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Posted at 07:27 PM ET, 05/03/2011

Nightlife Agenda: Cinco de Mayo, Kentucky Derby and Square Dancing


Bartender Jim Hewes whips up classic mint juleps at the Willard Hotel’s Round Robin bar this Saturday in honor of the Kentucky Derby. (Courtesy of The Willard Hotel)
The next seven days include two of the season’s biggest bar events: Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby. We’ve got the details about where to find mariachis and mint juleps, but there’s much more going on: superstar Puerto Rican rappers Calle 13 visit Hyattsville, bartending legend Dale DeGroff discusses famous bars and cocktails at the Passenger, Ghanainan rapper Blitz the Ambassador launches his new album at Liv, In Flagranti brings old-school disco to U Street Music Hall, square dancing returns to Mount Pleasant and Dogfish Head unveils a new beer at Bourbon.

Wednesday, May 4

In Flagranti are far from the only production team that favors the outsider disco sounds of the late 1970s, early ’80s, but the duo is one of the few that can actually claim to have been there when those sounds were being created. Decades later, Sasha Crnobrnja and Alex Gloon continue to create cosmic delights that can inspire a dance floor, as heard on the standout new album “Worse for Wear.” The duo will perform live at U Street Music Hall, followed by a DJ set by Anoraak.

Looking to watch the Caps game, extend happy hour and maybe do a little good? From 6 to 9 p.m., Laughing Man Tavern is hosting a fundraiser for Sports Challenge, a 15-year-old nonprofit program that tries to instill leadership skills in student athletes from underserved communities. A $10 donation is good for discounted draft beers ($3.25-$4), $3.75 rail drinks, $4 glasses of wine and $4 appetizers until 9 p.m., plus entry in a raffle to win a chance to watch a live taping of “PTI,” Nationals box seats, couples cooking classes at Culinarie, a $200 gift certificate to Palena and other prizes.

Thursday, May 5

It’s Cinco de Mayo. Wondering where to find a margarita or mariachis? Here’s a long list of specials and parties taking place tonight in celebration.

You can question the logic of Puerto Rican superstars Calle 13 playing a show celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration of independence, at Galaxy. Or you can just take advantage of an opportunity to see the reggaeton duo deliver its dizzying percussive romps that have rightfully made the group the face of the popular Latin American genre. It’s not a role the band has embraced, and its attempts to escape being pigeonholed were fully realized on 2010 album “Entre Los Que Quieren,” which showed off a more expansive sound with nods to Bollywood and other South American styles. In a live setting, though, expect less experimenting and more simple energy, harnessed by frontman Residente.

Adams Morgan’s Bourbon is hosting two very different (and very interesting) beer events on its two floors. On one floor is Ladies Beer Tasting 101, hosted by brewer Lindsey Miller of local brewery Baying Hound Aleworks. The $25 ticket includes a tasting of five beers and a discussion of styles in a less macho, beer-geeked-out setting than most tastings. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.; RSVP to Brian.Kruglak@gmail.com for a seat.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Bourbon hosts a co-ed tapping of Dogfish Head’s Hellhound on My Ale, brewed to commemorate the 100th birthday of the legendary Delta bluesman Robert Johnson, who inspired Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and other rock greats. (You may remember that Dogfish also brewed a commemorative for the anniversary of the Miles Davis album “Bitches’ Brew.”) Surprise: Dogfish describes it as a “super-hoppy ale” that checks in at 10 percent alcohol. Get a free pint glass while supplies last.

Blitz the Ambassador is a hip-hop talent to watch, with his deft mixing of English and his native Ghanaian Twi with effortless style and a rollicking band fronted by a wall of brass that would make Fela Kuti proud. After three studio albums, 2009’s “Stereotype” is his most fully realized work, combining his multiple soulful influences with live instrumentation. Blitz returns to D.C. at Liv for the release of his new album, “Native Sun.”

DJ D-Mac and DJ Tom B. stretch their tropical chops with moombahton, digital cumbia and bass music from throughout the Latin diaspora at Little Miss Whiskey’s tonight for a Cinco de Mayo dance party. If you’re still coherent from margarita pitcher specials around town, this would be a good spot to sweat them out of your system on the dancefloor.

Friday, May 6

Beloved ‘90s D.C. post-punk band Jawbox gave just a tease of a reunion in late 2009 when it performed three songs on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” leaving fans clamoring for a full tour, new material, anything. It didn’t happen, but the former members are still keeping busy and you can catch up with some of them Friday at St. Stephen’s Church. Office of Future Plans, featuring Jawbox singer-guitarist J. Robbins, headlines the show, presented by Positive Force as a benefit for Fight SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), and the band’s equally crunching and slashing songs are sure to appeal to old Jawbox fans. Former Jawbox drummer Zac Barocas is behind the kit for openers Bells≥, an instrumental quartet that packs a mighty punch.

