Nightlife Agenda: Remixes, tacos and create-your-own craft cocktails

September 17, 2013

Every Tuesday, the Going Out Gurus highlight the week's best DJs, bands, dance nights and parties.

Frank Jones
Bartender Frank Jones of the Gibson will create custom drinks for customers when his Do What I Want cocktail party returns to the 14th Street NW bar on Tuesday night. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Tuesday, September 17
Here's a recipe for cocktail success: Take two of the city's best bartenders, put them behind the same bar and let them do whatever they want, flying without a menu and whipping up drinks on the spot for each customer. Frank Jones of the Gibson and Duane Sylvestre of Bourbon Steak were the dynamic duo behind the weekly "Do What I Want Fridays" at the Gibson, which ended earlier this year. They're bringing Do What I Want back for an encore this week on the Gibson's patio to mark Sylvestre's birthday. Customers can design their own drinks by choosing cocktail ingredients from a "buffet" of fresh pineapple, strawberries, grapefruit, avocados and a variety of spices and herbs, including cinnamon, nutmeg and cilantro. After you pick a base spirit, such as rum or gin, the bartenders take over and work their magic. "You pick the ingredients for a cocktail, and we'll make it in a way that's actually drinkable," Jones promises. Even better: Each drink is just $8. If all goes well, the party will become a monthly event this fall.

Don't look now, but we're six months from St. Patrick's Day. You have two chances to celebrate this auspicious "holiday." Stop by Irish Whiskey any time between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. and $12 will get you your choice of an imperial pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson whiskey or a tasting flight of different expressions of Bushmills. In Clarendon, O'Sullivan's offers singer Danny Byrd, Irish pipers, stepdancers and plenty of whiskey.

Though Cafe Tacuba were early heroes of the the Rock en Espanol movement, the adventurous quartet has always been hard to pin down. Recent albums and tours have embraced everything from traditional Mexican folk instruments to electronic synths and percussion. Hear what the group is up to now at the Fillmore.

Wednesday, September 18
OkayAfrica returns to Tropicalia for another hump day evening of dance rituals and world beats. The early set features a performance by Cuban hip-hop, reggaeton and folkloric fusion group Obsesión before DJ Underdog and Nairobi's DJ Cortega put in work in the mix.

Thursday, September 19
How would you like to eat free tacos at Smoke and Barrel for a year? That prize is up for grabs at the Adams Morgan barbecue joint’s second-annual “Little Man, Big Mouth” taco-eating contest. Ten people will strive to eat six pork tacos as fast as possible, while 10 more will try to devour six barbecued tofu tacos. The winner of each division will get free tacos during the bar’s weekly Taco Tuesday for a year. Think you can do it? Get to Smoke and Barrel before 7:45 on Thursday night to sign up to win a spot in the contest. Participants will be chosen through a raffle, and the contest begins at 8:30 sharp. Those who don't make it into the finals can sip $4 happy hour beers from 4 to 8 p.m., and then enjoy discounted Belgian beers from La Chouffe – the sponsors of the event – while watching the contest.

Austra's formula is a simple one: Tales of heartbreak and loneliness delivered by vocalist Katie Stelmanis over dancefloor-friendly combinations of handclaps, house-music piano riffs and chugging drum machines. Stelmanis, a trained opera singer, will have you singing "What do I have to do to make you forgive me?" and other plaintive laments as you bounce to a chipper groove at the Black Cat.

Stanley Jordan is to jazz guitar what Eddie Van Halen is to rock. Jordan  is a virtuoso talent, and the chance to see him perform up close at Blues Alley over the course of four nights is an unmissable opportunity for students of the instrument.

Dub is the bass-heavy style of music and production techniques born of Jamaican sound scientists in the '70s that eventually seeded an entire cosmos of modern music. New wave and hip-hop borrowed from dub. Drum 'n' bass and dubstep carry dub's DNA. And it all started from the "versioning" process of creating mix tools of reggae records with a heavy rhythm section and creative use of delay and reverb. Dub god Lee "Scratch" Perry headlines the Dub Champions Festival at the Howard Theatre along with such modern followers as Nappy Riddem and Subatomic Sound System.

Friday, September 20
Tribute bands are nothing new, but the Dream Discs concert at Jammin' Java offers a much fresher take. An all-star team of local musicians, including Justin Jones, Luke Brindley, Daryl "Jr." Cline of the Recliners, Tommy Lepson, Billy Coulter and Margot MacDonald, is joining forces to cover Van Morrison's "Moondance" and Bruce Springsteen's "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle" albums in their entirety. Expect creative collaborations and a loose vibe.

After last year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Skrillex made the drive down from Merriweather Post Pavilion to U Street Music Hall for a special, unannounced late-night set. Perhaps the curiosity about potential guest stars explained why this year's after party at U Hall sold out quickly. But if you didn't get tickets to FreeFest or the Saturday after party, you can still hear one of the festival's biggest dance acts on Friday night. The Knocks are one of the hottest production/remix teams around, working with Ellie Goulding, Passion Pit and Wale, and Lady Gaga to create banging electrofunk, but they also crafting their own summery, poppy filter house in the vein of Daft Punk or Chromeo. Fellow FreeFesters Ghost Beach open with their own DJ set.

Saturday, September 21
Superstar DJs headline arena tours and multi-day festivals with shows that include massive video screens, fancy pyrotechnics and elaborate staging - and precious little actual DJing. Some of the biggest stars simply press play on a pre-recorded audio track and then mime, fist pump and make finger hearts. And you pay for that. Don't get mad - just do better. Check out DJ Nu-Mark at the Rock & Roll Hotel and experience how a true decknician can captivate a concert hall. Nu-Mark's production and performance chops became widely recognized during his stint with L.A. hip-hop outfit Jurassic 5 before he embarked on his solo career. These days, he applies his wizardry to performing on children's toys as well as turntables, creating a singular show.

Oktoberfest begins on Saturday in Munich, when the mayor of the city taps the first keg at noon, or approximately 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Many American Oktoberfest celebrations also get underway this weekend: Biergarten Haus kicks off its celebration with the unveiling of a new outdoor bar – converted from a former garage – and live music on the patio. The Heurich House hosts a special garden party with beers from Baltimore's pirate-themed Heavy Seas, including AARGHtoberfest, and food from Cafe Berlin. The Old Stein Inn features a strolling accordion player from 5 to 9 p.m., and for something completely different, the District Oktoberfest bar crawl visits nine Chinatown bars to sample nine seasonal beers. Details about all of these events, and other Oktoberfest activities, can be found on the Going Out Guide's Oktoberfest page.

Sunday, September 22
"Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction" is not for the squeamish. The event, which started at Nerdist Theatre in Los Angeles before spreading to Portland's Bridgetown Comedy Festival and Chicago's Just for Laughs festival, features 10 comedians reading original short stories that place popular fictional characters in sexual situations. The stories are written for laughter – no matter how nervous or grossed-out it gets – so this has the potential to be the kind of thing you'll be recounting to your unbelieving friends days later, or the kind of thing that just makes you feel dirty. Given the presence of local fixtures Brandon Wardell, Jenn Tisdale and Chelsea Shorte on the bill at the Wonderland Ballroom, we're hoping it's the former. A $10 donation is requested at the door; stories begin at 7:30 p.m. and run until 9:30.

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Tom Sietsema · September 16, 2013