Thursday, October 12, 2006; 12:00 AM
First up, it's Howard Homecoming weekend, which means celebrity-"hosted" parties, lots of artists dropping into town to promote new or upcoming albums and tons of people in rented Hummers and Escalades cruising on U Street. Remember to arrive on the early side to avoid the door inflation that is endemic at these parties -- i.e. $10 before 10, $20 before midnight, $30 after, $50 once the club gets full -- and prepare for the "guests" to do short sets because they're hanging out in the VIP. Caveat clubber.
Thursday, Oct 12
When Cloud first opened, we figured that its drinks, decor and menu were aimed squarely at the posh set, as opposed to lovers of Dipset. But everybody loves a piece of that Howard Homecoming pie, so tonight Cloud will be turning over its DJ booth to Atlanta's DJ Drama, the man who brought the third coast -- otherwise known as The South -- into contention with New York as the main driver of mixtape culture. His Gangsta Grillz series has featured everyone from Lil' Wayne to Little Brother. Get into the spot early from 6 to 8 p.m. for a premium open bar, but after that we can't really call it. It's Gangsta Grillz in Dupont Circle.
Grits & Gravy is evergreen. Even when this soul/funk/disco/hip-hop revivalist DJ crew doesn't have a regular venue, you can count on one-off events popping up because everyone comes out of the woodwork to get their old-school on. DJ AK pulls out classics for eight hours tonight at Bar Nun for the influx of HU alums and like-minded partygoers who aren't trying to get krunked out this weekend; this is a place where people smile on the dancefloor. Get it cracking with happy hour starting at 6, and then the party goes on until 2 with the Old School Reunion celebration.
David is one of those weird rock obsessives who worships at the altar of Steve Albini, the malcontent engineer extraordinaire largely responsible for the raw, uncompromising sounds on classic records by Nirvana, the Pixies, the Jesus Lizard, PJ Harvey and many, many other bands. But while Albini's especially great at making electric guitars sound razor sharp, he's also been behind the boards for some fine albums that are considerably quieter, and his work with New York singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia may be the best example of that. Albini has said that of all the albums he's ever worked on, Nastasia's debut "Dogs," is one of his favorites, and that's saying a ton -- Albini was there for "In Utero" and "Surfer Rosa," after all. Nastasia's latest, "On Leaving," is another Albini-engineered affair, but there's no question that Nastasia's graceful, unadorned voice is the main attraction here. It's a perfect match for this collection of songs, which scales back some of the bigger arrangements on past albums in favor of a sound built around gently picked acoustic guitar, piano and the occasional light drumming. She'll be at DC9 with Tom Brousseau.
Friday, Oct. 13
Howard Homecoming watch: Diddy is rocking the party at Love with special guests; Jim Jones and Dipset are setting up at H2O; local soul singer Raheem DeVaughn, who seems perennially on the cusp of stardom, is hosting happy hour at Zanzibar with D.C.-based rapper Tabi Bonney; and Avenue is going dark with "Black Friday" -- arrive early for free drinks.
As much as we like H Street NE and recommend events over there, we hate having to remind people that the area's not as safe as we'd like. The latest example: Argonaut bartender/server/DJ Luis "Quike" Morales was shot in the head after leaving work in the wee hours of Sept. 30. (Police initially described the incident as a botched robbery.) Now out of a coma, Morales faces a long road to recovery, and like many in the service industry, he needs help to cover the cost of multiple surgeries and his hospital stay, as well as to help support his mother, who has come from Panama to stay with her son. The Argonaut is hosting a fundraiser tonight with a silent auction and DJ, beginning at 7, and it should be a powerful (if somber) night of community spirit. A $20 cover and a portion of the evening's food and drink proceeds benefit the Morales family.
If you haven't braved the lines and VIP drama to check out Fly yet, you're missing one of the city's coolest and best-designed lounges. The capacity is low, so demand for couches and standing room in the airplane-themed space is higher than the supply. Yes, the bouncers can be more brusque and unhelpful than most, so forget about all that tonight and head down to Fly for the Euronet happy hour, which gives everyone a chance to check out the lounge and have a drink without worrying about bottle service or fashionable arrival times. RSVP on euronetinternational.com, pay a $5 cover and you're in. (You can show up without RSVPing, but you'll pay an extra $2 and there's no guarantee you'll be able to party.) Doors open at 6:30, and departure time is three hours later.
