By Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz
washingtonpost.com Staff Writers
Thursday, March 8, 2007 12:00 AM
Thursday, March 8
Monopoli has been a constant in the local rock scene for the past few years, playing its well-polished brand of alt-rock at just about every venue in the city. When the band recently announced a March residency at DC9, it appeared the quartet was using the shows as a way to ramp up to bigger things, such as a new album or a national tour. Instead, the series of gigs marks the end of the line for the band, which recently announced that it will be splitting up. It seems odd timing, given that the sweeping, mainstream-friendly rock sound that Monopoli has been perfecting over the past few years is making minor stars of a few bands from the area. Band members Alfonso Velez and Chaim Rubenstein have played plenty of solo shows around town lately, so it's not likely this will be the last you hear from them individually, but tonight's show marks the beginning of the end for the band as a whole.
There are worst fates than to be known for who you know. Castanets -- the freaky, folky, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink brainchild of Raymond Raposa -- is a band worth knowing in its own right, but the fact that Raposa's buddies with Sufjan Stevens and records for Stevens's Asthmatic Kitty label doesn't hurt. Both musicians tend to favor elaborately layered songs, but while Stevens is always shooting for that perfect, pristine sound, Raposa is more likely to let things fall where they may. There's not much he won't try, so it's a good thing he actually has the songwriting chops to keep things from getting too out of hand, as there is a strong, strong Southern blues/folk presence at the core of his work. Raposa is one of those guys who might show up at the Warehouse Next Door by himself, with one other person accompanying him or with a full band. You never know with those freaky folks, which is part of the fun.
If you've ever done a shot with a bartender in D.C. -- though probably not at a college bar -- there's an excellent chance it was a shot of Grand Marnier, or "GM" as it's known in the biz. No one we've talked to really seems to understand why or how the sweet blend of cognac and orange essence became the quasi-official drink of the city's drink-slingers or why it's not as prevalent in other cities, so think of it as one of Washington's more delightful quirks. If you're not familiar with the French liqueur, get over to Tapatinis tonight, where GM is the featured free drink of the week tonight after 10 p.m. There's no catch, and you can have as much as you want -- within limits, of course -- as long as supplies last. Get there early for $5 top-shelf cocktails.
Friday, March 9
In a city where most people hold down 9-to-after-5 jobs, it's frustrating when most museums' hours follow suit. So when the Hirshhorn hosts one of its late-night events, we have to show them some love. Like last year's well-received Jim Lambie party, tonight's Hirshhorn After Hours celebrates the opening of a new installation (Virgil Marti and Pae White's "Directions," which fills the lobby with chandeliers and sculptures) and gives visitors a chance to wander through the soft glow and neon of "Refract, Reflect, Project: Light Works from the Collection." We're interested in creating our own Lite-Brite artwork (this time, without those handy construction-paper guides) as local scenester/indie-rock legend Ian Svenonius (of Nation of Ulysses, Make Up and Weird War) spins records. Expect plenty of vintage funk, soul and rock -- and did we mention there will be a cash bar? Until midnight? It's artiest party in town. Doors open at 8, and admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
Local drummer Keith Killgo started playing jazz at an early age. By the time he was in his teens, he'd already jammed with Miles Davis and Art Blakey and received musical education from Roberta Flack. In college, he joined the Joe Henderson Quartet (with a young Stanley Clarke) before attending Howard University in the late '60s, where the legendary Donald Byrd invited Killgo to keep time for the Blackbyrds. Killgo wrote and performed on some of the group's biggest hits, including "Flying High," "Time is Moving" and the city's unofficial anthem, "Rock Creek Park." After leaving the Blackbyrds in 1977, Killgo's kept busy performing with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Stanley Turrentine and Wynton Marsalis, as well as recording with his own outfit, Keith Killgo Jazz. Later this month, Killgo's ensemble will head down to the famed South By Southwest festival, where it will be one of 18 jazz bands performing alongside the likes of Bloc Party, Lily Allen, the reunited Stooges, Ghostland Observatory and Cold War Kids. Before leaving for Austin, though, he's holding down Twins Jazz tonight and Saturday, providing a steady mix of funky and classic jazz grooves. (Don't miss local favorite Kenny Rittenhouse on trumpet.) There are two shows nightly; as always, we'd take the late sets over the 9 p.m. offerings.
