By Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
washingtonpost.com Staff Writers
Thursday, August 31, 2006 12:00 AM
Thursday, August 31
We've been talking about -- and listening to -- local hip-hop MC Storm the Unpredictable for years, hoping that his rapid-fire mike skills, clever rhymes and socially conscious lyrics would help him stand out from all the bling and champagne clogging radio and club playlists. Despite membership in the influential Freestyle Union and the local all-star group Plexus, Storm hasn't managed a breakout, but he's continued to garner recognition from local peers, with multiple Wammie wins for best rapper. He truly stepped up his game last year, taking home a grand prize in the international John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song "Contradictions," while placing as a finalist in the hip-hop category for another original, "Darker the Berry." (You can listen to both tracks on stormtheunpredictable.com.) As he prepares to drop his sophomore album, "A2:What Should Have Been," Storm has been playing a series of "CD Release Shows." Tonight at the Velvet Lounge, Storm is appearing at the free Tru School XL showcase, with Flex Matthews, Head-Roc, Tamu and number of others. The show starts at 10.
Washington's Low Budget crew keeps hitting the game from multiple angles. This collective of lyricists and producers counts Kev Brown as its most feted member, but Low Budget has a serious depth chart well-known to regular purchasers of underground hip-hop records. Kenn Starr made some noise a few years back with a collaboration with Talib Kweli and Asheru, and after unleashing a mixtape, several singles and numerous verses on other artists' projects, he finally has a long player of his own. "Starr Status" finds this young P.G. County MC dropping a measured, icy flow over mid-tempo headphone rattlers. You can stop by Just Bcus at Cafe Nema tonight and listen to the record from 9 to 10, and then purchase it directly from the man himself if you're so moved. Stick around afterward for the sounds of DJ Underdog and be not concerned with cracking open your wallet upon entry.
Friday, September 1
As consistently disappointed cheerleaders of local music, we hold these truths to be self-evident: that D.C. based hip-hop artists and go-go music will never become national phenomena. And just when we're convinced of that declaration, one new voice on the scene is forcing us to reconsider. A rapper by the name of Wale has figured out how to fuse a mainstream-friendly hip-hop sound with go-go in a way that could detonate a hip-hop trend branded with the three stars and two bars of Washington's flag. (All the proof you need is in a song called "Dig Dug" over on www.myspace.com/Wale202.) He'll be filming part of the video for his song "Breakdown" during his performance at Platinum tonight, which we find significantly more exciting than Young Dro, the headliner of the evening. While Dro's "Shoulder Lean" represents the essence of the South's stranglehold on the popular sound of rap music, Wale represents what just might usurp it. This show is one of our rare 18-and-over picks; just make sure to hit http://platinumclubdc.com for the guest-list discount.
Friday night offers an interesting contrast in local acts taking to two of the area's bigger stages. The State Theatre hosts a bill headlined by Welbilt and the Speaks, two of the region's most popular purveyors of straightforward alternative rock. Both groups gig with regularity and have self-promotion machines that are always running full blast. This has helped the bands become reliable draws and local fan favorites (both finished in the top 10 in voting in our Readers' Choice Best Bets Contest). But that ultimate goal -- a sweet label deal that leads to national exposure -- remains out of reach. That's not to say it's unattainable; there are undoubtedly plenty of smaller labels that would be thrilled to release records by either band. But that big break remains elusive, so for at least a little while longer, Welbilt and the Speaks can fight it out for that most backhanded of compliments: D.C.'s best unsigned band.
Meanwhile, local singer-songwriter Benjy Ferree has taken almost the complete opposite approach. He performs enough to let you know he's around, but at nowhere near the rate of Welbilt or the Speaks. He is extremely press shy; for a recent feature in the Weekend section, Fritz had to track Ferree down at his job and work hard to extract just a few quotes from him. Ferree is content to let his music do the talking, and it's not hard to see why. His debut EP, "Leaving the Nest," was a charming piece of backporch Americana that brought to mind the likes of Iron & Wine, Beachwood Sparks and even a bit of Bright Eyes. Recent live performances at which Ferree has been backed by a full band have shown off his ability to write catchy, crunchy rock songs in addition to his more subtle singer-songwriter stuff. And the feather in his cap is his recent signing to the American arm of indie label du jour, Domino Records, where he is now labelmates with Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, as well as up-and-comers Sons and Daughters, Clearlake and Junior Boys. Ferree kicks things off tonight at the Black Cat, and once he exits the stage things should become much louder, heavier and, uh, swirlier as psych-rock locals (the Sounds of) Kaleidoscope and California noise rockers Comets on Fire (on Sub Pop Records) follow.