Howard Homecoming may be all about school spirit, but many students scoff at the high prices to attend the parties that glom on to the annual event. (When you were in college, could you drop $50 just to get in the door at a club? Thought not.) That's why we're intrigued by Team BBC, which is trying to "reclaim Howard Homecoming" at Felix tonight. How? No cover charge when you RSVP, free food, drink specials and a welcoming vibe. Sounds like a plan to us, so let's hope it's the vanguard of a new wave of anti-bling Homecoming events. Doors open at 7.
Boston quartet the Beatings makes indie rock for people who are sick of stylized electric guitar washes and pristine vocals. The influences of heroes of Boston's rock past are present (the Pixies, Mission of Burma) but the hard-charging guitars and emotive vocals also bring to mind some of Washington's classics of yesteryear, such as Fugazi and Jawbox. Known for live shows as ferocious as the name promises, the Beatings will be at the Velvet Lounge tonight.
Similar to the Beat Society showcase that started in Philadelphia, Washington's Beat Grinder pits hip-hop beat creators against each other in a single elimination tournament. A panel of judges assesses the drums, composition and crowd response of each competitor's tracks. A recent reader e-mail asked what has become of Beat Grinder since its Capital City Records homebase closed. Rather than move on to a nightclub where a lot of the young hip-hop heads would be denied entry, the Beat Grinder crew is keeping it on the community level by staging the showdown at Hung Tao Choi Mei Kung Fu Academy, a U Street martial arts academy known for its work with youth. In between rounds, assembled heads will be treated to performances by Kokayi of Opus Akoben and DJ Evil Dee of the classic group Black Moon.
A party to raise money for the USO seems so wholesome, like something out of a Jimmy Stewart movie: couples dancing politely, sipping Cokes at the bar, women smiling sweetly while making small talk with guys in uniform. That probably won't be the scene at Panache tonight, where 90s rockers Everclear, Level Vodka and Panache lounge are cosponsoring a fundraiser for the USO's Care Package program. A $10 donation at the door goes to help prepare "care packages" full of sunscreen, phone cards, disposable cameras, toiletries and other items for men and women stationed overseas. In return, you get a free cocktail made with Level, drink specials all night and hip-hop and dance music spun by DJ Seth Hart. (Everclear are showing up after midnight after performing in, uh, College Park, of all places.) As always, you need to dress to impress, and doors open at 10.
For those who love swing dancing, Frankie Manning is a living legend. He danced to Chick Webb and Count Basie at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom back in the '30s and showed off his blazing footwork in movies like "Hellzapoppin'" and the Marx Brothers classic "A Day at the Races" as a member of the groundbreaking troupe Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. But Manning's lasting legacy may be the day he flipped partner Freda Washington over his back in a competition, creating an entire category of crowd-pleasing, gravity-defying moves known as airsteps. Manning went into obscurity after the swing era, working as a postman for decades before some swing dance aficionados tracked him down and brought him out of retirement to teach them how Lindy Hop was done back in the day. A genial man with a ready smile and a patient way of teaching, Manning now travels the world hosting workshops. He's in town for three days of classes (see gottaswing.com) and accompanying dances, which kick off tonight at the Chevy Chase Ballroom. The band Swingin' Vibes features some well-known local jazz musicians, including Chuck Redd, Steve Wolf and Big Joe Maher, so expect plenty of Lionel Hampton to keep the crowd moving. The dance runs from 9 until midnight, and a half-hour beginner lesson is included in the $15 cover.
Saturday, Oct 14
Howard Homecoming Watch: P. Diddy is hosting the release party for his new album "Press Play" at H2O, in what should be one of the biggest parties of the weekend -- Venus Williams showed up last year. Ludacris jumps in his car and just rides for hours so he doesn't miss hosting the homecoming party at Love. Republic Gardens welcomes young alumni (and those young at heart) with an open bar and DJs. Biz Markie takes over the wheels of steel at Mirrors. DJ Jahsonic bucks the U Street trend and spins hip-hop, soul and party jams at Jin without a cover charge.
