Thursday, Dec. 14
Asylum is hosting its Night of 1,000 Santas Christmas party tonight, though we expect you'll see more people whose ideal Saint Nick is closer to Billy Bob Thornton ("Bad Santa") than Edmund Gwenn ("Miracle on 34th Street"). (Personally, we'll always be scared of the evil, leering Santa in "A Christmas Story.") No matter. Revelers are encouraged to dress as their favorite big-screen Santa, with a $250 cash prize for the "best and most creative" costume. With "nog specials" heavy on the rum and gift raffles, too, this is one rewarding holiday event. Just show up in festive clothing or you'll pay $5 at the door.
DJ Harry Hotter has some very eclectic tastes, though he does some pretty blue-collar work serving up the hits at Love every week. Catch him outside of his main gig, and you'll get a much different sampling than the narrow Love playlist of mainstream hip-hop and acceptable old-school cuts. A record nerd of the classic variety, Harry rolls with crates of obscure funk breaks from around the world; you won't find too many reissues in his collection. For some time, Harry's been the featured DJ for rapper/promoter Quartermaine's listening lounge event, which is now taking place at Science Club under the name POP (Potion of Percussion). It's one event even Love lovers won't want to sleep on.
We didn't expect the Lemonheads to release an album in 2006, and we certainly didn't expect it to be pretty good. "The Lemonheads" isn't not going to take the place of the classic "It's a Shame About Ray" as your favorite from Evan Dando and Co., but it certainly doesn't sound like a record from a band that took a decade off. (Perhaps it just took Dando that long to come up with the perfect album title.) Dando recruited two members of seminal punks the Descendents to serve as the rhythm section on his comeback, and that helps explain why the disc does hearken back to the Lemonheads' thrashy earlier days. Still, in concert, you can expect to hear plenty of the wistful power-pop that helped make Dando an alt-rock heartthrob back in the '90s. Get to the Black Cat early for up-and-comers Vietnam, who sometimes channel the spaced-out bliss of Spiritualized and sometimes the grittiness of the Afghan Whigs, so there's almost always a Dylan undercurrent.
We try to help people do good all year 'round by steering readers towards benefit happy hours, but there's something about the holiday season that brings out the best in us. Tonight at Madam's Organ, there's a fundraiser for Turning the Page, a nonprofit organization that helps provide training and support for D.C. teachers and parents. (You can read more at www.turningthepage.org.) Half of all food sales and $1 from each drink go straight to Turning the Page, and the Johnny Artis Band is bringing the blues. Happy hour begins at 5.
Friday, Dec. 15
Fans of jazz piano have one more weekend to get themselves down to HR-57 to catch Eric Lewis, who's been holding down the 14th Street club with his trio every Friday and Saturday this month. Formerly a member of the Wynton Marsalis Quartet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and also the 1999 winner of the prestigious Theolonious Monk International Piano Competition, Lewis deftly mixes up classic jazz, funk and Latin influences into one surprisingly youthful and soulful package. He's perfoming at 9 both nights, and there's a $15 cover at the door.
If you're a producer and you've got beats that generally defy the structure needed for standard vocals, there are a few examples you can draw from. There's MF Doom dropping his odd references over Madlib's tracks to form the Madvillain project. Gnarls Barkley is another example of a vocalist/producer pair blending equally elastic concepts. For DJ Sharkey, a muse came in the guise of a menacing yet quirky rapper from New York by the name of C-Rayz Walz. Together they form Monster Maker and you can catch them at Rock and Roll Hotel with DJ P-Nyce tonight.
Generally nonstop with his hustle, Raheem DeVaughn doesn't stay out of sight for long stretches. An extended touring run is responsible for his relative low profile on the local scene recently, but he's managed to cook up some more covers for another Street Experience mixtape, lend some vocals to a remix of Uncalled 4 Band's "Sexy Lady" and pop up on stage during Asheru's recent set at the 9:30 club. Get on the list and catch a headlining DeVaughn at Love tonight.
Saturday, Dec. 16
Here's one of those events that we can get behind: a show where DJs and bands (well, at least a band) live in harmony. The Garutachi folks have a little something for everyone at the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight as local product Mattie Safer -- bassist for dance-punks the Rapture -- mans the turntables and indie-rock vets Enon perform live. The final seconds seem to be ticking away on the Rapture's window of opportunity to cash in on those Next Big Thing promises, as the group's "Pieces of the People We Love" hasn't created much buzz outside the expected circles. It's still a fun, danceable record with big beats and presents many opportunities for listeners (and dancers) to throw their hands in the air and try to see if they can top singer Luke Jensen's Michael Jackson impression. We'd expect Safer to spin similarly upbeat tunes. Enon excels at many varieties of indie rock, but given tonight's setup, we wouldn't be surprised if the group focused on its more electro-tinged songs. Garutachi resident DJ Ca$$idy will also be spinning at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
At this point, Leeds, England, quartet ¡Forward, Russia! is better known on these shores for its innovative graphic design (the double exclamation points, Russian-style letters in the logo) and its odd song-naming convention, which finds every song assigned a number rather than a conventional name. (This can lead to some confusion among listeners; on the band's debut, "Give Me A Wall," the first track is "Thirteen," followed by "Twelve," then "Fifteen Pt. One" -- there's no number below "Seven.") All this is pure icing, though, on the band's strident wall-of-guitar sound, which finds them moving from elastic, dance-punk to full-on My Bloody Valentine-style drones, complete with the odd hand-clapping sequence. ¡Forward, Russia! isn't breaking any new ground, but the music is infectious and the band's first appearance in Washington should be quite the occasion. Opening are Snowden, an Atlanta indie-rock quartet who appeared at the Black Cat earlier this year as part of a Bliss dance night, and local band-to-watch Middle Distance Runner.
Sunday, Dec. 17
We've talked about local trio the Jet Age a lot lately, both in the column and on the podcast. David loves that they remind him of many of his favorite classic indie rock bands, from Superchunk to the Wedding Present to Dinosaur Jr., with high-pitched vocals, strummy guitars and occasional blasts of serious guitar noise. So it's a perfect fit that the band is sharing a bill at Galaxy Hut with the Plastic Containers, another local trio that hits on all the classic indie rock staples that the Jet Age doesn't. The band found a comfortable mid-point between Pavement and Built to Spill at a show at the Red and the Black a few months ago, with peppy, playful songs that often ventured into some extended guitar noodling.
Daylight is a recommendation we often give to people looking for a chilled out way to wind up the weekend -- how could we ignore a Sunday afternoon affair with great '70s and '80s house and hip-hop? -- but we'll give them another shout out for hosting a Toys For Tots Drive today at Bohemian Caverns. Show up at 4 with an unwrapped toy and you can partake of drink specials (until 6) and a home-cooked picnic-style buffet (while it lasts), then stick around for Bill Source and Divine's perfect blend of laidback dance music. Peep the podcast at soulstewdc.com for an example of what you'll hear.
Wednesday, Dec. 20
Remember alternative rock? Local quartet Velvet does; the band was even around when that genre was still relevant. There's something to be admired about the band's stick-to-it-iveness, as after more than a decade of playing together and a handful of albums, it seems pretty clear that they probably aren't going to "make it," in the classic sense. It's just four guys who enjoy playing music together, so they keep doing it. That's kind of refreshing, and it shows in the music, which lacks pretension and does sound like it would have fit in on a WHFS playlist back in the day. Locals the Alphabetical Order, one of the few bands around to employ three lead singers, opens along with Little Armadillo at the Black Cat's backstage.