Thursday, March 15, 2007; 12:00 AM
Before we begin, if you're looking for ways to get your Irish on this weekend, go read Fritz's blog post about St. Patrick's Day. College hoops fans should also check this post on spots to watch the NCAA tournament.
Thursday, March 15
Choklate's album is one of those word of mouth successes that makes you feel like you're the last one to get hip to the secret. Internet radio, indie shops and tastemaking DJs embraced this Seattle nu-soul artist's debut and created the sort of buzz that bubbles along instead of quickly exploding and fizzling out. Her work is a study of effective execution of a simple formula: sweet vocals over crisp hip-hop beats. Choklate makes her first appearance in Washington at Bohemian Caverns tonight along with New York-based singer/songwriter Peter Hadar.
The Passover seder involves drinking four cups of wine, and yeah, you could go the bargain basement route and pick up a couple of bottles of Manischewitz at the corner store, but don't you (and Elijah) deserve better? Problem is, most of the really nice bottles you'll find in the city's better wine shops aren't certified kosher, so they're not suitable. With a couple weeks to go before Passover, the Jewish Study Center is offering a solution at the Sixth and I Synagogue tonight: a sampling of kosher red, white and dessert wines from Israel. Instructor Jay Caplan plans to offer some wine tasting basics, including what makes a wine kosher and why you should care about different vintages. It sounds like an interesting chance to try some hard-to-sample producers, and besides, you know that once the wine starts flowing, the whole event could turn into a JDate live chatroom. You may even wind up with a seder date. Class runs from 7 to 9, and tickets are $30, or $25 for members. Sign up on jewishstudycenter.org.
Indie rock label Alias Records was never quite in the same league as Matador or Sub Pop, but it still released some excellent albums back in the '90s by the likes of American Music Club, Yo La Tengo and Archers of Loaf. (Mmm ... Archers of Loaf.) The label went dormant for a long period, but it has recently sprung back to life with the release of "Make Me Armored" by Lexington, Ky., band the Scourge of the Sea. The trio is certainly more on the American Music Club side of the spectrum, playing songs that aren't exactly sleepy but never really rock, either. Most songs are jangly, deceptively catchy and go down very easily. This record won't set the world on fire, but sometimes it's enough to write finely crafted songs and play them well, and that's exactly what the Scourge of the Sea does. The band will be at Iota tonight opening for Howling Hex, featuring Neil Hagerty, formerly of scuzz-rock legends Royal Trux. That band was one of the most sinister groups around during its heyday, but Hagerty seems to have mellowed out lately. He still likes to jam out, though, so be ready for some extended, electric guitar-driven mayhem.
Uninterrupted is not the type of band that can be background music to your beer drinking and socializing. The local funk-rock outfit will either compel you to give 100 percent of your attention or leave, because there is no in between. Guitarist Kenny's aggressive rhythm and lead work contributes to the group's all-encompassing sound, as does Ahk's muscular pocket on the drum kit. But the prime factor that forces a commitment from an audience is lead singer Moonshine's presence. Sometimes vixenish, sometimes comical and always unpredictable, she's the type of singer for whom Nigel of "Spinal Tap" fame might want to design a microphone pre-amp. ("These go to 11.") Uninterrupted shares the stage with Omega Band and Capsule Corp at Chief Ike's tonight.
After several Grammy nominations and major collaborations with Quincy Jones, Babyface and Eric Benet in the '90s, Canadian singer Tamia doesn't keep a high profile these days. She really only needs to stay on her usual two-to-three-year cycle where she's able to drop a video that makes men curse Grant Hill for taking her off the market and a ballad around which women want to plan their weddings. Although she could get a good showing in a major seated venue, because D.C. is a town that stays loyal to great voices, interestingly enough she's performing at H2O tonight. Perhaps it's a tune-up for a comeback tour. Doors open at 5, and there will be free admission and happy hour specials until 8.
Friday, March 16
Tell people you're washing down breakfast with a Guinness before heading to work and you'll get some funny looks. Well, maybe that's true 364 days of the year, but DC101's Kegs and Eggs party has become an institution over last seven years, offering big-name musical performances (last year featured O.A.R. and Soul Asylum) and Mardi Gras-style madness alongside early morning beers. This year's Kegs party is at Fur, and it looks set to continue the tradition. Doors open at 7:30, and the musical lineup features chart-topping metal act Saliva, touring behind the hot single "Ladies and Gentlemen"; Ben Kweller, who's made the transition from '90s teenage phenom to one of the best power-pop songwriters around; and local fixture Carbon Leaf.
We hear from a lot of people looking for old-school soul and R&B music, which can be hard to find in local clubs. On the third Friday of the month, your prayers are answered. Soul Club 51 mixes famous Motown/Stax hits with obscure Northern Soul gems that will have you racing to the DJ booth to find out what they are -- as soon as you finish dancing to the uptempo grooves. DJs Mikhail Z., Pablo F. and Amanda Z. are your hosts at the Cosmo Lounge above Chief Ike's Mambo Room. There's no cover charge -- just mention the Soul Club to the doorman.