New York DJs Wolf + Lamb and Boston DJs Soul Clap recently teamed up to record the latest volume of the long-running DJ Kicks mix CD series, and to celebrate, they’re taking the show on the road. Wolf + Lamb are known for a sound that fuses elements of techno, disco and even a bit of hip-hop, as well as string of successful underground dance parties in the Big Apple. Soul Clap are big on the funky techno and house. But reports from London and elsewhere indicate that the foursome is happy to drop Run DMC, Boney M and Warren G’s “Regulate” alongside their own crowd-pleasing house tracks. We’re now looking forward to awesomely cheesy dance floor workout at U Street Music Hall.

Saturday, May 7

The Kentucky Derby is called the fastest two minutes in sports, but most Kentucky Derby parties go on far longer. There’s something about the annual thoroughbred race that goes beyond the horses -- the big hats, the “friendly wagers,” a properly made mint julep. Bourbon’s annual viewing party is one of the best in town: exceptional juleps served in frosted silver cups with springs of fresh mint; servers passing out pieces of derby pie and other Kentucky snacks; and racing form guides lying around the bar so you can assess each horse’s chances. Over at the Willard’s Round Robin Bar, the annual “Bonnets and Bow-Ties” is a little classier: The $75 ticket includes a Southern buffet, two of the excellent juleps served in official souvenir Kentucky Derby glasses (the kind you’d get at Churchill Downs) and entry into the “Best Bonnet” and “Most Bodacious Bowtie” contests. Finally, Acadiana’s “Run for the Roses” party includes a bourbon tasting with Ewan Morgan of Bulleit Bourbon, the race on large high-definition TVs and a $5 menu of food and drink, including juleps and Kentucky hot browns.

From hip-house in the 1980s and his defining work with Kenny Dope as Masters at Work and Nuyorican Soul, to his own canon of hundreds of remixes and his band Elements of Life, Louis Vega is a god of house music as well as Latin and classics. One cannot pass up a chance to see him when he’s away from his native New York, especially in a small, intimate room. Vega can get deep and techy, pull out all manner of hidden disco gems and raise souls with spiritual Afro-Latin house. He pilots the decks with his wife, Anane, at Liv with support from Sam Burns and Andrew Hogans.

And now for something completely different: square dancing. Square dancing has a pretty diverse history, from Appalachia to the “frolics” at Howard University in the early 20th century, and recent dances hosted by the D.C. Square Dance Collective have attracted more than 200 dancers of all skills. (You can hear more about the group on a recent episode of WAMU’s Metro Connection.) The collective is back Saturday at St. Stephen’s Church with live music by the Possum Trotters, a local banjo/fiddle/guitar group, and guest caller Michael Ismerio from Bloomington Indiana. Admission is $5; no previous experience (or bib overalls) required.

Monday, May 9

Dale DeGroff is, by any measure, one of the most influential bartenders of the past century. His tenure at New York’s Rainbow Room in the 1980s and ‘90s helped give rise to the return of the craft cocktail - using fresh fruits and quality spirits to give life to classic recipes - and, for better or worse, he’s the man credited with repopularizing the Cosmopolitan in the mid-’90s. But more than that, DeGroff is a cocktail historian with a gift for storytelling, who can turn the minutiae of the evolution of the martini recipe into a lively tale. DeGroff is in town this week to present “On the Town,” a history of cocktails and the evolution of bars from saloons to speakeasys to modern temples of mixology. While he speaks at the Passenger, the audience gets to try sample drinks. Win-win all around. (This event will probably sell out, so get tickets in advance.)

It’s hard to imagine that Alex Zhang Hungtai won’t eventually have a backing band, but for now Dirty Beaches is a one-man show. And you’d be wise to catch it in this incarnation. Backing musicians are sure to add a more dynamic element to his concerts, but the current setup of Hungtai alternately crooning and yelping along to ghostly, pre-recorded beats and occasionally strumming a guitar is slightly sinister and entirely entrancing. His songs exist at a place where the innocent and inauspicious intersect, equally indebted to 1950s jukebox rock and the bleak drone of electronic music pioneers Suicide. Ice Cream and Holy Mtn open at the Black Cat.

Tuesday, May 10

Wanna see a rock show? Then get over to Iota for David Vandervelde. Recent press photos indicate that his long hair may be gone, but at least its spirit lives on in his electric guitar jams that channel the likes of 1970s heroes Neil Young and T.Rex. He writes songs that aren’t made for blogs, but for unwieldy, gas-guzzling convertibles.

Happy fifth anniversary to Rustico, the popular Alexandria beer bar that gave birth to ChurchKey (the area’s finest spot for a brew) and a sister Rustico in Ballston. To celebrate the momentous birthday, several of Rustico’s original bartenders will be back behind the stick for the night, including ChurchKey beer director Greg Engert and manager-bartender Nahem Simon. To sweeten the deal, all 30 drafts are $5 from 5 p.m. until close.

By  |  07:27 PM ET, 05/03/2011

Categories:  Bars and Clubs

 
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