Thursday, May 31, 2007; 12:05 AM
Thursday, May 31
A Grits and Gravy event is less like a club night than a family reunion: Folks chatting away with friends, hitting the dance floor for old disco classics and golden-era hip-hop, buying each other drinks, enjoying each others' company rather than getting involved in drama. It's a shame that the G&G events come around so infrequently -- the last big one we hit up was during Howard's Homecoming -- so don't miss the Adult Mix Happy Hour tonight from 6 to midnight at Jin, with DJ AJ on the turntables, no cover and a selection of food and drink specials. Check your work baggage and stress at the door.
Filing Sage Francis under "emo-rap" would be easy -- but also lazy, because while his delivery and choice of beats is modern day indie, his ability to weave concepts and stories together is actually pretty classic. Sage Francis and Buck 65, who is also performing at Rock and Roll Hotel tonight, flip the typical suburban hip-hopper stereotype of rich kids going slumming for the excitement of the more nihilistic aspects of hip-hop music. Fortunately they're not overly dogmatic underground idealists, either. These two are interesting cats who make some interesting tracks about things they've been through, and they think before they write. Alias and Buddy Wakefiled open the show.
At Chris Burns' monthly Disco City parties, he generally sticks to the proto-house stylings of the Paradise Garage and Chicago pioneers like Mr. Fingers to fill the dance floor. For tonight's debut of Discotique at Metropolitain, though, Burns and Will Eastman (of the Black Cat's Bliss night) are expanding their definition of disco to include popular bands (ABBA, Shalamar) and relatively new blood like Sophie Ellis-Bextor (of "Murder on the Dancefloor" fame) and even Daft Punk. There's no cover, and you can warm up for dancing with some of the lounge's fantastic champagne cocktails.
Friday, June 1
The ever-popular Helix Lounge closed in May for a makeover, and while we agreed the all-white '60s-influenced interior could really use a facelift, we were sad to see the pleasant little patio shuttered just when the weather was getting nice. Get your first look at the Hotel Helix's revamped bar -- inside and out -- this afternoon at the grand reopening party, with free hot dogs and burgers (grilled outdoors) and selected half-price cocktails from the new drink menu. Deals run from 6 to 8. Then, starting next Wednesday, the patio will again welcome four-legged guests for the Dog Days of Summer Happy Hour, with special treats for both humans and canines from 5 to 8, with proceeds benefiting the Washington Humane Society.
We generally associate all-white parties with Diddy, Nikki Beach and Memorial Day weekend, but for tonight's Buzzlife White Party at Five, you can leave the white linen suit at home -- white T-shirts and baggy pants will be more suited to dancing to house tunes spun by Scott Henry and Suneel, and more comfortable when you realize it's 5 a.m. and you're still grooving. Admission is free from 9 to 11 for anyone wearing an all-white outfit, and reduced afterwards. Dress up or get shook down.
House shows are fun. They are even more fun when you have bands that don't know any other way to play than to let it all rock out. And that's the case this evening at the Hosiery, where local sludge/psych rockers the Apes share a bill with Japanese noisemakers DMBQ. The Apes have been a fixture on the local scene since 1999 and have gone through a handful of personnel changes, but the current lineup has been delivering some of the group's best performances to date. DMBQ has long straddled the line between Japan's underground noise scene and its more straightforward garage rock scene. Like many bands of its ilk from Japan, memorable, over-the-top live shows are the norm, not the exception.
Sweden's Labrador Records is home to many wonderfully twee indie rock bands -- the kind who write suchy catchy, breezy pop songs that you forget that the vocals are frequently yearning odes to lost loves or tributes to an unrequited love. (The Acid House Kings, the Legends, Club 8, the Radio Dept. and Suburban Kids With Biblical Names are all on the label's roster.) A few years ago, one of Labrador's top acts was a jazzy pop group called Edson, who melded organs and glockenspiel with singer Pelle Carlberg's highly personal tales of love and breakups. When Edson disbanded, Carlberg set out on his own, and his solo debut, "Everything Now!" is filled with sharp, melodic songs, jangling guitars and steady backbeats that will please fans of early Belle and Sebastian or the Pixies, as well as anyone who's ever bought a Labrador CD. Carlberg's in town tonight to perform at an in-store at Crooked Beat Records, and while it won't be as good as seeing a full show at the Black Cat or DC9, it's the purest dose of pop you'll find in Washington tonight. Also performing at the Adams Morgan record store is Bellman Barker; Read David's take on the group's debut EP here.
