Thursday, April 12, 2007; 12:00 AM
Thursday, April 12
Nothing gets us more riled up than D.C. haters who move here and then complain that there's nothing to do, or everything is lame, and D.C. is less interesting than other cities. They are out of their freaking minds. Every day, we hear about events and opportunities here that folks in the rest of the country would be agog for, and it's enough to make you think (for the 3,856th time) about how you should be taking advantage of everything Washington offers. Tonight's example is a wine tasting at the Embassy of Argentina, hosted by the international group Wines of Diplomacy. After a welcome from Ambassador José Octavio Bordón, you'll get a lesson on the grapes and terroir of the country's various wine regions, including the well-known Malbec and up-and-coming Salta, and then taste a half dozen representative wines, from Torrontes and Bonarda to Malbec blends. Argentine appetizers and snacks accompany the drinks, and in our experience, you're welcome to go back for seconds of everything. Tickets are $59, and some space still remains, so get in before you really have something to complain about.
Philadelphia legend Rich Medina's famous Jump-N-Funk Afrobeat party is coming to an end. If you missed the last time it hit town with Antibalas, you can get some of that West African jump-up flavor at DC9 tonight as part of Chopteeth's third installment of the AfroFunk Forum. Washington's own Afrobeat orchestra experiments a bit by going back and forth between the turntable and laptop beats of DJ Thick.
For some reason, this is a really, really busy week for charitable fundraisers. If you have a tax refund on the way, or you want to start planning your deductions for 2007, there are plenty of chances to have a great time while doing good. Let's start in Bethesda tonight, where the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is raising money for cancer research at Tommy Joe's. Pay $5 at the door and the restaurant's usual happy hour specials ($3.50 rail drinks, house wines, domestic bottles and pints) are extended two hours, meaning you save money from 4 until 9. Admission also includes a raffle ticket, and you could win prizes from California Tortilla, the Improv and other businesses.
Friday, April 13
It's Friday the 13th, which means there's plenty of bad luck afoot -- you could wind up impaled on spikes, trapped in a straight jacket, get a concrete block broken over your chest or maybe even find a sword "accidentally" shoved down your throat. That's all par for the course at the Palace of Wonders, where the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow is bringing its over-the-top entertainment from 9 p.m. to close. Past events we've attended have included sword swallowers, contortionists, escape artists, fire-eaters, beds of nails, broken glass -- you know, all the usual stuff. Perfect for someone suffering from triskaidekaphobia. The sideshow kicks off at 9, doors open an hour earlier and there's a $10 cover.
Nasty Nas is now Nostalgia Nas, as one of the most heralded new-school New York lyricists takes stock of hip-hop and his place in it. The themes on his current record "Hip-Hop Is Dead" add up to more than an epitaph: He seems to be issuing a statement of purpose. If Nas can grow up, than so can hip-hop, it seems. One of the most exciting things to happen to grown-up hip-hop fans this year was the release of three remixes of Nas's "Where Are They Now?" with forgotten luminaries from the '80s, '90s and the early days of West Coast rap. We're not sure if Love's regular crowd would be that excited to hear Nas along with UTFO, MC Shan and King Tee, but if he can slip some of that in between "Made You Look" and "If I Ruled The World" tonight, he just might get the elder statesman accolades he's seeking.
There may be a decent sized fraternity of artists who tour as frequently, sell as many records or have amassed as many fans as Louie Vega, but a rare few have dominated and transcended the dance music world as thoroughly as he has. (He's definitely the only DJ to have performed with Cirque du Soleil for a Super Bowl pregame show.) Each decade of Vega's career brings new landmark accomplishments: He started in the '80s coming up through New York's nightlife scene, building the template for what we know as soulful house music today. Within a few years, Vega partnered with Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez to form Masters At Work, and over a 20-year period the duo has dropped a dizzying amount of defining releases, including the landmark "Nuyorican Soul" album. It wasn't until 2004 that Vega decided to share his full solo vision on the "Elements of Life" album, a record that is on par with Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" in the category of life-affirming music. Masses of dance disciples will be descending on Five tonight for one of his infrequent sets in Washington. The question is, will he play deep and nuanced or hard? With the exception of one full-band performance as Elements of Life, his previous sets at Five have skewed away from the Latin and Brazilian textures and toward the big-room, high-energy end of the spectrum. Either way, it's going to be an amazing night.
