
Friday, June 18
The best thing you could do to relaunch a club night? An appearance by Lady Gaga. But that's probably not going to happen. So what if you could get ... Lady Gaga's DJ? DJ VH1 -- apparently the names "DJ BET" and "DJ MTV2" were taken -- has served as Gaga's tour DJ and provided beats for her remixes. He's the special guest at Ultrabar as they launch/rebrand Friday's party as Pop, which still utilizes the "four DJs spinning four styles of music on four floors" format. Local star DJ Geometrix is still spinning mashups, hip-hop and Top 40 on the main floor, so it's all good. Get on the list for free admission from 9 to 11 and an open bar until 10, followed by a bunch of drink specials. ($6 Patron tequila shots and rum and Cokes, for starters.)
Maybe it really was better back then. Eli "Paperboy" Reed and J. Roddy Walston are a couple of guys who might seem to think so, taking their musical cues from the most classic of American sounds. Reed and his band, the True Loves, play brass-heavy, throwback soul that brings to mind Stax Records and James Brown, even though Reed looks like an accountant. His voice has plenty of authority, though - smooth and scratchy at all the right times - which help the songs feel genuine. J Roddy Walston and the Business reach back even further, to the days of Jerry Lee Lewis, playing rambunctious piano-driven, roadhouse-boogie rock. The band is a refreshing reminder that the piano can be used for actual rock and not just sappy balladry. This retro duo makes for a night of dancing at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
The go-go grooves were deep at U Street's Masonic Temple on May 14. It was a 50th birthday party for Big Tony Fisher, the vocalist and bassist who's been giving Trouble Funk its low end since the 1970s, and the building was packed with go-go luminaries, including Chuck Brown and Little Benny, who both took the stage to perform. Sadly, Benny passed away a few weeks later. You can bet he'll be honored this weekend during another throwback Trouble Funk show at the Masonic Temple, hosted by comedian (and D.C. native) Tommy Davidson and also featuring DaMixx band. Tickets are $25 in advance from Ben's Chili Bowl. Watch this YouTube preview -- hosted by WPGC DJ Dirty Rico -- for more info and video from the last party.
No one wants to be inside a stuffy club during the summer -- even DJs. That's why DJs Shea Van Horn and TMY are taking their monthly Francophile fest Maison from the stylish basement of Napoleon to the equally stylish surroundings of Donovan House's hyper-exclusive roof deck. Dance and lounge to French house, pop, electro and old-school chanson from 8 p.m. on without a cover charge or guest list on the third Friday of the month, begining this week. You know what that means: Get there early, mes amis. (Oh, and study up with the duo's past promo mixes.)
Digital Capital Week is showing that Washington's techie brain trust can apply as creative an approach to parties as they do to headier matters of Internet media. Wonder Emporium takes over a warehouse space with some of Washington's best underground talents, including retro party faves the Fatback DJs and down-tempo muse Yoko K. Crowd. Participation features prominently at this digi-carnival, with an on-site design contest and several interactive music and video attractions, most notably Moldover's Octomasher. As tools have rapidly proliferated to move DJing away from the CD and turntable model, Moldover has become the foremost pioneer in exploiting these new instruments. His Octomasher combines several customized digital grooveboxes into a jam machine that can be played by anyone with a taste for pushing buttons and tweaking sounds.
You love Little Miss Whiskey's, but sometimes its popularity on the weekends makes things a bit hectic. You might want to re-acquaint yourself with Jimmy Valentine's, the sister venue that preceded that H St. hot spot. Just like Little Miss Whiskey's, the decor, beer selection, expertise beyond the bar and thoughtfully booked DJ schedule are the main draws. Try out with the a dose of Swagger Dagger, courtesy of Nerdgasm, DJ Obeyah and Cam Jus. With moombahton and cumbia picking up where baile funk left off, there's a new energy in dance music that draws from hip-hop, electronica, Latin and tropical sounds. Swagger Dagger is where this collection of DJs explore these beats along with dubstep and Baltimore club.
