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Posted at 5:44 PM ET, 12/14/2010

Nightlife Agenda: Holiday happy hours and Bell Biv Devoe

By Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz

After performing at the Verizon Center on Friday night, Usher's hosting an after-party with an open bar at Ibiza. (Rosie Greenway/Getty Images)

Holiday season means two things: Events celebrating Christmas with spiked eggnog and ugly sweaters, and happy hours encouraging you to give a little something to help others at this time of year. You'll find plenty of both in this week's column, along with an appearance by New Jack Swing legends Bell Biv Devoe; a parade of art cars; live music and dance lessons at a festive Brazilian holiday party; chances to try rare seasonal beers at Rustico's Festivus gatherings; and the 17th anniversary of the famed '80s Dance Party, which has now run seven years longer than the decade it celebrates.

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

Wednesday, Dec. 15

Okay, so Rustico's annual Festivus party isn't the Seinfeldian tribute some people are hoping for: The only airing of grievances will come after consuming too many extra-strong Beligan holiday ales, and any attempted feats of strength may result in bouncers escorting you out. But no matter. This holiday tradition, now in its fourth year, is a chance to sample some excellent seasonal beers at the two Rustico Restaurants. Both are serving Troeg's Mad Elf, a potent brew from Pennsylvania, but the draft lineups diverge after that: Alexandria has Bell's Christmas Ale and two Belgian winners, La Rullés Cuvée Meilleurs Voeux and Dupont's Avec Les Bon Voeux. The recently opened Ballston branch is serving the notorious Delirium Noel, Schlafly Christmas Ale and the lovely German Einbecker Winter-Bock. As a holiday gift to customers, every purchase includes a free glass with the specific brewery's logo on it while supplies last. Stocking your cabinets with Delirium glasses? It's a Festivus miracle!

At this time of year, it's nice to use your happy hour as a way to help others. One of our favorite local charities is Project Create, which brings arts classes in the arts to homeless and at-risk children -- everything from photography to hip-hop dance. Tonight, Project Create is teaming up with Vinoteca, which offers one of U Street's best happy hours. The usual deal is 20 different wines by the glass for $5 each and a selection of discounted appetizers, but with a $10 donation to Project Create, the specials run until 9 p.m. And if your forthcoming New Year resolutions include working in the community, you can find out how to get involved with the organization.

Speaking of fundraising happy hours, you may want to swing by Hudson for Martinis and Mistletoe, a fundraiser for Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care Inc., a D.C. nonprofit that helps children and infants with HIV and AIDS. A $10 donation at the door is good for free hors d'oeuvres and happy hour cocktail prices from 6 to 10, plus dancing to The Joker's Wild, a quintet that channels the sounds of the Rat Pack and Louis Prima.

Philadelphia duo Reading Rainbow doesn't have too many tricks up its collective sleeve but it sure does a good job with its limited range. The songs on its debut album, "Prism Eyes," are trudging, fuzzy nuggets of indie pop that feature the dual off-kilter, off-key singing of guitarist Rob Garcia and drummer Sarah Everton. Put their strained coos together, though, and it creates sweet slacker harmony. Another promising duo, Brooklyn's Coasting, also plays the free show at Comet Ping Pong.

ReadySetDC pulls from the cutting edge D.C. creative types that populate its blog to celebrate the site's relaunch at District. For The Love of DC 2.0 features art from No Kings Collective and Fatback dropping classic dance jams on the wheels. Ticket proceeds benefit the Dreams For Kids' Holiday For Hope program that provides Christmas for many local kids in transitional homes and shelters.

Thursday, Dec. 16
At Comet on Thursday night, five bands will churn out short, fast and loud songs that should inspire enough trashing about to keep bodies warm in these bitterly cold days. The headliners are Brooklyn's Ex-Humans, a trio that plays a no-nonsense brand of punk, equal strong on the heavy and the hooks. The same can be said of locals the Shirks, who earlier this year released one of 2010's best singles, local or otherwise. Foster Care, Hollywood and the Furries make it a packed evening.

