By Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
washingtonpost.com Staff Writers
Thursday, August 24, 2006 12:00 AM
Thursday, August 24
After many months of waiting, the Rock and Roll Hotel -- arguably the centerpiece of Joe Englert's eight-bar contribution to the H Street revival -- is finally open for business and it has a packed opening weekend. Things get off to a heavy start tonight as local stoner rock faves Wooly Mammoth celebrate the release of their debut album, "The Temporary Nature." Wooly Mammoth has always managed to stay on the more accessible side of metal, leaving an impression with songs and not just an overall sound. Owls & Crows, featuring former members of hard rockers Thee Snuff Project are also on the bill, along with noisy experimental trio Kohoutek.
As a founding member of Ultramagnetic MCs, Kool Keith gave birth to an off-kilter, non-sequitur style of rhyming that foreshadowed the careers of weirdo rappers to follow. Right in the middle of the underground explosion of the '90s his style exploded, or rather splintered into alternate personalities. He adopted monikers such as Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis and Mr. Gerbik to stretch the odd corners of his imagination into full character studies. He'll be spitting his pseudo-scientifical, occasionally obscene and consistently humorous verses as Dr. Octagon at the Black Cat tonight.
Friday, August 25
Back in May we welcomed Gypsy Eyes Records, a new local label that launched with an impressive showcase at the 9:30 club, featuring Americana-tinged acts Shortstack, Revival, These United States and Brandon Butler. In the months since then ... not much has happened. The label still doesn't have a single release to its name, the bands have played around as usual and now it's returned with another showcase -- of the exact same bands, with a couple of additions. Singer-songwriters Vandaveer and John Bustine are also on the bill for tonight's show, the second at the Rock and Roll Hotel and the first night of the Gypsy Eyes First Forever Festival. It may be a lot of twang to take for one night, but there's not a weak act on the bill. Still, the second half of the First Forever Festival takes place on Saturday, down the street at the Red and Black, with some more rocking members of the extended Gypsy Eyes family, Let's French and Scourge of the Sea, in addition to the hushed folk of Paleo and Kittyhawk.
So, how'd you spend your last birthday? For most of us, it's either a formulaic "go out to dinner than hit the bar with some friends" or "invite some people over for a party and spend the next week cleaning up." Then again, we aren't Marc Barnes. When the owner of Love turns a year older, he does it big. Tonight at the club, Barnes' party features a live performance by T.I. -- good luck getting a movie star to host your next bash -- and four levels of DJs. Because it's Marc's birthday and not yours, there's no free pass for admission this weekend, but if you buy tickets from Ticketmaster, you can skip the line out front. That's a present we wouldn't turn down.
Translated literally, the Spanish word sonero means "singer," but in the world of salsa it signifies much more. A sonero can cut through the charging rhythm section and blaring brass of an Afro-Cuban ensemble to tie it all together. He can improvise lyrically and melodically over a montuno (repeated vamp section) to push the energy of the band and dancers. Hailing from Venezuala, Oscar D'Leon is a self-taught bass player and one of the best soneros you'll ever get to hear right in your own back yard. Get on the guest list at www.h2odc.com and head down to the waterfront to pay homage with Washington's salsa lovers.
Pianist Larry Willis has three Grammy nominations on his resume, as well as an appearance with Roy Hargrove on the statue-winning "Crisol Band" album. But what's more impressive is the number of legends who've relied on his lyrical chording, edgy sense of free jazz and understated sense of rhythm. His credits range from Jackie McLean's outstanding '60s gem "Right Now!" through a mid-'70s stint with Blood, Sweat and Tears to the Latin-infused hard bop of Jerry Gonzales and the Fort Apache Band. Willis has also recorded and toured with Hugh Masakela, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Carmen McRae (including the underrated "Carmen Sings Monk") and our own Shirley Horn. At Twins Jazz this weekend, though, Willis is appearing as a leader with his trio, and we'd expect back-to-bop-basics. Tickets are $15 for the 9 and 11 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday, or half-price with the Goldstar Events service.
