This week’s top nightlife event is U Street Music Hall’s first birthday party, featuring DJs from Berlin, San Francisco and D.C. expats Nadastrom, but we also recommend a free show by local garage rockers Suns of Guns, an appearance by anti-comic Neil Hamburger, next-big-things Pleasurekraft at Lima, a slew of dance parties that range from ‘80s tunes to a new Motown-themed gay night, and a chance to learn about (and sample) some of the world’s most famous cocktails.
A couple of weeks ago in this space we wrote about Philadelphia troubadour Kurt Vile playing an in-store performance at Red Onion Records. After attending, we realized why we love these events so much: They start early - you get to hear some live music and still have a whole evening ahead of you. You’re close to the action - these stores are small enough that you can’t help but be within spitting distance of the performers. It’s a great excuse to blow some money on vinyl, and the local record stores have plenty of appealing options these days. And you have extra money to spend because the shows themselves are always free. Tonight at Crooked Beat Records, local standout Suns of Guns play grimy garage rockers from their new album, “On the Border of Snakeland.”
There is nothing else like a Neil Hamburger performance. And, really, thank God for that. The world’s premier anti-comic goes for groans instead of guffaws and has no problem achieving his goal. He will stand there in his ragged tuxedo, looking like he hasn’t showered in days, telling the same tasteless Princess Di jokes he’s been telling the past decade. Ninety percent of the crowd at the Black Cat will know exactly what to expect and play along; it’s those few folks who don’t know what they’re getting into that provide much of the entertainment.
One of our great joys in life: Finding two great happy hours within mere steps of each other. How’s this for a happy hour twofer? Start at Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown, where all of the fantastic craft beers are half-price from 5 to 7. (Of the current menu, we’d recommend Great Lakes’ Conway Irish Ale, Petrus Dubbel Bruin and Dogfish Head’s summery Namaste.) Have a beer or two (and a $5 appetizer), then head across the street to Tackle Box’s upstairs Crackle Bar, where fish tacos are half-price all night. You pay $4 for two or $5.50 for three. Get there between 5 and 7 for happy hour and pair them with a $2 margarita or $3 calamari platter.
Last St. Patrick’s Day, while much of the city was getting tipsy on green beer and whiskey shots, U Street Music Hall officially opened its doors with performances by the Belgian-based disco DJ duo Aeroplane and local disco fanatics Beautiful Swimmers. And in the year since, the stripped-down underground room has proved that it is the most vital and important dance club for fans of electronic music in the Mid-Atlantic region, let alone the city of Washington. No bottle service, no pretentions, just plenty of room to move and the best sound around - a face-meltingly powerful system with warm, rich bass that you feel in your bones. The lineup of DJs who have graced the decks is stunning for a 300-person room: Miguel Migs, Michael Mayer, Jellybean Benitez, Simian Mobile Disco, Optimo, Holy Ghost!, Matthew Dear. This week, U Hall celebrates its first anniversary with yet another stellar lineup: Jesse Rose, whose warped blend of soulful house and techno beats is one of the most forward-thinking sounds coming out of Berlin at the moment; Justin Martin, a San Francisco DJ who reimagines hip-hop beats for househeads; and Nadastrom, the unstoppable and unpredictable duo of Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom, who abandoned D.C. for Los Angeles last year and are bringing their big bag of techno sounds back for another visit. Simply put: not a night to miss.
A few weeks ago, a friend listening to dance music godfather Pete Tong’s show on BBC Radio 1 sent an urgent plea via Twitter: “Who’s this D.C. DJ on the phone with Pete Tong?” The answer was Pleasurekraft, and if, like our friend, you haven’t heard of this rising DJ duo, you’ll want to hear more. Stockholm-based Kalle Ronngardh and D.C.’s own Kaveh Soroush work together mostly over the Internet, crafting tracks where tech-house meets minimal atmospheric grooves. (For examples, listen to the chart-topping “Tarantula” or hit soundcloud.com/pleasurekraft for Pleasurekraft’s mixes.) Usually when you see Pleasurekraft’s name on a flyer in D.C., it means Soroush is spinning on his own. This time, though, it’s for real: Ronngardh and Soroush are teaming up on the decks at Lima alongside Dutch house meistro Laidback Luke, whose choice cuts “Till Tonight” and “Get Dumb” would make this a must-do pick on his own. Tickets are $20 in advance from clubglow.com for the 18-and-over show.