DJs were big news at the annual Coachella festival this year: electro dance floor favorites Justice's live debut received rave reviews; Tiesto killed it with a late-night rave set; Girl Talk and Spank Rock got crowds moving with mashup madness. And then there was David J., formerly of the artsy, edgy new-wave legends Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. He set up a 1908 gramophone (complete with a giant horn) on stage and spun 78 rpm records by the likes of Fred Astaire, Bessie Smith, Ray Noble and Noel Coward. As much fun as it'd be to hear "Tiptoe Thro' the Tulips With Me" or "We'll Make Hay While the Sun Shines" at the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight, we have a feeling that David J. will be spinning songs on the darker edge of avant-garde, including (hopefully) a Bauhaus classic or three. Still, his most recent solo album, 2003's "Estranged," was filled with sharp storytelling over acoustic guitars and sweeping strings, and his DJ sets have been full of downtempo electronica. So let's just put it like this: David J. was a founding member of Love and Rockets and Bauhaus, two of the coolest bands of the last two-plus decades, and he's going to be DJing at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Whatever happens is bound to be awesome.
Popular R&B of the past decade has poured forth a lot of stinkers, from R. Kelly's buffoonery to near parodies, like T-Pain's plaintive confession of being in love with a stripper. Pretty Ricky's got teen boys gunning for YouTube fame and life-long humiliation while Cassie pushes teen girls to nurture their inner chickenhead. It's really tempting to just turn on the smooth jazz station and pretend all of this doesn't exist, except you might fall asleep. All is not lost with the youngters, though. Ne-Yo has been releasing some hits that have the flash and swagger the kids love with enough substance make grown-ups take notice. "Because of You" could have been on Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" album, for instance. Tonight at Love, Ne-Yo will be joined by Trey Songz, and this is an environment where adults can openly dig the young crooner without feeling embarrassed. Advance tickets let you skip the lines.
DJ Stylus Chris of DJ Hut is still rocking Modern on Friday nights with his usual mix of retro rock, pop and current hip-hop hits. Get there early tonight and you have the added benefit of an hour of free booze: From 9 to 10, Modern is unveiling its revamped drink menu, and everyone in the club gets samples. Chris will be lounging it out early before cranking it up later.
Saturday, June 2
With its booming system, family vibe and booking schedule that brought titans of house music to Washington, DC Sanctuary was long a favorite of this column. Unfortunately, the spot has frequently had problems with operational consistency: closing down without notice, being shuttered on random Saturday nights, having its better nights, like Daylight, leave for better venues. We should give it some props, though: The Sanctuary was open in the so-called Atlas District before the Rock and Roll Hotel, the Red and the Black or any of the nightspots that draw curious clubhoppers to the neighborhood. Now that H Street is taking off, let's hope that tonight's new beginning has some permanence. Baltimore legends Pope and Oji kick off a new monthly residency tonight along with Louis Pickney, another name that brings the serious heads out to throw down on the dance floor. Doors are at 11 and the party goes until 4 a.m.
If you haven't heard the Pipettes yet, here's the Cliff's Notes bio: Three girls from Brighton, England, wear polka dots and sing indie-disco tunes that owe a debt to the Ronettes and the Supremes, among others. The synchronized dance routines are sometimes sharper than the harmonies, but check out the video for "Pull Shapes" and you'll see why they were the 2006 belles of the ball in the UK. The Pips's American debut, "We Are the Pipettes" isn't out in August, but you can get a preview of their infectious sound when Gwenno, Rose and Riot Becki perform at the Black Cat tonight. Smoosh and Monster Bobby open.
Sunday, June 3
After a few listens to the disappointing "Weekend in the City," we're not prepared to drop $43 and change to see Bloc Party at Constitution Hall, though we've been digging the openers: the straight-ahead, hook-filled new wave of South London quartet the Maccabees, and the raw power of the Noisettes, another London group, and their singer Shingai Shoniwa. There's a slightly happy medium tonight at Cafe Saint-Ex, where the two bands are hosting a meet-and-greet party from 6 to 9, with drink specials and DJs from local indie nights Sorted, Bliss and Riot Van.