Saturday, August 26
On a night when two of the city's most buzzed-about bands are performing (that'd be Georgie James at the Black Cat and Middle Distance Runner at the Velvet Lounge), the Godfather of Go-Go is celebrating his birthday at the 9:30 club with the Wickedest Band Alive and the dude who sang the "Ghostbusters" theme song is at Carter Barron, there won't be a better show than the one at the Warehouse Next Door. Pissed Jeans (great name, right?) is coming down from Allentown, Pa., to play its jarring, driving sludge rock that should appeal to fans of the Stooges, Flipper, Black Flag or really any band that makes you want to jump around and crash into stuff. It's chaos, but it's a controlled chaos, and since the group's sets rarely surpass the 20-minute mark, the band members can keep the intensity ratcheted up throughout. Pissed Jeans recently inked a deal with Sub Pop, so don't be surprised if you start hearing the name more; it's a name you certainly won't forget. Headlining the bill is Manhunter, a local electronic duo that does a great job of recreating the hard-hitting techno sounds of the '80s Detroit scene.
Two weeks ago, we saw the seventh anniversary of Mousetrap, the ever-popular Britpop night that takes over the Black Cat's mainstage every month. This weekend, it's Bliss's turn to celebrate. Beginning as an indie-rock-centric dance night at the Metro Cafe six years ago, Bliss has taken a turn towards more electro and club beats since its move to the Black Cat, and it continues to be an important piece of the city's alternative DJ scene. We're also happy to see that founding DJ Will Eastman is increasingly mixing live music and DJs -- a format he used with his late-'90s event Anorak City. Two months ago, he brought the Rosebuds to the Black Cat's main stage, supplying dance music before and after the North Carolina band's set, and for tonight's Anniversary Party, Eastman will spin tunes around a set by local buzz band Georgie James. (You can listen to our interview with the duo here.)
Speaking of birthdays, our very best wishes go out to Chuck Brown tonight, as the Godfather of Go-Go is celebrating his birthday by performing at the 9:30 club with Rare Essence. Four decades on from his stage debut, Chuck's schedule still puts some of the young bucks to shame. Tickets are on the cheap side -- only $25 -- and it should be a long night of dancing to songs like "We Need Some Money," "Wind Me Up, Chuck," "Go Go Swing" and, of course, "Bustin' Loose." Now, if only someone could get him to play "Be Bumpin' Fresh" or, more appropriately, "D.C. Don't Stand For Dodge City." Don't miss Rare Essence, either, because the Wickedest Band Alive cranks.
There's a lot of ignorance about D.C. hip-hop. Fans flock to big clubs to see here-today, gone-tomorrow MCs from New York or Atlanta, but won't spend a couple bucks to see local artists on their home turf. Maybe if WPGC or WKYS showed a commitment to putting Washington artists in regular rotation -- not just in some walled space for locals -- we'd get more folks realizing how talented Storm the Unpredictable and Head-Roc really are. Asheru is one of the D.C. artists with a chance to break nationally, thanks to his performance of the title theme of "The Boondocks" and appearances on that Adult Swim show's official mixtape alongside Ghostface Killah, Common and Little Brother. Ash is also the man behind the monthly Guerilla Lounge showcase of D.C. artists, and tonight's installment at Bohemian Caverns features Priest da Nomad, W. Ellington Felton and Asheru's band the ELs, but we're excited about another chance to see Muhsinah, an inventive Howard University jazz student who crafts her own nu-soul beats to accompany her left-field vocals.
Monday, August 28
In dancehall reggae where the tide shifts daily and the competition is cutthroat, Beenie Man's ability to stay at the top is remarkable. Riddims, the instrumental tracks that carry a dancehall vocalist's chatting, evolve in ever tightening cycles, demanding a dancehall king to craft a song on each of the hottest tunes to retain dominance. Since he first entered the scene as a youth at the turn of the '80s, Beenie Man has burned up vinyl and dancehalls with hits like "Dude" and his current "Hmm Hmm," while making a splash in the mainstream with Grammy nominations and collaborations with major stars such as Janet Jackson and Mya. He brings his wicked rhythmic sense to Zanzibar tonight.
Tuesday, August 29
We're always happy when Grits & Gravy makes one of its rare return appearances on U Street, because it's mastered the art of combining great old-school hip-hop and funk, an overwhelmingly friendly vibe, a packed dance floor and, of course, happy hour. Since its founding at the old State of the Union club, Grits & Gravy has been the place to go when you want to get down to Boogie Down Productions, Parliament, James Brown and Run DMC in the same night. The event shows up once a month or so at Bar Nun, and for tonight's End of Summer Soul Kitchen, promoters are pulling out all the stops with free admission and a top-shelf happy hour from 6 to 8, followed by dancing until 2 a.m.