Thursday, October 18, 2007; 12:00 AM
It's Howard Homecoming Weekend, and there's so much going on around town -- Diddy, LL Cool J, Erykah Badu, Tank, Fabolous -- that we could do a Nightlife Agenda column on that material alone. Instead, we're going to send you over to this big list of events, and encourage you to get out and explore. Remember a few key items: Arrive early. Covers this weekend are often "discretionary" and will shoot up every few hours. Dress to impress or get left outside. When a celebrity "hosts" a party -- even if that celebrity is a multi-platinum recording artist -- that doesn't mean they're going to perform, or you're going to set eyes on them, even if you purchased "VIP passes." Caveat clubber.
Thursday, Oct. 18
In the early '90s, a surge of new hip-hop styles in Los Angeles drew attention to itself because of its difference from the West Coast gangsta sound spearheaded by NWA. A tiny health food spot called the Good Life Cafe in the Leimert Park neighborhood (similar to pre-gentrified U Street) hosted intense workshops that incubated a slew of legends like Jurassic 5, the Pharcyde and Freestyle Fellowship. One lesser known artist who emerged from that scene is just now reaping the benefits of years on the grind in the L.A. underground. Pigeon John (listen) tours heavily these days, gets a lot of shine in major music publications and moves a respectable amount of units now that he's aligned with Quannum Projects, but in those early days, "MC Pigeon" was just developing the comedic everyman style that made last year's "Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party" an irresistibly fun record. He's often compared to Will Smith from his Fresh Prince days, but it's interesting to point out that Pigeon John's real life story is the inverse of Smith's television character: Pigeon John moved to L.A. from Omaha, Neb., as a child. Pigeon John will be headlining a bill at DC9 tonight that also includes local underground heroes Educated Consumers.
There's something about Brazilian music that makes us want to dance all night long -- the energy, the sexy samba and tropicalia rhythms, the spirit of life that flows through the speakers. DJ Neville Chamberlain is frequent visitor to Brazil, and he brings huge hauls of vinyl back with him every time -- forro, baile funk, batucada, and all the good stuff we never get to hear enough of. Now he's got a new outlet for his collection: A monthly dance party called Brazilian Rhythms at Cafe Saint-Ex. $5 caipirinhas get everyone in the mood for a night of packed and sweat dancing. The need drops on the first record at 10 p.m., and as always at Saint-Ex, there's no cover charge.
Friday, Oct. 19
9th Wonder may have parted ways with Little Brother, but he's still keeping busy: He's selling beats, just dropped his Dream Merchant album and has kept up his collegiate teaching career. Mostly, though, it seems his heart is most invested in his True School movement: a traveling series of parties that concentrates all of the nostalgia most beloved by Gen-X hip-hoppers, from the "House Party" movies to "Do the Right Thing," New Jack Swing dance jams and golden-era hip-hop hits heavy on the Native Tongues. If you're part of the 28-and-up crew, you'll delight to quick-mixed medleys served up by 9th and his partner Cuzzin B that can go from an After 7 record to Def Jef to Soul II Soul back to Monie Love. Speaking of the British hip-hop pioneer, she's been a Philadelphia radio personality for a while and serves as True School's host. Many of us who plastered our lockers with pictures of a young Monie carefully pulled from the pages of Word Up! or Rap Masters can delight in the fact that she's only gotten easier on the eyes over the years. Erykah Badu joins tonight's special edition of the True School House Party as the crew takes over Bohemian Caverns for a less gaudy option during HU Homecoming madness. You might want to practice your Roger Rabbit and running man moves.
It must be something in the air, the lifestyle or the proximity to the water, but San Francisco imprints its electronic music with a laid-back feel with funk bubbling underneath. Om Records owns the niche of house, downtempo and hip-hop that simultaneously moves and soothes. Om's main ambassador, DJ Mark Farina (listen) is known for his trippy Mushroom Jazz series and for bringing out the soul in techy uptempo beats. He'll be on the decks at Five tonight as part of the House of Om tour.
Britpop and indie rock DJ nights pop up all over Washington, but few are as full of surprises as Taking the Piss. Delicate twee pop, noisy English bands and jangly American guitar groups all get airtime, as do angular post-punk, classic Teenbeat Records singles, C86 and lush shoegazing anthems. You won't find the dancefloor filling anthems that you'd hear at, say, Mousetrap, but this five-year-old event is more about listening to the music than getting your groove on. To mark its fifth anniversary, Taking the Piss has invited back every guest DJ who's ever graced its booth, which includes a large number of D.C. indie-pop legends: Members of Velocity Girl, Eggs, Barcelona, Lorelei and Boyracer will be spinning with DJs from nights like Bliss, We Fought the Big One and the First Ladies DJ Collective. Everyone gets a 20-minute set, so you're sure to hear something you like. The free party gets underway at Marx Cafe 10 p.m.
