Thursday, August 23, 2007; 12:00 AM
Thursday, Aug. 23
Since 1991, Asylum has been one of the most unruly and likeable bars in Washington. Starting out on 9th Street NW in the space now occupied by DC9 before moving to U Street for a few years (when it was called "Asylum in Exile"), the biker bar arrived in a dungeon-like Adams Morgan basement in 1997. They've since expanded to two floors, offering an offbeat alternative to the same-old Adams Morgan nightlife. Who else on 18th Street would put armor and skulls on the wall, offer monitored motorcycle parking, host hardcore punk bands and invite women to wrestle in inflatable pool filled with Jell-o? Still the home of the best weekend happy hour around -- Saturday's Miller High Life Countdown -- Asylum is hosting a "Sweet 16" birthday party tonight. We're hoping for loud music, cheap beer and plenty of surprises. Somehow, we expect we'll be right on the money.
If the cool, overcast weather we've been experiencing lately has gotten you in the mood for some heavy and woozy music, tonight's show at 611 Florida should be right up your alley. Trippy New York guitar/synths duo Blues Control (listen) specializes in ethereal, hazy, drawn-out jams. Sludgy guitar is often a centerpiece, but tape loops and atmospheric keyboards keep things more spacey than heavy. Pink Reason (listen) does the trashy, lo-fi rock thing as well as can be done. On this tour, Pink Reason mainstay Kevin DeBroux will be backed by two members of Columbus, Ohio, noise rockers Psychedelic Horse[expletive], which makes a good thing even better. Little Claw (listen), who records for Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label, is also on the excellent bill. Sometimes the band's screechy songs border on tuneless, but we mean that in the nicest, Royal Trux-influenced way. This is a house show, so there's always the added bonus of being able to bring your very favorite beer and not being overcharged x10 for it.
Friday, August 24
Speaking of birthdays, tonight's the special party for Love owner Marc Barnes. Barnes has revolutionized D.C.'s nightlife repeatedly over the years -- Blossoms, Republic Gardens and Dream (now Love) -- and we're still awaiting his newest addition, Park Place. His birthday party is never the star-studded affair that other club owners throw for themselves -- he's a big enough D.C. celebrity on his own -- but Barnes is offering a present to everyone who comes out to help him celebrate: Free cocktails with Level Vodka and Plymouth Gin from 9 to 11. There's a link to the guestlist on lovetheclub.com.
Bomani "D'Mite" Armah's crunk parody "Read A Book" has been leaving D.C. crowds in stitches for a couple of years, but when a video made its way to BET's "106th & Park," the satire was not appreciated by an audience reared on mindless rap chicanery. In the animated vid, a Lil Jon-like character screams his way through a protypical crunk song -- raw language and all -- except instead of getting drunk and starting a fight in the club, the listener is exhorted to raise one's children, buy some land and, of course, read a book. D'Mite has much more up his sleeve than a hot parody, but it was a subversive way for the artist and educator to make his message stick. The poet with hip-hop style plays Artmosphere tonight.
One of the city's lesser-known drinking spots is Z Lounge, the bar in the Sports Club LA at the Ritz-Carlton. While the atmosphere is pleasant, it usually isn't worth detouring across town for. There are exceptions, though, like tonight's all-night Tribute to Beer happy hour. From 7 p.m. on, some really nice drafts are $3, including Guinness, Bass, Stella Artois, Pilsner Urquell and Hook and Ladder. With that lineup, there's no excuse for paying $4 for a bottle of Amstel Light, Corona or Heineken, which are among the night's other specials, but we're sure some people will. Bartender Nick Jungbluth says they'll also be giving away beer T-shirts, beer paraphernalia and, to help you work off the corresponding beer gut, memberships to the club that range from a week to a month. There's no cover charge, and snacks will be available.
Saturday, Aug. 25
There's yet another birthday tonight, and this time it's the Rock and Roll Hotel celebrating one full year on H Street NE. With its capacity falling a few hundred above DC9 and a few hundred below the Black Cat, the Hotel has filled a much-needed void in D.C.'s music scene, hosting indie bands like Bishop Allen, the Long Blondes, Dan Deacon, Robbers on High Street, Deerhunter and Georgie James. There were DJ sets by legendary Scott Henry and the equally legendary Marky Ramone, Ladytron, Dieselboy and VHS or Beta, plus some very interesting parties, like Garutachi's now-storied "everyone strip down to their underwear and pose for pictures that will show up on Wonkette" affair. Anyway. The bar's first anniversary party features a performance by self-pummeling party starter Andrew WK (listen) and local rockers the Whips (listen) and the Points (listen), with the Pow Wow DJs spinning rock, punk and Britpop between sets. Upstairs, it's disco, funk and house from Disco City DJ Chris Burns. Admission is a steep $20, but $2 PBR cans and $3 rail drinks will help ease the pain.
We're not hating on dance anthems (Ciara) and we know the auto-tune fad (T-Pain) won't last much longer, but we'd like to look out over the popular R&B landscape and occasionally find an artist who can really sing. Chrisette Michelle is just what the genre needs right now. Her elegant look and sound is accessible, and while her vocal chops are way beyond that of contemporaries like Rihanna, her material appeals to that same fanbase. She's slipping through the clutter in much the same way that John Legend's acoustic piano ballad "Ordinary People" managed to get into heavy radio rotation. Michelle's return appearance to the Black Cat tonight will likely feel like a gathering of old friends, since her album "I Am" has had a chance to rack up word-of-mouth purchases.
