Thursday, September 21, 2006; 12:00 AM
Thursday, Sept. 21
There are rumblings on the Internet (imagine that!) that the original lineup of Washington's hardcore punk legends Bad Brains will be reuniting for some shows later this fall. This is possibly exciting news, but it's an idea that's probably better on paper than in reality. After all, Bad Brains always relied more on intensity than musical proficiency, and there's plenty of reason to think that it wouldn't be at the same level as a quarter century ago. That ferocity will be on display tonight, though, at a film screening at the Black Cat's backstage. "Bad Brains - Live at CBGB 1982" catches the groundbreaking reggae/punk band at its peak, performing at the country's punk rock Mecca. For a small taste of what to expect, check out this clip.
Not surprisingly, it's Fritz's favorite time of year: Oktoberfest. Numerous beer festivals and events loom on the horizon, and while it's not a patch on going to Munich, where the party started last Saturday, there's plenty for brew-loving Germanophiles. Tonight, the Gordon Biersch brewpub near Gallery Place is tapping its own Oktoberfest beer, which is often one of our favorite seasonals. It's usually not the super-hopped version that so many Americans come to expect, but a pleasing, malty drink, served in those huge one-liter mugs called a Mass or a Masskrug. Starting at 5:30, live music, raffles, beer and food help raise money for the Walk to Defeat ALS.
Rawkus Records is back. The label that introduced the masses to underground staples like Mos Def, Talib Kweli and the Soundbombing brand fell off for awhile. It happens. The newest incarnation is built upon an intriguing lineup of emerging artists, including a journeyman crew from Colorado by the name of The Procussions. They'll be opening for A Tribe Called Quest at Love on Friday, but if you can't brave the crush of colliding worlds or somehow don't score a ticket, you can catch them as the main event at the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight. Rappers Rez and Mr. J Medeiros flood the stage with energy, while producer Stro takes turns behind a drum throne and a mike. Add in multiple DMC title holder DJ Vajra, and you'll be happy to see this crew stretch out as headliners.
Friday, Sept. 22
"The formula is this: me, Tip and Ali." Phife's verse on A Tribe Called Quest's "Oh My God" from 1993's "Midnight Marauders" album really could suffice for the entirety of this blurb. Really, what more do you need to know other than that this legendary hip-hop trio will be performing at Love tonight? It's remedial to even have to rehash how their five albums in the '90s defined an era and several aesthetic branches of hip-hop, from playful and intelligent boho-hop to the pioneering use of jazz samples that could rattle a trunk when layered over meaty slabs of beat. Whether it was DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad's rare-groove loops, the upright bass of jazz legend Ron Carter or the minimalist arrangements of pioneering producer J. Dilla, the one thing that connected Tribe's different sonic eras was the chemistry between abstract poet Q-Tip and the scrappy bluntness of Phife Dawg. That chemistry seemed to be waning by 1998's "Love Movement" as personal and fiscal fissures widened in the group. A farewell tour followed at the end of that album's arc, and many of us thought that we were seeing them for the last time. Time really must heal wounds, because Tribe has popped up on spot dates over the last couple years, sometimes even with member-emeritus Jarobi, who has been a Washington-area resident for a good while. There's been no official proclamation that Tribe is back, but even if this unofficial reunion only persists on stage we all win. No more advance tickets are available online, so you're going to have to line up at the club and take your chances. Doors open at 6 p.m., which is about five hours before you can expect Tribe to hit the stage.
