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Posted at 4:53 PM ET, 09/21/2010

Nightlife Agenda

By Fritz Hahn

Will Eastman's Bliss Dance Party has grown more than tenfold over the last decade. He and DJ Brian Billion celebrate the party's 10th anniversary at U Street Music Hall on Saturday. (Carleton Hall)

Among this week's picks: Thievery Corporation plays an intimate show, Bollywood and retro dance parties raise money for charity, the Bliss Dance Party celebrates 10 years of booty shaking, Ponytail's guitarist strikes out on his own, ballerinas and ballet fans gather for happy hour (with free food) at the W Hotel, Sonic Circuits brings experimental music to D.C. and house guru Rich Medina gets the dance floor grooving at Eighteenth Street Lounge.

Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Monday | Tuesday

Thursday, Sept. 23
Caribou was just in town back in May, playing a sold-out show at Rock & Roll Hotel. So Thursday's show at the Black Cat is a quick return. But there's definitely some incentive for fans to see the band again, beyond the fact that their kaleidoscopic electro-pop concoctions are always worth hearing. That's because the band will have with it a tour-only double LP of a live show from last year's All Tomorrow's Parties festival when Caribou became the Caribou Vibration Ensemble, a 15-piece band with a five piece horn section, four drummers and Sun Ra arkestra band leader Marshall Allen.

We're not experts on ballet, but we know that the Washington Ballet's Jete Society throws a great party. From the "Beer and Ballet" events that mix an open rehearsal with an open-bar social to the annual Dance Party at a local embassy, the young members group manages to be both classy and fun. This season's first happy hour should be no exception: The group is taking over the patio at the W Hotel's J&G Steakhouse for free food, $5 beers and $10 glasses of wine and sparkling cocktails. You don't have to be a member to attend, and a portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Washington School of Ballet's scholarship fund.

Phasefest, the annual queer music festival hosted by Phase One, the country's oldest lesbian bar, returns for three days of music on Barracks Row. The opening night is a performance by local fixtures Wicked Jezebel, who cover everything from '60s hits to '80s singalongs. Casual fans, though, will be most excited about Saturday night's headliners Men, a group fronted by JD Samson of Le Tigre. Men retains Le Tigre's knack for catchy electro-disco tracks that pull listeners onto the dance floor. (Always a plus at the Phase.) Tickets are $10 for Thursday (at the door only), $15 for Friday and $20 on Saturday, though an all-access festival pass costs $40 and comes with a PhaseFest poster. Check out the full lineup on the Phasefest Web site.

The band Ponytail was at the forefront of the Baltimore music scene when the city became a hot spot for all things arty, punky, spastic and underground. Mollie Siegel's banshee vocals were the first thing you noticed, but the band's musical calling card was the sharp, inventive guitar interplay of Ken Seeno and Dustin Wong. The band broke up over the summer, but Wong already has his first solo album, "Infinite Love," and it's a logical, experimental continuation of his work with Ponytail. Using just his guitar and loop pedals, he creates instrumental excursions that are both technically impressive and mind-bendingly psychedelic. He performs at the Velvet Lounge inbetween Rous and headliners Diver.

Adams Morgan has many, uh, delights on weekends. Not among them: cover bands. That changes tonight with White Ford Bronco, a group with an all-'90s repertoire, who takes the stage at Town Tavern. Even if you groan about the idea of a '90s cover band, you'll find yourself singing along. (The $2 tallboys and $3 rail drinks might have something to do with that.) There's no cover, and the show starts at 9.

Friday, Sept. 24
There's no such thing as a good "starter show" during the Sonic Circuits Festival. The annual celebration of experimental music has nothing resembling accessible fare - it is all some degree of noisy, droney, improvised, often all three. That promises to be the case when Merzbow and Richard Pinhas team up Friday at La Maison Francaise, but this time you will be in the presence of two titans of experimental music. Japan's Merzbow (aka Masami Akita) has released hundreds and hundreds of recordings over the past 30 years, a truly prolific artist who keeps finding new ways of manipulating noise. French guitarist Pinhas has been active even longer, dating back to the mid-'70s. When the two team up it might not be the easiest listening, but that's kind of exactly the point.

If you haven't made it out to the Sweet Spot -- the cozy, industrial-modern dance club founded by Palash Ahmed of local DJ hotshots Saeed and Palash -- then this could be your night to head to 19th Street and check out the upscale version of U Street Music Hall. DJs Adrian Loving and Prab Kumar are teaming up for a night of house, rare grooves and Latin beats, with the bonus of an open bar from 10 to 11. Doors open at 9:30; the party goes until 3.

Saturday, Sept. 25
Ten years ago, DJ Will Eastman started a monthly dance night called Bliss at the long-gone Metro Cafe on 14th Street NW. He spun Britpop classics, indie rock that Anglophiles adored and a smattering of new wave classics. There was no way of knowing that a decade later, Eastman would have maintained an 8 1/2-year residency at the Black Cat, packed the 9:30 Club a dozen times with guest DJs and, most importantly, opened U Street Music Hall, where Bliss continues to pack the house every time. The playlist has evolved -- there's way more house and electro these days -- but Eastman says he'll be playing all his favorite dance tunes from the past decade at the Bliss 10-year anniversary party. DJ Brian Billion -- Bliss's most frequent guest and one of Eastman's partners at U Hall -- opens.

