Wednesday, December 20, 2006; 4:27 PM
Annual Christmas Warning: As unfair as it may be to those who don't celebrate Christmas, many Washington bars and clubs will close early or completely on Dec. 24 and 25. Clarendon Grill, Wonderland, Cafe Saint-Ex and the Red and the Black are among the places shutting altogether, while others like the Black Cat and DC9 will open with reduced hours of operation and without much fanfare. (Having the holiday on Monday, one of the slowest days of the week, probably made closing an easy decision.) When it doubt, call ahead.
Thursday, Dec. 21
Hanukkah's almost over, but it wouldn't be the Festival of Lights without a party at Felix and the Spy Lounge. The annual soiree, dubbed "Gimlets and Gelt," features $5 drink specials like the Chocolate Gelt, a chocolatey vodka cocktail served with a foil-wrapped coin as a garnish, latkes, dancing to a DJ and, of course, a menorah lighting. Tickets are $10 at the door, and guests are asked to bring a book for donation to D.C. public high schools -- "think summer reading list," says the invite. Everything kicks off at 7.
In the week before Christmas, not many bands are on the road touring, so it's a good chance for local acts to take the stage at the area's best clubs. Tonight there are solid bills at both the Black Cat and the Rock and Roll Hotel that will present local indie rock fans with a tough decision. After tonight's show on the Black Cat's backstage, our favorite indie/psych/folk act, Nethers, will head off to California to record the followup to last year's excellent "In Fields We Will Lie." The sunny shores of Cali are quite a departure from the country house in Virginia where "Fields" took shape, but it doesn't mean that Nethers will suddenly go all Mamas and Papas. Tonight will offer a good chance to get a sneak peak at the new material as the group tries to work out those final kinks. Pun intended? Perhaps. Opening will be Baltimore's Page France, a band could fall into the non-psychedelic wing of the defunct Elephant 6 collective. The songs are mostly charming, happy folk ditties that pile on the instruments as things progress -- think chimes, glockenspiel, horns and other fun stuff. You can hear a clip of the song "Chariot" on our latest podcast.
Over at the Rock and Roll Hotel, the Roosevelt headlines a show that also includes New Yorkers Phonograph and ubiquitous locals These United States. David was listening to the Roosevelt's self-titled EP the other day and realized that one of the reasons he likes it so much is that almost every song starts off sounding like it could be Wilco's "How to Fight Loneliness." (David really loves that song.) Like Nethers, the Roosevelt has tunes that go down easy, with clean, strummy guitars and subtle vocal hooks. Openers Phonograph sound even more like Wilco than the Roosevelt; if Jeff Tweedy really wanted to, he could probably collect royalties on a song like "In Your Mind," which is a straight rip of Wilco's "I'm the Man Who Loves You." But he probably wouldn't do that, considering that Phonograph actually opened for Wilco recently.
Friday, Dec. 22
Local rootsy-pop-and-R&B favorites the Grandsons are celebrating 20 years as a group and the release of the band's second "Live at the Barns" CD, which is chock full of the country and swing-fueled Americana that the Grandsons do so well. If that's not enough to tell you to put tonight's show at Silver Spring's Rodeo on your calendar, we now hear that the show is becoming a fundraiser/tribute for Washington sax legend Joe Stanley, who was recently diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. Stanley has been a fixture on the Washington R&B and rock scenes for five decades, performing with Link Wray, Roy Clark, Roy Buchanan and Marvin Gaye (during his time in the Fabulous Rainbows) and mentoring a young Danny Gatton. A member of the Washington Area Music Association's Hall of Fame, Stanley still performs around town with Big Joe and the Dynaflows. A portion of the proceeds from tonight's tickets will go to Stanley. The music starts at 9.
The Eighteenth Street Lounge record label is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a series of events and parties, and as you'd expect, Thievery Corporation's four-night stand at the 9:30 club is garnering most of the headlines. Those in the know, however, will be heading over to the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight to check out Thunderball, Ursula 1000 and the Fort Knox Five. Longtime members of the Eighteenth Street Lounge scene, Thunderball sculpts exotic funk and dub tunes that are perfect for chilling on a couch at the Lounge, dancing in a dark club or pounding from the soundtrack of a vintage spy thriller. (For curious listeners, the new singles collection "Cinescope" is a great place to start.) Opener Ursula 1000 has released a number of CDs and 12" singles on ESL over the years, but D.C. performances seem few and far between. All the more reason to catch his DJ set, which is usually filled with '60s funk, boogaloo and sitars, mashed up with modern breakbeats and pouty vocals. You'll be on the dancefloor in no time. The Fort Knox Five isn't on ESL per se, but since the collective was founded by Thunderball's Steve Raskin and Sid Barcelona, it makes sense to add the group's groovy, James Brown-influenced house and electronica to the bill. Doors open at 9; tickets are $10.
Perusing the jukebox at Pharmacy Bar, you may have been a bit puzzled when you reached the panels where English disappears and Latvian takes over. That's because owner Kristaps Kreslins is a native of the former Soviet republic and isn't just a fan of music from his home country, but is a part of the Latvian punk rock scene. What, you didn't think they had punk rock in Latvia? Punk rock is everywhere, man. His band, Macitajs on Acid, is back together for a brief tour, which hits the Black Cat tonight. It won't be punk like the Ramones, but a heavier, swirlier sound. After that, it's hard to know exactly what will go down, but for a small taste of what to expect, watch this. We can only hope the silver jumpsuits and body paint remain.
