If you had to name most influential nightspot of the last 15 years -- leaving out concert venues like the 9:30 Club -- we don't really think there'd be much argument about the winner. The Eighteenth Street Lounge -- and its owners, the DJ duo Thievery Corporation -- put D.C.'s nightlife culture on the global map, drawing musical tourists from around the world. A number of D.C. lounges have sought to emulate ESL style in ensuing years, from the couch-strewn rooms to the warm, house-party feel of the space. But it's the music that's the incomparable element -- a mix of house, funk, world beats, breaks and downtempo, with live jazz upstairs.
ESL celebrates its 15th anniversary this weekend, and they're doing it proper, focusing on the residents who've built the Lounge into something special. Thievery Corporation headlines, ensuring long lines outside and a cluster of record-spotters hovering around the DJ booth, along with long-time favorites Farid, Tom B and Nickodemus spinning on the patio and in the main room. Meanwhile, the side Gold Room is hosted by Sunday night fixture Sam "The Man" Burns, and the upstairs lounge features the jazzy Donvonte McCoy quintet playing tunes from the Eighteenth Street Lounge Music back catalogue. Doors open at 5, but the party goes into the wee hours. The $10 cover includes free food. If you're worried about lines, tickets allowing entry between 5 and 11:30 are offered on the ESL site.
-- Fritz Hahn (April 20, 2010)