As the home of Joy Division, New Order, A Certain Ratio, the Durutti Column and Section 25, Factory Records holds a place in the hearts of most new wave and alternative music fans -- even those who haven't seen "24 Hour Party People," which is based on the career of Factory founder Tony Wilson. The label's music and scene were primarily Manchester-based, but some American acts did record for Factory, including a (now) little-known trio called Ike Yard. Led by D.C. native Stuart Argabright, Ike Yard mined the same brooding, bass-heavy, dub-influenced territory as early Public Image Ltd., but added a darker, more experimental sound -- chugging keyboard riffs, pulsing drum-machine beats -- that's closer to Can or Autechre than any New Order single. Twenty-four years after releasing "A Fact A Second" on Factory, Ike Yard is finally getting its due with a self-explanatory compilation, "1980-82 Collected," which combines the Factory LP, a Belgian EP and several unreleased tracks. There's an official release party tonight at the Marx Cafe's "We Fought the Big One" DJ night, which is the only event in town celebrating this kind of under-the-radar alternative music. DJs start at 10, and since there's no cover, you'll have more cash for a nice Belgian beer or two.
The last time Los Amigos Invisibles were at the Black Cat, it seemed as though the show was the final blowout for a weeklong convention of beautiful South American women and the dudes who follow them around. It was like the big party scene at the end of a movie set at a Venezuelan resort. If you're not taking advantage of these kind of benefits of being in an international town, you're missing out. (Los Amigos are definitely taking advantage, since they've made Washington a regular tour stop.) Tonight at the 9:30 Club they'll be putting that extra square footage to use with their blend of disco, funk, rock and pan-Latino styles.
Lupe Fiasco seemingly came out of nowhere and has music journalists scrambling to find hip synonyms for the term wunderkind. He's a young rapper who has somehow managed to asssimilate every major lyrical style that came before him -- he's already been endorsed by Rakim and Jay-Z -- and still mine untouched ways to flip a verse. His far-reaching concepts do include 'hood tales, except his are far from standard and colored by his Muslim faith and lack of curse words. To further define Lupe's singular niche on the hip-hop scene, his big single "Kick Push" from his "Food & Liquor" album is a fond meditation on skateboarding. This much buzzed-about rookie is paired with Wu veteran Method Man at Love tonight. Meth is still a strong brand despite his inconsistent solo albums. Maybe the young'un will propose a collaboration with the Staten Island vet.
Saturday, September 2
We've mentioned Gallery in this column a few times in recent months -- and Fritz just reviewed the club in the Weekend section last Friday -- but the user-friendly Silver Spring nightspot is continuing to assemble some of the coolest DJ lineups around, perfect for dancing until 4 a.m., indoors and out. This weekend's set is one of the fiercest yet: Roy Davis Jr., one of the founding fathers of Chicago house, brings his smooth, soulful, funky beats to the dance floor to face off against the roughed-up, pulsing electro and house of Junior Sanchez, who's known for remixing the likes of Bloc Party, the Bravery, Gorillaz and Madonna. Out in the back alley, you've got the jumped-up two-step sound of Joe Nice. The whole afternoon kicks off at 4 p.m. with the 88 Degrees team's terrace party: As DJs Ezekiel Honig, Morgan Packard, Nicholas Sauser, Ben Parris and Mistake spin on the restaurant's large patio, artists work on the club's graffiti wall, paint portraits (assembly-line style, no less) and show off video projects. It all sounds like an incredibly cool way to spend 12 hours, doesn't it? Women enter free before midnight and can abuse the open bar from 10 to 11, while guys pay nothing until 11, $10 from 11 to midnight and $15 after that.
Let's hope forecasts for Saturday are wrong and the rain stays away, because that would ruin one of our favorite summer traditions: the Summer Sessions in Rosslyn's Arlington Gateway Park. Featuring nine hours of outdoor electronic DJ action, headlined by San Francisco deep-house favorite Rick Preston and club-rocker Juan Zapata of the East Coast Boogiemen, this is the perfect chance to enjoy club music without the usual smoke and late hours. Bring a picnic and a hackeysack, dance to LBS and Ray Casil's funky beats -- and pray for clear skies. The sound system will be turned on at noon.
