This week’s picks include concerts by the excellent R&B/neo-soul singers Amel Larrieux and Glenn Wright at the Park at 14th, Echo and the Bunnymen’s timeless cool at the 9:30 Club, an all-metal air guitar competition at Solly’s, the reunion of late-’90s emo stars Fairweather, parties that transport you to Brazil and Barbados, a night of Afro-Cuban beats and the bi-annual “Office Space” viewing party with trivia, impersonation and costume contests.
Wednesday, May 11
Official rule when inside a nightclub - no smoking. Unofficial rule when inside a nightclub - don’t wear sunglasses. Ian McCulloch is sure to break those rules when Echo & the Bunnymen perform at the 9:30 Club, but he’s one of the very few people who has amassed enough cool points to get away with both. The lead singer of one of the United Kingdom’s best 1980s exports is an old-fashioned rock star who belongs on glossy magazine pages, not pixelated blogs. For Wednesday’s show, the band will reach back to its earliest days by performing its first two albums, “Crocodiles” (1980) and “Heaven Up Here” (1981), in their entirety. This is when the Bunnymen specialized in jagged post-punk with a healthy dose of drama, thanks to McCulloch’s vocals and guitarist Will Sergeant’s efficient, precise playing.
This week, Duffy’s Irish Pub marks five years of pre-9:30 Club concert happy hours, cheap beer and tremendous wings, so there’s a party to celebrate. From 7 to 10 p.m., swing by for free appetizers and $10 pitchers of any-beer-except-Guinness, including Yuengling, Sam Adams Summer Ale, Natty Boh, Ommegang or, if you must, Miller Lite and Killian’s Irish Red. Darts, Big Buck Hunter, wings and beer sounds like the perfect birthday to us.
Around the corner from Duffy’s, American Ice Company is rocking out and drinking up at its first-ever “Spirits in Black” cocktail party. As DJs spin classic non-cheesy heavy metal, bartender Patrick Owens whips drinks inspired by some of his favorite metal bands and songs. (One example: The Blood and Thunder, a twist on the famous Scotch-and-blood orange Blood and Sand cocktail, comes from the Mastodon song of the same name.) Everything gets going at 10 p.m. and it will last into the witching hour.
Ever since U Street Music Hall opened last March, we’ve thought to ourselves, “How cool would it be to play our favorite albums on the club’s heavenly sound system?” Turns out the folks behind The Whale have had the same thought. Tonight, before resident DJs Beautiful Swimmers do their cosmic disco thing, there will be a listening party for “Echoes,” the cult-favorite 1983 album by Benin-based synth-jazz-highlife composer Wally Badarou. The album of light, lilting rhythms and soothing synthesizer sounds will (of course) sound sublime coming through those U Hall speakers.
Thursday, May 12
The hottest concert venue for R&B and soul crooners these days isn’t Constitution Hall, the Lincoln Theatre or the 9:30 Club -- it’s the Park at 14th, better known as a dance club and lounge with a strict dress code and pricey bottle service. But last week, Tank and Musiq Soulchild performed there for an intimate crowd. The week before that, it was Jagged Edge. Before Jagged Edge, Angie Stone. This Thursday, the Park offers a chance to catch up with Amel Larrieux, the quirky New Yorker with the clear, ringing voice of an angel. Her multi-octave range is one of the most amazing instruments in jazz and pop, and though we haven’t heard much from Larrieux since the soulful collection “Lovely Standards” dropped in 2007, we’ll always be fans of her work with hip-hop/R&B duo Groove Theory and her funky debut, “Infinite Possibilities.” Our favorite thing about shows at the Park is that admission is free when you RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrive early to beat the crowds, and get $5 drink specials from 5 to 8 p.m.
Grown folks, the term “party” means something different to you than to current generations. It’s not sitting around looking bored with overpriced bottles of liquor or posturin in the club. “Party” means comfortable shoes and possibly sweating out your perm to music that makes you dance with another human being instead of just grinding on them. If that’s your language, then be there when a few Howard University alums stage their Blowpops and Baby Powder jam at Sutra. The confection evokes nostalgia and the talcum reduces shoe-to-floor friction for smooth house music dance moves.
Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse’s bi-annual “Office Space” viewing parties are like even nerdier “Rocky Horror Picture Show” gatherings. You’ll watch the film on a new HD projector and recite the key lines along with just about everyone else. And the pre-movie festivities include a trivia contest, a costume contest, a Bill Lumbergh impersonation contest and a best O-face contest. There are prizes in each category, and everyone who shows up in a costume gets a two-for-one pass for a future screening.
The biggest names in music tend to be the older names (hello, Rolling Stones and U2), but it’s even harder to break through in a niche genre with a smaller audience — like zydeco. Rosie Ledet, one of the hottest names on the zydeco circuit, has managed to buck this trend, even though she calls her music “sped-up blues” instead of traditional zydeco. Whatever it’s called, with Ledet pumping away on accordion and her band churning out Cajun rhythms, it will be easy to dance to at Surf Club Live.