Might a future president of the United States be at Iota tonight? Hey, it's possible. Illinois Senator -- and potential presidential candidate? -- Barack Obama helped make this show by Extra Golden happen, so maybe he'll show up. What else is a junior senator up to on a Friday evening? Obama was instrumental in bringing Opiyo Bilongo and Onyango Wuod Omari over from Kenya for this tour, which also features Ian Eagleson and Alex Minoff of all-over-the-place local rockers Golden. The unlikely collaboration stems from Eagleson's trip to Kenya for a thesis on benga, a form of guitar-heavy African dance music. It resulted in the album "Ok-Oyot System," an infectious, charming record with plenty of funky grooves and fuzzy guitars. Few thought a tour would ever be possible, especially after main Kenyan collaborator Otieno Jagwasi died from complications due to HIV in 2005. Headlining tonight is another worldly act, Mosquitos, who combine indie-pop and samba.
Okay, we're putting this in print: David was right. When Fritz first told him about the Rock and Roll Hotel earlier this year and mentioned the venue's 400-person capacity, David speculated that they'd be doing a lot of DJ events there to fill up the schedule instead of booking bands. We initially scoffed at the idea -- it's the ROCK AND ROLL Hotel. But David was right. We're seeing an increasing number of DJ nights on the club's calendar, from has-been rockers (Andy Rourke) to tonight's appearance by Scott Henry, a true local legend. The founder of the massively influential Buzz/Sting/Cubik dance night and a DJ who's spun at massive venues all over the world, Henry gives you a chance to groove to an incredible four-hour set in an intimate setting. We're not ready to declare Rock and Roll Hotel the new Buzz yet, but upcoming gigs by Charles Feelgood and the all-drum 'n' bass Planet of the Drums show with Dieselboy have us wondering.
While we guess that only old disco and soul heads will recognize Evelyn "Champagne" King, Martha Wash and Rose Royce by name, we're pretty sure that most people have danced to their hits, oh, about 500 times. Wash was one half of the Weather Girls, and don't play like you never screamed along to "It's Raining Men" or "Just Us." When the group disbanded, Wash lent her full-throttle vocals to influential dance tracks like C&C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat" and Black Box's "Everybody Everybody." King's smashes include the 1978 dance floor burner "Shame" -- which was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame -- "Love Come Down" and "I'm in Love." Then there's Rose Royce, whose "Car Wash" is instantly evocative of the late '70s. (For some reason, it makes us think of rollerskating on a sunny afternoon.) These three artists are appearing at today's free Dancing in the District concert on Woodrow Wilson Plaza, along with hip-hop's Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. It's going to be hot, it's free, and what better way to get in the mood for going out on a Friday night? The music begins at 7.
In the first of this weekend's two promising CD release shows by local acts, synth-dance quintet Soft Complex marks its debut EP, "Barcelona" with an appearance at the Black Cat. David wrote about the album in a blog post last week, so check that out for the scoop and to listen to some audio clips. Rounding out the all-local bill will be a couple of the area's slickest radio-friendly (well, at least indie Internet radio) bands: Monopoli and Cedars, who just released the new EP, "Another Season."
Saturday, Sept. 23
Man, are y'all tired of us mentioning Rock and Roll Hotel yet? We're heading back over there tonight for the official Virgin Festival afterparty, which features a special DJ spot by VHS or Beta, who brought the rock during a similar slot at DC9 earlier this year. You can bet the place will be full of people who couldn't make it up to Baltimore but are still looking to dance and have a good time. Admission is free before 10 and $10 after. Oh, and as for those special big-name mystery guests who are coming down to H Street after performing at the Virgin Festival, somebody told us who they were, but said we'd be killed if we printed the name. Sorry. But we promise that if you make it down in time for the midnight show, everything will be all right.
Travel through West Africa, particularly the Gambia and parts of Senegal and you can sometimes feel like you're actually in the West Indies. It's no surprise that roots reggae has a strong following in that part of the world, considering the themes of pan-Africanism and triumph over oppression in both the music and in Rastafarianism. The African Roots Reggae Festival at Zanzibar tonight features three acts -- Ras Kimono from Nigeria, Soum Bill from Ivory Coast and Kojo Antwi of Ghana -- who reflect the slowed-down ska beat and the messages for the people in a cultural feedback loop across the Atlantic.