In the battle for Worst Indie Band Name, 2010 is like the year when "Forrest Gump," "Pulp Fiction" and "Shawshank Redemption" were all up for Best Picture Oscar. It's a stacked field, and a quick look through Nightlife Agenda's archives will confirm that. The winner has to be Detroit's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. It's a worthy champ not just for the ridiculous moniker, but because the duo's sound neatly ties together many musical threads of 2010: low-key pop with a focus on beats. Catch them at the Red Palace.

Talk about absurd: The '80s Dance Party has now lasted seven years longer than the decade it honors. It's formulaic, but it works: If you want to dance to Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, the Go-Gos, Prince and other totally awesome musical icons while watching videos and movie and TV clips, DJs London Shadows and the Angel welcome you with open arms, every Thursday night at Chief Ike's. There's no cover.

There are two responses to the madness of the holiday season: Bury your head and pretend it's not happening, or embrace it in all its candy-caned, tinseled, tacky glory. Rams Head Tavern is taking the latter path: the Xmas Xtravaganza happy hour, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m., will give out prizes for the tackiest homemade Christmas tree ornament, the "best" Christmas socks and the ugliest holiday sweater. (The rewards aren't too shabby, either: prizes include four tickets for any show at Rams Head Live through the end of February.) Bring your ornament to hang on the bar's tree, and watch "A Christmas Story" on repeat while sipping $2.50 eggnog and cider cocktails and listening to seasonal tunes. That should make spirits bright.

Even with his long established rep as a purveyor of the choicest vinyl bits, DJ Neville C. makes his jams extra special when he pulls out his rare analog plates full of Brazilian goodness. Another episode of Brazilian Rhythms goes down at Saint-Ex featuring samba, tropicalia, bossa, baile funk and more on original LPs.

Friday, Dec. 17
It's been a good week for Mr. Usher Raymond IV, with two Grammy nominations and MTV dubbing "OMG" the top song of 2010. He's riding into Verizon Center on Friday night with Trey Songz, and then heading over to Ibiza for the Remy Martin-sponsored afterparty. It's the usual Friday night affair, with EZ Street and DJ Quicksilva of WKYS hosting a live broadcast for the radio station. The big difference: Usher will be IN THE BUILDING!, as the DJs say, though don't expect a full live performance. Admission is $40 in advance -- $60 for cut-the-line VIP passes -- though that does include an open bar from 8 to 9.

In the tradition of artists like Run DMC, Kurtis Blow and Dana Dana, Washington's Low Budget Crew crafted its own collection of Christmas tunes. You get Kev Brown crooning in his capable and comical baritone and Roddy Rod, Kaimbr and yU chopping Christmas-themed samples into neck-snapping beats. Roddy Rod joins Lounge of Three mainstay Nick tha 1da on the wheels for a Low Budget Christmas party for beats, rhymes, good cheer and charity. The crew will be collecting gently used coats for distribution to local shelters.

BYGays, the gay-events offshoot of Brightest Young Things, is celebrating its first anniversary with a happy hour DJ party at U Street Music Hall. DJs include Bradley (of Wonderland's monthly Pink Sock), Shea Van Horn (Mixtape) and vAnniety Kills (Happy Hour ShenAnniegans), all without a cover from 5 to 10. Look out for Smirnoff drink specials, too.

King Britt can go deep into the recesses of soul, he can bang big room rave anthems with the best of them and also veer into avant-garde selections that open audiences to new vibrations. A pairing with Sam Burns for Red Fridays at U Street Music Hall means that he'll be pulling from his significant deep house background.

Saturday, Dec. 18
Get a sample of Brazilian holiday celebrations at "For All a Good Night," a Brazilian-style Christmas party hosted at Level X, the lounge above Ninth Street's Axum restaurant. The night includes lessons in forro, a traditional Brazilian dance, and live music performed by the Borimbora and Coisa Boa! bands. Doors open at 8, and there's a free buffet and drink specials until 10. An extra reason not to be late: Borimbora's set runs from 8 to 9, followed by the hour-long dance lesson. Admission is $10 per person, or $15 for a couple. (Note that the forro is a partner dance.)