The jukebox at the Quarry House Tavern has always been filled with great country, roots rock and early rockabilly music, so we shouldn't be surprised that the live music schedule will be, too. Starting tonight, the Silver Spring bar is hosting rockabilly music every Saturday in its small back room, and they've chosen a great way to kick it off: A marathon of five local groups that will headline the club in coming weeks. Starting at 5, you'll get new music on the hour from '52 Pickup, Slick Andrews, the Droptops, the Garnet Hearts and Nightlife Agenda favorites J.P. McDermott and Western Bop, who channel Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison like no one else in D.C. Western Bop (listen) is playing sets at 10 and 11 with guest spots from other artists, and the Gulley Jimson Quartet is finishing things off at midnight. If you love early rock and roll, this is the place to be. There's a $5 cover, and those wearing vintage clothes get drink specials.
There's funky music, and then there's funk. Those looking for the latter will find it tonight in the ballrooms of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City. Don't Bump the Funk is a '70s party with live music by the effortlessly smooth Soul Patrol -- expect tunes by Earth Wind and Fire, the Ohio Players and similar gems -- plus DJs. Tickets are $40 and include a soul food buffet dinner and one drink. Bust out your leisure suit and you could win $200 in the "Best Dressed '70s Costume Contest." Advance tickets come from miconcept.com.
Sunday, Aug. 26
As if the combo of reggae, frozen drinks and open air partying didn't make the roof at Five fly enough, tonight you can bring along your furry friends to make new friends. DJ Meistro and DJ Deep Sang bust out their dubplates and multiple cutesy puppy metaphors for the Rude Dog Reggae Woof-Top Party to celebrate the dog days of summer. Admission is free, but the only caveat is that your canine must be a little 'un: four-legged party-goers must be under the 25 pound limit.
It's an embarrassment of riches on Sunday night for fans of that increasingly hard to define genre of "indie rock." There are five very worthy shows, so let's give a quick rundown of your options. At the Rock and Roll Hotel there's a very solid if a bit sleepy triple bill. Back in March Baltimore's Beach House (listen) and San Franciscans Papercuts (listen) played a show together at the Black Cat, opening for the insufferable Grizzly Bear. Beach House was the first band on that night but is the headliner this time around, while Papercuts remains in the middle. Beach House's gentle electro-folk sounds great on record but was merely very good on that March night; the same could be said for the shuffling indie-folk of Papercuts. But swapping out Grizzly Bear for starlet-in-the-making Jesy Fortino, aka Tiny Vipers (listen), is what puts this show over the top. Tiny Vipers's Sub Pop debut, "Hands Across the Void," is one of those quiet, haunting records that draws you into its dark little world. It's not a depressing record, just very spare. It's mostly Fortino's voice and acoustic guitar, and she writes long, winding songs with a surprisingly Southern gothic feel for a Seattle girl.
Fortino's Sub Pop labelmates Jennifer Gentle (listen) will be across town at DC9. Tiny Vipers is a one-person project going by a band name; Jennifer Gentle is a five-person Italian psych-rock band who many people think is a single female. Damn your trickery, Sub Pop artists! The band's most memorable moments are hyperactive garage-pop nuggets like "I Do Dream You" (listen), but you can mostly expect dissonant psychedelic workouts that owe plenty to the man the band took its name from: Syd Barrett.
Continuing in the psych-rock vein, there will be a rare appearance by Spectrum (listen) at the Black Cat's backstage. Spectrum is the current (and longtime) project of Pete Kember, who went by the very appropriate stage name Sonic Boom when he founded drone rock pioneers Spacemen 3 in the mid-'80s. Plenty of bands have adopted Spacemen 3's approach of finding that one perfect chord to play at a ridiculously loud volume for about 11 minutes, but nobody has improved upon it. That includes Spectrum, but Kember's songs that trade off between blissful and noisy -- often at the same time -- almost always hit the spot. He'll be playing material from his many projects tonight, including Experimental Audio Research material in addition to Spectrum and Spacemen classics. Local faves the Antiques (listen) open.
Moving away from moody and psychedelic sounds, there's J. Roddy Walston and the Business (listen) at Iota. David reviewed their album last month, and as many kind words as he had for it, it didn't touch the band's July show at Iota. That was a rare show where a band that was completely unknown to the majority of the people in the club managed to win everyone over with a raucous performance. All the ingredients were there -- a band specializing in no-frills roadhouse rock playing on a Friday night during the summer -- and it all came together perfectly. There's no better way to describe the band by simply calling it what it is -- rock-and-roll. It makes you want to drink and dance, which is the whole point, right?
Finally, tuneful indie-pop quintet Private Eleanor (listen) plays at Galaxy Hut. The Baltimore quintet has all the hallmarks of the classic twee sound -- sweet harmonies, lightly brushed drums, clean acoustic guitars, clever lyrics and you can picture them all wearing very nice, retro sweaters.
Wednesday, Aug. 29
Fritz has written in the past about his favorite drum 'n' bass act, London Elektricity, and tonight DJ Tony Colman brings his "fast soul music" to Five for another fantastic workout. London Elektricity (listen) and labelmate Nu:Tone (listen) create funky, uptempo drum 'n' bass that mixes soulful vocals and disco and house influences into the rapid-fire beats. Nu:Tone (aka Dan Gresham) recently released a CD called "Back of Beyond," which features more of the liquid funk, chiming keyboards and peppy horns that his 2005 debut "Brave Nu World" had promised. Local d'n'b DJ Bobby Jae joins London Elektricity and Nu:Tone on the decks on the main floor, while Ray Casil, Dan Soda and Ken Lazee offer up house and breaks on the roof. Get there early for CDs, T-shirts and other giveaways, and the party goes until 3 a.m.