N'Klabe has been called salsa's "boy band with smarts" in The Washington Post, and that's about as good a description as we've seen. The three good-looking young Puerto Rican guys won't be challenging Gilberto Santa Rosa or Victor Manuelle for the salsa throne anytime soon, but they perform light, crowd-pleasing music that's fun to dance to, whether you're in a ballroom or listening to the album "I Love Salsa!" on your iPod. For tonight's Salsamania 2006 concert at the Hyatt Regency, N'Klabe is joined by famed Puerto Rican singers Eddie Santiago, Tito Gomez (formerly of Grupo Niche) and Cano Estremera, the Orquesta Zeniza All Stars and local club favorite DJ Andy El Mas Bailable. Expect to stay on your feet most of the night as the vocalists trade on and off. Tickets are $45 from Ticketlatino.com or Zodiac record shops.
Another lyric from Tribe's "Oh My God" finds Phife Dawg admitting that he used to have a crush on Dawn from En Vogue. Sure, everyone had their favorite member, but Dawn Robinson's cheering section has generally been the loudest. If you didn't want to be with her, you wanted to be her. En Vogue's run in the '80s modernized the mold of '60s girl groups and built a new template that hasn't really been surpassed since. (En Vogue had four lead singers, so the Beyonce-dominated Destiny's Child doesn't count.) Robinson went solo in 1997 and immediately was recruited by Raphael Saddiq to join him and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad in a project known as Lucy Pearl. That record definitely took up more space on CD shelves than Robinson's own solo follow-up, despite the fact that her allure and her pipes never waned. It's pretty difficult to get a good Dawn fix these days, as her career has been quiet, so her gig tonight at Juste Lounge is a must-see.
More local artists with new CDs! Tonight, it's twice the excitement at DC9. David wrote about the Hard Tomorrows' album "Lights Out" last week; the evening's headliners are Baltimore's Two If By Sea, whose second album, "Safety," finds them continuing to make taut, tense indie rock in the Interpol vein.
Hot on the heels of Friday's Disco in the District is the Greater Washington Urban League's "Decades Party" fundraiser at the Washington Convention Center. Featuring hand dancing and stepping contests, a Soul Train line, a dress-as-your-favorite-decade costume contest, DJs spinning hits from the '60s through the modern era -- honestly, they had us at the Soul Train line -- this party's proceeds go towards the Urban League's health and aging programs. Comedian J. Anthony Brown -- a fixture on the Tom Joyner Morning Show -- is the host. Tickets are $45 from Ticketmaster outlets.
Monday, Sept. 25
He recently popped up on a movie on BET. He occasionally dips out of town to rock on the west coast at Los Angeles' Temple Bar, where the progressive crowd takes refuge from the plastic people. He appeared on a record with Prince Paul. He flexes his acting chops in local theaters and plays the newest modern soul cuts from the upstairs DJ booth at Bar Nun on Friday nights. At any of these points, you'll find W. Ellington Felton slinging copies of an album you haven't heard yet, since he seems to record a new full-length project every few months. His newest baby has national distribution, and since it will be a first impression for a much wider group of potential fans, it's mostly a collection of the best cuts from his indie releases along with a few new treats. W. Ellington marks the release of "Outrospective" with a show at Blues Alley tonight.
Wednesday, Sept. 27
The cozy Thursday night hip-hop and retro party known as Uncle Q's Living Room seems to be no more, though there never was an official obituary. Still, promoter Daryl Francis is quick on his feet and has brought things full circle -- he's back at Bossa where the whole journey started. Bossa Beats features DJ Harry, a working man's DJ who slings the mainstream hits to the masses at Love but lives to play obscure boogaloo, Brazilian funk and rare breaks in small rooms to open ears and minds. His record bag is a trainspotter's delight, and he should be familiar to regular attendees of previous Uncle Q parties as a frequent selector during happy hour time. As is customary with an Uncle Q production, admission is free.