Nightlife Agenda: Carnival, karaoke and Rick the Ruler

February 25

Every Tuesday, the Going Out Guide staff highlights the week's best DJs, bands, dance nights and parties.

Rock and Twang Karaoke
Hill Country's weekly live band karaoke is strong on classic country, but you can sing anything from Bon Jovi to Cee-Lo. This week's edition is a fundraiser for the Fisher House Foundation; a $20 donation is good for all-night happy hour. (Photo by Rebecca D'Angelo/For the Washington Post)

Tuesday, February 25
The trinity of strong drinks, trash talking and card games is a summertime cookout staple, but you don't have to wait until the grills come out to get back into the rhythm of a long evening around the card table with friends. With DJ Eskimo in the mix and D.C. hip-hop godfather Head-Roc as host, Marx Cafe's game night lets you get your Spades, Bid Whist, UNO and Dominoes on in the heart of Mount Pleasant. The tables get going at 10 p.m., and the kitchen will be open.

Wednesday, February 26
Hill Country's weekly Rock and Twang Live Band Karaoke is a hoot and a half. Singers take the stage, backed by the HariKaraoke Band, and belt out Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Abba and Bon Jovi while wearing headdresses, wigs and silly costumes. What sets the night apart is the five-piece band; the singers really get into performing Hank Williams Jr. or Carrie Underwood songs when a crack team of musicians is cranking away behind them. This week's karaoke doubles as a fundraiser for the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing near Veterans Affairs medical centers for families of wounded service members. An optional $20 donation to the charity is good for an all-night happy hour - including $3 PBRs; $5 margaritas, mixed drinks and shots; and $20 margarita pitchers.

If you can't make it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you can preview some of the vibes of the Crescent City at the Howard Theatre. The second annual Nolafunk Mardi Gras Ball features the dynamic jazz-funk rhythms of Dumpstaphunk -- led by Ivan Neville, who's practically New Orleans royalty -- and the joyous, brass party tunes of trumpet player Kermit Ruffins and his BBQ Swingers.

Gluten-free food and drink options can be thin at many happy hours, so a new group called The Hour is taking matters into its own hands, organizing gluten-free events that incorporate fashion or music as well as eating and drinking. The launch party is at Meeps this week, and in addition to snacks from The Hour co-founders Kate Bakes and Goldilocks Cookies, the $25 tickets include Omission beers, sweets by Baklava Couture and discounted shopping at Meeps.

Here's a great (and cheap) way to explore the beers of Washington's 3 Stars Brewing Company: The local brewery is taking over the taps at the Argonaut on Wednesday night, and six of its ales will sell for just $3 from 7 to 11 p.m. Selections include Samsquatch White IPA, Southern Belle Imperial Brown Ale, Two to the Dome Double IPA and the dark, potent Winter Madness.

Wild ales are the organ meats of the beer world: Either people are crazy about the weird, funky flavors of these spontaneously fermented beers or they’re repulsed by the sharp, sour tastes. There’s very little in between. If you find yourself in the former camp, you need to be at ChurchKey on Wednesday for the latest Sour Sessions tapping. There will be 20 sour beers on tap, including Fou’ Foune, a blend of lambics from the venerable Brasserie Cantillon aged for two years with apricots; Evil Twin Femme Fatale Yuzu (an IPA brewed with Brettanomyces bacteria and aged with yuzu fruit); and German goses and Berliner weisses. All beers will be sold in four-ounce pours to keep your digestive tract happy. The full menu is available here.

Thursday, February 27
Next Tuesday is your day to laissez les bon temps rouler, but you can get your Mardi Gras celebrations off to an early and classy start thanks to the Alliance Francaise. The French cultural institution is hosting a Mardi Gras Masquerade at Georgetown's L2 Lounge with dancing to the New Orleans-style jazz and funk of the Blue Styles Brass Band. Costumes and masks are encouraged; if you don't have a mask, some will be available at the door. Make sure to buy the $20 tickets in advance.

Grits and Gravy is known for throwing dance parties that feel more like house parties – laidback events where familiar tunes crank from the speakers and smiles are plentiful. Past gatherings have focused on '70s and '80s hip-hop and R&B, but the latest edition is all about the early days of smooth, soulful house music in the vein of Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage. As always, it’s at Jin and there’s no cover charge. Arrive between 5:30 and 8 p.m. for food and drink specials, then stick around and dance until 1 a.m.

