This week, we see Oktoberfest season winding up, a parade of hip-hop stars on local stages, a rockabilly festival that hopscotches across area venues, groove to ‘90s-style indie rock from a young English group and listen as a blogger-turned-DJ spins Awesome Tapes From Africa..
Wednesday, Oct. 12
Exploring African music can be a daunting task. There are burgeoning Afrobeat nights (with interest spurred by the “Fela!” revival) and Web sites hawking hip-hop compilations from Senegal or Ghana. But Africa is home to 1 billion people, 54 countries and more local and traditional music styles than even ethnologists can catalog. The easiest entry point for the curious, though, has to be a blog called “Awesome Tapes From Africa.” New Yorker Brian Shimkovitz launched the site in 2006, after spell in Ghana studying ethnomusicology, as a way to share the great music he found there on cassettes. He has kept the site going ever since, posting albums from across the continent. Sometimes it’s traditional vocals from Ethiopia; sometimes it’s a rap compilation from Burkina Faso. But it’s never what you’d expect. Shimkovitz is spinning his favorite African tunes at U Street Music Hall alongside English DJ Harvey , a certified king of old-school house, disco and eclectic electronic tunes, and local house duo Beautiful Swimmers.
In February, young U.K. rockers Yuck released one of the most irresistible indie-guitar albums of the year. It was the best flashback to the ‘90s heyday of Pavement, Superchunk and Yo La Tengo since … well, technically, Matador’s 21st anniversary festival in Las Vegas last fall. With the 12 songs on its debut, Yuck was able to take many of the best traits of those pantheon bands and create an identity of its own. And now, just like those last-generation bands, Yuck is reissuing its debut in a deluxe version. Silly? Of course. But the six extra songs only confirm that this is a band with some legs. Porcelain Raft opens at Black Cat.
Thursday, Oct. 13
Hip-hop hasn’t been around as long as rock-and-roll, but it’s now old enough to get in on the nostalgia kick. Recent tours have featured many ‘90s albums (Wu-Tang’s “Enter the 36 Chambers,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders,” Nas’s “Illmatic”), but this show rewinds a little more - back to hip-hop’s golden era. Many of the genre’s first starts will be on hand to show they can still bring it. Rakim, whose performance on “Paid in Full” 24 years ago arguably has yet to be topped, headlines the Return of the Kings of Hip-Hop concert at Constitution Hall, which also will feature ‘80s favorites Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and Kurtis Blow. We predict the biggest singalong will be when Rob Base charges through his 1988 smash “It Takes Two.”
The Hail Hail Rock ‘N’ Roll garage rock festival takes its name from a Chuck Berry song (it’s a line from “School Days”), and although none of the 10 acts playing over three nights sound particularly like the Father of Rock-and-Roll, they all adhere to no-frills, back-to-basic sounds. Acid Baby Jesus, Thursday’s headliner at Asefu’s, comes from Athens - the Athens, not the college-rock hotspot in Georgia - and plays fuzzy psych-punk with the proper amount of swagger. New York’s Sorceress is all about big hair, big riffs and big solos, bringing some glam strut to the proceedings Friday at Comet Ping Pong. Saturday’s headliners at Quarry House Tavern, Sorrows, have been cult favorites on the power-pop circuit for three decades, playing sharp, concise and hook-filled songs that sound good no matter the decade.
Friday, Oct. 14
We’ll admit we haven’t been too gung-ho for the Hirshhorn After Hours recently -- having to pay $25 in advance to see DJs who usually spin for free will do that -- but the latest event has a lot to offer. Your arty types will queue up for the chance to see all 450 feet of Andy Warhol’s “Shadows” with a curator talk about the work at 9 p.m. Your dancey types will be ready to rave to Crystal Ark, DJ/producer Gavin Russom’s latest project, a pop-tinged slice of ‘80s electro-soul mashed up with South American percussion. (Watch “The City Never Sleeps.”) Performing and DJing is Nancy Whang, who played keyboards in LCD Soundsystem and sings with DFA labelmate the Juan MacLean. All in all, we think the Hirshhorn’s party should be worth the price of admission. Just watch out for the lines at the cash bars.
Saturday, Oct. 15
The artists competing for the title of the local Kings of the Blues at the D.C. Blues Society’s annual Battle of the Bands are all over the map stylistically, from rockin’ Hendrix-influenced ‘60s-style blues to slow-burning Chicago blues and chugging boogie-woogies. But they all have songs about no-good women, love gone wrong and bad mojo, and they all want to make you dance. Seven groups will take the stage at Wheaton’s American Legion Hall for up to 30 minutes at a time, and stakes are high: The winner represents the D.C. area at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next year. And for everyone else, including the audience, this is a another night that proves the blues are alive and well in Washington.
Attention, beer snobs: If you only go to one Oktoberfest this month, make it the Rustico Oktobeerfest . It’s more of a neighborhood block party. There are games for the kids in a parking lot behind Rustico and Buzz Bakery and plenty of food to sample, and the 50 beers on tap include some amazing seasonal beers, such as Oktoberfests from Blue Mountain, Bell’s, Rogue, Epic, Stoudt’s and Port City; pumpkin ales from Flying Dog, Evolution, Heavy Seas and Wolavers (more than a dozen in all), and a selection of German rarities topped with a wooden keg of Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse. Admission is free, and you have to pay for food and drink tickets. Bonus: If you take Metro, take a picture of yourself at Braddock Road Metro Station. Show it to a staff member at the Oktoberfest’s gate and you’ll get a souvenir Oktoberfest mug or five free food tickets.
Sunday, Oct. 16
It’s been years since 9th Wonder and Phonte shared a stage together in Washington, because even before Little Brother broke up, 9th chose to stop touring with the group. The Black Cat is where it always went down: 9th manned the decks while Big Pooh played straight-man to Phonte’s comedic presence, and both powered through their hefty catalog of rhymes. This year, Phonte released his first solo album, a painfully honest, introspective collection of sung and rapped verses. And 9th’s new album is more of what fans expect, a collection of classically produced beats featuring the stable of artists he’s developing. But with the Little Brother legacy behind them as well as a well publicized personal rift, longtime fans get to see them reunited at a new phase in their respective careers, once again at the Black Cat.
Back in ‘97, the East Coast Boogiemen were one of D.C.’s biggest contributions to the global house music scene. A loose duo, Ken and Juan would rock together on multiple decks and collaborate on productions and also work independently. Their last hiatus found Ken setting up shop in Chicago and exceling there, while Zuan held it down in D.C. Ken recently crafted a new album for longtime ECB followers that drops this fall. He’ll rock at District Underground in Adams Morgan with Keenan, Joe L. and KevFunk for a welcome back to D.C. jam.
Monday, Oct. 17
Blackbyrd Warehouse has a fairly new Monday night complementary event to the long-established Main Ingredient next door at Marvin. Sam Burns’ love of ‘70s era blaxploitation flicks is well known to anyone who’s taken a few minutes to converse with the gregarious DJ. Every Monday he’ll be curating a few movies as well as spinning. This evening the theme is tales from “the joint” with “Penitentiary,” “Penitentiary 2,” and “The Slams,” featuring none other than Jim Brown.
Tuesday, Oct. 18
October usually features a deluge of bands hitting Washington on their way to or from the annual CMJ Music Fest in New York. One of the more intriguing ones hitting town this year is Still Corners , who play lovely and mysterious indie pop that sounds like it comes from a place constantly covered in shadows. (That’s one way to describe London, we suppose.) For a new band, there’s a surprising command of both aesthetic and songwriting, so don’t expect many rough-around-the-edges moments at DC9.