Ever want to cover your car in Christmas lights and a glowing Rudolph-style nose and drive it through the streets of Georgetown? Think it would be cool to have a snowman on your minivan's roof? Let your dreams become reality this weekend as Flying Dog Beer hosts the first Christmas Lights Art Cars Parade from Jack's Boathouse to Comet Ping Pong. (Flying Dog's customized Winnebago will actually be leading the line.) The night starts with tailgating at Jack's at 7 (please bring a designated driver) and the procession down K Street to Rock Creek Parkway begins at 8. There will be a pit stop at Politics and Prose for a dramatic reading of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (with free Flying Dog beer for all attendees) before continuing down the block to Comet for live retro rock by Boston's Sidewalk Driver and disco-tinged R&B by D.C.'s own Sherell Rowe. It's all free, and there will be prizes for the best cars. If nothing else, it sounds like it should be a blast to watch.

Sunday, Dec. 19
When Johnny Gill replaced Bobby Brown in New Edition, the group lost a bad boy element and evolved to a more mature sound. And when Ricky Bell, Ronnie Devoe and Michael Bivins left New Edition to launch their eponymous spin-off group Bell Biv Devoe, they had their own agenda. The trio embraced the hip-hop aesthetic of the early '90s, setting an early standard for mixing rap and R&B when the new jack swing era was just beginning to push that trend. BBD made R&B that hip-hop heads could dance to, as well as smoldering slow jams for the ladies, all delivered with a rougher edge. Only two of their four albums yielded hits, and one of them was a remix version of their debut. But 20 years later, the power in hit singles "Poison", "Do Me!" and "When Will I See You Smile Again?" hasn't waned, and fans still go delirious when the trio goes out on tour. They're visiting Liv tonight.

An Ugly Holiday Sweater Party is hijacking EatBar's weekly movie night for a screening of "A Christmas Story," which comes with free gourmet popcorn and candy canes. At the bar, you can buy spiked Peppermint Pattie cocoa and cider made with apple-infused bourbon. But here's the best part: The person wearing the ugliest holiday sweater takes home a replica of the "Fra-gee-lay" leg lamp from "A Christmas Story." Tell me you wouldn't love one of those in your living room.

Monday, Dec. 20
At some point during the holiday season, you're going to find yourself around a dinner table or in a living room with friends and relatives telling tales about past celebrations -- maybe the time your Uncle Tony accidentally gave everyone the wrong presents or the knee-slapper about the time the dog ran off with the Christmas turkey. We're guessing the material at Speakeasy D.C.'s forthcoming "My So-Called Jewish Life" night at Sixth and I will be a leetle more entertaining, with true-to-life contributions from "Dear Prudence" advice columnist Emily Yoffe, "This American Life" founding producer and NPR science reporter Alix Spiegal, national security reporter Spencer Ackerman and four others. Tickets are $12, and advance purchase is recommended.

Tuesday, Dec. 21
Wale's rhymes, output and consistent acclaim continue even as commercial success dances in and out of his reach. Heavy touring has seasoned his live show, and when backed by go-go band UCB, he gets firmly in the pocket and rocks it. The slick rhymer will have a lot of material to pull from when he plays the 9:30 Club, as well as some celebrating to mark his recent signing to Rick Ross' imprint.

Those who've followed the underground soul movement over the last decade probably don't want you to know that Angela Johnson will be playing the cozy confines of Next Door. You'll need to get your seat early to catch such a major talent in such a small, intimate venue. If you're not familiar with Johnson's work, there's no better way to get introduced than to experience this marvelous singer in the spatial equivalent of your living room.

By Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz  | December 14, 2010; 5:44 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events, Holiday, Music  
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