Saturday, June 19
From their days working with DFA producers James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy to recording and playing live with LCD Soundsystem and the Juan McLean, Holy Ghost! have been on the path to indie-disco stardom. The Brooklyn duo's "Static on the Wire" is a perfect melenge of vintage soft-rock synths, poppy AM radio hooks, jittery guitars, and disco-era breaks. Fans of Phoenix and Chromeo are going to eat this up -- and, in fact, Holy Ghost! is about to set off on a U.S. tour with Chromeo. That tour stops at the 9:30 club next month, but hand on heart, we'd rather catch the Holy Ghost! boys and their dance floor-friendly songs at U Street Music Hall, where they'll be spinning with Austin's Bird Peterson, Chicago's Willy Joy and, representing the hometeam, Reed Rothchild and Deep Sang. Doors for the 18-and-over show open at 7 p.m., and the music stops eight hours later.
Earlier this year there was a great house show in D.C. that showed that the underground scene was alive and well. Two of the bands that played at there -- local prog-punk quartet Hume and Brooklyn noise mavens Dinowalrus -- are teaming up again, and again it's at a non-traditional venue. Based on the name you could probably guess that Everlasting Life (2928 Georgia Ave. NW) is an organic/vegan market. With each show Hume is somehow cementing its status as one of the city's most complex and tightest bands, playing songs that have endless stops, starts and swerves in impossibly precise manner. Another Brooklyn band, tribal-drum pounders Aa, rounds out the excellent bill.
Sunday, June 20
Internet-fueled hype -- and, really, the Internet-fueled doesn't even need to be used as a qualifier anymore -- doesn't mean imminent success. Wild Nothing has been the darling of all the right tastemaking Web sites for the past month and a few listens to the band's debut album "Gemini" and it's not hard to understand why. The relaxing strains of shoegaze and the influence of atmospheric '80s British rockers are heard throughout the group's mellow jams, but the band still finds itself spending a Sunday night as the opening act the 150-capacity DC9. Maybe the chill-out revival will fade in 2011 and this will be as good as it gets for Wild Nothing.
Damien Jurado has had almost the exact opposite type of career as Wild Nothing. The hulking singer-songwriter has been playing stark, often heartbreaking folk songs for almost 15 years, occasionally recruiting a full band but mostly keeping things stripped down. He's never made a bad album and has a couple of near-great ones to his credit but has remained just a cult favorite. Jurado has a bit of a Steve Earle quality to him -- he's an imposing presence on stage, creates characters who have serious problems and has a natural authority to his voice. He might not be the best act to go see on a first date, but if that's not the case, you could do a lot worse than checking him out at Iota.
If your father has a flair for the unconventional and you want to celebrate his day on the cheap, bring him to the Sunday Circus at The Fridge, as the $15 tickets are 2-for-1 for those with a dad in tow. Knock another $5 off if you "dress for the circus," which is a "you know it when you see it" proposition at this collection of eclectic, humorous and just plain weird performance art curated by magician David London. This final show for the season includes storytelling from Baba-C, the poetry and prose of Holly Bass, fire juggler Jeramie Bellmay and cabaret artist Maureen Andary.
Tuesday, June 22
Useless Eaters play a nihilistic, minimalist but ultimately charming brand of garage-punk. If that combination sounds very similar to that of the late Jay Reatard, it's no coincidence. Head Eater Seth Sutton, still just 20 years old, has followed almost the same career path as Reatard. He became a full-time touring musician in his early teens, playing in multiple bands, releasing records whenever possible and even serving a stint as Reatard's bassist on his final tour. Sutton has learned well, as Useless Eaters churn out songs with attitude and hooks to spare. Here's hoping Sutton's career is just as fruitful as his mentor's, but with a happier ending. Suns of Guns open at the Black Cat.
We all celebrated when Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale returned to the market in January after a long absence. And now the Tuppers' second beer, Tuppers' Keller Pils, has made it back. Formerly known as Tuppers' Hop Pocket Pils, this is a yeasty, herbal beer made in the German keller tradition. Just having these two beers would be enough for a party, but beer creators Bob and Ellie Tupper are also celebrating the debut of the cask-conditioned versions of both. So they're taking over Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda, and pouring not just those four beers, but adding an aged imperial (i.e. stronger and extra-hopped) version of their beer called Deep Pockets, which was brewed at the award-winning Devil's Backbone Brewing Company, a blended cask of porter and other rare beers. Throw in a dinner of chili from Hard Times, and you've got quite an evening on your hands. Tickets are only $45 -- $60 at the door -- and every cent of it goes to benefit programs run by the Samaritan Ministries to help get the area's homeless back on their feet. Tickets are on sale at www.tuppersbeers.com.
-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
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