Canadian duo Junior Boys are nearly in a class of their own when it comes to giving electronic music a soul. The band's simple, understated beats, recalling '80s icons Depeche Mode and OMD, make for perfect comedown music after a long weekend, but you'll have to make do with the group's show at the Black Cat kicking off the weekend instead. Singer Jeremy Greenspan's breathy cooing gives everything a distinctly human feel, and as songs like "In the Morning" (listen on the April Mixtape) prove, Greenspan and collaborator Matt Didemus can cook up some pretty catchy hooks, as well. For everyone out there who thinks that Air is the best band making slick, sensual downtempo electronic music, tonight's show might very well change your mind.
More happy hours for good causes in Bethesda tonight, as the Brain Tumor Society is hosting a fundraiser at Union Jack's between 6 and 9. A $10 donation is good for one free drink (rail or beer), as well as $2 draft specials.
Saturday, April 14
Speaking of only-in-D.C. events, we love it when the Thievery Corporation guys make their semiannual return to the DJ booth at Eighteenth Street Lounge. These events tend to be on the down low -- possibly because ESL resolutely refuses to update its Web site -- but we don't mind leaking the info. Just dress to impress and get to the couch-filled lounge early, because the last few times we've gone, lines were down the block before Eric Hilton dropped a needle on the first record. Once inside, though, the whole place was grooving to a mix of vintage funk and soulful Latin rhythms, and the dimly lit Gold Room was buzzing with dancers. DJ Case will also be spinning some tunes. (If you want to make sure you get in, some table reservations may be available; call 703-309-2156 for more information.)
The fourth installment of the Six Points Music Festival kicks off this weekend, and for an in-depth preview you can check out David's blog post, featuring 20 bands to watch. Many of the biggest shows aren't until next weekend, but a pair of concerts tonight are worth checking out. At the new RNR Bar and Lounge, there's a solid triple bill featuring veteran D.C. post-punks Gist, '90s alt-rock revivalists the Alphabetical Order and teenage power poppers Lemonface. Across town at the Red & the Black, it's another triple bill, with New York space rockers the Gulf being joined by a pair of very catchy locals, the Hard Tomorrows and Bellman Barker.
Annapolis's historic Sly Fox Tavern was ready to welcome spring to its expansive patio last weekend, but Mother Nature wasn't cooperating, and cold weather forced the pub to postpone the event. With a much sunnier forecast coming up, the owners are trying again today. The Spring Kick-Off Party runs from 3 p.m. to midnight, and the day-long $3 drink specials include 20-ounce Miller Lite and Pilsner Urquell drafts and Tuaca and Jagermeister shots. Sly Fox's shady patio is the perfect place to relax outside, but Annapolis is one of the best cities around for a bar crawl, so plan accordingly.
There are more drinking-for-charity events tonight, and we're expecting plenty of shenanigans at My Brother's Place. What else do you get when you mix four hours of open bar and a bachelor and bachelorette auction? The fun begins at 7, when the bar opens: A $20 cover, which benefits the Avon Two-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, guarantees unlimited beer and wine until 11. The auction begins at 8:30, and all winning bids include date packages, so you don't have to worry about planning a magical evening with the special someone you just, er, purchased.
Meanwhile, at McFadden's, students from Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business are hosting a fundraiser for Ludlow Taylor Elementary School in Northeast Washington. The $25 cover charge, which allows for an open bar from 6:30 to 9:30, will be used to buy crayons, binders, paper and other badly needed items for the school. (Check out the beers from local brewers Hook and Ladder, who are sponsoring the event.) A raffle includes gift certificates from Central Michel Richard, Cashion's, Matchbox and other local restaurants.
Tuesday, April 17
Sa-Ra Creative Partners started out initially as a production crew assembling tracks for artists like Bilal, Pharoahe Monch and Dr. Dre, but over the last five years they have become enigmatic minor stars in their own right. Their aesthetic -- a blipster mish-mash of electro, blues, hip-hop and P-Funk (and most likely some potent drugs) -- has inspired fawning press coverage and record-label bidding wars. Finally landing on Kanye West's G.O.O.D. imprint after littering the landscape with prized singles, remixes and bootlegs, they have a full-length album about to hit the streets. Catch a listen at Uncle Q's Can't Stop the Bumrush party tonight at Bourbon, then settle in for a golden age classic hip-hop jam.
It seems that a new keyboard-drums indie duo pops up every week, but duos of the guitar-drums variety aren't nearly as in vogue as they were during the height of White Stripes-mania, circa 2003. North Carolina's the Moaners do the guitar-drums sound proud, though, delivering a sinister, swampy blues-rock sound that's a welcome change from the chipper, hyperactive pop that most keys-drums groups are offering up. Melissa Swingle plays a pretty mean slide guitar throughout the group's new "Blackwing Yalobusha," and as could be expected, the band's down-and-dirty sound translates especially well in a live setting, so take advantage of the opportunity to catch the show at Iota.