Camo & Krooked has been racking up plaudits throughout the drum’n’bass world the past few years, thanks to an original style that sees the Austrian duo salting its original productions with dubstep breaks, Daft Punk-style synths and some minimal house percussion flourishes. The duo, featured on London Elektricity’s Hospital Records, makes its headlining debut at U Street Music Hall.

Friday, February 28
Any rapper who has spun a yarn in rhyme form the past 25 years has a stylistic connection to Slick Rick. Likewise, the science of internal rhyme in rap verses can be traced directly to Rakim. The two MCs broke ground in their art form and opened up creative possibilities for future generations. To have both of them on one stage is worthy of a pilgrimage. Experience two living legends at work at the Howard Theatre, then stick around and rock out with "Tonight Show" bandleader DJ Questlove as he works the turntables at the after-party.

Over a career that spans four decades and multiple Grammys, it seems inconceivable that Los Lobos has only two hit songs -- both from the 1987 soundtrack to "La Bamba." The L.A. band, which expertly fuses blues rock and more traditional Mexican music, plays songs from throughout its discography on this 40th anniversary tour, which stops at the Birchmere.

English producer Four Tet is known for his remixes of Bloc Party, Radiohead and the XX, but he also creates improvisational and dreamy electronic music under his own name. He'll perform live, not just spin records, at a special U Street Music Hall event.

Don’t look now, but St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. No one knows this better than Flogging Molly, the punks-with-pennywhistles Celtic ensemble whose “Green 17” tour finds the band touring while counting down to the Feast of St. Patrick. (On March 17, the band is in Tempe, Arizona.) The veterans perform “Devil’s Dance Floor,” “What’s Left of the Flag” and other favorites at the Fillmore.

Los Hacheros get down for mamberos at Atlas Performing Arts Center, with their take on a Nuyorican salsa sound passed down from such architects as Ray Barretto and and Conjunto Libre. Their slimmed-down ensemble has only five members, but they add unique voicings by including violin, tres and a solo trombone.

Saturday, March 1
Most people are just getting ready for Mardi Gras, but Brazil is in the middle of its raucous Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, which draws millions to block parties and street parades through March 4. This weekend, Carnival is an excuse to get together and dance to some great Brazilian music. American-Brazilian ensemble Nation Beat fuses percolating Brazilian maracatu drums, call-and-response chants, bubbling New Orleans bass lines, funky guitar riffs and the soulful vocals of Fabiana Masili. For this show at Artisphere, Nation Beat will be paired with Alma Tropicália, a local ensemble that celebrates the smooth Tropicalia sounds of the '60s and '70s, and DJ Neville C., who has made numerous vinyl-shopping trips to Brazil.

Feel like you don’t know enough about the current local music scene? Here’s a refresher course: A broad cross-section of the D.C. music scene is gathering at the Howard Theatre for the Brightest Young Things Emerging Artists Super Sampler. Eleven bands will perform three songs each, and the artists are from all over the map: You’ll hear the smooth, clever rhymes of Virginia rapper Farma Wes; poppy punk-funk from Me & This Army; and something from Loud Boyz, a heavy new band with former members of Warchild and New Rock Church of Fire. Between tunes, 11 comedians will take the stage. Not a bad night of entertainment for $18.

Rollicking country singalongs, fleet-fingered bluegrass picking and a driving rhythm section are the essential elements of the Whiskey Gentry, a catchy Atlanta septet that falls under the umbrella of “Americana” and always delivers a tight, catchy live show. The group returns to Hill Country after a three month absence, with even more buzz surrounding second album “Holly Grove.” Doors open at 10 p.m., the band goes on at 10:30, and it'll cost you $12 to get in.

Sunday, March 2
After weeks of watching every best picture nominee and studying up on dark horses in the supporting categories, you don’t want to watch the Oscars on your sofa. There’s something wonderful about putting on a glam outfit (or your pajamas) and sipping themed cocktails with fellow film buffs who actually care about who takes home the statues for film editing or best foreign language film — or at least pretend to for one night. Make sure you peruse our list of the best Oscar parties in town, and we'll continue to update it as more events come in.

Monday, March 3
San Francisco shoegazers Weekend reigned in the guitar noise on their latest album "Jinx," but the trio still creates dreamy, droning post-punk that excites and chills through the haze. They perform with fellow Slumberland Records band Lorelei and Philadelphia alternative rockers Nothing at the Black Cat.

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