Asheru is relentless in his quest to edutain. By day he teaches kids and has developed a language arts curriculum based on hip-hop while earning a master's degree in education. By night he hits stages to give clinics on the essence of the title "Master of Ceremony." His creative output has found him at the gravitational center of a lot of emerging local hip-hop talent, and he uses his Guerilla Lounge series to showcase them. Leading a hybrid house band called the ELs that consists of drum machine, guitar, bass and keys, Guerilla Lounge functions like a revue with the ELs backing up each act, interspersed with Asheru dropping verses throughout the night. Riding a wave launched by his D.C. slang-filled hit "The Pocket," Tabi Bonney is a hot property with tunes on commercial radio rotation and a video on VH1 Soul. Hitting Washington for the first time from their Texas homebase, Mojoe comes across as a continuation of Outkast's classic debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Underrated duo Dirty Water has been on the grind in Washington for almost a decade, perfecting a combination of clever street scholar rhymes and underground beats. Completing the bill is DJ L.E.S., a New York producer best known for his work with Nas on the classic "Illmatic" album. Proceeds for this Guerilla Lounge at Sesto Senso go to Project NOMMO, which is Asheru's educational nonprofit organization.
More Frankie Manning tonight, and if you can only make it to one dance, make it this one: The George Gee Swing Orchestra, which prides itself on swinging like the great Count Basie ensembles, is coming down from New York to play at the historic Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom. It's as close to the big band era as you're going to get in Washington, and having a dancer like Frankie Manning around should only help the atmosphere. Swing from 9 to midnight -- though you'll want to arrive earlier to beat the lines -- and admission is $18.
Sunday, Oct. 15
Howard Homecoming Watch: If you want to keep the weekend going without staying out too late, the Daylight folks are dropping classic soul, disco, R&B, hip-hop and house over at Bohemian Caverns beginning at 4. They're promising drink specials and free food until 10. Later, Lloyd Banks has a new album out, so he's repping for G Unit at kstreet.
Wednesday, Oct. 18
David Hasselhoff walks into a bar in Munich and orders a beer. The bartender does a double-take. "Mein Gott! You are David Hasselhoff! I'm such a huge fan!" Hasselhoff looks embarrassed and says, "Yes, I am, but I don't want to cause a scene. While I'm here, can you just call me David Hoff?" The bartender looks solemn and nods. "Certainly, Herr Hoff. No Hassel." German humor! Isn't it great? The reason we're supplying such sidesplitting laughs is because of Rustico's Oktoberfest party, which is celebrating Munich's Hofbräu brewery with the first-annual Don't Hassel the Hof Brau Festival. Starting at 6 tonight, you can enjoy Oktoberfest beers, food specials and music -- including some of the Hof's greatest hits. (We'll buy a beer for the first person to get the DJ to spin the soft-rock hilarity that is "Jump in My Car.")
If only we all could have a third-best option as good as Mac McCaughan has with Portastatic. The diminutive dude with the squeaky voice has his indie-rock legacy all set, thanks to his full-time roles as frontman of Superchunk and head honcho of Merge Records, arguably the finest indie rock band ever and the finest indie rock label ever. (Hey, we said arguably.) Portastatic is his longtime side project, but since it's been about five years since the last Superchunk album, it might be time to ditch that "side" qualifier. Superchunk made its mark with hyped-up indie/punk anthems and Portastatic gave McCaughan an outlet to showcase his more sensitive side. Since Portastatic is now McCaughan's main creative outlet, it has resulted in two of his most well-rounded albums -- including his work with Superchunk -- in last year's "Bright Ideas" and this year's "Be Still Please." There's nothing as raucous as classic 'Chunk tunes like "Hyper Enough" or "On the Mouth," but songs like "I Wanna Know Girls" and "I'm in Love (With Arthur Dove)" show that McCaughan can still pen a catchy, up-tempo rocker with the best of them. He also sounds more comfortable than ever with his once-brittle voice, giving more authority to his mid-tempo ballads. Catch one of the most consistent and prolific songwriters of the past couple decades at the Black Cat's backstage.