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Posted at 6:15 PM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Nightlife agenda: The Dance Party, Paul Collins, Optimo and Quentin Harris

By Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson

Scythian is for the children, at least on Sunday. (Paul Haring)

This week offers some rock contrasts on Friday night, a weekend's worth of strong shows at Comet Ping Pong, a special children's performance by Celtic rockers Scythian and great DJs at U Street Music Hall.

Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Tuesday

Wednesday, Jan. 5
Has it really been 20 years since "Twin Peaks" went off the air? Despite only spending two seasons on TV, the cult show about the hunt for Laura Palmer's murderer never really disappeared from the cultural landscape. The mysterious inhabitants of David Lynch's creepy small Washington town make yet another return tonight -- this time at the Rock and Roll Hotel, where "WTF Wednesdays" feature $3 drinks, half-price burgers and a pair of hour-long "Twin Peaks" episodes screened back-to-back. It all begins with the pilot and the second episode, "Northwest Passage," at 7:30. Doors open at 7.

Thursday, Jan. 6
The UK rave-bible Mixmag is running a competition to find the greatest DJ(s) of all time. Among those nominated last month: Glasgow-based DJ duo Optimo. Unfamiliar with them? JD Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes ran a weekly party called Optimo from 1997 to 2010. LCD Soundsystem, Richie Hawtin, Liquid Liquid, Hot Chip and Peaches were among the guests who took to the decks, and there were also performances by indie bands Franz Ferdinand, the Rapture and Voxtrot. The anything-goes playlist and good-time atmosphere travels along with Optimo DJs, who will be making their first appearance at U Street Music Hall with veteran scene-makers Dave P and JDH of the New York/Philly/D.C. Fixed parties, who surely must be racking up the Amtrak miles. Admission is $5 if you RSVP on U Street Music Hall's Facebook page.

In the interest of full disclosure, all three of your Nightlife Agenda authors are University of Maryland alumni. And with the ACC basketball season about to start, it seemed like a good time to remind everyone that men's basketball coach Gary Williams hosts a twice-weekly radio show (heard locally on ESPN 980-AM) that broadcasts live from local bars. Tonight, the Gary Williams Radio Show will be at Caddies in Bethesda at 7 p.m. Get there early for happy hour specials, including $1 domestic drafts and $5 domestic pitchers, and stick around to ask Gary how the Terps will fare against unanimously-ranked-number-one Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday. (Actually, maybe it's better if you don't ask.)

Friday, Jan. 7
It will be a study in contrasts as quasi-local bands take to two of the city's biggest stages Friday night. Over at the 9:30 Club, D.C.-turned-L.A. party rockers the Dance Party will do their best to re-create the excess of the '80s, complete with equally heavy doses of drinking and keyboards as they take the stage in support of their major label debut album, "Touch." It's truth in advertising when it comes to the band's name: The floor will be packed with sweaty, moving bodies. Expect a more low-key affair a few blocks away at the Black Cat when Olivia Mancini, another former local, takes the stage to play her agreeable and bouncy indie-pop. Charlottesville's Birdlips opens and marks the release of its new album, "One Tongue," a collection of warm and pastoral folk songs.

It's another fine weekend of rock-and-roll at Comet Ping Pong, with two shows well worth checking out. On Friday, power-pop royalty Paul Collins makes his third return to the area in less than five months, but anybody who caught his first two gigs won't complain. The 56-year-old still has boundless energy onstage, and his performances often elicit a major "Oh yeah!" factor. As in, "Oh yeah, that song, I remember that one from back in the day, and it still sounds awesome!" He leads his backing band through an unrelenting attack of three-minute gems delivered with an equally infectious enthusiasm. The next night, local genre-benders Noon:30 bring their party-friendly sound to the same venue. Too bad you can't just sleep over.

Quentin Harris makes house music that will beat you into submission with driving force and lift you up with emotional beauty. His sophisticated original productions have layered arrangements and the songwriting pumps the dance floor with energy. As a selector, his style makes you jack your body in classic house fashion. Harris hasn't been to D.C. since the Trinidad and Tobago association deep house parties so his first spin on U Street Music Hall's sound system might already be in the books as one of 2011's best nights at Red Fridays.

Saturday, Jan. 8
Jan. 6 is the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, a religious holiday that's celebrated in Mexico and many Latin American countries. The Latin VIP group, which hosts lively parties and cultural events for young Hispanic professionals, is throwing its own Three Kings Day Celebration at Lupe Cantina. There will be DJs and dancing -- guests are invited to bring small instruments to play along -- plus drink specials, including $3 shooters and $4 beers, and food until midnight.

Before their magical Kicks party appeared at the Black Cat in all its David Bowie-to-the-Ramones-to-Jesus and Mary Chain'd glory, DJs Kim and Sara hosted a night called Pow Wow at the now-closed Felix and Spy Lounge. Pow Wow was a little more eclectic -- more girl groups and pop songs in addition to post-punk and glam rock, we think. We suppose we'll find out this Saturday, when Pow Wow takes over DC9 from, 9 p.m. to close. There's no cover, so you have nothing to lose.

See Noon:30 on Friday.

Sunday, Jan. 9
Fans of Irish music should be well acquainted with Scythian, classically trained musicians who have graduated from engaging, audience-participation-required pub gigs at Fado to headlining national festivals and the 9:30 Club. For their next project, though, singers (and siblings) Dan and Alex Fedoryka are trading in the rebel songs and crowd-pleasing drinking games for tunes about stealing cookies before dinner and chasing bunnies around the backyard. They're joined by sisters Larissa and Melanie in a group called Cake for Dinner, which makes Irish- and Ukrainian-inspired folk music for the kiddie set, including the Fedorykas' 25 nieces and nephews. Cake for Dinner's debut CD further demonstrates the brothers' keen ability to write rousing choruses and singalong melodies, but this time they've used it to give kids something to hum while they clean their rooms ("Cleaning Hullabaloo") or to sing around the campfire ("Flea"). Cake for Dinner headlines the free Target Family Night at the Millennium Stage on Sunday, and the 6 p.m. performance will feature the other members of Scythian. If you've been looking for some fantastic new music for the little ones, then this is the place to be, even if the adults can't have a Guinness.

The hottest new sounds in dance clubs are Caribbean and South American musical forms warped through the lenses of electronic music producers. Our own D.C.-born moombahton should be familiar by now, but there's also cumbia, Dutch house and long-established dancehall and reggaeton. Cam Jus and Billy the Gent throw down these tropical tracks all night at Tropixxx at Velvet Lounge.

Tuesday, Jan. 11
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is the unwieldy name of the latest band from Sean Lennon. Lennon has drifted between bands and an on-and-off solo career, but he seems to have found a new comfort zone with GOASTT. Here he teams with girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl for pretty, delicate acoustic songs with lyrics that aren't always so sweet. The duo plays at Iota, with promising opener Julianna Barwick. For more on GOASTT, read Friday's Weekend section.

By Fritz Hahn, David Malitz and Rhome Anderson  | January 4, 2011; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Events  
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