Looking for something more offbeat? The Champion Soundsystem at Marx Cafe is promising "Funk Fusion," "Kraut Space Afro" and "Dub Dirt Dope & Beat." Kind of cryptic, but DJ Sammy Gong -- also a resident at the red-hot Soundclash reggae/ska/dub night -- says he and compatriots Braulio Agnese and Dave from Atlantis will also be armed with plenty of rare grooves, boogaloo and Brazilian cuts. The party is free and it kicks off at 10 p.m.
Saturday, March 17
It's St. Patrick's Day. It's Saturday. Combine those two factors with a full day of NCAA basketball and you've a busy day at local Irish pubs and sports bars. Some pubs are opening early for breakfast and the Ireland-Italy Six Nations rugby match, like Fado and Murphy's, others are offering an afternoon of traditional Irish music (both branches of Ri-Ra). But if we could only pick one event for the day -- and if there was no rain in the forecast -- we'd take Scythian's Big Jig block party, which is taking over Mount Vernon Square next to the Carnegie Library. It's not just that we like the quartet's energetic take on Celtic music, which can range from a two-fiddle assault on traditional reels to lively covers of the Pogues, wich gets everyone in the audience clapping and singing along. This is a day-long event with bagpipers, Irish step dancers, cheap ($2.50) beers, activities for kids and more than enough music to go around. Admission is $10, with a portion of proceeds going to Peace Players, an organization that works with children in war-torn countries.
At the tender age of 19, a budding Dutch DJ named Armin Van Buuren crafted a track with a relentless beat and layers of dreamy, squiggly synthesizers. It blew up at dance clubs on the island of Ibiza that summer, and "Blue Fear" became the standard for all trance music that came after, launching Van Buuren to worldwide fame -- and a career of putting together "State of Trance" compilations. Ten years later, Van Buuren is still going strong, coming in at #2 in DJ Magazine's 2006 ranking of the world's top DJs, and he's marking his first decade with a compilation called, naturally, "10 Years." He'll spin "an extended set" Saturday at Glow -- in the past, that's meant about five or six hours on the decks -- which should keep everyone dancing until they drop. To stop the main dance floor from becoming too crowded, as it was last time, Van Buuren's set will be broadcast throughout the venue, so you can relax in the Martini Lounge and not miss a minute of music.The $25 advance tickets from wanttickets.com promise "no line, no wait" entry, which is a good idea -- the queues outside Fur can be massive.
Dionne Farris's light was really shining around 1995, after a couple of hit singles from an extraordinary album made her a darling of rock, pop and soul audiences. "Wild Seed, Wild Flower" meshed blues, rock guitar textures and modern R&B production into a treat that made perfect sense to listeners -- but not to major labels, who couldn't figure out how to market the Southern songbird without putting her in a box. Frustrated, Farris quit the music game for the better part of a decade. As news spreads that she's recording and touring again, a lot of folks around the country are gearing up to give her a warm welcome. She embraces Washington at the Black Cat tonight along with Anthony David, another soul singer from Atlanta who has found a comfortable second home with adoring audiences here.
We caught wind of Swedish indie-electro duo Lo-Fi-Fnk last year, and their debut record "Boylife" has only confirmed what we thought: This group's mix of vintage Daft Punk beats, smooth, housey keyboard accents and a smart, sometimes Phoenix-like sense of melody means that they could be the Next Big Thing at local DJ nights. Fans of Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem will eat these guys up. Get a taste tonight at the Rock and Roll Hotel where Lo-Fi-Fnk (pronounced "Lo-Fi-Funk") is performing live. Reviews of their live performances on Pitchfork called the duo "about as shambolic as indie electro can get," so it should be a blast. DJs Ca$$idy and Gavin Holland are also on hand.
Wednesday, March 21
Canada's estimated population is around 32 million people -- roughly the same as California. In the Golden State, there are likely millions trying to make it as actors; in Canada those millions are apparently trying to make it in indie rock bands. Ladyhawk is part of the Vancouver side of the Canadian invasion, which is worth noting. There's the Montreal/Toronto sect, which includes bands like the Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Broken Social Scene, Feist and Metric. You know, the bands lots of people like. Then there's the Vancouver sect, with Destroyer, Black Mountain and the Pink Mountaintops. You know, the bands David likes. Ladyhawk's sound owes a lot to a Canadian who eventually made it to California, Neil Young, especially his '70s work with Crazy Horse. Singer Duffy Dreidiger's often shouty vocals may not be for everyone, but they do bring an immediacy to the songs with meandering, if impressive, guitar work. Bon Savant and the Boggs open at the Red and the Black.