Friday’s show at the Velvet Lounge features a stellar lineup of bands that specialize in very loud songs fraught with tension. Dark Sea Dream creates an imposing rumble that sometimes explodes into a fiery malestrom. Other times, it’s just brooding, loud but not violent. Opening act and local duo Phonic Riot won’t make your sternum shake with its volume but te twosome knows exactly when to take songs from dreamy to driving.
DJ Keenan Orr launches his Motown Getdown at Cobalt and scores of other jocks contemplate their electro, indie and house selections and wonder aloud why they didn’t think of a gay Motown dance party first. Bravo, Keenan: you are a visionary. This party means epic singalongs, nostalgia without the cheese and music you can dance to while preserving civility. Throw in some drink specials, and even the shyest wallflower may be moved to do the twist, mashed potato or bus stop.
A true master knows how to play the background so others can shine. And that has been Farid’s role at Eighteenth Street Lounge for many years. As a musical curator, Farid meticulously plans out the Eighteenth Street Lounge schedule, drawing from an array of styles, geographic origins and levels of fame. You might not know that he’s an accomplished spinner himself, since he cedes the spotlight to guarantee a steady flow of great talent. Every now and then the former owner of Red dusts off his mixing chops and gets back into the booth himself. Check him out and you’ll definitely dance. And you also might learn something.
While the bands are away at the South by Southwest music festival, the DJs will play at D.C.’s rock clubs. There’s a real battle royale going on this Saturday, but the best part is how many different flavors you can choose from. Mixtape drops Everything but the Girl, Daft Punk, Robyn, Arcade Fire remixes and, uh, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam at the Rock and Roll Hotel. DJs Steve EP, Krasty McNasty and friends are hosting another of their periodic “Eighties Mayhem” all-’80s dance parties -- heavy on the “alternative” -- on the Black Cat’s main stage, while Mad Squirrel and his Party Lights night of girl groups and ‘60s sounds is back on the backstage. DC9 is hosting another Fez and Moustache Party, where you can get down to Balkan rock, klezmer tunes and other Eastern-flavored tracks. (Sadly, you have to BYO fezzes and moustaches.) And if that’s not enough, the much-praised Fatback party brings its funk, soul and disco records back to Liv.
Peter Case is much more than your average singer-songwriter. Throughout a storied three-decade-plus career he has shifted styles seamlessly and gone from power pop cult favorite to well-respected acoustic troubadour and standout interpreter of classic works by blues legends Mississippi John Hurt and Memphis Minnie. Simply put, the man knows his way around a song. So who better qualified to spread some songwriting knowledge? Before Case’s performance Sunday in Takoma Park (a benefit for local charity Hungry for Music) he’ll preside over a songwriting workshop and share insights as both a performer and a fan. Simply watching him perform is a clinic, so imagine the wisdom to be gained from a two-hour class. It all goes down at the Takoma Park Community Center.
Many of the most famous cocktails in the world were first crafted in hotel bars in the late 19th or early 20th century, from the Sidecar (Harry’s New York Bar, Paris) to the Singapore Sling (Raffles, Singapore). Let D.C. cocktail historian Phillip Greene and local bartending hotshots Derek Brown and Chantal Tseng take you on a world tour of great hotel cocktails at the Tabard Inn, where the list of destinations includes London’s Savoy, New York’s Algonquin, Louisville’s Seelbach and New Orleans’s Roosevelt. You’ll get to taste each concoction, learn its history and - most importantly - get a demonstration of how to make it yourself. Buying tickets in advance from the Museum of the American Cocktail Web site is recommended, as these classes tend to fill up quickly.