Tortured Soul has rocked D.C. from the humble (Sanctuary) to the major (9:30 Club) and taken its soulful garage sounds to multiple continents, but this is first time it will be paired with our own minister of house, Sam "the Man" Burns. No longer an excitedly chattered-about underground phenomenon, this three-man crew stirs a crowd like a well-programmed DJ set with the dynamics of a band. Burns won't actually be spinning, though -- he'll be in his preacher role, exhorting the faithful (and chastising the guilty) from behind the decks. The 3 Degrees squad will be the actual selectors warming up Five's dance floor tonight. Ed Dunn is the Chi-town member, and bigSEXY and Double 07 rep for the home team.
Sunday, September 3
We love holiday weekends, and not just for the three-day weekend -- it means we have an extra night to go check out bands, peep a new spot or just dance like crazy. Here are a couple of events that make Sunday seem like the second Saturday of the week:
DJ Dredd's Prince dance parties have achieved legendary status by this point. Combining deft mixing, a pitch-perfect feel for the groove and the ability to keep an incredibly diverse crowd moving, Dredd turns any venue into the best party in town. During the Memorial Day weekend Prince-versus-Outkast throwdown, the Black Cat was sold out, the dance floor was at capacity and the walls were visibly sweating. Tonight's event, which finds Prince and Madonna getting the back-to-back-to-back treatment, should be no different. Bring your dancing shoes and show up early or risk being shut out.
Earlier this year, Atlas Events killed its weekly Lizard Lounge party, which had been a staple of the gay lounge scene for years. Founder Mark Lee continues to throw Sunday night parties at MCCXXIII on long weekends, though, complete with drink specials. Tonight's Whirld features DJ Hex Hector, whose smooth, Paradise Garage house style won him a Grammy for remixing Jennifer Lopez's "Love Don't Cost A Thing." (He's also reworked Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Pink and Shakira, among others.) Regular Jean-Phillipe Aviance is in the top-level Spank lounge. Doors open at 9, and admission is $10 until 10, $15 after that.
We wished Chuck Brown a happy 72nd birthday last weekend, but he's still not slowing down. Tonight, the Godfather of Go-Go is joining go-go legends Sugar Bear and E.U. and supergroup Familiar Faces (with ex-members of Rare Essence and the Backyard Band) at Zanzibar for the Black and White Affair, which finds an open bar and soul food buffet from 8 to 9, followed by two levels of live music and dancing. Ditch the athletic wear and arrive early to skip what are sure to be long lines.
The 18-and-over crowd doesn't have work or school tomorrow, either, and H2O is throwing open its doors to everyone, beginning at 9 p.m., for the Labor Day College Reunion -- a night of hip-hop and R&B. Arrive before 11 for discounted admission, because there's no free guest-list action going on.
Monday, September 4
Sunday nights are always a tough draw, but the Monday night of a holiday weekend is usually even tougher. And when that Monday is Labor Day -- the unofficial end of summer, after a weekend when most people have had their final hurrah and are ready to start fresh in the fall -- it can be near impossible to get people off the couch and into a club. Something upbeat and energetic would work best to entice people out, so it will be interesting to see how Baltimore's Metal Hearts fare at the Red and the Black. It doesn't get much farther away from upbeat and energetic than Metal Hearts, who trudge in the same downtrodden terrain as groups like Arab Strap and early Cat Power. The band often uses a drum machine on record and using an actual drummer in a live setting could make things slightly more cheery, at least musically. In some ways, it's the perfect night to see the band; you can mourn the end of summer with some music that's sure to make you depressed. Chicago indie-rockers Bound Stems headline.
Wednesday, September 6
The Common Share wants to give you more than cheap beer tonight. Stop by for Artz & Craftz and chill to the audio backdrop of DJ 2 Tone Jones dropping funk tracks and late '80s hip-hop album cuts that no one else ever plays. Each Artz & Craftz session also features a different visual artist painting a piece live over the course of the evening, and at the end of the night, the hosts send patrons home with gift bags courtesy of their skateboard and urban sportswear sponsors. Hurray for schwag!