Parties dedicated to the sounds of the '80s and '90s used to be novel, but now the idea has become so commonplace that an "old school" party needs a special hook to set it apart. (Honestly, how hard is it to find a DJ who has both Madonna and Bell Biv Devoe on a playlist?) That's why we're excited about "Back to the Old School," a fundraiser for the Reading Connection held at Darlington House's private second-floor lounge. (That the local charity reads to children in shelters and provides books to at-risk families is icing on the cake.) Beyond the usual drink specials, leg-warmers-requested dress code and spinning disco ball, "Back to the Old School" features dance instructor John Chu teaching the moves from Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video to all comers between 9 and 9:30 p.m., followed by a dance-off. There's no set cover charge, but organizers ask for a donation of at least $5.

Fans of Bollywood films and music are going to love the Singing and Dancing With the Stars fundraiser. It starts with Bollywood karaoke from 8:30 to 11 p.m., so you can sing along with all your favorite Indian film hits. Then DJ Ali Ji spins Bollywood dance tunes until 2 a.m. Comedian Paul Singh -- a performer at the Gurus of Comedy -- is the special MC. Tickets, which include appetizers from the Indian Experience restaurant until 11, are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. A portion of proceeds go to SOS Children's Villages in India, which provides homes for orphaned and abandoned children.

When D.C. hip-hop band Opus Akoben were destroying mikes in the '90s and early aughts, the frontmen also cultivated side activities that fed their more esoteric interests. Rapper and vocalist Kokayi's Dastardly and Caesarz projects eventually came to maturity as pop and rock albums. Kokayi's partner Sub-Z had Thaylo Bleu, a garage rock, free jazz outfit that was the polar opposite of his usual style of dense, precise lyrical barrages. The few recordings were limited to bootlegs and several tracks floating around on Myspace. Sub-Z's bringing Thaylo Bleu back at Velvet Lounge, paired up hip-hop boundary breakers Cornel West Theory.

Rich Medina is on the road so much that it's crazy how he sneaks into D.C. on a regular basis without much fanfare. But fanfare is not how Eighteenth Street Lounge gets down, and you have to just trust that they'll always have a world class jock in the booth without a promoter clubbing you with superlatives. In Rich's case, you're always guaranteed a funk odyssey from this master of records, who often travels with a hard case of prized 7-inch vinyl full of rare funk breakbeats. When not flexing his 45 RPM game, Rich will hit you with deep Afrobeat, house or hip-hop.

Nicki Minaj has been proclaimed the queen of the hip-hop world, but it's rarely asked why she's unopposed for the position. Then there's a whole creative universe of street artists who ask why discussions of hip-hop are still shorthanded to only the rap element. And within that underground world, dynamic female artists face an exclusive hip-hop boys club. that parallels the forces that allow only one woman to sit atop the mainstream rap heap. The independent film "All The Ladies Say," which is being screened at Busboys and Poets by Can a Sista Rock a Mic and Words, Beats & Life, follows the struggles of b-girls, or female hip-hop dancers, as they try to perfect their craft and build careers in a male-dominated art form.

Sunday, Sept. 26
So we've read some places that tickets for the Thievery Corporation DJ set at U Street Music Hall are sold out. That's literally half true. About half the $10 tickets for the 300-capacity space were snapped up in an online sale. The rest will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 9 p.m. Expect lines, so arrive early if you really want to get in to see D.C.'s reggae/electronic/dub legends in a far more intimate room than usual. Djs Christine Moritz and Meistro open.

DJ Jacques Renault isn't a household name, but the D.C. native has a nice little career going: Mixes for the trailblazing DFA and RCRD LBL imprints, including this sweet little DFA mix from last year, gigs with the likes of Holy Ghost!, Morgan Geist and DJ Spun, and appearances at London's Fabric and New York's Santos' Party House. His signature sound is a smooth and sexy mix of disco and soulful house, easy to dance to and perfect for setting the mood. Renault and fellow NYC jock Brennan Green are featured at the weekly Move Sundays on Eden's rooftop deck. With cooler weather around the corner, this sounds like a prime way to ease into fall.

Monday, Sept. 27
Wavves is another band that is no stranger to D.C. Monday will be the third time within the past year that the bratty indie rock group visits Rock & Roll Hotel and we can guarantee you what the main topic of conversation will be when frontman Nathan Williams talks to the crowd: Big Buck Hunter. Williams set the high score on the video game during his first visit and nearly a year later he remains champion. Back in June he offered his guitar as a prize to anyone who could beat his score. Nobody could do it. So if you're a Big Buck Hunter hotshot - or you just want to hear some thrashy, distorted, carefree anti-anthems such as "King of the Beach" or "No Hope Kids" - H Street is calling. Christmas Island and Laughing Man open.

Tuesday, Sept. 28
With the rapid turnover of millenial "it" rappers, it's hard to figure out who will last longer than the latest fads. Wiz Khalifa, Kid Cudi and B.o.B. may be more established than all the blog and YouTube kids nipping at their heels, but those microwave music masses are the ones driving the churn in rap tastes. Enter Pac Div, whom one might have forgotten about because they don't release a new mixtape every week. Much like Little Brother before them, this trio gained the attention of hip-hop vets by not simply aping their work in hollow old school homage, but building on classic styles to create something new and relevant. After three well-received mixtapes and one EP over four years, the SoCal boys are gearing up for their official label backed album release next month, and they'll be at Liv with a gang of D.C. hip-hop talents to prep heads for it.

-- Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

By Fritz Hahn  | September 21, 2010; 4:53 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Music  
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