Summer doldrums? When a week includes Bastille Day parties, free whiskey tastings, a tribute to A Tribe Called Quest, ‘90s Japanese pop band Cibo Matto and the dynamic DJ King Britt, there are plenty of cool ways to spend your nights out.
Wednesday, July 13
There are many reasons to love Little Miss Whiskey’s — the lush, secluded back patio, the great beer list, dope DJs. But the monthly free whiskey tastings might just take the cake. Tonight, Ewan Morgan, a master of whisky who works for spirits company Diageo, will lead tastings of five American whiskeys: Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit Rye, Dickel No. 8, Dickel No. 12 and Dickel Barrel Select. (The latter three are made in Tennessee, not Kentucky, so they’re technically not bourbons. Ask Ewan to go in into detail about the differences.) After the sipping, grab some DC Brau-marinated brisket and pulled pork from the grill on the patio.
Foodies spent Sunday through Tuesday going nuts over the frou-frou cheeses, cookies and spices at the gigantic Fancy Food Show at the Convention Center. Now it’s over, and it’s time to party. California’s Lagunitas Brewery is the host of the Fancy Food After-Party at Jack Rose, and it’s offering some scrumptious-sounding draft beers, including vintage Hairy Eyeball, a warming brown winter ale, and the strong, sweet Gnarleywine barleywine-style ale. There’s no cover charge -- just pay for what you drink -- and there will be free Lagunitas swag.
Speaking of beer, it’s time for the Black Squirrel’s annual North Carolina Beer Invasion, which stocks the bar with hard-to-find brews from the Old North State. Look for bottles from Chapel Hill’s Carolina Brewery, Winston-Salem’s Foothills Brewing, Durham’s Triangle Brewing Company, Kinston’s Mother Earth Brewing Company and Ashville’s French Broad Brewing. It wouldn’t be a proper Carolina party without barbecue, so there’s a pulled pork sandwich with beer-based barbecue sauce -- it was very tasty last year -- and hand-cut fries. As with most Black Squirrel events, the number of beers is limited, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Thursday, July 14
Despite America’s on-again, off-again love affair with all things French, Bastille Day is always a big deal in Washington. There’s French jazz, cheese tastings, lounges with champagne specials -- see our full list of Bastille Day events for more ideas. But if we were going to steer you towards one place, it would be the French Maid Races and street party at L’Enfant. The annual soiree is big enough that it shuts down Vernon Place outside the Adams Morgan cafe for food and beer trucks, DJs and the race itself, which involves running up and down a course and filling a champagne coupe with a soup spoon. (Prizes include a magnum of champagne.) The kicker? Participants must wear a black outfit with a frilly lace apron, and L’Enfant provides costumes for those who don’t wear their own. Gates open at 4, the race starts at 8 and everything wraps up by 11 -- just in time to move on to Bistrot du Coin or Napoleon.
Friday, July 15
Most true hip-hop heads have a soft spot for A Tribe Called Quest, the ’90s quartet that blended slick jazz samples and deft, positive lyrics into a highly potent and original brew. Michael Rapaport’s well-reviewed documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” opens at E Street Cinema and Loews Georgetown on Friday night, and Tribe fans have this “Scenario” to look forward to: Catch the film and then head to the new Lost Society restaurant and rooftop bar at 14th and U streets NW for a free after-party helmed by DJs Stereo Faith and Jerome Baker III. Can they kick it? Yes, they can.
It looks like the June 22 fire at the Tune Inn will keep the venerable Capitol Hill dive bar closed for the rest of the summer, and perhaps into the fall. While that’s a disappointment for the Tune Inn’s many fans, the situation is even worse for 10 hourly employees whose jobs have disappeared for the foreseeable future. A group calling itself Friends of the Tune Inn is organizing a fundraiser for the unlucky employees at the American Legion Hall a few blocks from the bar -- an appropriate location for a bar that always seemed like a little bit of West Virginia plopped down on Pennsylvania Avenue. The party runs from 3 to 10 p.m., and three bands are on the bill, including local jam band Bonjour Ganesh; there will also be free food and a cash bar. But what’s getting the most attention is the silent auction: Items up for bidding include some of the Tune Inn’s famous taxidermy and the chance to “buy” a reservation for a booth at the Tune Inn’s grand reopening. (A plaque with the winner’s name will be permanently affixed in the booth.) Vacations and a guided deer hunting trip are also up for grabs. A $20 donation is requested at the door.