Call us Francophiles -- it's okay, David's not here this week -- but we like the wine and cheese parties at the Alliance Francaise. It's not just the chance to practice our middling French that set these events apart from the average happy hour, though, because the French Cultural Institute always offers a performance that catches our eyes and ears. At tonight's event, it's Madagascan-born, Paris-based singer Mfa Kera (listen). Trained in jazz, blues and gospel, she's appeared on screen with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and founded the Black Heritage Orchestra, which shows the evolution of music from its African roots through blues, salsa, jazz, funk, Afrobeat and hip-hop. Admission, which includes wine and cheese, is $22; the event runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 20
The semi-annual Stylistics event at the Rock and Roll Hotel mixes fashion and music like few other events in D.C. Ten local designers, including De Nada, Muss and Durkl, show off their wares while a who's-who of local DJs provide the tunes. We can't think of the last time we saw a lineup this deep and genre-bending: DJ Dredd of the Prince dance parties, Mark Zimin of Mousetrap, Will Eastman of Bliss, Ca$$idy of the electro-heavy Garutachi and a whole bunch more. Throw in free champagne from 7 to 9 and free admission before 10, and you've got the makings of one of the biggest see-and-be-scene nights in the city.
New York City is a soulful dance music Mecca, so if you're going to come out the box with a new label in that market you better be bringing the heat to match up with brands like Shelter, King Street and all of the various Masters at Work imprints. Producer, poet and DJ Ian Friday launched Tea Party Music last year with Byron Moore's "Life Starts Today" (listen), a transcendent gem that instantly took its place among peak-time dancefloor burners. With its sensuous Latin shuffle, lilting synth melodies and soaring chorus, "Life Starts Today" is one of the biggest house records of the past year. Tea Party shows no signs of slowing down, as the talent on its roster features many of the budding stars that Friday featured at his open mike events. Ian Friday is the guest of Rebirth tonight, the weekly event at Mirrors that consistently brings the best soulful house DJs in the game to Washington.
Middle Distance Runner (listen) is one of the most eclectic bands around, bouncing effortlessly between garage rock stompers, carefully crafted Britpop burners, Beatles throwbacks, and indie shuffles that get your head nodding -- all of which you can hear on the band's new self-titled EP. Okay, it's really three new songs with three reworked tunes from the band's 2006 debut, "Plane in Flames" but the punched-up versions of "Naturally" and "Man of the People" are more reflective of the band's crowd-pleasing live show, and as far as the new material goes, it's easy to see the guitar-and-handclaps-only opening of "Monochrome Boys" becoming an audience favorite. Pick up your copy tonight at the Black Cat, where MDR is playing with appropriately-monikered College Park rockers the Dance Party (listen).
For stripped-down, classic rockabilly -- choppy, reverb-drenched guitars; bass slapped within an inch of its life; steady drums that keep you on the dance floor -- it didn't get much better than the Boom Boom Cats, a young Baltimore quartet that was all the rage around the turn of the last century. Sadly, they went their separate ways a few years back, but now singer/songwriter/guitarist Eddie MacIntosh and drummer Mark Pettijohn are back with a new quintet called the Garnet Hearts (listen). Though we haven't seen the band live yet, listening to the taut "Red Lipstick on Cigarettes" and the rollicking instrumental "Slipper Room Stomp" on their MySpace page has gotten us ready to rock at the Quarry House Tavern tonight. Also on the bill is the Droptops (listen), a two-girls-and-one-boy rockabilly group that plays fun, uptempo music influenced by Eddie Cochran or Gene Vincent.
With no Old Dominion Beer Festival this year, several other promoters have stepped up with their own multi-day outdoor gatherings focused on beer and music. This weekend marks the debut of the Northern Virginia Brewfest in Bull Run Regional Park, with about 40 different brewers from across the U.S. and Europe, plus rock and blues from local acts Welbilt (listen), Shane Hines and the Trance (listen) and Brother Shamus. Taste ales from the Lancaster Brewing Company, Anderson Valley, Penn, Stoudt's and Shenandoah, try the climbing wall, listen to some tunes -- a perfect way to welcome fall. Admission is $25 per day, which includes four tastes of beer (each additional sample is $1). See novabrewfest.com for an entertainment schedule and advance tickets.
For the last six weeks, burlesque goddess Kitty Victorian has been putting a bunch of neophyte dancers through rigorous training, teaching them the proper way of twirling their tassels and sexily taking off . . . one long evening glove at a time. It's called Burlesque University, and the latest class "graduates" tonight with a show at the Palace of Wonders. Tickets are $10, and the show gets underway at 10 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 21
We used to mock the people who played air guitar in bars, and then we saw the U.S. Air Guitar championships at the 9:30 Club. A rush of costumes, well-rehearsed set pieces and flying fingers, they're to air guitar what Eddie Van Halen is to some dude playing at the Grog and Tankard. Air Guitar is awesome. There, we said it. If you think you've got what it takes -- and seriously, check out the videos at usairguitar.com -- then you should enter the D.C. Air Guitar Championships tonight at DC9. Pick one minute of any punk or glam rock song recorded between 1970 and 1985, work up a routine and get on stage. (If only it were that simple.) Sign up at dcairguitar.com. If you just want to watch, the doors open at 8 p.m. and there's a $5 cover.