If you're a procrastinator like Fritz and haven't finished your holiday shopping but still want to get your "Thank God the week is over" happy hour on, Juste Lounge's weekly Sex in the City is the place to be tonight. The evening starts with an open bar from 5 to 8, and then from 8 to 10, Juste is giving away a $50 Nordstrom gift certificate every 15 minutes or so. (Look, this is a nightclub. Things rarely run like clockwork.) Meanwhile, DJ Alizay of WKYS is spinning hip-hop, old school and reggae on the turntables. Free booze, a free gift certificate to spend on that last-second present you forgot to pick up, plenty of dancing -- and free admission when you get a pass from sexinthecitydc.com.
Saturday, Dec. 23
Looking back on 2006, Jesse Tittsworth has been one of our favorite DJs, thanks to his crowd-pleasing, floor-filling Baltimore club and booty bass remixes as well as his deft turntable skills. He's headlining tonight's Pho Real Xmas party at Five, which features a hot lineup of house, breaks, electro, B'more and dubstep on a night that's usually reserved for house in all its myriad forms. (And you can get your picture taken with Santa! Seriously!) Tittsworth is joined in the main room by Tom B of Eighteenth Street Lounge, Bobby Jae, Mat Nordstrom and Ken Lazee, while Signal and Ricky Ricardo spin dubstep -- the latest garage/grime hybrid to come out of London -- on the tented-and-heated rooftop deck. Admission to the dress-code-free evening is $10, though they'll knock off a few bucks if you bring a few cans of food for the homeless. More info can be found at Upfrontdc.com.
Yes, it's another show at the Black Cat, but we can't help it since it's one of our new favorites, Soccer Team. "Here's Why Dancers Smoke" was featured on our most recent podcast, but you can be sure the Dischord duo will also be featured on the next installment, too, when we discuss our favorite local releases of 2006. Soccer Team's debut, "'Volunteered' Civility & Professionalism" will certainly be on there, but that's all we'll give away for now. The low-key, slightly dissonant songs that Ryan Clark and Melissa Quinley cooked up in their basement grow on you with repeated listens, and it's nice to see the band headlining the main stage. Openers Statehood have been building a good buzz lately thanks to some choice opening slots for the likes of the Hold Steady and Radio 4. The group does dance-punk by way of D.C., and is much improved now that the guitar parts are not pre-recorded, but played by actual guitarists.
One of Washington's newest gallery spaces is Dissident Display, which opened a few months ago near the corner of 4th and H streets NE. Founded by filmmaker Ayodamola "Ayo" Okunseinde and graphic designer Adrian Loving, Dissident Display tends to focus on multimedia pieces rather than conventional art. Get a peek at the current exhibitions tonight at the galley's holiday party, complete with free food and drink from 7 to 10. Of course, the reason we're suggesting you go isn't just the art: the evening features a night of down-and-funky dance music by Loving and special guests Stevie G and Taha. Once two of the city's finest house DJs, they proceeded to relocate to Indonesia and Sudan, respectively, in early 2005. Now Stevie G and Taha are back, however briefly, and they'll be providing grooves from 10 until late. There's a $5 cover, which includes a drink ticket. (Note: You're welcome to BYOB.)
For the most part, D.C.'s dance nights are pretty stratified events. You've got your funky house at this club, reggae at another, speaker-rattling jungle at a third. If they do mix, it's at a multi-room club where the crowds only mix at the bar. Welcome, then, to Rock and Roll Hotel's new Mash Up!, which wants music fans to join forces and cross genres. Tonight's gathering mixes sets by drum 'n' bass stalwarts 2Tuff Soundsystem, Philadelphia's Rastafarian Solomanic Soundsystem and the body-rocking All Good Funk Alliance. It's 18-and-over and doors open at 9. Come early, stick around and check out some new grooves.
Sunday, Dec. 24
Christmas Eve in Washington clubland traditionally means one thing: Battle of the Jewish Singles Parties. The Matzo Ball and the Gefilte Fish Gala have been going head-to-head for years, offering a night out for crowds who aren't celebrating the Christmas holiday -- and some who do, but are looking for something to do on otherwise slow nights. The huge Matzo Ball is taking over three adjacent clubs on 18th Street, offering Top 40 and hip-hop on Five's spacious dance floor; salsa at Sesto Senso; and retro '70s, '80s and '90s music in the cozy basement confines of Andalu. Tickets are $25. A cheaper option is the Gefilte Fish Gala at Union Jack's, which costs $5 at the door and includes free (kosher) pizza, drink specials and dancing.
We occasionally get questions in Got Plans? that run something like this: "I've never been to a go-go show and I want to learn something about it. Where should I go?" The Christmas Eve show at Fur tonight would be a perfect introduction for beginners and a trip back in time for the old heads, as the lineup mixes the best of the old school (Godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown and his band, plus E.U. and Sugar Bear, who had the genre's defining hit with "Da Butt") and newer bands like Familiar Faces and L!ssen (The Grewp). This will be one of the concerts of the season, no doubt, complete with DJs and an open bar from 7 to 9. Advance tickets are available from all Downtown Locker Room locations.
Monday, Dec. 25
The Black Cat's open on Christmas night, but it's a pretty low-key affair. The Red Room bar opens at 9, and on the back stage, Hickory Dave and friends are again spinning Hank, Johnny, Willie and Waylon and the boys. The third annual Honky Tonk Christmas is nothing but old-fashioned country, spanning "Hillbilly Fever" to "Bob Wills is Still the King."
Gefilte Fish Gala, Gefilte Fish Gala. The night so nice they had to do it twice. Anyone who didn't get their fill on Sunday night -- or just needs something to do tonight -- can head over to the trendy kstreet Lounge, where there's more free (kosher) pizza, more drink specials and more dancing. Do-gooders will love this event: Canned goods and clothing are being collected for the homeless, and a portion of all proceeds goes to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.