The secret to King Britt’s long career is that he always challenges himself. Hip-hop, techno, house and soul have all gotten his signature touch, both through myriad releases and in his DJ sets. He once resurrected the lost music of a Southern folk artist and turned it into an album and live performance piece. Saturn Never Sleeps, the duo of Britt and vocalist Rucyl, is his current exploratory vehicle and you can experience it in an early show before his DJ set at U Street Music Hall. Originally inspired by Sun Ra, this experimental improvisational electronic project includes voice, beats and visuals that are created on the spot; they morph from dub to ambient and beyond.
If you’re looking for a Feel Good Friday Night, you can surely do a whole lot better than Cass McCombs at the Black Cat. But if want some heart-wrenching, bleak pop songs then you are in luck. McCombs has never been uplifting, but on the new “Wit’s End” things get especially desolate. Lead track “Country Line” is a song with sparse instrumentation, mostly piano and some lightly brushed drums, with McCombs’ fragile voice. It ends with him lamenting, “You never even tried to love me / What did I have to do to make you want me? / I feel so blind, I can’t make out the passing road signs / All that you would have me do is cross that County Line.” Yikes. Lower Dens, a Baltimore band on the verge of a breakout, opens.
Rock guitar and smashing drums are what you usually find in the front window when Asylum has live music, but for a few years, hip-hop freestyle events with live bands have also been popular in that space. The club is getting a facelift that will turn the band-friendly upper level into a barbecue and craft brew eatery, so a bunch of rhyme slingers who frequent the space are rocking one last show. Live on the Low: Brewer’s Edition features FAR EXP, Laelo Hood & The Cultural Affairs, Night Train and Jazz Addix.
Looking for an ‘80s retro party that goes beyond the usual Madonna/Prince/Culture Club playlist? Check out Kids in America at Dahlak. The semi-regular dance night advertises Talk Talk, Classix Nouveaux, Love and Rockets and the Talking Heads ahead of the usual suspects on its flyer, but the DJs will also take requests if you just have to hear Spandau Ballet. (Oh, wait. They’re on the flyer, too.) It’s free and it starts at 10 p.m.
The unrelenting brutality of a Washington summer came a little later than usual this year, but we are suffering the worst of it now. So how about taking in a concert that doesn’t involve much movement? St. Stephen’s Church hosts a four-band shoegaze bill Saturday night that is custom-made for this weather. The name basically says it all — downward staring is all you need to enjoy the loud, spacey soundscapes. Locals Screen Vinyl Image add a dark, goth edge to their brooding, atmospheric songs. New Yorkers Dead Leaf Echo blast away at full volume, sending their twinkling songs into full orbit. Local Last Tide and San Francisco’s Slowness round out the bill.
Monday, July 18
On the shortlist for best songs of 2011 is “Glass Jar,” the first song on “Eye Contact,” the thrilling new album from New York electro-futurists Gang Gang Dance. It’s an 11-minute journey that takes a while to get to its final destination. Cosmic swirls, swooshes and sparkles mingle for six minutes as all sorts of ambient sounds race in and out of the speakers. When it finally lifts off, it’s well worth the wait. Keyboards whirr and buzz, singer Lizzi Bougatsos moans like some intergalactic diva, something that sounds like a steel drum shows up and it becomes even more transportive. Get whisked away at Rock and Roll Hotel.
Tuesday, July 19
During its existence in the ’90s, Cibo Matto seemed as if it had been sent from the future. The duo of Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, born in Tokyo and based in New York, played bizarre, schizophrenic songs that were part rock, part Japanese pop, part electronic and mostly about food. Adhering to the mandatory “Bands That Existed in the ’90s Must Reunite” rule, Honda and Hatori have returned to jump around onstage while singing such exuberant songs as “Birthday Cake” and “Know Your Chicken.” The chorus on the latter goes, “I know my chicken / You got to know your chicken,” and even if it makes no more sense than it did more than a decade ago, it should still be as fun. The group plays at Rock and Roll Hotel.