Friday, May 13
The U.S. Air Guitar Championships hit the District in mid-June, but those who need to work on their invisible finger-tapping technique or scissor-kicking leaps from make-believe Marshall stacks can get some stage practice time during the Sollid Metal Air Guitar Contest at Solly’s U Street Tavern this Friday the 13th (because of the date, only heavy metal songs will be allowed). Pick 120 seconds of your favorite riff - anything from Led Zep to Slayer - and go crazy in front of a crowd. No props, no bandmates - just you, your costume and your trusty imaginary guitar. The most righteous air-shredders will advance to the second round, where they’ll have to improvise up to one minute of a tune selected by judges. Prizes will be awarded in four categories: best metal face, best accuracy, best costume and best stage presence. Arrive between 5 and 8 p.m. for a happy hour sponsored by contest organizers DC Brau.
Washington is rife with dance parties drawing inspiration from music of the African diaspora.The AfroCuba party digs deep into the roots of Cuban music and highlights the forms created when African rhythms and European instrumentation blended, including rumba, son and what we now know as salsa. Now that it’s moved to Liv, there’s more space for the casino-style salsa dancers and the rumberos who really get down.
This Unplugged thing at the Park is officially something cool. We’ve watched several consecutive bookings for this event, and the purpose seems clear. Dig up really talented R&B artists whose work went overlooked when originally released because bigger stars eclipsed them or they didn’t get the push they deserved. Remind people how much they loved their albums. Showcase the artists’ transition to new material, all in a very intimate space. The Park welcomes Canadian singer Glenn Lewis, who despite a Grammy nomination and much acclaim, hasn’t released an official album since 2002’s “World Outside My Window.” Fortunately, that record still sounds gorgeous 10 years later, and the comparisons to Stevie Wonder remain apt. And in the ensuing decade, the singer-songwriter has remained busy, so he’ll definitely have unheard work to share.
It’s commencement season at local universities, which means it’s also time for clubs to start pandering -- sorry, throwing graduation parties for the lucky seniors. Some of them are better than others: Bar 7 is holding a Howard University Graduation Celebration hosted by former Howard Bison (and current Indianapolis Colt) Antoine Bethea. The night kicks off with an open bar from 5 to 6 and drink specials until 10. DJ Quicksilver of WKYS provides the party jams.
Thinking of a tropical escape right about now? How about getting away to the islands for the night? Social networking group Pros in the City is hosting a Caribbean Night party at the Embassy of Barbados with a DJ spinning Caribbean dance tunes, a buffet of Barbadian food, and a selection of rum punch, beers and wines. You don’t have to bring your passport, but you do have to RSVP on prosinthecity.com. Dress is casual, but we’d leave the flip-flops at home.
Saturday, May 14
If that vacation to Brazil didn’t work out, Artisphere has you covered. On Saturday, it hosts a multimedia Brazilian Bash featuring music, film, dancing and more. Alma Tropical, a D.C.-based band that pays tribute to the psychedelic, Brazil-born Tropicalia genre of the 1960s, headlines the event with its modern take on the sound, adding rock flourishes to classic songs by the likes of Os Mutantes and Gal Costa while never losing the rhythmic vibe. Films by Cathy Cook will add visual touches as the band performs. Batala, a 50-piece (yes, 50), all-female Brazilian percussion troupe, will also perform, while DJ Neville C spins Brazilian jams to start things off.
Tonight’s Fairweather reunion at the Black Cat is a big event for those of us who grew up here and remember the D.C. hardcore/emo scene of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Fairfax’s Fairweather was one of the stars. The group played chunky, hook-filled songs along the lines of Braid, Strike Anywhere or Saves the Day, and it eventually signed to Equal Vision Records -- the home of Shelter, CIV and Boysetsfire -- which was a pretty big deal. The band’s crashing debut “If They Move … Kill Them,” was produced by Brian McTernan, who’d worked with Snapcase, Frodus and Texas is the Reason, providing even more cred. Sadly, Fairweather recorded only one more album with Jawbox’s J. Robbins before calling it a day. And now, eight years later, the group is back. Catch them on the club’s mainstage, then make a beeline downstairs. Former Chisel vocalist Ted Leo is playing a sold-out gig on the backstage, and the post-show DJ party helmed by ex-Faith/Ignition/Warmers singer Alec MacKaye “and friends” is free and open to all. A great night for D.C. punk all around -- especially for us old dudes.
Crack, the awesomely puerile and bawdy variety show, is back at Town this weekend for two shows. “Crack in Time” promises an adults-only blend of cabaret, skits, burlesque, song and dance numbers and audience participation games set in “prehistoric caves, medieval castles, Elizabethan theaters, antebellum plantations, 1920s speakeasies and 1950s sockhops,” among other locations. It’s not for the squeamish, but it’s always shockingly funny. Saturday’s performance starts at 10 and includes post-show dancing until 4 a.m., and Sunday’s matinee gets underway at 6. Tickets are $10.
A band called Satan’s Youth Ministers better deliver. And this Alabama group does. It’s not a metal-band-as-cult situation, as the name might suggest. It’s more Southern-rock-gone-punk mayhem with some feather boas and maybe a bit of cross-dressing. It will be raucous and rambunctious and you will probably get beer spilled on you. Local burlesque performer Shortstaxx and local punks the Drains open at Comet Ping Pong.