We don't really know much about Club Crystal in Hyattsville, other than that stretch of University Boulevard is dotted with several small spots that host serious dancehall events for the large West Indian population of that area. Tonight Club Crystal is the location for a show by Mr. Vegas, whom we do know for several monster dancehall hits that shouldn't leave any reggae DJ's crate, including "Heads High" and "Pull Up." Doors open at 10 p.m., but per dancehall standard procedure, you probably won't see the big star until a few hours later.
Juste Lounge has settled nicely into its new incarnation as Cafe Peju and even added a few updates to the formula of hip-hop and R&B for a crowd that's grown yet still down to party. New flavors include a Mediterranean menu and a popular African and Latin night, but tonight will be a taste of what originally helped set the club off when it started out near Mount Vernon Square: smooth jazz keyboardist Marcus Johnson returns with his always popular live show. There are free passes at justelounge.com.
It's tough for new underground DJs and promoters to scratch out some space to grow in this town, since Washington has far more talented DJs than there are places for them to play. So when something does open up, the average party seeker benefits because a lot of folks rush in to get their events off the ground. Selam is turning into a hotbed of non-mainstream dance parties and the Keep It Deep crew is bringing out heavy artillery to prime their new disco and soulful house every week. Sam Burns will be the guest tonight, summoning the faithful with a combination of the newest inspirational house plates and classics that keep old heads beaming with nostalgia.
Saturday, March 10
Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim can best be described with one simple word: fun. There's no shortage of synth-heavy, guy/girl indie-pop groups these days, but Matt and Kim prove to be one of the best on the strength of their self-titled debut's punchy, catchy songs. There are rarely any down moments with the band. The duo attempts to turn each song into an anthem, and while the success rate isn't perfect, it's hard not to be won over by their unrestrained enthusiasm. Expect that enthusiasm to be taken to even higher levels in a live setting, such as tonight's show at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
The first installment of Infamy at the 9:30 club in January was such a hit that its founders are upping the ante. A collaboration between the founders of Bliss, a monthly indie/electro party at the Black Cat, and Taint, a monthly gay indie/electro party at DC9, Infamy's return includes a performance by the danceable Soft Complex, which takes its hints from synth-heavy new wave bands. The party also features DJ Will Eastman and a screening of "Las Historias Mas Mas Sexy del Mundo," a short film by local director Eric Cheevers that features appearances by the Raveonettes, Ian Svenonius and the famously Riddler-like infomercial pitchman Matt Lesko. Sounds like something you won't want to miss. Doors open at 11 p.m.
Over the past six years, the Shamrock Fest has grown from a small St. Patrick's Day block party to a massive festival that swallowed most of Ballston with a mix of live music, carnival games and long lines at beer trucks. After complaints by local residents that the gathering was growing too big for nine city blocks in Arlington, organizers have moved it out to RFK Stadium this year, turning it into a mini-HFStival, with 40 acts on nine stages and 101 kegs of green beer. The key difference here is that the festival features tons of local bands from the Northern Virginia and Dewey party circuit, like Mr. Greengenes, the Kelly Bell Band and JunkFood, plus a couple of national-level headliners in the Connells and Flogging Molly, and even an appearance by Nicole Richie's ex, DJ AM. (We wish we were kidding. We wish.) The key facts here are There will be tents for watching NCAA games, so you won't miss your alma mater. While we love a good outdoor party, we have to say that the best thing about the old location was that it was in Ballston, so if you wanted to get away from the Port-a-Johns and long lines for overpriced Bud, you could always duck into Rock Bottom Brewery or the Front Page. Not so this year -- once you're at RFK, you're at RFK. Still, it should be a good time, and after a few green beers, who's going to argue? Tickets are $20 for general admission or $109 for VIP passes. (The latter include exclusive stages, private restrooms and, most importantly, all your beer for the day.) Proceeds benefit Stop Child Abuse Now.
Tuesday, March 13
We haven't lacked for new live music venues around here lately, but it's still exciting to see new places get in on the action -- and this one isn't even owned by Joe Englert. House of Sweden hosts tonight's performance by Ane Brun, the first of what the Swedish Embassy hopes will be a series of hip events and concerts highlighting the talent of the Scandanavian country. Brun is actually originally from Norway but now lives in Stockholm, perhaps in an attempt to confuse us uneducated Yankees who can never tell those countries apart in the first place. Her sound recalls many other moody female singer-songwriters -- a bit of Beth Orton, a bit Cat Power -- and sometimes it can be a bit of a downer, but it's always very pretty. It's the kind of music that can appeal to the indie kids and the Starbucks crowd, if those are even different anymore. Admission for the show is only $5; doors open at 6:45, performance starts at 7:30 and don't worry, booze will be available.